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Are you a walking time bomb?

Don't ignore the signs - or your family history

'Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food.'

- Hippocrates, the father of medicine

Each of us has a set of health risks. The good news is that suffering can be evaluated and adverse health symptoms turned around.

Don't wait until a symptom becomes an ailment before addressing it. Understand your family history and know your genetic potential. Read your body's signs. Start early on in life and use food as a foundation to a healthy essence.

Sometimes one's problems are obvious - an upset stomach tract, skin rash, sinus congestion, excess fat, bone and muscle pain, and disturbing sleep patterns. According to licensed acupuncturist and naturopathic physician, Dr. Kenneth Rifkin, there is ample evidence that proper diet can offset many ailments. He says more and more universities and pharmaceutical companies are seeking out food and drugs that can improve the body's performance.

'Increased research has answered questions about why people are overweight and how a variety of illnesses can be battled,' he says. 'It's no longer trial and error.'

General food science has opened the door to shape people's lives to be free of suffering. Naturally, every body is different, but with a blood test Rifkin can check 55 elements that affect many of a body's attributes, including hormones, moods, colon terrain, toxin levels and food allergies.

Rifkin's patients suffer from a variety of afflictions. The most common complaints he treats at his Mountain Park office are migraines, hormone disturbances, irritable bowel syndrome and muscle and joint pain. Acid reflux, food allergies and thyroid illnesses are also common.

'The Indians called this 'the Valley of Sickness'' Rifkin explains. 'The Northwest is the goiter belt. There's greater thyroid illnesses here than elsewhere. The soil lacks the nutrients necessary to supply produce with the nutrients that maintain proper thyroid health. Some imported vegetables have the same problem.'

The West Linn resident, who grew up in a New York household that focused on natural health and organic foods way before it became fashionable, says eating a healthy diet is a way of life.

'It is possible to get the necessary vitamins and minerals from food. As you get older, you become more susceptible to illnesses, and symptoms manifest themselves differently than when you were younger. Enzyme output changes.'

Required protein

Our bodies rely on protein to make enzymes, antibodies and hormones and build and repair muscles, organs and bones. To keep our bodies running smoothly we need protein, which is made up of amino acids. 'Complete' or high-quality proteins contain all eight essential amino acids and come from animal sources (milk, eggs, meat, poultry and fish) and foods made from soy (tofu and tempeh). Nuts and dried beans and peas are other good sources of protein, but how the food is prepared can determine the amount of amino acids consumed.

'An overcooked egg loses its nutritional value,' suggests Rifkin, who believes bad cooking practices contribute to a wide range of digestive disturbances.

Oregon's first naturopathic physician to become a licensed acupuncturist uses a blood test as the core of his evaluation of his clients. He isolates the patient's needs and individualizes treatment. Traditional exams, such as an MRI or X-ray may also be necessary to make a diagnosis.

'Today, people have one more option. We take the best of both worlds,' he says, referring to traditional and alternative medicine. 'We go deep and treat the cause. We learn the patient's history and lifestyle. Diet, supplements and IV therapy can improve many conditions. We have a higher percentage of improved conditions.'

Nutritional intravenous therapy is how Rifkin safely administers concentrated doses of vitamins and minerals without side affects.

'Mega doses of C have been proven to help treat cancer,' he says. 'It can stabilize the nervous system and flood the body with needed C that helps shrink the tumor.'

On the other hand, shifting a patient from a poor diet to a healthy one can lead to eliminating supplements all together.

Food intolerance

If the food one eats is not tolerated by the body, severe long-term damage can occur. A wide range of conditions, such as migraines, weight problems, asthma, arthritis, eczema and irritable bowel syndrome, can arise from continued consumption of the problematic food. Food abuse can cause the white blood cells to work overtime. If the troublesome foods, such as nuts, dairy, shell fish and gluten can be identified and removed from the diet, several underlying symptoms can improve. Healthy weight loss can result.

Research done at the Rockefeller Institute has led to breakthroughs in weight loss. Dr. Rifkin has had success with a weight loss program that incorporates facts from this research, supplements, acupuncture and individualized nutritional programs.

'I'm going to talk with my clients about how they eat. Based on their blood, we will discuss what's wrong with them and where they need to go. I'll study their background to see what works and what doesn't. I ask for a commitment to a healthy diet.'

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Getting the right balance of nutrients plays a vital role in our health. Different minerals and vitamins act independently, in unison with one another and all together to keep the body functioning at peak performance.

And, while liquid, powder and pill supplements have their benefits, nothing is more essential than the powerful nutrients found in food.

'Eating healthy is a lifestyle,' says Rifkin who practices what he preaches. 'If a proper meal is eaten it should make a person feel full for four hours. Blood sugars don't soar up and down. People shouldn't feel like they're bombing out and start craving things.'

Some foods provide almost instant benefits to those suffering from disagreeable health symptoms. For reflexing, Rifkin suggests removing carbohydrates, especially bread, from the diet. To calm tummy aches or sinus congestion avoid dairy products. To ease hot flashes consume soy. For an improved immune system and to suppress the appetite, drink green tea. Add ginger to your diet to decrease muscle soreness and stimulate digestion. Try turmeric as an anti-inflammatory.

(Dr. Kenneth Rifkin was located in Lake Oswego for 20 years before moving to 11030 S.W. Capitol Highway eight years ago. His office is open weekdays. He can be reached at 503-892-8788 or at rifkinkaol.com.)