A Beginner's Guide to Natural Health
Updated: a day ago
For those who are new to the concept of healing from the inside out, this is a basic guide with some pointers on where to start.
Natural health can mean different things to different people. I tend to see it as an active process where we seek to understand the benefits in supporting our bodies own natural healing inclination, and in that process often become more empowered towards taking responsibility for our own wellness by incorporating simple and consistent practices. While it's often derogatorily referred to as "woo", I see natural health as actually rather reasonable when you consider it seeks to move beyond symptom management into understanding why certain symptoms are showing up. It seeks to investigate the factors that contribute to our wellness and understands our mind and body work as one, looking towards natural wisdom for support - however like everything there is a continuum. While some people hold rigid philosophies and others less so, natural healing holds an objective basis in itself and it's important we navigate mindfully through a decision making process especially with rather bold claims being made by both natural and conventional based businesses. If you're new to natural health principles, some discussions may feel confronting, confusing and/or contradictory to what you've heard elsewhere. I often encourage members of my Healing Tribe to take a break if the discussions begin to create undue anxiety, stress or feelings of righteousness. The idea is to work towards making decisions out of confidence and information, rather than fear but this isn't made any easier when we don't all agree on what legitimate sources of information are, as well as the sheer amount of variables to consider. EAT MORE WHOLEFOODS (ESPECIALLY GOOD FATS)
A key concept of natural health is take a preventative approach and given that every one of us different, there is no such thing as one healthy diet for all. Learning to listen to your body is a huge part of this process to find what foods work and what ones don't, however there are some basic principles I recommend when it comes to nutrition, and that's about consistently incorporating more real food and staying away from the things that tend to promote inflammation. Looking to the most natural options your budget can afford is great. It doesn't necessarily have to be organic or spray free (although obviously that's often fantastic if so), it just needs to be in a natural form so our bodies are more likely to be able to efficiently digest.
I'm a huge advocate for traditional diets because the digestive process is so intensive hence why we often lose our appetites in times of illness - so our bodies can focus on the priority of healing. While I'm not dogmatic about macro breakdowns, there is no denying I've seen the benefits of incorporating a Higher Fat Lower Carb approach many times. Some people do thrive on the opposing lower fat and higher carbohydrate approach however it often seems that we often have to choose between higher fat or higher carbohydrate, but not both. To me, a good basic approach looks something like this:
No refined sugars or syrups. No refined grains. No pasteurised, homogenized or low-fat milk. No proteins powders or synthetic vitamins. No additives, preservatives, colourings or flavourings. No refined ingredients. No seed oils. Eggs (free range). Raw milk and cream from healthy animals. Animals, nourished and raised ethically and eaten nose to tail. Activated seeds, nuts and grains. Fish and shellfish. Lacto-fermented vegetables (i.e. sauerkraut). Local and seasonal produce. HYDRATE YOURSELF When it comes to hydration, water obviously plays a key role but are we always getting the hydration where we need it - in our cells? One way you can help this along especially in the mornings after the night's sleep is by adding trace minerals in the form of himalayan or celtic salt - a pinch will do. A splash of Apple Cider Vinegar or a squeeze of lemon juice is another amazing addition to help support our delicate electrolyte balance and of course 'clean' water is important. I am a big fan of herbal teas and I do drink coffee, but I also don't touch alcohol, soft drinks or fruit juice. One of my favourite coffee substitutes is Dandy Blend - it's as easy to make as instant coffee but delicious and good for us!
HEAL YOUR GUT
Not everyone subscribes to leaky gut syndrome but in my opinion, it's often a significant driver of eczema, impaired digestion and mineral imbalances. Thought to occur when the intestinal lining loses its integrity and becomes more porous, allowing undigested protein molecules, yeast, bacteria, toxins, parasites etc to cross into the bloodstream, inflammation can take hold. My approach is fairly straight forward although the complexity is absolutely in the detail: remove the triggers, boost digestion, restore beneficial bacteria and restore the gut lining. While I work on my own roadmap, this is a fantastic resource to read: The Complete Gut Health Cookbook by Pete Evans
LOVE YOUR LIVER
If you have leaky gut, your liver and kidneys are likely to be overwhelmed with the increased inflammatory response. Their job is to help support our natural detoxification process so it's our job to help our livers no matter what specific illness or imbalance we may be dealing with. Some of my favourite agents for liver support are low carbohydrate diets, lemon water, milk thistle tea, Dandy Blend, this revitalising liver tonic and castor oil packs.
We also want to ensure we're getting some great sleep every night which means getting to bed before 10pm, and reducing our environmental toxins especially at home, moving to the most natural materials and cleaning agents possible. I'm a big fan of Molly's Suds laundry detergent, Aunt Fannie's Cleaning Spray (best name ever) and using borax and ACV to wash my hair.
KNOW YOUR NERVOUS SYSTEM
I often discuss with my clients the importance of addressing stress, trauma or other emotional factors that can affect our nervous system, putting us into perpetual fight, flight or freeze - a state which diverts energy just into staying alive as though we were being chased through the savannah by a large and hungry lion, rather than healing. It is here that I often suggest the work of Gabor Mate and Peter A Levine.
FOLLOW YOUR CURIOSITY There are a lot of avenues to explore and it often seems like every one is selling some type of magic answer or pill. I'm not sure there will ever be a straightforward roadmap which outlines where to go next so the best I can offer is the idea of following your curiosity and trusting your instincts. Some experiences may end up be best described as "learning" ones, others may lead you to insights that get you feeling great. The idea is about finding balance and realising that well being is often likened to peeling layers of an onion and this process can't often be rushed - trust you will come across your teachers and be truly ready to learn, as and when is the right time.
Listen to what everyone has to say, but make decisions that feel right for you. You may end up realising that certain thoughts, patterns, behaviours or even people aren't as healthy for you as you'd once assumed so going easy on yourself is key because natural health is often a journey. Through this all, remember the importance of self love and investing this time and effort into yourself, and that this is about consistency and changing ingrained patterns so that we can live our lives in a way that feels good. While there is so much to be learned and some love researching more than others and have the time, often the right team of wellness professionals can go a long way in terms of support, understanding and education to fast track results so keep an eye out for wellness professionals whose philosophies resonate with you.