My Five Foundations for Healthy Living

My Five Foundations for Healthy Living

While I practice nutrition by training, I’m all about a holistic approach. That means I like to look at all aspects of life and how they come to together to create optimal health!

To keep things as simple as possible I’ve broken it down into the 5 key foundations of health, split into nutrition – the layer that everything is supported by – and lifestyle. 

While we’re looking at each aspect separately, it’s really how they all come together that determines how good (or not) we feel. 

Foundation One – Nutrition

While there are so many different ways we can categorize nutrition, I’ve split this up almost along the macronutrient lines. Carbs, fat, protein, and water are our macronutrients (and if you click on any of those labels you’ll go straight to a blog article going into each more in depth!). 

But I just had to split out veggies and give it its own spotlight because they are so. darn. important! They are packed with vital vitamins, minerals, and often antioxidants, and because of this I also consider them our best source of fiber. 

Nutrition really underpins our health which is why I have it as the bottom layer of the pyramid. The majority of our immune system is in our gut and a lot of the neurotransmitter serotonin is also produced there (the happy chemical for our brains!). What we eat affects our energy levels and allows our body to build and maintain healthy tissues. 

Honestly, I could go on and on about how important nutrition is! But I’m hoping since you’re here with me you already recognize this. 😉 For me, food is about nutrient density – eating the things that are packed full of the most nutrition possible. This comes before food for fuel or calorie counting. 

  Photo by    Lauren Kay    on    Unsplash

Photo by Lauren Kay on Unsplash

Foundation Two – Sleep

Sleep is absolutely vital to ensuring our body is able to rest and recover from the activities of our day. Lack of sleep has been linked to overeating as well as increasing our likelihood of making poor food choices (since you’re so tired and just craving easy energy!). Sleep loss can increase your risk of insulin resistance and can wreak havoc on your hormone levels. It’s fundamental for the health of our brain and immune system. 

Sleep loss does accumulate night after night, and if you aren’t sleeping enough during the week it’s highly likely that having a lie-in on weekends isn’t completely getting you out of the red. Plus just one night of poor sleep can already profoundly affect our energy levels and needs the next day. 

Remember that adults tend to need 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Sleeping less than 6 hours a night increases your risk of all-cause mortality by 12%. To find out what your body needs try to head to bed at the same time every night for at least a week and wake without an alarm clock. After a few days (once you’ve recovered from any deficit you may have been in) you should naturally find your body’s set point.

  Photo by    Sylwia Bartyzel    on    Unsplash

Photo by Sylwia Bartyzel on Unsplash

Foundation Three – Connection

It made headlines in 2018 when the UK created the position of “minister of loneliness”. She’s been tasked with working on bringing down the rates of loneliness across all generations, and a lot of other countries have taken note. 

The permeation of the internet and social media into our lives has on one hand brought an increase in social connections – for example I can now easy stay up-to-date with my family back in Canada! But on the other hand, it can result in us becoming even more isolated. Sometimes social media can feel social – but often we aren’t making genuine connections and most of us are taking on the role of observer. 

Even for this introvert it can sometimes feel easier to hole up alone and avoid “peopling”! But even introverts shouldn’t forget how important these interactions are. While they may cost energy, they fill you up in a different way!

Having genuine connections with others is a key component for our mental health which is more connected to our physical health than we often think. And this can come in a variety of ways – for example, family, friends, pets, colleagues, or community groups. Connection can also include a closeness with nature – getting outside, breathing fresh air, and surrounding ourselves at least occasionally with greenery. 

  Photo by    Roberto Nickson    on    Unsplash

Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash

Foundation Four – Self-Care

Self-care or stress management tends to be an area we easily overlook. It doesn’t need to be yoga, journaling, or a rose petal filled bath, but just something that allows you to relax, breathe, and recharge yourself. This could be a walk out in nature, a movie night with your partner, even a solo trip to the grocery store!

