Be Healthy and Stay Healthy: Top 10 Keys to Wellness
Top 10 To-Do’s for a Longer, Healthier Lifeby Diane Eaton
What are the most important steps we can take to be healthy and stay healthy for years to come? How can we reduce our risk of illness and disease? We spoke with seven Atlanta health practitioners—a medical doctor, a naturopath, a chiropractor, a holistic wellness coach, an energy healer, an acupuncturist and an Ayurvedic counselor— to get their advice. See a list of our panel of experts on page 23.
Eat cleanAt the top of the list—no surprise—is the recommendation to eat whole, unprocessed—at best, organic—foods. “Eat real food,” says Karen Miller, M.D., a physician with a focus on functional medicine practicing in Roswell. “When we eat more natural foods, our cells benefit more,” she explains.
“If you are a meat eater, eat only organic, pasture-fed animals,” suggests Guy Gunter, D.C., of Healworks in Sandy Springs. “Avoid commercial meats, turkey, pork and beef as well as farm-raised fish since they are highly toxic,” he urges. “You’ll taste the difference too.” Commercial meats invariably contain chemical compounds, preservatives, colorants and hormones that research reveals are risky to consume. [Also see Healing from Genetically Altered Foods in this issue.]
SupplementUnfortunately, even if we consumed only the highest quality organic foods at every meal, we would still fall short of satisfying all of our bodies’ nutritional needs for our optimal health and longevity. Foods grown today simply don’t deliver the same amount of nutrients that they did 75 years ago. Standard farming practices such as overfarming and the heavy use of pesticides and herbicides have depleted the soil of the nutrients that enrich our food supply. Add to that the burden of our daily stresses, and we simply need help getting adequate nutrition. Nowadays, nutritional supplements are a must to meet our bodies’ needs.
“Studies show that Americans are most deficient in vitamins C, B6, folate, B12, A and E, and in minerals like magnesium and zinc,” says Miller. “So I always recommend that my patients take supplements to help sustain their cells and prolong their life span.”
Gunter agrees that nutritional supplements are critical to staving off illness. He recommends a foundational supplement regimen that includes a multivitamin, fish oil with EPA and DHA, a B-complex and a pre/probiotic. He also warns that the recommended daily allowances (RDA) listed on supplement labels “are often far below what people need. It’s just the minimum to prevent death and is far from optimal. In many cases, it’s safe to take double the RDA. But it’s best to get with a practitioner to find out what you need for your health.”
HydrateWater is a busy multitasker in our bodies. It is an irreplaceable nutrient in every cell; it regulates body temperature and metabolizes and transports the nutrients our bodies use for food. It is a shock absorber for our brains and spinal cords, lubricates our joints and helps flush waste out of our bodies.
“The power behind water hydration is frequently forgotten—yet it can reverse a lot of symptoms and prevent a lot of diseases,” says Katherine Igah-Phillips, M.D., owner and CEO of Mind Body Spirit Wellness Center in Marietta. “You have to fuel every single system in your body with water for it to function optimally. It is absolutely essential for good health.”
Since the lymphatic system, which plays a big role in our immune response, is largely water, Igah-Phillips says, “any time you start getting sick, you can boost your immune power simply by proactively drinking water.”
Janine Romaner, a naturopath and the owner of Naturally Healthy, LLC in Woodstock, strongly recommends drinking filtered or purified water—not what comes out of the tap. “Sadly, there are easily a lot more pollutants in our water than we realize,” she says. “Research shows that if you’re drinking tap water, you might just be drinking medications your neighbor dumped out.”
Sleep well“Go to bed, everyone!” is the imperative that Igah-Phillips wants to give to almost all of her patients. Good, deep, quality sleep is an essential ingredient for health and longevity. “It’s critical to reboot for the next day. A lot happens when we sleep,” Igah-Phillips explains. “Certain hormones, including growth hormones, are released then, and insufficient or interrupted sleep can hasten death.”
