Sorting supplement facts from fiction
Walt Larimore: Family doctor, writer
BY PETER BOWES | LOS ANGELES | JULY 21, 2021 | 0700 PT
In a world where we are bombarded with health advice, it is easy to feel lost in a sea of unverified information. From dietary supplementation to exercise, we are inundated with suggestions, hard-sell advertisements and sometimes peer pressure, to take up one regime or another.
LLAMA’s advice is simple; consult your primary care doctor or healthcare professional if you are considering lifestyle changes that involve a new diet or exercise program. In this episode, we meet a family physician who has been wrestling with frequently asked questions and evolving medical science for over forty years. Dr. Walt Larimore is the author of multiple books and articles on healthcare, including the Natural Medicine Handbook: The truth about the Most Effective Herbs, Vitamins and Supplements for Common Conditions.
In this conversation with Peter Bowes, Dr. Larimore, who is based in the US city of Colorado Springs, explains how he sorts fact from fiction; why he says sufferers from some of the most debilitating diseases are being offered false hope; and how simple everyday steps can be taken to promote optimum health without the need for any external interventions.
Recorded: June 8, 2021 | Read a transcript
In this interview we cover:
- A family doctor’s introduction to sharing information about natural medicines on TV
- Why consumers are easy confused by a supplement industry which is unregulated in the US.
- Access to independent quality testing labs to enhance our knowledge about nutritional supplements.
- A lack of training covering nutrition and supplementation for primary care doctors
- How to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of natural medicines based on reliable sources, such as Natural Medicines, ConsumerLab.com and LabDoor.com
- Are we being bamboozled into taking supplements that we don’t need? What are the alternatives?
- Simple lifestyle habits like avoiding tobacco, regular movement, a good diet and restful sleep to promote good health.
- Choosing an evidence based nutrition plan for optimum health. How to filter the available information based on accessibility, cost and nutritional value.
- Why is a Mediterranean type diet highly-rated as a nutrition plan?
- Finding recipes and exercise programs that involve fun and suit the entire family
- Incorporating movement into your life, little by little, to nurture the mind and body.
- The common conditions that lead to enduring ill-health, such as heart disease, hypertension, diseases of the brain, including Alzheimer’s and the scourge of obesity.
- The advertising industry and false hope for people suffering from dementia.
- Religious struggle and health challenges.
- Daily, spiritual discipline to promote good health and wellbeing.
The Live Long and Master Aging podcast, a HealthSpan Media LLC production, shares ideas but does not offer medical advice. If you have health concerns of any kind, or you are considering adopting a new diet or exercise regime, you should consult your doctor.
Walt Larimore: [00:00:01] The shocker for me was that of the 13 hundred substances, roughly two thirds of them either wouldn’t recommend to anybody because they’re either not effective or not safe or both.
Peter Bowes: [00:00:21] Hello again, and welcome to the Live Long and Master aging podcast I’m Peter Bowes. This is where we explore the science stories behind human longevity. Now, a recurring theme and recurring question on this podcast revolves around the issue of dietary supplements, some of which I’m convinced are very good for us. Others leave me rather skeptical. The question is what, if anything, should we take when, why, how often and how do we know that what we’re consuming isn’t going to react adversely with something else that we’re taking to improve our energy or heart health or to lose weight or to put on weight or build muscular strength? There are many different personal reasons why we might want to supplement our diet, including, of course, to increase the length and quality of our lives, our healthspan or lifespan. Well, my guest today is Dr. Walt Larimore, a family physician for over 40 years, the author of multiple books and articles on health care, the latest being The Natural Medicine Handbook, The Truth about the Most Effective herbs, vitamins, you might say, vitamins and supplements for common conditions. Dr. Larimore is based in Colorado Springs in the U.S. state of Colorado, a beautiful part of the world. Dr. Larimore, welcome to the Live Long and Master Aging podcast.
