From time to time, we all become engulfed with the newest diets, the most advanced supplements or the latest research on how to get leaner, more muscular or faster. If we are experiencing a health issue such as fatigue, insomnia, bloating, weight gain or digestive issues, we are quick to research the latest pill, weight loss diet or fitness protocol that will address our symptoms. We turn a blind eye to the cause.
So you’re taking all these supplements, but are you getting enough sleep? Drinking enough filtered water? Eating a wholesome diet? Getting enough exercise and chill time? Our modern way of life affects your requirement to rest and repair, create new proteins, hormones and detoxify.
There is a huge array of cellular damage from our toxic environment which damages cellular function. Mobile phones, planes, radiation, water pollutants, industrial wastes, pesticides, chemicals, plastics, radiation, cosmetics and stress. These build up to a point where our body’s self-regulatory processes break down and chronic disease results. Some of these modern day lifestyle factors include:
Physical stress : under-exercising or over-exercising
Chemical stress : synthetically manufactured drugs, cleaning products, agricultural chemicals, heavy metals, plastics, air pollution, water pollution, nuclear technology. For example, mercury binds to the amino acid methionine and interferes with methylation. BPA found in plastic water bottles can disrupt the methylation process, triggering DNA changes. The carbon monoxide from cigarette smoke inactivates vitamin B6.
Electromagnetic stress : computers, smart phones, tablets, television, microwaves
Psychological / Mental stress : negative thoughts, anxiety, depression, aggression, over-analysing, time-restraints, negative relationships, unsatisfying job, stressful life experiences, poor quality of life.
Nutritional stress : eating too much or too little, eating incorrectly for your unique biochemistry, fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, genetic modifications, colourings, preservatives, emulsifiers, thickeners, hormones, anti-biotics.
Thermal stress : heat or cold stress
We can start to piece together our health again by addressing the following lifestyle factors. It is not easy initially but when it becomes a habit and you start feeling good,you won’t want to live any other way.
1. Breathing & Thoughts
Many successful and healthy people give credit to the power of positive thoughts. Having a plan, setting goals and then taking action to achieve them is a step in the right direction. We often, subconsciously, focus on what we don’t want rather than what we do want. All stress is in the eye of the beholder so question what causes you stress and see if you can be the mechanic of your mind and fix the cause – way easier said than done. Long term overproduction of cortisol leads to the breakdown of body tissues and fatigue of the adrenal glands, amongst other organs. There are many books, videos and audios available online which that address issues related to your key stressors and how to overcome them. Finding a teacher who has overcome your particular issues can also be very effective.
Meditation, tai chi, qi gong, yoga, floatation therapy, massage, getting a manicure, listening to your favourite music, spending time in nature, drawing, painting, playing music, hugging, laughing and playing are all ways you can move from a stressful (sympathetic nervous system) state to a more relaxed (parasympathetic nervous system) state.
One resource I highly recommend is Wim Hof’s The Way of The Iceman: How The Wim Hof Method Creates Radiant Longterm Health–Using The Science and Secrets of Breath Control, Cold-Training and Commitment. Wim Hof is inspirational in many ways and has a gift of simplifying concepts to help others live with greater health, calmness, vibrancy and peace of mind. Our mental activity is highly correlated with our breath activity – if we can slow our breathing, we can slow our thoughts. I personally can struggle with sitting mediation and prefer some sort of physical activity to relax me. By learning these breath techniques, your mind is coerced to unwind and relax.
Despite the availability of artificial, 24-hour light, our bodies are still tuned to the natural rhythm of daily and seasonal light/dark cycles. Whenever light stimulates your skin or eyes, regardless of it being the sun or your smart phone, your brain and hormonal system think it is morning. Your hormonal system naturally releases cortisol which keeps us awake. A few tips to help you get a better night’s sleep:
- aim to get to sleep by 10.30pm
- turn off your phones, computers and TV a couple of hours before bed
- sleep in a room that is completely dark
- avoid coffee from 2pm
- keep hydrated to reduce stress (awake) hormones
- eat a wholesome, minimally processed, balanced diet
- exercise in a balanced way – not too much and not too little.
- try removing all electrical appliances near your bed such as clocks, television and lights.
