There are so many fascinating ideas available to us when it comes to inviting good health into our lives and yet, there’s an endless amount of information available to us when it comes to being healthy. But what are the kinds of strategies that that are the “can’t miss” ones that can help us feel our very best? What can most agree on?
Here’s our manifesto of 10 tips for staying healthy that can really help us feel happier, being healthy and more in tune with our world. We think these 10 tips can make a huge difference:
1. Drink Water
We’ve heard the “drink 8-8oz glasses of water each day” for years. But few people discuss how vital and life-giving the quality and structure of water is to our body. Drinking 64oz of tap water (filled with chlorine, fluoride, and environmental particulate) does us little favor. In his brilliant (but sometimes controversial) book, Your Body’s Many Cries for Water, Dr. F. Batmanghelidj discusses the results of decades-long scientific studies, which reveal the relationship between water and ultimate health: You are not just what you eat – you are what you drink.
In his lectures, he often spoke about how the muscles that move our body are 75% water, that our blood plasma is 82% water, our lungs are 90% water, brain is 76% water – and even our bones are 25% water! Just as our planet is covered with water, it is the foundation for our very cellular lives. And today, 80% of us are suffering from chronic dehydration, and many of us mistake hunger for thirst.
His pioneering work shows that Unintentional Chronic Dehydration (UCD), his unique term and field of study, becomes the underlying contributing cause of pain, chronic pain and nearly all of the degenerative diseases that plague our times: from heartburn and arthritis to colitis, cholesterol, and cancer. They all can be prevented by increasing water intake on a regular basis. Humans need in excess of four pints of water each day. Water is used for digestion, detoxifying cells, watering the lungs, keeping the body alkalised and a host of cleaning duties, and not all water is created equal.
To rehabilitate our bodies from chronic dehydration, he recommends 2-3 liters of water a day, structured with a little bit of real salt. Not the white iodized table salt we otherwise know as sodium chloride, but the highly mineralized natural salts like grey Celtic salts or pink crystal Himalayan salt, which he calls the Queen of all Salts. To learn more, check out his work with water cures.
2. Connect with Nature
Too many of us live indoors and this seems to be a part of living in a modern age. We become so accustomed to being inside any number of four walled locations that we miss out on feeling connected to nature, the weather, or where our food comes from. Lack of time in the sun means you’re not getting your Vitamin D, which is necessary for many, many important functions in the body, including constructing all of our hormones. Being cloistered indoors leads to feelings of depression and stress. Meanwhile, a walk on the beach, or in the mountains, or in the woods, provides a plethora of negative ions that balance our circadian rhythms, slows our heart rate appropriately, and creates a sense of peace and well being in the body. Take a picnic lunch. Go for a hike on the weekend. Make it a priority to reconnect with the greater world beyond the one humans have made. It will increase your awareness of our interconnectedness and belonging to the Earth. It gets you in touch with some very nourishing, if unexpected, superfoods.
3. Eat Your Vegetables
Did you know that a traditional Japanese diet today consists of some 11-15 servings of vegetables? Meanwhile, our USDA food pyramid recommends a paltry 3-5. Knowing that there’s a multitude of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients available in these rainbow colored foods should be all we need to hear to get us on the veggie bandwagon, but sadly, so many of us just don’t eat them. These colorful plant foods also contain antioxidants, which scavenge free radicals (causing cell damage and aging), aid longevity and youthfulness, and fight cancer. They cleanse the blood, offer hydration and healthy sugars, support the liver, regulate cholesterol levels, and promote healthy elimination. It doesn’t hurt that they taste delicious either! Make it a goal to put a rainbow on your plate. Be adventurous, try new things, challenge your palate. A good start is to aim for a salad and two types of veggies with dinner, and some fruit during the day or as dessert. It’s so important to continue evolving nutritionally.
4. Invest in Your Gut: Probiotics
Perhaps you or someone you know has experienced this: noticing your digestion is hitting the skids. You’re feeling more bloated, uncomfortable, or gassy. You favorite foods are giving you heartburn when they never caused an issue before. You read about how bad so many foods are: gluten, nightshades, dairy, eggs, sugar, fruit, and so you decide to remove the offending foods – no matter how health supporting it may actually be. You feel better for a while, until, lo and behold, something else is causing your gut to complain. Outside of developing a true allergy later in life to a well-loved food , there’s often one real reason why you can no longer eat the foods you’ve always eaten: your gut bacteria levels have hit painfully low numbers. A healthy gut, which is necessary to eat and absorb healthy foods, depends on proper stores of gut bacteria. Our world is so dependent on antibiotics and so germ-a-phobic that many of our everyday habits work against the health of our stomach, as an environment in need of protecting itself. Eating probiotics foods like kefir and yogurt, kim-chi or sauerkraut or kombucha, are good ways to restore your good bacteria levels. Getting outside and playing in the dirt (camping, hiking, gardening, flag football) now and again, helps too.
