"You can't control what goes on outside, but you CAN control what goes on inside"
We have all heard the cliche, "we are nothing without our health," yet most of us take it for granted. According to a recent study published in USA Today, the average American spends 18,000 a year on non-essentials. Many of these purchases detract, or at the very least distract, from leading a happy and healthy lifestyle.
So if health is numero uno, why is it we seem to prioritize so many other things above it?
The truth is we live in a culture of band-aids, quick fixes, and prescriptions. Health is something we kick down the road in exchange for "selfless" acts to the benefit of others. We tell ourselves it's important, but "not today" or "when I have time."
But, sooner or later the proverbial "tin can" hits a dead end. What now?
We react. We call the doctor. We get serious dammit!
But how much damage (and money) could have been prevented from the start were we just to pay attention to our bodies?
Some experts estimate 90 percent of what ails us can be fixed without a doctor's visit, surgery, or trendy prescription. And while there is a plethora of research to support this, as long as healthcare makes up 20 percent of the GDP don't expect to see much of it in the mainstream.
Now, before you start to write me off as some hippy-dippy wacko, think about our ancestors for a second. Do you think they sat around fires popping pre-meal pills for heartburn, post-meal pills for restless legs, and pre-snooze pills to fall asleep?
It's as if we are starting from a premise these days that the most sophisticated and resilient species, one that has thrived for millions of years, is now inherently flawed.
In fact, you don't even have to go that far back in history to see the drastic change in health management. Just ninety years ago (the age of one elderly person) most of the health conditions in the diagnostic manuals of today didn't even exist. Yet now, according to the CDC, 6 in 10 US adults live with one or more chronic diseases.
So what has happened to us and how can we hack back our health?
Let's look at five well researched and proven tactics to prevent and even fight off infections, disease, and illness.
1. It starts with the gut
Sixty-five to seventy percent of our white blood cells lay just beyond a thin protective lining in the stomach. This means that the majority of immune health starts and stops with the gut!
Unfortunately for us, many of the processed foods that make up our modern diet wreck this lining and cause toxins to easily invade the body. Two of the biggest culprits are gluten and high fructose corn syrup. These ingredients attack the lining of the stomach, setting up an inflammatory response. Inflammation is an immune destructor and the start of a multitude of diseases and illnesses. Eat a lot of processed foods and know that you could be lowering your immune response by up to 70 percent!
Fortunately, you can build this lining back up and even bolster your gut health. One of the more popular ways to do this is something called the GAPS diet. The GAPS diet was popularized in 2010 by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride after researching a theory she later dubbed "leaky gut syndrome." Just as the name would suggest, leaky gut syndrome is characterized by a damaged lining of the stomach leaching toxins into the body. The GAPS diet works by removing harmful grains and sugars while introducing high volumes of healthy fats and probiotics. It works in phases and over time so you can begin to reintroduce much of the food you used to enjoy.
Things to Try for Gut Health: GAPS Diet, Kombucha, Probiotics
[I have done the GAPS diet twice for a month and have noticed a tremendous benefit! For me it seems to work as a yearly reset when I start to notice more fatigue, bloating, uncomfortable stomach aches and pains etc. after eating. After a month or so of the diet, I go back to normal eating patterns with far less discomfort. For more info on the GAPS diet visit http://www.gapsdiet.com/]
2. The power of the cold shower
The power of the cold shower is by no means new. The ancient Greeks noted that they continued to take cold baths, despite having invented climate control, simply because the health benefit outweighed the creature comfort.
In recent years cold showers have garnered more popularity due in part to the research and popularity of the Wim Hof Method.
Wim Hof, aka "the iceman", is a Dutch athlete that has shattered Guinness World Records for feats of endurance and long term cold exposure. Hof garnered worldwide attention in 2007 when he climbed Everest in nothing but shorts and shoes. He's since been studied by scientists and researchers and featured on Joe Rogan's podcast, The Discovery Network, Goop Lab with Gwyneth Paltrow, and was the subject of journalist Scott Carney's best-selling book What Doesn't Kill Us.
Hof discovered, by mistake actually, that a combination of diaphragmatic breathwork and cold exposure helped reduce stress, improve health, and even control the immune response.
Research and studies later showed that his method works because it builds up brown fat in the body. We have two types of fat: one is good and the other bad. Brown fat, or adipose tissue, is the good fat and we've largely removed it from our bodies in the modern world.
