Friday, March 9, 2012

The first 5 steps you can take towards health without pills

Guest post by Heather Jones DeGeorge

Editor’s note: I’m often disheartened to find that in many cases educators and parents are quick to unquestioningly trust pharma industry influenced doctors about best treatments for children’s mental and health issues without considering or researching other options. Before going toward medicine first, it is helpful to get insights from health and wellness experts like Heather Jones DeGeorge who have had great success with helping families find health and wellness naturally.  I asked DeGeorge to share the top five things families can do to get started on a road to better mental and physical health without medicating. Here they are. 

In today’s fast-paced, quick-fix life, sometimes it can be hard step back, slow down, and take a moment to best assess what we can do for ourselves and our loved ones to live a healthy life. While it may be easier in the short term to live this way, the long-term results can be detrimental.  Instead of eating, and treating our bodies, right, we often look for the quick fix for medical conditions that could be alleviated by incorporating healthy practices into our lives.  And even for people who are not the “quick fix” type, they generally are unaware of options that are outside of their doctors limited expertise.  We have been trained to believe that our doctors would know about any reliably good alternative, but in fact, doctors have a pretty limited knowledge-base and they have a hard enough time keeping up with the research on that!  

I see this all too often with the growing number of school-age children who are being diagnosed with conditions like ADHD / ADD, diabetes, child obesity, bi-polar disorder, depression, asthma, and more.  Unfortunately, American medicine is all too happy to suggest the right synthetic pill to address the condition. The short term gains in addressing the symptoms, not only can have negative, long-term ramifications, but they also are not nearly as effective as getting to the underlying issues and treating our bodies to a healthy lifestyle.  

Specific conditions react to different types of changes.  Depending on the issue at hand there are a number of simple health and lifestyle changes that can be undertaken to address the condition without medication.  But in terms of overall health and just trying to initially get on track, here are the five that I have come across most often in supporting my health coaching clients in their drive towards better health.

  1. Only consume ingredients your great-grandmother would recognize -
    If you’re eating foods with a label, strive to eat only those with ingredients your great-grandmother would recognize.  It’s no small task, but it’s worthwhile.  If your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize it, your body isn’t likely to, either.  That means it’s going to treat that ingredient like an intruder—overstimulating your immune system.  This can lead to allergies, intolerances, autoimmune disorders (like rheumatoid arthritis—there are dozens of these types of disorders) and other problems.  Once you get down to foods with ingredients that your great-grandmother would recognize, strive towards foods that don’t have a label (fresh produce and meats).
  2. Drink more water (don’t skip reading this summary!)  - I know, “Duh!”, right?  Well, no--not really.  I mean real water.  Not coffee, tea, VitaminWater, or other things that you consider water-based.  It really ISN’T the same.  Can’t stand the taste? Then try adding just a TINY bit of honey or lemon to it to help you adjust, but the end goal is water.  Think your kids won’t drink it?  Try.  Start watering stuff down.  You may need to go slow if you have a supersensitive kid, but you are absolutely NOT giving them anything that is more important than water--not milk, not juice, not anything.  The number of issues related to being underhydrated boggles the mind.  And forget the old standards.  Take your weight in pounds, divide by 2 and drink that many ounces.  Yeah, really.
  3. Remove white foods from your diet -
    All of them.  White rice, white potatoes, white bread, white sugar… if it’s white, get rid of it.  How our body reacts to these foods is a spike in insulin.  That roller coaster has set our country on a fast road to diabetes and heart disease--which is more significantly affected by sugars and insulin activity through ingesting insulin-spiking foods than by ingesting the fat that you’ve been told to avoid.  In fact, removing that fat has made the problem worse.  Doctors are not trained in nutrition and are spewing out sound bites similar to the snippets that the media takes and runs with.  But new data is uncovered all the time and it’s wise to do RESEARCH.  Remove white foods.
  4. Take a multivitamin.  It’s a start.  We are so nutrient deficient that many of our common issues--even severe ones like excruciating migraines--are often resolved with corrective megadosing of the deficient nutrient and then maintaining that nutrient in our body.  Magnesium is a big one, but there are many.  Even people that eat fresh foods need to be wary (see this article from my newsletter that explains the problem).
  5. Take an Omega-3 supplement - It pains me to be at number 5 and picking one last thing when my mind is saying “What about this?  You can’t leave out that!” but alas, here I am and I cannot end without recommending an Omega-3 supplement.  The American diet is overloaded with Omega-6s and people think that’s wonderful.  But when they are out of balance with Omega-3s, it is actually harmful.  The research on supplementing with Omega-3s is astounding.  It is also used intensively to help with cardiovascular disease, ADD/ADHD, and in children with apraxia with excellent results. In fact, one study showed that giving two sets of pigs a diet of Krispy Kreme donuts but one set additionally supplemented with an Omega-3 supplement showed that both yielded the same cholesterol levels; but when they autopsied the pigs, those on the Omega-3 supplement had nice, open, unclogged arteries where the alternate group were nearly completely blocked.  Flax seeds and walnuts are high in Omega-3 for their size; but shrimp, sardines, halibut and salmon are a great source of Omega-3s if you can get over your doctor’s insistence that we need to be fat-free (which has resulted in an epidemic of diabetes and--yes, it’s true--heart disease).  Depending on your personal health and eating plan, you may need to take a supplement (either correctively or routinely) before trying to rely soley on incorporating these foods into your diet.
It is never too late to start with these five.  Once you have these down, there are many more small things you could be doing to better your health.  Actually, if you’re not addressing common behavior and medical issues, the bullet list would differ slightly.  Most of my health coaching clients are surprised how attainable good health can be when they step outside of what “everyone says” and get real guidance—including guiding themselves by re-learning to listen to their own body and value their mind and feelings.  With it comes the discovery that the people we relied on didn’t always have the best answers for us.

