Three Essentials of Optimal Health
This time of year with New Years resolutions, intentions, choosing a word to define your year, it can be inspiring to have a point with such a clean slate, yet at times… a bit daunting. The same goes for health, when I was looking to change things up and envisioning where I wanted to be back in 2011- with my end goal of having a baby, after months of research I decided to try to cleanse out my system in removing possible inflammatory factors, processed sugars and gluten. It took me two good months to research what I could eat, as this was 9 years ago, and at that time gluten free and sugar free weren’t so easy to find, throw in the translation factor of living in a different country! March 1, 2011, I started this journey and in reflecting on my biggest learnings since that time, I have learned that are three essential factors for optimal health. It is the simplicity in things that makes it much more manageable and achievable.
Maximize the good! Eat foods that are nourishing for YOU! I learned what foods were nourishing for me and focused on these, whole foods. It was a big transition moving out of my “Mac and Cheese” as a “home-cooked” meal, stopping my diet coke a day addiction cold turkey, and learning what whole foods consisted of, as well as how to cook them. That was a HUGE step in and of itself, and the rewards of clarity of mind, energy, motivation, along with stabilizing my weight, clear skin, and regular digestion were just a few of the long-term benefits to that profound lifestyle choice.
This past year in studying Functional Medicine,I have learned there are a few essentials that are necessary for optimal health: oxygen, water, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein, healthy fats. are literally the pantry of ingredients the body needs to run optimally. As an example, if we don’t consume Essential Omega Fatty Acids, then we literally go deficient. There is no extra storage facility in a corner of the body. Essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients have to be consumed via food or supplements otherwise it is just a matter of time before the body goes deficient. Think of it like baking a cake, yet forgetting the eggs. The cake isn’t going to be light and fluffy. We can diagnose it as flat squishy cake, although we know the remedy is to add the eggs back into the mixture. We need to fully maximize what the body requires to function optimally.
For this new year, I invite you to take a few minutes and write down what is needed for you and your body, thinking about the raw materials your body needs to function and heal. And if you are unsure, I invite you to book a 60 minute nutritional consult, where we can dive into your Health History together to get a good overview of what areas might be lacking.
Minimize what is harmful for YOU! The good news is there is actually quite a short list of things that can “go wrong” with the human body. The list of insults is quite small, despite the list of problems being much larger.
Here are the 5 categories of insults that can be harmful, degrading or debilitating to the body.
1. Toxins: include various chemicals from outside the body, and/ or an overload of chemicals generated from inside the body that have simply become unbalanced.
2. Infections: Whether it be from microbes, worms, yeast, fungus or bacteria. There are all sorts of creatures and we are dependent on them to live symbiotically. We have hundreds of thousands of microbes in our gut, which are informing our immune system and making vitamins to help process toxins. Although, the body can be easily overwhelmed by an infection or imbalance, or struggling with a non-endemic or pathogenic microbe.
3. Allergens: This is something the body should be tolerating as a normal part of its environment that it is choosing not to. Whether it be a food or plant, the immune system has decided these substances are foreign invaders and responds accordingly.
4. Stress: One of the biggest factors as it can be mental/emotional and/or physiological. One example might be when we are mentally, or emotionally stressed, we might turn to alcohol, cigarettes, or sugar/processed foods which physiological over toxify the liver.
5. Trauma: Trauma can come from an injury, blockage, possibly being born without something or surgery.
Create an environment for healing. Despite how simple it may sound, prioritization seems to be the most challenging as it is easy to neglect.
The body is designed to thrive in a supportive, healing environment. We aren’t designed to be living in a constant state of stress, or sleep deprivation, or negativity, or shamefulness, or criticism.
The priority is making time for the things you need, sleep, rest, laughter, stress reduction, exercise, stretching, breathing, connections with others creating meaningful relationships. All of these categories are necessary, and they can be appropriate for the body or they can be too much or too little. For example, someone who doesn’t exercise enough or on the flip side there is someone who exercises too much. Finding the right balance for your unique body is key.
If one can do these 3 things, wellness is achievable. A key pearl, is that the body is ever developing and it will heal with appropriate changes and a commitment to these changes.