Wellness articles are based on the author’s health journey with autoimmune disease.
Staying Healthy in a Modern World
Today life goes fast. Really, way too fast.
The cultural undercurrent is that “being busy” is an ideal state of being. We succumb to the ever-present societal pressure of doing more, being more, making more, having more… And in the process, we become less. Less ourselves, less happy, less healthy and less engaged with the people and things that matter in our lives.
Being busy is part of the reason why autoimmune disease started in my body. I was chasing the adrenalin rush of being busy (I truly loved it), and I was too busy being busy to pay attention to the signs from my body that all was not well within.
I believe we have choices – we can consciously opt out of “being busy”, and choose to make clear decisions about how we live, how we feel, how we react and how we prioritise feeling well and happy. When we know that being busy hurts us, we can choose to change it.
On my journey to recover my wellness from autoimmune disease, I discovered there were five things that I did that really supported me to stay well. When I make these five things a regular part of my normal life – I feel pretty damn good. And that gold is worth sharing.
For you, here they are:
Quality sleep is THE most important of the five things I do to stay well. It took me a month of prioritising sleep to realise how important it was (I was a defiant night-owl…).
When we get quality sleep – we heal. If we don’t sleep – we die. If we’re getting a little, but not enough… we do it tough ey. Very quickly we are more susceptible to illness, we are more grumpy, and we are a lot less than the best version of ourselves (read about the true costs of sleep debt).
These days, I aim for nine hours sleep every single day, and I’m almost always in bed by 9pm. Sometimes I get the full nine, sometimes I don’t, but the goal remains the same. How I get this amount of sleep is another blog that I’ll link you to when it is written. In the meantime – take a look at the steps that Dr Sarah Ballantyne recommends here.
When I get a regular supply of the magic 9 – I feel like bloody wonderwoman! Going to sleep is better than magic, and will soften the edges of almost all health conditions, in my case autoimmune disease and hashimoto's disease.
The power of fermented foods is astonishing. Science is constantly uncovering a myriad of ways that probiotic microbes influence our gut health. Did you know that we have as many microbial cells in our body as we have our own cells? Did you know that the gut wall is a veritable HQ for 70% of our immune cells? Did you know that the microbes within our gut directly influence our immune systems and brain chemistry? It is clear that we evolved with our beautiful little microbes, and we need them.
Fermented foods are truly integral to how I feel on a daily basis. When I don’t eat fermented foods, my health quickly goes south. It is noticeable in both my digestive health and my cognitive functioning. My digestion slows down, my stomach bloats, and my thoughts and memories stall.
So it’s pretty easy for me to actively choose to eat something fermented daily, and from a variety of different sources. There’s plenty to choose from: Kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, lacto-fermented vegetables, coconut yoghurt, raw vinegar, olives and so much more. And the best thing about fermented foods? They are BANGING with flavour!
3. Bones and livers
I know, I know – stay with me, don’t lose it over a little offal! These guys are powerhouses of nutrition – rich in minerals and specialities like collagen, gelatine and many other goodies. Our great-grandparents weren’t throwing their bones away and for good reason. They’re packed with flavour and my healing from autoimmune disease definitely improved when I started adding them to my diet regularly.
Don’t despair if you don’t like liver or think bone broth tastes like feet. I agree – they are polarising foods. I don’t like liver much either, and a poorly cooked bone broth truly does taste like feet. But there are ways to get these beauties to taste delicious, ways to hide the textures, and even ways to hide the flavour.
I have a wonderful old farmer friend who drops me in fresh lambs liver when he’s done in one of his flock. It’s a struggle for me to eat lambs fry, but it is a treasured gift and I honour it with gratitude every time. And each time I cook with it, it gets a little easier, and a little tastier. I might even be starting to like it.
Generally speaking, chicken liver is my go-to, and it’s now delicious after a couple of years of recipe refinement. I’ve got an amazing chicken liver/pork/beef burger recipe that is a firm favourite with all picky palates (I’ll share it in a future post). My bone broth recipe is closer to a masterstock than the bone broths you’ll find online, which makes it much, much more delicious and more than drinkable (recipe coming soon).
4. Movement in nature
Nature is so healing. I’m a marine biologist by trade, and the ocean calls me. When I blend my daily exercise with the sea, my day is always better (without exception). So I choose to do my exercise outside every time – I ocean paddleboard, swim, fish, and take long walks along the beach with my dog. It’s often called green exercise, and there’s stacks of positive research on exercising outdoors online.
5. Knowing which foods work for me, and which don’t
Food is medicine – that means that every single thing we put in our mouth affects our health and wellness. Sometimes it’s obvious foods that we know can cause problems (sugar, alcohol, etc). And sometimes, it’s something completely obscure that we are really surprised to discover makes us unwell (for me it’s nightshade vegetables – I never even considered that could be problematic until I stopped eating them).
But, it’s not just about what you don’t eat – your wellness is equally positively impacted by what you DO eat. When I include an abundance of seasonal fresh vegetables, fermented foods, bones and livers, I get the absolute best results.
If you’ve got a chronic health condition like thyroid disease or autoimmune disease that is dimming your shine, and no matter what you do, you can’t quite feel your awesome self – then I highly recommend taking a good, hard, long look at what you are putting into your mouth.
The autoimmune protocol works really well for me, but it might not be right for your health condition. It is a big food culture shift and not for the half-committed. There are freaking tonnes of different nutritional approaches to wellness out there, each with their strengths and weaknesses depending on your condition. It is very easy to become overwhelmed, confused, and paralysed by too much information.
The best thing you could do would be to seek out someone who knows more than you do. Preferably someone who has experience with your health condition and knows how to support your healing with food. A Nutritional Therapy Practitioner or an Integrative Health Coach is a great place to start. If you are in New Zealand, I highly recommend Karoline Jonsson from Intuitive Wellness. She’s pretty damn good at what she does.
No, it’s not, and I know it’s not. I’ve got a good few years of experience under my belt, at making pretty significant lifestyle changes that impact my wellness. But if you’re currently surrounded by busyness, lack of sleep, and convenient processed foods, you might find these kinds of lifestyle changes to be confronting, revolutionary, or overwhelming.
It is achievable though, and I can attest that these 5 things are truly life-changing for me. I started by making very small changes to the way I lived, and then adding new small changes consistently over time. Taking this approach results in big wellness improvements from manageable steps. You might find that one day you wake up one lovely morning, and suddenly realise that you’re feeling a crap-tonne better. I encourage you to try out one of these steps – have a go! Individualise them and put your own flavour and personality into it.
Let me know what you think about the things I do, what you do to stay well, and whether you’re going to try any of my steps – I’d love to hear from you.
Go be well!