Most importantly, be sure to know how to evaluate your information.  Where is it coming from? Who is sponsoring that source?  Check any research they cite to be sure it is not backed by those who will profit on their recommendations, and check that they didn’t just “skim and spew” without getting the full context of the information (which has led to ENDLESS misinforming of the masses).  When you start by following these five ways to address behavioral and medical issues, you’ll be well on your way to acquiring the help and support you need for success on the road to a healthy lifestyle.

Heather DeGeorge is a holistic health & wellness coach.  In addition to general health and weight loss, she specializes in dietary intervention for behavior and development problems of children; and helping people adjust to specialized or restricted diets based on medical diagnoses like diabetes or gluten intolerance with the end-goal of being able to heal the body and eat a healthy, less restrictive diet.  For more information, see her website at and follow her on Twitter at


  1. I'm on board. Would it be OK if I posted this onto ?

    Answer to bbat50 which is a gmail address.

  2. Heather, I totally agree! I've been telling parents about these things for years. Preaching about nutrition in the South has been a challenge. However, kids with "ADD/ADHD" traits generally need less sugar, more protein, and many have a minerals deficiency, especially magnesium and zinc. Books that helped when our kids were misdiagnosed were "No More ADHD" and "No More Ritalin", by Dr. Mary Ann Block.

  3. While it's true that there is some research suggesting that diet my have an impact on ADHD, it is misleading and irresponsible to assert that doing things like removing white foods from your diet will somehow fix or cure ADHD.

    Unfortunately, just as stimulants are not a silver bullet for ADD/ADHD, neither is diet. It is disappointing to see Heather DeGeorge suggest this, especially without linking to any research backing up her claims. Such thoughtless platitudes about ADD/ADHD hurt the very kids they are purportedly trying to help by guilting parents into experimenting with a diet that Heather has chosen arbitrarily rather than a diet supported by science.

  4. Ben, did you actually read the full article? Because it was not specific to ADHD. It was the first steps towards getting a better handle on your family's health which could potentially reduce the symptoms of a broad range of problems and get one step closer to fixing the root problems. I never once in this article said that removing white foods would fix or cure ADHD--not anywhere. In fact, I would never make a comment like that about ANYthing because individual biochemistry dictates that different people's bodies will react differently to the same thing/treatment regimen; and that two people exhibiting the exact same condition could be doing so with profoundly different root causes. That is the heart of a new field of medicine called "Functional Medicine".

    Furthermore, I explained my rationale for removing white foods. There is no shortage of research on the effects of blood sugar & insulin dysfunction that causes countless problems (including some in my list of disorders--that include but are not limited to ADHD--earlier in the article... like diabetes). And for the record, insulin imbalance can cause plenty of mental health issues (again, some of the things in my list other than ADHD).

    And these are guidelines. FOR GENERAL HEALTH. So I'm not sure where you got the impression that I have "thoughtless platitudes about ADD/ADHD" nor where you feel I have guilted anyone into anything. I offered up a list of very basic things people can do to help them on their way towards better health and that as a grouping, offer a well-rounded jump start for people consuming the Standard American Diet. Without writing a thesis, I gave some basic explanations of each of my suggestions. These are starting points for people, not end points.

