Assuming you have been born with a functioning body and it has not been compromised by injury or accident, it’s continued health and vitality is a matter of choice. The maintenance of health requires several inter-relating factors and associated practices that are all important. They must all be in place for the benefits of any one of them to be fully realised. They include the following:
- Maintain a healthy gut.
- Eating the right real food so that your body gets what it needs.
- Burn fat as your body’s primary fuel.
- Avoiding toxicity in food and in the living environment.
- Physical movement and exercise.
- Drinking sufficient pure water. (and basic hygiene)
- Getting adequate good quality sleep.
- Spending time out in the sunshine and/or supplementing with Vitamin D.
- Periodic fasting
- Having a stress reduction strategy
Health is a choice to the extent that it is possible to control these factors. New parents may struggle with disrupted sleep patterns for a while, and clean water can be difficult and expensive to secure. In latitudes further north than southern France you will struggle to maintain optimum vitamin D levels in winter. However, consider the possibility of planning over the long or medium term to bring all of these factors within your control. Health is a consequence of lifestyle choices, so choose every aspect of lifestyle around health. Any lifestyle choice that undermines your health (including what we eat) is a not a good idea in anything but the short term. For example, shift work that means not sleeping correctly is not compatible with a choice of health.
The first cause of your health is ‘knowing what to do’ to achieve it. Human beings are not born with innate knowledge of what to eat or what poisons to avoid. Until fairly recently in human history people did not know that clean water and basic standards of hygiene are requirements for health, nowadays we take that for granted. Similarly, knowledge of germ theory, viruses and bacteria and the role they play in infection and the spread of disease are also very recent in terms of our evolution.
To learn what is required for health (or anything else for that matter) either you can copy those around you, or you can think for yourself and make your own choices. Thinking is the way to knowledge and always has been, but historically the first strategy has not been as risky as it is these days. The context has changed for 2 main reasons.
Firstly, since the industrial revolution our number of choices has increased beyond what most people can imagine. In the past such choice didn’t exist, and health outcomes were largely a result of circumstances. For example, most people ate what they could in an effort to ward off starvation, and environmental pollution of the kind we know today was not an issue.
The second reason is the most important. Copying what others do is no longer a successful strategy because so many people are doing the wrong thing! We are in the information age and all the information is available, but its all mixed up together. There is official advice that is wrong, and absolutely spot on correct new information, yet they point in opposite directions. For example, dietary saturated fat cannot be healthy and unhealthy at the same time. Cholesterol cannot be an essential substance for human life and at the same time be bad for you and the cause of heart disease. Mercury amalgam fillings cannot be safe in your mouth and a dangerous neurotoxin at the same time. In all of these cases, only one option is true. The other one is false. The challenge is to sort fact from fiction, to discern truth from untruth, and this is why it is no longer satisfactory to just do what everyone else does.
Thinking for ourselves
To acquire knowledge requires thought and a process of self-education. The good news is that although copying everyone else is no longer a safe bet, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel and become our own health researcher. But we do have to take the time to inform ourselves and intelligently choose from the total sum of information widely available today with the Internet. We have to make our own decisions. In today’s context, our health depends upon us thinking for ourselves and trusting our own judgement.
For those disinclined to think for themselves, or unable to trust their own judgement, the attainment of health will continue to appear a lottery. They will not know who to copy or who to listen to to get the right information.
Eating the right food
The most important factor determining health is what we choose to eat. The evidence shows that what we regularly eat can get us 80% of the way to health. This is good news because most of us are completely free to choose in this respect. Children are obviously subject to the choices of their parents or caregivers, and people in institutions such as hospital have little choice here. But for most grown up people living independently what they choose to ingest is entirely within their control. It is one of the fundamental freedoms we enjoy and the most powerful tool in shaping our health. The flip side of this is that eating the wrong food is the primary cause of most diseases in the modern context.
We have nailed basic sanitation and clean water, yet far too many people experience suffering ultimately caused by eating the wrong food and/or exposure to toxicity – in food and/or the environment.
Modern supermarkets are filled with endless temptations for your taste buds, and most of them will compromise our health. This makes it harder to ensure a healthy option. The issue is further complicated by incorrect official advice. This has led to an enormous increase in ill health in the form of the many modern chronic diseases.
Diet is important for 2 reasons
Each cell of your body must get what it needs to function. This means that we must eat the right food to satisfy our full spectrum of nutritional requirements. A diet deficient in any particular nutrient will, over time, result in ill health.
Secondly, each cell must not be compromised by toxicity. If we eat food containing toxicity and chemicals that should not be in our bodies, our health will suffer. This is why it is essential to be selective in what we eat. Consider quality and toxicity. Food sold bearing an organic certification is by definition non-GMO and less toxic than non-organic. The question of whether or not you can taste the difference, or any difference in nutritinal content is a red herring.
Some things are toxic by their very nature and are best avoided completely. Examples of these include the chemical additives in processed food such as stabilizers, emulsifiers, binding agents and flavour enhancers. There is also a strong argument for avoiding wheat because of the way it compromises the gut lining and can lead to auto-immune diseases where the body begins to regard a part of itself as a foreign invader. Due to the time lag between dietary deficiency and/or toxicity and its ultimate effect on our health, we fail to see the connection and continue to pursue unhealthy eating habits in ignorance of their effects.
Avoiding toxicity in food and in the environment
In today’s context, it is important to be vigilant about toxicity – both in food and in the environment. We all have the ability to do this. Not doing so exposes us to the risk of compromising our health by ignorance. Everyone can and must engage themselves in thinking about the bullet points below if they are serious about their health.
