Gabrielle Francis isn’t your typical doctor. She travels from country to country treating her patients in hotel rooms, at music festivals, on planes and buses. Her clients? Rock stars who stay healthy in spite of the excesses of life in the biz. In her new book The Rockstar Remedy, Francis explains the 21-day detox plan and the 90/10 rules for food, fitness and life that keep her musicians rocking on even the most demanding tours. In this excerpt, she shares her tips for staying healthy while the party’s on:
Rock stars on tour have to be on top of their game. Their demanding lifestyles don’t give them the luxury of abusing their bodies the way the rest of society does. To perform at such intense levels, night after night, for months on end, artists must become as vigilant about their health as professional athletes. But unlike the pros, rock stars don’t have an injured reserve list. And the economics of the tours don’t leave much room for play. With shows lasting two to three hours and backstage entertaining going into the next morning, rock stars who get wrecked each night threaten to mess up the timing of their entire schedule. If bands can’t play, they get pulled off the road and don’t get paid. This puts extreme pressure on them to take care of themselves.
The irony is that musicians are often perceived as killing themselves with their crazy lifestyles. But the truth is that we non-rock stars are the ones fuelling our bodies with toxic chemicals and hard living. I call this “soda pop” culture. Many of my non-celebrity clients push themselves just as hard as the artists I work with, but don’t take nearly as good care of themselves. When they see me for the first time, many of them are exhausted, sleep-deprived, stressed-out and depressed. Their diets consist mainly of processed, packaged or fast food; tons of sugary drinks; lots of caffeine and whatever else they can grab on the run that doesn’t take too much time away from other commitments. Their relationships are suffering. Emotionally, they feel out of whack. And their brains and bodies are having a hard time coping with it all.
The first step, the one you can do right now, is to ask yourself: “If anything were possible, how would I want to live my life?” I want you to really think about what your best possible life would look like, and the kinds of activities, habits and relationships that would populate that life.
Now I want you to think about your health. What would your health look like in that ideal life? How close or far is it from your current state of health? How does your current state of health help or prevent you from having that ideal life?
‘I do total silence for 10 minutes right after a show.… As my ears ring out and all my energies start to come back to earth, I find peace in that 10 minutes, then it’s time to party!’ –Tommy Lee, Motley Crue
The truth is, if we don’t have our health, we don’t have anything. The first step toward living a better life is to create better health. But being healthy doesn’t mean being boring! Socializing is a key part of vibrant health. Countless studies have shown that all the perks of leisure time, from laughter to friendships to fun activities, add to our happiness, vitality and longevity.
The key to being a healthy social butterfly is making sure you adhere to the 90/10 Rule. Does that mean you only get to enjoy life 10 per cent of the time, while 90 per cent is zero fun? Absolutely not! It simply means that in the midst of following what brings you joy, you remember to stay healthy most of the time. You implement harm-reduction techniques, follow diet guidelines when you eat out (when you can), and pay attention to how your body feels. If you begin losing energy, getting sick, or experiencing any of the many symptoms of living at 80-20 or 70-30, it’s time to look at where you’re slipping.
I’m realistic. I know that living a work-hard, play-hard life means occasionally overindulging in cocktails or junk food, sneaking a cigarette here or there, or skimping on sleep to hang out with friends. With the right tools, you can maximize your health without sacrificing your fun.
Eating at restaurants, parties or events can be part of the 90 per cent or the 10 per cent, depending on the choice of food or establishment. The best options are typically those that serve healthy organic options, farm-to-table, or local cuisine. If you’re a less adventurous eater, good health can be an excellent motivator for experimenting with and learning the experience of cultures and cuisine as well as celebrating with friends and family in a new way.
Restaurants, airports, office cafeterias and house parties aren’t always a mecca of good nutrition. Fortunately, there are ways to limit their negative impact. Try these harm-reduction techniques for eating out:
Look for restaurants that offer vegetarian or locally grown ingredients, or choose family-run ethnic spots. If organic isn’t on the menu, order entrees made with lamb, wild-caught fish, goat or sheep dairy, or vegetables.
Limit yourself to 1 cup of cooked rice, no matter what type of fare or restaurant. For reduced or no gluten, look for Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Indian, Mexican/South American, or Middle Eastern (limit the bread) meals.
‘Never know what’s coming. Tomorrow your doctor could tell you that you’ve got cancer and four months to live. That’s the world. Thing about life that’s sad but true is we get too soon old and too late smart. And smart means that you wake up and look at things before they pass you by. Every one of us goes through it. I started to see it when I was 50. They don’t write that into your birth certificate. It should be written in: DON’T DO WHAT EVERYONE DOES. Don’t find out too late about your ailment or disease when you could have done something about it.’ – Steven Tyler, Aerosmith
Choose healthier fast-food options, such as vegetable burritos, fish tacos, mushroom quesadillas, falafel sandwiches/platters, lamb gyros, shish kebabs, wraps, soups, yogurt with toppings, or salads with vegetables and protein.
At the Mexican cantina, switch from refried to black beans, avoid sour cream, choose fish over chicken or beef, add veggies to burritos and tacos. In Italian places, start with the vegetable antipasti, go gluten-free with risotto or entrees with veggies and meat or fish, or choose low-gluten items like gnocchi or eggplant parmigiana.