  5. The article is titled "5 healthy alternatives to treating children with pills". However, the article does not cite a single study that shows doing these things will treat any of the major diseases you list ("ADHD / ADD, diabetes, child obesity, bi-polar disorder, depression, asthma"). To state that your list is just a set of "guidelines" for "general health" is simply not true.

    Your response that "There is no shortage of research on the effects of blood sugar & insulin dysfunction" misses the point entirely. If there is no shortage of research, show us some. Your article still has the burden of showing that blood sugar and insulin dysfunction are somehow caused by "white foods" and which, if any, of the diseases you list will be treated by not eating such foods.

    And yes, parents feel a tremendous amount of guilt when someone suggests they may not be doing all they can for their children. You add to this guilt by suggesting that parents who medicate their children are somehow uninformed, that some who use medication are of the "quick-fix" type, and that the long-term impact on children can be "detrimental".

    I don't expect a thesis. I only expect that if you make the claim that a wide swath of serious diseases can be treated with diet instead of medication that you back it up with links to actual research. If what you say is true then adding links will simply help more parents come to the same conclusions you have and help their own children. If what you say is not true, however, then this article is at best irresponsible and at worst dangerous to the children of parents who follow your advice.

  6. "I asked DeGeorge to share the top five things families can do to get started on a road to better mental and physical health without medicating. "
    That is the lead in to the article. I don't see anywhere where it says, Heather tell us your cure ADHD. I don't see why a list of healthy alternatives is upsetting you so much, Ben. There's no harm in eating better, there's no harm in trying to eliminate foods that may causing reactions. There is lots of harm in taking medications and there are children who die from these medications. There are children who are addicted and can't get off. No child is going to look back and say,"Wish my mom let me eat white food" but they may look back and say, "I wish weren't so addicted to these drugs that are PRESCRIBED to me" If changing diet isn't your thing than go ahead and move on.
    Feingold recommends a diet change. Andrew Saul recommends vitamins for ADHD. You can google those names or not but lots of info is readily available if you choose to work for an answer.

    1. Hello Anonymous,

      To be clear, I have absolutely no problem with someone suggesting ways to eat better. And I don't think I said anything that would lead you to believe that "changing diet isn't [my] thing". However, what troubles me is statements like this:

      "5. Take an Omega-3 supplement ... It is also used intensively to help with cardiovascular disease, ADD/ADHD, and in children with apraxia with excellent results."

      This claim, if true, is the difference between medication with terrible side effects and a much higher quality of life. Since this statement has such a huge impact on people suffering from those diseases, why not spend an extra few minutes and throw in some links to back up these claims? There are only two possibilities: either the statements are true and adding a few links will just make them stronger or the statements are false and they should be removed.

      I do plenty of "work for an answer", especially with regards to ADHD. However, there is a fundamental difference between telling me to google "Feingold" or "Andrew Saul" if I want to know find evidence of diet-based ADHD treatments and actually linking to the evidence. The internet is a big place, after all, and google results change every day. If you found a particularly convincing study during your research, the best way to spread the word is with a link.

  7. I must take responsibility for the title which is being called misleading. It was not Heather's title. I gave it a title to try to convince parents to consider something I believe in. That is try alternatives before trying pills. The pharma companies spend billions on the pill first message and there is not that sort of funding behind what the alternatives are. I mean think about it. Doctors don't study "health" they study "medicine."

    I will give this post a more appropriate title.

    I know Heather as an expert and asked her to share five ideas that anyone can use to get started toward better health and possibly avoid turning to pills. I believe the suggestions here will lead to better physical or mental health.

    As far as links, I know Heather has years of experience and study behind her words, however, because I want to ensure readers receive the best information possible, I have asked her to provide a link to each idea and hope that her schedule will permit in the near future.

    In the meantime, if any readers have links to information they'd like to contribute, I invite you to share.

    1. Thank you, Lisa. It speaks volumes about your integrity that you are so willing to read and respond to criticism.

      And for the record, I agree about many things that are posted here. Eating healthier does have a huge impact on health but because of the chasm between doctors and dietitians a lot of this information doesn't make it to patients.

      My only concern is that there is a lot of misinformation on the internet, so I think everyone benefits when health tips like these are made verifiable. Thank you for taking steps to do exactly that.