Three simple shifts to improve your Health Quotient – No diet required
By Resolute Michaels
There has been more than enough discussion on how the foods we eat have a major impact on how we feel, heal, and live our lives. And it’s true. The only building blocks our bodies have to maintain and repair are the ones we put in our mouths. And yet, there’s something more you can do. Happily, it doesn’t involve any drastic variation in your current routine.
Here they are – the three simple changes you can make – Water, Sleep, Movement - before changing your diet.
By the time we’re thirsty, we’ve already started to dehydrate. Some telltale signs of dehydration are headaches, constipation, dry skin and muscle cramps. But what causes our body to lose water? It’s mainly our detox pathways that use water to flush our system, through sweating, urination, and elimination. And sweating regulates our body temperature, too. Since water is also needed for lubricating joints and transporting nutrients, we want to be sure we have all our body desires.
But how much is enough? Surely, water needs vary from person to person. The rule of thumb is to divide your weight (in pounds) in half, and drink that many ounces of water per day. Sipping throughout the day is the tried and true way to absorb what you’re drinking. Unless you are an athlete or have long workouts, you can top out at 100 ounces.
We all know to keep our water bottle handy, and many of us already know the trick of adding lemon for a refreshing zing. Coffee and sodas aren’t the best choices, especially when containing sugar or artificial sweeteners, as your body then requires additional liquid to process these.
But if you’re willing, there’s a delicious way to hydrate. Simply trade some of those cookies, crackers and pretzels for yogurt, hummus and veggies, or whole fruit. Did you know that cantaloupe and leafy greens are 90% water? So are bell peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Eat up on these tasty snacks, and feel good about your hydration.
Have you noticed that you crave more snack foods and sugary treats when you’ve not had a full night’s sleep? And that it’s next to impossible to resist?
Your body has a reason. It maintains and repairs itself while you sleep and hormones, which are the messengers in your body, regulate this. Ghrelin is a hormone that signals your body to release growth hormone, which it then uses in all that maintenance and repair. Ghrelin is also a hormone that upregulates your desire for carbohydrates. If you don’t get enough sleep, Ghrelin continues at higher than normal levels during the day, hoping to be able to make up for lost time on those repairs. And it also creates a craving cycle that is hard to resist.
A second and recent scientific discovery is that the brain has a lymph system. We now know that the brain contracts during sleep, allowing this portion of your lymph system to open so that your brain can detoxify. This only takes place when you sleep. With the proper amount of sleep, that ubiquitous brain fog can improve, and so can anxiety and depression.
Again, how much is enough? While an infant will naturally sleep up to 17 hours a day (just not all at once!), the need for sleep decreases as we mature. Teens do best on 8-10 hours, while the range for adults is 7-9 hours. See the accompanying chart from the National Sleep Foundation for more details.
Do you need to increase your sleep time? Take a look at what you can shift in your routine, small as that may be. You can start with as little as an extra 15 minutes a night, and continue to work to reach your optimal level of sleep so you can take advantage of this important health booster.
For most of us, the hardest part of exercise is the front door!
There is a time and a place for a formal exercise program. On the other hand, movement in daily life is a lovely way to improve your lymph circulation and lighten your mood. While your heart pumps your blood through your body, your lymph, which is part of your immune and detox systems, needs physical movement to circulate it through the body and to the liver for filtering. Increasing this circulation through movement invigorates your body, helping you throw off the stress of the day and preparing you for that all important sleep that we talked about, including enhanced lymph work in the brain.
Movement can take the form of yard work, tussling with the kids, the dreaded vacuuming, washing the car, and dancing!
Dancing is joyful, and can be done on its own or in combination with other activities. When I’m cooking, dancing seems to enhance the delectability of the food. Try it and see if this happens for you. And you get to choose the sound track, too!
So there you have it – Water, Sleep, Movement. Each has its own mechanism to increase your vitality. And when you feel better, you can be inspired to make other changes to your health that have seemed impossible to this point.
But that’s a whole other discussion…