It seems that almost every day we're told another piece of health advice that contradicts the one given out the day before. In the past few months alone, we've been told that red wine is good for you and bad for you-as are coffee, tea, fish, red meat and bread.
Confused by this contradictory advice and by fad diets and exercise regimes, here are the 18 golden rules to longstanding good health that have stood the test of time.
1- Understand your metabolic type
Many wonder if they should become vegetarian-and, ethically, they should. But you may not be ready to embrace a vegetarian diet. One way to find out is to identify your metabolic type, as some people need to eat a high-protein, meat-based diet, while others do better on carbohydrates.
William Wolcott, the world's leading authority on metabolic typing, and co-author, with Trish Fahey, of The Metabolic Typing Diet (New York: Doubleday, 2000), followed in the footsteps of cancer pioneer Dr William Kelley by assuming that there's no one-size-fits-all approach to good nutrition and treating illness. Wolcott discovered that, by customizing a person's diet by metabolic type, many of those with serious illnesses-including cancer-regained their health.
The sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the nervous system each regulates a different set of metabolic activities, organs and glands and, as Kelley and Wolcott discovered, most of us are influenced more strongly by one or the other neurological system. This means that every one of us has different diet-related physical, behavioural and psychological characteristics, depending on whether we are 'sympathetic-dominant' or 'parasympathetic-dominant'.
One man's meat is literally another man's poison; a high-protein diet has one effect on a 'protein' type, but a totally different effect on a 'carbohydrate' type.
Metabolic typing uncovers the diet that's right for your body now, and some cancer sufferers have even seen their tumours disappear just by adopting a diet that's appropriate for their body.
To determine your metabolic type, go to www.healthexcel.com for an initial $49 review.
2- Eat a good breakfast
It's a truism that the most important meal of the day is breakfast. Eating large amounts of food in the morning and less in the evening can reduce overall food intake and help treat or prevent obesity.7 The best breakfast should include oats, one of the healthiest starts to any day, and it's healthier still when topped with real maple syrup and berries. Oatmeal contains simple unique compounds that can protect against heart disease by lowering high cholesterol and other risk factors.8
3- Avoid processed foods
As a simple rule of thumb, don't eat anything that doesn't come directly from nature. Avoid anything that's white when it should be brown, frozen when it should be fresh, or laden with preservatives, flavourings, artificial sweeteners and other 'helpful' added chemicals rather than natural.
In short, if it's been in a processing plant, don't buy it and certainly don't eat it.
4- Get adequate vitamin D
Scientists have only recently begun to understand the vital importance of vitamin D to our general health, especially our mental health. The most plentiful source is, of course, sunshine, but we've been so scared off by skin cancer that around a one-third of us is vitamin D-deficient.
It's important to get at least 15 minutes of sunshine every day during the summer months. While you don't want to burn, you do want to get your skin a little red. Top up your vitamin D levels with nutritional supplements or foods like milk, eggs, yoghurt and fatty fish, especially during the long winter months if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, when the sun is too weak to offer healthful benefits.
5- Drink filtered water
You need to drink plenty of water every day. It's debatable just how much, but listen carefully to your body, which will tell you when and how much you need to drink. Use a good-quality filter to ensure that all chemicals, heavy metals, parasites and fluoride have been removed first-or buy mineral water, preferably supplied in glass bottles, as toxins leach from plastic ones. The latest concern is that a cocktail of pharmaceutical drugs can now be found in the public water supplies of the US and UK.
6- Be careful with pharmaceuticals
Prescription drugs can be important in the early stages of any disease, as they help suppress the worst of symptoms like pain and discomfort. But they're a short-term remedy, and you should always be looking for the underlying cause of any disease. After 25 years, we're still searching for one single drug out there, besides antibiotics, that actually cures anything. We still haven't found one. Drugs cure nothing; they merely help make life bearable-while you run the very real risk of a chemical chain reaction that causes a whole host of side-effects.
In spite of assurances from the pharmaceutical industry that drugs can target certain receptors in the body with laser-like efficiency, the fact is that many unrelated systems have identical receptors-which is why drugs invariably affect parts of the body indiscriminately and cause side-effects.
There is a better alternative solution to virtually every health problem except emergency medicine, which is where orthodox medicine comes into its own. If you are shot, stabbed or run over, or suffer a heart attack or stroke, then modern Western medicine is simply without parallel for fixing you.
