The 5 Pillars of Health

I think that most people understand that there is no magic bullet to achieving optimal health.  There are many different aspects to human health and so it would make sense to try and gather some knowledge about each of these so that we can make healthier decisions in our daily lives.  These decisions would theoretically lead to improving health instead of harming it.  The perfect scenario just doesn’t exist so don’t try to find it.  However, we should at least strive to make improvements in our lifestyle and habits in order to maximize these critical areas as much as possible.  This article is a look into what I consider the Five Pillars of Health.  These pillars are what I have found in my research to make the greatest impact on human health and should be addressed whenever trying to holistically approach a program intended to improve someone’s health.  This is an introduction to these 5 Pillars and it will spread out into a 5 part series.  Each article will take a closer look at one specific pillar, help to explain it, and give you some tips on how best to analyze it and improve it in your life.

Trying to focus intensely on just one pillar while ignoring others is just not going to improve your health drastically.  The classic example is the person who works out hard 7 days a week, but eats poor foods, sleeps 5 hours a night, and is stressed out 24 hours a day.  If this doesn’t describe you I’m sure that you know many people who fit this picture.  I’m a firm believer that having a very fit physique can sometimes be a very misleading thing.  While there is an illusion of health on the exterior, interior health does not necessarily match.  In today’s society we put so much value on having the ‘beach body’, that people have been automatically conditioned to think that it equates to optimal health.  However, many times there is an exterior appearance of high fitness, with a poor level of internal health.  I have seen this be the case on many occasions.  Most times this is because the fitness pillar was given all the attention and energy, despite the fact that the other pillars were suffering.  If the sole goal is to have a beach body then that would be sufficient, but if the goal is to improve your health you may not be moving the needle as much as you think.

The Five Pillars allow you to have a good understanding of which areas of your life you should pay attention to and learn how to improve.  Each pillar is crucial to the overall health of a human being and sometimes failure in one can bring the whole system crashing down.  My Five Pillars of health consist of:

  1. The Neuroendocrine System
  2. Nutrition
  3. Fitness or Movement
  4. Sleep
  5. Stress Management

Figuring out the most efficient strategies to improve these areas can be the best way to improve your health.  Maintain a healthy balance of them all and you’ll be setting yourself up for the best chances of a long life filled with vitality.     

Below is a brief summary of the each of the 5 Pillars.  Again, each of these will be discussed in much more detail in the upcoming newsletters.  Each newsletter will contain an article on one of these pillars to help you learn more about how best to assess your health and things you can do to make improvements today.

Neuroendocrine System

The Neuroendocrine System basically consists of the numerous mechanisms that make up your nervous system’s interaction with your hormones. The neuroendocrine system is the mechanism by which the hypothalamus (part of the brain) maintains homeostasis (healthy, normal balance), regulates reproduction, metabolism, eating and drinking behavior, energy usage, and blood pressure. This is a very important pillar to address because if your brain and hormones are not working efficiently then it becomes difficult to fix anything else in the body. Many of the times this will be the main, initial focus in my wellness programs because of its high level of importance. Things such as your adrenal system, sex hormones, neurotransmitters, energy levels, and food metabolism parameters need to be addressed and analyzed so that you can understand how to make improvements in areas that are not performing well. Normalizing hormone function can often be the missing link and normalization can make the rest of the health journey significantly easier!

But the other important thing to know is that dysfunctional hormones are typically a result of other things going wrong!  This future blog article will go over the 3 most common causes of hormone dysfunction.  You will understand what these are and why you must first address these if you truly want to normalize hormone function.  You will also learn how your gut is directly linked to this system and plays a larger role in a healthy brain than you can probably imagine!

Nutrition

Most people understand that nutrition is a key component to optimized health. However, the marketing machine of the food industry confuses people. The goal is to uncover each person’s specific nutritional needs while learning about making wise decisions and deciphering the food labeling chaos. Food sensitivities and allergies are becoming exceedingly common and without the correct information many people are continually causing damage to themselves simply by eating certain things every day. Nutrition information changes at a rapid rate and without proper mentoring it can be very difficult for the average person to stay well informed.

