the Pillars of Health

A Practical Approach to General Health and Well-being.

In this article, I will summarize my two decades of research in to the area of health and wellness in to 9 categories. It is important to note that my approach to health is constantly evolving as I integrate new information in to my life. My aim here is to share with you the insights which I have found most beneficial in several different areas, however what works for me may not necessarily work for you, and ultimately you need to experiment and figure out for yourself what your healthiest life looks like.

 

These areas are what I consider to be foundational to good health, I call them the pillars of health. Here they are:

Mindset - Do you want to be here?

Do you want to be here? Really take a minute to sit with this question. Do you like living on this earth? Our mind is very powerful. If we truly hate being here, if we hate life, our mind will help us out by trying to remove us from this world, through the manifestation of chronic disease.

 

The first step on any healing journey starts with this question of “Do you want to be here?” You need to be honest with yourself in answering some of the hard questions. If you don’t want to be here, why not? Is there something that is within your power to change that could have a positive impact on your experience of life? If so, what is stopping you from making that change? Is it fear? Fear of what? Failure? Death? Can you let go of that fear? This can be a helpful path and line of questioning to go down.

 

Our beliefs and feelings about the world and about ourselves will have direct impacts on our physical health. When we are in a state of apathy or depression, and feeling negative thoughts and emotions, it can be very difficult to do anything healthy, even if we know it will make us feel better (believe me, I’ve been there). We often engage in self-sabotaging behaviour when we are in these negative states. Therefore, it is important to be very careful about the kinds of media and information which we consume.

 

For me, concerning myself too much with world events can pull me in to a spiral of negative emotions. I have learned the hard way to limit my consumption of this type of media, and from time to time I have to remind myself not to fall in to the trap again, as it directly impacts my physical and mental well-being.

 

Conversely, our physical state also impacts our mental state. Think about how you feel if you are exhausted or sick. Do you feel more negative thoughts or positive ones? The following pillars of health are areas where we can directly improve how we feel physically, and consequently improve how we feel mentally.

Breath

How we breathe is the most simple, yet the most rapid way to change how we feel, and the best part is that it’s free! Shallow, rapid breathing is associated with a stressful (sympathetic) state.  Slow, deep breathing is associated with a state of calm and relaxation (parasympathetic).

 

Tune in to the quality of your breath throughout the day. Close your lips, keep your teeth apart. Hold your tongue up against the roof of your mouth. Breathe in and out through your nose. Relax your jaw, neck, and shoulders. Inhale fully from your belly for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 6. Exhaling longer than inhaling has been shown to increase parasympathetic activity and decrease sympathetic

Sleep

Go to bed early. Ideally between 9-10pm. As a lifelong night-owl, it took me until I was in my thirties to figure this out. I just couldn’t let go of the day and I would stay up late in to the night trying to finish whatever I was working on. I have now learned that if I go to bed early, I wake up with a fresh mind, and I can get 10 times more done in the morning than at night. A good rule of thumb that I like to follow is: Every hour of sleep before midnight counts as two hours. So if you were to go to bed at 10pm, and wake up at 6am, that counts as 10 hours of sleep! It’s not exactly scientific, but the mindset helps me get to bed early and I feel much better because of it.

 

Sleep is generally better with a colder room and fresh bedsheets. Dim your lights at night, wear blue-light blocking glasses (with orange or red lenses), unplug your WiFi and stay off your devices at least 30 minutes before you go to bed. Taking magnesium at night can help with sleep. It is also important to regulate your circadian rhythm by getting early morning sunlight in to your eyes, and trying to get out in the sun throughout the day.

Food

This is a big topic. There are so many different belief systems on what is the best way to eat for vibrant health. Vegan, carnivore, ketogenic, paleo, I have tried them all! Regardless of the specific diet, these are the main principles that should be emphasized:

 

1) Eat real food. Real food does not have a list of ingredients, real foods ARE the ingredients. Limit highly processed foods which would be anything in a package or a box, and this includes cheap vegetable oils like canola or sunflower oil.

