Relaxing, Releasing, Rebalancing, Restorative
Posted on: 13 Feb
In our current world of desk jobs, processed foods and often minimal physical challenge, creating a healthy lifestyle requires some effort. Many of us are not able to access fresh fruit straight from a tree or vegetables directly from the ground, walk on uneven terrain to utilise all our muscles or to breathe in pure fresh air. So, what can we do to create and maintain health? The principles for health are surprisingly simple.
Nourish your body with nutritious, real foods:
We are all unique, with different body types, health considerations and energy needs so there is no ‘one size fits all’ dietary approach. However, there are a few basic, universally-agreed-upon principles that are applicable to most of us:
Consume a diet rich in a variety of vegetables to provide you with the essential life-giving vitamins, minerals and fibre that your body needs for healthy functioning and protection from disease. Where possible, buy organic/pesticide-free food or wash your fruit and vegetables thoroughly.
Eliminate or reduce refined sugar, white flour products and simple carbohydrates (such as white bread, white pasta and white rice), which, when consumed regularly, disrupt insulin levels, blood sugar and hormonal balance, cause systemic inflammation, promote the growth of harmful ‘bad’ bacteria and disrupt the delicate balance of our gut microflora. This includes concentrated fruit juices, which are extremely high in sugar. Many diseases have inflammatory, blood sugar or hormonal imbalances at their root. Avoid consuming unnatural, processed foods, devoid of nutrients, which the body struggles to digest.
Consume plenty of good fats daily, such as olive oil, coconut oil, butter, ghee, avocados, nuts, seeds, olives and/or oily fish. Once vilified and linked to heart disease, good clean sources of fat are now widely recognized to be essential forms of energy and nutrients for the body. Avoid dangerous trans fats such as corn, canola, sunflower, soy, safflower and vegetable oils, which the liver is unable to break down or process, leading to toxic build-up and inhibition of the liver’s natural functioning.
Consume good salt – either Himalayan or sea salt. Pure, natural salt contains 84 trace minerals that are essential for health. Avoid processed table salt, which contains only sodium and chloride, that is hard for the body to process without its natural counterparts, and can adversely affect blood pressure.
Include a small amount of probiotic foods in your daily meal plan to help boost your levels of good bacteria. Examples include: plain yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchee, miso, tempeh, unpasturised vinegars such as apple cider vinegar ‘with the mother’, kombucha, kefir, pickles, chutneys, sour cream and cheese (if your body is ok with digesting dairy).
Intuitive eating: use your own feeling to determine how you feel after eating different types of food, until you find a combination that best supports your own unique constitution and needs. Some people thrive on a diet that includes meat and dairy, others feel better consuming vegetarian. Many people find that they feel better keeping their carbohydrate consumption relatively low and practicing ‘intermittent fasting’ – restricting eating to a limited window of time so as to give the body more chance to rest, detox and heal. Discover what best supports your own unique body and needs, and trust in how you feel. A wonderful resource I often turn to for dietary information is www.drjockers.com.
Supplement, supplement, supplement:
In an ideal world, we would derive all that our bodies’ need from the foods we eat. However, due to intensive farming methods that deplete our soil and foods of many essential minerals and vitamins, most of us do require some additional supplementation to ensure that we get all the nutrients we need. Ideally get your blood tested to determine your current vitamin and mineral levels, particularly if you are experiencing any health issues. Common deficiencies in the modern world are iron, vitamin D, vitamin b12, magnesium, zinc, iodine and selenium. In general, most people can benefit from taking a good quality, raw/minimally processed or heated multivitamin and mineral supplement (I personally like the Garden of Life ‘Vitamin Code’ range).
If you are susceptible to colds and viruses, you might also consider consuming extra vitamin C, vitamin D (should be taken together with K2), zinc and selenium. Be aware that the government’s ‘recommended daily allowance’ is the absolute minimum needed for the body’s maintenance and often falls far beneath the amount needed for true therapeutic benefit. For example, the UK government currently recommends a daily dosage of 400 iu of vitamin D as a preventative, immune-boosting measure for the corona virus, but most nutritionists believe that that levels of 2,500-10,000 iu are of much greater therapeutic benefit. (Having said this, I am not a qualified nutritionist, so please do your own research or contact a nutritionist to determine the right supplementation for your individual needs.)
There are many additional supplements, superfoods, enzymes and herbs that can be useful to increase immunity, for digestive support, detoxification or particular health conditions. I highly recommend www.drjockers.com for some of the highest quality information currently available about different conditions, supplementation and lifestyle suggestions.
Exercise daily for a minimum of 30 minutes:
Try to find movement activities that you genuinely enjoy, and that suit your body type, energy needs and personality. This could be running, workouts, martial arts, dance, yoga, walking, swimming, rebounding or team sports. Our bodies naturally require movement and physical challenge to build strength and maintain healthy functioning. Due to our modern lifestyles, many of the external challenges faced by our ancestors have been eradicated, therefore we need to build opportunities for movement into our day. Exercise is essential to help keep our muscles strong and supple, to stimulate our heart and blood circulation, boost lymphatic drainage (essential for proper detoxification), and to keep our lung capacity and oxygen intake optimal. In addition, make time to regularly move, stretch and challenge your body throughout the day, such as walking or cycling to work instead of taking the bus. Just a few small changes can result in significant improvements in your energy levels and overall health.
Ensure you get enough regular, good quality sleep:
Sleep experts recommend going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, since our body rhythms are governed by the natural cycles of nature. Respecting and living in harmony with the cycles of day and night, with the seasons and with our own natural body rhythms is one of the best ways to regain our health. Take a minimum of half an hour to ‘wind down’ before bed – turning off all screens, dimming the lights and taking time to fully relax. If needed, learn and utilise a breathing, relaxation or meditation technique to help you to reduce any stress that may still be lingering from the day. Factors such as stress, and consuming caffeine, exercising too late in the day, staring at a computer screen before bed or staying up late when tired can all have a detrimental effect on sleep. Sleep experts recommend being in bed no later than 10pm and honouring your individual sleep needs in terms of amount.