Walt Larimore: [00:01:40] It’s great to be with you. And Walt works just fine for me,
Peter Bowes: [00:01:44] Walt and Peter. That sounds perfect to me, too. So. Walt, good to meet you. And this is a fascinating subject. And as I say, it comes up frequently in the many discussions that I have about trying to achieve a good healthspan, a long healthspan where we enjoy optimum health for as long as possible. And I know it is confusing to a lot of people. Just got to go to the pharmacy, to the chemist and look on the the racks of different supplements available to us. And hence the confusion about what to take. Was that the premise behind this book. Try to answer some of those questions.
Walt Larimore: [00:02:22] I wish it was so noble here. I actually started in media work. I was a family physician practicing down in the Orlando area, a little town called Kissimmee at nighttime. They call it Kiss-immee. But the Fox News folks had begun a health channel called the Fox Health Channel. It actually started as America’s Health Network, and then it became the Fox Health Network. And so I did live programming for about five years. But the first program, which was March 25th, 1995, and I remember that day because it was so horrible, because we had done I’d never done television and and media work by just a family doctor, country family doctor. But I got on TV that night. My first three questions were about natural medicines, herbs, vitamins and supplements. And I knew nothing about them. And I found out how important this is to consumers and to the lay public. And this was that was, you know, 25 years ago. And it’s become even more important, and especially in this country, the only developed country in the world where these substances are essentially unregulated. We as consumers, health care consumers and then myself as a health care professional are really lost without some guidance on what do we buy, what’s not contaminated, what will actually get into our system, what will help our system. And because they’re not regulated, the advertisers can or basically feed on us, if you would. And as a result, at least in this country, the United States, billions of dollars are spent that I think are spent needlessly. So I’ve come about it, about it in a different way than with my own aging of course, it’s become personally important not only to me, but to my patients.
Peter Bowes: [00:04:20] So remembering that television show, do you now know the answer to does vitamin C work for colds?
Walt Larimore: [00:04:27] I know a lot better than I did now for two reasons. Number one, I’ve studied it for the last quarter century. Number two, we now have that quarter of century’s worth of studies literally from around the world. And the number three, we as health consumers have access to independent quality testing labs so that if we decide to take a vitamin D or a vitamin C or a zinc lozenge for a cold or influenza or what have you, we now have sources that we can go to and find out is what we’re being sold. Does it actually contain what the label says and can we find less expensive product that is just as good? So I think the health consumers in better shape now than we’ve been the last quarter century.
Peter Bowes: [00:05:16] They’re just going back to what you were saying when you were faced with those questions that you really didn’t know the answers to does not reflect. And certainly other people, similar positions to yourself have said this to me. Does it reflect your training as a doctor? That very little emphasis was put on certainly diet and nutrition and potentially supplementation.
Walt Larimore: [00:05:38] I think, unfortunately, that’s still the case. I teach family medicine residents around the country and primary care specialties, pediatrics, geriatrics, internal medicine, family medicine are certainly getting better at including these topics in their residency training. But for most of the physicians that most of us will see, they just simply haven’t had much training in those fields. And once again, that leaves us as consumers. How do we find information, health information that’s trustworthy, that’s evidence based, that’s not trying to sell us something?
Peter Bowes: [00:06:16] So delving into the book, you go into a considerable amount of detail and you’ve touched on this already in terms of where the information comes from. What are your main sources? I know you mentioned consumer lab dot com, which is a very important source of a reliable source of information for you.