Brown fat is like fuel for the body and it burns quickly. Studies show that as we build brown fat reserves we build immunity, increase testosterone, and even lose weight through increased calorie burn!
Tips for Taking Cold Showers:
Treat it Like You Do a Workout - Know it's going to be hard, it's not fun, but if you push through it you will feel great afterward.
Start Warm and Finish Cold - They get easier over time. At first, it's downright unbearable so start warm and aim to finish cold.
Do 20 Deep Squats First - Build up some increased body temp
Breath rapidly from your diaphragm. This will start to warm you up.
Treat it like "Holding a Sneeze" - Much of this is mind over matter. Many of us can't hold a sneeze, but we all have done it before when the moment requires it. Don't think, just do!
"Our breathing has the ability to enlighten and activate any physiological mechanism in conscious control" - Wim Hof
Every relaxation, calming, and meditation method incorporates focused breathing. We also know that breath is essential to living.
So why don't we focus on it more often?
The ancient Hindu's and Yogi's called it "prana" or "the life force". They deeply focused on their breath and were students of its benefits.
Today we often coach kids on breathing to calm them down. Yet, as adults, we for some reason see these same exercises as futile. We take it for granted.
Yet, we've become shallow breathing animals and almost never breathe deeply enough to properly oxygenate our brain, body, and muscles.
While there is no shortage of benefits for breathwork, possibly the most profound benefit is immune health. The more we breathe that life into our bodies the better our bodies function.
Stress is the number one cause of disease and illness. So in addition to the physical benefit of breathing, you also reduce your risk of illness via the ultimate stress reducer: breath.
4. Stress control
"Powerful and mighty is the human mind. It builds or it destroys" - Napoleon Hill
As stated, the greatest contributor to disease and poor health is stress. Our bodies are constantly giving us warning signs and alarms that we largely ignore. Stress comes in all shapes and forms so it's nearly impossible to pinpoint the origin at times. However, proper diet, exercise, and the use of our finely tuned senses will largely fix it in any form.
In a 2017 documentary film called Heal, the filmmakers interviewed top holistic healers from around the world. All of them agreed on one thing. At the forefront of healing is the mind.
One of the best ways to use your mind to its fullest healing potential is to tune back into that warning and alarm system.
Use your five senses to evaluate how you are treating, feeding, and relieving stress. As a general rule of thumb, if something tastes bad, smells bad, or causes a bad reaction in your body then it's not good for you.
The same can be said for nearly all the choices we make in life. If we tune in to ALL FIVE and not just one of our senses, chances are we will make decisions that will lead to happiness and health!
Supplements, as the name would imply, are only meant to be added to a diet that is missing the right amount currently. That said, certain things are hard to come by in the foods we eat or in the quantities we consume.
So, let's look at some well researched and proven supplements that aid in immune health.
Zinc - Zinc has been found to help produce and activate T-Cells. T-Cells help the body fight off infections. The more T-cells are activated, the quicker and easier your body can fight off an infection.
Vitamin C - Vitamin C is an antioxidant that reduces inflammation. Remember inflammation is often the start of disease. (This is why we are always told to take Vitamin C ahead of feeling a cold coming on.)
Vitamin D - Vitamin D helps with maintaining the production of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. The sun will normally produce this effect, but often we don't get enough sunlight. Blood rich in calcium and phosphorus aids in helping fight infection.
Elderberry - Elderberry is full of anti-inflammatory agents and ingredients that aid in probiotic health. Elderberry is often on the anti-viral and anti-infection list of home remedies.
Kombucha- Kombucha is a fermented green tea and is one of the best sources out there for a jolt of probiotics. Not only is it rich is probiotic, but it's also full of antioxidants.
Hack it all together
Remember, we all have the benefit of being at the very top of the animal hierarchy. Our ancestors, and the other species that inhabited this earth, did not need 90% of the stuff we willingly bring into our life.
Spend a little time tuning in and tuning up your body and see how much you can actually fix yourself. Pick one of the 5 bio-hacks above to research and start there. To help make it fun, turn it into a challenge or grant yourself a spending allowance that you steal from the nonessential spending bucket! Work your way through these five tips and you'll find your inner happiness, health, and strength!
Challenge: Pick the GAPS diet, cold shower, or Wim Hof method and try it for 21 days! Send a message to one friend to do it with you. If you can't find a willing participant challenge me to something for 21 days. Message me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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