HuffPost Living's Sleep Challenge 2010 gave us a lot of great insights as to the importance of sleep, tips on how to experience better quality and quantity of sleep, and the challenges and obstacles that we face when trying to improve our sleep. Many commenters revealed how they experience high stress and low energy throughout the day, as well as having difficulty getting quality sleep at night.
Speaking of low energy, lucky winner of HuffPost Living's Total Energy Makeover, Marissa Campise, has a whole team of health experts helping her to restore her lost energy. Frank Lipman, M.D., an integrative physician, is the ideal medical component of Marissa's team.
Dr. Lipman has a special interest in helping the exhausted regain their vitality. In fact, he wrote a book about it called Revive: Stop Feeling Spent and Start Living Again (previously known as Spent). In his bestselling book, Dr. Lipman offers readers 42 ways to put spring back into their step.
Originally from South Africa, Dr. Lipman now practices in New York City, where he is the Director of the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center. In his Manhattan practice, he often works with exhausted New Yorkers. Dr. Lipman is a physician with over 30 years of experience, who incorporates nutrition, functional medicine, and Eastern modalities such as acupuncture and Chinese herbs. In a recent interview, Dr. Lipman shared some of his insights that have helped his patients improve their energy and vitality.
PF: Where did you get the inspiration for the book Revive: Stop Feeling Spent and Start Living?
FL: I see so many people who are exhausted and running on empty, feeling completely "spent." They often come in seeking a cure for their tennis elbow or headaches or menopausal symptoms or irritable bowel syndrome or some other condition, but what I noticed was that many of these people were simply exhausted. Some would mention it, but most didn't say anything, thinking it was just normal to feel that way in New York.
I wanted to share my many years of clinical experience, what I had seen work in my practice with a larger audience. So I wrote the book and divided it into 42 daily beats, basically 42 different tips that anyone can start incorporating into their lives and feel better. With each daily beat, I incorporated a sleep beat or sleep tip because so many people have sleep issues.
PF: Your dedication in the book begins with: "To all those out of rhythm who are trying to find their beat." How did you get interested in people's rhythms?
FL: When I started thinking about why there was this epidemic of exhaustion, I realized that the only time in my 30 years as a physician that I never saw patients who were exhausted was when I worked in a rural tribal area in South Africa. I was seeing diseases symptomatic of poverty and malnutrition, but not the same types of problems I see today in New York City or when I worked in urban areas in South Africa. It was the only time I could remember where patients did not come in complaining of fatigue, insomnia, depression, migraines or various aches and pains. There was no electricity, indoor heating, or refrigeration in those rural areas 29 years ago when I worked there. They went to bed when it got dark, they arose with the sun, they ate whatever foods were available in season. They lived in accordance with the cycles and rhythms of nature...they had to.
Then I thought about what I had learned in Chinese Medicine that we humans are microcosms of nature, a smaller universe per se and are affected by its cycles. So I looked to see if there was any scientific research on health and rhythms and lo and behold I discovered Chronobiology (the study of circadian rhythms and internal body clocks). A circadian rhythm is a roughly 24-hour cycle in the physiological processes of most life on Earth, including humans (reflecting the amount of time it takes for the Earth to complete a rotation). For instance, our digestion and hormones are two physiological processes that have circadian rhythms.
Then I discovered a fantastic book, Making Waves by Roger Lewin, about the work of medical maverick Dr. Irving Dardick. Dr. Dardick worked with Olympic athletes - but he got ostracized back in the 1990s when claiming that he could cure diseases with intervals. When I read that book, everything started falling into place. I realized how nobody's talking about rhythm - people talk about stress and diet, but not rhythm. It was so obvious as we live with day and night, the main rhythm we are exposed to, and just take it for granted. Over time, I weaved this philosophy of rhythm of health into what I do in my practice.
PF: What are the most important pieces of advice you give people about keeping their rhythms in balance?
FL: Since our digestion peaks by midday according to our body rhythms, we should be eating most of our food by lunchtime. Having protein and good fats in the morning is really important. I suggest having a smoothie, which is what I drink for breakfast each day. For one thing, it gets you to avoid the processed sugars and bread that most people eat and which is probably the worst thing you can start your day with. A smoothie also makes for a nutrient dense meal. There are a great variety of smoothie recipes in Revive -- I didn't want the readers to get bored. The smoothies are absolutely delicious; even kids who usually don't care for this stuff like them.
I basically tell people to eat real food, as close to nature as possible. It's what we do to our food that often is the problem. So eat local and seasonal whole foods as much as possible. Taking sugar, processed foods, gluten and dairy out of people's diet has made a huge difference to their energy levels. There are so many people who are sensitive to the gluten found in bread. It can stress our immune and digestive systems.
Creating an electronic sundown is also an important concept. I recommend turning off your cell phones, computers and TVs by 10 pm. Keeping your room dark at bedtime is essential and if you can't, using an eye mask can help. Getting a good amount of sleep is key to health, so the book has a sleep tip with each of the 42 daily tips.
In addition, there are tonics that I use from Chinese medicine. These provide adaptogens that increase the body's resistance to stress and fatigue. I'm obsessed with adaptogenic herbs. I think that most New Yorkers over the age of 40 need adaptogens. When people come in and they're tired, I'll often use the adaptogens. They're fantastic. Asian ginseng, Rhodiola and Ashwagandha would be some adaptogens that many people have heard of.
Also, I've always been obsessed with rhythm and music, so I use entrainment to music to help people get back in rhythm. Your body contains an autonomic mechanism that synchs you up with strong, external rhythms, pulses or beats, a phenomenon known as entrainment. Our internal rhythms will speed up or slow down to match a stronger external rhythm. For instance, if people are tired, I recommend they listen to upbeat African rhythms; if they need to chill out, I recommend more relaxing rhythms like reggae music. Most people need to slow down, but music can be used to slow down or speed up.
PF: When your patients come to you with their super busy lives, you ask them to try to slow down. Are they receptive?
FL: Some are receptive, and some find it difficult. That's why the book has so many different tips as everyone responds to different suggestions or advice. One of my favorites is restorative yoga. I find it extremely helpful to slow people down yet energize them. It is ideal for people who are run down, tired and stressed out. It is a way of getting the effects of the yoga poses without having to work at it. I have a number of these poses in the book.
PF: How do the acupuncture treatments you provide help your exhausted, stressed out patients?
FL: People experience a sense of relaxation with the acupuncture and have a sense of calm that they often have forgotten was possible. In addition, acupuncture is a great way to relieve stress and improve function. Most people say they feel calm yet energized after acupuncture.
PF: Dr. Lipman, how do you personally cope with the hectic New York lifestyle?
FL: I meditate in the morning, I do yoga, and when I am tired, I practice restorative yoga. My wife and I walk a lot, we exercise as much as we can and eat well. I basically practice what I preach and live for the most part what I recommend to my patients. I am also lucky because I love what I do. I am blessed with great patients who I enjoy being with. I get up in the morning looking forward to going to work.
PF: Dr. Lipman, thanks so much for sharing some of your unique insights. We look forward to following you throughout the year as you help the Total Energy Makeover winner, Marissa Campise, regain her lost energy. I'm sure many of us will benefit from your advice.
FL: Thanks, Patricia. I'm looking forward to helping Marissa and sharing some strategies that have helped many of my own patients over the years. I'll keep you posted.
Follow Dr. Patricia Fitzgerald on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drpatriciafitz