7- Get the omega-3/-6 balance right
The omega-3 and -6 balance is just as important as the acid/alkaline one (see right). These nutrients are the precursors of prostaglandins in the body, an important group of hormone-like lipid (fat) compounds that are involved in injury and disease.
The standard Western diet causes an imbalance in these essential fatty acids. The average person's ratio is 1 to 20 in favour of omega-6, while the ideal is 1
to 4. This is a reflection of the amount of processed foods we eat, as vegetable oils, salad dressings and margarines are rich in omega-6. Omega-3-rich foods include linseed, cod liver oil, and fresh cold-water oily fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel and herring.
A good rule of thumb: increase your intake of omega-3s (alpha-linolenic acid) and reduce your omega-6s (linoleic acid and arachidonic acid).
8- Maintain a correct acid/alkaline balance
Many chronic diseases are thought to be due to an acid/alkaline imbalance, and conventional wisdom has it that a high-protein diet of meats, eggs, nuts and some grains creates acid, while fruits and vegetables are alkali-forming.
Although this may be why so many people suffer from such a wide range of chronic diseases with the West's high-protein diet, the process is complicated by metabolic type, which can make any foods eaten either acidic or alkaline.
So while nutritionists believe that certain foods are inherently acidic or alkalizing, this ignores the fact that a food's effect on the body depends on a number of homeostatic controls, such as the autonomic nervous system, the master controller of metabolism-including oxygen metabolism-within the body's cells.
9- Eat and drink organic
Whenever possible, try to consume only organic foods and drinks. Organic food is more expensive and its shelf life is shorter because it hasn't been shot full of pesticides and preservatives, but at least you know you're getting more nutrition for your money. Organically reared meat and produce not only contain substantially more of the basic nutrients than the intensively farmed variety, but they also contain up to 10,000 other secondary nutrients essential for human health.
10- Get seven hours of sleep
A good night's sleep is essential. It's the natural end of a day that's been well spent, with physical activity and good nutritious food. Seven hours appears to be the ideal amount of sleep to aim for every night.
One study found that those who slept for five hours or less, or eight hours or more, were most likely to be overweight.
Sleeping for more and less than seven hours a night can increase the risk of lung cancer in older men, while the risk of death among women is lowest among those who get six to seven hours of sleep compared with less than five or more than eight hours.
For some, sleep is elusive; if you fall into that unhappy category, here are a few things to introduce into your daily regime.
o Eat lightly in the evening, and don't eat too late. Ensure your last shot of caffeine is taken no later than 2 p.m.
o Don't watch TV just before bedtime-turn it off about an hour beforehand and, instead, pick up a book to read, ideally one that's philosophical or spiritual.
oListen to some calming music such as a quiet piece of classical music or ambient music, which has a hypnotic effect.
o Try to quiet the mind through meditation, although researchers have found this is more effective midway through the day and not immediately before going to bed. Another sleep aid is blackout curtains, which make the room completely dark.
11- Exercise every day
You don't have to sweat it out at the gym, but the body does need to exercise every day. A good vigorous walk is sufficient-and that means around 100 steps per minute for 20 minutes. That's enough to get everything moving-and the heart beating a little faster. Indeed, just walking at a moderate pace (3 miles/hour. Or 5km/hour) provides every benefit that running does to stave off degenerative disease or cardiovascular events. And power walking (at 5 or more miles/hour, or 8 or more km/hour) burns off more calories than running at a similar speed.
When you're walking, breathe in deeply and fill the lungs. If a walk is difficult because of problems such as arthritis, try swimming every day.
12- Don't eliminate fats from your diet
We live in a low-fat-foods society. This is entirely based on the belief that high cholesterol levels are bad for us, and the cause of chronic heart disease. Yet several studies suggest that cholesterol would have to be far higher than what is currently considered the 'danger' mark before it causes damage to the heart and arteries. What's more, fats are necessary; they play an essential role in maintaining a healthy body, and are one of the most vital ingredients for a functioning brain.
This is why cholesterol-lowering statin drugs are often associated with memory loss and general mental decline; they reduce cholesterol to dangerously low levels. Cholesterol is even more important as we age, when we need fats and cholesterol to 'feed' our brain. One study of older women with heart disease who regularly ate more saturated fats showed they had less disease than those who followed a diet high in polyunsaturated fats and carbs. And a cancer study looking at the fat intakes of 28,098 middle-aged men and women for five years noted no adverse effects with high saturated-fat intakes.
13- Keep your home chemical-free
The typical house contains a toxic soup of organic chemical compounds, electromagnetic fields, combustion gases and other pollutants.
