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Better Health in 21 Days 


“It takes at least 21 days to create a new habit,” says Dr. Candy Drilon-Dalman, functional and integrative medicine expert. As a holistic wellness physician and founder of Centro Holistico, Dr. Candy, her husband and co-founder Dr. Ryan Dalman, and their team, employ more definitive approaches to health care. “We focus on lifestyle modifications—diet, stress management, movement, sleep—and interventions, which are complementary, or alternative in nature.”

Of course, conventional medicine is still applied as needed.

Functional medicine is patient-centric and based on a detailed understanding of a patient’s genetics and lifestyle. It addresses the underlying causes, and not the symptoms of disease. Integrative medicine combines traditional and conventional medicine, a personalized strategy that considers the patient’s unique condition and needs. Both functional and integrative medicine are science-based systems that help achieve optimal health and wellness.

These are the treatment guidelines and the inspirations behind this three-week better health program by Dr. Candy. It aims to boost immunity and resistance at the comfort of your home.

As a general safety precaution, consult your doctor beforehand, especially those who have underlying or chronic medical conditions.


WEEK 1: Replace bad habits with better choices 

You can go with less junk food, even completely without it. This week is all about introducing better habits to replace bad ones. “The goal for this week is to slowly transition to better food choices,” says Dr. Candy.

Snack smarter

Snack on healthier alternatives. Replace your regular chips with healthier substitutes like kamote or veggie chips, or what you can find in specialty health stores.

Drink more water

Substitute sugary drinks like soda, iced tea, and juices with water. “Make a conscious effort to drink a glass every waking hour,” she says. “Yes, this will make you go to the toilet more often, but the point is to make you get used to drinking regularly.”

No added sugar

Replace sugary desserts with healthier ones, like fruits or dark chocolate. Less sugar is always good. If you can’t totally eliminate, decrease intake. She advises to learn to just eat enough to satisfy the craving.

Detox naturally

Dr. Candy and Centro Holistico don’t believe in deprivation. Detoxification for them is basically removing the toxic elements in your lifestyle and improving your body’s natural detoxification system.

At this most crucial time, steer clear of drastic detoxes and just add healthy habits. “When the body can’t detoxify well, it produces a lot of free radicals that destroy your cells. These also take up a lot of the nutrients that should go to energy production,” she says. “The best way to combat this is to lessen or remove processed food, preservatives, sugar, and anything synthetic.”


WEEK 2: Increase healthy food intake, energy levels, and exercise

This week is all about steadily increasing the frequency of healthy food and healthy habits.

Up Your Veggie Intake

Start getting more veggies in! If you don’t eat much, or at all, try eating at least a vegetable you like, or can tolerate, at least once a day. This can also be a green juice, a fruit and/or veggie smoothie, a small side salad, or a veggie soup. “Aim to have at least one intake daily, then move up to two to three, even four times a day,” she says.

Dr. Candy recommends eating the rainbow. “Don’t stick to just one type of vegetable,” she says. “We need to have a wide variety of vegetables and fruits in order for us to get the different micronutrients, antioxidants, and phytonutrients that our bodies require for it to function well.”

Tip: try getting in three colors a day. By the end of the week, you would have completed all the colors of the veggie-fruit rainbow. The best way to eat vegetables is raw or minimally cooked. She recommends a quick steam, blanching, or sautéing.

You can also juice your veggies, instead of eating them. “I don’t recommend juicing for diabetics because the sugars get released right away,” she says. “But if you don’t have a sugar issue, go ahead and juice.”

Move more

Aside from burning calories, movement ahelps regulate our hormones. According to Dr. Candy, exercise helps us detoxify by getting the lymphatic system to move along. Generally, breaking out into a sweat makes us happy. “Minimum amount of movement should be 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a week, plus two sessions of strength training,” she says. “That’s not a lot!”

Better sleep

Move during the day

“Our bodies are made to move,” she says. “If you’re not that tired in the evening, you won’t feel the need to rest. Move in the morning or during daytime.”

No Netflix, No TV

“Make your room conducive to sleeping. Get a good pillow. No TV or Netflix! Turn on some white or pink noise if needed,” she says. “Get some of your favorite essential oils to help you relax.”

Regulate with melatonin

“Melatonin is a good supplement not only for sleep, but also to help the immune system. Don’t be afraid of it,” she said. “Taking two to five milligrams is enough for those who have no trouble sleeping. For those with sleep issues, you can go up to 10mg.”

Live food for gut health 

Eat probiotic foods. Fermented food like kimchi and sauerkraut are recommended. Don’t forget to eat your prebiotics, too. “[Prebiotics] feed your microbiome like garlic, onions, leeks, bananas, oats, and apples,” says Dr. Candy.

At the clinic, heavy emphasis is placed on gut health, “Seventy percent of our immune system is controlled by the gut,” she says.” If you have a healthy gut, you have higher chances of recovering from whatever infection you get.”

