Holistic living focuses on mind, body and spirit. But, where does one begin to do that? Although there are literally hundreds of topics to cover, here are some basic starter tips.
1. Alkalize your diet. The body is regulated by an acid-base balance and is constantly trying to maintain a neutral blood pH. Acidic environments in the body’s cells, organs and blood expose it to inflammation and leave it vulnerable to infection and disease. Nobel laureate Dr. Otto Warburg made the acid and cancer connection in 1920, and research since then has explored how food can help control acid in the body and reduce inflammation. Much of the research points to eating a diet rich in alkalizing foods and low in acidic foods to help protect against disease. Some acidic foods include white sugar, caffeine, animal protein and processed foods, while alkalizing foods include fruits, leafy greens, apple cider vinegar and root vegetables. For a more comprehensive list of alkalizing foods visit http://www.balance-ph-diet.com/acid_alkaline_food_chart.html.
2. Become a label-looker. Fresh food is always best, but if buying packaged food or animal products, check the labels for conditions, preservatives and additives including salt, sugar and filler content. With both fresh and packaged food, focus on organic, grass-fed, sustainably farmed and fair-trade items. Look carefully at “natural” ingredients as well, since many natural plant-based products undergo an unhealthy chemical process during packaging. The Center for Science in the Public Interest is an excellent resource for referencing food additives and the Environmental Working Group provides information on pesticides and organic produce.
3. Naturalize your sweeteners. With all the hype about high fructose corn syrup and white sugar, people are now acutely aware of how much sugar they are putting in their bodies, right? One would think so, however, a lesser known truth is how hidden refined sugars are popping up in beverages, “natural” sugar alternatives and even organic packaged food without accurately conveying how much sugar they contain. Since sugar has been linked to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular events and even cancer, take steps to use whole food natural sweeteners like honey, agave, stevia and maple syrup. Minimally processed sweeteners like rapadura, palm sugar, date sugar and sugar alcohols like xylitol are the next best option. Just keep in mind that sugar, in it’s many forms, can still have a high glycemic index and affect diabetics. The body best responds to sugar when it is coupled with fiber as in natural, whole fruits.
4. Go hormone-free. The body is particularly sensitive to hormones. Additives, pesticides and biological compounds pumped into livestock and sprayed on produce are all under scrutiny for regulating bodily hormones and acting as neurotoxins and carcinogens. Growth Hormones, like rBST injected into cows and salmon, can deregulate Insulin-like growth factor IGF and is associated with breast and prostate cancer. Pesticides directly sprayed on produce and those present in the water and soil have also been shown to be toxic to the nervous system. Even estrogen levels in beef and soy are controversial when examining their effects on children and menopausal women. A holistic approach to health includes eating natural, whole foods in the way that nature intended. This means organic, without growth promoting hormones, pesticides and genetically engineered superfoods. Ask questions at the market as to where the food originates, how it was farmed or harvested and if there are any healthier alternatives. The fewer toxins put into the body, the happier it responds.
5. Be a detox diva. Along the same line as holistic health tip number four, environmental toxins are unavoidable, so one must continually eliminate them. Canvasing the home, work and social environments each day can help clear out unnecessary toxins bit by bit. Greening household items like detergents, paint, tupperware and even pet litter can significantly reduce toxic petrochemicals. Switching to natural fiber clothes, bedding and rugs eliminates harmful chemical solvents. Lastly, focusing on organic cosmetics, beauty products and dental care, limits the intake of toxins directly ingested.
The same advice goes for mental and emotional toxicity. Since holistic living includes body, mind and spirit, start to recognize that negative energy and emotional pain can transmute into bodily disease unless regularly expelled. Practice releasing negative emotions daily through exercise, journalling or connecting with nature. It could be just the ticket to relieve stress and detoxify the spirit!
A diet rich in leafy greens, vegetables and fresh fruits can help alkalize the body and protect it against disease. Kale, chard, apples and green vegetables can all contribute to lowering pH in the body.
Look at labels to identify hidden sugars, additives, preservatives and fillers. Question the source of food and beverages and aim to buy more whole foods from natural and organic sources.
Refined sugars lack nutrients and fiber and with significant processing lose valuable nutrients. Incorporate whole food sugars like stevia, honey and maple syrup or fruits with fiber to keep blood sugar stable.
Hormones and pesticides added to food and livestock, even in small amounts, are now being linked to neurotoxicity, metabolic irregularities and cancer. Take note of the source of products such as milk, soy, meat, fish and produce to ensure the cleanest foods.
Returning to nature in its purist form and eliminating hazardous toxins from our diets, home and workplace is essential for holistic living.