Although it's hard to escape all the chemicals in household products and toiletries, you can eliminate some of them by buying 'green' and chemical-free cleaners, air fresheners, shampoos and makeup. Even the paint on our walls and carpets under our feet are leaching chemicals all the time. Aim to keep your chemical load to reasonable levels. A healthy immune system can handle a certain level of toxins, but it shouldn't become overwhelmed.
14- Don't immediately kill a fever
Medicine views a fever as a major alert and it swings into action immediately to bring it down as quickly as possible. Although an unusually high fever can be dangerous, it's a necessary process. It helps kick-start the immune system, kills off germs and viruses, and even eliminates diseases like cancer in their early stages. If you do develop a fever, monitor it carefully and allow it to run for several days before seeking to bring down your temperature. Make sure you drink plenty of liquids and rest in a room that's properly aired.
15- Breathe properly
It's an extraordinary fact that most of us don't breathe properly. We often take very shallow breaths, and some of us breathe through the mouth when we should be taking frequent deep breaths through our nose, filling our lungs with health-giving oxygen, before releasing the air slowly through the mouth.
Breathing incorrectly can contribute to asthma, and breathing problems
and snoring are now under closer scrutiny as a possible cause of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and learning difficulties.
If you don't breathe correctly, the Buteyko method of correct breathing may help, as can the breathing exercises (pranayama) practised in yoga.
16- Avoid smoking, and drink in moderation
It goes without saying: if you're a smoker, stop today. Self-hypnosis programmes can help wean you off the weed. With alcohol, moderation is key. A glass of wine every so often may do more good than harm, but it's important to have quite a few alcohol-free days every week to allow the body to restore itself.
17- Keep your gums healthy
Doctors are only now beginning to understand the importance of gums and teeth to our overall health. Many health problems, especially heart disease, are associated with poor gums and teeth. Inflamed gums that frequently bleed are very likely causing problems in the rest of the body. It's also important to keep amalgam fillings down to a minimum and avoid root-canal work wherever possible.
Health researcher and pioneering dentist Weston Price discovered a direct correlation between the health of specific teeth and the health of organs in the body. He believed that root-canal work caused bacterial leakage, responsible for systemic autoimmune disorders like arthritis. You're also most likely to encounter an X-ray in the dentist's chair, so restrict this to essential work only.
18- Mental health
If you suffer from chronic depression-and particularly if you're taking prescription medication for it-you need to become a medical detective. It's vital that you don't go it alone, but work closely with a qualified health professional. No matter what their discipline, they must be sympathetic to the idea that chronic depression has a biochemical aspect.
Although transient and mild depression is something we all suffer from time to time, chronic depression is a problem that persists.
Antidepressants and other drugs like antipsychotics may have their place in treating serious depression, but they don't address the underlying problem. As they're very powerful chemical agents, they come with equally powerful side-effects. Almost certainly, something in your life - your immediate environment or your diet is causing your depression.
A chronic food allergy or even leaking from a gas cooker could be responsible. If you suspect that foods may be responsible for your depression, the first ones to eliminate are wheat and dairy, which together are responsible for the majority of food allergies and intolerances.
If you feel depressed or down after eating a sandwich or some other wheat-based food, it's a clue that wheat could be the culprit. Nowadays, there are plenty of wheat- and gluten-free alternatives, so you don't need to go without your daily bread. The same goes for dairy, as many milk, cheese and butter alternatives are now available on the market. Deficiencies of a number of micronutrients (B12, folate, vitamin C, for instance) can also bring on depression, so get your levels checked.
The cause is just as likely to be from a chemical or toxin in your immediate environment: your central heating system, the toiletries you use, the air freshener or something else in your home. Environmental toxins have a cumulative effect; the body's immune system has been likened to a water barrel that overflows when too much rainwater is added. Just removing a few toxins from your environment may be enough to reduce your body's overall load, allowing your immune system to begin expelling poisons from your body.
Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, is another unsuspected cause of chronic depression. Although most of us are familiar with its opposite, hyperthyroidism-when the thyroid gland is overactive-many of us suffer from an underactive gland, which can be brought on by diet and stress. Once diagnosed, it's relatively easy to resolve, but don't self-medicate. Instead, seek out a sympathetic health practitioner.
Several modalities, such as the Emotional Freedom Technique and Thought Field Therapy, have been successful in treating chronic depression and anxiety and, as reported in the January issue of WDDTY, high-dose supplements of vitamin B12 have reversed many cases.
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From the February 2015 issue