The secrets to looking younger than your age
If you're feeling frumpy, Dr Frank Lipman can change your life. Barbara McMahon meets the dietary guru to America's A-list
As one of America's foremost healthy-eating "gurus", Dr Frank Lipman offers nutritional advice that is followed by celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Arianna Huffington and Maggie Gyllenhaal. His cleanses, shakes and supplements are beloved by New York fashion and beauty editors who use them to sort out their digestive systems, get rid of bloat and drop a few pounds.
He has helped thousands of "civilians" overcome unhealthy habits, yet some people continue to think his advice is dubious. "People still call me a quack, especially in England," he scowls.
It is understandable that the 61-year-old health evangelist is defensive. For years, his blend of east-meets-west integrative medicine was regarded as kooky and scientifically unproven, something for pampered women (and men) who were neurotic about their health.
Now the wellness movement has exploded and nobody blinks an eye if someone says they are detoxing, juicing or avoiding gluten. The clean-living lifestyle that Paltrow promotes on her website 'Goop' no longer seems eccentric and annoying.
"People are starting to catch up with the fact that food affects our health outcomes and yoga and meditation and acupuncture aren't new-agey things, that they have therapeutic effects. People realise how incredibly important exercise and sleep is," he says.
We are in Lipman's discreet clinic tucked away on the fifth floor of an office building in the Flatiron District of Manhattan. It is a quiet and mellow place with treatment rooms for chiropractic care and deep tissue massage. In nearby offices, Lipman's health coaches act as cheerleaders, always on the end of a telephone or email to encourage clients to stay on the dietary straight and narrow.
He puts the subject of his critics aside to discuss his fourth book, which is about ageing. It has the arresting title 10 Reasons You Feel Old and Get Fat. Most of us see the years from 40 as a slow, painful decline marked by weight gain, lethargy, mysterious pains, brain fog and waning interest in sex.
"We misunderstand what our bodies need to perform at their best so we eat the wrong foods, we skimp on sleep, we deprive our bodies of the movement they crave and we let stress drain away our vitality and joy," says Lipman.
"Unnecessary medications deplete our bodies of essential nutrients, disrupt our innate ability to heal. Our body's natural functions - our intricate systems of hormones, nerves, brain function, digestion, detoxification and immune functions - begin to break down."
Our bodies do change as we get older but the trick is to adjust accordingly, he explains. We have more control over our health than we think, he says.
"We can't change our genes but we can change how they express themselves. Only 2pc of our genes are set in stone from birth and factors such as lifestyle and diet can heavily influence what the other 98pc does. Though you may be susceptible to chronic diseases like diabetes or heart disease, you don't necessarily have to succumb to them."
So what are some of the reasons we feel old and get fat and, more importantly, what can we do to maximise good health with each passing birthday?
Clean up your diet
Stop eating inflammatory foods that make you feel old and fat - sugar, starch and carbs - and replace them with nourishing foods that balance your blood sugar and your hormones while freeing you from cravings.
"Excess insulin also creates inflammation which creates the symptoms and disorders that make you feel old," Lipman says. He recommends cutting out everything that contains processed sugar and cutting back on starchy foods. These include: potatoes, rice, corn, pasta, bread, soups, sauces thickened with wheat flour or corn starch.
A lack of healthy fats in our diet contributes to digestive difficulties, skin problems, hormonal issues, frequent colds and flu and more serious problems such as heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune disease and cancer.
We should eat friendly fats such as avocado, coconut and extra-virgin olive oil and foods containing friendly fats such as raw nuts, goat and sheep's milk cheese, grass-fed butter, cold-water fish such as salmon and mackerel and organic grass-fed or pasteurised meats.
We should eat more leafy vegetables and avoid gluten, a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye and barley and in processed foods. Avoid all processed or factory-farmed foods.
Your microbiome is out of whack
The microbiome is the community of bacteria that lives in and on the human body and is essential for digesting food, supporting the immune system, protecting the gut and maintaining a healthy weight. Factors that throw this out of balance include sweets, starches, unhealthy fats, artificial sweeteners, stress, lack of sleep and antibiotics.
"The gut is so important we call it the second brain," Lipman says. "Inflammation of the joints, autoimmune problems, skin problems and anxiety and depression can all start in thegut."
Protect your body's bug community by taking a daily probiotic, a powder or pill containing friendly bacteria that replenishes the microbiome, he recommends. Eat three to four servings a week of fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir (fermented milk) or other fermented vegetables since they contain natural bacteria that protect the microbiome. For at least two weeks, cut out reactive foods such as sugar, processed food, gluten, dairy products, corn, all grains, nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, aubergines and peppers) and soy.
Your hormones are out of balance
Our hormones change as we get older, with men experiencing a drop in testosterone and women seeing declines in their oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone levels. These changes are easy to ride out if the body is enjoying optimal function, says Lipman. However, the body may be stressed by too many sweets and starches, unhealthy fats, gluten and other reactive foods, an imbalanced microbiome and lack of sleep.
To rebalance hormones, avoid or minimise caffeine, sweets and starches, gluten and other reactive foods. Limit exposure to toxic chemicals by switching to natural household cleaners, personal care products and cosmetics and drink filtered water. Women are more likely to ride out the changes caused by the menopause if their hormones are balanced.
"Your hormones are like a symphony orchestra," says Lipman. "When one instrument is out of tune, it throws everything off. "
Get seven to eight hours' sleep to allow your hormones to do their job. Limit caffeine in the form of tea, coffee, energy drinks and soft drinks.
Getting regular exercise, discovering your passion, looking for opportunities to create meaning in your life and finding people who share the same values helps people start new chapters in life.
"I get knocked all the time because I promote supplements," he says, darkly. On his website, bewellbydrfranklipman.com, he sells a staggering array of products (not available in Ireland). No doubt, it is all very lucrative.
"I think supplements, when given appropriately, can be extremely helpful," he says. "I'm not saying it's the only solution. You can't eat crappy food, take a supplement, and that's all right. Supplements are in addition to a healthy diet."
If we have a healthy diet, surely we don't need supplements?
"We should be able to get all the nutrients that we need from our food, but I don't think we do," he says.
"Food travels long distances, it's grown in more depleted soil, it's picked before it's ripe and it's on the shelf for longer periods.
"Nutrients are the building blocks for life, for your cells, so if you're not getting enough, supplements play an important part."
"I'm 61 but I feel 41," he says. "We think of health in terms of black and white but it is a spectrum. Most people are not really sick but they're not really healthy either and most of the time you can move them to the healthy side by changing their diet, getting them to sleep better, getting them to move, taking the right supplements and balancing their microbiomes." © The Times
'10 Reasons You Feel Old and Get Fat' by Frank Lipman is out now (Hay House, €17.00)