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The Crap From the 80s

The Crap From the 80s

Flush that self-help down the toilet

Today, I found myself again trying to undo the crap from the 80s. Really, what did happen in that decade?

I can forgive the big hair, shoulder pads, and dubious tastes in music. However, the years I spent spreading margarine, steaming skinless chicken breasts, and applying sunscreen are harder to reconcile. How much destruction of coral am I to blame for?

Self-help was newly minted. Eat six times per day, never get hungry and remember to power dress. Just take the pill. We trusted pharmaceuticals in those days. We trusted doctors too. And so I power dressed, took the pill and, became a doctor.

I was well on the way to becoming an obese, frustrated Gen-Xer, mindlessly going through the motions and the flow-charts of Family Medicine. Thankfully, life-events prompted me into questioning the prevailing wisdom. After much time and money spent on courses, fellowships, and Pubmed, I pulled the chain.

My practice now focuses on Personalized and Functional Medicine. It is a relief to be free from the 80s medical dogma that still prevails. I am happier, leaner, fitter, and stronger than ever.

Below is what I tell my patients now.


Let the sun’s rays heal you. The flow of energy in waves from the sun changes cells and molecules in our skin. The most well-known effect is the production of Vitamin D. However, taking Vitamin D does not confer the same benefits as sun exposure.

Vitamin D is now seen as a proxy for sun exposure, rather than being considered the single beneficial molecule from the sun.

Ultraviolet radiation results in the release of different chemical messengers from the skin. One of these molecules is Nitric Oxide (NO) which dilates blood vessels and improves immunity.

Sufficient sun exposure is linked to a longer lifespan, lower breast and bowel cancer, improved heart health, less obesity and diabetes, less age-related cognitive decline, less respiratory tract infection, less allergy, less autoimmune disease, and less short-sightedness.

Excess ultraviolet irradiation does result in DNA damage that is linked to melanoma and other skin cancers as well as eye diseases. The amount of time that is optimal for the skin to be exposed to the sun varies depending on geographic location, skin color, and season. Start slow and avoid sunburn.


Salt has been used as currency, caused wars and uprisings, and influenced economies. Sodium is essential to the body. The body does all in its power to keep the level of sodium in the blood constant. Low sodium causes everything from fatigue and nausea to seizures and coma.

The cure for anything is saltwater: sweat, tears, or the sea. Isak Dinesen

Sodium and water are determinants of blood volume. The body has numerous methods of keeping the blood volume stable. In healthy people, too much sodium or water is resolved by excretion in urine; too little sodium and water result in hunger and thirst, and the constriction of blood vessels. This maintains equilibrium.

There is a lot of data and scientific debate around salt. Increasing research indicates that a low salt diet may actually increase blood pressure as the body strives to maintain blood volume. Furthermore, not having sufficient salt, increases insulin, keeping you hungry.

Certain individuals may be more salt-sensitive than others. It appears there is no one size fits all. However, if you are craving salt you probably need it.


Butter. There is no substitute. The case for low carbohydrate, healthy fat intakes are increasing daily. Butter is one of these healthy fats; seed oils are not. I refer skeptics to the easy-to-read book, What the Fat and my nutritional framework.


Your body needs time for rest and rejuvenation. The current interest in fasting is a rediscovery of ancient practices. Humans have adapted to interruptions to their food supply. We have yet to adapt to a food store on every corner.

Fasting can range from: not eating between meals to prolonged fasts under medical supervision. Start with the former to avoid the latter.

Intermittent fasting, eating only within a certain timeframe, is associated with improvements in weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, inflammation, and insulin. It may also help you live longer.


There is a medical reason we feel good walking barefoot on wet grass, soft sand, or even hard concrete. This reason is electrons. We need them. In the body available electrons are carried by molecules often referred to as anti-oxidants.

In normal metabolism, the body produces positively charged molecules or free radicals. These molecules try to maintain stability by “stealing” electrons from other molecules, the anti-oxidants. If there are not enough anti-oxidants or electrons to go around, a cascade of cell damage progressing to inflammation and tissue destruction results.

Besides the production of free radicals and anti-oxidants by the body, we also get these molecules from the environment. We get anti-oxidants in our food as vitamins and certain plant chemicals, and we are exposed to free radicals in the form of pollutants, radiation, heavy metals, and alcohol. Modern humans usually end up with too many free radicals and too few anti-oxidants.

However, we have an unlimited source of electrons (anti-oxidants) beneath our feet. The Earth’s surface is covered in electrons that are maintained by the global atmospheric electrical circuit. The absorption of these electrons results in neutralization of free radicals before they can do any damage.

Bare skin in contact with the Earth, heals.

Easy Does It

Walk Gently on the Earth.

We don’t all need to run marathons, powerwalk up hills or thrash ourselves doing high-intensity interval training. We can connect and have a conversation while exercising. In fact, too much exercise too soon can cause harm.

Dr. Inigo Millan has suggested exercising in Zone 2 for overall health. This means brisk walking on the flat or long slow runs where your heart rate is only slightly elevated and it feels you can keep doing it forever.


Questioning is what makes us human.

Today, a patient left the clinic with his mind spinning. He felt vindicated about not eating breakfast, but was going to have to throw out the seed oils.


The advice we gave in the 80s was well-meaning. We really did think that eating all the time was a valid weight-loss method. The role of corporates and industry in medical guidelines was not even considered and is not the scope of this piece.

It is said that it takes a generation of professionals for scientific findings to be implemented. I have been in practice for 30 years — a generation. I notice that my conventional colleagues are slowly changing their practice.

The 80s brought us self-improvement. What we did not know is that this a moving feast. We are never “arrive.” Part of self-improvement is questioning and practicing adaption to change.

Soon, we may be flushing the 2020s.

Dr Cindy de Villiers
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Written by Dr. Cindy de Villiers.
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