Walt Larimore: [00:06:35] Yeah, I as a practitioner have used two primary sources in my practice, the first source is a source that I look at for finding out what’s effective, what works for what, what specific herb or vitamin or supplement either works or doesn’t work for whatever condition it is that I’m treating or even with general conditions like length of life and quality of life and wellness and those sorts of things. And far and away, the the the most trustworthy and the largest to me is called the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. They’ve now shortened their name to Natural Medicines. It’s a group of several hundred doctors of pharmacy, doctors of pharmacology who are independent. They’re not hired by any pharmaceutical company or they don’t take advertising. But what they do is create monographs about every herb vitamin and supplement. I think they now have over 60,500 monographs available in each monograph says what’s the scientific name of the substance? And the scientific name actually can be different in different countries. What are the common names? What do people say that it does? What does it actually do? In other words, for any particular indication, is that effective or not effective? Is it safe or not safe? Is it safe for adults? Is it safe for children as safe for adolescents? Is it safe if you’re breastfeeding? Is it safe if you’re pregnant? What are the adverse effects that have been reported with this substance? What medications does it interact with? What foods does it interact with? Even what lab tests does it interact with? How do you dose it? What do you look out for? So it’s a very extensive monograph. It comes in both a professional edition, but also a consumer edition. It is a subscription service. That’s how they pay for themselves. But what I advise community groups, whether it’s a faith community, a book club or a neighborhood, can go together and get a single subscription for that. Not only can you look up the monographs about particular substances, but they have ratings for one hundred and eighty five thousand herbs, vitamins and supplements that are sold in North America. So you can actually look up supplements by their by their brand name and they use what they call a number rating system, Peter, NMBER natural medicines effectiveness rating system or something, it’s a zero to 10 scale. I never recommend anything that’s rated below and eight. So if it’s eight, nine or ten, boom, go for it. Of the one hundred and eighty five thousand substances, they include all those that are on the market currently as well as some that have been discontinued that aren’t on the market. So for finding out information on what’s effective, that’s my best source. And then actually what substance to get. There are several quality testing labs around the U.S. consumer lab is the one that I’ve used the longest. But also there’s a newer one called Lab Door LabDoor dotcom, it was set up by some venture capitalists and it’s free and they are testing more and more substances on a daily basis, they rate them on an ABCDF scale. And for athletes that are listening because we’ve all heard stories of Olympic athletes or who’ve been who’ve been drug tested and they’re found to be positive, they say, oh, my gosh, I took a supplement and they didn’t know the supplement contained a banned substance. So Lab Door actually test for sports certification also, which is kind of cool, but Consumer Lab and Lab Door. Another was called USP, U.S. Pharmacopeia and US Pharmacopoeia and Natural medicines have a partnership. So actually at the Natural Medicines site. You can find out the USP ratings also.
Peter Bowes: [00:10:53] And you say there is natural medicines as a consumer edition. But I think the reality and clearly this information is potentially available to everyone. But the reality is that I don’t know, I’m just guessing at a percentage. But I would say probably 99 percent of people are not going to go to these kind of sources to find in detail information about a supplement they’re interested in. So hence the importance of of a middleman or a middle woman or doctor like yourself to interpret on behalf of the masses of people who are interested, feel the need, but maybe have not the inclination to delve into the detail or perhaps the understanding to interpret the detail. I think that’s what you’re essentially trying to do in your book by going through this and filtering the information and perhaps having your own bar in terms of what to reach, in terms of what is good and what is potentially a waste of money.
Walt Larimore: [00:11:49] I think you’re I think you’re spot on absolutely right. I in fact, I might say in my patient population, it’s 100 percent right. It’s just people don’t have the time to go through that material. So for this particular book, I evaluated just over thirteen hundred substances. Now I’m not doing the lab tests, but just gathering the information to put it together for people. The shocker for me was that of the thirteen hundred substances, roughly two thirds of them either wouldn’t recommend to anybody because they’re either not effective or not safe or both. And then roughly 25 percent of the of the herbs, vitamins and supplements that I evaluated could be used by some people in some situations. And that left us with about 10 percent that the general public should perhaps consider. And then what I did for each chapter, whether it was brain health or general health or longevity or heart health or weight loss or skin health or health, was to actually just put a chart at the end of the chapter showing what’s effective, what’s safe, what’s not effective, what’s not safe allows people to look up – a lady, write me the other day and said, what’s your feelings about L-tyrosine? And I said, Well, actually, I don’t think you should care what my feelings are.I think the question is, what does the evidence show about L-tyrosine? And it’s evaluated six places in this book. And for at least the conditions I evaluated that particular substance for, it’s neither effective nor potentially safe. And so my goal is to help guide consumers into finding what works. And then where can they avoid wasting money, either spending too much money for a substance that will work. For example, you mentioned vitamin C early on, Peter, and we can find vitamin C product that’s been quality tested by Lab Door, or USP, or Consumer Lab dotcom. That varies. If we took a 500 milligram dose, for example, that varies from as little as two cents a tablet to as much as five dollars a tablet, why in the world would you pay five dollars for something that you could pay two cents for? I mean, if you want to buy a brand name that sells for three or four or five dollars, knock yourself out. But if you’re interested in getting what you need and being a good steward with the funds that you have, then there’s options for discovering that.
