Are You As Healthy As You Think?

couple of children rowing on a lakeThe World Health Organisation define Health as follows: “Health is the state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease”.

Using this definition, can you still define yourself as healthy?

You could probably argue that the majority of the population are not healthy. Most people carry around niggling injuries, some form of mental anxiety and few are still unfortunately persecuted within society for race or beliefs.

As an acupuncturist and someone interested in holistic health; that is health in its entirety – health of the body, emotions and spirit – I am constantly amazed at how wealth is constantly valued over health.

I don’t mean to say this in a judgmental way – like people who value wealth over health are somehow bad capitalist people. They aren’t. I watched first-hand as my own father worked himself into an early grave. He wasn’t necessarily focused on making lots of money, but he definitely had the, quite common mindset, that health could be sacrificed to get the job done.

This is wrong. There is nothing more important or satisfying as living a life free from disease, injury and discomfort.

I’m not saying that living a healthy life will guarantee you live to a century or insure you against serious disease. The human body is just too complex to give glib assurances. What I can say is it will improve your chances of not getting ill. And you’ll feel good.

So why not make a healthy change now? Be it a change of diet, calorie restriction, more exercise, less stress. Nearly all these changes are enjoyable if you give the new routine a chance to lodge in your brain and become habit.

If you’re on board here are some healthy things you can investigate.

What You Can Do To Live A Healthier Life

1. Stand Up for your health

Studies by Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden have shown that getting off the couch and standing can be more beneficial than moderate exercise. Standing appears to lengthen telomeres – an indicator of health and longevity.

2. Floss

Or rather clean between the spaces in your teeth. Flossing has now been discredited and can harm the gums. Inter-dental cleaning , on the other hand,is allegedly good for your heart. Your mouth can harbor up to a thousand different types of bacteria. These bacteria can get into your bloodstream and cause inflammation and hardening of your arteries, leading to heart disease.

3. Sleep

Good sleep is essential for both your ability to think clearly and for your body and immune system. A study by Carnegie Mellon University in the US shows that people who get less than seven hours of sleep a night are more likely to get ill. The deep state of non-REM sleep is critical for effective functioning of the immune system. Conversely REM sleep, where your eyes are twitching and body muscles often paralysed, enables the brain to effectively process memories and emotions from the day. Disruption of this REM sleep can cause emotional, cognitive and memory impairment. Click here to learn more about sleep, why its damaging and what you can do to improve it.

4. Slow Down

A tough one this. We all mostly lead a life we weren’t designed to cope with. The modern phenomena of being available 24/7 via phone, tablet, laptop means we have negligible downtime. Coupled to a work hard play hard ethic we constantly stress the sympathetic nervous system. This stimulates the brains survival mechanisms, which diverts energy away from essential bodily functions towards a “fight or flight” state. You may feel more alert and sometimes more energetic, but at the expenses of a well functioning digestive system, regular blood pressure and feeling of relaxation.

Counter this. Take some time out each week to just be; walk in nature, sit by the sea. You’ll feel relaxed and more importantly you’ll be dis-engaging the part of the nervous system that makes you feel stressed and ultimately leads to illness. Click here to learn more about the perils of stress and how to deal with it.

5. Fast

Exciting new research by university of California suggests that fasting for up to 3 days regenerates the immune system. Faulty white blood cells are destroyed and replaced by healthy cells. It’s not surprising when you look at nature – ill animals don’t generally eat.

Whilst the research is new the knowledge isn’t. Gandhi instinctively knew this 100 years ago – often fasting whenever illness struck. It allowed him to outlive many of his contemporaries in a time when disease often claimed the lives of the ill. Who knows how long he would have lived were he not assassinated aged 78. *

6. Drink Honeysuckle tea

Recent research by Nanjing University has shown that honeysuckle tea, used for centuries in China to combat colds and flus contains a molecule which targets viruses. The molecule, MIR2911, can effectively protect against flu, swine flu and even targets the ebola virus apparently. So far the research has only be carried out on mice, so the full thumbs up can’t yet be given, but it’s an interesting bit of research.

7. Acupuncture

Whilst the common perception of acupuncture is for treating pain, nausea and migraines, it has also been shown to have a positive effect on the immune system. Tokyo University carried out research on professional cyclists and found that acupuncture boosts both cortisol and Salivary secretory immunoglobulin A (indicators of a healthy immune system) post vigorous exercise.

