Michigan Chronicle- Could you tell me a little of your background and experience?
Sharon Oliver- I trained and studied at Wayne State University. I did my internship and residency in internal medicine at Providence Hospital. Because of some really extraordinary experiences; I began to explore alternative medicine. I studied with quite a few medical doctors who were pioneers like Dr. Jewel Pookrum where I got my initial training in alternative medicine. Unlike people who are not physicians, I can still write prescriptions, do physical exams and make diagnoses.
What other licensed doctors can do, I can do.
MC- But you also compliment that with alternative modalities…
MC- What is the difference between holistic doctors and naturopathic doctors?
SO- Actually, there is quite a big difference. The common question is what is the difference between alternative, integrative and holistic doctors. All of those terms are pretty interchangeable. Those types of doctors not only deal with the physical, but also with the mental and emotional aspects of the disease. That is what a holistic doctor would do- they look at the whole person. A lot of naturopathic doctors will only work with the physical symptoms. They may use supplements. They may use body work techniques like massage or acupuncture to help the person but they won’t deal with lifestyle changes.
MC- Many Americans are turning to natural modalities like herbal supplements to deal with issues like obesity. According to reports, Detroit has been ranked as a city with a high amount of overweight people. What is your take on the process of losing weight?
SO- They all work. All these diets work. All these herbs work, and people lose weight. But as soon as they stop, they not only gain the weight they had lost, they put on even more. To get the weight under control and to keep it in control, you have to look at lifestyle, stress, and diet. A lot of these so called “healthy” foods are not. You also have to look at quantity, exercise, and your family history. You will have to look at what effects your emotions and mind set have on your physical metabolism.
One of the things I was taught was that we have four aspects of ourselves: emotional, physical, mental and spiritual. When you are faced with something that causes anxiety, the first thing that you have is an emotional reaction. What we are taught in this society is to suppress that emotion. By any means necessary. You are feeling this feeling and what do a lot of people use to suppress that feeling? Food.
After you have the emotional response, you get a physical action. You get a particular feeling and you eat some food. That is a physical reaction. It’s not until you get to the next stage which is mental, you mind starts to go: “Why did I just do that? Why that stuff I know I am not supposed to eat?”
It usually goes in that order. When we give ourselves the permission to really feel these emotions, then we don’t have to repress them with the food.
MC- What in your opinion is the biggest misconception that many people have about dieting?
SO- I think one of biggest misconceptions is calorie counting. People think they need to limit their potion of food. That is a simple way to look at it. One of the hardest reflex to ignore is the hunger reflex. It is almost impossible. What happens physically is that you get hungry and you don’t have anything healthy to eat. So you will stop at the nearest fast food restaurant and get something that has a lot of grease, salt and sugar.
That is a survival mode. The oil makes you fill up quickly and the salt and the sugar that’s in it fools your body into thinking “Wow, I just had excellent food!” Now a half hour later, your body goes, “That wasn’t worth anything!” and then you are hungry again.
MC- so we will have to look at the quality of food that we eat…
MC- a lot people are watching their spending right now. Many want to eat healthier but feel that they can’t afford to as much as they would like. Do you have any suggestions?
SO- Most people based their meals around meat. Across the board, I don’t care what you are looking at… the most expensive thing you can buy is meat. When you look at a plant based diet meaning that your main dish is from a vegetable or grain, you by far are spending much less that you would if you are making meat the main dish.
The thing about plants, except for avocados and olives, they don’t have any fat. A lot of food like broccoli, cabbages, collards help you to lose weight. Animal foods help you to keep weight on. So it is less expensive to buy more vegetables than meat.
Whether commercially grown or organic, plants by far, and there is research supporting this, are much healthier for you when you base your diet around them. Try it for yourself. Eat as much vegetables as you want. Don’t limit yourself. Many people have reported to me that when they do this, their appetites actually increase. That is because their bodies are finally able to absorb much needed nutrients. Within days of eating a plant based diet, people find that their blood pressure has lowered, they have more energy…overall they feel better. It doesn’t take long and it doesn’t take a lot of effort.
