About 100 years ago the United States saw an increase of food production and industrialization, and diseases were ‘one cause, one cure’ (e.g., typhoid fever). Fast-forward a few decades where chemicals and hormones are put in plants and animals for mass production and profit (especially with an increase in population), and a more sedentary lifestyle, treating or identifying the sole cause of diseases has become much more difficult as a result.
Fortunately, there are many strategies we can employ in our daily life to heal, and mitigate our risk for harmful outcomes. Naturopathic preventive medicine is becoming the new approach to cancer, heart disease, obesity, infertility, etc. as these diseases have become the norm. While we are living longer than a decade’s prior, we also tend to be sicker with a poor quality of life.
Americans have a shorter life expectancy than residents of other high-income countries (Li et al., 2018), perhaps much due to poor lifestyle habits, as well as common frustrations with our healthcare system.
Commonly, people feel like they’re treated like a number and not an actual person. Their insurance does not cover specific tests and medications, and all this disconnect dissuades people from going for their routine checkups. Routine checkups are important for disease prevention as they help catch health ailments before they can become severe.
In addition, genetics only makes up about 5-10% of our health destiny, so people who wish to learn how to be healthier and make actual changes, can prolong their life expectancy and enjoy a longer life. A recent study done by the American Heart Association concluded that Americans could live 14 years longer by doing these 5 things: not smoking, any form of exercise (walking included), keeping a normal body mass index (18-25), consuming a healthy diet, and moderate alcohol levels (no more than 1 drink per day for women, and 2 drinks for men).
The study further states that it doesn’t account for socioeconomic factors influencing someone’s lifestyle, yet emphasizes the importance of making lasting, sustainable changes (e.g., first stop smoking, then work on a diet), instead of taking on too much at once.
From a naturopathic preventive medicine perspective, making healthful lifestyle changes becomes more specific, as well as tailored to the person and their concerns, with the awareness that disease doesn’t occur overnight. These changes benefit where you are now and double as prevention.
Here are 7 preventive methods you can start doing today:
- Eating fresh whenever possible, filling half your plate with vegetables, especially nutritional powerhouses like dark leafy greens (e.g., spinach, chard, kale) and cruciferous vegetables (e.g., broccoli, cauliflower).
- Incorporate protein sources like beans, wild-caught fish, safely raised poultry and red meat, and healthy fats like avocado, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, and olive oil, all full of fiber and nutrients.
- No fried, processed foods, added sugars (read the label, especially words that end in –ose mean sugar), preservatives, or trans fats.
- Drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water per day, more if you exercise.
- Minimize alcohol intake as much as you can as alcohol makes us crave more unhealthy foods, disrupts our sleep, affects our mood, promotes weight gain, brings on type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
- Laugh every day as this boosts our immune system, makes the telomeres on our DNA longer (a symbol of longevity), and get to sleep by 10:30/11pm latest. Going to bed later keeps cortisol, our stress hormone, at dangerously high levels.
- The body makes the most melatonin (our most potent endogenous antioxidant) between 11pm-3am. We also need this time to renew and regenerate hormones, neurotransmitters, and other processes for optimal function.
Naturopathic preventive medicine or ‘Doctor as teacher’ is extremely important in current times as many people are still under the impression that one pharmaceutical or one natural supplement is going to change their health outcome. Understanding and treating all the possible causes help change the trajectory of how their dis-ease is going, from completely healing to helping ensure they live their longest and best life.
This great guest post was written by Dr. Serena Goldstein, a naturopathic doctor specializing in natural hormone balance! I encourage you to go check out her website!
Li, et. al. (2018)
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