Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Book Review: Stop Aging, Start Living by Jeannette Graf, MD September 24, 2012

Also a short review of Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr

I wrote a post a few months ago entitled Is an Alkaline Diet Good for Your Skin? which concluded that yes, an alkaline diet was good for your skin.  After researching that post I wanted to learn even more about the subject of alkaline diets so I read the two books reviewed in this post and attempted to change my own diet (not so successfully) as well.

I was drawn to Dr. Graf’s book Stop Aging, Start Living for a few reasons.  Dr. Graf is a practicing dermatologist with a background in medical research who came to the conclusions that she writes about in her book after years of research and trial and error (on herself and her patients).  I always like to read books by people who back up their medical claims with real evidence and science as opposed to hearsay which is exactly what this book is like.  Moreover, Dr. Graf actually follows the advice that she dispenses in this book.  This is definitely a case of someone practicing what they preach.

The book is clearly and concisely written and an easy read.  Though there are real scientific principles outlined in the book they are done in a way that anyone can understand.  Believe me – I need my science dumb downed for me so if I could understand what she was talking about in this book anyone can.  The book outlines a lifestyle that embraces healthy eating and living.  There are recipes (I haven’t tried any yet I must admit) and skincare product recommendations in addition to skincare regime ideas.  Dr. Graf also includes sources for finding the other products she suggests getting in the book.

Dr. Graf’s co-author Alisa Bowman outlines the anti-aging program in the book’s introduction (pages 4-5 in the paperback edition):

The Nutrition Prescription.  You’ll focus most of your food choices on Jeannette’s eleven alkalinizing Age Stoppers (dark leafy greens, vegetables, filtered water, lemons and limes, garlic and onions, spices, fruit, nuts and seeds, olive oil, sea salt, and specific whole grains) and try to minimize the five acid-producing Age Accelerators (sugar, processed carbohydrates, alcohol, colas, coffee, and animal protein).  Using her 3-to-1 alkalinizing formula, you can continue to eat the acid-producing foods you love by balancing them with more alkaline options.

The Supplement Prescription.  Each morning you’ll drink a sweet but powerfully effective Alkalinizing Cocktail that contains greens powder and fiber.  You’ll also take an alkalinizing mineral supplement with calcium and a probiotic supplement to improve digestion.

The Lifestyle Prescription.  Through laughter (watching funny movies), joy (doing something every week that exhilarates you), and calm (deep breathing, vegging out, etc.), you’ll rev up your brain chemicals that produce joy, happiness, serenity, and an overall sense of well-being.  Your skin will glow as a result.

The Skin Care Prescription.  By using a cleanser, moisturizer, sunblock, eye cream, and makeup suitable for your age, skin type, and skin needs, you’ll reduce the appearance of wrinkles and plump up your skin.  The products work, and they’re affordable and easy for even the least knowledgeable skin care consumer (read: me) to fine. You won’t go broke on this program.

That is really Dr. Graf’s program in a nutshell.  The book expands upon the above topics.

I found Dr. Graf’s program to be easy to follow (for the most part) and realistic (compared to the program outlined in Crazy Sexy Diet – more on that below).  Dr. Graf takes into account that people do not have the time or inclination to make huge lifestyle changes that would disrupt their lives and burden themselves with unattainable goals and edicts.  Take for instance coffee – Dr. Graf acknowledges that while coffee is acid forming and while it really doesn’t have a place in an alkaline diet she still drinks it herself so it isn’t banned entirely from her patients’ diets or from the regime outlined in the book.  Or look at her alkalinizing cocktail which can replace time-consuming juicing and green smoothie making yet still gives you similar benefits to juicing and making vegetable laden green smoothies.

Part 1 of the book is the scientific side of the book.  In this part of the book Dr. Graf explains all about pH and how it affects your body and your skin; she talks about how if your body chemistry is too acidic hurts this your health.  The book also delves into the workings of our digestive system and explains how a properly working digestive system helps your body and your skin.  Lastly, the first  part of the book discusses the importance of joy and balance in our lives and how valuable it is to incorporate activities that make us happy into our lives.

