Lifestyle advice to improve your longevity, health and happiness:
“Keep a quiet heart, sit like a tortoise, walk sprightly like a pigeon and sleep like a dog.” - Mr. Li Qing Yun a legendary Chinese Medicine Doctor of astounding longevity.
Optimal health is really a matter of prevention and lifestyle choices. In ancient China, Doctors were paid to keep a person healthy, and received no payment if their patients got ill. The oldest text on Chinese Medicine is known as the Huang Di Nei Jing (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic on Internal Medicine). It states, “…the sages pay less attention to the treatment of a disease, but more to the prevention of it. To resort to treatment when a disease has already occurred and to resort to regulation when a disorder has already been caused is just like digging a well when one is thirsty and constructing weapons when a war is already waged. It is certainly too late!”
As a practitioner, it is my wish that all of my patients achieve and retain health, happiness, and well-being. Here are some suggestions of how you can take control of your own health. Much of it is derived from ancient knowledge, and contemporary research of centenarians (those that live to 100 years or more). Optimal health is not that difficult to achieve if you know how to do it. Here are 10 ways to live a healthy life.
1). Oxygenation: Oxygen is essential to life. With out it we die within minutes. We expel 70% of all toxins from our body through our breath. This is the primary substance our cells need to function and repair. Therefore, breathing properly is essential to optimal health. Most people are shallow chest breathers. This type of breathing does not allow for optimal oxygenation. The best breathing method is known as abdominal breathing. In this method, the lungs are filled to near capacity, and the lower abdomen expands outward on the inhale, and relaxes inward on the exhale. The breath is consistently performed in a manner that is smooth, slow, long, and deep. QiGong, Yoga and Meditation are great ways to help us practice breathing optimally. I encourage everyone to initiate a regular practice of QiGong, Yoga, or Meditation. All of which have many more benefits in addition to oxygenation.
2). Hydration: We are made up of 70 % water, yet most of us don’t drink enough clean water, and typically drink things that deplete us even further. Many of the symptoms of disease are merely signs of prolonged dehydration (look up the Water Cure by Dr. F. Batmanghelidj for more information). When you feel thirsty, this is actually the last sign of dehydration, and your cells are desperate for water. Without enough water your cells cannot conduct bio-electrically and chemically (exchange nutrients) and therefore cannot function and they die. Lack of hydration like oxygenation also creates a build up of toxins, because the body is unable to flush them out. Your immune system and normal processes are unable to function optimally, opening the door to pathogens and illness. We all need on average one to two litres of water per day. If you have proper hydration, rarely will you ever be thirsty. Unfortunately, most municipal water these days is more similar to a chemical solution than pure water as nature intended. Therefore I highly recommend getting a filtration device for your home.
3). Movement: This acts as a pump to move Qi and blood (Oxygen, water and nutrients) through out your body, to vitalize and cleanse every cell. It keeps your energy channels free flowing and unclogged to maintain optimal metabolic function, preventing arthritis, plaque, and all sorts of build up that are signs of degeneration. In essence it is really just a clogging of energy, blood, and tissue due to poor circulation that causes most degeneration. Even fat accumulation is due to a clogging of the energy pathways. The energy is waiting to move that is why it is stored as fat.
We can all include exercise to our busy lives daily: Exercise does not have to be the gym. In fact the majority of people that go to the gym either spend most of their time getting ready, and then leaving with out really doing anything or conversely doing too much, when they are already undernourished from a poor diet, and their adrenal systems are already very depleted. Pushing yourself for an hour or more in a gym to the point of breathing heavy, and feeling exhausted afterwards only exacerbates the problem. The no pain - no gain idea is harmful. Exercise should leave you feeling more energized!
Qigong and Tai Chi, or Yoga are great forms of moderate exercise that gets the Qi and blood circulating to all your tissues, lightly stretches the tendons and ligaments, lubricates the joints, and massages your organs.
Also, walk more. If you drive to work, park further away (at least 3 blocks). Climb more steps, get off at an earlier bus stop. Stop taking elevators and choose the stairs instead. Get a jump rope, and keep it by your desk, try it for a few minutes when you can, it doesn’t have to be vigorous. Do something moderately active that you enjoy; some examples may be swimming, martial arts, cycling, a casual sport with some friends. Most importantly, what ever it is make sure it is fun!