There are so many different types of ‘diets’, or eating strategies, to consider.  Applying the correct eating strategy can make all the difference in someone’s success of failure.  Apply the wrong strategy and sometimes you can feel worse!

Nutrition has become very complex and confusing.  It seems like every month there is something new and some other nutritional fact contradicted in the news.  This has caused many people to lose sight of the basics and the key components that really make a difference in their health.  Some of these concepts have been popularized in the media, however the real understanding of these concepts has been skewed and altered such that people continue to make unhealthy choices, but this time unknowingly.  The complex tricks of the food industry and the loads of misinformation in the general public have made nutrition more complicated than it really needs to be.  Learning the basics of food and how to understand what you’re eating is paramount if you want to navigate the food industry and make the correct choices. 

This future article on Nutrition will give you a much better understanding of how nutrition is such a big part of your health.  It will also help to clear up some confusion that may be causing you to unknowingly sabotage your health.

 

Movement/Fitness

We all know that exercise is important, but most people don’t realize that it is a crucial component to optimal health. Certain systems in the body cannot function fully without exercise. The fitness pillar is an obvious one for most people, but I would venture a guess that many people have no idea how to apply certain types of exercise to particular goals. The dark side to exercise, that is never really talked about, is how too much exercise can actually be harmful to your health and potentially decrease longevity. 

We live in an ever-increasing sedentary world where people spend the vast majority of their lives sitting. While this is extremely harmful to overall health, there are also times where certain types of exercise strategies may not be the best choice either.  Movement is key to human health.  Applying the correct types and intensities of movement can ensure that it is a positive, and not a negative, impact on human health.

This future article will discuss the many possible goals of fitness and some of the best strategies to achieve those goals.  It will also help to uncover some situations in which exercise may be causing more damage than good, and when the wrong type of exercise was chosen for a specific goal. 

Sleep

Sleep is one of the most important functions of the human body.  New discoveries on the importance of sleep are occurring every year.  The only time that we are truly growing, recovering, and healing is while we sleep.  Reduction in sleep duration and quality is getting worse every year and is one of the reasons that global health continues to decline.  This pillar analyzes the true science behind sleep, why it is so important, and many tips to help improve duration, quality, and rhythm of sleep.

Optimizing your sleep, like every other pillar, is critical to achieving overall health.  Many times people sacrifice sleep in order to be more productive, but in the end they will actually lose long term production when health starts to decline.  You must start to consider sleep as an integral part of your health and not just something you can neglect because coffee will get you through the day. 

The future article on sleep will explain more about why sleep is so important to your health, explore the most important things to consider about your sleeping habits, and highlight things you can do to improve your sleep hygiene.  There is a reason that sleep deprivation is so damaging to normal function.  It is so important that if you remove sleep for even a small period of time, normal human function is not possible.  It is finally time to learn about and appreciate your most important recovery and detoxification tool: Sleep.

 

Stress Management

One thing that we all have to deal with is stress. It will never go away completely so the real trick is to learn how to manage and deal with stress effectively. This pillar is one of the most crucial and without addressing it, the other pillars can be negated. Not only does improved health allow you to manage stress better, but learning effective self-care strategies can make a massive difference in your well-being. For this reason stress management is a pillar that I often focus on with my clients.

This future article will help you understand the different types of stress and how they all can impact your health.  Understanding how your body responds to different stressors can be helpful if you are trying to minimize the amount of stress in your life.  It will also give you many different suggestions of ways to track and reduce the stress in your life.

This is a brief explanation of the 5 pillars of health.  I will go more in depth on each of these in the upcoming newsletters.  I hope that you take the time to read the articles so that you can have a better chance at positively impacting your 5 pillars of health!

If you are interested in customizing these areas specifically to your needs, our wellness programs can help you take control of your health with a systematic approach to wellness.  Learn everything you need to know to improve and protect your health for the rest of your life.  For more information on how our wellness programs may be able to change your life, contact us today and schedule your Functional Medicine Consultation.