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The 5 pillars of health

Modern life is stressful and that stress is affecting health. But in order to solve a problem, it first helps to know what that problem actually is. In our modern world stress is a combination of emotional, environmental, nutritional, postural and dental factors, some of which are obvious and other most people give little thought too.

While problems in modern life seem to become more complex, the solution are remarkably simple. The key is to build physical, mental and emotional resilience. To that effect its useful to focus on five pillars of health and wellness: 

● Sleep – the most important part of the day. It's the foundation for any wellness journey. A consistently good night's sleep is a function of quantity, getting enough sleep, and quality, breathing well while asleep. Getting both right improves every health measure, physical, mental and emotional. Getting it wrong could shorten life.

The vast majority (90 per cent) of people need 7-9 hours sleep. People who sleep for only a few hours usually acknowledge they aren't getting enough sleep. The most interesting are the people who consistently sleep 6 hours who share many things in common with people who are sleep deprived. 

Poor sleep affects memory with  the chance of getting dementia increasing; insulin resistance increases predisposing to prediabetes, diabetes and obesity; the hormone responsible for fat metabolism, leptin is reduced, and the hormone responsible for hunger, grehlin increases so poor sleepers tend to eat more, increasing weight gain; sex hormones production is reduced affecting sex life; the immune system is compromised; thyroid hormone, which helps regulate metabolism is affected; chronic inflammation increases.

Quality is about breathing well while asleep. Snoring indicates a restricted airway, but there is another condition called obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), which means breathing either stops or is restricted frequently throughout the night. In severe cases, it can be life threatening. 

A consistently good night's sleep is the body's built-in, life-support system.

● Breathing – is something people give little thought to but there is a big difference between just breathing and breathing well. Breathing quality affects sleep quality, body chemistry and posture. Breathing through the nose is ideal, warming, humidifying and filtering the air; nasal breathing also improves head posture; breathing at 8-12 breaths per minute helps regulate body chemistry affecting every system in the body, physical and mental; using the diaphragm utilises greater lung capacity and reduces strain on neck and shoulder muscles.

● Nutrition – that is whole, fresh, diverse and free of sugar and artificial chemicals; with vegetables of many colours as the foundation; incorporating ethically-raised pasture fed animal products and healthy fats; filtered water and healthy salt; minimising carbohydrate and sugar intake to keep insulin levels low; and exploring the power of intermittent fasting, acknowledging that scarcity was always part of our human journey.

● Movement – incorporating functional movements and weight-bearing exercise into daily life and standing while working; walking as a sustainable, safe, sociable and empowering activity for life. Moving regularly impacts positively impacts on every health indicator and treatment outcome. It's surprising how little movement is needed to do to make a big difference. 

● Thought – while it is not always possible to change events or people around us we can change our attitude to them, and that can make a big difference, with the power of thoughts impacting how genes are expressed, and response to the stresses of life.  According to the 75-year study by Harvard School of Public Health, relationship is the best predictor of longevity, health and wellness, so value and nurture them. Expressing gratitude is accessible and positive, for both the provider and the recipient. From practicing mindfulness to exploring mediation, the power of the mind is profound.

The key is to build resilience, while identifying and minimising the stresses of modern life, to fulfil potential and be the best you can be.


Dr. Ron Ehrlich, is one of Australia's leading holistic health advocates with over 35 years of clinical experience. He is the author of A Life Less Stressed: the 5 pillars of health and wellness, host of the weekly podcast Unstress with Dr. Ron Ehrlich, gives keynotes and runs workshops on understanding stress, wellness and in doing so, fulfilling potential.

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