Peter Bowes: [00:14:23] Are you address very early on in the book the question, well, wouldn’t life be much better if we didn’t need supplementation? Indeed, perhaps that is the case for many people and that we’re bamboozled through advertising and maybe even peer pressure to sometimes take supplements, believing it’s going to be good for us, when actually if we ate a balanced diet and got lots of exercise and didn’t smoke, we’d be doing pretty well anyway.
Walt Larimore: [00:14:50] Yeah, I we’ve never met and we’ve never talked. But it sounds like we’re brothers from different mothers. I rate interventions like a new nutritious diet, a good restful sleep movement, I’ve gotten away from the word exercise, but movement avoidance of tobacco products in each of the chapters, whether it’s longevity, heart health, brain health, GI health, those lifestyle interventions have dramatic effects. For example, if we have anyone listening to us who’s 50 years old, who chooses five simple lifestyle habits to get as normal a weight as you can to eat the best diet that you can number 2, to to get a good restful night’s sleep. Number three. Number four, move. Just get off your butt. Can we say that? You know.
Peter Bowes: [00:15:47] We can say that.
Walt Larimore: [00:15:49] Move. Just get up and move. So exercise. Oh, and avoid tobacco products. For a 50 year old who does those five things, their life expectancy is almost 40 percent more than someone who’s doing. And if you say, well, I can’t I can’t do all five, four, that improves your length of life and your quality of life on average. And we may have a 50 year old who’s listening this as well, but I’ve got some illness. I have some heart disease, or maybe I have a cancer or I have an autoimmune disease. Those five lifestyle interventions still increase life and improve life. So you’re spot on that. And this book emphasizes that again and again and again. That’s the foundation. That’s the baseline. But if, for example, you suffer from seizures and you’re taking an anti seizure medication, we know that most of the anti seizure medications and there’s other medications can rob you of certain nutrients, calcium, for example, with people that are on anti seizure medications. So how do you get that calcium in a safe way? We now know that calcium supplement supplementation can be associated with increased cardiovascular risk, increased stroke risk and perhaps increased cancer risk. And what I’m talking about, there are people who take supplements and they take more than a thousand milligrams a day, particularly women. They’re at increased risk. Not many of my colleagues in medicine are informing their patients so that, in fact, most patients I see that are taking calcium or taking too much calcium are the wrong type of calcium. I get them into the food sources, number one. But if they can’t get that thousand milligrams per day of calcium that they need, then how do we choose supplements that give them the right amount of at the lowest cost? So a couple of different ways to come at it. But I’m with you. I think you’re spot on.
Peter Bowes: [00:17:45] So are those lifestyle, those common sense lifestyle intervention that you mention exercise? I think that’s self-explanatory. Getting plenty of sleep, not smoking fairly obvious, but eating a good diet. Now, that is fairly debatable, isn’t it? Of course. What is a good diet to one person isn’t necessarily so good to someone else. So you could be a vegan, you could be a vegetarian. You. Yeah, a pescetarian. You could be following a Keto diet, which is obviously something that’s very popular these days. Where do you come down on that?