4). Reduce your Stress: Stress is the leading cause of interference with your body’s natural processes. It interferes with the flow of your Qi, Blood, Cellular Repair, and Toxin Elimination. Therefore emotions have a large affect on your health. It is integral to do work to process your emotions, let go of negative beliefs, and to cultivate a pure mind. Again, a great way to accomplish this is by participating in a regular daily practice of QiGong, Meditation, and/or Yoga.
5). Cleansing: Just as your house needs regular and periodic cleansing so does your body, mind, and environment. Toxins (pesticides, heavy metals, negative emotions) build up in the body from pollution of our environment, food, water, negative emotions, and poor lifestyle choices. Therefore regular periodic fasting 1 to 3 times per year may be necessary depending on your lifestyle, environment and level of toxicity. Cleansing also includes regular and periodic retreats/holidays (breaks) to cleanse your environment, mind, emotions and body. We all need time out to rejuvenate. Once again, cleansing also includes your daily practices of Qigong, Meditation and/or Yoga.
6). Diet: There are many diets out there. They seem to come and go like fashion trends and are often contradictory. Therefore it is not surprising that most people find it very confusing and overwhelming to eat a healthy diet. Ancient wisdom and research conducted in observing centenarians suggest that a healthy diet consists of eating at regular intervals and primarily organic plant based whole foods. These are higher in water concentration, fiber, and nutrients. They contain fewer toxins, and your body does not have to work as hard to digest and process them. The better your nutrition the more energy you will have, the less you will need to eat, and the better you will feel.
Do not eat a meal that is larger than your two hands placed together as a bowl. This is the size of your stomach. Everything you eat must be filtered and processed by the liver, and pancreas, and eliminated through your gut. Therefore digestion takes a tremendous amount of energy to breakdown your food into nutrients and to locate, filter and discard the toxins. Eating large meals overloads your system and makes it work harder. Ancient Chinese wisdom says to eat only to 70-80% full.
Meat naturally has higher concentrations of toxins, due to accumulation in animals. But, it is even more toxic due to modern agricultural practices. Such as pesticide and herbicide laden food mixed with hormones, antibiotics, de-wormers and so forth. Meat is also a more difficult substance to break down in the body and can lead to stagnation and clogging of your intestines, so it should be eaten in smaller quantities, on fewer occasions; be organic, and raised outdoors in a happy environment.
In Chinese Medicine, we believe everything is energy. So, all of your food carries the energetic traces and intention of it’s environment, health, and happiness. The solution is eating lighter, vegetable based meals and to only 70-80% full, and avoiding unnatural processed foods, refined sugar, artificial sweeteners, additives, and preservatives. This means reading labels and being aware of what you are eating, and cooking at home with fresh, local ingredients as much as possible.
I recommend buying only organic produce. A great place to find affordable local seasonally grown organic produce is from “Out Of Our Own Back Yards” (www.ooooby.org/sydney). You can even have it delivered for convenience. It is sometimes still impossible to eat only organic, if you eat at restaurants, and/or some items may just be too expensive for some households.
Here is a list of items that have the highest levels of pesticide residue and should be AVOIDED. These were tested by first washing and peeling the vegetables and they still contain very high levels of pesticide residue:
Fruits: Apples, Pears, Strawberries, Cherries, Peaches, Apricots, Grapes, Blueberries.
Veggies: Potatoes, Celery, Capsicum, Spinach, Lettuce, Green Beans, Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Pumpkin/Winter Squash.
Unfortunately, there is a new threat to human health and biodiversity of the entire planet in the form of (GMO) Genetically Modified Organisms. Many countries are demanding labelling of GMO’s and banning their use and importation. At the moment Australia is not one of them, so we have to develop awareness. In addition to them being unrecognizable as food in our bodies due to genetic manipulation, most of these crops have been engineered to be resistant to herbicides and pesticides. Which means, they are sprayed heavily with dangerous chemicals, making them even more hazardous. Many of these products have been secretly disguised into processed food and value added foods in the forms of cooking oil, sugar, corn syrup, and maltodextrin.
Here are a list of the most prevalent GMO’s and the percentage of crops grown as GMO:
Cotton (94%) cotton seed is pressed and used as a cheap vegetable oil and as margarine and shortening, used for cooking potato chips etc. Avoid all cheap vegetable oils, and processed foods.
Soy Beans (93%) found in most processed foods, and products claiming to be natural under various names including hydrogenated oils, lecithin, emulsifiers, tocopherol (a vitamin E supplement) and proteins (texturized vegetable protein). Avoid all soy products including soy milk, tofu, and these items listed above.
