The World Health Organization’s definition of health is as follows:
“Health is not only the absence of infirmity and disease but also
a state of physical, mental and social well-being.”
Notice that the word being is one of those all-encompassing words. It doesn’t just refer to one single aspect or another, much the same as the term human being refers to we mere mortals as a collective. So if we’re talking about being as a term that refers to our overall condition, I think I’d rather be a well-being than an unwell-being.
It follows then, that we’d want our health initiatives to encompass our overall well-being. That means we need to be knowledgeable and vigilant about what we ingest (additives, preservatives, binding agents), what we breathe in and what gets into our body through our skin (sunlight, the components of the water we shower in, personal hygiene products, etc.). We should be supporting our body’s efforts at keeping us healthy and avoiding conditions that could hinder the process. If you’re healthy, you’ll be feeling fit, thinking clearly and at the ready to experience life as it comes on a daily basis.
Natural and organic products are integral components of well-being. This is so because these types of products have already, in a sense, done our thinking for us. The larger majority of natural and organic products already have the less healthier elements removed. For instance, there are shampoos on the market that have declined to use chemicals such as DEA, parabens, sulfates, petroleum, phthalates, propylene glycol, synthetic colors and synthetic fragrances that have been linked to health concerns.
When you are choosing which supplements to buy, educate yourself on their ingredients. If you’re buying vitamins, of course the main ingredients will be the vitamins. But you should also be aware of any binders, preservatives or fillers and such that may also be in your supplement. Some people are actually allergic to certain extraneous substances in supplements and not the supplement ingredient itself. Buying a well known, reputable brand can solve this problem.
When you make the choice to spend your money on organic products, you can rest assured that the product you are buying has first passed a litany of tests. Organic seed suppliers, farmers, food processors, retailers and restaurants all must adhere to very specific restrictions regarding growing, storage, processing, packaging and shipping to be certified as organic. If you wish to see how Canada has outlined standard practices, please visit The Canadian General Standards Board website .
Currently, in Canada, the government has published a national organic standard, but it is a guideline only; legislation is in process. Certification is provided by private sector organizations. In Quebec, provincial legislation provides government oversight of organic certification within the province, through the Quebec Accreditation Board (Conseil D’Accréditation Du Québec).2
The natural health product industry has been regulated in Canada since 2004.
DIET – Alter Your Mood, Organically, Naturally, With Food
Scientists are proving that what’s in the foods you eat can affect the chemical composition of your brain – and your mood, including your alertness and your perception of pain.
What is it about foods that yields this kind of power? It is food’s ability to alter the production or release of neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that carry information from one nerve cell to another. Neurotransmitters are responsible for relaying important bits of information such as ‘I’m full’, ‘Ouch!’ or, ‘Arrgh! I’m very worried about this!’
Just how does a food affect neurotransmitters? According to Dr Richard Wurtman of MIT, who is involved in numerous studies on nutrition and the brain, certain nutrients in foods are precursors to neurotransmitters, and the amount of a precursor nutrient in your diet determines how much of its following neurotransmitter you produce. Although this may seem fairly straightforward, it is complicated by the fact that foods most often are made up of more than one nutrient, and how those different nutrients interact will also affect the production and release of neurotransmitters.1 This is why educating yourself about the basic chemical content of food is beneficial to you as a “well”-being. We’re not talking about becoming a medical professional here, just the basics. Here are just a couple of examples:
1. Boost your alertness with protein – One amino acid found in proteins – tyrosine – increases the production of dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine (all have dual roles as hormones and neurotransmitters). These neurotransmitters are known for their ability to increase levels of alertness and energy.
2. For relaxation and stress relief, eat carbohydrates – Carbs trigger the release of insulin – insulin clears the amino acids from the blood, except tryptophan, which then floods the brain where it is converted to serotonin. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter, reduces pain, decreases appetite produces a sense of calm and can induce sleep.
To get the most benefit from carbs and protein, eat them separately.
3. Caffeine and Folic Acid can be effective antidepressants – Unless you have been specifically warned to stay away from caffeine (migraine sufferers, high blood pressure, etc.), caffeine can do some good. A little caffeine can be an effective antidepressant. And sources of caffeine are also sources of social interactivity. For instance, have a coffee and some dark chocolate with a friend! Evidence supports the safety of a cup or two a day.
A deficiency of folic acid in the diet causes serotonin levels in the brain to decrease. Mild depression can be relieved by as little as 200mcg, obtainable in a cup of cooked spinach or a glass or orange juice.
4. A lack of selenium can cause bad moods – It has been shown that lacking selenium can induce anxiety, irritability, hostility and depression. One brazil nut, a tuna sandwich, a handful of sunflower seeds, or wholegrain cereals are enough to lift you out of this selenium-deficient funk.
We’re talking about moving your body here, not training for iron man marathons. Everyone is familiar with common types of exercise such as swimming, walking, weight-bearing exercise, aerobics, etc. But lets talk about a few lesser-mentioned modes of moving.
Yoga, for instance – now I know what your thinking; how can something that is done so slowly be considered exercise? However, that is precisely the point. Each position in yoga, and the transition between them, is done thoughtfully, deliberately and in synchronization with your breathing. This means all your muscles are required to perform the moves properly. At the end of a well-taught yoga session, you should be sweating like you just ran the Boston marathon.
Now that you’re excited about yoga, let’s add chocolate. Yes, you read this right – chocolate and yoga. Well, actually it’s raw cacao beans. The theory goes that raw, unprocessed cacao beans are high in magnesium, which balances brain chemistry. Cacao beans are also rich in sulphur, which is essential for strong nails, hair and glowing skin.