 

2) Buy high-quality food. Over the decades, food quality has degraded due to consumer demand for cheaper food, and our health has suffered because of it. 40 years ago (as of 2020), American’s spent 18% of their personal income on food, and 9% on healthcare. Today, those numbers have reversed. American’s spend 9% of their personal income on food, and 18% on healthcare.

 

3) Cook at home. Pack your own lunch. It’s healthier, and it’s less expensive, and the only way to ensure quality. While you’re at it, make your own coffee or tea at home too.

 

4) Know where your food comes from. Eat locally and seasonally. Source as much of your food as possible directly from farmers. This is the most cost effective way to get high quality food. We participate in a weekly CSA for organic vegetables and buy our meat directly from the farmers who are practicing rotational grazing and regenerative agriculture techniques. We also source wild caught fish from small fishing operations.

 

5) Don’t overeat. This includes the frequency of meals and the quantity of food. Smaller portions are better. Using smaller plates or bowls can help with this.

 

6) Limit or eliminate alcohol and caffeine. If you are someone who depends on these chemical substances on a daily basis, this may be something for you to explore and consider.

 

Here is the diet which I generally follow nowadays and what I ask my patients to follow when they are undergoing dental surgery with me. This diet prioritizes high quality animal proteins, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables (including potatoes and squash). The things which I limit are grains (with the exception of white rice), refined sugar or artificial sweeteners, conventional dairy (with the exception of greek yoghurt and some hard cheeses), and vegetable oils.

With all this being said, I try not to be religious about it. I will break my own rules from time to time and eat bread, pizza, pasta, a nice pastry here and there, a glass of wine or a beer. We can certainly overdo it with these strict diets and create a situation of orthorexia.

Minerals & Micronutrients:

Unfortunately, over then last century, our industrialized agriculture techniques have created a situation where our soils are generally depleted of minerals and micronutrients. This means that even if we source the highest quality food, it is still difficult to get sufficient levels of minerals and micronutrients from food alone. For this reason, I recommend supplementing with mineral sources such as Celtic Sea Salt, Shilajit, and Quinton or Actimar marine plasma (I talk about these things more and provide more resources in my blog post here about cavities and braces).

 

It is especially important to focus on minerals and micronutrients such as magnesium, zinc, potassium, fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K2, Vitamin C, B Vitamins, and perhaps most important Vitamin D3. Vitamin D Is best absorbed from the sunshine directly on your skin at solar noon, when the sun is at its highest point in the sky. Be careful not to get sunburned, but don’t wear sunscreen and try not to wear sunglasses all the time. Depending on where you live, it may be impossible to get Vitamin D from the sun during the winter months, and so you need to get it from food and possibly through supplementation. Note: those supplementing with Vitamin D3 should also be taking vitamin K2 (mk7) as well as magnesium (I recommend magnesium citrate).

Movement:

Our bodies are designed to move, and movement facilitates crucial functions for our body’s natural detoxification and waste management system, the lymphatic system. Movement is also known to improve our mood. Our modern lives tend to be too sedentary and not conducive to healthy movement. Therefore, it is important to build in as much movement as possible in to our routines. Bike to work instead of drive if you can. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park your car at the back of the parking lot. Make your phone calls while you are out for a walk. Try to go for a few walks throughout the day, even if they are only 10 minutes long. Do calf jumps while you are pumping gas (don’t do this for at least 2 months if you just had dental surgery!).

 

If you want to take it a step further, incorporate some kind of movement practice in to your life. This can be anything, and best to choose something you enjoy. Examples can be sports, weightlifting, yoga, dance, swimming, etc. Bonus points if you can stack this with being out in nature and having your bare feet on the earth! Right now I have personally been enjoying Mike Chang’s Flow60 routine, which combines joint mobilization, strength training, cardio, flexibility, breathwork, and mindfulness in to a 60 minute practice. It is available for free on YouTube. It is particularly important throughout life to move your spine through it’s full range of motion and maintain basic capabilities such as being able to easily sit down and get up from the ground, hang by your hands from a bar, and maintain good general strength, balance, and mobility.

