Dr. L. Matthew Schwartz

by L. Matthew Schwartz, MD, FAAPM&R

Today we begin a new column by local doc L. Matthew Schwartz who will answer reader questions about health in this space periodically. Please feel free to ask him any question about physical medicine, pain, and integrative holistic medicine or wellness. Send questions to askthedoc@chestnuthilllocal.com All question askers will remain anonymous. We’ll use only first name and neighborhood/township for identification.

Q1: What is “Integrative Holistic Medicine” and how is it different from typical medical care?

Conventional medical care is typically reactive, not proactive. Typically, we get sick and then we have our medical care delivery system react to our symptoms and physical signs of illness with a “name it, blame it, and tame it” approach – the tool box is filled with expensive and elaborate testing equipment, medications, and surgery. In contrast, integrative/holistic medical care combines the above approach, as needed, with robust attention to underlying causes that are often related to our lifestyle choices and overlooked or at least insufficiently addressed by conventional practitioners. Integrative medical practitioners partner with their clients to eliminate unhealthy lifestyle behaviors; optimize sleep, nutrition, and exercise; manage stress practically; and encouraged social and spiritual connection. Preventative care is much less costly and produces better and more long-lasting outcomes.


Q2: My health care practitioner tells me that I must lose weight. I have tried some special diets and tried to exercise more, but I’m not getting results. What should I do?

People gain weight for several reasons. Many eat too many simple carbohydrates (sugar, starch), animal fats (that contain concentrated environmental pollutants like hormone disruptors and pesticides), and/or nutrient-free and calorie-rich beverages. Many endure chronic stress and/or prolonged inadequate sleep. Many are simply sluggish and fatigued and don’t move much.

Plant-based complex carbohydrates, proteins and fats provide complete nutrition. Meditation and relaxation breathing, as regular habits, and minimizing time-wasting distractions that might keep us up too late are very important components of an effective weight loss plan. We should get more than seven hours of sleep every night. We can carry low-cost home-brewed green tea sweetened with Stevia in portable stainless-steel beverage containers and work a few minutes of exercise, several times per day in-stride, into our daily routines. You would be amazed how quickly you will shed the pounds and inches and feel great!


Q3: I have tried to quit smoking, but I have failed. I want to quit, but it is so hard. How can I do it?

Cigarettes are the most addictive drug delivery systems – more addictive than heroin – by design! Tobacco companies want profit and (ultimately shorter) life-long customers. It is well known that cigarette manufacturers willfully add highly-addictive chemicals (many of them carcinogens) to tobacco to make their consumers’ brains as addicted as possible. A short-term high gives way to anxiety and depression, which leads to the next butt. Paradoxically, nicotine is actually a stimulant and, contrary to popular opinion, does not relax smokers; It is the five-minute break with physical solitude and deep breathing (of smoky air, unfortunately) that relaxes smokers. Typically, smokers can start by using additive-free tobacco (that markedly reduces cravings) and uncoupling smoking from typically associated activities (coffee, phone, driving, meals, etc.).

Next, they can carry a regularly-decreasing number of cigarettes for each day (in a baggie and not a sexy pack) and smoke by the clock (every hour, then every 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12, 24 hours, until quitting), with progressively decreasing frequency. Finally, smokers can take the money (1 pack-per-day smokers spend around $2200 per year on the habit) they had been spending on cigarettes and book guilt-free vacations, every year, to celebrate their longer, healthier and sweeter-smelling lives.

Dr. Schwartz practices physical, pain, and integrative medicine in Wyndmoor. He is board certified in these specialty fields. He trained at Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Thomas Jefferson University. For more, see  www.MyHealth360.org