Health and aging are not just a matter of genetics, they are mainly a matter of lifestyle.
How you choose to live dictates how your body either stays strong or declines.
Dr. Sam is a British, London-trained integrative physician with 34 years of experience in medicine and wellness. Known for his relentless pursuit of up-to-date knowledge, Dr. Sam holds a medical degree and two masters degrees. Join Dr. Sam’s Lifestyle community and gain access to his insight on how you can enhance your health.
An integrative physician with 30 years of experience covering multiple areas of practice including gastroenterology and nutrition.
Diet is the number one element because it is the most important of the five. It includes the food you eat, the fluids you drink, and the small number of supplements Grace Bay Medical recommends for modern day life.
Consider the human body at a cellular and molecular level. Individual nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, manipulate our genetic code, giving food the ability to switch genes on and off; genes that control every function of our body.
For example, in the last 10 years, we have discovered the complex, biologically active ecosystems of organisms that live in our intestines. Bacteria, archaea, yeasts and viruses are collectively called the “enterobiome,” and are influenced by what we eat. They have a significant impact on the chemistry and immune status of our body through many mechanisms that are vital to maintaining our health. Science proves they influence our mental state as well. Simply put, our bodies are similar to a garden: what you feed the colony dictates the final the health of our body and mind.
Healthy food choices are determined by the substantial scientific evidence that human beings are not carnivores or omnivores. Our teeth and gut structure are that of animals who eat primarily a plant-based diet.
Given the clear data, the formula for food that Grace Bay Medical promotes is:
Milk-based products should be consumed in moderation (if at all), and limited to small amounts of mature cheeses.
Protein recommendations are approximately 40-60 grams per day. Most people with an animal-product diet consume double the recommended amount of protein per day. In spite of clever advertising by many agencies, including government agencies, you do not need animal protein in your diet. Quite the contrary, there are many studies that show your risk of being overweight, developing diabetes, or having elevated blood pressure is dramatically increased by consuming excessive animal products and refined carbohydrates.
Also remember sugar should be consumed in very modest amounts. Fructose corn syrup is its own particular poison and should be removed from your diet. The best source of sweetness is honey.
Exercise is element number two. No single element (other than diet) has the beneficial and broad-based effect on your overall health than exercising every day. For example, medications reduce your risk of illness in small percentages. But when medicine is combined with exercise, a person can see a whopping 50% or more reduction in their risk of heart disease, degenerative diseases, and cancer.
The good news for those who don’t like exercise is you only need a surprisingly small amount to achieve significant gains. In fact, it is suggested that even getting up from your office chair every 20 minutes is the equivalent of giving up a pack of cigarettes a day. Better still, purchase a standing desk and work at it a few hours a day. You will benefit.
Additionally, by taking the stairs, walking around the block, or walking the dog you can see measurable gains. The more you do, the bigger the benefit. Science shows substantial gains are found in the lower levels of exercise which nearly everyone can undertake.
These benefits are not confined to the young or middle-aged. We know that the elderly can reap very significant gains by using lightweights for rapid bicep curls for a minute every day. One minute—that’s it.
The bottom line: any exercise is better than no exercise.
Sleep is crucial for good health and serves as a productive time for both our bodies and our brains. Everyone needs approximately 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night as a minimum.
Sleep is the time when the body and the brain actively clean house, fix any damage, and reset everything back to its normal baseline; a nightly reboot. Cutting your sleep short cheats your body of the time required to complete these tasks and invites new damage to build on existing damage.
Sleep requires a dark and quiet environment. Melatonin, one of the key hormones managing the processes of sleep, requires darkness for its production. Any white light falling on the back of your eye (i.e., illuminated screens on electronic devices) switches off the production of melatonin. This, in turn, disrupts the nightly cycle of restoration.
During sleep, the brain literally washes away debris from the day’s work. Moreover, the entire intestine cleans itself, and the liver removes the toxins built up during the day.
Sleep is a deep cleansing that occurs on a nightly basis. Failure to get sufficient sleep, for whatever reason, has a significant impact on your health and well being.
Me Time is the focused, calming practice of being rather than doing. Find 10 minutes every day to just sit and get in touch with your body, mind, and soul. Step away from the endless cycle of activity for a few minutes by putting relationships on pause, turning off the electronics and outside intrusions, and simply be.
Mindfulness is being aware of what is going on right now all around you: Your thoughts, feelings and body sensations, and the situation you find yourself in.
A key component of mindfulness is that it is simply observational. It is without judgment. There is no “good” or “bad,” ”right” or ”wrong” feelings, or even a sense of “helpful” or ”unhelpful.” You practice mindfulness simply to be aware.
There are two types of mindfulness: passive and active. Passive mindfulness is learning to pay attention and take note of how you feel in various situations, i.e., after a good sleep, after a certain meal, or by comparing exercise vs. a period without exercise. This easy-to-achieve behaviour leads us to change our lives, not because we were told by the doctor, pastor, or partner, rather because you want to have that sensation of feeling good. Being aware allows us to connect thoughts and behaviours with this feeling and inspires us to make an active choice to return to this place.
Active mindfulness is a more directed process. It is primarily based on meditation, a simple-to-learn technique which leads to changes in our brain that calm both the mind and body.
Why, you might ask, is this part of our five-element program? In 1979, Jon Kabat-Zinn launched a mindfulness-based stress reduction program at University of Massachusetts Medical School which demonstrated the significant mental and physical benefits of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is simple to learn and practice. And it’s free.
Stress management is our fifth and final element. The first step in management is to recognize and acknowledge the existence of stress. This is part of being mindful. In itself, stress may not be harmful. However, it can be, especially if we do not know how to handle it.
Stress reduction is a key component in stress management and can take a variety of forms. Our first four elements provide a firm foundation for stress reduction.
Mental flexibility is an asset in stress management as well. Most of us live our lives with expectations about what should happen. We hold the belief that if we live a certain way, we can expect a certain outcome: better health, wealth, and success. In reality, nothing can be perfectly predicted; life does not operate to our wishes. This leads to frustration and is a major contributor to stress. At Grace Bay Medical, we teach the concept of replacing EXPECTATIONS with ASPIRATIONS. The former implies that we are entitled to what we want; the latter acknowledges that we don’t always get it.
Applying the first four elements in combination with mental flexibility is a significant step in the right direction toward managing and reducing stress.