An individual, whole-body approach to wellness
Holistic medicine is an individual, whole-body approach to wellness and health care, treating the body, mind, and spirit. Optimal health is much more than the absence of sickness. According to holistic medicine practitioners, all aspects of a person’s health are interrelated and being unwell in one can affect all others.
Because holistic treatments are more about identifying the root cause of an ailment instead of just addressing symptoms, it is a more realistic approach to healing. It focuses on wellness and prevention rather than just treating disease.
Complementary and Alternative Medicines (CAM)
In general, holistic medicine combines the best of conventional medicine with complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) that have been scientifically proven to work. Naturopathic nutrition, holistic exercise, homeopathy, herbal medicine, naturopathic medicine, acupuncture and meditation are a few treatments that may be used together with conventional medicine as part of the holistic approach.
While there are many benefits to holistic medicine, keep in mind that it is not necessarily a replacement for conventional medical care. If you are unsure which treatment modality to choose, check with Debbie or your medical doctor or natural health care practitioner.
Before we look at CAM, let’s look at the cause of disease
What is the root cause of most disease?
Science is beginning to show that the starting point of all medical conditions and disease is inflammation.
Inflammation has long been a well-known symptom of many diseases caused by infection with microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria. For example, colds, influenza and tonsillitis, acute bronchitis and cystitis. Research increasingly suggests that inflammation is also linked with a broad range of chronic diseases, perhaps even all of them.
Although these insights might not lead to a unified theory of disease, the crucial role of inflammatory processes makes possible the development of medicines both conventional and CAM to treat conditions including cancers, autoimmune disorders and infectious diseases.
What is inflammation from a holistic medicine perspective?
Inflammation is associated with a wide spectrum of symptoms from headaches to anxiety. It can be related to a number of different factors, not just the presence of bacteria and viruses, but also as a result of stress, our lifestyle choices, environmental influences such as moulds and dust and certain foods especially refined wheat, sugar and milk.
Here we’ll explore what inflammation is, how nutrition may be related to inflammation, and some strategies to help keep inflammation at bay.
Acute inflammation is when our body senses harm, such as an infection, and works to fight it off in a short period of time. This is a normal response by the body to promote healing. Some symptoms include pain, redness, swelling, and fever. Examples of acute inflammation include tonsillitis, influenza, gastroenteritis due to food poisoning, coughs and colds.
But inflammation is damaging when it occurs in healthy tissues as a persistent low grade response over longer periods of time. Then known as chronic inflammation, it may persist for months or years.
It can be harmful and may increase the risk of several diseases such as diabetes, cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, kidney disease, irritable bowel disease, depression, cognitive decline, vision loss, and heart disease.
How to treat inflammation from a holistic perspective
Firstly nutrition and plant foods. Plants are anti-inflammatory
Plants contain naturally occurring compounds known as phytonutrients that have anti-inflammatory benefits.
Flavonoids are one type of phytonutrient, found in dark green and dark red fruits and vegetables, particularly well known for their anti-inflammatory potential.
Antioxidants, are ‘free radical fighters’, the most beneficial are glutathione, astaxanthin, riboflavin (vitamin B2) selenium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and zinc. They help to destabilise free radicals which are unstable chemicals that can build up and cause damage and chronic inflammation over time.
Chronic inflammation produces lots of free radicals which ultimately create more inflammation.
Some sources of free radicals are highly processed foods, air pollution and cigarette smoke.
The best source of antioxidants are blueberries especially wild blueberries. Cranberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, even goji berries, are all at the top of the list of antioxidant-rich fruits.. One cup of fresh or frozen berries a day should do you right.
Other antioxidant rich foods include almonds, apricots, asparagus, avocado, Brazil nuts, barley, broccoli, brown rice, Brussel sprouts, carrots, cashews, cauliflower, chickpeas, grapefruit, leafy greens, kale, kiwi, lemon, lentils, mangos, orange, papaya, peaches, pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, snow peas, spinach, sunflower seeds, sweet potato, tomatoes, turnip, bell peppers, watermelon.
And so many more!
Nutrition and inflammation
The food we eat and our patterns of eating are factors that can help keep our bodies and immune system strong. Here are some nutrition principles that may support optimal health, with some specific examples of foods with anti-inflammatory properties.
Eating the rainbow everyday
Fruits and vegetables of a variety of colours offer an abundance of vitamins, minerals, fibre, and antioxidants. Various fruits and vegetables also contain flavonoids that exert anti-inflammatory effects. For example, the bright and deep colour of berries is in part thanks to the flavonoid compound called anthocyanins. Dark red and purple berries are especially known for their anti-inflammatory and health-promoting potential, such as cranberries, blackberries, and blueberries.
Some fruits and vegetables richer in flavonoid compounds include the berries, apples, avocados, cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cabbage , and leafy green vegetables. Other sources include garlic, onions, and ginger.
Garlic and onions
Garlic contains organosulfur compounds and flavonoids which may help with anti-inflammation, microbial infections, and diseases such as cardiovascular diseases.
