According to statistics published by the Mayo Clinic and other university studies, the average adult American does not consume enough fruits and vegetables. Estimates are about 70% depending upon the specific study. Obviously, this represents a majority of the population. I, therefore, strongly recommend at least nine different fruits or vegetables, or a combination thereof, be consumed daily.

Here are some suggestions: bananas, apples, apricots, blueberries, asparagus, broccoli, sprouts, cantaloupe, watermelon, carrots, cauliflowers, kale, kidney beans, spinach, oranges, peaches, prunes, and romaine lettuce. Hopefully, you may like several of these. There are others, but these can readily be used as a snack or in a salad.

For protein, consider tuna, salmon, chicken or turkey breast, sardines, and white fish. While some people oppose dairy products in a diet, skim (non-fat) milk is an excellent source of vitamins A, D and protein, as well as trace elements. Eating lean red meat twice a week is also desirable.

The ingestion of fatty foods and foods with high sugar content are fine on an occasional basis, but can be harmful to your health if taken regularly.

Remember that for 70% of the U.S. adult population, what they ingest into their GI tract will determine their health status. Fifteen percent will thrive regardless, and 15% will not thrive.

The GI tract can also be negatively affected by medication, and with over 40 years of practicing medicine, it is my experience that there is considerable over-prescribing of meds – especially in the older age groups (50+).

With significant and sometimes severe side effects, I recommend that the following be avoided and considered inappropriate:

  • Demerol (there are other acceptable options)
  • Barbiturates (example phenobarbital)
  • Meprobamate for anxiety
  • Dalmane (sleeping pill) and all other sleeping medication like Ambien, Lunesta, etc.
  • Diabinase (lowers blood sugars)
  • Probanthine (GI medication which can create possible tachycardia, sweating and blurred vision)
  • Belladona (can cause decreased memory and blurred vision)
  • Muscle relaxants (i.e., Soma, Flexeril, Skelaxin, Robaxin) can be used for a few days only but longer usage can result in weak and flaccid muscles

One last note…Always remember that a majority of people over fifty are chemically dehydrated and proper fluid intake is necessary for good health. The amount of fluid needed is really dependent on body weight and obviously varies between individuals and their activity level. If the skin on your arm remains tented for a few seconds when you pinch it, you are dehydrated. Another sign is when your urine color is a dark yellow (concentrated). Thirst is not really a determinant, as it is a lazy reflex.

Always try to make healthy choices instead of harmful ones. Be well and stay well!

Dr. Levey is an orthopedic surgeon with the Desert Spine and Neuroscience Institute in Rancho Mirage and can be reached at (760) 837.8020.

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