The 8 Foundational Elements of Health

By on February 14, 2012 under Functional Medicine, The 8 Essentials of Health

Without these elements, your body can’t function optimally. If you don’t give your body what it needs, the systems of the body will get out of balance, symptoms will occur, then disease will develop. Think of symptoms as the body’s signal that something is wrong.  Medications treat the symptoms, not the underlying cause. Medications often block the body’s normal processes, creating more imbalance. That is why despite taking an average of 12 prescription medications per person (US data from 2004), we are getting sicker from chronic disease.

1) Oxygen/breathing – Breathing is a simple tool that you can use to decrease muscle tension, lower blood pressure,  increase good hormones such as Human Growth Hormone, and lower the stress hormone cortisol. Do the relaxing breath exercise before you get out of bed, at the end of your lunch hour, and as you are going to sleep. And do this exercise whenever you feel stressed.

The 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) Exercise
This exercise is simple, takes very little time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere.

Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.

Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.

Hold your breath for a count of seven.

Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.

This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

2) Water – Your body is made up of 60% water. Water helps to cleanse and filter the toxins out of your system.  The best indicator of adequate intake is to drink enough water so that the urine is light yellow. Drink water throughout the day and eliminate sodas, colored water (gatorade, etc…), and energy drinks.

3) Nutrient-rich foods– Think of food as fuel for your body (“garbage in gives you garbage out”). Hippocrates said it best, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. Food is the most underutilized tool used by physicians. Much more blogging to come on nutrition.  Best rule of thumb, “Eat food that comes from a plant, not food made in a plant.”

4) Sleep – Sleep is when your body repairs itself and repairs your DNA, the genetic material that programs you for developing disease. Lack of sleep is associated with cancer, heart disease, obesity, osteoporosis and diabetes. Adults should strive for 7-8 hours of sleep in order to promote optimal health.

5) Relaxation – there are many ways to promote relaxation – prayer, meditation, exercise, Tai Chi or yoga, laughter, and massage to name a few. Like sleep, relaxation techniques also decrease stress hormones which cause high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, obesity, and osteoporosis. Take at least 15 minutes per day for relaxation.

6) Sunshine stimulates the skin to produce vitamin D, a powerful steroid hormone that is a major player in overall health and well-being. Deficiency of this essential hormone has been linked to diabetes, cancer, obesity, multiple sclerosis, dementia, and osteoporosis. The majority of your vitamin D comes from sunshine and a small amount from food. Ten minutes of sunshine per day with arms and legs exposed is the best way to boost your vitamin D levels. The best way to find out how much vitamin D you need is to get your vitamin D levels checked with a simple blood test. A good starting amount to take as a supplement is Vitamin D3 2,000 IU daily.

7) Movement: We all need to move more. Our sedentary lifestyles are a significant contributor to the chronic disease epidemic. Similar to above, lack of exercise increases risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and dementia. Shoot for 30-60 minutes per day of either aerobic exercise, flexibility, or strength training.

8 ) Attitude –There is much evidence that a positive attitude is associated with better health.

  • Gratitude: If you start each day thinking about the reasons you are grateful, your attitude will change.
  • Forgiveness: Holding anger or resentment towards others only hurts you. Forgiveness is something you do for yourself not for others. Gandhi said it best… “The weak can never forgive, forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.”
  • Surrender: We can’t control others and we often can’t control our circumstances so let go of those things.
  • Purpose: Find your purpose in this life. What are you passionate about? What gives you joy? What do you feel you were created to do?
  • Love: We are created for relationships. Be present with the important people in your life. Bad relationships create chronic stress so work on creating positive and loving relationships.