You Could Be So Much Healthier (+ Happier). FBP Chats With Naples Wellness Expert Linell King, MD
A few weeks back, an invitation to a dinner seminar on the topic of hormones and stress arrived in my LinkedIn inbox. The thought of driving an hour each way already raised my anxiety: as a former New Yorker, getting in the car, especially at night, is worrisome. But my curiosity was definitely piqued, especially as I’m kinda treating post-Irma like a new year: buh-bye stress and hello to a better daily wellness regimen.
I reached out to the seminar’s host, Dr. Linell King, whose Naples practice focuses on wellness. He’s also the author of Mastering Vitality: 7 Simple & Sustainable Steps. This top doc was traditionally trained and boasts impressive credentials: he’s armed with an MD from the University of Wisconsin, and served his internal medicine residency at Johns Hopkins University.
When his father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and unable to find comfort or treatment beyond traditional surgery and chemotherapy (a body-wrecker, take it from me - this week marks the 13th anniversary of my colorectal cancer diagnosis at age 40 and 24 rounds of post-surgery 5Fu chemo) he knew there had to be a better answer for prolonging Dad’s life.
Dr. King did some pre-Google research and accompanied his father to San Diego’s Optimum Health Institute, where holistic practices are used for treating ailments that torment the body, mind and spirit. Emphasizing how the body’s self-healing properties are too often ignored in modern Western medicine, Dr. King learned more - in a week - about healing the body via better nutrition, mind-body connection, and other holistic methods than from four years of medical school and three years of residency. Why? For the simple, and tragic, reason that nutrition wasn’t then an integral part of any American medical student’s education.
Dr. King also worked with motivational guru Tony Robbins, the impetus for taking a year-long sabbatical from his medical practice. During this time, he traveled around the world on a journey of personal development. He also headed to Chennai, India, as part of his spiritual journey. This experience generated a change in the way he would practice medicine going forward.
With a nod to Oprah and living your best life, we spoke to Dr. King about living your healthiest.
FBP: I’ve always thought "wellness" was kind of a loosey-goosey term.
Dr. King: I like to think of the goal as optimum health. I start by getting patients off unnecessary medications, and prescribing a personalized lifestyle strategy that can heal the body without medications. Typically there are four categories when we think about health:
- Disease - A patient is sick and likely on medication(s).
- Health - Free of disease.
- Prevention - Preventing disease, which in the US means early detection of what may be in your inherited genetic future.
- Optimum Health - Vitality and performance at your best levels, no matter your age.
FBP: In Florida, many of us have an assortment of friends, neighbors and relatives of all ages with pill drawers marked with the days of the week. I don’t want to be that girl. Ever.
Dr. King: Age should not determine what your body is able to do. When my 70-year old mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, in order to extend what her initial physicians told her would be a two-year life expectancy, the first thing I did was move her to sunny Naples from Alabama.
Her various doctors had her on 13 different medications for treating her diabetes, weight, blood pressure, heart and lung diseases.
Within a year, incorporating a healthier diet and daily movement, she realized her ideal weight, which reversed her blood pressure, heart issues and diabetes.
By stopping smoking, she was able to breathe and move with greater agility.
The only thing her new lifestyle couldn’t cure was her kidney disease; once the kidneys are damaged, usually it’s irreversible. She lived another 12 years, passing away at 82.
As evidenced by my mother, it’s never too late to change the body. With proper eating and lifestyle choices, the body can heal itself when we let it. There’s no reason you can’t be ballroom dancing and having fun well into your 90s.
FBP: What inspires a woman to make an appointment at your office instead of a regular internist?
Dr. King: A typical patient is a woman who struggles with her weight. In her earlier years, she was more active, but now she’s 30-40 pounds above her ideal weight. Or perhaps she comes in saying, “My body is a wreck.”
I then perform thorough bloodwork, a review of her medication history, and measure her hormone levels. In about three months, when following a healthier lifestyle alters the body’s biochemistry, her body starts to normalize.
All too often she has a big event: a wedding, a class reunion, and she wants to lose weight. The biggest mistake most women make is setting short-term goals, leading to a short-term health kick and short-term results which yo-yo into what can be an eternal vicious cycle for the metabolism, yielding visceral fat - the kind caused by cortisol, the stress hormone - that commonly leads to metabolic diseases.
Pain is always the motivator and is always present whether it’s manifested by visual or other physical cues. For example, the pain of not fitting into a dress is temporarily greater than the pain of the diet. Once she fits into the dress, the pain becomes the consistent diet and exercise required for living your most vital life. When forgoing the healthy diet, the pain can manifest as a heart attack or other life-threatening diagnosis.
Superficial goals get in the way of what should be a life goal. The worst are weekend warriors who temporarily make changes reverting to old habits once the short-term goal is accomplished.
Living a full, active life without ailments is the goal, and the prescription is a healthier lifestyle. An ideal patient is one who’s ready to be an active participant in her own rescue, taking charge of her life.
FBP: My 52-year-old bestie has MS. She owns a restaurant with amazing food and wine and she's always sampling what's served to guests. She does Pilates twice weekly and spins daily. How could she possibly improve on what she’s already doing?
Dr. King: Auto-immune diseases require an anti-inflammatory diet. With all the good things she’s doing exercise-wise, she’s effectively negating those effects with rich food and alcohol, which is toxic to the nervous system. Wine is also loaded with sugar.
Anti-inflammation diets benefit most people while reducing so many issues. Foggy brain is not age-related, it’s inflammation. The same with coordination and balance, energy levels, mindset and skin.
For patients with a metabolic disease affecting the liver or kidneys, diet is also crucial; healthy proteins, including salmon, beans and/or legumes, seeds and nuts, are required at every meal to prevent insulin spikes.
Processed foods should be tossed from everyone’s pantry.
FBP: How does an FBP reader find a doctor like you in her city?
Dr. King: Interview your doctor as carefully as you would a home contractor or babysitter. Instead of letting the doctor take charge, be the CEO of your body. Think of your doctor as your employee and speak up when you feel like you’re not being heard.
FBP’s takeaway: While listening to NPR in my car, there was an interesting debate on 1A about a physician’s role and responsibilities when it comes to treating pain resulting from illness and injury. One of the show’s participating physicians was quick to point out how American health insurance companies don’t compensate physicians or reimburse patients for preventive care or remedies, only for treatment of the presenting illness. As Dr. King explained, officially it's called Legal Standard of Practice; unofficially it seems like CYA medicine.