How many of you are aware of your breathing? Unless you have a cold, and all of a sudden you can’t breathe comfortably, or get the wind knocked out of you and you just can’t catch your breath, most of us pay little attention to this important automatic activity. But our breath not only oxygenates the body, it expels toxins, and enlivens the tissues. It also helps us to process our emotions. Ever notice how you breathe when you’re angry, or happy, or sad? Your breathing rate will change in correspondence to how your emotional biology is working. It also helps with digestion. Many yoga enthusiasts go to class not just for a good workout, but to spend an hour breathing and feeling fully embodied. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayuvreda, when we breathe through our mouths, we age the body. But when we breathe through our nose and do so efficiently, we access the lower lobes of our lungs where our anti-stress hormones get activated.
If you want to make sure your entire and soul body and soul is experiencing the benefits of good health, breathe!
6. Express Yourself
So many wise people and traditional approaches to health recognize the fact that emotions play a foundational role when it comes to health and disease. In particular, there are seven emotions that have a calculable effect directly on our biology. They are: sadness, anger, grief, timidity, fear and fright. While such ephemeral emotions cannot contribute pathologically they do however constitute what we consider healthful emotional aspects of well balanced persons. When we do not allow ourselves to feel what we feel, when we limit our voice, and our deserved-ness to live the life we hope for, or love the body we have, the emotions we keep under lock and key can erupt like volcanoes, and if they don’t, such long term suppression generates illness and imbalance in the body: physically, mentally and spiritually. Don’t put on hold for a single day more, the chance to be authentic with yourself about who you are. By expressing yourself you are not only freeing up your conscience, but you take a spiritual load off your physical shoulders.
We don’t get enough sleep, pure and simple, and yet this is an enduring cure too much of what ails us. Our minds work better, we digest our meals better, we process stress and emotions more appropriately, and we just feel all around better about life. We grow and repair and rejuvenate our whole body when we sleep. Lack of it can lead to chronic issues of hypertension, a propensity for diabetes, or obesity, and other health problems.
8. Eat More Fat
While our brain contains 76% of its structure as water, it is also composed of a high concentration of fat, and the best way to maintain proper brain function is to get that fat (like omega 3 and saturated fats) from our diet. But it doesn’t just help keep us smart. It’s old news now that saturated fat doesn’t contribute to heart disease after all, instead, it actually plays a key role in our cardiovascular health. Loss of sufficient saturated fatty acids in white blood cells damages their ability to recognize and destroy foreign invaders, such as viruses, parasites and bacteria. It’s also required for calcium to be effectively incorporated into bone. Certain saturated fats, like those found in butter or coconut oil, all function as messengers in the body that directly influence our metabolism, and the release of insulin in particular.
Researcher Ray Peat explains that by including saturated fatty acids in our diet, we greatly diminish, or turn off entirely, the stress reactions in the body, whereas polyunsaturated fatty acids amplify them. Who knew vegetable oils could cause us so much stress?
Dr. Mary Enig, Ph.D, a well known research expert in dietary fats and human health, made a case for having nearly half of the fats in your diet be saturated because of the above reasons. The right fats in your diet can also help you burn off unwanted body fat. Fat in the diet makes for a greater sense of satisfaction after meals, and even helps fight inflammation.
9. Move Everyday
While this may be the most technologically advanced age we have ever been able to sustain, it is also most certainly the era of the couch potato. When we make it a priority to be on the move everyday, whether we decide to hit the gym, swim, take a bike ride, catch a yoga, tai chi, or dance class, or go for a 30 minute walk after dinner around the neighborhood park, we are treating our body right. With movement, we keep our lungs and cardiovascular system healthy, and the more we challenge the body gently, the fitter and the more amazing our body becomes, and I’m not talking about looking hot in a swimsuit, but literally more amazing, capable and comfortable. When we exercise, even a good walk, cleanses our lymph system and helps our body to naturally excrete toxins, waste and unnecessary weight or aches and pains. Try making it a habit to commit 20-30 minutes everyday to moving your and enjoying your body.
This is one of the oldest, most ancient, most beneficial methods for self-care. It quiets the mind, and aligns our brain waves, it allows us to feel more at ease, more fully present, and deeply rested. While many religions and philosophies have endorsed prayer, contemplation and meditation, it need not be tied to any dogma. Sometimes just closing your eyes and becoming aware of your breath can being a deeply calming influence over the whole mind-body organism. Even just 10-20 minutes a day can work wonders for your entire sense of self. Many masters have spoken this truth: if you’re too busy to take 10-20 minutes just for you, then you’re just too damn busy.
Health is not just a science, but an ongoing creative adventure that often takes some interesting twists and turns, and is always asking us to pay attention and keep waking up to what it means to be alive and vibrant in this world. Perhaps these ten tips are just the beginning. Are there any that you’d like to add to the list?
The Institute for the Psychology of Eating
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