We’ve never had such a clear understanding of how powerfully factors like food, activity, sleep, stress, and environment affect our health. Here are what we see as some of the most important concepts over the past few years – and why we think they’ll continue to matter.
This is a synopsis of a an article by Experience Life Magazine for you to enjoy.
- Friendly Fat
Most of us were raised to fear fat. We were steered toward lean cuts of meat, egg-white omelets, and dry toast. For a while there, many of us even avoided nuts, seeds, and avocados – afraid their relatively high fat and calorie content would contribute to weight gain.Yet, a growing body of research shows that virtually all fats in their natural form – including the saturated fat found in butter, eggs, and red meat – can help build healthy metabolism and support key biochemical processes, including optimal cell, nerve, and brain function.
Our collective fear of fat started in the 1940s with physiologist Ancel Keys. Based on some flawed research, he hypothesized that dietary fat lay at the root of cardio-vascular disease. The U.S. government quickly codified Keys’s recommendations into nutritional guidelines.
The prepared-food industry, which saw a huge opportunity, rushed into the marketplace with an array of processed, low-fat products. Most were high in refined carbs, which have now been proven to fuel both inflammation and obesity.
- Microbiome MattersWe are each a veritable ship of microbes, and without their help, we’d be sunk. This thriving ecosystem that each of our bodies hosts – referred to collectively as our microbiome – is made up of 100 trillion bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa. They outnumber our human cells 10 to one.
Not so long ago, we thought most of these microbes were hostile invaders we needed to destroy. Now, researchers tell us we need plenty of these bugs, and in the right balance, for optimal health.
A thriving microbiome supplies us with critical nutrients, helps us fight dangerous pathogens, keeps our immune system in balance, and modulates our weight and metabolism by extracting energy and calories from the food we eat.
Imbalances in our gut micro biome can result in a wide range of health concerns, like obesity, colitis, asthma, and mental illness. Most of these problems take years or decades to develop. They then require protracted treatment, including changes in diet and lifestyle; the use of probiotics (beneficial bacteria); and, in some cases, pharmaceutical and nutriceutical medications.
- Gluten AvoidanceGluten-free eating has become so common and so trendy that it’s prompted a popular backlash, inviting jokes from late-night TV hosts, skepticism from family and friends, and even a “pro-gluten” movement of sorts. While it may be tempting to think of “GF” as a passing fad, a growing number of progressive health experts predict it is here to stay. And with good reason.
Gluten is a protein found in many grains, including wheat, rye, barley, spelt, Kamut, and triticale. One in 100 people has an autoimmune disorder called celiac disease, in which gluten prompts the body to attack the small intestine.
But researchers think that another 30 to 40 percent of Americans may have non-celiac gluten sensitivity. For these folks, eating gluten sets off a chain of inflammation that can lead to an array of disorders.
The best way to determine whether your health problems – reflux, arthritis, chronic fatigue, and others – are connected to gluten is to remove it completely from your diet for two to four weeks and see if your symptoms improve.
- 21st Century MedicineOne of the greatest flaws of conventional medicine is that it often focuses on resolving symptoms rather than addressing the root causes of disease. Enter functional medicine, a systems-biology approach born within the ranks of conventional medicine more than 20 years ago.
“Functional medicine is focused on addressing the cause of chronic illness rather than its effects,” says Jeffrey Bland, PhD, founder of the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM).
Functional practitioners take careful patient histories and examine the patient’s biochemistry, genetics, and environmental exposures to look for the cause of a medical issue or cluster of symptoms. While they sometimes use pharmaceuticals and other conventional interventions, they typically rely more heavily on diet modification and supplementation, detoxification, stress management, exercise, and other lifestyle adjustments.
- Ancestral EatsOur hunter-gatherer ancestors would have a hard time recognizing much of what we modern humans call food. And that’s not just true of highly processed “junk” fare.
This disconnect between our ancient genes and modern diet and lifestyle, say advocates of Paleolithic eating, goes a long way toward explaining the health plagues of contemporary civilization, including obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, autoimmune disease, and more.
Accordingly, fast-growing trends toward “caveman cuisine” emphasize foods available in our pre-agricultural past (grassfed or wild meats, edible greens and other vegetables, roots, mushrooms, nuts, and some seasonal fruit), while minimizing reliance on more modern dietary additions, especially processed sugars and gluten-containing grains.
