5 Pillars of Health

January 6, 2021
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As we start 2021, many will make resolutions and many will fail to keep them past February. I talk about effective ways to keep your resolutions in my January 2020 blog post. This post is to come back to the foundations.

If a part of your new year’s resolution is to get healthier than start with checking in with yourself on the five pillars of health. You can start by adding one small change for each of these categories.

Nutrition

This is of course the first pillar as food is medicine. However, I want to encourage you to change your mindset around nutrition. Instead of trying to “avoid unhealthy foods,” you can “eat foods that nourish you.” Nourishing foods help us feel better and eating them can be easy small steps to optimal health. This can literally be as simple as incorporating 1-2 more vegetables in your diet every single day. This could also mean starting to diversify your vegetables more. This could also mean eating out one less time in a week. It doesn’t have to be a drastic diet change, sometimes small simple changes are really what have the greatest impact.

Movement

There have been numerous studies that have proven that muscle atrophy doesn’t just happen as we age, it happens as we use them less. So the phrase, “if you don’t use it, you lose it” is completely apt in terms of movement. The Tarahumara people in Mexico have shown us that men who continue running throughout their 40s can be faster then men in their 20s and 30s. We don’t need to be marathon runners or competitive athletes but we can preserve our own bone density, muscle mass, and overall health by staying active. This can start by going on a 15 minute walk daily or trying a new exercise like yoga, pilates, barre, or something I’m adding on this year – lagree.

There is compounding research showing the benefits of variety when it comes to workouts. Diversifying your workouts has been shown to optimize brain health and has been found to be more effective in weight loss. It’s crazy the number of patients I’ve had who never lost weight doing HIIT workouts 6 days a week but as soon as we cut it down to 2 days a week of HIIT and 3-4 days of yoga/strength training, they were able to lose weight.

Here are some of my favorite fitness people online.

Sleep

Sleep is essential for recovery, rejuvenation, and optimal health. But for some reason there’s been this movement in our culture to “sleep when you’re dead.” A lack of sleep can lead to lower progesterone levels in women and lower testosterone levels in men. This can impact sexual function, heart health, bone health, and brain health.

Our circadian rhythm changes as the seasons change and getting more sleep in the winter is completely okay and actually encouraged! Our circadian rhythm works with the sun and as we have shorter days and longer nights, cortisol awakening response will start later and our melatonin production will increase sooner. This may just be the reason why so many people experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD) during the winter because our schedules remain just as rigid and long despite the seasonal shifts.

In order to optimize sleep, practice sleep hygiene. Just like we have to keep our bodies clean, we also have to keep our sleep clean.

Sleep hygiene:

  • Turn off electronics before bed.
  • Put phone on airplane mode 30 minutes before sleep
  • Sleep in complete darkness
  • Expose yourself to light first thing in the morning (Full spectrum light in the winter or the sun in the summer)
  • Insight timer: yoga nidra for sleep
  • Journal anxious thoughts 30 minutes before sleep
  • Gratitude journal: write 3 unique things daily

Stress

Cortisol is the stress hormone in our body and can affect literally every organ in our body. I did a full blog post on burnout and why we need to take a break last month where I go into more detail on cortisol and its impacts.

Here are some healthy stress management techniques you can start to incorporate in 2021:

  • Yoga
  • Walk
  • Get out in nature (even in the cold)
  • Meditation
  • Create rituals
  • Epsom salt baths
  • Spend time with loved ones
  • Breathwork – a simple one to start with is the 4, 7, 8 technique
    • Inhale for 4 counts
    • Hold breath for 7 counts
    • Exhale for 8 counts
    • Repeat 2 more times

Elimination

Gut health is a topic that is being discussed more and more and rightfully so as it is one of the major pillars of health. How we eliminate toxins can affect our overall health. If we are not having a bowel movement daily, those toxins can get right back into our bloodstream and affect our other organs. If we are having too many bowel movements (over 4 a day) then we may be losing a lot of the nutrients from the nourishing foods we consume. It is essential to have optimal gut health  

I will be doing a webinar on the gut microbiome in February so keep up with my social media and subscribe to my newsletter for more information on that. If you know you’ve been having digestive issues for a while now, I’d recommend setting up a complimentary phone consult asap so we can run a stool test and understand what exactly is going on in your gut and why you’re either unable to eliminate or eliminating too much.

written by:

  • I aspire to see a world where great health is not only achievable but the norm. For most of my life, I dealt with constipation, abdominal pain, asthma, allergies, joint pain, back pain, irregular menstrual cycles, chronic nasal congestion, dry skin, migraines, fatigue, inability to focus, and memory issues. I thought all of these things were just the reality I had to live with until I discovered Naturopathic medicine.

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