After decades as an ER doctor in the traditional healthcare system, I started Dignity Integrative to address the root causes of problems I had been seeing in emergency rooms for years. The U.S. is beset by an epidemic of preventable chronic diseases: diabetes, liver disease, and heart disease, as well as social and psychiatric disorders like anxiety and depression.
After witnessing the same unaddressed chronic problems year after year, I began to wonder whether there was a better way for me as a physician to take care of these conditions. I went back to school and completed a fellowship in Integrative Medicine. But I also educated myself in other ways—including some fantastic reading that challenged conventional thinking.
There are so many books addressing various topics connected to integrative medicine that it can be hard to choose. And, with more and more people intent on “doing their own research,” it’s more important than ever to speak up for the resources I trust and would recommend. Last year, I wrote in a post about my recommendations for the best integrative medicine resources:
We have more access to more information than ever before, and at the same time, many of us have become distrustful of “official” authorities and institutions. So, how do we know who to trust when it comes to our health and wellness? Can we just read the new studies that are posted online and draw our own conclusions? How do we interpret all the new information that is released every day, or who do we trust to interpret it for us?
Well, the following books are good places to start. I’m excited to share this list with you of my top book recommendations that delve deep into different aspects of holistic health and longevity, and which informed my thinking as I transitioned into my integrative medicine practice.
1. Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity, by Peter Attia
Dr. Peter Attia is renowned for his extensive work on longevity and peak performance. Outlive gives readers a rich perspective on Attia's personal journey, with a detailed account of his personal issues. The openness with which he tackles his own personal health challenges is not just insightful but highly commendable.
Some key takeaways:
The Importance of Longevity Science: Attia emphasizes that longevity is not just about living longer, but about living well. He delves deep into the science of longevity, addressing the cellular and molecular processes that govern aging.
Personal Vulnerability: Attia's candidness about his personal challenges offers a nuanced perspective on health, emphasizing the importance of mental and emotional well-being alongside physical health.
Intervention Strategies: Through a combination of nutritional, physical, and medical strategies, he provides readers with actionable steps to enhance their lifespan while ensuring a high quality of life.
2. Lifespan: Why We Age―and Why We Don't Have To, by David Sinclair and Matthew LaPlante
This is one of the defining books in the domain of longevity. The authors take readers through the fascinating science behind aging, making a compelling argument about our potential to live healthier and longer lives. It's a must-read for those who want to understand the very essence of aging and how to combat it.
Some key takeaways:
Aging as a Disease: Sinclair introduces the groundbreaking idea that aging is not a natural inevitability but a disease that can be treated.
Information Theory of Aging: Sinclair presents his theory that aging is a loss of information within the body. By addressing this loss, we can potentially reverse the aging process.
Practical Longevity Steps: Sinclair offers actionable insights, from specific supplements to lifestyle changes, which can aid in increasing one's healthspan.
3. The Pegan Diet: 21 Practical Principles for Reclaiming Your Health in a Nutritionally Confusing World, by Mark Hyman
In a world where diet recommendations can often seem conflicting, Mark Hyman's 'The Pegan Diet' finds a nice, golden middle. The book promotes a balanced approach that isn't strictly plant-based but leans heavily in that direction. The book provides an integrative perspective, effectively merging the principles of paleo and vegan diets, thus "straddling lines."
Some key takeaways:
Combining the Best of Paleo and Vegan: Hyman advocates for a diet that takes the best aspects of paleo (high-quality proteins) and vegan (plant-based nutrients) diets.
Inflammation Reduction: The Pegan Diet emphasizes foods that reduce inflammation, a key factor in many chronic diseases.
Environmental and Ethical Considerations: Beyond health, the diet also considers the environmental and ethical impacts of our food choices.
4. The Better Brain: Overcome Anxiety, Combat Depression, and Reduce ADHD and Stress with Nutrition, by Bonnie Kaplan and Julia Rucklidge
Kaplan and Rucklidge’s work is an eye-opener for anyone who's ever been prescribed medications for mental health challenges. The Better Brain probes deeper, asking if the brain is receiving enough nutrients from natural foods. Before jumping straight to medications like SSRIs, the book advocates for identifying potential nutrient deficiencies that could be impacting brain health. A holistic perspective that is much needed in today's world.
Some key takeaways:
Food as Medicine: The authors make a compelling case for considering nutrition as the first line of defense against mental health challenges.
Questioning Quick Medication: Before jumping to pharmaceutical interventions, the book suggests a more in-depth look into potential nutritional deficiencies.
Holistic Mental Health: The overarching theme is that mental health is intricately tied to physical health, and addressing it requires a more integrative approach.
5. The Well-Lived Life: A 102-Year-Old Doctor's Six Secrets to Health and Happiness at Every Age, by Gladys McGarey
This book by Dr. Gladys McGarey, renowned as the "Mother of Holistic Medicine," encapsulates over a century's worth of wisdom into six profound secrets for a joyful, purpose-filled existence. Her credentials not only lie in her co-founding of the American Holistic Medical Association or her groundbreaking work with acupuncture but in her lived experiences that span the globe, from her childhood interactions with Mahatma Gandhi in India to her transformative medical practices in the U.S.
Some Key Takeaways:
A Life in Motion: Dr. McGarey emphasizes the importance of movement in all its forms – be it spiritual, mental, or physical. Movement is the key to releasing trauma, overcoming obstacles, and letting go of things that drain your energy.
Purpose as the Driving Force: One's reason for existence, or 'juice' as Dr. McGarey refers to it, is the compass that provides direction in life. When anchored to purpose, every challenge becomes surmountable, and every day becomes an opportunity for fulfillment.
The Power of Community and Love: The emphasis on building meaningful connections and harnessing love as a healing tool underscores the book's holistic approach to health. For Dr. McGarey, true wellness is not just the absence of disease but the presence of wholesome relationships and self-love.
Just as critical is understanding the many various 'camps' that exist, be it podcasts, blogs, youtube channels or social media sites. Be an informed consumer and come with a healthy bit of skepticism regarding any extreme positions or promises of 'quick fixes' regarding your health. The above books are a great place to start, written by people who have dedicated a large part of their life to this topic and research.