The Pillars of Healthy Living
Understanding the bigger picture of a healthy life.
Discover the secrets of your digestive system—and how to hone a healthy gut—plus new research on the mind-gut connection.
Get it here: Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body's Most Underrated Organ
Research Articles of the Week:
“Modulation of the gut microbiota through a personalized diet or beneficial microflora intervention like pro/prebiotics, changing microbiological partners and their products, including amyloid protein, can become a new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.”
Gut microbiota and pro/prebiotics in Alzheimer’s disease
“This study suggests planned fasted aerobic exercise increases EI during the preceding afternoon/evening, precipitating a ~ 10% increase in EI in the preceding 24-h.”
Planned morning aerobic exercise in a fasted state increases energy intake in the preceding 24 h
“Sixty percent improvement in overall hair quality, 27% improvement in total haircount, increased hair density in 83.3% of patients, and stabilized disease progression among 52% were noted with use of various topical and oral SP-containing supplements.”
Natural Hair Supplement: Friend or Foe? Saw Palmetto, a Systematic Review in Alopecia
How do you lead a ‘healthy’ life?
Every variable of healthy life will fit somewhere within these fundamental pillars. In fact, most of these categories and pillars bleed into one another and can be further broken down infinitely. And there is an inherent interdependence between them all that make up your health status.
Your light exposure will affect your sleep. Your diet will affect your stress. But if you can tackle the pillars with a comprehensive approach, a “healthy” life is far easier to achieve.
Diet & Nutrition
DIET & NUTRITION
Nutrition is a very broad topic and is highly individualized. In reality, there is no one protocol for “healthy” eating. I recommend finding a practitioner willing to build around your own personalized goals and willing to develop meal plans according to your needs.
However, it's important to start by understanding where your food is coming from and how it is grown. Some questions to ask your local markets and producers:
How and where are your crops grown?
What kind of soil is used?
Is this crop in season?
How recently was it harvested?
What type of chemicals or fertilizer is used?
How are your animals raised?
Aim to achieve proper nutrients from your food and supplement as necessary
Incorporate raw, whole foods whenever you can
Address gut health - fermented foods, prebiotics/probiotics
Consume crucial nutrients for the brain - Omega-3 & Vitamin D
At what time you are eating is just as important as what you are eating
Remove processed foods - artificial colorings, soy, seed oils
Aim to maintain low body fat and high muscle
Find ways to get turmeric into your diet
A “Circadian Rhythm” is essentially your body’s biological clock. This clock is consistent across bird, reptile, and mammal species and is key for dictating our daily and seasonal behavior patterns, such as hibernation, eating, and breeding.
In humans, this internal clock coincides with the sun. The sun is your compass.
When the sun rises in the morning, your body produces cortisol, a hormone that makes you feel awake and alert. As sunlight fades, your body releases another hormone, melatonin, that produces feelings of sleepiness.
Electronic back-lit devices like cell phones emit blue light. Exposure to artificial light at the wrong times disrupts our internal clock and has been linked to a whole host of diseases and issues.
It’s critical to get the proper amount of sunlight each day
Rise and sleep with the sun, trying to get sunlight in the earliest morning hours
Walk 10-30 minutes first thing in the morning
Get about 20 minutes of light exposure to as much skin as possible, 2-3 times per week
Limit the use of sunglasses for proper sunlight processing
Avoid blue light exposure at least one hour before bed
Use blue light blockers and blackout curtains as necessary before bed
The human body was designed to run barefoot through forests, climb trees, and hunt for food. Modern living includes spending days seated in sedentary jobs, lounging in chairs, watching TV, and looking down at our cell phone screens for hours.
This robs us of our movement variability and what essentially makes us human. Muscles grow tight or overactive, weak, and inhibited, and we subject areas of our bodies to overstress. Many blame these symptoms on “aging” but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
The idea is fairly simple; the more freedom of movement we have (or variability), the better our bodies can adjust to the many different physical challenges life throws at us.
Find daily movement that excites you and see how your health transforms.
When you wake up in the morning, walk for 30 minutes
Get at least 10,000 steps a day
Limit the use of gloves (aka shoes) on your feet.
Work on crawling patterns that encourage alternating movements
Use a standing desk for work - alternate between sitting and standing
Consider a day seated and indoors a failure
Sleep is absolutely fundamental when it comes to your physical and mental health as it is when you reset and recover. But not all sleep is created equal. Reaching a magical number of hours of sleep is not the goal for proper recovery. In fact, too much sleep will have the opposite effect - leaving you tired and sluggish.
Instead, it's important to emphasize quality sleep that accesses REM cycles. Some non-negotiables when it comes to sleep hygiene:
Keep your room cool and comfortable - when you sleep your temperature drops
Avoid screens and artificial light one hour before bed - circadian hygiene
Avoid excessive caffeine or alcohol - particularly in the afternoon
Avoid eating three hours before bed
Develop a sleeping de-stress routine
Expose yourself to the setting sun - these neural circuits help you sleep
Keep your bedtime consistent - go to sleep when you feel sleepy
Keep electronics out of the bedroom and turn wifi off at night
Avoid looking at your phone if you wake up in the middle of the night
Use blue-light-blocking glasses
When necessary, use magnesium, theanine, and glycine supplements
Staying indoors 24/7 in a perfectly regulated environment; homes, cars, work-office, etc. have evolved our temperature tolerance to a very narrow bandwidth.
We are becoming increasingly ill-equipped to deal with the much wider temperature variations we encounter - because we’ve conditioned ourselves to not be able to handle anything other than a comfortable 60-75 degrees.