Walt Larimore: [00:18:18] Ah, I love it.the kids call it a flexitarian. I’m maybe a carnivore tonight and a vegan tomorrow. I’m going to be flexible. I’m all about evidence. What’s the best evidence we have. And when it comes to choosing nutrition plans, I think one of the best sources, the one I use every year, U.S. News and World Reports, which is a US publication magazine journal, gathers together world experts in the area of nutrition each year. It’ll be somewhere between 40 and 80 experts who get together and they examine every popular nutrition plan, both the regular ones like Mediterranean, vegan, keto, paleo, whatever, and the commercial plans, the Jenny Craig’s, for example. And then they rate them. They look at all of the evidence that has come out, the studies that are available. They look at the cost. They look at studies that look at how hard some of these are to do, particularly for folks that live in inner cities where there’s nutritional deserts. There’s just not a lot of stores available. And then they rate them and they rate them. For example, they’ll rate the diets that are easiest to use. They’ll rate the diets that are most effective. They’ll wrate the nutrition plans that are best for heart disease or for diabetes or for weight loss, for example. And I always look at those ratings and that’s what I recommend that my patients do.
Walt Larimore: [00:19:47] In general, the last three or four years, the Mediterranean type diet has been the top rated nutrition plan for a variety of conditions that are available, but it’s not the only one vegan, vegetarian, among several other options that are available. But what I like about it is it allows a family or or an individual to look at options and choose one that’s best for them. But when it comes to patients in general, my typical recommendation is whatever the type of foods that you like, whether it’s Mexican or French or heart healthy, or diabetic, healthy or whatever, is to find a cookbook that a national reputable institution recommends. Maybe it’s Mayo or maybe it’s American Heart Association or the American Dietetic Association now called the Association of Nutritionists and Dieticians find out cookbooks that are recommended by them. Barb and I did this with Kate and Scott. Our kids, when they were teenagers, we were putting a little bit more weight than we should. We knew we weren’t eating as well as we should. The kids knew that. And so we actually purchased an American Heart Association cookbook. And then we got a second cookbook from the American Dietetic Association. This was I’m talking 20 years ago. And what we began to do, Peter, was just try recipes one at a time knowing that the average family eats about 10 to 12 dinners per month Now what I mean by that, we eat 30 dinners so 31 dinners, you know, at night. But sometimes we repeat we may have hamburgers twice and we may have chili twice or what have you. But the first recipe that we tried was a vegetarian lasagna made with soy crumbles. And I thought this is going to be the worst night of my life, not a soy crumble guy, you know, and I was a carnivore at the time and Barb cooked that lasagna and the four of us loved it. Now, then we tried another recipe and another recipe. We didn’t. But after a couple of months, we had found 15 recipes that we loved. Barb and I still use those same 15 recipes. Kate and Scott are both married. They still use those same recipes. So it wasn’t that the nutrition plan became an obstacle. It became fun. It became enjoyable to find what you like. And Peter, the same thing is true with exercise. You know this Find find movement you like to do, find someone you’d like to do it with. That you can be accountable. And so good health can be good fun just with a little planning.
Peter Bowes: [00:22:37] And I think some people think these interventions have to be well, they make them overly complicated. Yeah, you’re right. That’s exactly right. You’ve just made and that includes exercise. Good exercise can be simply going for an hour long walk every morning with your dog at a good brisk pace. That’s great exercise and more than most people get.
Walt Larimore: [00:22:55] Oh, absolutely. You know, the current recommendations are, you know, that roughly 150 minutes a week. But we now know that they can be in five minute increments, three minute increments, even standing while you work, even at work having walking meetings. I get tickled when Barb and I go to the mall and people spend fifteen, twenty minutes trying to get a parking place next to it. Park out in the outback where it’s safer to park anyway. Walk in. It’s just movements getting up. I see patients two days a week and then I write three or four days a week. But when I’m writing I have a little timer and it tells me, get up and move. Maybe walk to the back garden and just take a look. Right now, we’ve got some irises coming up and look at those irises for a moment. Just that moment of relaxation. I can do that in my office work where I’m seeing patients. I can be sure that I move, watch my step count. But you’re absolutely right. How do you make it fit who you are as a person, where you live and make it enjoyable? Peter I think that’s so wise. And many physicians don’t think that way. But you’re wise.
