Prevention is an important topic as lifespans are getting longer and statistically, quality of life is decreasing all over the globe. Health and wellness in the media can be challenging to navigate, and depending on the source, information can be completely incorrect. It can be easy to want the one easy thing that will make us feel renewed and energized. We are heavily marketed to believe there is that one thing out there. There is often a new diet, new app, new supplement, new idea that sounds too good to be true; most likely, because it is.
There will never be a one-size-fits-all approach to health that works for everyone, because we each have variability in our genetic expression, have slightly different bacteria living in our microbiome (both internally and on the surface of our skin), come from different places on the planet, and have different immuno-responses to causes of inflammation. Prevention is a path of empowerment that opens a gateway for healing and resilience. When we continually recalibrate, there is less opportunity for life’s little curve balls to knock us down. It is truly up to each of us to prioritize our health and support our bodies on a daily basis.
Time outside”Nature, time and patience are the three great physicians.” — Chinese proverb
Over the last several decades, amassed research is showing clear signs that spending 15-20 minutes per day outside in nature does a body good. From decreases in stress hormones, blood pressure and cortisol, these measurable changes in physiology prove what many of us already know. At the University of Exeter Medical School, data was analyzed on thousands of city dwellers for changes in mental health. It was concluded that people living near green space had less mental distress. Income, education and employment were all co-founding variables taken into account.
Sound sleep”Sleep is the best meditation.” — Dalai Lama
Research continually shows that adults need 7.5 hours of sleep for optimal health.
Lack of sleep has been associated with depression, hormonal imbalances, weight gain, diabetes, cognitive decline and heart disease. Despite the fact we have this knowledge, sleep is typically put on the back burner. There are also many sleep researchers (Dr. Kirk Parsley, Dr. Christiane Northrup, Michael Breus, Ph.D) who have explained you cannot “bank” sleep, meaning sleep for 5-6 hours during the week and then “catch up” on the weekend. The other thing to consider when it comes to sleep is time in bed doesn’t equal time asleep. Step one is to make time for good sleep.
Other easy changes we can make include powering down electronics in the bedroom (or leave them in another room altogether), cool bedroom temperature, cold showers/baths, Epsom salt detoxing, blacking out one’s bedroom, no caffeine after noon and balancing carb intake during the day.
Solid nutrition“What most people don’t realize is that food is not just calories — it’s information. It actually contains messages that connect to every cell in the body.” — Dr. Mark Hyman
There is an array of diets one can follow: vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, keto, paleo, anti-inflammatory, FODMAP, Mediterranean, Blood Type and more. Which diet is the right diet can vary depending on your ethical leanings, your health status and your goals. During my last decade in practice, I can come back to a few rules of thumb that stand the test of time.
— Hydrate. Seventy-five percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Dehydration has been linked to fatigue, moodiness and difficulty concentrating. The common saying is 8-10 glasses, I always suggest half of your body’s weight in ounces. This ensures you are drinking enough. It’s also important to make sure you are getting good-quality water, filtered and not out of plastic. Last, take into consideration how much caffeine you are getting. If you are getting 16 ounces of caffeine daily, you have to drink 32 ounces of water just to level the playing field.
— Eat more plants. Phytonutrients and antioxidants support our detoxification system. It ensures we absorb and utilize the nutrients we need to fight off infections and support us in our daily lives. Dr. Terry Wahls was able to reverse her MS symptoms completely with a version of the paleo diet, heavy in vegetables (nine cups per day).
— Eat as little processed food as possible. Research has piled up over the last few decades showing the profound negative effects of processed foods. A five-year study of more than 100,000 people cites in a person who increases their intake of processed foods by 10%, their risk for cancer increases 12%.
— Eat organic when possible. Check out the Environmental Working Group online. They have an updated list every year of the Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen.
— Avoid antibiotics in foods. We are all overly exposed to antibiotics whether they are prescribed by our physician or if we are ingesting them via water or food. This has led to a massive problem in health care, antibiotic resistance. We can do our part by buying antibiotic-free (unpasteurized) meats and dairy products. Antibiotics have been given to commercial animals since the 1940s to reduce the bacterial infections within the slaughterhouses from spreading. The United States and China are the largest consumers of antibiotics for food production, according to the FDA. The constant exposure to antibiotics has caused resistance leading to more than an estimated half a million resistant infections in the United States.
— Avoid plastics. The majority of our food is packaged in plastics. Plastics are endocrine disrupters that lead to major health conditions. Being mindful of what we purchase and how we store it can make a huge impact. Buy glass containers to store food, don’t heat your food in plastic and whenever possible, buy foods that were not sealed in plastics and if they are, take them out.
Measured movement“To enjoy the glow of good health, you must exercise.” — Gene Tunney
Exercise is an age-old therapy for health. Research results vary as to what kind of exercise is best, how much and when. Whether it’s walking, biking, swimming, HIT training, yoga or other, movement is a positive stresser that supports our body’s resiliency. The key is to push yourself but not in a way that will cause too much strain or injury. Moving in a way that feels good, which may vary day to day, is the perfect place to start.
Dalite Sancic, DAOM, L.Ac., MS, is a doctor of East Asian medicine at Rutland Integrative Health.