(Podcast #2 Transcript)
If you feel like the world of health has become overcomplicated, noisy, confusing and overwhelming then listen up. My intention for this episode is to help give you a fresh perspective, some freedom from the noise and start getting you into the driving seat.
I’m going to share with you my six guiding principles for starting to understand the health of your body, mind and spirit. These are all drawn from my own personal experience, the experience of working with others and the fields of Functional Medicine, ancestral health, ancient systems such as Ayurveda , and the longevity blue zones of the world. I’ll share a bit more on these later….
What I’ve found is that despite the copious amounts of knowledge and wisdom out there from various fields, there are some basic common themes that consistently come out, and actually they’re all pretty common sense.
Ok so here we go…
Principle Number 1: We are designed by nature to be healthy and to thrive
We are simply disconnected. Mental and physical challenges, chronic diseases, and age related conditions are not, I repeat not, natural or inevitable. I used to think they are because it’s what I saw happening all around me, and I think it’s also a belief that our society perpetuates.
Be aware that common is not the same as normal (or natural). Last year I overheard two women talking in a cafe. One said that her memory is going and she cant concentrate, she talked about dreading giving presentations at work and how she feels incompetent. And the other actually said to her “well you know it’s downhill after 40 isn’t it”? And I could tell it wasn’t a joke, she really meant it. Whilst its not my usual style I just had to intervene and set them straight. I really just couldn’t help myself. And we ended up having an interesting and enjoyable conversation.
The point is we are not designed to be that way. We are living in a way that we are not as humans designed for. It’s that disconnect which causes most of our common, modern day heath & wellbeing challenges.
Let's consider wild animals for a moment. Wild animals in general don’t suffer with illnesses humans suffer with. Things like diabetes, cancers, dementia, anxiety and depression etc. The only animals that do are our pets and zoo animals. Why do you think that is?
Zoos actually now do their best to mimic the natural diet and environment to keep the animals well, although in may cases its still not enough and we often see animals in captivity displaying mental health & behaviourally related issues. This is basically due to their un-natural environment. I’m recording this episode in Bali where there are many stray dogs and they get fed by locals and tourists but most of the food is human food (and some of it isn’t even real human food, its processed crap)…..as a result many of them have fat bellies and joint problems and mobility issues.
If we give our body and mind the internal and external environments they need to function optimally, we see the results: your energy flows freely through your body. Your brain is alert and your mind feels clear. You feel really in the zone, present, in flow. You feel strong, confident and good in your own skin, with mental, physical and emotional stamina, and resilience against the demands and pressures of life. You also look better, you age slower, you avoid disease oh and you also have better sex.
It’s totally possible to live to 100 or more with vitality. We see this in the Longevity Blue Zones which are five areas of the world where an unusually high proportion of people are living healthily and happy to their 90’s, 100 and beyond. Cutting a long story short they basically live in alignment with their natural human design.
The Human longevity project is a brilliant series which explores this and I'll add a link into the show notes in case you want to explore it.
Principle Number 2: Everything has a root cause
Plus there can also be different root causes for the same symptom in different people. This is one of the key principles of Functional Medicine, which is sometimes called unconventional medicine, but I prefer to call it common sense.
In relation to how long humans have been around modern medicine is a very very recent thing. And yes its amazing if you have a heart attack or an accident or a severe infection, and that’s really what its designed for, but it is not designed for preventing or treating lifestyle and environmentally driven challenges that millions (or to be honest even billions of people now, are now facing. It focuses on treating the symptoms, usually with medications, and in isolation.
We are not “broken”, although certain marketers and the pharmaceutical industry in particular sometimes try and convince you otherwise. Remember - there’s a lot of money being made and to continue being made from illness;
“Oh you have a problem here take a pill” (which may I add is likely to have side effects and cause other issues) Or “well its just one of those things there’s no treatment”.
How about we ask “oh you have a symptom let’s find the root cause and look to address that naturally”.
I always seek to understand and question why, get to the root cause, and I encourage you to do the same.
I’ll give you a few personal examples that I've experienced myself.
