If you're a Sephora or Ulta shopper, then chances are you've heard of Dr. Howard Murad. His line Murad Skincare was the first authentic, doctor-developed brand, and in the 20 years since its inception it's been awarded several dermatology-related patents for its revolutionary products.
Never adhering to the traditional scope of medicine or dermatology, Murad has developed over the last two decades a remarkable approach to health that's based on his research into cellular water. He's spent his professional career striving to making people create a healthy life through is philosophy of inclusive health. All that is delved into with the documentary A Younger You with Dr. Howard Murad, which airs Saturday, June 8, on PBS.
Murad, 74, boasts quite the resume. Originally from Baghdad, his family immigrated to the United States when he was just 7 years old, going from having moderate wealth to living in a 600 square-foot apartment in Queens with his parents and five siblings. Working throughout most of childhood to help support his family as well as eventually pay his way through college, pharmacy school, and finally medical school.
Serving in Vietnam for the U.S. Army during World War II, he quickly discovered he did not want to be a surgeon like he had originally planned. Murad eventually found himself in the field of dermatology. And from the get-go he wasn't your average dermatologist.
"I had gone to pharmacy school before medical school, and I practiced a different part of dermatology than most people," Murad says.
When he began his practice Murad says he believed in taking supplements, and he realized that it wasn't just about what you put on your skin, it's also about what you eat.
Over time, he says the idea of emotions being an integral part of overall health came to represent a big part of the treatment plan for his patients, in addition to eating habits.
"The triad of topical, internal, and emotional -- which are called look, live, and feel better -- sort of became more and more who I was," he says. "And I began to understand it better, and understanding the cellular water aspect."
Murad says he found that the final common pathway of aging, disease, obesity, even wrinkles, is loss of cellular water. That discovery took place during the last two decades or so during his research on what he calls inclusive health, which he'll talk about on his PBS special Saturday. Murad says the way to make our cells younger and healthier is by encouraging more cellular water.
The cellular water aspect is what he based his book The Water Secret: The cellular breakthrough to look and feel 10 years younger on, and also incorporates in his latest, Creating a Healthy Life.
"The basis for inclusive health includes two things," says Murad. "One, that every cell in your body is connected. So if you really want to improve your wrinkles, it's not just about getting a Botox shot or a laser treatment. It's about having better circulation, your liver working better, and you being happier."
Murad says that most people think skin is just a blanket that sits on top of our bodies, but it is in fact associated with every organ in the body, from blood vessels to nerves: it goes to and from everything.
As an example of this, Murad points to getting a bad sunburn. He says people will generally feel tired, lethargic, and potentially nauseous. On the flip side, if one has a bad liver, their skin will turn yellow. Everything is highly connected.
Murad says the second basis of inclusive health is encouraging higher cellular water levels. Without that aspect, he says, all other efforts such as curing diseases would essentially be futile in increasing longevity, since our cells get weaker and more sensitive to damage as we age due to loss of cellular water levels, leaving us susceptible to a host of other problems.
One way to help increase cellular water level is with our diet. Murad encourages his patients to "eat" their water, by consuming more water-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, white-meat chicken, wild salmon and other cold-water fish.
Also important is avoiding diets high in sodium. We all known that too much sodium is bad for us, but Dr. Murad highlights the fact by advising that just one gram of salt requires 22 grams of water to eliminate it from our bodies. You don't have to be good at math to know that's a not a very good ratio.
Murad also recommends taking a daily multi-vitamin, an amino acid, and omega-3 supplement, plus glucosamine, because of collagen loss, especially after the age of 25.
The second is with topical treatments, but Murad says he doesn't spend much time on the on "look" aspect of his Inclusive Health with his patients, due to his belief that most everybody knows that moisturizers and sunscreens are extremely paramount to protecting one's skin and preventing skin cancer, age spots and wrinkles.
The third component is the real secret to staying younger, healthier, and happier, says Murad, that component is the "feel better" part of Inclusive Health, which involves minimizing stress.
Murad says there are two types of stressors, the first one being traditional and acute, such as divorce, a death in the family, or a flat tire on the way to work. Those kinds of stressors aren't permanent, in the sense that we resolve them and deal with them to get through them, Murad says.
According to Murad, the other kind of stress is constant and pervasive, and he refers to it as cultural stress.
Murad says that over the last couple of decades, our culture has been very stressful. More and more is expected of us, he says, there's more traffic, more rules and regulations everywhere.
Murad says that not being able to keep up with unrealistic cultural expectations lead to a sense of being hard on ourselves, which limits our opportunities and we try to do just what's in our "box."
"A lot of things are beginning to happen because of that cultural stress, which we basically ignore and say 'that's life,'" says Murad. "And it is life, and you really in a way can't do too much about it. But it's not really the stress, it's how you deal with it."
Murad says this belief has formed the basis of his developing "insights," or affirmations that he says have helped his patients tremendously.
Affirmations can be as simple as "you are worthy," because a lot of times people tend to feel less worthy, Murad says. "Success comes when you don't fear failure," is another, and the cheesy but true "why have a bad day when you could have a good day," is another of the several hundred insights he uses with his patients.
Murad says it's important to get back to acting like our toddler selves, which included not having a fear of failure, a box to need to think outside of, giving ourselves permission to say no, not needing to be perfect, the ability to make friends and talk to any stranger we met, and to truly feel emotion whether it be joy or sadness.
Additionally, exercise is extremely important (no surprise.) Exercise is a known stress-reducer, and there are other benefits to building more muscle: Dr. Murad says that fat is composed of 10 percent water, while muscle is 70 percent. So increasing cellular water levels occurs by staying in shape.
Over the last few years, Murad says he's pretty much made his practice Inclusive Health, and isn't solely a dermatologist or physician.
Murad says he decided to do the special for PBS in an attempt to get the word out there on his philosophy, and hopefully get people to embrace it so they can improve their health.
While Murad isn't sure what the implications are for staying younger and healthier longer by encouraging cellular water levels, he does say he would expect people to live longer if they aren't getting so many chronic diseases that they become more susceptible to as their cells degenerate and weaken.
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"In any event, it's going to be a life that's more full of joy and happiness and passion.," says Murad.
Dr. Murad's special A Younger You airs this Saturday, June 8, at 10:30 p.m on PBS.
For more information on Dr. Murad, check out his blog.