Upgrade your supplements

Given our lifestyles during this pandemic, we are unable to get all the essential nutrients we need in our diet most of the time. Supplementing will help give you that extra boost to reach your most optimal self.

“You can never ‘out-supplement’ a bad diet and lifestyle,” she says. “There is no magic pill when it comes to fighting off infections. The point of taking supplements is for your body to be able to meet its nutritional requirements.”

Based on patient observations, even when one is taking multivitamins, the vitamin levels in the body are not at the optimal range because of poor diet, habits, and lifestyle.

“The more stressful and active the lifestyle, the more nutrients you need. For every energy molecule (ATP) that you produce, you consume a lot of vitamin B, C, glutathione, alpha-lipoic acid, magnesium, selenium, manganese, and more,” she says. “This is just for your body to produce energy. It doesn’t include the nutrients necessary for your immune system to function, for your liver to detoxify, for you to produce new collagen. For you to get all these, you need to eat a balanced, nutrient-dense diet. Then you supplement on things that your body isn’t getting enough of.”

Supplements you can add are vitamins D3, C, A, selenium, magnesium, zinc. You can include multivitamins and multimineral supplements, as well as probiotics, to your list. These are normally what the center recommends for their patients. Still, it is best to consult with your functional and/or integrative medical doctor to know the specific supplements for your specific needs.

Get some sun 

“The sun is our friend! It makes us produce our own vitamin D, which is essential for bone health and immunity, and helps regulate hormones,” she says. “If you get your sun in the morning, it helps you sleep better at night.”

When the body can’t detoxify well, it produces a lot of free radicals that destroy your cells. These also take up a lot of the nutrients that should go to energy production.


WEEK 3: Get goal-specific

Now that you have started some healthy habits, it’s time to set a health goal. Be it losing weight, improving immunity, optimizing health for one’s age, or just wanting to be healthier, setting goals for yourself will help you stay on track. Eventually, it will be a staple part of your lifestyle.

Veggie Feast 

The goal is to also eat as much fresh produce as possible. Go for 70 to 80 percent plant-based food.  “I’m not vegan, but I believe that you need more vegetables in your life than animal products,” Dr. Candy says.

Improve digestion 

Chew your food well

“Digestion starts in the mouth,” she says. “Make sure you chew at least 20 times per mouthful.” The recommendation is 30 times, but 20 is a good start.

Don’t drink a lot while eating

“Avoid cold drinks as it dilutes your digestive enzymes, needed to break down food,” she says. “Try to have hot soup or tea with every meal.”

She adds that the Chinese, for example, don’t eat raw vegetables as they consider it cold food. They believe it makes your body cold, and therefore slows down circulation and digestion.

Dr. Candy says, “Eat the raw food in the morning because it’s hot in the daytime,” she advises. “Then as the sun goes down, lean toward food that’s more digestible. Meaning more veggies and less red meat.”

She recommends eating big meals during the daytime, and less in the evening. “We don’t digest food as well at night as the gastrointestinal system slows down,” Dr. Candy says.

Also, regular bowel movement, at least once a day, is important. If you’re not going regularly, she warns that you may need health intervention.

Follow the 80/20 rule 

Getting off track is normal. When the going gets tough, remember Dr. Candy’s 80/20 rule.

“I don’t believe in cheat days. I’m more for moderation,” she says. “You have to be good 80 percent of the time so that you have a 20 percent leeway for your cheat food.”

She adds that when people do cheat days, they go way overboard, and it can get really ugly—fast! “I recommend having a good base diet, so that when you don’t have a choice but to have that slice of cake, it won’t shift your health to the opposite direction,” she says.

Measure yourself

If you’re trying to lose weight, you can measure your weight, check your body fat percentage, or simply fit your clothes to monitor. For some people, their laboratory workup is their point of measurement.

You can also choose to do blood tests services at home, as they’re readily available via apps. “You can opt to use weight and vital stats. For body fat, you can use a caliper if you’ve the patience to do it. You can do a before-and-after, use a scale with body fat analyzer like a Karada scanner,” she says. “A regular weighing scale and measuring tape can do the trick too. Just make sure you measure at the same time every day.”

Get a coach

Not every day is a walk in the park. There will be times when you need someone to give you a little push when the going gets tough. There will be times when you feel like bingeing on a bag of chips while binge-watching some series.

Having a coach or mentor will help you get back on track. “Your coach can be a friend, someone in the journey with you, or a professional life coach,” she says. “It’s refreshing to talk to another person outside your circle. Someone who is focused on you and your wellbeing.”

Nowadays, while most, if not all, doctors have closed their clinics, they’ve moved their check-ups electronically and via phone. Centro Holistico now has tele-consults. You can work with a functional and/or integrative doctor to monitor your progress through signs and symptoms, and specific lab work.


Centro Holistico is located at The Grove in Pasig, Commercenter in Alabang, and  HPL building in Quezon City. Visit their website: For tele-consults, e-mail: IG: @centroholistico, FB:

Source: Manila Bulletin (

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