Practical Health

Many people feel powerless to affect their own health.

They look to doctors to fix problems but do very little to prevent illness in the first place, says Turshá Hamilton, a naturopathic physician from New Orleans.

She wants to change that.

“If I can give them the things that can actually help them change their habits, change their traditions, change their actions that help them build health, then I am empowering them,” Hamilton says. “Which will in turn empower their families and their communities to help them grow together in health.”

Hamilton practices in Tempe, Arizona, where naturopathic physicians are considered primary care doctors. They can write prescriptions and perform minor surgeries, but they often focus their practices toward traditional and preventative solutions to health issues. Louisiana does not license naturopathic physicians.

Learning to use herbs, nutrition, acupuncture and other natural methods to treat patients appealed to Hamilton after she graduated pre-med from New Orleans’ Xavier University in 1995.

“I realized that modern medicine had only been around for 100, 200 years, and people have been on earth for thousands of years,” she says. “The fact that people have survived this long off what the earth has to offer, I personally thought was beautiful.”

Earlier this year Hamilton published “Practically Healthy: Step-by-Step Guide to Better Health,” a guidebook to taking control of your overall health.

At a lecture in Baton Rouge, Hamilton shared some principles for better health.

Drink water

Health and fitness magazine headlines always shout to drink more water.

It encourages weight loss, they say, and helps your brain stay focused at the end of a long workday.

But Hamilton says the body needs plenty of water just to function properly.

“Every major function in your body has a basis of water in some way, shape or form,” Hamilton says.

Drinking eight glasses of water a day is optimal. People who drink no water should just start small and work more agua into their diet.

“To help decrease fatigue and help the bowels move better, to make hydration happen better — all of those things, you need water,” she says.

Move your body

Exercise seems like a big ordeal. You change clothes, sweat and monitor all the calories burned.

So Hamilton tells her patients to “move their bodies.” She loves to hula hoop and take walks, anything with action.

“It helps to strengthen the bones; it helps to strengthen the muscles,” Hamilton says. “It helps to improve and strengthen the vitality of the organs beneath. Movement is beneficial.”

Take out the trash

While a clean house is important to your mood, a clean body is crucial to your health, Hamilton says.

She tells patients they should have a bowel movement after lunch and dinner. If not, they should change their diets and drink more water. Constipation, she says, can seriously affect your health.

“Your cells can’t eliminate its waste by-products as well,” she says. “Your mind becomes lethargic, you feel overall ill, you don’t have the same vitality because you’re carrying all this extra weight around and all this extra waste around, so just helping to move all this out of the body on a regular basis can and does help the body function better.”

Research herbal remedies

While Hamilton promotes the use of herbs and natural remedies, she cautions the public to research everything first.

Packaging on bottles of herbs often promise to solve several issues, but they will not affect all people equally.

“Don’t just assume because it’s an herb it’s 100 percent effective and 100 percent safe for everyone,” she says.

Get happy

Smile. Laugh. Dance. That’s what the doctor orders.

Learn what makes you happy and do it regularly, Hamilton says.

If you’re not laughing often enough right now, find a way to incorporate more smiles into your life.

“If you don’t have friends who like to laugh,” Hamilton says, “find some new friends.”