By Scott Tindal
In the last decade, there has been an explosion of research conducted on the gut and its importance to health (1). Without proper gut function, the nutrition you consume can not be optimally absorbed. Without proper nutrient absorption, your brain and your body will suffer (2). Gut function can be impacted by an array of variables- stress being a common factor. Chronic stress has been linked to chronic diseases such as Stroke and Alzheimer’s disease (3). Although stress in our lives seems inevitable, toxic stress can have a negative influence on your overall health (4). In people with stress-related disorders, including depression and anxiety, alterations in the composition of the human gut microbiota have been observed (5). Due to this interaction between the brain and gut, you might already begin to see how the three pillars are interdependent.
Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, stated “all disease starts in the gut.” Science is now supporting this notion. The gut–brain axis is the direct link between your gut and your brain.
To influence your brain in a positive manner, 10 minutes of meditation per day is recommended (6). Meditation has been shown to improve mood, stress, and relationships.
The physical aspect of your body is impacted by what you do, and likely what you don’t do. "Body" refers to both external components such as your muscles and internal organs. Unfortunately, today’s modern lifestyle results in relatively low levels of physical activity. As a result, you need to be mindful of the importance of activity and focus on movement throughout the day in order to maintain your body. The importance of resistance training cannot be overstated. Resistance training is not only a way to work on physical improvement, but it can also lower stress levels and has correlation to lowering risk of death and disease (7).
While resistance training may reduce the risk of chronic disease, it can also increase lean muscle mass when combined with adequate nutrition. This is critical to fend off Sarcopenia, the progressive loss of muscle due to aging (8). Loss of muscle starts around age fifty, and without continuous training, the muscles will reduce in size, strength, and power. To prevent this process, try following a weight training program. Craig McFarlane (IXCELA) has developed a training program that is adapted to meet individual goals and impact the internal and external body in a positive way.
Nutrition completes the “pillars of health.” Nutrition refers to the food and fluid you put into your body. Modern lifestyles and environments have led to an increasing reliance on processed foods. If you only take one point from this entire article, just eat real food. In changing this, you will experience a positive effect on your mind and body.
"Real" foods consist of whole foods that cover all of the macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates). There are different theories of protein consumption, but moderate to high protein consumption is typically recommended. Fat should be consumed in moderate amounts as well, but with care, as it is the most calorific macronutrient. Finally, carbohydrates, can be consumed based on exercise duration and intensity. It is important to remember that carbohydrates are not just in bread and pasta; vegetables are carbohydrates, as well.
The overriding factor that contributes to your dietary success is a calorie deficit. To see positive results both on your waistline and in your health, you should be burning more (or the same amount) of energy than you are consuming (9). Also, context is very important when discussing nutrition. What we recommend for a sedentary individual is going to be completely different from what we recommend for an athlete.
As you educate yourself on health, remember the three pillars and how they interact with one another. If you truly wish to be healthy, you must look at all three pillars and give attention to each one. We can change our internal environment with proper care and information.