Ten Ways To Improve Your Health
Every day you have a choice to create a state of health for your body - to contribute to your own well-being. Naturally we are drawn to a way of life that promotes health - however some of us do well with a little bit of extra care or even a bit of extra inspiration at certain points in our life. Good health really is the result of those little things we do often, not the things we do once in a while!
Naturopathic medicine is a practice based on the restoration of health and balance within the body. Many conditions help to create a healthy state – in natural medicine there are ten key areas which form the foundations for good health and wellbeing in our clients. None of these areas stand alone when it comes to our health and some, more than others, can have profound effects on the body when in a state of imbalance.
There are key determinants in health such as genetics, birth, nutrition, patterns of exercise and rest, past illnesses and medical interventions, physical and emotional traumas, stress and exposure. These determinants can be addressed and usually modified to enhance health. It is generally within these areas where we find the cause of disease.
Taking health to another level is a state of wellness - optimal health and well-being that is oriented towards maximizing an individual’s potential. This is a life long process of moving towards enhancing your physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual and environmental “well being”.
Let’s explore the ten key areas of health and wellbeing, we will look at each of them in more detail over the coming months.
1. Gut Health
Hippocrates mentioned about 2,500 years ago that “All disease begins in the gut”. For over 2,000 years the cornerstone to successful Traditional Chinese Medicine lies in rebalancing the gut and it’s ecosystem of bacteria. As Naturopaths we see the truth in this time and time again with the clients that we see on a daily basis.
Our gut, or Gastrointestinal System (GIT) includes everything from the mouth to the anus. The liver, stomach and small intestine are important components and often show as being in a state of imbalance in our clients. An inefficient digestive system will affect the absorption and assimilation of essential nutrients and minerals, which are crucial for your energy production, immune system, mental health, hormonal balance, weight balance, stress management and many other factors contributing to and affecting your health and wellbeing.
Eliminating processed foods and sugar on a daily basis is something you can do to improve your own gut health, eat a range of fresh wholefood vegetables, fruits, quality meats, nuts and seeds.
Working with your Naturopath to improve your gut health is one of the best things you can do to improve your health – they can prepare a tailored program to guide you through the stages of digestive healing, arrange any tests required and support you with herbs and supplements specific to your body’s requirements. There are many aspects to gut health including the balance of our bacteria, enzymes, hydrochloric acid levels, healing the gut lining, identifying intolerances or allergies, parasites, etc - so this is the one area where a qualified practitioner can make a world of difference to your healing outcomes.
2. Energy / Fatigue
Optimal energy gives us enjoyment, enthusiasm and quality of life. Not realizing optimal energy, or putting up with fatigue makes everything we do seem more difficult. Feeling flat and tired more often than not is a problem that can negatively impact all aspects of our health and wellness.
Uncovering and addressing the factors contributing to your fatigue is the key to helping you restore your energy levels and rebalancing your health.
There are many reasons that you can become fatigued – from simple nutritional deficiencies or poor quality sleep through to problems with cellular energy production, hormonal imbalance or an ongoing inappropriate response to stress.
Fatigue is something that affects you as a whole, and it also applies to each cell in your body. If you are fatigued you struggle to function properly. If your cells lack energy, they are not able to perform their functions properly.
Mitochondria can be thought of as our batteries. Found within each cell, they are responsible for supplying the energy we need. However, poor diet or lifestyle habits create free radicals, which can damage the structure of mitochondria and limit their ability to produce energy.
Working with your Naturopath can give you a whole new lease on life from redesigning and correcting your nutrition plan, correcting hormone imbalance, reducing stress and identifying and supplementing nutritional deficiencies. Sometimes it can help just talking to a natural medicine practitioner as your level of fatigue may have become your new ‘normal’ – you might be surprised to uncover just how great you can truly feel!
3. Nutrition & Hydration
Many people have a love hate relationship with food, which is often exacerbated by years of dieting or calorie counting. When you look at a food consider what nutrients it supplies you with and how it will make you feel.
What you consume fuels your body, therefore providing your body with premium fuel allows it to function at its best. An optimal diet provides the right amount of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats) and micronutrients to promote optimal energy levels, reduce inflammation and achieve good physical and mental health.
Focus on helpful foods such as a daily intake of fresh, quality wholefoods including vegetables and fruit (include a rainbow!), quality proteins including fresh fish, nuts, and eggs, seeds.
Every body is different and your health, or experiencing a disease, will mean that there are unique requirements for your nutrition plan. This is where speaking to a qualified Nutritionist can help you to maximize your daily intake of nutrients to support your health and wellbeing.
Let’s not forget water - the essential nutrient! Dehydration is an extremely common, but often overlooked, cause of fatigue and poor health. Dehydration impairs your body’s ability to regulate its temperature and to deliver nutrients and oxygen to your cells. Even mild dehydration can impair your mental and physical performance and cause you to feel fatigued. Poor elimination arises from dehydration, which leads to a build of toxins in the body.