Humans are composed of about 75% water, with many key roles to perform such as maintaining a stable internal environment for all our cells and metabolic processes, allowing us to acquire nutrition and aid elimination of wastes. The water we consume must be clean and supply all the naturally occurring electrolytes, minerals and trace elements for our bodies to be biochemically in balance. Today, municipal water systems are repositories for millions of tonnes of chemicals, medicines, waste products, fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides from water run-off. Drinking clean, filtered water gives you energy.
Get a good quality water filter
Nutrition has always been controversial and I do not wish to impinge any diet beliefs on anyone. All I can do is offer you what I have learnt over the duration of my career since leaving University and discovering that the food diet pyramid is certainly not the path to health. If you wish, you may like to try some of these ideas and see whether the way you look and feel changes for the better.
I recommend the bulk of your diet to be..
Meats, Fish, Shellfish, Organ meats –grass-fed, hormone/anti-biotic free meats, fresh (not farmed) fish. Proteins high in cysteine, glycine and glutamate will help to top up your glutathione levels. Choose a variety of different grass-fed muscle and organ meats, wild fish and organic, free-range eggs.
Vegetables – Vegetables provide loads of vitamins, minerals, trace elements and anti-oxidants. Include a mix of raw and cooked vegetables. Ensure you cook your cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, watercress, brussell sprouts), cook many of your other greens (such as spinach, bok choy) and many of your root vegetables (such as potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, parsnip, suede).
Fruits – I believe eating fruit is better than eating processed foods, particularly when buying organic. If you are a very active person, the natural sugar content of the fruit is not an issue. Whether fruit hybridisation is an issue, I still believe fruit is better than lollies or take-away food.
Quality Saturated Fats – coconut oils, ghee, butter (grass-fed, organic) quality olive oil (not heated)
Eat a diet rich in whole foods that are filled with vitamins and minerals. Eat only high quality fats and proteins.
Limit these foods ..
Modern day vegetable oils (canola, vegetable, sunflower, safflower, sesame, avocado, soy oil, nut and seed oils, margarine, deep fried foods, cookies, pastries, commercial sauces and dressings). Vegetable oils and other polyunsaturated oils are heavily processed and often rancid by the time they reach the supermarket and are not required for human health. These oils are fragile oils which are easily damaged by heat, oxygen and sunlight, which ultimately oxidise in the body (which becomes toxic) causing inflammation and free-radical formation.
Processed foods (toxic vegetable oils, chemical preservatives, food colourings, artificial flavouring, MSG, genetically modified foods, high fructose corn syrup, excessive sugars, and other junk). Processed foods increase the level of metabolic stress in your body and requirement to detoxify. Avoid eating foods which are damaging to the gut, have higher levels of anti-nutrients, are potentially damaging or excitatory to the immune system, and to choose foods that are nutritious.
Grains / Gluten (bread, pasta, cookies, pastries, crisp breads, many condiments, many processed foods and ready-made meals, oats, muesli-bars) which can irritate your gut, enter the bloodstream via a leaky gut and cause inflammatory processes. You can test whether you have an issue with gluten by eliminating it from your diet for 2 weeks before reintroducing it while monitoring your symptoms. If you do not sense any difference, that’s great! – you probably will be fine eating gluten. If you notice a difference with and without the gluten, the choice is yours to either continue another 2 weeks without gluten to really confirm your results or ignore it and eat as you wish.
Soy. Soy is not a health food, it is just marketed well. Unfermented soy foods (which include tofu, soya oil, soy proteins, soy flour, soy milk) contain high levels of substances that block mineral absorption (called phytates) and interfere with protein digestion. The phytoestrogens in these soy products are potent endocrine disruptors (they act as an oestrogenic hormone) that have been shown to depress thyroid function, cause premature development of secondary sex characteristics in children and disrupt the oestrogen / progesterone balance in general (effects are numerous).
Legumes, seeds and nuts. Ok in moderation but can cause many of the same issues of grains.
Dairy. Allergies to dairy, which are fairly common, can originate from either lactose or casein. If you have an allergy to a food, and a problem digesting it, it’s likely going to excite your immune system, degrade your gut health, and lead to some health issues. Organic, raw milk (unpasteurised, unhomogenised) is usually well digested and contains a high level of nutrients. Commercial dairy is basically rubbish – it is pasteurised (high temperature heated) which denatures proteins and destroys enzymes required to digest lactose. Commercial dairy is homogenised (treated to ensure the cream does not separate from the watery part of the milk) which can lead to leaky gut syndrome and other problems.
