Achieving optimal health often involves embracing fundamental principles. Our bodies thrive on nurturing habits and wise choices, yet poor diets and detrimental routines can disrupt our natural balance, leading to various health issues. “Functional medicine, a growing field, advocates for a holistic approach, considering the interconnectedness of mind, body and spirit. Additionally, it emphasizes diet and lifestyle interventions before turning to medication to treat acute and chronic diseases. Diet, sleep and movement are the three major pillars to a healthy lifestyle and a more enjoyable life,” explained Jacob West, physician assistant with East Tennessee Medical Group.
The standard American diet contributes to many chronic diseases by promoting inflammation. Laden with processed foods and refined carbohydrates, it challenges our bodies’ inherent resilience. “Soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages are a large hurdle for a lot of my patients. There is no nutritional value in these drinks, specifically, no fiber or protein, and due to this, the body is tasked with absorbing large amounts of pure sugar. Consequently, sugar changes our neurochemistry, making sugar-sweetened beverages and other sweets a hard habit to break,” West said.
To combat these challenges, shop along the grocery store's perimeter, focusing on whole, unprocessed foods. Prioritize protein and fiber intake in every meal. Stay hydrated, aiming for approximately 80 ounces of water daily for most individuals. Adopt mindful eating practices, which include avoiding liquid calories, choosing healthy fats and proteins over excessive carbohydrates and steering clear of artificial sweeteners. “Meal prepping is also a game-changer. It allows you to always have a healthy option available and avoid poor choices or grab-and-go options, which tend to be more processed,” West added.
Quality sleep rejuvenates both mind and body, essential for ideal performance and stress regulation. Lack of sleep can impair mental and physical performance and disrupt stress hormones and circadian rhythms. However, there are some ways to establish a conducive sleep environment and prime your body to sleep well. “Avoid caffeine at least eight-to-10 hours before bedtime to preserve deep sleep cycles. Limit alcohol consumption, which can disrupt restorative sleep. Allow a two-to-three-hour gap between meals and bedtime to aid the body’s cooling process for restful sleep. Minimize exposure to electronic devices and bright lights an hour before bedtime. Lastly, if you snore heavily, wake up feeling unrested, gasping for air, or experience other sleep disruptions, consult your primary care provider to discuss the necessity of a sleep study,” West advised.
Finally, movement is an essential aspect of a healthy lifestyle. “Movement comes in many forms, and it can be personalized to one's preferences and schedule to be enjoyable and sustainable. Resistance training, yoga, Zumba, biking, swimming, high intensity interval training and cardio (walk/jog/run) are all great options,” West said. A minimum of 150 minutes of exercise per week in three to five sessions is recommended. Resistance training, which builds muscle, plays a fundamental role in metabolism and hormone health. In addition, establish a good support network to help you stay accountable to movement goals. Embracing the pillars of nutrition, sleep, and movement enables us to flourish in mind, body and spirit and promotes a healthy lifestyle.
If you are looking for a health care provider or would like to make an appointment, call East Tennessee Medical Group at 865-984-3864.