Cultivating a Healthy You in 2017


For many of us, "better health" features prominently on our list of New Year's resolutions. But where to start? Three key areas to focus on in 2017 are digestive health, immune health, and adrenal (think stress response) health. Your overall health is intricately connected to the vitality of each of these areas. An imbalance in any one of them can negatively impact the proper functioning of the others with far-reaching consequences for your entire body. This blog is the first in a series focusing on achieving wellness by restoring health to these important bodily systems.

Digestive Health: That Gut Feeling

As you may have already guessed, your gut isn't just a digestive organ, but a sensory one, too. Emotions "felt in your gut" do actually cause changes in your physical body. The reverse is also true: physical changes in the health of your gut can impact your mental well-being. Numerous studies exploring the "gut-brain axis" reveal links between anxiety, depression, autism, ADHD and the presence of certain types of "bad" bacteria in the human gut.

What you may not know is that your gut is the largest part of your immune system. The health of your gut - or more specifically, your gut lining - seriously impacts the functioning of your immune system. Lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, and stress all leave their mark, for better or for worse, on your gut. In this series, we will take an in-depth look at the four pillars of gastro-intestinal health: digestion, elimination, the microbiome, and the protective function of the lining of your gut.

Immune Health: You Are What Your Gut Bacteria Eat

One of the greatest scientific discoveries to come out of the field of research in the last decade or two is the pivotal role of the microbiome in the development of autoimmune disease. Your microbiome is composed of trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms - and their genes - that live throughout your body. But before you run for the shower, take a moment to consider the following:

  • Bacteria are essential for good health:

  • When the beneficial microorganisms that live in your body - especially, your gut - are healthy, your whole body benefits.

  • Too much cleanliness is not a good thing:

  • Washing your hands properly is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. However, our society is currently paying the price for overdoing it with regard to hygiene. The result is an ever-increasing number of autoimmune illnesses and allergies as our immune systems lack the training - through exposure to various microbes and allergens in childhood - to respond appropriately to germs.

  • A healthy microbiome can positively influence your genetic predisposition to disease.

If certain diseases like colon cancer or an autoimmune illness like asthma run in your family, it's crucial that you build up your immune system. In order to have well-functioning immune system, you need not only a healthy gut, but a healthy detoxification system (liver and kidneys) as well. In subsequent blogs, we will look at the various factors that can lead to immune dysfunction and how you can best support your immune system.

Adrenal Health: Running on Empty

One of the biggest threats to your overall health is stress. Although each of us may perceive and respond to stress differently, the effect that prolonged stress has on our bodies is the same. At the center of the storm that is chronic stress lie your adrenal glands. One of their most important functions is to give you the ability to fight or flee in the face of danger. However, this life-preserving feature becomes health-damaging when the perceived threat (stressor) persists over time and soon your adrenal glands are running on empty.

Stress-related complaints and disorders account for 75-90% of all visits to primary care physicians and an estimated 1 million Americans are absent from work each day due to stress-related complaints. Moreover, stress has been linked to the six leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis, and suicide. That's why it's important to identify the stressors in your life and remove them, where possible, or change your response to them. In upcoming blogs, we'll examine four stressors that are most damaging to your health:

  • Insomnia

  • Chronic inflammation

  • Poor blood sugar control

  • Emotional and mental stress

and assist you in developing a strategy to eliminate or minimize their effects on your health.

If you would like more information on how you can achieve better health in 2017, please contact us today. We'll work with you to design a personalized plan that addresses your health needs so that you can realize your health goals.

References

Fasano, A. Abstract: Celiac Disease Insights: Clues to Solving Autoimmunity. Scientific American. August 2009. 301(2): 54-61.

Lifestyle Matrix Resource Center

Paul, B. et al. Influences of diet and the gut microbiome on epigenetic modulation in cancer and other disease. Clin. Epigenetics. 2015 7(112).

The contents of this blog are intended for educational purposes only. The information presented here is not a substitute for proper medical attention, diagnosis, or treatment by a qualified healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider before starting or making any changes to an existing treatment plan, exercise program or dietary regimen, and before using nutritional supplements.

~ Dr. Sarah Williams ~ Concord & Nantucket, Massachusetts ~

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