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My Year-End Checklist For A Healthier 2016

Have you come back from the post-Christmas sugar coma yet?

Don’t worry, I’m sure the overwhelming cravings for sweets will begin to subside any minute now.

Any minute.

Back to the Gut

One topic that I come back to more than any other here on “Wellness Wednesdays” is maintaining a healthy gut. As always, I’m not talking about chiseled six-pack abs. I’m looking inside, to your digestive system.

Most people think that your digestive track is where your body turns food into nutrients and waste. And while that’s true, it’s not even the most important thing your gut does. Scientists have only recently begun to understand the importance of the microbial colony that lives in your gut – trillions of bacteria that form an amazing ecosystem as complex and diverse as a rain forest. While it might sound gross to talk about bacteria living in your colon, the fact is you couldn’t survive without it. For every dangerous bacteria, there are countless good bacteria working on your behalf to promote good health.

Some doctors refer to it as your “second brain” (I’ll leave you to make up your own joke about having a brain in your colon). Just like your cerebral structures orchestrate your nervous system, muscle movement, memory, logic, creativity, the five senses, and so on, the bacterial structures that make up your “second brain” run your immune system. There is even some research to suggest that some part of your emotional state is governed by the bacterial colony (or “flora”) that live in your gut. More than digesting food, your gut flora interact with nearly every cell that enters your body – identifying, isolating, and eliminating threats to your healthy cells.

The gut flora is an amazingly rich ecosystem that most of us take for granted, but it’s also very fragile. In fact, most of us commit molecular genocide in that ecosystem every day.

Killing Me Softly

As I’ve mentioned before, there are several threats in our environment that assault and pillage our gut flora constantly:

  • Antibiotics kill good bacteria indiscriminately along with the viruses they are meant to wipe out (factory-raised meat and milk are routinely loaded with antibiotics).
  • Sugar, corn-based fructose, and the preservatives common to processed food feed bad bacteria at the expense of good bacteria.
  • Antibacterial soap, while it only contacts your skin, kills good and bad bacteria and leaves us vulnerable to antibiotic resistance.
  • Chlorinated and fluoridated water is like poison to your gut flora. Even aerosol-based cleaning products can be toxic to you on many levels.

That said, your sinus infection isn’t all in your head. It started with a gap in your armor – a weakness in your gut flora that let a virus through to your respiratory system. There’s no such thing as “flu season.” The flu is constantly around us, along with dozens of other viruses that our bodies have been trained to fight. There is, however, a season when we tend to go heavy on sugary foods that suppress our immune systems, so our defenses are down. That’s why I encourage you to go easy on the sweets, not because it makes you flabby.

So, What Can We Do to Make 2016 Healthier Than 2015?

While I’ve shared several of these tips before, I want to give you a short checklist of simple things you can do to help you get 2016 off to a great start, so you have it all in one place.

Boost Your Fiber. In this article, I gave you a few specific foods to emphasize this year.

Take A Probiotic, especially if you find yourself on an antibiotic for any reason.

Eat Plenty of Fermented Foods. Some people flinch when I say that because of…well…the smell. When you see how much better you feel, the smell will never bother you again. Sauerkraut, kimchi, organic kefir, and apple cider vinegar (look for Bragg’s or any brand that has “The Mother” – that’s your bacterial colony).

Breathe Outside. Fresh air used to be normal, now we have to schedule it into our lives. Get out of the processed air and give your lungs the microbial diversity they need. If weather permits, open your windows and let fresh air blow through your house. If you live in Southwest Florida, you have absolutely no excuse until May not to keep your windows open. Minnesota…let’s talk again in April.

Work Outside. For over 6,000 years, we made our living out in the fields; now we buy our food from an air conditioned box. Putting your hands in the soil connects you to the earth biologically, magnetically, and even mentally and emotionally. If you don’t have a garden or a yard you can dig in, go to the beach, the park, or to the lake. Touch the dirt and let the dirt touch you. It’s alive and the microbes in it are good for you.

Play In The Sun. One of the most powerful decongestants available is Vitamin D3. You can get it in pill form if you really want to, but you can get it for free by exposure to direct sunlight. Sunlight has so many health benefits, but it’s especially good immune support. Pace yourself; don’t spend all day in the sun the first day. Start with 20 minutes and build it up gradually over several days. Give your skin time to adjust, rather than slathering yourself with a ton of chemicals that block all the benefits from getting to your skin. If you want to moisturize, use coconut oil.

Lay Off The Sugar. Sugar is nefarious – it goes by 56 different names and they hide it in everything, especially soft drinks. And diet drinks made with aspartame are far worse than sugar. Just avoid them all. Avoid foods that come in a cardboard box. Get your sweet fix from a little fruit and honey. I like to use this rule of thumb: “if God made it, your body knows what to do with it. If man made it in a chemistry lab, your body will reject it like poison.

See A Difference?

There’s so much more we could talk about here, but I want to keep it short for now. Start with one or two of these tips and then build on them as the year goes on. You will be surprised at how much better you feel – fewer colds, less fatigue, more energy, more enthusiasm. When you recognize the change, please take a few minutes to share in the comments on Facebook. Your story can be a huge encouragement to everyone in our growing online community. We’re in this together. Some people use “click-bait” – meaningless stories with provocative titles in an effort to get people to click a link or follow them. I refuse to do that. I want every article to contain valuable content that you can use and feel confident sharing every time. Together, we’re going to make a difference in the health of our communities, states, and nations. Let’s change the world in 2016!

“At the end of your feelings is NOTHING. At the end of your principles is a PROMISE.”  — Eric Thomas

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