Onions contain a flavonoid called quercetin, which has shown anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral potential. Quercetin may also offer heart health benefits through impacts on blood cholesterol levels.
Ginger contains gingerols, which have been found to help reduce inflammation and may slow the progression of various chronic diseases. Also packed with antioxidants, it’s been reported that ginger can help to prevent free radical production, which may help to prevent inflammatory-related diseases.
Caution: Some inflammatory conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease, may be aggravated by onions and garlic and you may be advised to limit these foods as they can cause more heat in the body and disturb sleep. If you are not sure then seek advice from your health care professional. Or email Debbie
Herbs and spices
Herbs and spices have been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. They are packed with antioxidants and phytonutrients well known to have anti-inflammatory properties. More recently though, some have become better known for their potential benefits in reducing pain, inflammation and having antimicrobial effects, such as cloves, oregano, rosemary, turmeric, and thyme.
A bit more about turmeric
Turmeric, and its active ingredient curcumin, may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
It may be the most effective nutritional ‘super’ food in existence.
Many high-quality studies show that turmeric has major benefits for the body and brain such as improving memory and attention, reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer, prevention of degenerative disease of the brain such as Alzheimer’s, improving arthritis, as an antidepressant and may aid longevity and age related illness.
Plant based protein
A higher consumption of animal-based foods, such as red meat or dairy products, has been associated with higher inflammation levels and chronic disease. Plant-based protein sources on the other hand, such as legumes and nuts, have been associated with lower levels of inflammation and may help to improve insulin sensitivity.
Another beneficial source of plant-based proteins is soy products, such as edamame, tofu, and tempeh.
Fibre and fermented foods
Our gut is an ecosystem that trillions of microorganisms call home. The research shows that the balance of these microorganisms has an impact on our health and mood. Fibre is one source that can promote a more favourable profile of these microorganisms to support optimal health and the gut brain connection. Some sources of fibre include fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains. Whole grains tend to be richer in fibre and phytochemicals than their refined counterparts. A few examples of whole grains to support overall health and anti-inflammation include steel cut oats or oatmeal, quinoa, millet, brown rice, whole wheat, buckwheat.
Fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, natto, miso and apple cider vinegar all contain healthy microbes and act as pre and probiotics . Fermented foods have been shown to have many health and well being benefits. Including anti oxidant activity, improving immune function through anti microbial and anti fungal effects. They are also known to improve circulation and have anti-inflammatory effects.
Omega 3, 6, 9 fatty acids are vital to your health. It is essential to eat a varied and balance diet rich in these fats in order to keep a health balance.
Omega 3 and 6 are essential fatty acids (EFAs) that our bodies need. EFAs are fatty acids that the body cannot make or has limited capacity to make so we must get them through the foods we eat. They’re needed for the normal, healthy functioning of cells and various body processes. Omega 9 is synthesised in the body and found in many foods.
For most people, a varied and balanced diet will give them all the omega 3, 6, and 9 they need. The overconsumption of omega-6, in processed foods, can cause many health issues but that isn’t to say it doesn’t come without its benefits when the balance is right.
There is no need to worry about omega-9 as that is synthesised in the body and can be found in plenty of the foods we eat. If you follow a plant-based diet, make sure you are planning meals with a variety of different sources.
- Sources of Omega 3 include walnuts, hemp seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, soya, chia seeds
- Sources of Omega 6 include nuts and seeds, cereals, wholegrains.
- Sources of Omega 9 include almonds, cashews, olives, avocado, walnuts
Avoid processed foods (any food that is changed from its natural state)
Highly processed convenience foods generally have added sugar, salt, fat, and other chemical additives. They may be processed in a way that reduces their natural nutrient density or breaks down their structure which may contribute to stress in the body. Excessive consumption can promote inflammation, especially when highly processed choices consistently displace the consumption of less processed options.
Examples of processed foods include sugar-sweetened drinks, such as carbonated soda, sweetened juice, energy drinks and soft drinks, chips, biscuits, crackers, refined cereals and breads, cakes, sweets and pastries.
Generally it is recommended to limit excessive alcohol intake. Red wine has an antioxidant compound in it called resveratrol, which has well-established anti-inflammatory effects, and can be beneficial.
Excess alcohol has been found to be detrimental to liver function. The liver is responsible for elimination of pollutants and toxins. High levels of toxins result in inflammation and organ damage.
Some alternatives to alcohol include: flavouring sparkling water with fruits like lemon, lime, bitters and ginger, kombucha, green tea, fresh juices and smoothies.
A Holistic Lifestyle
Just 20 minutes of exercise a day can be enough to produce an anti-inflammation response.
Try simply walking. Or try stretching, Yoga and pilates, Tai Chi, swimming, ballet and dancing.
It’s important to deal with stress over time as excessive stress can take a mental and physical toll on us all and may also contribute to inflammation. There are many stress management techniques such as meditations and mindfulness practices, being in nature, reading, walking, singing and dancing. What ever works for you is best!
Sleep and Rest
Good quality and quantity of sleep and rest can help us feel fuelled and energized. A disturbed sleep pattern has been associated with signs of increased inflammation.