Wellness Tips with Dr. Josh Axe
In many ways, September is sort of the “new year” – summer is over, the kids go back to school, and everyone resumes a more settled routine. This transition can be difficult – particularly if you’ve adopted some unhealthy habits in the summer months and want to get back on track. We need some help!
Bearing this in mind, we enlisted the help of Dr. Josh Axe, certified doctor of natural medicine, doctor of chiropractic and clinical nutritionist and founder of the Exodus Health Center, one of the largest functional medicine clinics in the world. Ahead, he answers some of our questions around health and wellness for the new season. Read on!
Dr. Josh Axe
The relaxed pace of summer is amazing – we felt calmer than ever. To begin, do you have any tips on how to carry that laid-back feeling – and mellower perspective – into the fall months?
It’s definitely easy to get stressed as we move into the fall and adopt more rigid schedules than we had in summer. The key to not letting that stress raise cortisol levels—which can ultimately lead to weight gain, poor sleep and a host of other health issues—is to make self-care a priority.
I am a firm believer that food is medicine and, conversely, bad food can be like poison to the body. Avoid inflammatory foods, like processed carbs and sugars, as these foods send your blood sugar on a roller coaster and leave you feeling stressed out and craving more junk food. Also, make it a point to spend quiet time in prayer and/or meditation every day, even if it’s just for five or ten minutes. And exercise. Exercise is one of the best ways to increase serotonin (the feel-good chemical in our brains), lower cortisol and help your body to better handle stress going forward.
We find that in the summer we’re consuming more sweets (ice cream!) and alcohol (happy hour!). What are some strategies you’d recommend for weaning our dependency on these things without feeling totally deprived?
There are lots of swaps that can make your favorite sweet treats a whole lot healthier. White sugar is the root of so many health conditions, and studies show that it’s just as addictive as cocaine, so I recommend eliminating it at all costs! Try baking with natural sweeteners like maple syrup or coconut sugar, which is a great, dry product that is full of vitamins and minerals and be swapped for regular sugar 1-to-1 in your favorite recipes.
This time of year, with end of summer parties and barbecues still filling the calendar, it’s hard to imagine celebrations without alcohol. And that’s okay. Just drink in moderation (I’d say two or three drinks per week, max), and definitely avoid bingeing on any particular night. The more alcohol you drink, the more pressure and stress your putting on your kidney, liver and adrenal glands. I’d also recommend avoiding mixed drink that are often full of sugar. Try red wine (one type of alcohol that can actually be good for you) or make a cocktail with low-sugar vodka or tequila, sparkling water and lemon or lime.
Exercise is a huge thing for us here at S.W. Basics, but with a busier schedule we often skip out because of the time commitment involved. We know there’s no “quick fix” for getting in shape… but, seriously, what are some easy ways to get a workout in?
I always recommend burst, or high intensity interval training (HIIT). In just 20-30 minutes, two to three times per week, you can reap the same—or greater—rewards as you would spending hours in the gym, including fat loss, increased cardiovascular fitness and muscle tone. And the best part is that it’s easy to build your own HIIT workout based on your favorite exercise activity: Start with a three-minute warmup, then move into your interval activity by doing 20 seconds of intense activity followed by 40 seconds of active recovery. Go through the interval at least ten times (and up to 15), and then finish with a three-minute cool-down.
Okay, so we’re ready to eat healthier, too. But the information out there is so confusing and conflicting. Is Paleo the best route? Vegan? Vegetarian? We’d love to know your opinion on the healthiest diet strategy.
I recommend a healing diet that is low on fads and high on healthy, whole foods like berries, green vegetables, nuts and seeds, as well as healthy fats like coconut oil and avocado. A diet of this type reduces inflammation, alkalizes the body and eliminates toxins. But the important thing to remember is to pay attention to your body. If you feel better steering toward a vegetarian diet and eating less meat, do that. If you find that grains—even healthy ones, like quinoa or millet—are difficult to digest and leave you feeling sluggish, avoid them. We are all different, so while there are certain overall recommendations that work for everyone (cut back on sugar and processed foods; eat organic produce and grass-fed, wild meats), there is no one-size fits all diet.
Buying organic is important – we know that – but it’s also expensive. Any tips for those of us who want to eat the best quality food possible but are finding it really pricey?
Shopping at local farmer’s markets can help trim your grocery bill because your buying direct from the producers—you don’t have to factor in costs for your food to travel hundreds (or thousands) of miles to your grocery store or pay for fancy packaging. If you go at the end of the day, you can also typically get additional discounts from vendors who need to sell any leftover produce before the end of the day. One last tip: Eat in season. If you shop farmer’s markets, you’ll be doing that automatically, but definitely keep this in mind when you’re shopping in a grocery store. Foods that are out of season had to travel farther to get to you and, as a result, are more expensive. They’re also not as tasty or nutritious.
How about supplements? What should we be taking and what isn’t worth the fuss?
There are a few supplements that I recommend across the board: First, a soil-based probiotic helps to repopulate the gut with healthy bacteria, driving out the bad guys and improving digestion, healing leaky gut and reversing many health conditions. Second, I recommend a whole food-based, organic multivitamin.
Our food supply is just not what it used to be, so it’s important to get some nutritional insurance from a multi you can trust—one that isn’t packed with genetically modified ingredients and fillers. I also recommend digestive enzymes that will help you absorb those nutrients and properly break down food, especially when you’re eating a less-than-stellar diet. Undigested food proteins are one of the primary causes of leaky gut, so it’s important to prevent that from occurring as much as possible. Finally, I recommend an Omega-3 supplement. The number of ways fish oil benefits health includes improving anxiety and depression, preventing cancer and boosting the immune system.
Lastly, when we’re busy it is difficult for us to calm down and get the sleep we know we need. Any strategies you recommend?
Getting enough quality sleep is important, but it’s also important to stay away from pharmaceutical sleep aids that can be addictive, cause digestive distress and lead to other health problems. Luckily, there are some natural sleep aids that are just as effective. Supplementing with magnesium can provide a calming effect and help relax the muscles, preparing the body for a deep, restful sleep. I also love using essential oils before bed, especially lavender, which is known for its relaxing properties. You can diffuse it in your bedroom, spritz some onto your pillow or even rub some onto your temples to induce sleepfulness. It’s also important to avoid caffeine after 3:00 in the afternoon, as that can impact sleep patterns. And try to avoid screen time (including phones and tablets) and hour or two before bed.