Do you have a metabolic disorder? Do you have sugar handling problems? For many of us, we get stuck in the system—a traditional allopathic system, that is primarily about fixing acute problems, and very likely about the short-term result. But what about long term health, and actually healing from the metabolic disorder? Is there a way to improve our blood sugar on a constant and consistent basis? Absolutely! But this involves, what I like to call, a ‘Grand Gesture’. For us to make grand changes in our body, it requires big changes in our life.
There are many ways to improve our health, and certainly shifting our diet is a big one. But in addition to making big dietary changes, there are other factors to consider as well, in particular, lifestyle changes to reduce stress, and also body work to improve the structural health of our body so that it ‘works’ better. As we all know by now, stress is a major contributor to disease, largely because it can cause inflammation in our body which is at the root cause of most illness, including metabolic disorders, auto-immune conditions, and more. In reality, it is completely impossible to live without stress in our lives, given our current climate in the US and in general, life stressors relating to family and friends and community and so on. I recently bought a magnet that really resonated with me. It read, “Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” (Apparently, an unknown author!) I truly believe that for most of us, we are not meant to create a life of seclusion. We are meant to be in our community and find peace within the boisterous space that occupies our life.
Where does that leave us with the correlation between stress and inflammation? Well, it’s all about resilience… How high is our threshold to stress? Can we maintain our health while still living our lives? The answer to this has to do with our lifestyle and whether we can create an environment without low stress, but rather ‘healthy’ stress. This is where we get back to the concept of the ‘grand gesture’. What will it take to reduce inflammation in our body and generally promote greater health? Here are some suggestions on how to make this grand gesture. Consider the following categories:
- Shift your diet to an anti-inflammatory diet: Eating foods that are healthy for you and avoiding foods that promote greater inflammation in the body.
- Body work: By getting regular body work such as holistic physical therapy and manual therapy, you can restore structural health to your body which can help to reduce chronic and acute pain—this can help to increase our threshold to stress and also promote pain-free activity in our life.
- Lifestyle changes: To increase your threshold to stress, such as meditation and mindfulness exercises, and regular daily movement.
Anti-Inflammatory Diet: A Diet to Promote Health and Reduce Inflammation
Knowing that inflammation is at the root of most illness today, it makes sense to eat a diet that is rich in foods that are non-inflammatory. Here is how to do it!
- Go gluten-free! Gluten has been widely researched and show time and time again to induce inflammation in the body—this is a simple way to get started.
- Avoid dairy. Dairy can be mucous producing and for many of us, we have respiratory issues and allergies throughout the year, or maybe we constantly get sick in the winter. By avoiding dairy, we can create an environment in our body that is less triggered during these times.
- Avoid refined sugars. Processed/refined sugar is toxic. By avoiding refined sugar, we can promote our general health and also help to create a healthier sugar metabolism in our body. Also, by avoiding refined sugar, we can reduce pain.
- Eat natural sweeteners in moderation (raw honey, pure maple syrup, stevia, coconut sugar). Natural sweeteners like raw honey and pure maple syrup have many health benefits, but in high doses they can also affect our health. Sometimes, it is helpful to take a 2-4 week break entirely from all sweeteners to ‘re-calibrate’ our system and lessen our cravings.
- Eat lots of fresh vegetables. Veggies are the most important part of our diet. In our imaginary plate, veggies should occupy 75%. They are rich in nutrients and enzymes that can help reduce inflammation in the body and help to heal from illness.
- Eat fresh fruits daily but in moderation. Fruits are also filled with great stuff for our health, but they also carry with them natural sugar. By eating them daily but in moderation, we can avoid blood sugar spikes but still get the benefits. Also, keep in mind that drinking fruit juice can spike our blood sugar even higher because the juice is missing the fruit fiber. By eating the whole fruit, the fiber in the fruit slows our blood sugar down so that we get more of the benefits and less of the blood sugar challenges.
- Drink a lot of water. The reality is that most of us are dehydrated to some degree. If our body does not get enough water, then we can’t heal optimally. It’s also helpful to note that often we experience headaches and other types of body challenges secondary to not drinking enough water.
- Reduce grain in our diet—not just gluten grain but in general, the gluten free grain as well. If we can reduce pasta and bread and other baked goods from our diet and try to eat more vegetables and natural protein, we can make huge changes in our health.
