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The 5 Pillars of Health

In almost 30 years as a Naturopath, I have seen and helped all  people with all manner of conditions ranging from issues with recurrent miscarriage; fertility challenges, auto-immune conditions; fatigue, mood disorders, allergies, pain and gut conditions, low libido and  ineffective weight loss attempts to complicated disorders I can hardly pronounce. It’s easy to get bogged down with various pathologies & treatment plans. With my background as a Medical Scientist and Naturopath I like to investigate and work out the underlying ‘drivers’ behind someone’s presenting concern. But the longer I practice, the more I realise how important it is to focus on what I term the “5 Pillars of Health’ as an absolute first step before getting into complicated and often expensive protocols of treatment.

Below I will share some of the foundations for health that I adopt when dealing with my patients, and what I emphasise whenever I mentor students, other Naturopaths and Health Practitioners. It can be used as a simple checklist  to get a head start with whatever health issues you may be dealing with.

  1. Sleep

Restorative sleep is essential for healthy immune function, hormone production, energy and sanity. Sleep can be influenced by many things including buzzy thoughts, stress, hormone imbalance, poor digestion, electromagnetic radiation exposure and sleep apnoea. The ideal amount of sleep is 7-8 hours for an adult. I give my clients with sleep problems a ‘sleep hygiene’ handout and use various targeted support where required. My favourites are some practitioner only products – “Neurocalm sleep”; GABA (gamma amino butyric acid, an amino acid that is a building block for sleep hormones that also helps anxiety); a herbal tonic I mix up that tastes dreadful but can work a treat; and a calming magnesium powder. In some circumstances I recommend Melatonin, especially when sleep problems are caused by changes in diurnal rhythms such as shift work or international flights, or if there is a history of breast cancer, as there is some evidence melatonin reduces the risk of reoccurrence due to it’s antioxidant properies (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5503661/). This is available on script from a GP. There are also some sleep great aps – my favourite at the moment is “Insight Timer” – a free ap that opens up numerous options depending on how much time you have.

  1. Stress

Stress seems to be one of the scourges of modern society. Stress comes from many sources including finances, relationships, family dynamics, work, environmental, situational stress and poor health. Sometimes we can’t change the stressor, but we can change our attitude, like forgiving people who have hurt us in the past and mentally moving on or live within our budget and not become jealous of others who seem to have a better car, job or house. Sometimes we need to remove ourselves from the stress (e.g. change jobs or leave a relationship) or set boundaries about acceptable behaviour is needed to protect ourselves from poor work practices or negative people. Whatever the source of stress, we can make ourselves more resilient by eating well, sharing our feelings and speaking to people who can help (like a non-judgemental family member, friend, counsellor or psychologist); ensuring we exercise and eat well, and take targeted support if need be. My favourite supportive nutrients are magnesium (particularly a calming powder with some extra nervous system support); omega 3 oils and B vitamins. There are a variety of herbal tablets, depending on presenting symptoms. Some people are ‘wired and tired’; ‘stressed irritable and moody’; ‘anxious and tense’ or “flat and exhausted” and I choose accordingly after my clients fill in a short questionnaire to determine which product might suit best. Or I make up a personalised tonic and add in some flower essences to address the emotional component. Finally I may refer a patient on for counselling or hypnotherapy.

  1. Healthy Eating

If you think about it, we are what we eat and absorb. Nutrients vital to a healthy nervous system includes magnesium (rich in leafy greens, nuts/seeds and whole grains; B vitamins, (rich in whole foods including wholegrains, legumes, leafy greens, dairy and meat); and omega 3 fats from fish, flaxseed and fish oils. Processed food is mostly stripped of nutritional value, so our eating ideally comes from the fresh produce section of the supermarket or farmer’s market; avoiding packaged products. I recommend lean protein meals with veggies or salad with an oil and vinegar or lemon juice dressing and a small serve of low GI carbohydrates for 2 meals a day; and a healthy breakfast of porridge with a seeds mix; sour dough toast with avocado and goat’s cheese or eggs; or yoghurt, fresh fruit and seeds/nut mix. If you would like a suggested meal plan please email my Clinic at admin@adoh.com.au Our Naturopaths & Nutritionist at the Clinic can tailor a program around your health goals, taste, and any food preferences, sensitivities or health conditions.

  1. Movement

We all should be aware that exercise is essential for a healthy life. Our ancestors walked around 18,000 steps daily and many of us have sedentary jobs or watch TV in our down time and barely get to the recommended 10,000 steps. The common saying “Sitting is the new smoking” is supported be research that being sedentary increases inflammation in our bodies. Inflammation is one of the main drivers for most health conditions including cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Movement does not need to be a chore, rather something we enjoy and schedule regularly into our daily life like cleaning our teeth. Try parking further away from our destination, getting off the bus, train or tram a stop earlier, doing lunges while you brush your teeth or wait for the kettle to boil, enrolling in a dance class or doing a Zumba class in your lounge room on YouTube, take up riding a bicycle again on safe off-road bike tracks or participating in a free outdoor group fitness classes like “Live Life get Active” run by the local council.

5. Relationships 

Relationships are the cause of both joy and heartache. The most important relationship is with ourselves – ensuring we eat nourishing food, make time to relax, exercise and nurture ourselves and set healthy boundaries with others. If we are not content with ourselves, we cannot rely on someone else to make us feel complete. I liken healthy relationships to looking after a car – they need petrol (regular loving interactions), regular servicing (the odd ‘date night’ or weekend away) and the occasional roadside assistance (relationship counselling if your partner is a willing participant). I encourage my couples to read “Men are from Mars, Women from Venus” as men and women’s brains are really hardwired differently. There is also a highly recommended book “The 5 Languages of Love”. It explains that we each have one or two main “love languages”: The gifts of service (doing things like mowing the lawn or making a cup of tea); time (being there); gifts (like flowers or jewellery); words of affirmation and physical affection. Problems can arise when there is disconnect between a couple’s love languages. For example, if your love language is gifts and your partner’s is service, you may buy him something thinking that you are showing him love but he might not really care and shrug it off, hurting you in the process. However he might feel he is showing you love by emptying the dishwasher, but you might wonder why he never buys you flowers. There are online quizzes to determine what your top love languages are – it’s something I encourage partners going through a tough time to each do and compare notes. But why wait until you are experiencing problems – do some proactive work now!

People often ask me what a  Naturopath does. There are many fields of Naturopathy, and you could go to 10 different Naturopaths and have 10 quite different experiences. However, if we get these basic “5 pillars of Health” sorted, we are well on the road to a state of wellness – feeling happy and in good health. I hope you gleaned at least one useful tip that you can start implementing immediately!

Feel free to message us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AllDegreesofHealth/ or take advantage of a complimentary “Health Discovery Session” with either Rebecca Screen or Angela Cali (our wonderful Naturopaths) or Angela Molluso (Hypnotherapist and counsellor) who will sit down over a cuppa or via Skype or phone and discuss how they can assist you in your wellness journey. Call (03) 93310951

Doreen Schwegler (BApSc RMIT. DipApSc SSNT)