Stress is a daily reality for most of us. Deadlines for work, family and social responsibilities leave us feeling constantly ‘wired’. Our body responds to these ongoing demands by releasing stress molecules such as adrenaline and cortisol, which are responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ stress response. For some people, their experience of ongoing stress can eventually disrupt their normal stress response, resulting in fatigue.
Ongoing release of adrenaline and cortisol lead to further biochemical imbalances within the body such as hormonal imbalance, weight gain, insulin resistance, cardiovascular risks and skin problems.
Experiencing stress, worry and mood change are not uncommon. What this means is you are not alone. Your naturopath can support you to increase your tolerance to everyday stressors, manage any mood imbalance you may be experiencing and give you the tools to put you back in the driver’s seat to live your best life.
Your Naturopath can assess and prioritise all of the contributors to stress and may recommend nutritional and herbal support, detoxification and weight management programs or diet and lifestyle interventions specific to your circumstances.
The importance of consistent, good quality sleep cannot be overstated when it comes to health and energy, as well as providing the body with rest to heal any imbalance. Getting less than the recommended eight hours per night is associated with reduced concentration, memory and work performance, as well as contributing to mood disturbances and imbalanced states of health.
Many people suffer from sleep disturbances, finding it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. Without restorative sleep your body is unable to recover each night from the previous day and you won’t be functioning at your best.
There are many herbs, supplements, flower essences and techniques practised by our Naturopaths which can be built into your treatment plan as managing sleep is a key determinant in our state of wellbeing.
6. Blood Sugar Balance
Maintaining balanced blood sugar levels can be challenging. Poorly managed blood sugar can lead to common complications, including fatigue, weight gain and sugar cravings.
A key sign of poorly managed blood sugar is a noticeable slump in energy that hits in the mid-afternoon, typically around 3-4pm.
Long term blood sugar imbalance can lead to diabetes, but it can also affect weight gain, lethargy, sex hormones, sleep, irritability and brain fog.
If you are craving sugary, high fat or carbohydrate comfort foods then you will benefit from balancing the blood sugar response in your body.
Our nutrition plans ensure you are balancing your intake of proteins, healthy fats and nutrients as well as balancing out your blood sugar levels. There are key nutrients and supplements available to ensure that cravings are managed and the body is supported to be able to manage blood sugar levels on its own.
7. Hormonal Balance
When your hormones are in equilibrium, you feel amazing! You feel good, your moods are good, you have energy and your skin is glowing.
Hormones can have a profound effect on our energy levels, sleep patterns, stress and mood response, weight and our ability to think clearly.
Hormone imbalance can affect women and men at all different ages! In some older males, energy levels decline as their testosterone levels drop. In young women, fatigue is a common symptom accompanying irregular cycles caused by hormonal imbalance; while declining estrogen levels at peri-menopause may also negatively impact energy levels.
Hormones are complex and are affected by the various biochemical pathways of the body. Knowing exactly where your hormones are at can ensure that your treatment is specific and targeted. Your Naturopath is able to utilize functional pathology testing of saliva, urine and blood to gain an accurate picture of exactly where your body is at and what it requires.
Optimal immune function is integral to our state of health and well-being.
When imbalanced, our immune system can be underactive or overactive. An underactive immune system compromises your defence mechanisms and is directly linked with fatigue and recurrent infections. An overactive immune system generally expresses itself through inflammatory conditions such as allergies, skin disorders, asthma and long term autoimmune conditions.
If you are maintaining a healthy gut and nutritional plan, and an active lifestyle you are helping to build your immune system and maintain good health. Managing your stress is also a key element of a healthy immune system.
The tools your Naturopath has at hand such as herbs and nutritional supplements key components in balancing your immune system.
Having a well functioning brain and nervous system is fundamental to feeling energetic and motivated. When moods become imbalanced this leads to a distortion in how we view our world, as well as making everyday challenges seem harder to overcome than usual.
These factors combined contribute to our subjective experience of fatigue, both mentally and physically as well as potentially inhibiting our opportunity to feel better and physically heal the body.
Getting to the cause of mood imbalance can be tricky, especially when you may already be feeling unmotivated or experiencing brain fog, anxiety or depression. Causes of low mood can be as varied as the ways in which it can be expressed, from poor gut health to hormone imbalance to an underlying disease.
A Naturopath can be a helpful resource, helping you to explore a number of potential causes behind how you are feeling and then supporting you with a program to turn things around.
Inflammation can be an invisible, but very active process impacting all body systems including your brain and nervous system. Inflammation can be caused by a poor diet, being overweight, having a hidden infection, or maybe an allergy.
Left unmanaged, inflammation can become a chronic condition negatively influencing our overall wellbeing and causing changes in mood or physical function, bones and joints, energy levels, nervous system function and brain health.
Inflammation is often at the source of pain in the body and your Naturopath can help you to identify what is causing your inflammation as well as working with you to alkalise your body, relieve the painful symptoms and change the things that can cause future imbalances in your health.