Before supplements or fancy treatments - Try lifestyle medicine. The best things in life are free.
When you are motivated to heal or interested in overcoming your health issues we are looking for the magic bullet to fix us... Unfortunately, magic bullets usually only work when the problem that they fix is the exact same problem that you have, or if you are heavily invested ($$) then you will undoubtedly be more committed to getting healthier in general.
The truth is that unless we have the FOUNDATIONAL BUILDING BLOCKS OF HEALTH, the other fancier treatments and supplements won't work. Its akin to working out every day but still eating highly processed junk food.
Here are the foundations of health: THE BASICS (and guess what... 5 out of 6 are FREE! Thats a topic for another day as we seem to be more committed to treatments that cost money than treatments that are free, easily accessible and available to just about everyone!)
1) Adequate sleep
2) Unprocessed foods
3) Stress reduction
4) Breathing properly
7) Physical activity / movement
Focusing on the above can naturally put the body in a healing state. Remember...
THE BODY IS DESIGNED TO HEAL. It is trying to heal at all times and all we have to do is remove obstacles and let is do what it naturally does, heal itself.
Lets quickly break it down...
SLEEP: (adequate sleep and a bedtime routine)
Adequate sleep can naturally combat weight gain due to helping decrease chronic cortisol excretion. Sleep is also when our body detoxes the most making it beneficial for those exposed to a lot of environmental toxins like car exhaust, perfumes and heavy duty cleaners. Sleep is also when our body heals tissues making it beneficial for skin conditions, post surgery healing and inflammatory conditions. Sleeping also acts like a brain wash, helping those with neurodegenerative issues or brain fog and concentration issues.
When you go to the store, see if you can challenge yourself to buy 1 ingredient foods! These foods are unprocessed, meaning they have not gone through processing where vitamins, minerals and fiber are often stripped away. Processed foods are usually very low in nutrition and 1 ingredient foods are usually higher in nutrition.
A quick few examples are:
Apples (unprocessed) vs. apple turnovers (processed)
Steak (unprocessed) vs. frozen steak burritos (processed)
Whole steel cut oats (mildly processed) vs. strawberry oatmeal insta-packets (very processed).
This doesnt mean to eat foods or meals that have more that one ingredient - it means to buy foods that are 1 ingredient and then make meals out of those!
Stress is a killer for just about everything. It kills the immune system, it kills libido and hormones, it kills healthy sleeping patterns, and it also kills our body's resilience and kills metabolism. Its a nasty player in a game that we can choose not to play. Stress is mostly psychological/emotional. A very small population are actually physically stressed like athletes and labor intensive jobs, the rest of us are experiencing mental stressors.
Take a serious look at your life and determine what are your biggest stressors. This is very important because you are worth it. You are precious goods and letting stress kill you is not how life was intended to be lived. If you cant change/modify your stressor then it needs to leave your life. For example if you cant work it out with a very stressful co-worker, then ask to switch departments or leave that job. You are worth it. Your health depends on making these difficult decisions.
BREATHING PROPERLY: (the nose knows!)
We are a chronically bent over, slouching nation addicted to our phones and other screens that cause us to sit in positions that are deforming to our structure. This poor posture compresses the lungs and makes it difficult to get oxygen into our bodies through breathing. Breathing through the mouth vs. nose has major differences too. Nose breathing improves parasympathetic nervous system strength, improves blood pressure, improves circulation and can decrease stress levels. When nose breathing, our sinuses release nitric oxide, a powerful relaxant and vasodilator, that can improve how well our blood is able to deliver oxygen to tissues. Sitting upright, pulling the chin backward toward our spine and breathing through the nose can help with many conditions like chronic sinus infections, high blood pressure and stress reduction.
Without proper hydration, our gastric juices aren't properly hydrated leading to poor food breakdown and digestion, it can also lead to chronic constipation, bloating, dry eye and mouth, advanced aging of the skin and organs, headaches and poor brain function seen in brain fog and poor memory. If we aren't properly hydrated our body has a harder time flushing out toxins and these end up staying in the body and making us feel even worse. Chronic consumption of sugary drinks or caffeine can make the body even more dehydrated leading to even more problems down the road. Stick to filtered water or unsweetened teas as the majority of your liquid intake.
Natural light from the sun contains UV rays that allow our body to make vitamin D, a potent vitamin for immune function and skin health. Sunshine therapy has been shown to be beneficial to depression and other mood disorders too. Sunlight also activates our mitochondria, or energy centers, which help us with staying energized and helps create energy for our organ functions. Last but certainly not least, getting morning sunshine resets the circadian rhythm, meaning that it helps you reset when your body gets tired and ready for bed. Circadian rhythm resets are great for sleep issues like insomnia, racing thoughts and difficulty staying asleep.
Now notice how I didn't label this category "exercise", because moving your body doesn't have to be a workout it just has to be movement that is beneficial. Movement signals our mitochondria to make more energy and therefore we feel like we have more energy. Movement also helps with lymphatic drainage - making it perfect for helping with detoxing and releasing stored water that makes us look puffy or swollen. Exercise also speeds up metabolism making it beneficial for weight loss and can improve our mood by sending a flood of happy neurotransmitters through the brain.
Moral of the story...
Don't try the fancy supplements unless you are sleeping first, breathing properly, getting sunshine and adequate hydration. There is no use in spending extra money when you aren't doing the free stuff first! Let me say that again.. DO THE FREE STUFF FIRST!
Building a foundation of health is the first step in helping overcome imbalances. When all the basics are being done and you still don't feel better, then its time to move toward more advanced or $$$ treatments.
Do you need help with lifestyle medicine?
In good health,
Sarah Holgen MS, CNS