Corn (88%) in addition to being added to innumerable processed foods (with names like corn syrup, maltodextrin), genetically modified corn is a staple of animal feed.
Alfalfa (90%) farmers feed alfalfa to dairy cows, which are the source of milk, butter, yogurt, meat, cheese, and so much more.
Canola/Rape (90%) Canola oil is used in cooking, as well as biofuels. In North America, genetically modified canola has been found growing far from any planted fields, raising questions about what will happen when ”escaped” genetically engineered canola competes and cross-pollinates with wild plants. Avoid all cheap vegetable oils. Use only raw virgin coconut oil for cooking.
Hawaiian Papaya (75%) is genetically modified to withstand the papaya ringspot virus.
Sugar Beets (90%) More than half (54%) of sugar sold comes from sugar beets. The percentage of GMO sugar beets is expected to increase after a USDA's decision last year gave approval for GMO Sugar Beet planting before an environmental impact statement was completed. Sugar is already lethal enough, but now there is even more reason to avoid it.
Large amounts of vegetables, I try to eat 5 colors in every meal (Red, Orange/Yellow, White, Purple/Black, and Green).
Fermented foods that have beneficial probiotics like homemade sauerkraut or kimchee, organic miso, organic yoghurts and kefir (without sugar), etc.
Himalayan Salt, Tao Salt or Bamboo Salt, these have every trace mineral in human bones and are necessary for optimal health.
7). Sleep: The modern lifestyle is typically a sleep-starved society. Sleep is essential for your body to repair, and rejuvenate. If we don’t sleep at night, our livers are unable to filter, detoxify and cleanse our bodies. Many people don’t get enough hours of sleep, either having trouble falling asleep or waking up more than once per night to go to the toilet, or lie their wide awake. Additionally, many people go to bed too late, and don’t allow themselves enough time to sleep before doing their daily activities upon waking. When we are tired our minds are unclear, and unfocused, our daily activities feel more burdensome and harder to do, we are easily agitated and irritable. Lack of sleep decreases your body’s immune system effectiveness, and over time can lead to chronic disease. In fact studies show a lack of sleep over three consecutive days will decrease your body’s immune system effectiveness by fifty percent!
It is not just a matter of how many hours of sleep, but about what time you fall asleep and the quality of your sleep. Children and teenagers need more sleep than the typical seven to eight hours required for adults. In fact many of the children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, are simply sleep deprived. For optimal health, detoxification, and repair it is important to go to bed by 10:30pm so that you are fast asleep by 11pm.
8). Meditation: Researchers have found numerous benefits to regular meditation. Neuroscientists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School asked two groups of stressed-out high-tech employees to either meditate over eight weeks or live as they normally do.
They found that the meditators “showed a pronounced shift in activity to the left frontal lobe,” reads a 2003 Psychology Today article. “This mental shift decreases the negative effects of stress, mild depression, and anxiety. There is also less activity in the amygdala, where the brain processes fear.” Research has also shown that Meditation reduces brain shrinkage due to aging and enhances mood.
Aside from meditation, researchers have found that regularly scheduled downtime undoes inflammation, which is a reaction to stress. Once again, I have to emphasize how wonderful a regular practice of QiGong, Meditation, and Yoga are for your overall health.
9). Community: There are several places in the world where certain communities have large numbers of centenarians and longevity, more so than others. Many people have conducted research in these communities to find whether there are any similarities. In addition to points 1 -8 listed above, they share a great sense of community, kinship, and friendship.
These groups of people typically have many close friends, with whom they share everything. Most have a reverence for the elderly not found in modern Western societies, and put family first. Researchers have concluded that a sense of belonging and having healthy friends and family encourage the individual to live healthily as well.
In “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell examined a group of Italians called the Rosetans, who migrated to an area west of Bangor, Pennsylvania in the USA. Across the board, they had lower incidents of heart disease and generally lived long, healthy lives. After experiments, it was determined that their secret was not genetics or even diet (41 percent of their diet came from fat).
“The Rosetans had created a powerful, protective social structure capable of insulating them from the pressures of the modern world,” Gladwell wrote. “The Rosetans were healthy because of where they were from, because of the world they had created for themselves in their tiny little town in the hills.”
10). Purposeful Living: There is one last common theme integral to health and dominant among these special groups of longevity: None of them had the concept of retirement. As it turns out, to keep going makes it easier t