Peter Bowes: [00:24:06] Yeah. And you can set small challenges for yourself. And you’re right, you and I could be brothers because I go to the shopping mall, go to the grocery store, and quite amused by the way that people really try to park in the parking lot to the very closest entry and exit points to the building. I go to the opposite end. Just embrace the fact that you walking further, walk around the block and then go into the store.
Walt Larimore: [00:24:27] Well, you mentioned the dog. In fact, research shows that people who have dogs walk more than people who don’t because you have to. And with children getting them out in the stroller, you know, and and if you find someone if you’re going to walk, if you’re going to swim, if you’re going to Zumba, if you’re going to Jazzercise, whatever, run, jog tennis pickleball. But whatever you do, find someone to do it with it. You enjoy. Then you have that fellowship, that conversation, that relationship and that accountability.
Peter Bowes: [00:24:59] I’m curious about this, and maybe we’ve covered it already in terms of your other answers, but as a physician, based on your experience, is there one condition that you would think is there’s a relatively simple fix for a condition that comes up time and time again? But people don’t seem to realize that if if only they did this in their lives, they wouldn’t be suffering from continuous digestion related complaints or heartburn or a recurring ankle sprain, something like that. Is there something in your career that’s come up time and time again?
Walt Larimore: [00:25:33] Well, this book kind of centers on that because we talk about heart disease. So hypertension, heart attack, heart failure. We talk about brain disease, dementia, Alzheimer’s. We talk about GI disease, celiac, irritable bowel syndrome and and then weight obesity and overweight and the epidemic and the scourge that that is. And there’s all are associated with each other. I just was reading a study this morning that talked about a fairly aggressive nutrition and exercise plan for people with diabetes and hypertension. Both of those diseases were reversed. They normalized. Off medication I’m talking type two diabetes, not type one where there’s the insulin, but type two diabetics who could be cured. It’s hard work, but it’s not as hard as having a heart attack. It’s not as hard as losing a limb. It’s not as hard as developing dementia is. And so I think more and more of the research shows and more and more health professionals are interested in how can we do what we call primary prevention. And I don’t tell you how to prevent a second heart attack, a secondary prevention, but tell you how to prevent that first heart attack, that primary prevention. And Peter, as people go through the book and they look I mean, obviously there’s supplements that you can use for these conditions, but the foundation, the ground floor are these lifestyle behaviors and then the nutritional products. Come on top of that, I think the one that angers me the most. You mentioned earlier about unscrupulous advertisers who try to get us to buy products. I go into great depth in the book about how how devious and deceptive the advertising is. It’s almost criminal except in our country. It’s not. The only thing that that argues against what a supplement seller says is what they put on the label. Apart from that, they could say almost anything they want. But I really get angry about our our seniors who are are scared, silly, not about cancer anymore, but about dementia, about Alzheimer’s disease. I mean, really scared, silly. And unfortunately, there is not a single supplement. There’s not a commercial product. There’s not a single supplement that has been shown to have any benefit in the prevention or treatment of of dementia or Alzheimer’s. And yet every night on the evening news, there’s two or three of them that are advertised. And the deceptiveness will be the number one advertiser will say the number one product recommended by pharmacists in America. And it’s 60 bucks a month and it doesn’t work. There’s no evidence of effectiveness whatsoever. Yet the what we’ve been talking about, nutrition, sleep, exercise, brain involvement, relationships, even spirituality, prayer, quiet time, all have both a prevention and a treatment effect. But I really get angry at the advertisers. And so I hope that programs like yours and books like mine will help people become armed with the information they need to make wise decisions that don’t harm themselves or their pocketbook.
Peter Bowes: [00:29:05] I think that’s a really good message you’ve just touched on. Something else I wanted to delve into with you, and you talk and you write about positive spirituality. You mentioned spirituality and prayer as being perhaps equally as important as focusing on your diet and your exercise and your sleep. This is, you could call it exercise for the mind that promotes your well-being just as well as the interventions.