MC-Do you have any suggestions for those who still like to eat meat?
SO- I don’t. It is just a reality check. Usually in this country, by the time you are 50, you are expected to be on a laundry list of medications. Almost across the board, people who eat that type of diet have the same kind of problems: high pressure, diabetes, allergic relations, rashes, ulcers… these are typical of people that participate in a meat based diet. If that is what you want to do, then just do it with the full awareness that this is what you are letting yourself in for.
There are other doctors who will give you all the pills so that they can suppress the symptoms and you can continue doing what you are doing that got you sick in the first place.
MC- Many people eat on the go because their lives are so busy. They may not have the time to prepare a healthy meal. Do you have any suggestions for them?
SO- Isn’t it interesting how Americans have all of these problems? But look at the life we live. That so called convenience food… who is it convenient for? Probably your boss so that you can stop eating and get back to work. You really just said it when you mentioned “Eat on the Go”. This is done instead of taking the time to relax and eat your food.
A suggestion that I do have is to get juice from a juice bar. You will see a lot of them in Middle Eastern restaurants. That is a good way to get a lot of nutrients. It is a lot better than getting the greasy deep fried garbage. My other advice for people is for hem to increase their water intake.
MC- What is your opinion on the diet food craze?
SO- They are not sustainable which is why they ultimately fail. You can’t keep eating those items day in and day out. The only thing that is sustainable is eating good healthy food. Every blue moon when you feel you want to eat some junk food, that will not hurt you. Many people will get a big bag of chips. Why not get a big bag of vegetables to snack on? Put it in a cooler you can always keep with you. Make it look really nice.
MC- Do you find that you will have to re-educate your patients on healthy eating?
SO- Yes. All the time. Here is an example that I mention some of my patients. I have found is that particularly of the vegan diet, it is protective against osteoporosis. In fact, it is a high protein diet. One thing I found was there was a study of 100,000 nurses and the scientists looked at the ones who drunk the recommended amounts of milk and the ones that didn’t. What they found was that the ones that drank the milk had the highest amounts of osteoporosis. What they believe is that the protein from the milk that increase the body’s acidic levels. There is one organ in the body that can neutralize all that acid and that is the bone. In order to neutralize that acid, from all this protein, the bone will have to dissolve and then what happens is that because you are releasing calcium to neutralize the acid and then you go to the bathroom and you urinate it out. In reality, you are losing more calcium than you are taking in by drinking milk and eating all this excessive protein. Protein deficiency is the hardest thing to get in this country. The reason why people are so concerned with it is because we were taught this since grade school without the understanding that it is everywhere. Unless you are starving to death or have a traumatic illness or injury, you shouldn’t have to worry about your protein levels.
This is not Dr. Sharon Oliver speaking, this is in the literature that supports the health benefits of a plant based diet.
MC- A lot of people think that a lot vegan and vegetarians are unhealthy people.
SO- Well, a lot of vegans and vegetarians are unhealthy. But it is not because of their diet. It is because they have health challenges. Just because you are a vegan doesn’t mean that you won’t have health challenges.
MC- So what is the objective for living a healthy life? Is it to have no health challenges or to limit them?
SO- Well, it is to prevent as much as possible any health challenges that could happen. Does it mean that you will never develop something? That probably is unrealistic. Probably the truth is eventually something is going to happen. What is being realized is that health challenges happen a lot less frequently to people who eat a plant based diet.
I am 50 but I want to be old one day. I want to go mountain climbing in when I’m 88 years old. In order to do that, then I will have do some things. When I look at the vast majority of 80 year olds, they are not mountain climbing or stair climbing for that matter. When you get old, it is expected that you will be on a lot of medication. Because I have done some different things, I am not on a whole medication. And maybe if I keep doing things differently, by the time I turn 88, then I could do the mountain climbing thing easy.
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