What words come to mind when I say “health”?
Frustration? Confusion? Hopelessness?
There’s no shortage of health articles out there on the Internet. Rather than offer advice on how to improve your health in one area, I’ll give you a simple macro model to improve health quick. From there you can go granular and get into the nitty-gritty. Here are the seven key pillars of health that will give you a boost in energy and vibrancy. Start with these and you’ll be surprised how much you’ll improve.
Pillar 1: Hydration
If you want to learn how to improve your health, you need to start with water. Water is fundamental to life and it’s involved in every single function in your body. It plays a vital role in transporting nutrients, removing waste, manufacturing neurotransmitters and thousands more.
At birth, your body is around 85% water and free of toxins. Yet this percentage drops to as low as 50% as you age and your toxin levels (which are acidic) increase. So it’s super important that you hydrate well and focus on neutralising toxins to keep them low.
When your body is dehydrated, it begins to exhibit symptoms of pain. Even slight dehydration can manifest in the form of:
- Loss of concentration
- Reflux and more.
Chronic dehydration however can contribute to more serious illnesses. Dr Fereydoon Batmanghelidj (Dr. B), author of books such as “Your Body’s Many Cries for Water” and “Water Cures, Drugs Kill” states that dehydration can cause:
- Back pain
- High blood pressure
- Adult-onset diabetes
- Higher blood cholesterol
All of which Dr B states can be cured by drinking enough water¹. Sound too good to be true? In 1979, Dr B was sent to prison as a political prisoner and it was there he discovered the healing powers of water. One night, he was asked to treat a prisoner with crippling peptic ulcer pain. With no medication at his disposal, he gave him 2 glasses of water. Within 8 minutes his pain disappeared. He was instructed to drink 2 glasses of water every 3 hours and became pain free for his four remaining months in the prison. Dr B went on to successfully treat 3,000 fellow prisoners suffering from stress-induced peptic ulcer disease with water alone².
The amount of water you need daily will depend on weight, level of activity amongst other factors. To give you a guide, drink 30ml for every kilogram of body weight. If you’re exercising or generally physically active, increase this by an extra 10ml i.e. 40ml per kilo of body weight.
Now that you’re hydrated, let’s consider the type of water you’re drinking. To keep it simple, water can be classified as alkaline or acidic. It can also be neutral, though these waters absorb carbon from the air and become acidic. Drinking a mineral-rich alkaline bottled water has been shown to improve the alkaline-acid balance in the blood and provide more effective hydration¯. There’s also great news for anyone battling with reflux. According to Dr Koufman, the consumption of natural alkaline water may have therapeutic benefits for reflux sufferers’ when compared to conventional drinking water. To dive into more studies, click here.
Regardless of whether it’s alkaline or not, drinking enough good quality water is paramount to achieving long term wellbeing.
Pillar 2: Rest
We live in a fast paced environment where everyone wants it done yesterday. It’s no wonder rest is often overlooked but you can’t underestimate its importance to improve health. Your body can go days without food but just one day without sleep and your ability to function is diminished.
When we go to sleep, our brain is actually extremely active. Your brain uses this time to process and filter information received throughout the day. Here it decides which memories stay and which ones go.
During sleep your brain is also cleaning out the trash, removing toxic byproducts which contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center found that a waste-flushing system in the brain, called the glymphatic system, is most active when we sleep – nearly 10 times more so than during periods of wakefulness³.
Sleep has many benefits, some of which include:
- Slows the ageing process
- Regulates your hormones so it’s easier to maintain a healthy weight
- Boosts your immune system
- Improves brain function and memory
- Reduces risk of mental illness
- Reduces cortisol levels so you’re less prone to stress
- Lowers risk of accidents
- Reduces risk of obesity.
Lack of sleep increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and other illnesses. It decreases brain function, reduces your sex drive, the list goes on.
How much sleep you need will of course vary again as every individual is different. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get 7-9 hours per day.
Pillar 3: Nutrition
You can’t argue that if you want to learn how to improve your health this is one area that requires constant attention. Good nutrition boils down to a simple philosophy: eat living food and avoid dead food. Live foods such as raw vegetables have the power to protect you from disease and cancer. Dead food (anything with a barcode) makes you diseases-prone, low in energy and will make you overweight.