I used to suffer with Eczema. It was mainly on my face and at its worse it created embarrassment, shame and discomfort. The doctors gave me steroid cream, gradually increasing the strength. They told me it was nothing to do with diet or gut. Then once I changed my diet, reduced my stress and healed my gut, my skin cleared up and thankfully its remained so.
I was taking painkillers for aching joints and headaches. But the root cause of this was inflammation, caused by physical and emotional stress. Painkillers are also gut disruptors (and I'll be covering this in future episode). When I healed my gut and reduced the inflammation in my body the symptoms went away. And aside from a few occasions I haven’t used pharmaceutical painkillers for several years now.
The Heartburn and acid reflux I used to suffer with. So I did what most people do and I took acid blockers like Rennie, or Gaviscon tablets, which are another gut disruptor by the way). When I changed my diet and added more acid into my stomach (yes, I said more), the symptoms went away.
Principle Number 3: All aspects of health are interconnected
And influenced by various different things, therefore we require a holistic and integrated approach. This is another principle of Functional Medicine. It’s also a key principle of Ayurveda, the 5000 year old medicine system of India which seeks to treat and integrate the body, mind, and spirit using a comprehensive holistic approach. The other key principle is that the mind is powerful enough to heal the body.
A good example of this is the mind - body connection. We have something called the gut brain axis. Whats happening in our gut can effect our brain and vice versa. Feelings of Anxiety for example are very much influenced by the health of our gut, and anxiety created in our mind can cause intestinal problems such as IBS symptoms. We all know what it feels like if we are maybe nervous about an exam or anything and we can start to get tummy problems. That is a perfect example of the gut brain axis and the mind body connection. Gut health effects how well our brain functions and vice versa. Past trauma can manifest as physical disease. And so forth.
We are beings. Human beings. We consist of the physical, mental and spiritual. And It’s all completely connected.
Principle Number 4: Personalisation is key
When people ask me questions about what’s “healthy” or whether a particular thing is healthy, my most common answer is two words “IT DEPENDS”. You’re not one of two things - healthy or unhealthy. The quality of our health is just somewhere on a scale.
Now whilst there are some basic principles that apply to us as humans - being connected to our natural design, like eating natural real food for example, when we get into the detail, what works well for one person may work very differently for someone else. It very much DEPENDS on the person in terms of what’s currently going on in their body and mind, their genetics & heritage, and also what they’re trying to achieve.
If everyone realised this there wouldn’t be all the arguing about whats right/wrong good/bad, healthy/unhealthy. Particularly when it comes to diet and exercise. Theres so many arguments out there about go Keto, go vegan, be carnivore, be paleo. The list goes on, but there is no one perfect answer
Allow me to give a few examples:
So take an athlete vs a non athlete. If an athlete is wanting to get a gold medal, then every single little thing they do is going to influence that. The difference between a gold ad a silver can be a fraction of a second. Now if yore not an athlete and your goal is just to be well you’re not necessarily going to need to be as particular and strict as an athlete might be
Another example is we all have different gut microbiomes. The microbiome is the collection of microorganisms, bacteria etc in our body, so when we talk about gut microbiome this is the collection of microorganisms in our gut. Now using myself as an example, if I eat beans, like kidney beans, or whole grains my body reacts with aching joints, brain fog, gastrointestinal distress. This is because of the lectins and other anti-nutrients in the husk and skin. A lot of people also suffer with this and don’t even realise, if your gut microbiome is sensitive to these things. We can actually test ourselves now to find out what foods are ideal and not ideal for our own microbiome. Im going to talk more about this and other testing in a future episode.
Another example is taking probiotics and prebiotics. We hear a lot about how its important to get plenty of these for our gut microbiome, and this is true in general BUT this is not a good idea if for example, you are one of the people who have SIBO (which is small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).
Fruit’s good right? Well not if you have overgrowth of candida in your body or are trying to reverse type 2 diabetesExercise - yes certain types of exercise are highly beneficial for our health, unless you are burning out and have issues with your adrenal function. In the case exercise may be causing way more damage.
