Thursday 19 January 2023

The basics

Someone recently asked me if there is one thing that I recommend to all of my clients to support good health. This is an interesting question because if we consider that there are 8 billion people, with trillions of possible genetic variations, in a wide variety of environments, making each of us unique then it is clear that there cannot be a 'one size fits all' answer. However, there are some common recommendations that I make for wellness, and these are in essence the basis of my workshops.

All bodies have evolved to survive. To thrive. To heal. Our internal systems work tirelessly to anabolise and catabolise: simple biological processes which synthesise and break down molecules in an effort to create cellular energy. The molecules that we breathe, eat, drink and put on our skin are processed, metabolised and detoxified in an elegant cycle. Certain things slow the efficiency of these processes. I would largely break these down into: 

  • Poor diet (low nutrient status)
  • Lack of exercise (low oxygen status)
  • Inability to manage stress (including lack of purpose, passion and joy)
  • Environmental toxins (including pharmaceutical and recreational drugs)

So, going back to the original question, how can we broadly support health? 


Good health is undeniably reliant on a strong and diverse microbiome - an internal ecosystem made up of trillions of microbes. Each area of the body has its own subset of beneficial bacteria which work for us, digesting food, balancing cholesterol, regulating irons levels, synthesising vitamins, moderating tissue pH, manufacturing hormones and more. These microbes respond to the body's internal terrain. When we feed them, they thrive, therefore we thrive. They love fibre, so eating an unprocessed diet rich in seasonal vegetables and local fruit, plus nuts, seeds and pulses is beneficial. 

Beyond the microbiome, a rainbow coloured diet provides us with a multitude of vitamins, minerals and nutraceuticals - compounds which support all body functions. This is unsurprising when you consider that we have evolved alongside our food sources. For example berries are rich in polyphenols which can modulate the intestinal microbiota, support heart health, improve hormonal detoxification and more. Apply this nature-magic to a broad spectrum of wholefoods and you have a natural medicine cabinet on your plate, but without negative side effects. 

Hydration is crucial for good health since our cells require water to communicate, transport nutrients and detoxify. In the west particularly, we have been intoxicated by energy drinks, sugary smoothies, tea and coffee: anything but pure water. Consistent hydration brings clarity and energy, but for this to occur many of us need to relearn the thirst response. An easy tip is to set an hourly alarm throughout the day, drinking 8oz of clean water each time it goes off. Observe how you feel after a week - are headaches diminished? Do you feel less bloated? Are you sleeping better? I recommend getting a good filter to avoid common toxins; fluoride, chlorine, hormones, pharmaceuticals and microbes. I love my Aquasana whole house water filter, but Berkey countertop filters are also great for purifying drinking water. Adding a pinch of sea salt, the juice of half a lemon and 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar to the first glass of water on waking delivers electrolytes, expediting cellular hydration.


An oxygenated body is a healthy body. A daily exercise practice which increases heart rate and leaves you out of breath for 25 minutes will oxygenate the cells, move blood and lymph and improve heart health. Ideally some resistance training is strengthening for bones, particularly as we age. I recommend exercising in nature, since sunshine supports the production of endorphins, those happy hormones which help us to cope with stress. We have evolved within the natural biome - it feeds us in invisible ways from beneficial negative ions to commensal (helpful) bacteria. 


When supporting clients with cancer or other chronic illnesses, I often start by asking if there is joy and purpose. Why do you want to live? This simple question is fundamental to healing, particularly from diseases which have the potential to highlight our mortality. When we sink into joy, laugh freely, allow love and follow passions, the body heals. If we examine this from a chemical perspective we see that joy is the antidote to stress. Happiness hormones lower inflammation and counter the production of those stress hormones which would seek to keep us alive short term, but in doing so impair digestion, immune response and hormone balance.  Become aware of your stress triggers and the language you use around them. Managing stress can be as simple as starting a daily mindful breathing practice; concentrating on inhaling deeply through the nose into the diaphragm and slowly exhaling through the mouth.


When it comes to environmental toxins the best thing we can do is reduce burden. Read labels and avoid known toxins in beauty products: phthalates, parabens and BPA to name a few. Choose natural products without aluminium or microplastics. Think about your exposure to chemicals in the home and garden; paint fumes, cleaning and gardening products. Choose paints with low VOCs (volatile organic compounds) like Little Greene's water based products. 

With regards to pharmaceuticals I certainly never recommend stopping cold turkey, but it IS important to look at root cause: why have you been prescribed long-term medication and how could this be impacting your overall health? PPIs (proton pump inhibitors) for example lower hydrochloric acid in the gut which can have far-reaching negative downstream effects. Addressing ill-health by looking at root cause often means that we can reduce or even stop taking pharmaceuticals.

Directly supporting the liver, our main organ of detoxification, is wise. Reducing sugar is one of the first things I regularly recommend since refined sugar consumption over time leads to fatty liver, diminishing this vital organ's ability to detoxify the body from chemicals, hormones, heavy metals, histamine, alcohol and drugs. 

Beyond these things, I believe that the fastest route to health is to become reacquainted with your own body. As children we learn to respond to a full bladder or bowel; we understand when we are hungry or need to sleep. As adults we have not learned to interpret more subtle cues which indicate a physical need. We often seek the dopamine hit of caffeine or sugar rather than honestly acknowledging the body's requests for nutrients or rest.

Re-learning the language of the body is a beautiful thing, and all you need to do is tune in and trust yourself: how do you feel when you eat gluten, dairy, or sugar? How about after alcohol or stimulants? Do you have cravings? What is your body asking for, and why? Do you notice changes in the way your body odour? Do you know how to rest and stop? Reconnecting with the body brings an ability to support the physical alongside the mental and emotional aspects of living. 

If this information feels overwhelming, naturopaths, nutritional therapists or functional doctors can guide you in this re-learning and responding to the signs and symptoms from your unique body.

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