Our bodies are a complex web of systems, each impacted by the stressors and reactions of the others. Focusing on holistic nutrition and eating a whole foods diet doesn’t just influence our digestive system–it can have wide-ranging benefits for our entire bodies.
Health Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is to provide general information only, and the health and nutritional recommendations included should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Since all women have unique health and wellness situations, The Joyful Life Magazine recommends that you thoroughly research all treatment options mentioned and/or consult with a registered healthcare professional before making any changes to your healthcare regime.
Twenty years ago, I was in my teens and already struggling with aspects of my health. What started as trouble controlling my weight and chronic sinus infections later spiraled into hormonal imbalances, adult acne, and anxiety and depression.
I tried everything I could to eat healthy and get plenty of exercise, but things only seemed to get worse. Whenever I sought support from healthcare professionals, ranging from doctors to nutritionists, the answer was always some variation of the same thing: “Everything looks fine, just keep doing what you’re doing.”
Then one day, everything changed. What I thought was going to be just another diet book, turned into a life changing discovery of holistic nutrition.
The recommendations I was reading felt so different from the advice I had received in the past. So I ditched all my previous notions of healthy eating, gave up calorie counting and diet meals, and dove head-first into this new-found theory.
For the first time in years, I started to feel good. I was seeing the results I’d been striving for, not only in my appearance, but much to my surprise, in other areas of my health, too. My allergies and sinus problems improved, my energy levels felt more stable, and best of all, I was actually getting to enjoy food again.
These changes made such a huge impact on my life that I went back to school for holistic nutrition so I could learn more and eventually be able to help others. The more I learned, the more I discovered how much was wrong with the nutrition and health advice we typically receive.
Holistic nutrition showed me how to look at health from a comprehensive, big-picture perspective, and it made all the difference to the success I saw for myself, and later for my clients.
WHAT IS HOLISTIC NUTRITION?
Holistic nutrition is a health philosophy that recognizes that our health is a unique expression of our whole life, including our physical and biochemical status as well as our mental and emotional health, spiritual health, and the influences of our environment.
It works with the body’s natural ability to restore, regenerate, and rebalance by focusing not only on the importance of what we eat, but also what the body does with the foods we eat.
While there are foundational principles to eating well, holistic nutrition professionals emphasize individualized support, considering current health status and health history, genetics, lifestyle, and more to create a customized plan that fosters health and healing.
In short: Holistic nutrition uses unique food and nutritional support to promote whole body health.
WHY IT WORKS
Imagine a large, wooden ring that has string wrapped around over and over again, like a web. This ring represents your body, and each line of the web, running from the center to the outside, represents a system in your body, such as your cardiovascular, endocrine, neurological, musculoskeletal, or digestive system.
At first glance, each line of that web— i.e. each system in your body—may seem like an independent entity, but upon further examination, it becomes evident that it is a single, interconnected system with no break or end. Now envision yourself pinching one of those lines and pulling it tight towards the outside of the ring.
That individual line would change more significantly than the others, but every single line would be impacted in some way. This is how your body works, too. It may seem like a dysfunction in your endocrine system is simply a hormonal imbalance, but since hormones are the chemical messengers that signal reactions in the body, an imbalance in hormones may very well be influencing your digestion, detoxification, neurotransmitter function, and more.
This is how holistic nutrition approaches health while also understanding that one of the key elements that influences all of our physical processes is nutrition.
Food, or more accurately the nutrients in food, can impact every facet of our health.
At times, this impact is direct, such as vitamin C helping to boost the immune system, turmeric helping to fight inflammation, or a lack of vitamin D causing rickets. Other times, the impact is indirect, such as cruciferous vegetables helping to support detoxification, which in turn helps the body maintain healthy estrogen levels.
But just as the body is a complex interconnected system, nutrition is the same. Most nutrients work synergistically in pairs or groups to provide the body with what it needs to function well, and if one nutrient is out of balance, whether due to lack of consumption or a health condition that triggers an imbalance, that nutrient imbalance can have a domino effect on other nutrients, and therefore other health conditions.