Exposing yourself to temperature “stressors” has been proven to dramatically improve a number of health and wellness factors, including developing a robust immune response.
Heat exposure, when used regularly, can result in cardiovascular adaptations, enhanced thermoregulatory ability, better sleep, and improved immune function.
Cold exposure results in increased stress response and tolerance, mental clarity, and increases in neural neurotransmitters and hormone release.
The result? A body that can endure more stress and exertion and increased recovery time with reductions in daily stress and sharpened focus.
When first starting, begin slowly. Don’t expose yourself to frigid temperatures on day one and then quit. Instead, take baby steps that result in long-term adaptations.
Start with just one minute of cold exposure a day and increase this weekly with a focus on duration and lower temperatures
Use cold therapy early in the day; increased alertness and awareness during the day
Use the sauna later in the day to aid in sleep for a deeper, more relaxed rest and relief of chronic tension
Make sure to hydrate frequently when using the sauna
Picture your stress response like this. On one side you have your sympathetic nervous system response (or your flight or fight response). Things like working out, long stressful days at the office, demanding tasks, etc. On the other side, you have your parasympathetic response (or your rest and relaxation side). Things like sleep, recovery, massage, meditation, etc.
If you are constantly overwhelming your stress response by being stuck in a fight-or-flight response, without daily measures to move back toward a parasympathetic response, you are setting yourself up for an unhealthy long-term trajectory.
Stress has also been shown to suppress the immune system and the body’s absorption of nutrients. When stressed, your fight-or-flight response is turned on, your adrenals are turned up and your digestion is halted, which dramatically compromises how your body absorbs food.
Use massage, acupuncture, yoga, and meditation to access your parasympathetic response
Make time for sensory rest: Bright lights, constant noise, and distractions have a massive toll on your nervous system (and subconscious mind).
Floating sensory deprivation tanks have been shown to reduce chronic tension in muscles and even reduce headaches.
Oftentimes there are things that are out of control, but develop agency over how you respond to stressful external stimuli.
Did you know that your breathing has a massive effect on your physiology and psychology? The sad reality is that most people don’t breathe properly. In fact many spend their time mouth breathing, utilizing shallow breathing patterns and irregular rates, or predominantly breathing through one nostril more than the other.
Breathing can particularly affect your emotional and cognitive states.
But know that you can change how you breathe at any given moment. Meaning that you can consciously change your breathing to influence your physical and emotional well-being.
For example, the benefits of nasal breathing include purifying, heating, moistening, and pressurizing the air we breathe. These changes increase oxygen absorption by approximately 10-15%.
Couple proper respiratory mechanics with meditation and you may find a state of calm that benefits your general stress response.
How you breathe during exercise is crucial. When you inhale your body fills up with air and when you exhale your body evacuates air from your lungs.
If medically appropriate try sleeping at night with a small sliver of tape over your mouth to encourage nasal breathing
Our alertness and ‘ready-for-action are provided by the right nostril and left brain (sympathetic).
Our calmness, synthesis of information, and sensitivity are provided by the left nostril and right brain (parasympathetic).
Practice Buteyko, alternate nostril, physiological signs, and diaphragmatic breathing techniques regularly
Mental health and social connections go hand in hand. Finding, developing, and growing within a tribe is essential to our very existence.
Set time aside every day to deepen your bonds with your family and personal platonic relationships. Get involved in your community, religion, or garner a deep sense of purpose. These activities have a basis in your neural chemistry and are required for a developing human.
Analyze your relationships, embrace authenticity, and surround yourself with people supporting your life mission. Find ways to smile, laugh, be grateful, help others, and love those around you. And don’t forget to highlight one of the most important relationships, the one with yourself. Journal, write down your beliefs and thoughts and watch as they change over time.
Those that express gratitude increase well-being, can focus more on what's working and can overcome challenges faster.
Start every morning with what you are thankful for. But go further. Spend up to 5 minutes reflecting on why you are thankful and what genuinely makes it important to you. This allows you to shift your emotions to reduce negative pathways and instead fuel motivation and positive pathways.
Turn off the news. Spend more time reading, writing, journaling, and reflecting on your thoughts and emotions.
Spend time in nature. Phytoncides are the particles responsible for that scent of nature - released from tree trunks and plant leaves. Phytoncides have an antibacterial effect and are used as anti-inflammatory agents.
Every now and then practice dopamine “deprivation” - a day away from all screens
Doom Scrolling on social media is destroying your mental health. Do not reach for your phone first thing in the morning for at least the first hour.
Set boundaries to protect your time, energy, and attention.
“Playing” with pets is a great form of self-care.
Environmental pollutants can cause health problems like respiratory diseases, heart disease, and some types of cancer. Prolonged environmental exposures can lead to a cascade of biological events in the body.
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in the air, but also nanomaterials found in drinking water, plastic packagings, pesticides, and personal care products like shampoos or conditioners can negatively alter your health. These toxins can have negative effects on things like neurodevelopment.
Avoid nail salons, beauty parlors, and other sites that use solvents and other chemicals
Indoor plants can help improve sleep and overall health by purifying the air. Snake plants, Aloe Vera, Peace Lilies, or Spider plants are all great options.
Replace sunscreens that contain benzene and avoid them when possible. If necessary look for zinc oxide alternatives.
Environmental pollutants such as some metals (arsenic, cadmium, manganese) and some pesticides (diazinon) influence microbiome composition.
Remove nonstick pans and instead look for stainless steel pans
Swap aluminum-containing deodorant for mineral alternatives
Keep phones out of your bedroom and the wifi turned off at night
Use a quality shower filter to remove contaminants such as fluoride
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