As the New Year starts, Loyola Medicine family physician Kit Lee, MD, FAAMA is offering 10 holistic lifestyle tips that can boost your health and potentially reduce the need for medications.
Dr. Lee’s evidence-based advice includes lifestyle modifications such as mindful eating and proper sleep hygiene and simple suggestions such as taking a walk in the park or performing a random act of kindness.
Dr. Lee prescribes medications when necessary. But most medications have side effects and generally don’t cure diseases.
In many cases, a holistic lifestyle can prevent the need for drugs, she said.
Here are Dr. Lee’s top ten tips for a healthy and holistic 2019:
Sleep hygiene. Sleep in a cool, dark room. Aim for seven or eight hours a night. Gentle stretching before bed can relax your body and help you get to sleep.
But avoid vigorous exercise and alcohol and caffeine before bedtime.
Lavender, an essential oil, can be calming and sedative before sleep. It’s also okay to use the supplement melatonin occasionally to reset your sleep-and-wake cycle.
If you still have trouble falling asleep, don’t toss and turn. Get up and do something relaxing for a while, such as reading, meditating or watching TV.
Mindful Eating. Don’t mindlessly wolf down your food. Take your time. Chew slowly. Savor the smell, flavor, taste and texture. And don’t overeat – stop before you feel full.
Plant-based diet. Limit animal-based foods and cut down on carbs. Eat mostly vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, seeds and nuts.
Berries are among the most healthful fruits, and vegetables are even better. Eat the rainbow – fruits and vegetables with different colors provide different nutrients and phytochemicals (disease-fighting compounds found in plants).
Take a time out. Spend at least 20 minutes a day in a quiet space that allows you to express your inner voice.
Put down your smart phone, turn off the TV and walk, meditate, play an instrument, draw, dance or write in a journal.
Nature’s cure. Studies have found that spending time in nature improves mood, lowers stress hormones and reduces blood pressure.
A walk in the woods also might boost the immune system. Plants emit chemicals called phytocides that protect against insects and harmful microbes.
When you breathe in phytocides, it increases the level of the immune system’s natural killer cells.
You don’t have to go to the wilderness. Walking in a park or even sitting in your back yard can also help. Plus, spending time outside in sunlight helps regulate circadian rhythm (your body’s 24-hour internal clock).
Move it! Dr. Lee recommends following the federal government’s Physical Guidelines for Americans.
Each week, adults should do 2 ½ to 5 hours per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity.
Aerobic activity is anything that makes your heart beat faster, such as brisk walking, jogging, bicycling, dancing, swimming, etc.
In addition, do muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week. Examples include lifting weights, carrying heavy loads and heavy gardening.
Check with your physician before beginning a new exercise routine.
Yoga. There are many physical and mental benefits to yoga, including increased flexibility, muscle strength and tone, protection against injury, improved balance, better sleep, improved mood and stress relief.
Depending on the type practiced, yoga also can count as an aerobic or muscle-strengthening activity.
Helping others. Assisting other people, such as volunteering at a food pantry or performing a random act of kindness, can have multiple health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, boosting self-esteem and relieving stress.
“Selfless service enhances a sense of connectivity to one another,” Dr. Lee said.
Magic words. Nurturing your personal relationships also is good for your health.
Three of the best ways to do this are to show gratitude, express your love and be the first to apologize. So don’t neglect to say “thank you” and “I love you” and when necessary, “I’m sorry.”
Glass half full. Studies have found that having a positive attitude can help manage stress, which can lead to many health benefits, including better heart health, lower rates of depression and improved coping skills.
Source: Loyola University Health System.