- Eat natural protein. For most of us, being vegetarian would be very difficult. Not just because we crave meat, but also because it’s hard to get enough protein in our day when we don’t eat meat, fish and eggs. It requires a lot of planning and diet responsibility to be a healthy vegetarian. For the rest of us that choose to eat animal protein, it is incredibly important to make good choices with what type of meat to eat—specifically, grass fed beef, organic/natural poultry, wild fish, natural eggs. Meat that is not grass fed is made from cows that are fed inflammatory grain for their primary diet. This can affect the meat that we eat and make the meat more inflammatory. The same goes with poultry. Non-organic/natural poultry is given hormones and antibiotics in order to grow larger than normal—not ideal for our body!
- Essential fats. Be sure to include in your daily diet lots of healthy fats such as wild fish, extra virgin olive oil, nuts and seeds, avocados, coconut, and so on. Our body needs essential fats to heal our tissues because our tissue are made of essential fats. But unfortunately they are called essential because our body doesn’t make them… we need to get them into our body through our diet.
Body work: Integrative Manual Therapy
For those of you that are less familiar with body work, it encompasses many different therapies like Holistic Physical Therapy and Manual Therapy, Chiropractic, massage therapy, and more. In this article, let’s focus on Integrative Manual Therapy which is practiced by Holistic Physical Therapists and some Massage Therapists as well. Integrative Manual Therapy is a great way to restore structural health to your body. But what does that mean? Well, let’s consider a helpful analogy to illustrate what structural therapy is as compared to functional exercises. Imagine a child sitting in front of a piano. Let’s assume for this example, that the child does not know how to play the piano. If we teach the child how to play the piano, then the music should sound great. But what if the piano was out of tune or even broken? No amount of piano lessons would lead to great music because the piano does not have the potential for good sounding music. However, if the approach was to ﬁx the piano and then teach the child how to play, then the music has the potential of sounding wonderful. In this scenario, teaching the child how to play the piano is considered functional exercises. Fixing the piano illustrates structural therapy like Integrative Manual Therapy (IMT).
The simplest way to explain IMT is to use an orthopedic example such as a frozen shoulder. In this example, a functional approach would include strengthening and stabilization exercises as well as stretching. If the shoulder had a structural problem which is commonly the case with frozen shoulder, such as a compressed joint or a bone bruise on the joint surface, using a functional approach would cause stress on the joint and ultimately be unsuccessful in reducing symptoms and increasing function of the shoulder. However, beginning treatment with a structural approach such as IMT to correct the problem such as decompressing the joint would create a potential for function. At this point, it would be more beneﬁcial to introduce the functional exercise program. When utilized in this way, the results appear to be more long-lasting.
With a metabolic disorder, there is often a lack of drainage in the body. In addition to treatment of our joints and spine, structural therapy like IMT can be helpful in promoting drainage of toxins in the body by helping to support our lymphatic system and our overall immune system. IMT can be used to help create greater lymphatic drainage in the body which can thereby help to promote metabolic health in the body.
By introducing regular body work into your lifestyle, it can help to create more pain-free movement in the body by restoring health to our joints and tissues. This movement and greater health inside our body can help to increase our threshold to stress as well as further reduce inflammation.
Get your mindfulness groove on!
As we talked about previously in this article, it is not possible for us to live without stress, but it is a reality that we can live a healthy ‘boisterous’ life by making some changes. In addition to shifting our diet and introducing regular body work, we can also adopt some regular mindfulness exercises to further help increase our threshold to stress. The first step is to consider our own compliancy index—ask yourself how much time you can realistically dedicate to these exercises without falling off the wagon. Is it 5 minutes in the morning and evening or can you do more? Even a little goes a long way. There are so many options today for incorporating regular mindfulness into you schedule. There are multiple meditation and relaxation apps that you can upload onto your smartphone. You can download guided meditations onto your phone as well. Maybe you have the time to go to a weekend meditation retreat or possibly go to a lecture at one of our local meditation centers in the Greater Hartford area.
Check out some of these options and keep in mind that every bit that you do is helping you achieve your goals!
Dr. Ayelet Connell, PhD, PT, IMT,C is President and owner of Integrative Wellness & Physical Therapy in Bloomfield CT, a wellness center offering holistic Physical Therapy, Integrative Manual Therapy, Chiropractic, Acupuncture, and nutritional wellness. Ayelet is a natural health expert and has written and published many articles on the subject. She is a Physical Therapist and Certified Integrative Manual Therapist and has taught courses all over the world in Holistic Physical Therapy. Ayelet is also a local of this community and has been living in the Greater Hartford area for many years, where she integrates a healthy lifestyle at home with her wonderful family.