There are some basic and fundamental things we can do to be healthy. Without these practices, I think it is hard to have adjunct therapies such as herbs, essential oils, homeopathic remedies or even pharmaceuticals work well. Bottom line, there is no substitute for a healthy diet and lifestyle. I recommend the following lifestyle practices to all of my clients and students.
Next to air, water is the most necessary element for human survival. Did you know that a normal adult is 60 to 70 percent water? All of our organs need water in order to function properly. The minimum amount of water for a healthy person is 8 to 10 eight-ounce glasses a day. Make sure to drink more if you exercise, sweat more or live in a hot climate.
Data collected by the U.S. government shows that the nutritional content of America’s vegetables and fruits has declined during the past 50 years — in some cases dramatically. Multivitamins assure that you get all the nutrients you need, even if there are gaps in your diet. Even if you eat exceptionally well, researchers are finding that some important vitamins (D and E particularly) and minerals are protective against disease in amounts that may be difficult to obtain through diet alone, no matter how conscientious you are. Get a high quality vitamin – you get what you pay for.
Whether it is yoga, music, gardening, being out in the wilds, friends, a spiritual practice, dancing, reading a book, going to church or making art, have something in your life that you are passionate about.
Essential fatty acids such as alpha linolenic acid (an omega 3 fatty acid) and linoleic acid (an omega 6 fatty acid) are called “essential” because our body can’t make them – we need to eat them. Essential fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function as well as normal growth and development. They make up the cell membrane for every cell in our body. They help with heart health, brain function, joint pain, autoimmune diseases, inflammation, and mood. Essential fatty acids can even improve insulin sensitivity and make our bodies better at using stored body fat for energy, which both add up to a leaner you. Some of the food sources of essential fatty acids are fish, shellfish, flaxseed oil, hemp oil, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, leafy vegetables and walnuts.
Not only is exercise good for the heart and lungs, it helps hormone balance, immune function, and mood. It has also been shown to help with memory and brain function. You can opt for vigorous aerobic activity such as running, swimming, cross-country skiing or dancing at least 3 – 4 times a week for at least ½ an hour. Moderate aerobic activity such as walking, yoga, or mowing the lawn can be done at least 3 – 4 times a week for at least 45 minutes.
Our organs have a hard time handling foods and chemicals that don’t occur in nature, especially our digestive systems. Whole foods are those that nature provides, with all their edible parts. Conversely, fragmented foods include all foods that are missing original parts: they are modified by being refined, concentrated, fractionated, hydrogenated, preserved, colored, and having additives. A healthful diet would include nutrient-dense, toxin-free, whole-foods emphasizing starchy & non-starchy vegetables, animal protein and fats, fermented foods, raw dairy (when tolerated) and fruit, nuts & seeds (in moderation). It is especially important to eat only organic animal products, as toxins accumulate the higher up you get in the food chain.
The average person needs 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. Sleep rejuvenates our body and mind. Sleep allows the brain to organize long-term memory and integrate new information. It allows our body to repair and renew tissue, nerve cells and focus on parasympathetic body processes such as digestion and elimination. Getting enough sleep is especially important when you are sick or stressed.
Laughter really is the best medicine. Did you know that laughter is good for your heart and has been studied to prevent heart disease? Researchers have found significant reductions in stress hormones and enhanced immune function — including increased natural killer cells – in laughing subjects.
There is a direct impact on our health and what is going on in our environment, from what we eat to what we breathe and the products we use. Go through your home and read your labels, paying close attention to your home cleaning products, body care products, and the chemicals you use in and around your house. Choose simple green replacements whenever you can. For body care products avoid synthetic fragrances, petrochemicals, sulfates, lead (in some lipstick!), formaldehyde, phthalates, toluene and parabens.
Most importantly, no matter what, be gentle and kind to yourself. Eliminate self criticism. Acknowledge your effort. Love yourself for all the good that you see and do and are. Accept your flaws and the fact that you are beautifully imperfect, as we all are. Love nourishes your body and spirit. Learning to love yourself starts with making a conscious decision, an intention to become happy and lead a fulfilled life.
About the Author:
Elaine Sheff has been studying medicinal plants since 1987. A Clinical Herbalist, she is a graduate of both the Rocky Mountain Center for Botanical Studies and the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine. Elaine is a certified instructor of Fertility Awareness and Natural Family Planning, a safe, effective birth control method used to avoid or achieve pregnancy. She has a clinical practice providing herbal consultations for individuals with health concerns. Elaine teaches herb classes throughout the United States and is the original co-founder of Meadowsweet Herbs. She is the co-director of Green Path Herb School in Missoula, Montana. A best selling author, her latest book is called Naked: Botanical Recipes for Healthy Skin. You can often find Elaine in her garden or cooking gluten free.