Walt Larimore: [00:29:30] Well, our exercise of the spirit before the Natural Medicines Handbook, I had a book that came out with Dr. Phil Bishop, Phil’s Ph.D. exercise physiologist at the University of Alabama. And we did a book called Fit Over 50. It’s actually kind of deceptively named because a 40 year old or a 30 year old, we get as much benefit from this book as a 50 or 60 year old. But we talk about something that I’ve done research on and written for. For over 20 years, and that’s what I call the four wheels of health. I mean, obviously there’s physical health, no question about that. But there’s also relational health, you know, family health that we have, social health that we have. There’s also emotional or mental health. And then the fourth wheel is spiritual health. And as you look across the hundreds of thousands of studies that have looked at the relationship between those four wheels, they are intimately and intensely interconnected. And if any one of those wheels, your physical health, your relational health, your emotional health or your spiritual health is either flat or wobbly or out of alignment, you will not be able to have the right of life that you want. And I think the surprise when, Peter, that that you’ve mentioned is spiritual health. But any type of health, physical health can be positive or negative. You can have good relationships and bad relationships. You can have good emotions and bad emotions. And with spirituality, you can have positive spirituality or negative spirituality. I’m involved with the research project at the residency that I teach at and Tulsa, Oklahoma. I live in Colorado Springs, but I’m a visiting professor at a family medicine residency in Tulsa. And we look at our hospitalized patients that are coming in. The joint commission, which accredits all health care institutions in this country, now has a requirement that patients have a spiritual history taken upon admission to find out if they have any spiritual needs and if they do, to meet them. Maybe they need to see a pastoral professional or maybe they want to see a chaplain or maybe prayer’s important to them or maybe they need some reading or whatever the case would be. What is that patient’s spiritual needs during their hospitalization? But we’ve also begun to ask patients, do they have any religious struggle? And the questions that I teach the residents, I call them the lap questions. And these are questions only for patients who we have met who have a religious belief or a spiritual belief, who have a some understanding that there’s a God and they’re in their view system and that they believe in or have heard of. So for people who are religious, we’ll ask the lap l-a-p questions. And that is if someone believes in God will say, does this illness, this his cancer, does this accident you’ve had make you feel that God loves you less? That’s the L- question. The A is abandoned. Does this illness make you feel that God has abandoned you? Are you a person who’s prayed for healing and gotten to know to that? So do you feel God has abandoned you? Or thirdly and this one, for example, is very common with our Muslim patients. Do you feel that God’s punishing you for something and that’s why you have this illness? What the research shows is that people who have religious struggle are much less likely to do well, to recover as quickly, are to recover as well or even cope as well. And so if we identify a patient in the hospital who has religious struggle, I don’t have the training or experience to deal with that. But we have chaplaincy people who have that experience to come in and sit and visit with that patient and talk with that patient and have them come to an understanding of reality as opposed to unreal expectations. And it’s really sweet. I’ve really enjoyed seeing my ilk, physicians and hospitals begin to take spiritual histories and then actually respond to it. And it’s desperately overdue.
Peter Bowes: [00:33:46] I think it’s very interesting. And of course, the people who don’t identify themselves as religious, as having a faith, spirituality can still be an incredibly important part of their lives.
Walt Larimore: [00:33:59] Without question. That’s the spiritual history helps us see. Do you have any particular spiritual needs? If you’re religious, then do you have any religious struggle going on? But all under the rubric that when people become ill, even when people become when women become pregnant, almost all begin to think spiritual things are eternal things and particularly an illness to begin to wonder about. Is this it? What’s life all about? You know, and and for health care professionals to be aware of that, to come alongside those patients, not in any way to proselytize or push whatever their beliefs are, but rather to find out. I like to say I like to find out where my patients are on their spiritual journey and join them in taking the next step towards spiritual health, however that looks for them in their spirituality. You’re absolutely right.
