This weeks Balanced Babe, Dr. Amy Shah, runs the allergy/immunology division of a large medical group and serves on two medical boards. In addition to her busy schedule, Amy finds time to share her wealth of knowledge and passion with others through her website amyshahmd.com, aptly named “life is short, live it well”. She has also been featured in The Huffington Post, MindBodyGreen as well as many other health & wellness blogs. Amy lives in Paradise Valley, Arizona with her husband and two young children. When she’s not seeing patients, writing articles or doing research, Amy enjoys family time, jogging, hiking and, most recently, power yoga!
BB: Eastern Medicine has been gaining popularity here for some time now. What types of alternative medicine would you like to see more widely accepted within the medical community?
We cannot deny the power of food as medicine. The fact that in western medicine today we neglect the known powers of food– is very sad. In medical school in the US, we learn very little about nutrition and the power that food has in its’ ability to heal. Luckily, I see this as a turning trend and I see more and more doctors starting to incorporate this Eastern philosophy. In Eastern medicine they have studied the impact of medicinal herbs, spices and plants for thousands of years. Of course, it has to be substantiated with science to make sure it’s safe etc- but a lot of science has already been done on certain foods. For example, turmeric is a known anti inflammatory and anti cancer agent- and this bore out in medical studies as well. So, definitely we need to incorporate herbs like turmeric into cancer treatment etc. Also, we need to address the power of the mind body connection. In the immune system there is clear connection between stress and depressed immune system.
BB: There seem to be endless types of detoxes available. In your opinion, are there any specifically that might be dangerous and should be used with caution?
Yes, there are so many unproven treatments and dangerous consequences. I am not a huge fan of detoxes that use appetite suppressants or aggressive laxative or water pills. It can alter your electrolyte balance and can be really dangerous.
BB: Many wonder what’s so bad about gluten. What are your thoughts on this and do you think we can all benefit by going “gluten-free”?
Gluten is a top allergen and irritant to gut immune system. I find that many people feel better when they pull themselves off of gluten. But that is NOT everyone and most people can tolerate it in moderation. I do believe strongly that gluten containing foods should be limited in general since the wheat of today is not the same as wheat 50 years ago.
BB: What are some of the top causes of “inflammation” that can bring about major health problems?
Inflammation is the root cause of headaches, fatigue, weight gain, hormone imbalance and most modern disease. Getting to the root cause is much better than treating each one of these symptoms with a pill. The #1 cause of inflammation is STRESS. That comes as mental stress from anxiety and life overwhelm, but also as physical stress such as too little sleep. Other top culprits causing inflammation is diet. The commercial oils that restaurants, and snack food companies use is very inflammatory. Refined sugar is also very inflammatory.
Decreasing inflammation can solve so many of your health problems all at once!
BB: What foods do you eat to boost your energy? And can you give us an example of a typical dinner meal for you?
I like eating plant based meals. When I was living in NYC with 2 young kids I realized that my hormones were completely out of whack and that I needed to really change the way I was eating. Even though I thought I was eating healthy- I was barely eating any vegetables and having a lot of sugar throughout the day. The biggest thing I have learned from balancing my own hormones was that there is a real power in increasing your vegetable intake up to 3-6 cups a day! Also, weaning off of sugar –which is a continued journey and very difficult.
I like to eat dinner very early- and it usually my lightest meal– Usually some kind of salad. I will top it with lentils, or seeds/nuts. I ALWAYS have 2 squares of dark chocolate after dinner though. When I eat out- I like to have soup, and salad for dinner. Remember, like my grandfather used to say, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen, and dinner like a pauper.”
BB: How do you maintain the Balanced Babe lifestyle?
I realize that it is so hard to be balanced with so many responsibilities but I make sure to have a few non negotiables. My non negotiables are having some down time in the morning to collect my thoughts, meditate, and practice gratitude. Then later in the day fitting in some movement-whether it’s a yoga class, or outing with my kids. When time is tight, I will ask my husband to watch the kids while I take a quick jog around the neighborhood! I need daily movement- It’s my happy pill.
My creative outlet is writing for my website. I sincerely feel that everyone should have an activity that brings your stress level down, and gets your creative juices flowing– for me that’s researching, writing, and speaking about wellness. I feel that when I do this- I feel so much more balanced and happy. Nowadays, whenever I am with a friend- all I keep telling them is to pursue something that they have always been passionate about– it’s good for your brain and body.