The Dietary Guidelines for Australians suggest we eat 2 servings of fruit and 5 servings vegetables a dayˆ. We really need close to double this because the nutritional content of food today is constantly declining. Due to intensive farming practices, our soil is depleted of nutrients. When plants are repeatedly grown on the same land, the soil loses nutrients faster than they can be replaced. Over time, the plants have fewer nutrients to grow. Adding fertiliser provides just enough nutrition for the plant to survive until harvesting, but not enough to give you the nutrition you need. Felicity Lawrence, author of “Not On The Label”, agrees that this results in plants that have 75% fewer micronutrients.
When it comes to what we should be eating, it’s a world of confusion out there. However, we do know (hopefully you do!) that the old model of diet and lifestyle is obsolete. Counting calories is pointless and it the amount of exercise you do doesn’t correlate to how healthy you are. JJ Virgin, best known for her bestselling book “The Virgin Diet” states that “what you put at the end of your fork, what you drink, is going to tell your body to burn fat or store it, age faster or age more slowly, have a great mood or a crash and burn”. This means it all comes down to what you’re eating or not eating.
Everything we eat can be grouped into three categories: fat, protein, carbohydrates. What we need to keep in mind is that the quality of these three inputs will determine how healthy we become. Here are some questions you should be asking:
- Are they anti-inflammatory fats or pro-inflammatory fats?
- Do the proteins come from grass-fed, pasture raised animals or factory farmed, grain-fed stock?
- Are they heavily processed carbohydrates that quickly turn to sugar or complex carbohydrates high in fibre that’s broken down slowly?
The general rule, which will sound unconventional, is to eat a diet high in anti-inflammatory fat, high fibre, moderate clean protein and low in carbohydrates. This alone will change everything. Remember this is a general guide only as every body is unique. A great way to learn what works for you is to keep a food diary and listen to what your body is telling you.
Pillar 4: Exercise
Exercise is another area we all know is important but most of us are following outdated dogma. You’ve heard the mantra “No Pain No Gain”. Most people are still training themselves to hurt, to be able to handle the pain. However this is extremely inefficient and detrimental. I’m specifically referring to endurance training where your training routine forces your heart rate to maintain a moderate to high pace for 30 to 60 minutes or longer. Marathons and similar activities are particularly damaging to health. Emerging data suggest that chronic training for and competing in extreme endurance events such as marathons, ultramarathons, ironman distance triathlons, and long distance bicycle races, can cause an increase cardio riskª.
Exercising excessively or incorrectly can backfire on your health in several ways. Here are some risks Dr Joseph Mercola advises when you exercise too much or too hard:´
- Your body can enter state in which your tissues break down
- Excess cortisol (a stress hormone) can be released, which contributes to chronic disease
- You can develop microscopic tears in your muscle fibres (which may fail to heal if you continue over-exercising), and increased risk for injuries
- Your immune system may be weakened
- You may develop insomnia, especially if your workout is in the afternoon or evening
Burst style training or often known as high-intensity interval training is a much more effective and healthier alternative method. Firstly, most people don’t exercise because they don’t have time. With burst style training, you can get all your exercise done in a few minutes. Instead of pushing your body at a steady rate, you workout in short bursts of 20 to 60 seconds at a time at high intensity. Ironically, it improves your level of endurance. A study run by PLOS One found that just one minute of high intensity workout boosted endurance and overall health compared to endurance trainingˆ.
High-intensity interval training also forces your body to burn more calories during and after a workout than continuous aerobic training. What’s interesting to note is JJ Virgin states that whatever fuel you’re using during exercise is actually the fuel. If you burn a lot of fat during exercise, it’s the fuel that you then store back after exercise. So if you burn more fat during exercise, you’re better at putting it back on your body after. If you burn more sugar during exercise, you’re better at storing that sugar back after exercise and burning more fat after exercise. So endurance training lowers your immune systems, burns out muscle, makes you better at storing fat.
Pillar 5: Mind
Improving your physical performance is only half the battle. The other part of the equation to be conquered is your brain. When you upgrade your mind, you allow yourself to focus better so that you can do better quality work faster. That means more free time to spend on the things you love. The trouble is, most people don’t know how to make their brain work more efficiently so they don’t consider it as part of their overall health strategy. I’m guilty of this too before learning about it myself. By focusing on the mind we can move toward goals like operating at your peak, learning to manage your stress and even performing optimally under high-stress situations. When your mind is healthy you can find solutions to problems that you would never have come up with.