Sufficient duration and quality of sleep supports our health in the short term and the long term. Chronic sleep deficiency has been linked to increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and stroke. Sleep helps to maintain and repair the heart and blood vessels. It helps maintain a healthy balance of several key hormones and supports healthy growth and development. The immune system relies on sleep to help us stay healthy; insufficient sleep can degrade the immune system’s ability to respond to harm.
“Your brain and your tissues restore themselves while you sleep,” explains Miller. “So paying attention to sleep hygiene and setting aside a wind-down period before you go to sleep helps tremendously. The gland that regulates your sleep, the pineal gland, gets triggered to make melatonin, a hormone that aids sleep, when cortisol drops low, but it won’t do that if you are stressed at night.” Cortisol is known as “the stress hormone” because high levels reflect high stress.
ExerciseExercise, of course, is an essential part of staying healthy and increasing longevity. Our experts emphasize the benefits of exercising as long as you are enjoying it. “Everything about moving is good,” says Miller. “As long as it makes you feel good, it benefits your brain, muscles, heart and metabolism.”
“The best exercise is walking,” says Gunter. “Any kind of aerobic activity where you’re having fun and not just beating yourself to death” is key, he says.
Exercise benefits almost every system in the body—cardiovascular, lymphatic, endocrine, digestive and the brain—and is proven to improve mood, boost energy, promote better sleep and combat disease. It is also a great way to reduce stress.
Offset the stressTaking steps to unload the stress we accumulate over the days, months, years and decades also plays a key role in avoiding health problems, according to our experts.
“People often underestimate how much stress they’re under and don’t give it the attention it requires,” says Jennifer Myers, L.Ac., principal acupuncturist at Core Health & Wellness Acupuncture in Buckhead. “Stress has a very real effect on us physically, mentally and emotionally.”
Igah-Phillips agrees. “You can flip on diseases from the overload of inflammation caused by chronic stress. Autoimmune disease is associated with chronic stress. There’s no getting around it.”
Unplugging, taking time out, meditating, practicing yoga or doing anything else to relax and detach is as important to our health as eating, sleeping and hydrating. Miller says that mindfulness and meditation puts the brain into a parasympathetic mode—when the nervous system relaxes the body and inhibits or slows many high-energy functions. It gives the adrenal glands a break from flight, fight or freeze, letting you build up a reserve in the adrenal glands for when there’s a real emergency. Then you’re less likely to have a heart attack or illness triggered from a stressful event.
Clear out inner and outer toxinsMany of our experts point to the variety of toxins—within and without—that can take a heavy toll on one’s physical wellness.
Igah-Phillips recommends that people detox two to three times a year to rid the body of harmful substances in the body. “Detoxing fortifies the liver and kidneys by reducing their work for a while so they can function better. If we’re constantly eating garbage, they have to work hard all the time. When we detox, we reduce their to-do list and they can then operate more efficiently.” Besides, the more you do it, she says, the more you’ll love how you’ll feel.
Romaner points to the high levels of harmful electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) in our environment as being harmful to our health. “I see more and more patients with brain issues, memory problems, brain fog, difficulty concentrating and focusing. There are many reasons for it, but one is harmful EMFs.” Turning off cell phones and Wi-Fi at night and putting protective shields or devices around our computers are a few options for dealing with them. A little can go a long way.
But detoxing our inner toxins can be just as critical to our health. “If you don’t deal with what’s ultimately bothering you—bad relationship, job you hate or trauma from when your parents divorced—and don’t find a way to grow through those experiences, it will affect your physical health,” says energy healer and coach Adele Wang. Romaner agrees: “Underneath every physical ailment, there’s some emotional tie-in. Many people avoid going into the depths of what’s at the root of what they’re going through.” Doing the work to free ourselves from emotional residue from past events and relationships has real physical benefits.