What makes holistic nutrition different is that it goes beyond what we eat and it looks at how our body utilizes nutrients. Most of the time, when we think of nutrition, we think of the foods we consume or the supplements we take, but how we process and assimilate those foods and supplements is a key element of nutrition.
Holistic nutrition works to support the ideal use of nutrients by focusing on healthy digestion and nutrient synergy, which is influenced by what we eat and how it’s prepared as well as things like our mood, stress levels, chemical exposure, and other lifestyle factors. By doing this, holistic nutrition works to improve whole body health through addressing all the aspects that influence the nutrition our body receives.
WILL IT WORK FOR YOU?
Whether you’re looking to use holistic nutrition practices for a proactive, healthy lifestyle, or are working to overcome major health challenges, holistic nutrition can work for you. It’s not a cure-all, and it will play a different role for everyone, but it can provide critical support for numerous health situations.
Some of the common challenges holistic nutrition can support include:
- Low or sporadic energy levels
- Chronic stress
- Emotional and mental health challenges, including anxiety and depression
- Thyroid problems
- PMS and other hormonal problems
- Skin disorders, including acne and eczema
- High blood pressure and cholesterol
- Autoimmune conditions
In some of these challenges, holistic nutrition can work on its own to provide all the therapeutic support you need. In other cases, it is best used as an adjunct therapy that compliments other therapies and medical interventions that are necessary for your condition. Working with your qualified healthcare professionals and a holistic nutrition professional together can provide you with recommendations and support that are safe and effective for you.
HOW TO GET STARTED
If the concept of holistic nutrition is new to you, the best way to start is to begin with your day-to-day diet. Small changes can make a big difference! Start by following these simple steps to transition to a more natural and holistic way of living:
1. EAT WHOLE, REAL FOODS
Whenever possible, choose foods that are in their most natural, unprocessed form. Favor organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs, whole grains, free-range, grass-fed meats, and wild caught seafood. Avoid foods with added chemicals, such as preservatives, flavors, or colors.
2. STAY HYDRATED
Hydration is a powerful component to staying healthy and feeling good. Our bodies can be up to 75 percent water and we must be constantly replacing what we use on a daily basis.
Even as much as 2 percent loss of bodily water can negatively affect our health.
Most adults should be consuming half their body weight in ounces. For example, a 150 pound adult should be drinking a minimum of 75 ounces of water. Adequate water consumption can vary from person to person and is influenced by a number of factors including exercise, caffeine and alcohol consumption, weather, and health conditions.
Choose filtered, distilled, or spring water, and remember that consuming beverages like herbal tea or coconut water also count toward your intake.
3. ENJOY YOUR FOOD
Between the busyness of everyday life and our drastic efforts to be healthy, we sometimes forget to enjoy our food. The simple pleasures of our culinary experiences are barely even noticed.
While food cannot and should not be a coping method, there is something to be said about finding fulfillment in food. Slowing down and gratifying our senses can have a significant impact on our nourishment and wellbeing.
Rather than rushing through your meals or eating on the go, take the time each day to sit down at meal times and savor your food. This alone can make a dramatic difference in your health—mentally and physically.
While some conditions will demand more therapeutic nutrition, everyone can start approaching their health with a good foundation of balanced nutrition and clean eating. Once a solid foundation is established, you can work with a professional to make the necessary adjustments to accommodate specific needs and health challenges.
There is no perfect solution or dietary plan, and it can take both time and professional support to find what works best for you.
As you approach your health from a holistic perspective, keep in mind these important principles:
- This is a lifestyle, not a short-term diet.
- All aspects of your life impact your health, including your body, mind, spirit, and environment.
- There is no one-size-fits-all solution and even as your own health changes, your nutritional needs will change, too.
- Food and digestion are at the core of your health.
- Health is impacted by what we absorb through the things we eat, touch, see, smell, hear, and feel.
Fast-forward 20 years and—after having spent over a decade as a holistic nutrition professional—I can confidently say that holistic nutrition is the missing piece to many people’s health challenges. From having a greater enjoyment of food to feeling confident in how I address my health as I age, holistic nutrition is the foundation I work from for all aspects of my health. It never ceases to surprise me by the impact it can have, and my prayer is that more and more people will begin integrating it into their lives.
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