For herbs to work best they should be practiced within the context of a healthy lifestyle that includes a diet appropriate for you. Society is consumeristic and so works against our physicial and mental health to some extent. Generally, a plant based modified Paleo diet that includes legumes, just a little rice, white meat, and seafood, but removes red meat gets rid of a lot of problems for many people. Read about the Paleo diet in more detail, the aim is to ‘eat what you are designed to eat’, like a hunter gatherer.
Here are some guidelines;
- Think natural: green leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, avocados, lentils, beans, chickpeas, lean free range white meats, wild seafood, rice (a little only, preferably brown). Although these things can cause problems in some people, this is unusual. Rice is harder for the body to digest so should only be taken in small amounts. Variation is good.
- Reduce (preferably 100% eliminate) breads and dairy: these are hard to digest, less natural, and can lead to bloating, digestive problems, and more inflammation. Gluten free breads are also hard to digest, so they are not so good either, that is not a very good escape. If cutting out dairy 100%, drink substitutes which have calcium in: a lot of rice or almond milk has added calcium and also vitamin D which is a bonus. We have only been consuming grains and dairy for 4000 years which is not long in evolutionary time, so it seems we are not adapted well to eating this stuff. If you are vegetarian, this is perhaps less than ideal, and you may need to supplement with the RDA of B vitamins and omega3.
- Eliminate all refined sugar: this will just make inflammatory and gut problems worse and ruin your health.
- Eliminate all processed foods: like microwave meals, crisps, and other manufactured rubbish that destroys the body.
- Seafood or white meat (not red) is very good in moderation: meat definitely has important nutrients in it we cannot easily get elsewhere, like B12. However, it is also acidic so needs to be less in quantity compared with vegetables and fruits. Wild and sustainable seafood is particularly good, especially oily fish, as these have omega3 in that is good (Mori et al., 2004). If you don’t eat oily fish, you could just take some omega3 capsules. Red meat is linked to cancer and increases inflammation (Sesink et al., 1999; Montonen et al., 2013).
- Don’t overeat: this is really important, overeating leads to disease.
- Get vitamin D: spend time outside ideally, if you can’t, supplements are OK, this isn’t really diet, but we need it!
- Drink water: not coffee and tea all day long.
- Avoid alcohol and recreational (especially synthetic) drugs if possible: this is not considered conductive to the healing process.
- Consider finding a few tonic herbs that suit you for health maintenance, some are stimulating and can disrupt sleep so only take in morning, some examples indicated for longevity include: reishi, rhodiola, ginkgo
- Consider mindfulness meditation, asanas and pranayama, or qi gong: maintain the physical and mental body. A good meditation manual is for free here. Basic pranayama instruction is provided here. The importance of mindfulness alone, is hard to under-estimate.
- Sleep: About 8 hours a night, not too much, not too little, make sure you go to bed at the same time and rise at the same time. Do not stare at a screen before bed, leave a 1 hour gap, do not work in this time, try meditating, or do gentle yoga, or listen to some music. Do not eat 1-2 hours before bed, no coffee, tea, etc, neither do vigorous exercise. Sleeping well will increase your lifespan.
- Stay active during the day: Walking is good – minimum people recommend is 30 minutes a day, if you can manage it, depends on how into exercise/ fitness you are. For example, gentle, carefully performed yoga at your own pace, within your limits, is very good.
- Don’t lose the battle to the donuts and their friends the muffins.
I think they might be evil.
- Most important thing: learn to listen to your own body and how it responds, don’t ignore it if it is trying to tell you something – otherwise this is one way we get ill.
Montonen, Jukka, et al. “Consumption of red meat and whole-grain bread in relation to biomarkers of obesity, inflammation, glucose metabolism and oxidative stress.” European journal of nutrition 52.1 (2013): 337-345.
Mori, Trevor A., and Lawrence J. Beilin. “Omega-3 fatty acids and inflammation.” Current atherosclerosis reports 6.6 (2004): 461-467.
Sesink, Aloys LA, et al. “Red meat and colon cancer.” Cancer research 59.22 (1999): 5704-5709.
Wei, Min, et al. “Fasting-mimicking diet and markers/risk factors for aging, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.” Science translational medicine 9.377 (2017): eaai8700.