Finally fermented foods - you know saurkraut, kimchi, kombucha etc. These are great unless you have issues with your gut bacteria or are one of the 10% or so of people who have some degree of histamine intolerance.
So hopefully this demonstrates how what can be great for one person can be not great for another and very much depends on what’s going on with them.
When it comes to working out your ideal diet I plan to create a future episode and material dedicated to helping you do this, so watch this space.
Be very aware as well of people who tell you there is an absolute right and wrong way to do something, or they make recommendations without really understanding where you are at, your challenges and your goals. It comes from a good place I’m sure but its usually a case of “this works for me” and therefore its the “absolute truth” and is good for all. Or perhaps they are trying to sell you something, not caring whether it’s a positive thing for you or not. I think this applies to everything, not just health.
Before I move on to principle 5, just a very quick point on genes:
Our health is not controlled by genetics. Whilst our genes do play a role, it is mainly the environment we provide for our cells, which is driven by various factors in our life. This determines how well we are in general, and also whether we develop an illness or not. This is called Epigenetics. So, it can be helpful to understand our own genes so that we can personalise our diet, lifestyle and environment further. In fact theres a book called Dirty Genes by Dr Ben Lynch which is a great book if you really wanted to go deep on this. Also our mind and emotions can have a dramatic impact on our cellular health and the expression of our genes. Two people I’ve learn the most from in this subject and have massive respect for are Dr Joe Dispenza and Dr Bruce Lipton. It’s really fascinating stuff.
Principle Number 5: There's no quick fix
Symptoms are usually a result of a cumulative effect of lifestyle habits and our physical and social environments over time. You don’t go to bed as a vibrant, glowing and confident human, and then wake up the following day an achey depressed anxious wreck, three stone heavier.
You also aren’t born this way.
It just creeps up on us and we slowly get used to how we feel and then we often accept it as the “norm”. To be honest it was only when I experienced what great feels like that truly I realised how crap I had felt before. It often takes years or even decades to get to the condition we are in and therefore to get out of it it’s going to require daily commitment. It’s a journey, and being healthy is just that, and it’s a way of being. It’s a lifestyle.
And whilst the journey may take some time, it only takes a moment to make a decision to change.
Let’s say you’re going on a long journey in a car. It firstly matters how you fuel it. So if you put vegetable oil or soda into a car it won’t work properly (and the same applies for humans actually but thats for future episodes)
The second thing is it really matters how you drive it, how you treat and maintain it. If you’re going full throttle in a gear thats too low, causing wear and damage to the parts, and don’t take any time to maintain it. You don’t clean the bird poop off and so the paintwork rusts. You don’t change the oil. You let the fuel run to almost empty and on the verge of zero before you top up again. You don’t pay attention and miss obstacles on the road. How difficult will that journey be? How enjoyable will it be? How many things will go wrong? How many times will you break down? And what condition will the car be when (or even if) it gets to where you’re headed?
You get the picture right?
Principle Number 6: Ultimately you know whats best for you, better than anyone else does
This is the sixth and final but really important principle. And you can learn to be the master of your health. Sure you might need information and guidance and support to actually make change happen, but ultimately deep down you know what’s best for your body, and mind, better than anyone else does. It’s just a matter of tapping into it, listening, and really trusting it.
In my experience, this applies to all areas of life and is particularly true when it comes to issues related to the mind and emotions. Deep down we actually know whats positive for us and what isn’t, but I think to varying degrees we’ve lost that deep connection to ourselves and simultaneously we attach greater significance to what others think is what’s best for us which is so disempowering.
Why is it we often trust everyone else opinion above our own?
I'm thinking it’s because we’ve been taught to believe from an early age through parents, teachers, and other authority figures. If I think of the number of times I heard my parents or teachers telling me what to do or commanding me “do as you’re told” it kind of makes sense.
We also attach a lot of significance to what others think or might think of us. Its that pesky fear of judgement.
This is part of a massive wider topic that I’m really passionate about and so I will be covering this stuff at some point in the future.
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Thank you for listening and have a vibrant day