Part 2 of the book explains, in detail, Dr. Graf’s four pronged approach to help you look your best.  There is the nutritional program, the supplement program, the skincare regime, and the lifestyle prescription as well.  I found her nutritional program striking in its easiness to follow and to incorporate into your life.  Yes, it takes some planning to follow her suggestions and you do have to give things up (limit the amount of animal protein in your diet including dairy and eggs and cutback to two cups of coffee a day for example), but the plan, overall, is realistic and clear.  The fact that there are recipes in chapter 10 (I would like to make the crunchy oatmeal raisin cookies with flax soon) and a list of acid forming and alkalinizing foods (pages 222-225) at the back of the book just makes trying to change your eating habits much easier.

The supplement chapter (chapter 6) outlines the different supplements Dr. Graf recommends taking daily and the reasons behind her recommendations.  This chapter also includes her recipe for the alkalinizing cocktail she recommends drinking every morning.  This is the simple way to get all the nutrition you would get from juicing without the fuss and mess of juicing (or expense). Dr. Graf explains how she came up with the idea for her alkalinizing cocktail (pages 89-90):

I stumbled across the greens powder many years ago, after that juice fast that I mentioned earlier.  I knew I needed more fruits and vegetables in my diet, but I was constantly on the move, going from patient to patient.  I traveled frequently.  Sometimes – often with the help of my juicer – I managed to eat ten servings of fruits and vegetables in a given day.  Usually I did not, especially when I traveled.  As committed as I was to juicing, I wasn’t willing to lug the juicer with me on an airplane.

So I began looking for a more concentrated and convenient source of fruits and vegetables.  I discovered greens powders.  Sold online and in health food stores, greens powders are nothing fancier than a powdered form of vegetable juice.  You mix the powder with water and drink.  Most notably, these powders are rich sources of wheat and barley grasses, sprouted grains, broccoli, kale, and other green vegetables.  Wheat, barley, and other cereal grasses in particular are extremely rich in antioxidants, chlorophyll, protein, vitamins, and minerals.  The grasses – the youngest green sprouts of these cereal grains – are actually much more nutritious than the grains (wheat, barley, kamut) that they produce.  They are particularly rich in polyphenols, the colorful pigments in fruits and vegetables that have been shown to promote optimal health.

Thanks to the nutritional goodness of these grasses, some greens drinks – such as my favorite brand, Greens First – contain antioxidant power equivalent to eating ten servings of fruits and vegetables!  That’s what I call concentrated nutrition.

I was really intrigued by the idea of drinking an alkalinizing cocktail each morning.  I went to a very large Whole Foods near my home at the time I was reading this book and looked for the brand recommended by Dr. Graf (Greens First).  When I couldn’t find that brand I decided to try different flavors of another brand since you could just buy one serving sizes.  The brand I tried was called Amazing Grass and the drinks I mixed up tasted just like that – grass.  No matter the flavor it tasted like grass.  It was very hard to drink (I still have one more packet left that I am dreading to try).  Granted I did not try Dr. Graf’s actual cocktail recipe (page 92) or the brand she recommended, but still the taste of the powder was a huge turnoff.  Also no matter how hard I tried to dissolve the powder in water I just couldn’t.  After drinking a full glass of the powder mixed with water I was still left with  sludge at the bottom my glass.  It was gross.  I do think that I need to try the greens powder again since I am nowhere near being able to afford a juicer, and despite my negative experience I still think this is a great idea.

Dr. Graf’s lifestyle prescription calls for incorporating a fun for you activity once or twice a week into your life.  She recommends exercising 20 or more minutes four times a week (fairly doable for the average person), deep breathing twice a day (a great alternative to mediating), laughter (so important and easily overlooked), relaxing for ten minutes twice a day, and finally finding a way to give back as often as you can.  Being able to make all these lifestyle changes every day probably isn’t in the cards for most people, but when you do have the time all of the recommendations in the book are quite doable and not overwhelming.  For instance, how many of you have tried to mediate and just given up in the end?  But can you find time for deep breathing twice a day?  I think most of us can.

