Lifestyle: pillar #4 in Bay Wellness Centre’s health strategyAugust 2, 2022
Hi, I’m Dr Annie Savage. Welcome back if you’ve been following along on our videos and posts about the sustainable health strategy that our patients experience under the care of myself, and Dr. Meghan Maycher, both naturopathic doctors. We are located at the Bay Wellness Centre, in downtown Vancouver and we work primarily with women. We find that we have to address all four pillars of health to really achieve their goals of true health, of symptom free periods and of whole symptom free months. We’ve arrived at pillar four which focuses on: lifestyle.
Great news! Lifestyle is something very much in your control, so you can reap the health benefits of the choices you make. So, let’s get into it with a quick recap of the first three pillars of health
We introduced the four pillars of health in a series of blogs,
Pillar one: nutrition
Pillar two: detoxification
Pillar three: hormones.
Today we cover the key that unlocks the combination of all the pillars – Lifestyle.
We know that lifestyle is a highly personal piece of the health puzzle, yet we also all know that there are powerful principles that apply to each of us. Catch up on the videos on the basics of each pillar in the links posted below.
In the lifestyle pillar we pay close attention to:
- Our sleep
- Our stress
- Our exercise
Your #1 key lifestyle choice is sleep
Our sleep habits are so, so important. Our hormones are being released and some of them are at work for us on this particular circadian rhythm. When we are not in bed when we should be, and this is dictated by the sun and the moon in our region, we’ll be pushing those hormones out of balance. We know that the most important thing about sleep is that is how our body rests and recovers.
The quality of your sleep affects all body systems. Chronic lack of sleep can contribute to many modern maladies including diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and depression.
We do all sleep, but getting true restorative sleep to fuel your day, give you clarity at work and play. We sleep for about 1/3 of our life yet so much goes on then.
We have this very cool system in our brain called the Glymphatic system that actually works to clean our brain while we sleep. So if we’re not sleeping long enough, we’re not getting rid of those toxins from out of our brain. So let’s work on getting you to sleep. We need to sleep through the night for those natural balanced hormones to work in our favor.
Read more in this post to improve your sleep tonight
Your #2 key lifestyle choice is stress
Next let’s talk about stress. Stress is everywhere, unfortunately. In the course of addressing your health, we absolutely look at how we can reduce your stress levels. But, we know that it’s very difficult due to the way our society is and where we’re living and everything going on in the world.
What we can do is change our perception of stress and give you tools on how to reduce the effects of that stress. Now that’s going to be so important because stress is affecting our hormones too. We have a stress hormone, or the hormone that is called our stress hormone most commonly is cortisol. What happens when we are stressed out? Or even if we think of a negative or stressful thought? Our hormones change. That cortisol, the stress hormone will become elevated.
It’s okay if it happens and it’s in a short term fashion, but what happens nowadays is that we’re under chronic stress and we have this chronic long-term elevated cortisol. That pushes all of our hormones out of balance. That actually causes dysregulation of our blood sugar and it affects how we want to eat. It makes us crave sugar and that is one of the reasons that we tend to put on weight, especially around that belly.
So we do want to look at tools and ways that we can reduce our stress. One very cool method that you can use is deep breathing. So if you put one hand on your chest, just over your heart, your second hand on your stomach and you want to take a deep breath into your stomach. Most of us are breathing just shallowly.
We’re breathing through our lungs only into our chest. Better to breathe into your diaphragm, so you make your stomach look big, make it puff out. So you take that deep breath. Your stomach comes out as you’re breathing in all the way to the bottom of your belly. Hold at the top for four seconds and then you release.
You repeat that as many times as you need to cue your body to do that more often! When you start to do this, you’ll notice that your nervous system changes, it feels better, it feels calmer and you’ll feel your heart rate slow.
Now you’re thinking, okay, I can do that maybe at home by myself, but what do I do if I’m out? If I’m at work? If I’m in a public setting, then what do I do if I don’t want to do this in front of other people, you can still do breath work, just do it normally without them noticing. So deep breathe into your belly whenever you notice that you’re feeling that tightness or anxiety take over.
There are some cool studies that also show that meditation and mindfulness, in as little as three minutes a day can actually reduce our cortisol, our stress levels and improve our heart rate variability. This all makes us feel calmer happier and healthier.
Your #3 key lifestyle choice is exercise
Now I purposely talked about stress second, so that I could talk about exercise third because of course we all know we need to move our bodies, we need to exercise. But one of the most common things that we see in our office with women is over-exercising and under-eating.
I want to tell you why this is a problem. Now that you know that cortisol is your stress hormone. It’s okay if it’s elevated in the short term, but not if it’s chronically or in the long term.
Now, I am going to tell you that exercise is a stress on our body. You may have already known that. Exercise is a stress that will temporarily or in the short term raise that cortisol. As I said, that’s okay. That’s good for us. What is not okay is when we over-exercise so our exercise is too long or too intense creating this long-term or too high of an elevation of that cortisol level.
I want you to think of all the stress that you have in your life. Are you sleeping through the night? Because if you’re not, that’s a stressor and that’s going to change your cortisol level and bump it up. How about our actual stresses like things going on in your world? Do you describe yourself as an anxious person, having a lot of stress in your life, your family, life, your work life, whatever that may be? That is probably causing some elevated cortisol as well.
If you already have unbalanced hormones and an elevated cortisol, we don’t want you to be doing intense long exercises. I know. I’m telling you to change your exercise to exercise a little bit less to actually achieve that weight loss goal because when our cortisol is high and high for too long, it actually causes weight gain. So that is why we’re seeing so many women over exercise and under eat and gain weight.
And of course that’s very frustrating, but we can address it. We have to address that cortisol level for you to lose weight.
Those are the main three things that we talk about in the lifestyle pillar and the bonus that we always have to talk about is our mental health. So that seeps into our stress. But those two tools that I just mentioned – mindfulness and meditation, are really just watching your thoughts. It’s that quiet time where you’re mindful, it really means you’re watching your thoughts go by, it doesn’t mean your mind is blank. That would be very difficult to achieve.
What you’ll notice is you may attempt this blank mind maybe focus on your breath and a thought will come in. All you have to do is notice the thought and let it pass. Don’t get attached to it, don’t hang onto it, don’t party with it, let it go.
And if you meditate like that, that mindfulness meditation for three minutes a day, which is not very much, you can see some positive effects physically and mentally. So like I mentioned, we need to actually address all four of these pillars of health when we’re working with you. So if you’re interested, and I hope you are interested in improving your health, let us know. We have our contact links below and we have a link to our sleep blog because we’ve already talked about sleep in another video and another blog. So we want to reiterate those seven helpful tips for you to get a better sleep tonight.
So let’s make health your priority!
Book a consultation and we would be happy to go through everything with you and find the best solution for you on your health journey.
At Bay Wellness Centre we provide personalized nutrition and hormone plans and detoxification plans for you so that we can address all of your health concerns in a step-by-step fashion.
In the Four-Pillar Health Series, we address each pillar of health on its own. You’ll get the information that will help you determine the next steps you can begin on your own and also see the larger picture balanced on the four pillars your health is dependent on.
Get our free Ultimate Guide to Managing Menopausal Hormone Imbalances by visiting the Bay Wellness Centre website. You may also like the blogs we have for you and that our patients have told us they love for the reliable information on topics of interest to them.
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Dr. Annie Savage
Dr. Megan Maycher
Your holistic health advocates &
Founders of Bay Wellness Centre
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