It’s a new year, and you’re ready to make it your healthiest one yet! Here are 4 strategies to kickstart your health in 2015:
1. Clean up your diet.
Out with the bad, in with the good! That means tossing out toxic, gut-irritating foods like sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and foods that are non-organic, processed, or GMO. Your food should nourish you; the more processed or refined a food is, the fewer nutrients it contains. Replace the junk with real, whole foods such as organic grass-fed meats, organic fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats like avocado and coconut oil.
These nutrient-dense foods will give you what you need to feel refreshed and energized all year long:
- Quality proteins: wild-caught fish, organic grass-fed beef, pork, and lamb, organic pasture-raised poultry, wild game
- Complex carbohydrates: sweet potatoes, winter squashes, and other fruits and vegetables
- Healthy fats: avocados, coconut oil, fish, full-fat coconut milk, olives
Make it your goal to eat organic, non-GMO food whenever possible. If that sounds overwhelming, try replacing just one or two foods each week. Reference this organic foods shopping guide from the EWG to help you prioritize.
2. Repair Your Gut.
Your health is rooted in your gut. If you have a healthy gut, you’re probably pretty healthy overall. On the other hand, if you find yourself getting sick often, have seasonal allergies, or have a chronic illness such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, or an autoimmune disease, then your gut most likely needs some attention.
That’s because 80% of your immune system is located in your gut. It’s the place in your body that interacts with the outside world more than any other. Its job is to decide what comes into your body (nutrients), and what stays out (bacteria, parasites, waste). When your gut becomes “leaky” and unable to differentiate, it can lead to health problems ranging from stomach pain and bloating all the way to rheumatoid arthritis, depression, and thyroid disease.
In functional medicine, we use a simple approach called the 4R Program to heal the gut naturally:
- Remove the bad: gut infections (Candida overgrowth, SIBO, and parasites), inflammatory foods (gluten, corn, dairy, soy, and other foods you are sensitive to), and gastric irritants (alcohol, caffeine, and certain medications).
- Replace what’s missing: nutrient-dense foods, digestive enzymes, and other ingredients for proper digestion.
- Reinoculate with beneficial bacteria to restore balance in your gut.
- Repair the gut lining with healing foods like bone broth or supplements such as Leaky Gut Revive™, aloe vera, and omega 3 fish oils.
Reduce Your Toxic Burden
Have you ever considered how many chemicals you interact with each day? From the pesticides in conventionally grown food to the synthetic ingredients in your makeup, each one is a drop in the bucket that is your toxic burden. Some people are better at eliminating toxins than others, but if you feel sluggish and fatigued, have joint pain and weakness, or suffer from an autoimmune disease or other chronic illness, you’re in need of a detox!
Dietary intake of pesticides, in children especially, accounts for most pesticide exposure. Organic food actually reduces pesticide buildup in your body, and helps to cleanse you of toxic residue. You can also reduce your exposure to heavy metals by eating fish that have a lower heavy metal content.
According to the EPA, the average person spends more than 90% of their time indoors. Considering that indoor levels of air pollutants can be 2-5 times higher than they are outside, filtering your air with a HEPA filter is one big change you could start right away.
We absorb water internally as we drink it, but we also absorb water through our skin. In order to avoid potential heavy metals or other contaminants in water, I personally drink and shower in filtered water. In my home I use Aquasana whose filters are designed to remove heavy metals, chlorine, chloramines, pesticides, and herbicides.
Replacing some of your cleaning products and cookware with non-toxic versions is one great way to reduce your body’s toxic burden. Try making one little change each day, week, or month. Your home will be toxin-free before you know it!
4. Reduce Your Stress.
You might think of stress as “all in your head,” but it affects your body in a number of big ways. Think about it: when you feel stressed, you feel it in your body. You tense up, your breathing changes, and your heart rate speeds up. If you were in immediate danger, that adrenaline rush would be helpful and would subside once you were safe. But it’s the chronic, low-level stress from work, traffic jams, and lack of sleep that can have consequences including weight gain, susceptibility to illness, and even autoimmune conditions.
When I interviewed 39 experts for The Autoimmune Summit last November, this point was echoed again and again: removing or reducing the stress in your life is crucial for preventing and treating autoimmune disease. Your body simply can’t repair itself when your cells are in overdrive.
Let go of stress this year. Parcel out some time each day for yourself with that goal in mind. Adopt a low-intensity exercise practice like yoga, walking, or hiking. Try a guided meditation, or take just 15 minutes to enjoy a comforting cup of herbal tea.