Of course I was very interested to read Dr. Graf’s skincare regime advice.  I actually really like it since it was so down to earth, realistic (yes that word once again), and clear.  I found it really interesting that she advises everyone, no matter what is going on with their skin, to use a moisturizer twice a day.  As a retinol, retin-a devotee myself I loved the fact that she sees both as an integral part of an anti-aging skincare routine.  In the book she recommends drugstore products for everyday use though while researching this post I found out that she now has her own line of skincare products (which are very reasonably priced).  I have no idea if her products are any good, but I found it interesting that she has also come out with a skincare line.  Overall, I loved the skincare advice that she dispenses in the book, and if you aren’t into the nutritional aspects of this work I would still recommend reading what she has to say about skincare.

Chapter 9 of the book is an outline of how to really put to use all the information you just read about in the book.  There are three different plans explained – the 24-Hour Kick-Start (hardcore), the 2 Week Plan, and the Baby Steps.  I think most people will want to try the second or third or just the third plan.  Every aspect of your day is explained in detail and meal recommendations are included as well.  There is no guess work about how to incorporate all the information in the book into your life.  Everything is right there before you.

And Now A Little Bit About Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr

Many of you may have already heard of Kris Carr, but for those who haven’t I urge you to read her bio and explore her website.  Personally I find her story very inspirational and was looking forward to reading her book.  Now keep a few things in mind when you read Crazy Sexy Diet – the lifestyle choices recommended in this book are not for most.  Not that many people are willing to embrace a largely vegan and raw diet.  Not that many people can fast and/or go on juice cleanses.  Not everyone is willing to give up their coffee.  And not everyone has the time first thing in the morning to mediate and exercise before going about their daily business.  I would love to start my day like that but my son has drastically different ideas of how our morning should look like.  Having said all of that I found aspects of this book wonderful and inspiring.  Though Carr’s food and lifestyle plan do not work for me as a whole there were parts of the book and ideas from the book that I was delighted have encountered.  Just the outpouring of positivity that the book embraces is worth the price of the book.  As I was reading this book I kept thinking of different friends, who for varying reasons, would benefit from this reading this book.  I think there is really something, even if it is small, that everyone can take away from this book.  Just because you aren’t ready to spend your days juicing and eating raw vegan meals while telling yourself positive affirmations doesn’t mean that you can’t find something of use to you in the pages of this book.

Bottom Line:  If you are looking for a reasonable and fairly easy way to improve your health and help your skin I recommend Dr Graf’s book.  If for whatever reason you feel like you need a total lifestyle overhaul I recommend Carr’s book.  And if you just need a little inspiration and a pick-me-up turn both of these books can help you.

Just for Fun:

Further Reading:

In case the ideas espoused in Crazy Sexy Diet sound new to you be sure to read The Road to Wellville by T.C. Boyle which is a fictionalized account of the going ons at Dr. John Harvey Kellogg’s Battle Creek Spa.  Ideas about healthy eating and how to care for one’s body have been around for eons, in different permutations.

Images from goodreads.com and http://www.abcnews.com

 

Is an Alkaline Diet Good for Your Skin? June 7, 2012

I recently wrote a post that asked the question – is a vegan or vegetarian diet bad for your skin? – and concluded that no, neither of those diets are bad for your skin but sugar is.   Since I try to keep up with the latest information about all things skincare related I recently read an article in MedEsthetics magazine profiling dermatologist Jeanette Graf, MD.  In the article Dr. Graf talks about the skin benefits to following an alkaline diet:

Jeannette Graf, MD, is a well-known researcher and expert injector in the medical aesthetics arena, but more recently she has focused her career on creating great skin from the inside out.  Her theories are based on research that suggests that eating more alkaline-producing foods (versus acid-producing foods) offers optimal internal health, leading to glowing, healthy skin.  She recommends a 3:1 ratio of alkaline-producing foods to acid-producing foods when preparing meals.

