Back to Basics

January 6th, 2014 - Uncategorized

After 10 years of helping people to regain their health and well-being, one very important thing I have learned is that there really is no substitute for the basics when it comes to staying healthy. While various medicines and other treatments can help to alleviate all sorts of problems, they are of limited benefit without a healthy diet, sufficient rest and sleep, moderate exercise, and a meaningful occupation.

As the old saying goes: “you are what you eat”, and it follows that a healthy diet is necessary for a healthy body and mind. There is a lot of contradictory information around about healthy eating these days, however an easy way to figure out what is healthy, is to think about what is most natural. If in doubt, try to consider what type of diet we would have without access to supermarkets and industrial food production methods. First of all, we would have no refined sugar or processed foods (including so-called “healthy” alternatives such as low fat spreads), and we would eat far less grain-based foods, such as bread and cereals, as they would be too difficult to harvest and mill in large quantities. We would eat less red meat, and far more fish, eggs, pulses, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds.

Every process in our bodies relies on sufficient quantities of various nutrients, such as protein, carbohydrate, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and trace elements, in the right quantities. There is no disease which is not affected to some degree by the food we eat, and we cannot hope to be healthy without a healthy diet. Headaches, recurrent infections, allergies, digestive problems, joint pain, skin problems, and even mental health problems, such as irritability and anxiety, can be influenced by irregular eating habits, nutrient deficiencies and food intolerances.

Rest and sleep are also extremely important to good health. Electric lights, computers, and other modern inventions have allowed us to extend our working day far beyond what it once was, raising our stress levels and reducing the time we have available to regenerate our energy through rest. Even when we are ill, we tend to take painkillers or other medication to enable us to ‘keep going’ rather than take the time to convalesce. Sleep is particularly important, as it is during sleep that we heal and regenerate our bodies. However many people do not get enough sleep, or fail to keep a regular routine of sleeping and waking, leading to fatigue, irritability and ill-health. It is now widely believed that ADHD in children may be caused or at least exacerbated by chronic sleep deprivation, as a result of overstimulation by television, computer games, or sugar and artificial additives in food.

Moderate exercise is also an essential requirement for a healthy body and mind. Our circulatory and lymphatic systems are largely dependent on movement to function effectively, and lack of exercise can also lead to stagnation, which results in problems such as lack of mental clarity, constipation, painful periods, even heart attacks and strokes. Vitamin D, which is produced in the skin on exposure to sunlight, is increasingly recognised as essential for physical and mental health and wellbeing.

Finally, meaningful occupation is essential to human beings to maintain mental health. We need to have something meaningful to occupy our time, and social interaction with other people. For most people, going out to work, school, or college, also provides the impetus to maintain a regular daily routine, which in turn helps to set our diurnal rhythm or internal “body clock”. This is essential for the proper functioning of our nervous system and hormones. People who are not employed are often able to keep busy with hobbies or voluntary work, and are disciplined enough to maintain a regular daily routine. However, many people who become unemployed through retirement, redundancy or ill health may struggle with severe depression or anxiety as a result.

So if you’re still thinking about your new year’s resolutions for 2014, consider getting “back to basics” and resolve to improve your health and well-being by keeping your mind occupied, eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep.