As we grow older, our health goes into free fall. Aches and pains are an inevitable part of life, and the best way to deal with them is to down a painkiller or knock back a glass of wine.
Sound right? It shouldn’t.
Pains, fatigue, sleeplessness – none of these are normal. And neither are they inevitable. You can live without them if you just put in a bit of effort.
And it all starts with treating your body right. These forces underpin every aspect of your health, your appearance, your weight, and even your mental state.
If you can just get on top of these five things, your body will do the rest, and you’ll be feeling 100% in no time.
Eating natural whole foods is great
Most people have heard the expression, “You are what you eat.” The reason this expression is so popular is that it’s true. Every part of you is made from the components of your food and drink.
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, your body performs a miracle: it transforms inert matter into living tissue. Your living tissue. But it needs an astonishing array of building materials to do that. Proper nutrition gives us the building blocks of life.
So what substances does your body require?
The list starts with basic macronutrients – fats, carbs, and proteins. They fuel all processes inside our cells. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Your body needs so much more: minerals, vitamins, salts, enzymes, antioxidants, electrolytes, phytonutrients. The list goes on.
Fortunately, though, there’s no need for you to remember it all, or to keep track of individual nutrients. There’s a much simpler way. And it is to eat more natural foods – in particular, more fruit and vegetables.
Broccoli, for example, is insanely healthy. This cruciferous superfood contains many substances that your body needs, like vitamins, fatty acids, and enzymes. If somebody invented a pill with all the health benefits of broccoli, she would make a fortune.
Sounds perfect, doesn’t it? But many people shun fruit and vegetables and consume lots of unhealthy foods instead. They may even know that their diets are not perfect, and try to compensate by taking nutritional supplements.
Unfortunately, there’s a catch. Many commercial supplements don’t even get absorbed by our bodies. They are not in a form that we can easily metabolize. So the contents of those expensive pills simply go straight through us and are disposed of.
That’s why the best way to get everything your body needs is to eat a variety of natural whole foods. That means fruits and vegetables, but also beans, seeds, nuts, grains, and sprouts.
And it doesn’t need to be difficult. All you have to do is put the good food in your mouth and enjoy it.
Produce that’s grown locally and organically is good for your health
So – is the problem of nutrition now solved? No – because there’s more to food than meets the eye. Our produce isn’t as healthy as it once was.
Modern farming practices can be harmful: big-scale, industrial agriculture relies on chemicals to increase crop yields. So we need to think about how clean our food is.
And there’s another concern. Global supply chains bring food from remote farms, thousands of miles away, right to the grocery store on your doorstep. But how fresh is this produce?
Let’s start with freshness. Food manufacturers have appropriated the word fresh. They stamp it on the packaging of pretty much anything, even processed junk. Little surprise, then, that “freshness” has pretty much lost its meaning. And that’s a shame, because it is more important than ever before.
Today, the food we buy often comes from the other side of the globe, which means it can spend weeks in storage and transportation. And that can affect its quality. Nutrients begin to break down within hours after picking, and this process never really stops.
So If you have the chance to buy locally produced food at farmers’ markets, you absolutely should. Your body will thank you.
Farmers’ markets might also be the way to go when it comes to cleanliness. Clean food is free from pesticides and other substances that are – let’s face it – designed to kill. We have no qualms about putting those poisons in our food. We don’t need complicated tests to realize that that can’t be good for us.
But tests have been done that have confirmed that these chemicals are harmful. A study by the National Institutes of Health revealed that children who grow up on farms that use pesticides have an increased risk of cancer.
So organic food is definitely the way to go. Not only is it free from pesticides, but research has also found that it carries more nutrients. It can be a little more expensive, sure. But whom would you rather pay – a farmer who works hard to produce quality, healthy food, or a doctor who will have to fix your damaged body if you eat mass-produced food?
Good nutrition is essential for maintaining healthy gut flora
What’s inside your body? Well, there is no straightforward answer. Human cells, sure – some 70 trillion of them. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You are also home to nearly ten times that many nonhuman organisms – the bacteria, viruses, fungi, and yeasts that live both inside and on the surface of your body. That’s a lot of hungry mouths to feed.
These organisms are absolutely vital to our health. In fact, we couldn’t live without them. Beneficial bacteria, for example, make up 80 percent of our immune systems.
But where microbes prove most helpful is in our digestive system. There are over 500 species of microbes in our gut, and each is essential to helping us break down the food we eat. Even the chemicals those microbes excrete are useful for us – a win-win.
All these microbes are collectively called a microbiome. And just like any of the body’s organs, the microbiome can be healthy or sick. Research is starting to show that many of us have the wrong balance of bacteria in our guts, and this is affecting our health. A study by the University of Copenhagen found that lack of diversity in gut flora is connected to a myriad of modern ailments, from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (or IBS) to obesity.
So is there anything we can do to change things?
Well, some of our microbiome is hereditary, and we can’t control that. But most of our gut bacteria depend on the food we eat. You might not be surprised to hear that healthy bacteria thrive on fresh, natural whole foods.
Think of your microbiome as a little garden that you always carry around with you. You need to water it regularly and feed it the right foods. How do you do that? The answer is, again, fruits and vegetables. They are packed with fiber and other nutrients that will keep your gut microbes populous and cheerful.
There are other great choices, too. Foods like sauerkraut, yogurt, and kombucha are super healthy for your gut flora, and they’ve even been shown to alleviate ailments like, for example, IBS.
Health experts are beginning to see just how important these microbes are for us. So it’s vital that we remain mindful not just of ourselves, but also of the bacterial life we carry within our bodies.
Proper hydration is important for maintaining good mood and performance
If something constituted two-thirds of our body mass, that would be a big deal. We’d have entire research institutes and hospitals specializing in it. Well, this “something” does exist – and it’s water. It makes up 70 percent of our body mass.
Water is crucial to our very survival. It’s our internal public transport system: it ferries everything that needs to move around the body. And it’s also the basis of every fluid we produce, from saliva to semen.
So, yes, water is pretty important.
Studies show that even when we’re only mildly dehydrated, we find it more difficult to focus, our physical performance declines, and our mood plummets.
You may be thinking, What’s the problem? My body will tell me when I need to drink. It’s called being thirsty.
Actually, thirst is not a very reliable indicator of hydration. The problem with it is that it kicks in too late! For example, when you get a dry mouth, it doesn’t mean that you “just need some water.” What it does mean is that you’ve already been dehydrated for a long time.
So it’s little surprise that many of us aren’t drinking enough water. According to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control, seven percent of us don’t drink any water at all! And four people out of five drink too little.
So how much water should we be drinking, then?
Well, this might strike you as a lot, but the answer is that we should drink between three and four liters every day. Of course, nobody is expecting you to run a water-consumption spreadsheet. But, as we’ve seen, good hydration is vital – and here are some handy tips for achieving it.
First, get yourself a water bottle and make it your new best friend. It should always be at hand. Second, we lose a lot of fluid during the night, so make sure you drink a tall glass of water first thing in the morning. And finally, if you are getting tired or moody, don’t reach for that soda or coffee. Instead, drink a big glass of water. That may just be what your body needed!
improve the oxygen levels in tissues through better nutrition and more mindful breathing
It’s time to find out about the third one: oxygenation. If you want to know how important oxygen is, just hold your breath. We can go without food for months, without water for days – but without oxygen for only a few minutes.
Nothing new there, right? But do you know why, exactly, oxygen is so important?
Your body needs oxygen to retrieve energy from food. Every meal you eat contains sugars, and, when these sugars get into your cells, oxygen breaks them down. This chemical reaction releases energy, which then fuels the cells’ other processes. Without oxygen, nothing would get done.
OK, sure, oxygen’s important. But we breathe automatically. So doesn’t it all sort itself out?
It might surprise you that many of us aren’t getting enough oxygen. And that’s because we do not breathe correctly. Typically, people’s breathing is too shallow, so they’re not filling their lungs to capacity.
Our changing environment is also at fault. Because we burn so many fossil fuels, we now have a lot less oxygen in the air than we did before the industrial revolution.
But guess what hasn’t changed? Our bodies’ need for oxygen. It’s vital that we get enough oxygen. Research shows that having well-oxygenated tissues is related to a strong heart and reduced risk of cancer. And if we don’t get enough oxygen, our bodies begin to suffer from hypoxemia. In severe cases, it can cause blood vessels to narrow, limiting blood flow to our vital organs.
Fortunately, there are things we can do to get more oxygen. And the best way to start is by improving nutrition and hydration. Remember the recipe: lots of water, and plenty of raw vegetables, fruits, nuts, and leafy greens.
Maintain an alkaline interior by eating less-acidic foods.
If you made it through high school, you’ve probably encountered these two letters: pH. They stand for the potential of hydrogen. These letters measure how acidic or alkaline a substance is. The more hydrogen, the lower the pH, the more acidic the substance.
We all have a pretty strong image of what acidity is – it’s to do with acid, that stuff that dissolves walls in cartoons. But alkalinity? This concept is more mysterious. And yet, alkalization is the fourth life force. Until quite recently, it was overlooked. But this is beginning to change.
Your body needs the correct pH balance for its proteins to function optimally – and, with the exception of your stomach, your insides like to be slightly alkaline. Too much acid in the body can irritate tissues and membranes, and it can also inhibit your body’s ability to metabolize food.
The human body is great at managing its pH levels. However, there’s now more acidic stress on us than ever before. And this is making it harder to maintain that balance.
The big culprit is diet. Modern food is overwhelmingly acidic. Carbonated cola drinks, for example, are 50,000 times more acidic than pure water. In fact, most of the processed junk we put into our bodies is either acidic or leaves behind an acidic residue.
And it’s not just food, either. Nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol all add to the acidity inside our bodies. Prescription and recreational drugs do the same, and even a lack of sleep, as well as stress and overwork, can have an acidifying effect. Modern life itself, it seems, is acidifying. This means that our bodies have to work overtime to keep us alkaline.
So what can you do to take the acidic stress off your body? Well, the answer is that you need to focus on the first three life forces – nutrition, hydration, and oxygenation. They all improve our pH balance. Oxygen, for example, is an alkalizing substance, so oxygenation and alkalization go hand in hand. And as far as diet is concerned, the foods we should be eating – fresh, natural whole foods – are all alkalizing.
Of course, your goal is not to become as alkaline as possible. Instead, it is to achieve the correct balance between alkalinity and acidity. And the first step on this journey is to improve your diet and lifestyle.
Take stress off detox systems by cutting out processed foods
Have you ever seen images of cities where trash collectors have gone on strike? Garbage bags pile up in the street, decompose in the sun, and attract all kinds of vermin. It all sounds gross – and you wouldn’t want to live in a city like this, would you?
And yet, it’s a pretty good analogy for what can happen inside your body if your biological trash collectors become overstretched – if your built-in detox systems stop functioning as they should. Harmful substances start to accumulate in your liver, intestines, muscles, and joints. They cause all kinds of havoc and lay the foundation for serious diseases.
The fifth and final life force is detoxification. And what a system it is – both extremely effective and incredibly complex!
Take white blood cells. They constantly ferry pathogens, toxins, and cellular debris to lymph nodes, which is where all this junk gets destroyed. Or think about the liver and kidneys, the real heroes of the immune system. They never stop filtering your blood, removing toxins and other foreign material.
These organs are our first line of defense against disease. They are tireless, loyal, and effective. But how do we repay them? Often, we bombard them with toxic substances – alcohol, drugs, and processed food. And this stretches them to their very limits.
A big part of the problem is that so much of what we call food doesn’t deserve this name. Yes, all that pre-processed stuff can be broken down and digested, but often it’s so laden with artificial additives that the body treats it like a foreign substance.
How many additives are there in the stuff that we eat? Columbia University’s school of public health found more than three thousand chemicals in packaged foods. Another 10,000 chemicals were used in the manufacturing process.
Now throw in the pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics we use to treat crops and livestock, and all the chemicals that go into plastic packaging. And there you have it – a veritable cocktail of toxic junk.
Putting that into our bodies isn’t doing us any favors.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. If you choose to be mindful about your eating habits and cut out processed foods, you’ll have taken a huge step toward easing the burden on your detox systems.
You have the power to optimize your health and well-being. All you need to do is look after the five life forces that influence every process inside your body. Each of the five life forces reinforces the others, so even getting just one or two right will go a long way to improving your overall health.
This may sound like an ambitious goal, but achieving it could not be simpler. All you need to do is enjoy tasty, nutritious food, keep hydrated, and practice correct breathing. Make the right choices now, and you’ll be setting yourself up for a long life of health and happiness.