Get outside daily in the sun where possible:
According to Dr Jockers and other natural health professionals, the ideal amount of vitamin D that we need is 10,000- 20,000 iu per day. Different skin types have differing requirements for daily sun exposure: people with light skin need around 15-20 minutes of sun daily, those with medium skin need 25-30 minutes, and those with dark skin 40-45 minutes daily. (https://drjockers.com/healthy-sun-leads-healthy-skin/). Get your individual levels checked and add supplementation where necessary. Avoid the use of toxic sunscreens and over-exposure/burning by covering up where needed, spending time in the shade and/or buying a natural sunscreen.
Support your body’s detoxification channels:
The human body has several channels of elimination: our skin, urinary system, digestive system and lungs/breathing, which all must all be functioning well for optimal health. Consider whether any of these channels could benefit from some support in your own case. (Questions to ask yourself: are you having a bowel movement at least once per day? How is the quality and depth of your breathing? Do you exercise and sweat most days? Do you drink at least 2 liters of water per day?) Consider integrating at least one or two of the following into your daily or weekly routine where appropriate:
-Prevention is better than cure! Firstly, cut down as much as you can on your use of toxic products such as commercial shampoo, body, sanitary and house cleaning products, and switch to natural alternatives. Consume organic/low pesticide and well-washed foods where possible. Consider where you live regarding the amount of air pollution. Invest in a water filter.
-Start your morning with half a lemon squeezed into a mug of warm (not boiling) water to rehydrate your body, activate the liver’s detoxification processes, balance blood sugar, and boost your levels of vitamin C and overall energy.
-Drink a minimum of two liters of spring/filtered water per day to flush toxins out via urination.
-Consume bentonite clay, zeolite or charcoal first or last thing, on an empty stomach, to help rid the body of toxins via the digestive tract. Use a natural laxative such as triphala if needed to ensure you have at least one bowel movement per day.
-First thing in the morning before brushing your teeth, include daily tongue scraping, oil pulling and/or gargling salt water into your routine – to reduce bacterial build up in the mouth. Oil pulling involves swilling coconut/sesame/rice bran oil around in your mouth for around 10-15 minutes, then spitting it out, to help pull toxins out of your gums and teeth. (For more information, see: https://drjockers.com/benefits-oil-pulling/)
-Dry skin brushing of the whole body (moving in the direction of your heart), rebounding/trampolining, gentle bouncing or massage to stimulate lymphatic drainage and the elimination of waste products. (https://drjockers.com/dry-brushing/)
-Regular saunas/steam baths, Epsom salt baths/ foot soaks or salt scrubs to aid in the elimination of toxins from the skin.
-Learn some simple breathing techniques, such slow deep breathing through your nose. You can also work with a yoga teacher to learn full yogic breath, square breathing or kapalabati to help eliminate toxins via the lungs.
-Consider doing a liver cleanse a few times per year to release any toxic build-up from the liver. (Dr Andreas Moritz’s protocol is one of the best.)
-Occasional water or coffee enemas, colonic irrigation or colon cleanses can be helpful too.
Creating a balanced lifestyle incorporating work and activities that you enjoy, a healthy diet and lifestyle, and meaningful social connection is crucial for wellbeing. Self-reflection or coaching can help you to identify any areas of your life that you might wish to improve.
Many people carry unresolved negative experiences from the past into their present life, which can show up as unresolved emotions, underlying feelings of anxiety, tension, sadness, anger or overwhelm, and emotionally-charged reactions to present day events. Paying attention to our feelings and reactions – developing increased self-awareness – is the first step to healing the past. There are many additional forms of help available including mind-based therapies such as psychotherapy, counselling, Rapid Emotive Behavioural Therapy (REBT) or hypnotherapy, and body/energy therapies such as cranio-sacral therapy, massage, shiatsu or reiki, which gently help to release old tension, held emotions and experiences from the body’s cellular memory, and support us in reconnecting to our natural underlying state of balance, peace and wholeness.
Mindfulness or meditation can also be extremely helpful in teaching us how to notice and observe our experiences without getting overtaken by them and to connect with a deeper, timeless part of ourselves that is always at peace. By developing greater detachment and less reactivity to our experiences, we become free to choose new, healthier ways of being and responding in the present moment.
Holistic practices such as yoga, tai chi and qi gong bring together body, mind, breath, energy flow and awareness, helping us to create greater health and balance on all levels – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually – when practised regularly.
Breathing techniques can also be a powerful way to create and maintain mental and physical wellbeing. Slow, deep, rhythmic breathing through your nose, including a slight pause at the end of each inhalation and exhalation, is extremely calming for the nervous system. Full yogic breath, square breathing or nadi shodana pranayamas (yoga breathing/pranayama techniques) are all simple and powerful ways of influencing one’s mental, emotional and physical health for the better.
In summary: whilst this list may seem somewhat extensive, even making a few small changes or additions to your diet and lifestyle can have a significant effect on your health and wellbeing. Once you understand the basic principles for health, you can tailor-create a plan that best suits your lifestyle, routine and individual requirements.
Please note: if you have a particular health issue or concern, then please do consult with your GP, as well as working with an experienced functional medicine doctor, nutritionist or naturopath so that you can tailor a health plan that is specific to your needs.
Much of the credit for this article goes to my yoga teachers Pancho and Beatrix, from whom I learnt much of what I have shared, as well as from Dr Jockers. Thank you all for your generous sharing of this information, which everyone deserves to know.