by Tim Mount, CN, CCMH
It’s that time of year again – New Year’s Resolution season. It’s a time when well-meaning goals are set to be healthier and happier. Unfortunately, many people’s intentions fall short because their idea of health is wrong in the first place!
So what is health? How does someone attain good health?
If you ask most Americans what their resolutions are to be healthier, you’ll probably get answers similar to these:
- “I’m going to lose weight.”
- “I’m going to the gym more often.”
- “I’m going to clean up my diet.”
- Or “I’m going to quit [insert addiction].”
For sure, losing weight, getting more exercise, and cutting out vices are all important components of being healthy, but they certainly aren’t the yellow brick road to health. Some of the sickest people I’ve treated are thin. Many of the most dedicated gym enthusiasts have painful joints and chronic injuries from improperly working out (btw, stay away from P90X, Insanity, etc.). Eating more veggies is great, but that alone won’t bring you superstar health. Quitting drinking, smoking, or paint huffing is a good first step, but without reversing the damage already done makes the path to health slow and arduous.
Before I reveal my Healthy New Year’s Resolutions recommendations, let’s get a solid working definition of health. Don’t worry, I’m not going to put this in terms of some convoluted Webster’s dictionary tongue twister. Let’s talk real world health – a state of being that is practical and meaningful to you on a daily basis.
Health and Happiness
First, we need to make the connection of health to happiness, because really what we are saying when we want to be more healthy is that we want to be happier and live a more fulfilling life. Heck, as Americans we know the “pursuit of happiness” is pretty important – it’s written into Declaration of Independence!
Think about it – have you ever been contagiously happy with the flu? Had a perma-smile with a toothache? Jumped for joy with a broken leg? These may be extreme examples, but even mild, chronic pain or disease incrementally decreases our happiness. Aren’t we less likely to pursue anything with arthritis?
It isn’t until we are unhealthy that we realize how unhappy it makes us. So logically, attaining and then maintaining a state of health is critical. Remember that semester of physiology you took in 9th grade? It turns out that was one of the most important things we all have forgotten! Who cares if Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492?
“Happiness lies, first of all, in health.” – George William Curtis
Maybe it isn’t as catchy of a saying, but it’s much more important!
Here is a good working definition of health…“Health is your body’s ability to let you live a happy life.”
Ask a natural health professional what health is and we’ll likely give you a much different answer than the resolutions I described at the beginning. Your body has a number of systems – digestive, nervous, cardiovascular, excretory, muscular, etc. Each of those systems determines your health a lot more than dropping 10 pounds or eating an extra carrot every day. Fixing, and then optimizing, each bodily system should be the focus of most people’s resolutions.
As I said before, for some people that may mean attaining health, such as overcoming a chronic disease or injury. For others it may mean maintaining your health by fine tuning each one of your bodily systems. Since each New Year’s Resolution will be different depending on which group you fall into, I’ll discuss each individually.
You may or may not be able to completely fix your health challenge, but that doesn’t mean you should quit trying! Here’s a decision guide to that will help you figure out what to do:
First: Know What’s Broke Before You Fix Something
Sounds obvious right? The problem is that Western society tends to focus more on individual parts of the body instead understanding that your body is an interconnected set of systems. The inflammation in your joint and the porousness of your bones may not seem like they have a similar root cause – until you realize that excess acidity from your diet (sugars, carbs, too much protein, coffee addiction, etc.) can simultaneously affect multiple systems of your body and cause both issues.
If you’re dealing with an immediate health crisis, do an almost-obsessive amount of research on the bodily system involved and the theories behind the root cause as to why that system(s) broke down. Then, take steps to change the lifestyle choices associated with the problem.
Don’t underestimate some of the more trivial things you do on a daily basis either. I’ve found that it’s often the little things that occur repetitively that do the most damage. For example, breathing in chlorinated shower water, washing with chemical-laden soap, eating a microwaved breakfast full of food preservatives, then chewing an artificially sweetened piece of gum on the way to work can have a major cumulative effect on your health. Combined those activities are probably worse than getting tipsy once a month and smoking 2 cigarettes.
Second: Correct the Problem, Don’t Put on a Band-aid
Don’t just attempt to alleviate the symptoms. Pain is distracting and interferes with your pursuit of happiness, but pain isn’t the real problem. Pain is merely a signal to the brain that something needs to be fixed – so focus on the problem first, not the signal. Remember, nobody ever died of a deficiency of aspirin! Taking a medicine (or even an herb like arnica) to cover up an issue is not true health. Focus on the foundational issues that cause the problem.