8. Detox

A tricky one this. No one product, diet, supplement will actually detox your body. Your organs, skin, liver and kidneys do a great job of this on their own. However some therapies can effectively support patients whilst they detox. Pioneered in hospitals in New York and China, acupuncture has been used for decades for alleviating symptoms associated with drug withdrawal. Whilst primarily used for drug addiction, acupuncture can be useful for quitting any substance that has a hold over you including alcohol, smoking and even sugar.

9. Exercise

Exercise. Everyone knows that they should exercise but why? a) Exercising speeds the blood flow through your blood vessels and so can stop clots building up and damaging your heart. b) Exercising releases feel good endorphins which can keep low mood and depression at bay – both indicators of lower lifespan. c) Gentle exercise keeps the joints mobile and muscles and tendons flexible. d) The impact of exercise can help keep bones strong. Bones are a living organism and need some level of impact to remain strong into old age.

10. Nutrition

Try to eat 7 fruit and veg a day. Try to cut out all processed foods and refined sugars. Whilst your eating this healthy food, try to make sure you’re chewing the food sufficiently. Digestion starts in your mouth so break that food down before you swallow. Want to know if you’re chewing enough? Buy a pack of water biscuits and eat one without the aid of water. You need to be chewing your food as long as you’re chewing those biscuits.

11. Stay married

Its a sad fact that lonely people die younger. Relationships can be difficult but often working at them yields a more positive outcome than simply letting it go and living a lonely life. Having said that living a life in a poisonous relationship does not confer any health benefits.

If you’ve lost a loved one, try to remain engaged with your friends and community. It lifts your spirits and has a positive impact on health.

12. Believe In A Cause

A bit more contentious this but get a belief or a cause to get behind. Many studies show that people who have a reason to live and fight live longer – stands to reason doesn’t it? All that stress involved in the cause isn’t harmful if its perceived as worthwhile…

Ok, but what if you’re feeling flat and ill now. Are there things you can do now?

What To Do If you’re Suffering From A Mystery Illness?

virusIf you’re suffering from a mystery illness it can be worthwhile checking the following list to see if a nutritional or functional cause may be at the root of your illness:

  • Nutrient absorption. You can put all the good food you want into your body but if you aren’t absorbing these nutrients fully it won’t matter. If you suspect your gut bacteria is to blame, try taking probiotics, but remember all probiotics are not created equal. Some get destroyed by stomach acid and others don’t colonize the gut lining. Symprove is one probiotic that seems to have passed both these tests in clinical trials.
  • Vitamin D deficiency. American surveys have put rates as high as 41%. UK surveys put the the rate of vitamin D deficiency around 20%. Either way a huge proportion of the population don’t get enough vitamin D. Symptoms can include confusion, muscle aches and fatigue. Chronic vitamin D deficiency can also be an important factor in cancer and heart disease. Pay special care as we move into Autumn as we no longer process vitamin D from sunlight in the winter months.
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency. This is both dangerous and insidious. B12 deficiency signs include sore red tongue, irritability, depression, clumsiness and distorted vision. Left untreated, over time nerves may be irreversibly damaged causing permanent pain, pins and needles, dementia and loss of coordination.
  • Mental State. The mind is a powerful tool for both good and bad. If you are trapped in a negative mind state this can manifest in negative physical symptoms.

So what can you do?

couple sitting happily looking at sunsetObviously above all else go to a medical professional to get a professional diagnosis first. Then you may want to consider the following:

  • Do not become a victim. Research your condition. Google is both a blessing and a curse as there is a great amount of both good and bad information. When looking for health related information try to get information from peer reviewed research and trials. Be wary of any trials with small population sizes. Use this information to guide your interactions with health care professionals.
  • Get your diet right. Do not over-eat and eat nutrient rich food. Try to eliminate all processed sugars and processed foods. General rule: the more food you eat not in packets, tins etc the better.
  • Keep exercising. Even when feeling fatigued try to get some exercise. The dopamine released during exercise boosts your mood. Endocannabinoids reduce perception of pain.
  • Stay positive. The mind is both a powerful ally and a formidable foe. Try to remain as positive as possible, cultivating an attitude of thanks and gratitude. Try writing down 3 things you’re thankful for each morning. Make these your mantra for the day.

Acupuncture May Be Able To Help

Depending on your symptoms acupuncture may be able to help. Give me a call or book a free 15 minute consultation online below.