- Eating organic – less toxic by definition
- Eating raw – less destruction of the food and its nutritional content
- Using safe cookware that does not pollute the food on cooking
- Eating grass fed organic meats, avoiding Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) meat, and pasteurised dairy
- Vaccinations – a toxic soup injected into the blood
- Amalgam fillings – drip feeding the gut with mercury
- Toxic household products
- Toxic personal care products
- Airborne and electromagnetic (EMF) pollution
There is no excuse for poisoning ourselves while claiming to seek health.
Physical movement and exercise
We already know that exercise and physical movement is important for health. It is becoming increasingly recognised that sitting is the new smoking – a sedentary lifestyle is unhealthy for many reasons. The point is that we are all in control over our activities and the degree to which we choose to move and exercise. Exercise is a choice available to us all. The main points to consider in designing healthy movement into our lives are listed below. I shall return to cover these in detail in future posts.
- Stretching – techniques such as Yoga preserve flexibility
- Aerobic exercise
- Strength training
- High (or variable) intensity interval training
Drinking sufficient pure water
Another factor important for health that is widely overlooked is drinking sufficient water. It takes a while to condition ourselves into a new habit of being aware of this requirement, but it is undoubtedly well within our control. Here in England tap water is very contaminated and should be filtered. If you choose bottled water glass bottles are safer than plastic.
Getting adequate good quality sleep
Your body needs enough sleep in order to function properly. There are many reasons for this, which we will explore in another post. Once again, the point to make here is that almost all of us are capable of managing our own bedtime so that we get a good night sleep. Working the night shift is not recommended because it is not compatible with health in the long term. If you do work nights and want to be healthy, you must plan to change job to one that will meet your financial needs and not undermine your health. Even if circumstances dictate that one works shifts for a while, it is possible to plan a strategic change over time.
This one just comes down to self-education. We all need to know what our body requires if we want to be healthy, and it is entirely within our control to find out. Vitamin D is essential for health for many reasons. If you live in latitudes where you get insufficient in the winter you can take a supplement or use a specifically designed sun lamp. It is important that if you do take a vitamin D supplement, that you also supplement with Vitamin K2.
Supporting your immune system
There are several factors to consider under this heading and they are all worthy of an in-depth look. Gut health is foundational to health. The gut comprises 80% of the immune system and also affects mental health. Anyone who can control what they eat can influence their gut health as well as implement the other important elements of maintaining a healthy gut. A healthy gut is a choice.
Dental health must be recognised as not being separate from our overall health. For most people, the two are not connected. However, some ill-considered dental treatments can seriously undermine health by loading the immune system with toxins. Mercury amalgam fillings have no place in the mouth of any human being. The same goes for root canal treatments and any kind of implant where metal is introduced into the mouth. This is a choice that requires some self-education.
Being electrically grounded to the earth also supports the immune system by assisting in oxidative stress reduction. Going barefoot or sleeping on a grounding sheet is recommended, and these choices are once again within our control.
Implementing a stress management/reduction strategy is another important part of the overall picture of health. Stress is useful if it is not excessive. It is within our capacity for lifestyle choices to ensure that we have some kind of activity that we use to manage our stress. Meditation, walking, reading or any activity that works for the individual will suffice. This again is within our control.
Fasting has been a way of life all through our evolution. In the temperate climates all through human history prior to agriculture, the winter would have been a time of fasting by necessity. It is for this reason that it offers so many benefits. Mental clarity, better immune function and increased longevity are just some of the results. Being in a state of nutritional ketosis is a way of mimicing the fasting state and effectively harnessing the benefits of fasting without all the inconvenience and hardship. There are many different types of fasting such as alternate day fasting where you eat one day and fast one day; there are water fasts which means nothing but water for a period of anything from one day to 5 days; there are 5 days fasts, and there is what Dr Joseph Mercola calls Peak Fasting, which is a variation of intermittent fasting. I would encourage anyone seriously interested in avoiding disease to explore fasting as a key part of their overall health strategy. The point to make here is that this is another activity or lifestyle choice that is well within our choice.
What is really important in our lives?
Changing lifestyle choices is hard, and I suspect that changing eating habits for some people is the hardest. But given that what we eat plays such a big role in our health outcomes it simply must be the main focus in steering away from chronic disease and towards longevity and health. It comes down to weighing up values and considering what is most important. If we consciously decide that health is the most important aspect of our lives it can help in guiding our subsequent food choices.
There is no one else in the ring but ourselves when we are trying to win through in changing our habits. It’s a classic case of slaying that dragon on our own. We have to take personal responsibility for knowing what to eat and what to avoid, and for maintaining the self-discipline of implementing the subsequent plan of action. It is arguably the most practical personal development challenge one can undertake, and one with the greatest benefit – health.
Health is a result of lifestyle choice
This means it depends on the way we choose to live. Do we live in a way that supports all of the above factors required for health? If we don’t, we can’t expect to be healthy in the long term. Where we live, what we eat, what we do for a living, our sleep patterns, our personal care products and even how we bathe, all these factors contribute to our health or undermine it. These days it serves us to proactively design our lifestyle with conscious thought. If you just drift into a way of living it will very likely not serve you. The evolutionary advantage will not be with the un-vigilant, the unwary, or the unthinking.
Generally speaking today most human beings do not live correctly. They do not pursue ‘right living’. Most people will unwittingly follow the crowd towards a future hospital experience with a typical chronic disease. If we change our mindset and become proactive in our pursuit of healthy living, we have made a very important first step.
Choose health then design a lifestyle that consistently supports that decision.
Join the conversation and leave a comment.
Nigel Howitt, March 2017