Hydration:

Make sure you have good clean drinking water. Spring water, distilled or reverse osmosis is preferable, or at the very least a good filtration system like a Berkey filter. Tap water is not a health product. As for quantity, a good starting point is half your bodyweight in ounces and then see how you feel, then go up or down from there. (I weigh 200 pounds. So 200/2 = 100 ounces. Or about 3 litres of water per day.) Plain water doesn’t hydrate very well so it is beneficial to add something to your water like a pinch of sea salt or electrolytes. Try to finish the majority of your hydrating by 5pm, this way you will be less likely to have to get up to pee in the middle of the night, which disrupts sleep.

Detoxification:

Before turning to more complicated methods of detoxification (there are endless numbers of treatments out there), it is important to recognize and optimize our body’s own natural detoxification systems. We touched on the lymphatic system already, but we have not yet touched on number 1 and number 2… Our bodies naturally eliminate toxins through our urine and bowel. Dehydration is a problem for both of these pathways to function optimally. It is important to keep things moving and ideally you want to be having 2 to 3 bowel movements per day. Constipation is a problem because the toxins and waste products are not being eliminated and so they end up being reabsorbed through the intestines back in to our bloodstream. Therefore, make sure that you are hydrating properly and eliminating regularly.

 

Our liver works very hard to filter toxins from our blood, and it dumps these toxins back in to our digestive tract in the form of bile. It is a good idea to consume some toxin binding foods to bind these toxins and help us pass them, rather than reabsorb them. These include herbs like parsley and cilantro and also things like chlorella tablets.

 

Sweating is another way our body expels toxins. This is another added benefit of exercise. Saunas can also be great tools for inducing sweating and they also carry additional health benefits.

Community:

Last, but certainly not least on my list here, is community. We are communal beings. It is so crucial for our well-being to be surrounded by people who we can count on and make us feel loved.  Having lived on my own, away from my family for 5 years while I was away at school, I can’t tell you how important it is to be around family and other loved ones regularly. Something I really missed while I was away was having dinner together with my family on Sundays.

 

I firmly believe that many of the contemporary mental health challenges we grapple with stem from our growing disconnect from genuine human interaction in the physical world. This disconnection refers to our diminishing ability to engage in face-to-face, offline experiences. Elements like engaging in deep conversations, sharing meals without the interference of screens, embracing loved ones with warm hugs, or relishing a family picnic on a sunny summer day have been cherished aspects of our culture for generations. However, over the past few decades, we’ve steadily gravitated towards a digital existence, eroding these fundamental customs that are intrinsic to our humanity. As a result, the detrimental effects on human well-being have become strikingly apparent.

Closing Thoughts

In my optimistic vision of a brighter future, we should strive to harness digital tools, technology, and modern conveniences in a more balanced manner, without losing sight of what defines us as human beings. These technologies are here to stay, with more innovations undoubtedly on the horizon. What we can influence, though, is our relationship with these technologies. I firmly believe that if we educate ourselves on the core elements of leading a healthy and joyous human life and integrate these practices into our daily routines, we can reap the benefits that these technologies offer, without jeopardizing our most precious asset—our health.

 

Thank you for reading,

 

Sincerely,

 

Dr. J

Additional Resources:

Mindset Resources – “Letting Go” by David Hawkins, “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself” by Joe Dispensa, “The Road Less Traveled” by Scott Peck, “House Calls” podcasts with Dr. Cassie Huckaby and Dr. Tommy John III

 

Breathing Resources – “Breath” by James Nestor, Wim Hof Method.

 

Sleep Resources – Matt Walker 3-part interview on the Peter Attia “Drive” Podcast, Dr. Peter Martone

 

Food, Hydration, Mineral Resources – Any podcast, presentation, or book with Joel Salatin. “The Dental Diet” by Dr. Steven Lin. Dr. Dominik Nischwitz, Dr. Steven Lin, Dr. Leland Stillman, Dr. James DiNicolantonio on Instagram, Dr. Jennifer Daniels.

 

Movement Resources – Katy Bowman, Dr. Tommy John III