If there were two words to summarise the health challenges we face in our modern world, they would be “stress” and “inflammation”. Ironically, both have played a critical role in keeping us alive and healthy for hundreds of thousands of years.
Stress has always been our first response to danger, diverting energy from our digestive system to our muscles, shutting down our immune system to further conserve energy for the “fight or flight” response, and causing us to think more with our reflexes than our higher, more logical and considered parts of the brain.
Inflammation is also our body’s first response to a physical trauma or an infection as our bloodstream immediately starts a process of defence and healing.
The problem is that today we are chronically stressed, and chronic inflammation is the common denominator in all chronic degenerative diseases. Chronic stresses help perpetuate chronic inflammation so something must change.
How has stress manifested in the modern world?
- Emotional stress – While we may not be able to change the world around us, we can certainly change our attitude to the world. This is our most powerful tool. There is exciting new research that shows our attitude to emotional stress, and how we approach it, has the greatest impact on how that stress affects health.
- Environmental stress – In hunter-gatherer times, this meant a threat from predators such as lions or bears or the shortage of food and water. Today, environmental stress is from chemicals found in food, clothing, furniture and personal care products. It includes electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, air travel, x-rays… along with the human impact on our climate, land and oceans. Building sustainability into our cities and our rural environment is essential. Ultimately, we should demand a right to clean, renewable, sustainable energy, elimination of toxins from the food chain, reward industry by buying “green”; and practise zero waste. Remember: we are all connected, so we are all affected.
- Nutritional stress – Food has the potential to cause disease but also has the potential to heal. I’m here to help wade through the avalanche of health “advice”, which have the potential to affect our immune system and impact on our physical, mental and emotional health, resulting in the epidemic of diseases we experience today. These include: our relationship with fat and the demonisation of cholesterol, the use of seed oils and trans fats, too much sugar, high fructose corn syrup and the effect on insulin and leptin, modern yield high gluten grains and the way they are processed, the ethical, environmental and health implications of industrialised meat production, lack of fibre and the gut biome, additives, preservatives, pesticides, the reduction of micronutrients and the demonisation of salt, overconsumption of alcohol.
- Postural stress – Our human journey over millions of years has involved movement, from four to two legs. As hunters and gathers we moved to survive. The agricultural and industrial revolutions introduced new, more repetitive movements, but again we needed to move in some way to survive. The technological revolution has all but eliminated the need for movement to survive. While balancing our head on our shoulders poses big enough challenges, we seem to be spending even more time today looking down at our phones, challenging our posture even more. Dental factors affect breathing which results in a head posture that impacts our already- strained upright posture. Lack of movement can threaten our health and wellbeing more than people realise, and when combined with our head looking down at phones, sitting, the way we walk and stand, the position in which we sleep, and even the way we sit on the toilet, it all amounts to what I will define as “postural stress” which has the ability to compromise your body physically, mentally and emotionally.
- Dental stress – The eyes may be the windows to the soul but the mouth is the gateway to the body and very revealing of health. The oral cavity is the beginning of the digestive and respiratory tracts with the shape and health of the mouth directly impacting on eating and breathing. The mouth is the site of two of the most common infections – tooth decay and gum disease. Because of tooth decay, dentists implant more foreign material into people’s bodies than all other health professions combined. It’s also the most sensitive part of the body with 30-40% of the body’s sensory and motor import occurs in the orofacial region. Its interaction with the autonomic nervous system is significant and often overlooked.
How to manage these stresses
There are 5 Pillars of Health that have the potential to build us up and maintain our wellness:
- Sleep – The most important part of the day, affecting physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. It’s the foundation for any wellness journey. It’s not just the quantity of sleep that’s important but the quality; how well you breathe while you sleep is the key. What defines a good night’s sleep? It’s both quantity and quality. There are 12 reasons for poor sleep and the 10 steps to sleeping well, including: priority, routine, light and electromagnetic radiation, noise, food and drink, temperature, sleeping position, environmental toxins, being positive and sex.
- Breathing – Something we give little thought to. What are the implications of breathing through your mouth or breathing through your nose on body chemistry and posture? Breathing well is an important regulator of a healthy body chemistry and central health and wellness.
- Nutrition – Drawing on ancient wisdom, free of commercial interests, this is central to maintaining good health in a sustainable, manageable, ethical and healthy way. Eating well is a foundation of health.
- Movement – It’s surprising how little you need to do to make a big difference, from changing your working and sleeping positions to incorporating functional movements and weight-bearing exercise into your daily life. This positively impacts on every health indicator and treatment outcome.
- Thought – From mindfulness and meditation to exploring the PERMA model: Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Acknowledgment; the importance of expressing gratitude. The power of the mind is our greatest tool.
A happy, healthy and stress-less life comes down to the daily practice of Move, Nourish, Believe xx
To learn more about modern stress and the 5 pillars of health and wellness, head here!
Dr Ron Ehrlich, co-founder of Sydney Holistic Dental Centre and Holistic Health Practitioner with over 35 years of clinical experience is at the forefront of holistic health and connecting our oral health and general overall health. For Dr Ron this is a continuation of a conversation that he wished he could have with each and every patient over the years.
This lead to his new book, A Life Less Stressed – the five pillars of health and wellness.