Physiological changes, arising from the consumption of processed beans (as in a cup of coffee), do not present themselves when beans are consumed raw. Therefore, you don’t get the jumpy, agitated feeling you might get from drinking regular coffee when you eat unprocessed beans.
Cacao beans contain MAO inhibitors, which allow for more serotonin and other neurotransmitters to circulate in the brain, allowing for a natural “high”. This feeling of elation equates to what we used to term a “runner’s high” – the heightened sense of well-being felt after a long run or extensive aerobic activity, due to elevated levels of endorphins in the bloodstream.
Essentially, chocolate yoga (as it is referred to), gives you a double lift; exercise releases natural endorphins and the chocolate allows for better circulation of serotonin in your brain. Sign me up!
Choose your clothing and water bottles carefully. Stick with high, if not 100%, cotton content towels and clothing for breathability and sweat absorption. Choose a “clean canteen”, made from stainless steel instead of plastic, which can harbor dangerous bacteria, even if washed at high temperatures. In fact, high temperatures can bring out the dangerous chemicals in plastic.
Recent studies indicate that there is as much benefit in three ten-minute sessions of intense activity as there is in one thirty-minute session. So get moving!
Socializing is an important part of emotional and mental health. Getting together with friends can sometimes be as energizing as a good night’s sleep. As long as you’re getting together, why not give your gathering an environmentally friendly theme.
Make a conscious effort to find a “green” cafe in your city. This could be a restaurant that has chosen to adhere to environmentally friendly standards, such as recycling or reducing their carbon footprint, in their operating practices. Choose carpooling as an alternative to everyone taking his or her own vehicle or, better yet, use public transportation. If you’re within distance, you might even choose to ride your bicycle or walk.
If outdoor activities are your preference, try arranging an activity that supports the planet such as starting an urban garden in the city. Or, more simply, choose to clean up an area of the city, or section of the highway, that has become an eyesore. You could donate trees to your local park and then help to plant them. You might volunteer to teach a class on recycling to the children at your local community center or a class on sun safety to their parents. If you have community kitchens in your area, why not get together with your friends and choose a day that you can volunteer as a group.
Fellowshipping with friends helps you stay connected to the community as a whole. It helps you to see that problems can be shared and burdens can be lightened while doing something great for the planet at the same time.
In order for your body to repair, recover, digest, and detox, you need rest. Everyone’s sleep requirements are different and you need to find the number of hours that work best for you. And that number of hours will change as you age. The best starting point is to shoot for seven hours of sleep per night.
Your nocturnal cycle allows your body to do many things, most important of which is to detoxify from the days events (say, for instance, that hoagie with extra mustard, pickles and onions you had for lunch). We have a built in timer that tells our body when it’s time to sleep. We need to sleep! It’s a standard feature – not an option.
If you’re having a hard time sleeping, try these suggestions:
- Have a bedtime routine and follow it so that your body picks up on the clues that it should be preparing for sleep. Turn your lights off, walk around and lock your doors, turn off the TV and radio, take a warm bath, ensure your bedroom is quiet, cool and dark. Change into bedtime clothes instead of daytime t-shirts, etc. Read an inspiring book of poetry (no sensationalized who-done-its please!) or listen to quiet music.
- Concentrate on your breathing and let daytime thoughts drift away from your thinking. Take a few gentle, deep breaths to settle yourself and concentrate on the spaces between your thoughts.
- Grandma was right – warm milk really does help. Milk contains calcium, a natural muscle relaxant. Great for restless legs.
Make your bedroom that haven of peace you’ve always dreamed of. Use organic buckwheat pillows which conform to the shape of your head and neck and have no chemical additives to breath in while you’re sleeping. Choose cotton nightwear and sheets that will breathe with the temperature of your body. You can even purchase organic cotton mattress pads and organic innerspring mattresses (coils have not been treated with chemicals or oils). Remove any devices that emit electromagnetic frequencies such as a clock radio, television, or a fan and open the window for clean, fresh air while you sleep. Put a dab of lavender essential oil on a cotton ball and tuck it beside your pillow to help you drift off. Try painting your room with the new types of organic paints in calming colors.
“DOWN-TIME” (Different Than Rest)
Down-time can be thought of as time for yourself. This is not selfish! Think of an airline hostess who tells you to put your mask on first before helping anyone else. Same principle applies here…take good care of yourself and you’ll be better equipped to handle life’s other demands.
Some suggestions for down-time include meditation, visualization, prayer, a quiet hobby such as sewing, quilting, knitting, painting, scrapbooking, gardening, baking, volunteering; whatever helps you slow down and take your mind away from the day’s obligations. Making your own writing paper is fun and a way to recycle. Compose a recipe book of healthy foods, using organic ingredients, for someone you love.
Social time can be down-time too. Join a book club or attend an interesting lunchtime lecture series. Find yourself a pen-pal in another country who shares your interests. Anything, so long as it’s quiet and reflective.
Carol Roy is a Natural Health Practitioner who received her diploma from the Alternative Medicine College of Canada in Montreal, Quebec. With 12 years experience in her area of expertise, natural health and wellness, Carol has also trained to become a fully qualified Reiki Master, Quantum Touch Practitioner, and Reflexologist.
The suggestions by Nutter’s Bulk & Natural Foods and the contents of this article
are recommendations only and not a substitute for any medical advice or a
replacement for any prescriptions. Seek medical advice for any health concerns.
Consult your health care provider before using any recommendations herein.
1. Sue Gilbert, ivillage.co.uk
2. www.wikipedia.org – search phrase “organic certification”