- Soil Quality ConcernsThe food we eat is only as healthy as the soil in which it grows.
Over the past two decades, there has been growing interest in evaluating the impacts of conventional industrial agricultural practices on soil health and erosion, and a growing awareness of the role nutrient-depleted soils may play in the declining nutrient density of some types of produce.
Today, more farmers are employing organic and biodynamic techniques to rebuild and protect soil health. Still, the vast majority of American farming relies on chemical fertilizers, pesticides, monocropping, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), all of which tend to degrade soil quality and may pose threats to human health.
- Autism RedefinedAutism was once a rarely reported disorder. Today, some form of autism-spectrum disorder afflicts nearly one in 68 children. Once believed to be a psychosocial phenomenon related to parenting factors, autism is now thought to be the result of inflammatory, gastrointestinal, mitochondrial, nutritional, and immune problems that manifest in dysfunctions of the body and brain.
While researchers are still puzzling out the disease pathways, many health professionals are now exploring a variety of chronic and environmentally triggered health conditions to which children with autism may be especially vulnerable, due in part to specific genetic variations. Treatments focused on resolving these underlying health challenges are offering new promise.
- Meditation MattersFor centuries, meditation was associated with monks on mountaintops. Now it’s being recognized as a practical intervention that can help us all improve our health and happiness.
Research suggests that meditation helps moderate and retrain the body’s fight-or-flight stress response. When unmanaged, that response triggers the release of a cascade of pro-inflammatory chemicals, including cortisol and adrenaline. It also disrupts important bodily digestive and immune processes, and it has a variety of negative downstream effects, including irritating and damaging tissue, depressing mood, and driving food cravings.
A daily meditation practice, recent studies show, can trigger positive cellular and neurological transformations, thereby improving your overall health and happiness quotient.
- The Autoimmune EpidemicThe incidence of autoimmune disorders (including such conditions as type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, celiac disease, psoriasis, and asthma) has increased dramatically over the last 50 years. They are now sickening nearly as many people as cancer and heart disease. And they often prove challenging for conventional medicine to resolve.
These diseases generally have three components: genetic predisposition, an environmental trigger, and a leaky gut.
A growing number of practitioners now recognize that gastrointestinal systems weakened by poor nutrition, food sensitivities, stress, and toxins can spring leaks that allow various nasties (undigested food particles, bacteria, viruses, pollutants, and more) to cross the intestinal barrier into the bloodstream. The immune system then goes into overdrive and, over time, winds up destroying healthy tissue.
- Ibuprofen AwarenessWhen we start popping over-the-counter painkillers for chronic issues, we’re setting ourselves up for a world of hurt.
Every year, some 100,000 people are hospitalized in the United States with gastrointestinal bleeding from taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (including the brands Advil and Motrin), naproxen (often branded as Aleve), or aspirin. Some 16,500 of those hospitalized die.
Excessive NSAID use may also cause a range of health problems, such as leaky gut, renal and cardiac damage, joint deterioration, and improper healing of broken bones.
Acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, is not an NSAID, but overdoses of the medication are the leading cause of acute liver failure in the United States.
It’s best to deal with chronic pain and inflammation by getting to the root of the matter.
- The Healing Power of SleepBecause sleep is the time our bodies repair and rebalance themselves, any deficit can wreak havoc, compromising our immune systems, causing inflammation, hormonal imbalance and weight gain, and even messing with our genes.
Sleep problems can cause a surge of pro-inflammatory molecules throughout the body, contributing to problems like memory loss, sexual dysfunction, cardiovascular disease, even Alzheimer’s. For this reason, the field of sleep medicine is fast expanding, and good sleep habits are increasingly seen as essential to a healthy lifestyle.
- Electrosmog ExposureSome researchers and public-health advocates are expressing increasing concern about the potential health impacts of electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs). While electromagnetic radiation exists in nature, we’re currently exposed to as much as 100 million times more than our grandparents were, says Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, author of Zapped. We get it via cell phones, computers, appliances, cell towers, smart meters, and even solar panels.
While more research on this topic is required, we predict that it’s one area many health-seekers will be watching with interest.