Dr Amen explains that our brain by weight is 60 per cent fat. Low cholesterol is associated with homicide, suicide and depression. He argues that cholesterol is not the problem it’s sugar but this is another huge topic for another time. Feeding your brain with the right fuel will help you become more productive and handle stress like a pro. Your brain is mostly made up of saturated fats and cholesterol so it makes sense to eat a high fat diet to support a healthy brain. Your mind uses fat to recover and repair itself, resulting in improved memory, increased cognitive skills and better moods.
You might be raising an eyebrow when I said eat a high fat diet because we’re so conditioned to believe that fat makes you fat, but it’s one of the biggest nutritional lies the public has been told. I fell for this too so I can understand if you’re skeptical. The truth is, there is no evidence that dietary saturated fat increases a person’s risk of heart disease as shown in a study of almost 350,000 people published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutritionª.
So what are some healthy sources of fat we should be including and which should we avoid? Here are some clean fats to add to your diet:
- Coconut oil – It’s rich in medium-chain fatty acids, which are easy for your body to digest, not readily stored by the body as fat, allowing them to infuse cells with energy almost immediately. These fatty acids improve brain and memory function.
- Avocados – They’re a great source, rich in monounsaturated fats, which raise levels of good cholesterol while lowering the bad.
- Grass-fed butter – It’s the richest dietary source of butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid which is proving to be highly beneficial not only for your brain but also promotes a healthy gut, and more.
- Omega-3s – Healthy sources of omega-3 fatty acids should be a staple in your diet because your body can’t manufacture them. Wild caught salmon, krill oil or good quality fish oil are some top recommendations. Small doses of krill oil can reduce inflammation, improve brain function and even enhance muscle growth.
Add these to your diet and you’ll be boosting your mental performance in no time.
Pillar 6: Detoxification
We live in a world that is more susceptible to toxins than ever in history. Did you know there are currently over 80,000 chemicals used in every day products including children’s toys and personal care? Most of these haven’t been tested for safetyº. They come from our food, air and water and they’re a byproduct of natural bodily functions so there’s no escape. That’s why we all need to take out the trash regularly otherwise this waste accumulates and contributes to major diseases.
If you suffer from some of these signs regularly, you may be overloaded with toxins:
- Bloating or gas
- Belly fat (hard to lose)
- Skin problems
- Food cravings (particularly junk food)
- Low energy
- Bad breath
- Irritability, mood swings
These symptoms can occur when toxins build up in your body and your liver and elimination systems can’t cope. They contribute to problems such as brain fog, lower sperm count and hormonal imbalance to more serious issues such as cancer, kidney or liver failure and more.
So where are these nasties coming from? You’re probably familiar with common sources of toxins (natural) and toxicants (man-made) such as air pollution, processed food and tap water but there are many other unexpected sources that may be contributing to your health. One of these is vaccines. Many vaccines contain a mercury preservative called thimerosal. Jose G. Dorea who authored a study called “Toxicity of ethylmercury (and Thimerosal)” explains that “because of its application as a vaccine preservative, almost every human and animal (domestic and farmed) that has been immunized with thimerosal-containing vaccines has been exposed to it”¹. Even small doses of mercury intravenously combined with mercury from food sources such as tuna has an enhanced neurotoxic effect.
Another surprising source of mercury is silver amalgam dental fillings. Dr Axe states that “According to a plethora of scientific data, these amalgam fillings leach dangerous, toxic mercury into the bodies of everyone who has them. The danger is not measured in one day but over the many years the fillings sit in the mouth”². Exposure can cause damage to your brain, kidney and lungs and lead to more serious disease such as acrodynia (pink disease).
A report prepared by researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health advises that “Based on current evidence, the ultimate goal of a phase-out of virtually all usage of dental mercury is recommended”³. Governments worldwide are reducing the use of amalgam fillings but those who already have them should get their mercury levels tested by their GP or naturopath.
Household and personal care products are significant sources of toxicants. They range from your cleaning products to deodorants, to air freshners and they all add to a potent toxic concoction. Every day you are breathing in these chemicals or absorbing them through your skin so you can see why it’s crucial to detoxify.