Peter Bowes: [00:34:52] So Walt, as we draw this conversation to a close, I’m curious about your own journey. In life, you’ve talked about your family and recipes and really finding that that niche in terms of what’s working for you and what you feel comfortable with. But as you look forward to the coming decades and we often talk on this podcast about healthspan optimizing those healthy years as opposed to lifespan, the number of years that we’re actually alive in our heart is beating. What do you apply to yourself from everything that you’ve learned and we’ve talked about in the last half an hour or so, what do you apply to yourself every day that you think is so crucially important to enjoy a great healthspan?
Walt Larimore: [00:35:33] Yeah, great question, Peter. I appreciate you asking that. For me, it’s that discipline, and particularly it’s a spiritual discipline for me. I was raised in a Christian tradition, Episcopal tradition. And so the Lord’s Prayer was something that was part of of every worship service. So I remember as a little boy singing the Lord’s Prayer. And and so when I wake up and this has been for most of my adult life, my first breath waking up, my first thought as I begin to sing that prayer. I did this morning. I just sing through it as I lay in bed and just saying, starting today, I’m centering on the fact that life’s bigger than me and I want to make today be everything that God designed it to be for me, that that centering. And then after getting up and getting that cup I love Earl Grey to getting that cup of Earl Grey tea going and just sitting down. And for me, it’s it’s a brief scripture reading of that wisdom of scripture I used to, of the Hebrew scriptures, from Psalms and from Proverbs. And so there’s 30 proverbs. And so today was was the eighth of the month. So I read the eighth proverb, it’s about lady wisdom, and I’ve read it for years and years and years. And yet that ancient book of wisdom spoke to me today in a new way. I mean, here I am approaching my eighth decade and I’m I’m reconsidering just what you said. How how can I be wise? How can I become more wise? How can I not be seduced by by evil or lies are wrong. So that a proverb a day. And then I pick up the book of Psalms. There’s 150 psalms in the Hebrew scriptures. And so I started on on Psalm eight and I just add 30. So I did 8 and then I did 38 and then 68 and 98. And then, you know, when 118 I guess would be the next one. And it takes about 10, 15 minutes. And up here in the mountains where the point where when I’m doing that, the sun’s starting to rise and it’s just for me been a good discipline of that spiritual centering. Barbs not up at that point. So then I go and have my treadmill time and I watch the news program do my walk. I’ve got some arthritis. So running is kind of hard for me. And then I found a Royal Canadian Air Force exercise program that even us old folks can do and printed off the Internet. I’ve got a little exercise routine. I go through every it’s very simple to do by then. I hear Barb wandering around and go upstairs and she’s having a cup of coffee and we sit and just for five minutes, just talk about what’s happening that day, how we can serve each other, how we can pray for each other, and then that’s when the day begins. So for me, that that kind of spiritual, relational, physical centering at the beginning has just become a valuable discipline.
Peter Bowes: [00:38:50] And I think that is a wonderful way to end this interview, Walt it’s been really fascinating to talk to you, a wonderful insight into your thinking and how it could clearly help so many people. All the best with the book. And thank you very much indeed.
Walt Larimore: [00:39:05] Well Peter blessings with what you’re doing to help people figure out their divine design and then to live life in a healthful fashion. Oh, I’m just glad to have been a small part of it.
Peter Bowes: [00:39:19] Dr. Walt Larimore, thank you very much indeed.
Walt Larimore: [00:39:21] My pleasure.
Peter Bowes: [00:39:22] And I will put a link to your work into your book, The Natural Medicine Handbook, into the show notes for this episode of the Live Long and Master Aging podcast. You’ll find our website at LLAMApodcast.com. That’s LLAMApodcast.com. The LLAMA podcast is a Healthspan Media production. In social media you’ll find us @LLAMApodcast. You can contact me @PeterBowes. Were available on all of the major podcasting platforms, including Apple podcasts Spotify and Audible free of charge to everyone. You can also rate and review there, wherever you find us do take care. And thanks so much for listening.