We at Meatless Monday believe that proactive healthcare and lifestyle changes greatly decreases risk of chronic illness. Dr. Serena Ma practices naturopathic medicine, which deals with holistic health and prevention. Dr. Ma serves on the board of directors of The Institute for Natural Medicine and has training in both Western and traditional Chinese medicine. We asked her more about naturopathic medicine and asked her advice on disease prevention.
What is naturopathic medicine?
Naturopathic medicine is based on the belief that the body has the innate ability to heal itself. Naturopathic doctors pay careful attention to lifestyle in order to identify and treat the underlying cause of disease (poor diet, stress, etc).
What are the benefits of Naturopathic medicine over current Western practices?
Visits with naturopathic doctors are longer, enabling us to get better insight of the patient’s health status. This allows us to understand why and come up with an individualized plan that the patient can adhere to. Naturopathic medicine is a customized approach, not a one-pill-cures-all approach.
One of the key ideas behind Naturopathic medicine is health education. What advice do you have about diet and disease?
Many chronic diseases are a result of improper diet. It’s essential to eat whole foods, read labels and avoid substances you don’t recognize (or look it up to see what it is). I tell my patients to eat 5 colors found in fruits and vegetables per day – that way they are getting different vitamins and minerals found in the different colors.
Many chronic conditions can be rectified with simple lifestyle changes. What are some behavior changes that you typically recommend to your patients?
I often see patients who are overly-stressed with no time to cook for themselves or to eat properly. To manage stress, try yoga, meditation, or even breathing exercises. When it comes to diet, NEVER skip meals! It’s also important to maintain your blood sugar: some health problems associated with erratic blood sugar levels include diabetes, obesity, depression, anxiety, and headaches.
Why did you decide to take the Meatless Monday pledge?
Every year I try to make a New Year Resolution (lifestyle change) for my own health and another one for the environment. Meatless Monday embraces both in one, so it was an obvious choice for 2010.