Pillar 7: Support
The final pillar is support and is just as critical if you want to learn how to improve your health. What I mean here is maintaining healthy social relationships but also encompasses ongoing learning, mentoring and advice from experts. All these areas contribute to happiness and how you feel on a regular basis has a massive impact on your long term health. Creating a solid support system of close friends, family and loved ones provide you the extra strength you need when you encounter the inevitable hardships life throws at you. At the same time, implementing learnings from those who have been there before you will save you years of frustration, time and money.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines “health” in their constitution as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”³. Living a life of vibrant health doesn’t just mean that you feel good, or that your medical tests don’t show anything bad. It needs to take into account your body, mind and spirit. Maintaining these meaningful, intimate relationships help your spirit feel connected and dramatically reduce your risk of mental illness.
A research report conducted by Harvard University known as the Grant Study, followed 268 male Harvard undergraduates for 75 years collecting various data of their lives at regular intervals. The conclusions were universal. George Vaillant who directed the study has said that the most important contributor to a happier and meaningful life is relationships¯. He states “A man could have a successful career, money and good physical health, but without supportive, loving relationships, he wouldn’t be happy, happiness is only the cart; love is the horse”¨.
The other aspect of support is ongoing learning and support from experts. We’re drowning in a sea of information and we’ve all had the frustrating experience of going through trial and error and things not working out. But what if we went through trial and success? Wouldn’t that help reach our career, personal goals and health goals much quicker? How would that make you feel? When it comes to health, I think you’d agree it can be very confusing. You can find research backing up one argument then also find another 100 studies that prove it wrong. Which source do you trust? I always try to pass my information through a filter: “Who has the biggest financial incentive to gain?”
A good example of this is milk. We’ve been led to believe that we need to drink milk to get our calcium and be healthy. Where did we get this idea though? Despite many Australians suffering from lactose intolerance, I find it unbelievable that even the Dietary Association of Australia states that if you’re one of them, you should drink less milk not avoid it completely°. In the US, Walter Willett, M.D., Ph.D – the second most cited scientist in all of clinical medicine and the head of nutrition at Harvard’s School of Public Health – states that “Some of the “experts” who helped create the pyramid actually work for the dairy industry, which makes the US Department of agriculture’s recommendations reflect industry interests, not science or our best interests”ª. Unfortunately we live in a society dictated by capitalism and is masking propaganda as truth.
The solution? Learning from those who have been there and done that is the surest path to fast tracking your goals. Even though I now wake up fully rested and recharged, there was a time when I would hit the snooze button again and again because I didn’t have the energy to get up. I never knew what it’s like to feel refreshed in the morning. Sluggishness was my norm and I just got used to it.
Even though I have doubled my productivity at work, there was a time when I felt so drowsy in the afternoon, I had to take a nap at my desk. I would often take a walk because I couldn’t focus but this would only help temporarily then I’d start to yawn again. You know what I mean?
Even though I now have the energy to play with my son after work, there was a time when I wasn’t mentally present because I was too tired. Looking back now, I wasn’t living up to my full potential. But at the time, I never knew what my full potential was. So I didn’t know what I was missing out on. I was “health conscious”. I was eating right and exercising. Well I thought I was doing the right thing. It was only until I started implementing the correct information and using truly healthy products (instead of falling for clever marketing gimmicks) that I saw massive improvements. Now that I know how it feels to be this energetic, to have more will power because my body is working better, to generally be in a happier mood, I’ve set myself a new benchmark – now I never want to go back. Can you relate? Once you’ve tried something good, you don’t want to go back. It’s like driving a BMW after owning a beat up Toyota your whole life. It’s moving into a nice apartment after living in a shoebox with no light. Once you’ve tried it, you never want to go back! And so now my mission is to help as many people as I can, take control of their health naturally, so they can reach their full potential. I’d love to share some tips with you I’ve learnt along my health journey that have really helped me. I’ve put together a free 7 day mini-course of quick, actionable tips you can implement right away. Every day for seven days, I’ll send you an email with a daily tip that will help strengthen each pillar. To get access, fill in the form below and I’ll send them to you. If you have any questions, comments or feedback, please feel free to get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.
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