I’m thinking this week about what a 360-degree approach to health means, as I have just returned from a truly inspiring and exciting conference in Functional Medicine in London. Along with Dr Ragan Chatterjee from BBC Doctor in the House, I joined about 250 doctors who are at the forefront of pushing a new model of medicine forward. Using the name of lifestyle or functional medicine we were studying a new model of health based on nutrition, lifestyle and natural medicines; this has also been called integrative medicine and aims to get to the roots of symptoms and correct them in order to gain full health and wellbeing. It can also be used as preventative medicine and allows patients to be responsible and involved in their health.
It was so exciting to see the degree of interest in an approach I have been involved in for the last 15 years and that there are plans for teaching it in medical schools and adding it into NHS practice, as well as some secondary care settings or hospitals.
So, what is a 360-degree approach to health? – it is when we think about all aspects of health and address them all to create optimum health and wellbeing. It includes nutrition and food; movement; stress management and emotional health; lifestyle and reducing toxin exposure.
At Orchard Barn we are focused on providing services that address all these different aspects and we have chosen our team to be able to give expert advice and help to our patients and customers. This is also why we sell only natural skin and cleaning products, and in my teaching this week it has highlighted again why this is an area so important but often overlooked.
Our skin is often thought of as a barrier but in fact, it absorbs most of the products we apply to it – think of how nicotine or HRT patches work. These substances pass into the body where they need to be broken down and eliminated. Some people can have problems with this breakdown pathway, which occurs in the liver, and so the chemical products build up and cause problems. Some of the worst offenders are hand sanitisers; synthetic toiletries and cosmetics as they are applied so frequently. The liver requires many nutrients in order to work well, and if the diet is lacking in these it can make it difficult for the body to breakdown and excrete chemicals. The total burden of these toxins can cause problems in some susceptible individuals and symptoms can be allergic reactions to drugs, fumes, chemicals or perfumes, or feeling tired and generally unwell.
Other products to be aware of are aluminium in antiperspirants and deodorants; parabens and phthalates in skincare products, all of which are xeno-oestrogens. Xeno-oestrogens are also found in pesticides; some plastics; petrochemical fuels; pigments, paints, dyes, and perfumes; preservatives and flame retardants (PBBs). They accumulate in body fat and have been linked to oestrogen dominant problems like fibroids, breast cancer, endometriosis and fibrocystic breast disease; as well as other hormone problems like thyroid disease.
Whether a person has difficulties with these chemicals depends on their body’s ability to break down toxins, and this is due to a mix of genes, gut flora and nutrition. We can boost our breakdown and elimination pathways by eating plenty of green vegetables, like the fabulous broccoli and kale, adding in spirulina, chlorella, turmeric and sea vegetables to our diet; optimising our gut flora with fermented foods like kefir; exercising regularly and taking saunas. It is also worth thinking about reducing our use of chemical products if we are trying to truly optimise health and wellbeing.
Some facts that may surprise you!
- Since WWII, over 140,000 synthetic chemicals have been registered on the European market.
- Each year, an estimated 2,000 new chemicals are introduced for use in everyday items including foods, personal care products, prescription drugs, household cleaners, pesticides, and lawn care products.
- Commercial plasticiser: over 8 billion pounds produced every year (lining canned food & drinks; water bottles; cash register receipts); over 100 tons released into the atmosphere every year
- Readily absorbed through skin and gut mucosa.
- More than 90% of people in US have measurable BPA in their bodies.
- Urinary BPA concentration was significantly associated with obesity in study of children and adolescents.
- Increasing BPA concentration significantly associated with decreased testosterone levels.
So, what can we do?
- Be aware, look at ingredients in your skin care, cosmetics and cleaning products.
- Don’t put products on your skin if you would not eat them!
- Don’t cook in plastic – transfer into an oven proof dish.
- Avoid plastic wrappers on food
- Eat organic if possible esp meat and dairy
- Use natural cleaning products
- Use natural soap to wash hands
- Drink water from metal or plastic free bottles, ideally filtered
- Have plants in your house
Just a few changes to your lifestyle can make such a difference and what I also love about natural products is as well as being good enough to eat, they are also cruelty-free, not tested on animals; and environmentally friendly so an overall ethical choice too– a win, win choice and why I am a great believer in them!
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