2010-10-08 / Columnists

Health & Harmony

Prevention And Wellness Natural Solutions

DR. NANCY GAHLES DR. NANCY GAHLES How do we practice prevention? How do we prevent getting sick? How do we practice wellness? How do we stay well?

Natural solutions are easy. They are all a matter of common sense and household wisdom. My question is ... why are they not easy to put into practice?

For example, one of the most common causes of a deficient immune system is lack of sleep. Sleep is restorative. It is a keynote of wellness. The circadian rhythms that operate to keep us in harmony with day and night must not be interrupted or this delicate hormonal balance will cause disruption in major systems.

Interrupted or impaired sleep can cause memory deficit. One night of poor or inadequate sleep can affect your ability to concentrate or think clearly the next day. Fogginess can affect your ability to drive, perform physical tasks, decreases mental acuity so that academic or job performance falls below par. Irritability from lack of sleep affects relationships and judgment calls. Just ask any mother with babies or young children how she performs after night watching. Ask any teen or college student who “can’t fall asleep” and stays up all night on the computer or watching TV how well he or she pays attention in class the next day. Ask any college student who “pulls an all nighter” studying how she or he performs on that test.

Sadly, in many cases, the toll that lack of sleep takes on a student is remedied by medication. There may be a diagnosis of ADD or ADHD in order to justify the medication. This is an easy way to fix the problem without addressing the underlying cause.

In women parenting or caretaking in other areas, the lack of sleep causing irritability, fatigue and a sense of hopelessness is likewise easily fixed by medication. More women are diagnosed with depression than ever before and the easy answer is to medicate them in order to fix the symptom without addressing the underlying cause.

Men and the fair majority of people who work outside the home may have sleep disturbed by thoughts. It is difficult to turn off the issues of the day or to stop thinking of what has to be done tomorrow. It is akin to a runaway train. It is on the track, speeding at 100 miles an hour and there are no brakes. The rush of thoughts that cannot be controlled is typical in all age groups and I see it in grade school children as well as adults. We all know the solution given for this problem as we are inundated with commercials for Ambien and Lunesta ad nauseum. The long list of side effects is the grist for the mill of comedians. However, it is no joke that they are commonly taken for sleep issues.

Other more gory consequences of sleep deprivation include premature aging (that ought to get the women’s attention); accelerated tumor growth; pre-diabetic states; stomach ulcers; heart disease and constipation along with varied mood disorders.

Natural solutions abound for prevention and wellness. Why are they not put into practice? In my experience, it is because it is easier to take a pill. It is easier to roll the dice, keep your lifestyle and habits and take your chances that “it” won’t happen to you.

The top 10 ways to create a good night’s sleep:

1. Listen to your body. When you feel tired, get to bed. Before the 24/7 world, people would rise with the sun and go to bed shortly after sundown. Keep as close to natural rhythms as possible.

2. Limit fluid intake to 2 hours before bedtime and empty your bladder before going to bed.

3. Avoid eating after your dinner. Enjoy a high protein dinner to increase your stores of L-tryptophane, a natural relaxant.

4. Take a hot bath, relax your muscles, wash away the day’s worries.

5. Listen to some music or read a bit of a good book, not work related, before falling asleep. Nature sounds and prerecorded sleep inducing music are helpful if you have difficulty falling asleep.

6. Clear your mind by writing a todo for-tomorrow list. Then, don’t look back! Congratulate yourself for a day well lived and move on. Create the space for a better tomorrow.

7. Make the sleep space as comfortable as possible by removing clutter. Have a comfortable mattress and pillows and clean sheets.

8. Sleep in complete darkness. Use blinds, drapes or eye mask. Light when you are sleeping is a big no-no. It affects the pineal gland’s secretion of the essential hormones, serotonin and melotonin.

9. Keep an ambient temperature in the bedroom. 68 degrees is good, but no higher than 70 degrees. Use extra blankets, if needed. Wearing socks to bed has been shown to reduce night wakings.

10. Clear the bed area of clocks or electronics with flashing red LED displays. EMFs or electromagnetic frequencies disrupt pineal gland activity and have been implicated with other negative effects on the body as well.

BONUS TIPS: Snuggling up with a loved one may lead to wellness. Conjuring loving thoughts of loved ones not present is beneficial to health. Breathing deeply and slowly ten times calms your nervous system. Being a loving person yourself is the ultimate key to prevention and wellness.

Natural solutions to everyday problems are easy when you take the time to consciously choose to nurture yourself. Natural solutions evolve organically from listening to your inner voice. The voice of reason. You can’t hear it with the volume of Life turned up high or not shut off. You can’t hear it if you suppress it with drugs. When you decide that you matter, you will naturally do the right thing. When you role model that for your children, they will learn how to nurture themselves. Prevention and wellness start at home. Make bedtime a time to look forward to. A time to anticipate a well deserved rest from the activities that overwhelm us.

And to all, a good night! May The Blessings Be!

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