WINNIPEG, MB. - The holiday season often comes with an over-indulgence of food and drink. Many people seek wellness advice after the holidays, as the arrival of a new year can provide a great opportunity to reset and establish better health habits. Some of the most common questions I hear after the holidays are about weight loss, cleansing, and detoxification. While many want to drop a few pounds in January, I like to look at a broader approach to achieving these goals. According to the World Health Organization, we need a balance of nutritional, physical, mental, and emotional health for optimum wellness.
Physical Health: When it comes to our physical health, the ultimate goal is to be able to perform the basic activities of daily living easily, without pain. We want to wake each morning with sustainable energy that lasts all day long, to be free of illness, and maintain a healthy body composition.
Weight Loss: For many people, achieving our ideal weight (or just losing that last 10 pounds) cannot be easily achieved through diet and exercise. Intermittent fasting, where you fast for one or two non-consecutive days each week, can make an incredible difference for weight management and overall health. Fasting has clinically proven benefits that include improving mental function and memory, preventing dementia, controlling blood sugar, and lowering IGF-1 (a protein highly associated with cancer). To learn more, I recommend the book "The Complete Guide to Fasting" by Jason Fung, M.D.
Cleansing: I am generally not an advocate of cleansing supplements. Our body has the innate ability to eliminate toxins, but unless our diet and lifestyle choices support these natural processes, our toxicity levels can increase, potentially contributing to a variety of health concerns. I recommend drinking a super green or red food powder on an empty stomach every morning. Combined rice bran solubles and water, this powerful mixture will help support the liver, our primary detoxification organ. In addition, probiotics and fibre supplements can assist the body's natural detoxification processes.
Healthy Diet: According to Bruce Ames, Ph.D., we need about 40 essential vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and amino acids each day. Missing a single nutrient can result in DNA damage that is the same as being exposed to radiation, and according to Ames' research is the cause of the four diseases of aging: cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia, and immune system dysfunction. I like Michael Pollan's advice, "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants." Avoid breaded meats, and foods that contain high fructose corn syrup. Eat fresh whole foods you have cooked (or you could cook). Include dietary supplements to ensure you get all the nutrients required each day.
Anti-Aging: Mitochondria are the "energy furnaces" of our cells. The mitochondrial free radical theory of aging outlines a process where normal cellular metabolism results in oxidative damage that is linked to aging. Dr. Ames found that a combination of alpha lipoic acid and acetyl-L-carnitine gave sedentary older rats the energy and vitality of young rats, with a reversal of brain loss. Other supplements that may reduce the effects of aging and increase lifespan include oxaloacetate, resveratrol, astragalus, berberine, and Pycnogenol.
Boosting Nitric Oxide: Nitric oxide (NO) is a gas produced by the lining of our blood vessels that regulates circulation. There isn't a single disease that is not affected by NO production, which is foundational to how the body works. NO stimulates the brain and supports the elimination of potential threats like bacteria, fungi, viruses, parasites, and other infectious agents. NO helps white blood cells defend against tumors and cancer cell proliferation, maintains gastric mucosal integrity, helps prevent ulcerative colitis, regulates blood pressure, controls blood flow, and plays an important role in our sense of smell.
The supplements Neo40, Pycnogenol, and quercetin can enhance the production of NO. You can boost NO levels by consuming vegetables high in nitrates, including spinach, kale, arugula, Swiss chard, and beets. Foods rich in nitrates, along with a multivitamin, omega 3, and vitamin K2 supplement should be part of everyone's nutritional program.
Reducing Inflammation: Inflammation is often caused by chronic low-grade infections that we may not notice, often occurring in the mouth. This type of inflammation depresses the immune system, increasing susceptibility to colds and flu, and is associated with most age-related diseases, including heart disease, prostate enlargement and infection, and some forms of cancer (lung, kidney, prostate, oral, and pancreatic). As it accelerates the aging process, this type of inflammation is called "inflammaging." I have seen the complete reversal of periodontal disease with a combination of the oral probiotic saccharomyces salivarius (BLIS K12), a well-designed toothbrush, regular flossing, a proxy brush to remove interproximal plaque, and an oral irrigator. In addition, you can help reduce inflammation by sleeping on an earthing sheet, avoiding inflammatory foods containing omega-6 fats and sugar, and with anti-inflammatory dietary supplements like curcumin, boswellia, coenzyme Q10, and omega-3 essential fatty acids.
Supporting the Microbiome: The billions of beneficial or "good" bacteria that live on our body and in our digestive tract are critical to the production of enzymes and absorption of nutrients from our food. They play a key role in balancing our hormones, improving gut health, keeping our immune system strong (70% of our immune system is in the gut), and preventing disease. You can increase the good bacteria which make up our microbiome by eating fermented foods and taking probiotic supplements.
Mental Health: While exercise is an integral part of attaining good physical health, it's also important in achieving optimal mental health. In older adults, aerobic exercise performed three times a week for a year resulted in improved memory tests. Lifting weights helps improve problem-solving and multitasking. I recommend a 30-minute brisk walk once or twice each day and a combination of aerobic and resistance exercise. Getting less than 7 hours of sleep each night is associated with an elevated risk of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.
Emotional Health: Taking up yoga, learning to meditate, the study of mindfulness, controlled deep breathing techniques, and having a sense of purpose in life that focuses on bringing happiness or pleasure to others, can all help improve emotional health. Vibroacoustic therapy is an exciting brainwave entrainment treatment proven to reduce stress, increase energy, and aid in relaxation and sleep. Research indicates it is effective at improving cardiovascular health, building bone density, and reducing the symptoms of fibromyalgia and Alzheimer's disease.
By making healthy choices and incorporating some manageable lifestyle changes into our daily routine, we can lose weight, cleanse toxins, boost energy, and make improvements to our health that will last all year long.
Nathan Zassman for the Manitoba Post
Photo courtesy of Twitter
Nathan Zassman is the owner and president of Aviva Natural Health Solutions.