Opt for my favourite one-bite wonder – sushi. It’s perfect for detox and postdetox diets because: (1) ginger stimulates digestive enzymes; (2) rice protects the gut-associated lymphatic tissue (in which 95 per cent of serotonin is produced); (3) seaweed pulls out mercury; (4) wasabi kills parasites and (5) wild fish contains omega-3s and protein. Don’t forget to chase your sushi roll with a cup of green tea for an antioxidant boost.
When eating Greek, Turkish or Lebanese, load up on healthy appetizers.
Switch soda for coconut water, glass-bottled iced tea or water, spritzers with soda water and juice, or fruit juices diluted in water at a 1:3 ratio. Choose biodynamic or organic wines to avoid the pesticides. Or have Italian, Spanish or French wines, which are usually lower in pesticides, if organic is not an option.
You don’t have to miss the party to stay healthy. Whether you’re partaking in a month-long detox, a recovery program, or simply a night off from cocktailing, social situations like bars and parties can be challenging. Well-meaning friends, family, co-workers and party hosts often don’t take “no thank you” for an answer. Dodging the inevitable questioning or prodding is easier when you have a drink in hand, so try a non-alcoholic bar option such as a Brown Pelican (apple cider and ginger beer) or a Rock Shandy (soda water, lemonade and a dash of Angostura bitters). Mentally, it can help you feel more “celebratory” and less awkward in social situations.
While it’s well known that alcohol can be rough on the liver, what’s less known is that certain substances impact how the organ metabolizes spirits. For example, grapefruit contains naringenin, which slows the detox of alcohol from the liver; therefore the alcohol stays in your blood longer. The formula is simple: Grapefruit + Spirits = Bigger Buzz. The upside is that when you mix grapefruit juice with alcohol, you need to drink half as much to get the same high. This is a very effective harm-reduction technique I use with rock stars to decrease their alcohol intake if they are not ready to cut out alcohol completely.
They have a drink mixed with a little grapefruit juice and they drink less. The downside is that if you add grapefruit juice to your cocktails, but still drink heavily, you’ll most likely get very drunk. Consider yourself warned! Other ingredients that slow the detox of alcohol from the liver include: clove, drugs (antihistamines, benzodiazepines, antacids, SSRIs, some antibiotics and antifungals), kava kava, St. John’s wort and turmeric.
‘When I’m on the road, I try to be very careful with what I eat. Sometimes I’ll fast the day of a show. It helps me get to the mental place that I want to be in while I’m playing. I’ll usually get massages before or after a show. With Guns N’ Roses, we play anywhere from 2 1/2 hours to 3 1/2 hours a night. It’s like running a marathon!’ – Richard Fortus, Guns N’ Roses
Just as there are substances that increase the effects of alcohol on your liver, others protect the organ from the wear and tear of happy hour. Try the following foods and supplements (per bottle dosage instructions) on nights you drink:
- Antioxidants and bioflavonoids: also found in fruits (especially lemon and lime), dark-skinned berries, vegetables and green tea
- Glutathione-cysteine, glutamine, glycine: amino acids that support liver detoxification
- Methionine: an amino acid also found in eggs, fish, Brazil nuts and seeds
- Milk thistle: an herb long known to protect the liver, available in capsules and teas
- MSM: a sulfur also found in eggs, onions, garlic and cruciferous vegetables like kale, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage
- Vitamins B, C and E.
Sometimes the day after drinking can make you never want to drink again. The good news is that there are healthier “cures” for the morning after than a greasy cheeseburger and fries. Try my Backstage Alternatives to replenish much-needed vitamins, minerals, and fluids.
- Detox: A good place to start is the detox shake. Using it as part of the detox leads to a cleaner liver, but it can also be used on the morning after to help you replenish lost vitamins and bounce back. Also, the more hydrated you are, the more your symptoms will ease. Replenish with electrolyte replacements such as coconut water and vegetable bouillon along with 8 to 10 glasses of water to flush toxins.
- Nourish and hydrate: Pass on the leftover pizza and eat easy-to-digest foods like oatmeal, rice and soup.
- Supplement: B-complex, Emergen-C (1 to 2 packets daily) and vitamin C (1,000 mg) to replenish your vitamin levels. Add herbal remedies to support your liver, like dandelion tea (1 to 2 cups) or milk thistle (per bottle instructions).
- Treat: Get at least eight to 10 hours of sleep. A sauna, steam or exercise will help you sweat out the toxins. And if you can get to your acupuncturist, ask for add-on acupuncture points: ST 36, LI 4, ST 44, LV3, PC 6.
It’s all about balance. You can eat food. It will just be more nutritious food. You can eat at restaurants. They’ll just be healthier restaurants and you’ll make smarter menu choices. Happy hours, birthday parties, date nights. You can have it all without being the odd man out or harming your health.
Adapted from The Rockstar Remedy: A Rock & Roll Doctor’s Prescription for Living a Long Healthy Life by Dr. Gabrielle Francis. Copyright © 2014. Reprinted by permission of HarperWave, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Available for pre-order on amazon.ca and in stores Dec. 30.