Think balanceEverything affects everything else, say several on our panel, so taking a balanced and integrative approach to health will get you better results. “In Ayurveda, we look at what is out of balance,” says Mike Tolani, an Ayurvedic counselor and nutritionist, and owner of Peach Vitamins. “Then we adjust that to put things back in balance.” Don’t overdo one thing or suppress another activity, he warns: “Everything is a balance issue.”
“Live a reasonably integrated life as far as basic practices are concerned,” says Wang. “Eat right, meditate, exercise, get good rest. One can’t compensate for another; you need them all. No amount of good eating will compensate if you’re not getting enough cardio.” And vice versa.
Taking an integrative approach also means being responsive to your body’s signals. “People should start listening to their bodies and realize that when something is new or different, that’s how the body is communicating,” says Myers. “Just like if your car’s check engine light comes on, you do a quick assessment of how bad things are. But if you assess and think, ‘I’ve got a lot of things to do’ and the light stays on and you ignore it long enough, eventually you’ll be on the side of the road with the hood up. If you can take note of the early check engine signals, even if they’re not subtle, something internal that you might not understand is going off course. It could begin to affect other systems.” Sleep issues, tension headaches, seasonal allergies, digestive upsets and changes in menstrual cycles are all indicators that the immune or another system is out of balance.
Connect to something bigger“You have to understand how to reach out to your soul,” says Tolani. “It is always on your side, knowing what is needed for you.”
No matter what religious or spiritual beliefs you have, knowing that you are connected to a greater source can feed your health as well. “Where do you get your inner guidance from? Where do you defer to a bigger picture? Being able to tap into an amazing force of life and creation. For me, that’s where the healing comes from,” says Romaner.
Routinely opening yourself up to the love that surrounds you changes “all sorts of brain chemistry and puts you in a healthier place,” says Gunter. “Even spending 30 seconds looking at pictures of loved ones to bring back the feeling of love you have for them can do the job,” says Gunter. “We are wired for connection,” says Wang. Without it, our health suffers.
Be proactiveDo you wait until your car’s check engine light comes on, or do you take it in for regular oil changes, tire rotations and the rest? Several of our experts bemoan the fact that many patients come to them only after some debilitating health condition has emerged. All of our panelists wish that people would be proactive with their health and seek the support of practitioners to rebalance energies and realign, strengthen and repair systems long before symptoms materialize.
“I like to stress to people to establish a support team to maintain your own personal health and wellness,” says Myers. Your core team might consist of an acupuncturist, naturopath, chiropractor, massage therapist or other practitioners to help you stay at your best and nip conditions in the bud, she advises.
“It’s important to see people who care about you being well,” says Gunter. “Whoever makes you feel stronger and cared for. As long as there’s somebody who’s looking at you as a person.”
Our health experts:Adele Wang Safe Haven Healing
900 Old Roswell Lakes Pkwy, Suite 110, Roswell SafeHavenHealing.net • 678-293-8511
Guy Gunter, D.C. Healworks
5150 Roswell Rd NE, Atlanta Healworks.net • 404-255-3110
Karen Miller, MD, IFMCP Atlanta Integrative and Internal Medicine
45 W Crossville Rd # 501, Roswell AtlantaIntegrativeAndInternalMedicine.com • 770-594-1233
Katherine Igah-Phillips, MD, MHA Mind Body Spirit Wellness Center
Janine Romaner, ND Naturally Healthy, LLC
Weatherstone Office Park 3221 S. Cherokee Lane #1830, Woodstock
NaturallyHealthy.ws • 770-640-6690
Jennifer Myers, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac. Core Health & Wellness Acupuncture
455 E. Paces Ferry Road NE, Suite 20, Atlanta CoreHealthAndWellnessAcupuncture.com • 770-375-5594
Mike Tolani Peach Vitamins
2900 Peachtree Road NW #112 Atlanta, GA PeachVitamins.com • (404) 266-9115