Stress can manifest in so many different ways, that taking care to try and reduce or recover from this is incredibly important. Stress can affect our digestion, our hormones, our sleep, our relationships! You can be doing everything else right, but if your stress levels are too high you could be undoing all the positive work.

“You can’t pour from an empty cup.”

  Photo by    bruce mars    on    Unsplash

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Foundation Five – Movement

There has definitely never been another era in human existence where we have been so sedentary! I don’t think you can confute that movement is necessary for our health. 

However, I have called this foundation movement rather than exercise. This is partly a mental word play, since we tend to have negative associations with the word exercise – like some we have to do that we’d rather not! Movement sounds more joyful – keeping your body active in a way that feels good and creates a sustainable, healthy habit. 

Movement improves our health through a multitude of ways, such as boosting our immune system, improving our resistance to stress, and helping to regulate our circadian rhythm (our sleep-awake cycle).

Do these five foundations ring true for you? Perhaps there is one or more you feel you are struggling with? That’s totally normal and is a balancing act that we are all working on.

If you’re looking for more support on any of the five foundations, head over here to learn more about working with me one-on-one!

Nutrition 101 – Digestion Basics

Nutrition 101 – Digestion Basics

Nutrition 101 – Digestion Basics

Having a healthy digestive system is really the foundational aspect of health. You can eat all the amazing, nutritious food out there, but if you aren’t digesting those nutrients properly then you aren’t gaining any of their benefits! While studying to become a Nutritional Therapy Consultant, digestion was the first major process we covered, and throughout all the more advanced topics it’s also the process that you always come back to. Often just by working on improving your digestion you can already make major strides in bringing your body back into balance.

What does healthy digestion look like?

It starts in the Brain

The first, very important step of digestion actually starts in our brains! It’s the resulting chemical cascades as we start thinking about our meal. Our brain triggers the acid production to increase in our stomach (creating that “growling” you can experience) and you might already start salivating as your saliva glands get ready to start breaking down your food.

And then in the Mouth

Then we get into the actual eating! The first step of really digesting your food happens in your mouth. Your teeth, by chewing, already start breaking everything down in smaller bits that will be easier to digest further on in the process. Your saliva also contains digestive enzymes that begin the chemical breakdown of carbohydrates. Bet you didn’t know so much was going on in your mouth!

The Stomach gets involved

After you swallow, the food (now called the bolus) passes down your esophagus and into your stomach. Here your stomach acid is on deck to continue the chemical breakdown of your food. Your stomach acid, and specifically an enzyme called pepsin, is vital in proper digestion of proteins. The muscles of the stomach are churning the bolus, mixing it with the stomach acid to properly break down and acidify it.

Before moving to the Small Intestine

Once the bolus reaches the proper acidity, it is now called chyme, and it moves from the stomach into the first part of the small intestine. This entry signals our small intestine to secrete mucous and our pancreas to release sodium bicarbonate which alkalinizes the chyme (in other words, makes it less acidic). The presence of fats in the chyme triggers the gallbladder to release bile, which emulsifies and breaks down the fatty acids. Once the chyme is no longer acidic, the pancreas will release enzymes that finish the digestion of the carbohydrates, proteins, and fatty acids.

The chyme continues further on along the small intestines, and now that your food is properly broken down, little villi and microvilli (like little fingers lining the small intestines), begin to absorb the nutrients and pass them through your gut lining into the bloodstream.

And finally the Large Intestine

Eventually the remains pass into the large intestine, where the remaining water is recycled and waste products are used to nourish the microbiota of the large intestine. The remaining nutrients from your food are captured and your bowel flora also create some nutrients of their own for your body to use. Once this process is complete, what remains then passes out of the large intestines and, well, out of your body! (I think we all know this part of the process!).

So that is a brief overview of what healthy digestion looks like. But of course, as many of us have probably experienced, it is easier said than done; there are a lot of different ways our digestion can become suboptimal.

 

Up Next: When bad digestion happens to good people…

 

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