Alkaline-Producing                                         Acid-Producing

Olive oil                                                                        Alcohol

Citrus fruits                                                                 Soft Drinks

Berries                                                                           Red Meat

Vegetables                                                                   Salmon

Sea Salts                                                                        White sugar

(page 49)

Furthermore, Dr. Graf explains how she became interested in the whole idea of an alkaline diet as a diet that would positively impact the skin (pages 49-50):

[Dr. Graf] came across a Noble Prize-winning study by Dr. Otto Warburg.  The study involved culturing cancer cells and normal cells in two different environments – one group he grew in a high oxygen, alkaline medium; the other he grew in a high acid, low oxygen medium.  “What he found was in the conditions with the high acid, low oxygen, the cancer cells grew like crazy and the normal cells could not survive,” says Dr. Graf.  “But in the alkaline medium with high oxygen, the normal cells grew beautifully and thrived, whereas the cancer cells could not survive.  That said to me, we need to be alkaline.”

Alkalinity is the basis of Dr. Graf’s book and also a key component of her practice.  “Internal to external is major for me and I talk about diet to everyone, because I want them to be alkaline.  I’ll even take out pH strips and test them,” she says.  “Every patient who comes into my office gets a lecture on what she should and shouldn’t eat.  We should be treating diet like a medication, and having a great lifestyle is all part of it.  And we heave to lead by example and start incorporating it into our practice.  Fortunately, I think we’re starting to see more of that.”

Once I read this information I realized that I read something similar in Kate Somerville’s book Complexion Perfection! .  In Chapter 4: Beauty and the Buffet, Somerville relates a story about her father-in-law Dave Somerville and how he started following an alkaline diet after receiving a cancer diagnosis (pages 44- 45):

Four different doctors presented treatment options such as surgery and radiation, but Dave decided to go with a different approach.  He’d always been interested in nutrition and alternative health, and when a friend recommended a naturopathic doctor in San Diego, he found what he was looking for: a doctor who “laughs at cancer.”  I was nervous; in fact I honestly thought at first that it was a mistake.  Yet this is where I first learned how dramatically nutrition can impact the skin.

Dave’s treatment regimen focused on organic foods, a range of immunity-boosting supplements, and drinking nothing but purified water – lots of it.  Most important, he maintained an alkaline environment in his body, the basis of his naturopathic doctor’s protocol.  Dave ate foods that alkalized his body and minimized those that acidified it, helping maintain his body in a healthy pH range and reducing disease-causing acid waste in his system.  The theory (one not supported by the traditional medical community) is that cancer cells don’t grow in alkaline environment.

My father-in-law was completely committed to this program, and in less than a year’s time, his cancer disappeared.  Total recovery. I know this sounds unbelievable, but the strategy miraculously worked for him.  I’m telling you this story here in this book because of the other changes I saw – changes in his skin.  I couldn’t believe it, but I actually saw brown spots and sun damage disappear from Dave’s face, in the same way that the cancer vanished.  From a clinician’s perspective, I thought, This is impossible.  I’d never seen anything like it in my life.  Generally, when people in my line of work see sun spots and pigment issues, we treat them with topical peels, usually aggressively, and topical products.  I was blown away, because Dave’s skin glowed.  I mean, it literally glowed.  To this day, he stays very close to the parameters of the diet, and looks a decade younger than his actual years.

To be sure, the choices my father-in-law made were fairly extreme, and he was absolutely dedicated to the strategy.  However, I cannot deny the impact that this diet had on his health and his appearance.

If you are thinking of switching to a more alkaline diet what exactly should you eat?  And how does this diet actually work?  According to the WebMD article Alkaline Diet: What to Know Before You Try It:

The theory of the alkaline diet is that eating certain foods can help maintain the body’s ideal pH balance to improve overall health. But the body maintains its pH balance regardless of diet.

For instance, your diet may affect the pH level of your urine. But what you eat does not determine your blood’s pH level.

What’s in the Alkaline Diet

The alkaline diet is mostly vegetarian. In addition to fresh vegetables and some fresh fruits, alkaline-promoting foods include soy products and some nuts, grains, and legumes.

Web sites promoting the alkaline diet discourage eating acid-promoting foods, which include meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, processed foods, white sugar, white flour, and caffeine.

The alkaline diet is basically healthy, says Marjorie Nolan, RD, an American Dietetic Association spokeswoman.

