Small Steps to Better Health
When we think of relationships, we usually think of them in terms of relationships with other people. We also have relationships with things such as money, hobbies, our computers, cell phone and of course, our health. As you know, for any relationship to flourish and grow we need to nurture them by putting energy and effort into them. Our health is no different. Maintaining our health doesn’t have to be difficult – we can all take small steps to better health.
Many people look for a short cut to regain their health by trying to find that magic pill, certain exercise or gadget that will give them instant health. None exists. True health is not obtained or maintained by doing one thing often or doing it really well. True health is a lifestyle which has five factors contributing to the overall performance of the human body. These factors are stress management, good nutrition and hydration, regular exercise, a good night sleep and regular chiropractic adjustments. Health is like excellence, they are both created by being consistent with self discipline and great habits.
The best way to eliminate or dissolve bad habits is to create new ones to replace the old. We must make sure we see the big picture as to “why” we want to create new habits in the first place. If our “why” is not strong enough, we are setting ourselves up for failure from the start. What is the end result we are looking for? Is it weight loss, more energy or getting better performance out of our bodies? We must have a specific outcome and picture it in our mind’s eye. Then we must create a plan of specific steps that we can do daily to achieve our goals. Once a plan is created, all we have to do is focus and execute our plan.
What lifestyle habits do you need to create to incorporates all the factors for great health? Let’s look at them one at a time.
The first factor and the most important one, is stress management. You may not realize this but the more stress you are under, the more the overall function of your body goes down. When your body becomes exhausted and can’t adapt to stress anymore, it will let you know by causing symptoms. If you don’t manage or reduce your stress efficiently, it does not matter what treatment you do, you will only get marginal results at best. According to Dr. Hans Selye in his book “The Stress of Life,” stress is the only disease we have to fight, but it comes in 3 forms: mechanical, emotional and nutritional [i].
When I mention mechanical stress, I am talking about the musculoskeletal system and the structure of your body. Examples are poor posture, flat feet, subluxations in your spine or old injuries that did not heal properly. Chiropractors are excellent at assisting you in correcting and maintaining the structure of your body.
Emotional stress has to deal with relationship difficulties with your spouse, family, friends, coworkers or boss. Everyone has emotional stress to some degree. It is not about how much stress you have. The better question is, what do you do to diffuse your emotional stress, daily or frequently? Exercising, yoga, meditation, journaling and talking issues out with a trusted family member or friend are all examples of how to diffuse emotional stress.
Nutritional stress consists of two things: quality of food you consume and your body’s ability to digest, absorb and assimilate the nutrition from the food. When you are eating a very clean diet and are still having health problems, it is not a question of the diet but one of your digestive system and if it is functioning properly. (I see this all the time in my practice.) The process of digestion, absorption and assimilation are three processes that work independent of one another. A domino effect occurs when your digestion is weak. If you can’t digest your food well, the chances are that your absorption and assimilation are off as well. Even if you don’t have any digestion symptoms, it could be a subclinical condition.
The second factor that contributes to a healthy lifestyle is good nutrition and staying hydrated with water. The human body is a machine, like a car. You need to fuel your body with high quality nutrition so it can run efficiently. This is done through eating a clean diet. There are a lot of people out there that try to make diet complex. Diet is not complex, it is very simple. If man makes it, don’t eat it. 85% of what you eat should be plant based: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds and nuts. 15% should come from animal products: free range chicken and eggs, wild caught fish and grass fed beef.
Proper hydration with water also plays a significant factor in your overall health. 60-70% of the human body is composed of water. Symptoms of mild dehydration include chronic pains in joints and muscles, lower back pain, headaches, hunger pangs and constipation. The rule of thumb for water consumption is however much you weigh in pounds divide that by two and that is how many ounces of water you should consume daily. If you exercise, you should consume even more.
The third factor is regular moderate exercise. There are 3 components to exercise; stretching, strength training and cardiovascular fitness. The Center for Disease Control recommends for adults 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week and muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms)[ii].
The fourth factor a good sleep. My patients that have sleep problems take longer to heal if they can even heal at all. Sleep is very important to our health. The quality of your sleep directly affects the quality of your waking life, including your mental sharpness, productivity, emotional balance, creativity, physical vitality, and even your weight. No other activity delivers so many benefits with so little effort[iii]!
The last factor is getting regular chiropractic adjustments. Your brain communicates and controls every organ, tissue and cell in your body. It does this through the spinal nerves that exit from your spine. If your spine is misaligned or subluxated, research shows that you can have up to a 60% loss of nerve conduction in that one spinal nerve [iv]. This will have a significant impact on the function of the muscles and organ(s) that nerve communicates with. Notice that I didn’t say you will have pain with the subluxation. Pain only shows up in the most extreme or acute situation. You will have varying degrees of loss of function before you experience pain. This will show up as fatigue, headaches, digestion difficulties, numbness or tingling, continual tightness or stiffness regardless of how much you stretch, just to name a few. Making chiropractic as part of your wellness lifestyle will add years to your life and life to your years.
Health is very simple. Your body will tell you everything you need to know about your health. You just need to learn to listen to it. And when it speaks, do something about it right then and there or that day. The problem is that we tend to put ours head down, ignore our body and barrel through life. Then we wake up 20-30 years later and are diagnosed with one or multiple chronic degenerative diseases in awe of where they came from.
I am a fan of baby steps. Out of all the things I mentioned in this article, pick one habit to change and do that one habit for 1 month. Pick the easiest thing for you to start with and fully commit to it. Then the following month start with another one. Then at the end of the year, you have 12 new habits and it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. Starting with 3-4 habits, you are likely to become overwhelmed and set yourself up for failure. Baby step your way to better health. Your health is what you make of it, ignore it and your health will leave you.
[i] Selye, Hans, The stress of life, McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 1956
[ii] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/index.html, last checked 1/3/12.
[iv] Sharpless SK, Susceptibility of spinal roots to compression block. In: Goldstein M. The Research Status of Spinal Manipulative Therapy, US Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Public Health Service, National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke monograph no. 15, Bethesda, MD 20014, DHEW Publication No. (NIH) 76-998, February 1975, p. 155.