Only a very small amount of health challenges – some doctors say less than 1% – come from unavoidable genetic coding. Every other health challenge that you and I are experiencing are a culmination of the decisions we have made over our lifetimes. The good news is that we can change it!
The bad news is that many people fall into ruts. For their entire life their parents did things one way and so have they. It may not even occur to them that it is an issue. I know people that eat a fat filled carne asada burrito with sour cream almost every day, but deny that it could be a root cause of their health issues!
Most Common Root Causes
Enough with the generalities – let’s talk specifics. In my professional opinion, most health challenges boil down to a few root causes. I’ll backpedal a little because diet – which I mentioned in the opening – does play a significant role. The difference is most people change their diet for weight loss, but really they should be focusing on how their diet affects the systems of their body. Calories usually aren’t the issue – acidifying foods, nutritional deficiencies, and toxin accumulation play a much bigger role. Here are a few common root cause issues that Americans have (and often overlook) and the resolution that may be the solution:
Issue: Too many carbs (sugar & starch) – destroys the body’s ability to manage blood sugar and leads to terrible issues like reactive hypoglycemia and diabetes, excess release of stress hormones, too much bodily acidity, hormone dysregulation, and much more.
Resolution: Go “paleo” at least 80% of the time. There are a million diets out there that have the same basic principle in mind – eating like we evolved. Paleo is the most popular, but not the only one. They all have the same thing in common – low-to-no carbs, adequate high quality protein, lots of vegetables and moderate fruit intake.
Issue: Coffee or Stimulant Addiction – stimulants don’t give a person “real” energy, they burn up existing resources by kicking the body into a low level of “fight or flight” and release hormones that should only be used in real situations of danger.
Resolution: Quit, but also heal adrenal fatigue using adaptogenic herbs like ginseng and Eleuthero.
Issue: Eating at Restaurants – loaded with bad fats, overwhelming amounts of carbohydrates, and filled with artificial ingredients, restaurant foods are a killer to your circulatory system, blood sugar balance, energy levels, and of course your waistline.
Resolution: Learn to Cook – I believe cooking is one of the most important skills that a person can have. It can be fun too! Start with some simple recipes, even if its only a few meals per week. It’ll be much healthier and save you money too. I’ve been into the book/app “How to Cook Everything” recently.
Issue: Gluten – It’s not a fad and it’s not a myth. I’m a certified Gluten Expert through a state accredited CEU provider. I’ve studied the research and I have my own personal experience – EVERYONE IN AMERICA has at least some issue with gluten. STOP EATING IT!!! Not only does it destroy your digestive system, the most common reaction is neurological – meaning it affects your brain! Plus it messes with hormones (especially the thyroid) and is a cause of numerous auto-immune diseases.
Resolution: Go STRICTLY gluten free, but also heal your digestive tract. You may feel terrible for a few weeks, but after that your health will improve dramatically.
Maintaining and Optimizing Health
If you are in good health, that’s wonderful! But there are still things you can go to improve your health. I’ve read hundreds of blood tests from my patients and I’ve still never come across a perfect test. Here are a few resolutions for taking your health to the next level:
Issue: Toxic Accumulation – unless you’re the boy in the bubble, simply living in America means you’re exposed to hundreds of toxins a day in the environment. These accumulate in the body and need to be cleaned out. Cancer and disease have been linked to this toxic load time and time again.
Resolution: Set up a monthly series of cleanses, one for each bodily system. I recommend starting with a homeopathic supplement designed to get the lymph and excretory systems, then moving one by one through your other systems. Most important organs and systems are digestive (including gallbladder), liver, kidney, adrenals, thyroid, and circulatory. The worst toxins to focus on are mercury, radiation and chemicals/pesticides.
Issue: Reverse the Deterioration of Aging – even if we live the purest, most natural life imaginable our bodies still suffer the consequences of the natural aging process. The worst of this is the breakdown of collagen in the body.
Resolution: It may seem simple, but taking a collagen supplement can aid your body in rebuilding the tissues that have broken down over time. Although there is a great beauty benefit, the most significant health benefit occurs because collagen makes up the structure of nearly every tissue of the body and is therefore central to maintaining the proper function of every bodily system. Try NeoCell products, the leading collagen supplement in the world.