“It’s a diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, plenty of water, avoiding processed foods, coffee, and alcohol, which are all recommendations for a generally healthy diet anyway,” Nolan says. “But our body regulates our pH between 7.35 and 7.45 no matter how we eat.”

Potential Benefits

Diets that include a lot of animal protein can lower urine pH and raise the risk forkidney stones. So eating a diet rich in vegetables, as with an alkaline diet, can raise urine pH and lower the risk for kidney stones, says John Asplin, MD, a kidney specialist who is a fellow of the American Society of Nephrology.

Researchers have speculated that an alkaline diet might slow bone loss and muscle waste, increase growth hormone, make certain chronic diseases less likely, and ease low back pain. However, that hasn’t been proven.

There is also no concrete evidence that an alkaline or vegetarian diet can prevent cancer. Some studies have shown that vegetarians have lower rates of cancer, particularly colon cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. But vegetarians often have other healthy habits, such as exercise and abstaining from drinking and smoking, so it is difficult to determine the effects of diet alone.

“Clinical studies have proved without a doubt that people who eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and hydrate properly do have lower rates of cancer and other diseases,” Nolan tells WebMD, “but it probably has nothing to do with blood pH.”

Because there is no evidence that diet can significantly change blood pH, a highly irregular blood pH is a sign of a larger problem — perhaps kidney failure — not a dietary issue.

People with kidney disease or medical issues that require monitoring by a doctor, such as severe diabetes, should not attempt this diet without medical supervision.

“If someone’s blood sugar is not being monitored properly — especially if they’re on insulin if they’re type 1 or they’re a severe type 2 diabetic — you’re potentiallyrunning the risk of your blood sugar dropping too low after a meal if you don’t know what you’re doing,” Nolan says.

It all comes down to balance, Asplin says. The alkaline diet could potentially over-restrict protein and calcium.

“Vegetarians can be completely healthy in their diets as long as they make sure to get adequate supplies of essential components to a diet. But it is also true that many Americans over-consume protein and get much more than they actually need,” Asplin says.

If you do want to follow a more alkaline diet here are some tips from the Live Strong website:

Which foods fall into the alkaline category is not always obvious. For example, a lemon, which you would probably consider acidic, becomes alkaline when digested and hence falls into the alkaline category. Choosing alkaline foods may at first, therefore, require research. The alkaline diet closely resembles a vegan diet, in that you arrange your meals around plant-based foods rather than meat, the reverse of the typical Western diet. To ensure that you absorb important nutrients, plan to eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

Foods to Include

Alkaline foods should comprise about 75 to 80 percent of your diet. The foods to include in an alkaline diet menu include most vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts and whole grains. To determine what foods belong to the long list of alkaline vegetables, the Macrobiotics Cooking with Linda Wemhoff site suggests choosing leafy, round root and sea vegetables. In the extensive alkaline fruit category, she recommends tropical- and temperate-climate fruits. Everyday Diet recommends flax, sesame and sunflower, among other seeds, and spelt and sprouted grains. Fresh water, herbal teas, almond milk and wine are considered examples of alkaline beverages.

Foods to Avoid

Acidic foods should comprise no more than 20 to 15 percent of your diet. Foods to avoid on the alkaline diet are meats, dairy, shellfish, saturated fats, hydrogenated oils, processed foods, refined grains and sugars, and artificial and chemical products. In addition, the Health and Rejuvenation Research Center advises avoiding preserves, canned fruits and dried sulfured fruits and various vegetables and beans, including asparagus tips and garbanzo beans. Limit alcoholic beverages and coffee.

Bottom Line:  If this diet interests you I suggest reading more about it.  You can find numerous books about an alkaline diet on amazon.   Most of the sources I read suggested trying to consume 80% alkaline foods and 20% acidic for your overall health.  In the long run I could see how a diet like this would benefit both your skin and your health.

Sources and Further Reading:

Doing research for this post turned out to be very informative and interesting.  I learned a lot!  If you have the time check out the sources below for a lot more information about the alkaline diet.

Image from www.alkalinesister.com

 

 
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