Staying healthy in today’s fast-paced, stressful, and highly toxic world is not something that will just happen on its own. It is a difficult task and you need to actively and consistently work towards it. Below are 8 steps for both maintaining and restoring optimal health, which is inspired by a talk between myself and board-certified Regenerative Medicine expert, obstetrician, and gynecologist, Dr. Anna Cabeca.
Step #1: Optimize Your Diet
Optimizing your diet is the first step because it not only affects your long-term health and chronic disease risk, it also has an immediate impact on your energy and how you feel. Focus on consuming whole foods, high-fiber, plant-based diet. Dark green, and other deeply pigmented fruits and vegetables should be emphasized (deeper pigment usually signifies a greater nutrient content). Cruciferous vegetables should also be emphasized because they have powerful cancer-fighting properties and contain two special nutrients – DIM and I3C, which help reduce harmful estrogens.[i] Vastly reduce your intake of all animal products, anything that comes in a package, and vegetable oils. A healthy diet should never feel like a diet of deprivation, and the more variety you include, the less likely your taste buds will get bored. For hundreds of delicious, antiaging recipes, from different cuisines around the world, get a copy of my Simply Healthy Cookbook.
Step #2: Enhance Your Digestion
Most of us have poor digestive health, and the healthiest diet in the world is of no use if you are not properly digesting and absorbing the nutrients in your food. My first recommendation for optimizing digestion is replenishing healthy gut bacteria with a high-quality probiotic that contains at least 5 billion live active bacteria per serving. You should also consume probiotic-rich foods regularly. I prefer vegan sources because dairy is loaded with toxic estrogens that can negatively affect hormone balance. Some vegan sources of probiotics include pickled and fermented vegetables, sauerkraut, kombucha, and coconut kefir. It is also helpful to eat slowly and chew your food until it is liquified, and to consume liquids at least 20 minutes before or an hour after eating. For extra assistance, consider drinking a tbsp. of raw apple cider vinegar mixed into a cup of water, 20 minutes before each meal.
Step #3: Take Care of Your Mental Health
It’s sad how many people neglect this part of health maintenance, especially considering just how impactful your mental health is on your physical health. In fact, maintaining a positive and optimistic attitude is the one healthy thing almost all centenarians (people who live past 100) have in common.[ii] One of the best ways to maintain a positive state of mind is to meditate daily or use self-hypnosis – just fifteen minutes a day will have a tremendous impact.[iii] If you struggle with reaching a meditative state than LFC glasses can help bring you there almost effortlessly. Another great way to enhance positivity is to change your questioning. Instead of making yourself a powerless victim by asking “Why is this happening to me?”, empower yourself to make changes by asking “What can I do about this?”. And if the answer is nothing, then let it go — wasting your mental energy on things you can’t change is futile. Other great ways to cultivate positivity include helping others, singing, deep breathing exercises, writing a daily gratitude list, smiling and laughing more often, cuddling, practicing yoga, and spending time in nature.
Step #4: Exercise Regularly
I know you’ve heard it a thousand times before, but there’s a reason why this recommendation is so popular, and why it’s one of the few recommendations that allopathic and holistic health practitioners concur on. Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for chronic disease, it shaves years off your life expectancy, and it negatively affects your mental and emotional health as well.[iv] Your exercise regime should be well-balanced and include a blend of cardiovascular, stretching, and strength training exercises. If you need to lose weight, want to reach a high level of fitness, or are pressed for time, I recommend you also include high-intensity interval training (HIIT) in your workout regime. Aim for a minimum of 200 minutes a week, and experiment with different activities until you find things you enjoy. And if you can exercise outside, even better. Sunlight exposure is essential for maintaining vitamin D levels, and being out in nature helps to ground you and reduce stress.