Repairing the gut and optimising your good/bad bacteria should be paramount, since toxins excreted by bad bacteria inhibit detoxification, cell repair, hormone production and protein synthesis.
Due to the poor condition of modern-day soils, the subsequent poor food nutrient content and the abundance of food processing, it is fairly safe to say that most people are deficient in magnesium and zinc. Improving your body’s levels with a good quality product (expect to pay a little more) can do amazing things for endless body processes – improving your digestion, sleep, mood, hormones, detoxification and production of proteins.Magnesium citrate and Zinc Picolinate are recommended if you have been tested low in both minerals by your doctor.
A good indicator of how well your body is doing with the food you are putting in, is the poop that is coming out! So first clean up what is going in and then consider squatting to eliminate! If you are having troubles digesting your food, you are not getting all the good nutrients out – consider a digestive supplement that covers protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism using natural ingredients. Studies show the natural squat position improves our ability to eliminate. Better elimination may decrease many modern day ailments including bloating, straining, hemorrhoids and constipation. In the squatting position, the weight of the torso presses against the thighs and naturally compresses the colon. The colon is equipped with an inlet valve (the ileocecal valve) and an outlet valve (the puborectalis muscle). Squatting simultaneously closes the inlet valve, to keep the small intestine clean, and opens the outlet valve, to allow wastes to pass freely. The sitting position defeats the purpose of both valves, making elimination difficult and incomplete, and soiling the small intestine. For some science behind this, check out these medical case studies. Get help with your bowel habits by making the squat a natural phenomenon in the bathroom. Check out the famous Squatty Potty Standard and the sexier, sleeker Wooden Squatty Potty versions for a more modern look.
Exercise improves your mood, supports better sleep, gets your circulation of blood and lymph going for improved cellular function, nutrient delivery, digestion, waste removal and detoxification. A better aligned body reduces stress on your body, a stronger body makes you feel more capable, improves your quality of life and your self esteem.
My new online coaching site, michelledrielsma.com is a comprehensive, intelligently designed movement coaching site which guides you to better posture, muscle balance, mobility, stability, strength and lifting technique. There are different training options to suit your needs.
6. Your Environment
Clean up your home and work environment. Here’s a list of some of the various dangerous chemicals that surround us on a daily and constant basis:
- Xenobiotics: styrene (Styrofoam, plastics, etc.)
- dioxin (bleached products from diapers, milk cartons, etc.)
- xylene (exhaust, etc.)
- benzene (gasoline and backing of carpets)
- PCBS (paints, pesticides, gasoline, etc.)
- xenoestrogens (pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, plastic wrap, etc.) Environmental estrogens, referred to as xenoestrogens, which mimic animal hormones and act as endocrine system (hormonal) disrupters.
- phthalates (plastics)
- cyanide (almonds)
- heavy metals in the water, air and ground (mercury, lead, cadmium, aluminum, etc).
Choose wisely and get rid of the things you don’t need. There are many natural products you can use around the house, work and car. Here are some of my favourites:
2. (AU) Natural skin care – moisturisers, cleansers, exfoliants, face masks, eye creams and oils
3. (AU) Natural deodorant
(US / UK) Natural deodorant
5. (AU) Natural hair care – shampoo, conditioner, hair brushes, soaps, beard-care, natural hair colouring, styling, head lice and dandruff treatments
6. (AU) Natural sunscreen
(US / UK) Natural sunscreen
7. (AU) Natural make-up – eyes, lips, foundation, blush, bronzers, nails
(US / UK) Natural make-up – eyes, lips, foundation, blush, bronzers, nails
8. Eco camping
9. (AU) Natural pest control – insect repellants and mosquito control
(US / UK) Natural bug and insect repellants
10. (AU) Natural feminine care
(US / UK ) Natural feminine care
11. Squatty Potty – go on. Remember to check out all the different styles for a look that suits your home.
If you have a specific nutrient deficiency, concluded via health testing, supplements will be warranted since today’s soil and food quality is poor. Unfortunately the nature of our upside-down valued world is that getting the healthy stuff does cost a little more than the unhealthy stuff (compare a Big Mac Meal price to an organic restaurant meal price), however being truly healthy is well worth the investment.