Written by Diana Arundell – The Avoca Naturopath & Nutritionist
Three ways to move towards a healthier happy year – de–stress, move your body and reduce chemical exposure.
It is estimated that most diseases and illnesses (90%) are a result of stress and the majority of visits to health professionals are stress related. What more do we need to hear to kick us into gear and do something about the impact of stress on our health? One option is to wait until a serious illness occurs that makes us stop in our tracks and take a good look at ourselves and say ‘if I knew that was going to happen, I would have made some changes’. Another option is doing what we can now to prevent a potentially life threatening health related wake up call.
For many people the word ‘busy’ can be interchanged with the word ‘stress’ and a constant up–regulated state of hyper function can have the same impact on the body as stress can. For some, every moment of the day is micromanaged and jammed with being productive, getting things done and operating in a constant up–regulated state. Often productivity has been linked to a sense of worthiness or stopping and just relaxing has been linked to feelings of guilt. Consider creating some space in the day/week/month for unexpected surprises that may be trying to make their way into the tightly run schedule or just simply just stop, breathe and become conscious of what you are doing.
Stressful life events are inevitable, however how we deal with the stress response is what’s important. Our body has a ‘fight or flight’ response to help increase heart rate, blood flow and mental alertness to effectively deal with the stressor, however this is meant to be only a temporary and short term state. Our nervous system and body are meant to return to a relaxed ‘rest and digest’ state once the stress has passed. This allows the up–regulated stress hormones to subside and reduces pressure on the cardiovascular, musculoskeletal and central nervous systems until the next stressor comes.
If too much time is spent in the ‘fight or flight’ mode or an up–regulated state, our mental and physical health can begin to suffer resulting in mental health issues, high blood pressure, lowered immunity, digestive disturbance (reflux, bowel issues), insomnia, fatigue and eventually alterations to other systems of the body e.g. hormone imbalance or auto–immune issues.
Be aware of how stress is impacting you and consider your choices:
- Set good boundaries and time management. Schedule a start time and end time for work commitments and stick to it
- Take time for YOU to relax and play. This is self–care, not self–ish
- Catch your breath – stop during the day to take 3 deep abdominal breaths and bring your awareness back down in your body and out of your mind
- Meditation – Try a guided 10 minute every morning for a week then decide if it’s a good idea or not. Insight timer is a terrific free app
- Rather than reaching for alcohol, drugs or sugar when stressed – take a nap, a walk, meditate or drink a green juice.
move your body
Move it or lose it. Muscles and joints in both adults and kids need to be used or they will become weak, less flexible and potentially hinder how we move about and enjoy life. This includes the heart muscle. Schedule in 3 hours per week of exercise that increases your heart rate and strengthens muscles. Start slow and build up to avoid injury and burn out.
Physical, mental and emotional health requires the body to move – again for both adults and kids. The physical body has been designed to bend, stretch, weight bear and our world is evolving further and further towards encouraging us to move less – remote controls for everything and it seems we are needing to leave the house less and less with almost everything available as home delivery!
If you’re not sure where to start – just start. Wake up 30 minutes earlier and go for a walk before your day starts. In the warmer months, take exercise clothes to work and go for a walk straight from work to avoid coming home and changing your mind. Engage with a personal trainer to get you started and if you have the thought of needing to get fit before you see the trainer, stop it, that’s their job!
reduce chemical load/toxic exposure
A toxin is any substance that can harm your health and with more than 144,000 man–made chemicals now in existence, our toxic exposure is greater than ever before. It’s true that the body has a brilliant inbuilt detoxification system involving the liver and kidneys, however it’s worth considering at what point toxic overload may outweigh the ability of the body to eliminate toxins and the impact of this on our health.
Toxins can show up as additives in our food, chemicals in our water supply, airborne pollutants, pesticides, personal care and household products, plastic containers, fire resistant fabrics and plastic toys just to name a few.
Some ways to reduce chemical exposure and toxic load:
- Store food in beeswax wraps or glass and don’t heat anything up in plastic containers
- Use natural personal care products, sunscreen and cleaning products, avoid nail polish, glues, dyes
- Drink filtered water and use glass or stainless–steel water bottles
- Buy organic food where possible and wash all fresh food before consumption, grass fed meat, wild caught sea food (from unpolluted waterways) free range eggs and chicken
- Limit tuna to 1–2 serves per week
- Use stainless steel, cast iron or ceramic cookware rather than aluminium and non–stick
- Avoid cigarette smoke – first hand, second hand and third hand (chemical residue from smoking that accumulates in furniture/clothing)
- Support elimination via the skin through perspiration by exercise, saunas and skin brushing
- Support good kidney function by adequate hydration with water
- Increase the consumption of greens in the diet, especially the Brassica family – broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, cabbage, as these contain nutrients that support phase 2 detoxification in the liver
- High chlorophyll containing greens such as spirulina, chlorella, coriander, barley grass and broccoli sprouts may improve the excretion of toxins.
Good elimination pathways such as regular bowel motions are essential for supporting detoxification. Toxins can continue to re–enter circulation if not eliminated via regular bowel motions.
Diana Arundell is a university–qualified naturopath and consults from her Avoca Naturopath clinic. She has a special interest in fertility and pregnancy health, digestive health, immune function and family wellness programs. She was a nutrition lecturer at Macquarie University for 10 years, and is an accredited Journey Practitioner. For further information or to make an appointment please contact Diana Arundell at Avoca Naturopath on 0410 465 900.