Step #5: Actively Detoxify
Our bodies have powerful detoxifying capabilities, but they were not designed to deal with the slew of modern-day toxins that we currently encounter. Our livers can easily become overwhelmed by all these toxins, and when they are unable to keep up, they are released via the skin. This is why skin diseases such as acne and rosacea are so common. We need to help reduce the burden on our livers and eliminative organs by reducing the number of toxins we introduce into our bodies. Eliminate or vastly reduce your intake of sugar, alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine, and reduce your exposure to environmental estrogen-like compounds (xenoestrogens) by drinking and showering in filtered water, and using organic cleaning and personal care products. Staying properly hydrated is also helpful. An easy way to monitor your hydration status is to look at your urine – it should be clear and not yellow. Sweating with saunas and intense exercise is also beneficial. For a more pronounced detoxification effect, I recommend you take Liv D-Tox, which contains the ultimate liver supporting herb Silymarin, and a blend of other regenerative herbs.
Step #6: Balance Your Hormones
Many essential hormones begin to progressively decline after 30, and hormone imbalances are responsible for several of the signs and symptoms of aging. The most common hormone imbalances include testosterone, estrogen (too high or too low), progesterone, DHEA, thyroid, melatonin, and cortisol. Some common symptoms that indicate a hormone imbalance include slow metabolism, stubborn belly fat, loss of muscle mass, fatigue, moodiness, dry skin, premature wrinkles, loss of sex drive, and sexual dysfunction. If you experience these symptoms, I recommend you work with a functional medicine practitioner who will take the time to ask you a series of questions to identify potential hormone imbalances, and then follow-up with the appropriate lab tests to confirm. You can also purchase a hormone test kit online; this is a good option if you want to save time and money. If hormone imbalances are identified, following the recommendations in this article and taking the appropriate nutraceutical supplements can help to restore balance. If you have severe imbalances that do not respond to lifestyle and nutraceutical therapy, I recommend you have a functional medicine practitioner prescribe bioidentical hormones.
Step #7: Have More Frequent, and More Sensual Sex
Did you know that the frequency that you engage in sex plays a key role in determining not only your relationship longevity but also your life expectancy?[v] Daily sex is ideal, but the average adult has sex once a week at most, and frequency tends to decline as our relationships progress, and as we age.[vi] Many of Dr. Cabeca and my patients come to us and say, “I love my partner, but I just don’t feel like having sex! What is wrong with me?” There is no singular answer to that questions – there’s usually a combination of factors at play. Hormone imbalances are a major contributor; and not just sex hormones, but also cortisol imbalances caused by chronic stress, and adrenal fatigue. Another problem is a lack of understanding among men, of what turns women on. Her sex drive will suffer if you are not catering to her motivations for sex. In addition to increasing sexual frequency, you should also increase the sensuality of your relationship and lovemaking. Touch each other whenever possible, give each other loving full-body massages, engage in extended foreplay, light candles, play sensual music, and do anything else that fosters connectivity and increases your sexual energy. For an all-encompassing guide on how to enhance sexual health and functioning and achieve mutual, orgasmic ecstasy, get the New Guide to Maximum Pleasure for Men, or the New Guide to Maximum Bliss for Women. Dr. Cabeca has also developed a fun and extremely effective program specifically for women who want to improve their libido and love-life, called Sexual CPR.
Step #8: Control Inflammation
Chronic inflammation is the root cause of most, if not all chronic, degenerative diseases. It is a silent killer, and although many of us are struggling with it, most of us don’t realize it. The reason it is so common is multifactored. Firstly, we are constantly bombarded with environmental toxins (in our air, water, consumer products etc.). We further increase this toxic load by taking over-the-counter and prescription medications, and consuming processed foods or foods we are intolerant to (even healthy foods can be harmful if you’re intolerant to them).[vii] Many of us also experience chronic stress and regular sleep deprivation, which deprives our body of the conditions it needs to restore itself. All of these things increase free radicals and oxidative stress in the body, leading to a state of chronic inflammation. Reducing stress and incorporating the above recommendations are important for controlling inflammation. I also recommend you consume herbs and spices abundantly. Some particularly beneficial herbs to emphasize, include turmeric, garlic, cayenne, ginger, cinnamon, sage, and cloves.
*For a deeper exploration of steps to restoring your health, that is targeted specifically towards women aged 35 and over, check out Dr. Cabeca’s restorative health program: http://womensrestorativehealth.com/