Sustainable Wellness: A New Dashboard For Good Health

In last week’s “Wellness Wednesday,” as I was introducing our next Fundamental Foods and Friends guest speaker, Dr. Jacqueline Romero, I said the following:

“Dr. Romero has a traditional family practice in Naples, but what she has mastered is the ability to help people use natural means to overcome disease and walk in sustainable wellness.”

My point was to emphasize that, while it might look like a normal medical office, she uses natural treatments instead of chemicals to treat disease and promote a lifestyle of good health.

Going Deeper With Sustainable Wellness

But that phrase, “sustainable wellness,” has stuck with me all week. I didn’t take the time to elaborate on it in last week’s article, and I think I need to. When I chose those words, I was just trying to convey a thought as efficiently as I could.

This week, I want to talk about it in more detail. I think it dovetails nicely with Dr. Romero’s (and my) philosophy of treatment. And since she will be speaking at the April 12 Fundamental Foods and Friends Dinner (that’s the second shameless plug for it and I’m just getting started), it’s worth exploring this idea.

As I was thinking about the word “sustainable” this week, I got to thinking about where I’ve heard it. It comes up a lot when we talk about agriculture, so I did a little reading on the subject.

Learn From The Farm

The key to sustainable agriculture (and I’m open to correction from my readers who are farmers or gardeners) is a system that naturally replenishes the nutrients it uses.

For example, farms around my family’s hometown in Indiana often rotate crops from year to year. The reason is that different crops draw different minerals from the soil, and some plants (e.g., alfalfa) actually restore the mineral balance of the soil. They also use water in an efficient way, so that the system never depletes more than it can replenish. When the system gets out of balance, using more resources than it replenishes, it becomes unsustainable. This is why you see places like the Great Plains or Sub-Saharan Africa drying up and moving toward famine.

If you’ve ever seen Disney’s “The Lion King,” you get the picture. As Elton John sang, “But all are agreed as they join the stampede, you should never take more than you give in the Circle of Life.”

When a system becomes unsustainable in this way, it is essentially going into debt, using resources it can’t replenish. Eventually, the system goes bankrupt, and that destroys other systems around it. It’s a vicious cycle.

Is Wellness Like That?

So, how does this all apply to our understanding of “sustainable wellness?”

Think about how your body uses nutrients. We talk about the importance of eating a balanced diet because different foods supply different nutrients your body needs. If you only eat celery, you are better off than if you only eat Twinkies, but certain parts of your body will begin to malfunction over time because celery does not provide all of the nutrients you need.

In the years before he died of cancer, Apple founder Steve Jobs adopted a diet of nothing but apples (and I am referring to the tree fruit, not Apple devices) because he believed that his body would receive all the nourishment it needed from apples alone. While apples were a better choice than, say, Big Macs, it was not a complete balance of nutrients. He needed to rotate the apples with other macronutrient sources, like salmon, avocado, perhaps some legumes and low-glycemic vegetables. That would have been more sustainable. Short of that, though, he ended up depleting areas of his health that could have been nourished.

The Wellness Dashboard

If you think about wellness as a dashboard – like the one in your car – with gauges and meters that track different types of wellness, you will understand this next analogy.

My dashboard might show that I am high in vitamin C, Vitamin A, and Vitamin E after a good salad, with the right level of fiber, riboflavin, folate, potassium, magnesium, and iron. If the protein gauge is a little low, or the dietary fat gauge could be higher, I can have a serving of fresh wild salmon and those gauges will begin to rise.

When my body secretes leptin, it lets my system know that I am done refueling for the next few hours. Serotonin and dopamine rise accordingly, and insulin rises to meet the little bump in glucose. Everything stays in balance.

Over time, each of those gauges rises and falls independently – they don’t all rise or fall at the same time or the same speed. It depends on what nutrients I feed my body, or what I don’t feed my body.

What It Tells Us

Now imagine each gauge has a little guide on it that shows optimum levels, like the gauges on your car’s dashboard. You want to keep your levels within a certain range.

For example, you don’t want your Vitamin D to get BELOW a certain level, while you don’t want your sugar to get ABOVE a certain level. You don’t want your water level to get too LOW, but you don’t want your protein level to get too HIGH. You don’t want your iron too low or too high. The same is true of calcium, potassium, and magnesium. They have to stay balanced.

Your job as the owner of your body is to keep all of your gauges within their optimum ranges. This is a good description of wellness. Anything you do that keeps those levels in range can be considered a “sustainable wellness behavior.”

Now, I want to expand your thinking just a little.

A Bigger Dashboard to Think About

Now that we have explored some of the gauges and meters on this side of your dashboard, I want you to imagine not that you are looking at the dashboard of a car, but of a 747. If you’ve ever seen that dashboard, you know it is one of the most formidable control centers around.

Next to the panel with the nutrition wellness gauges (calcium, magnesium, Vitamins A – K, etc.), there is another panel with a blood pressure gauge, a serum creatinine gauge, a platelet gauge, a cholesterol gauge, and so on. Then there are the sleep/rest meters (they are related to heart metrics). There are meters for stress, adrenaline, cortisol, dopamine, and all the other neurotransmitters (there are dozens of those).

There is a panel for muscle flexibility, stability, motor control, spinal alignment, core muscle balance, and dexterity.

There is one whole panel for inflammation, pain, and immune system strength. Your gut flora has meters that relate to several others. Digestion has several gauges.

Next to that panel is another panel with all the emotional wellness gauges, including peace, fulfillment, joy, anger, and so on. Then there are the alertness and mental engagement meters. There are compassion meters, gentleness meters, kindness meters, and other relationship meters. There are meters for your sexuality, hormonal responses, and the like.

There are meters for mental acuity, financial acumen, job skills, and confidence. They are all related, and they are all measures of wellness in different areas of your life.

Are you getting the picture now?

More Than Nutrition

Wellness is more than just making sure you get enough Vitamins. Far more. If you are well in your gut, but not your spine, you are not totally well. If you are physically fit but emotionally dried up, you are not well. If you are in a great job but a terrible marriage (or vice versa), you are not 100% well.

A complete understanding of wellness includes musculoskeletal, digestive, reproductive, glandular, circulatory, respiratory, electrical, relational, mental, emotional, Circadian, relational, financial, spiritual, and professional aspects of your life (did I get them all?).

Wellness Across The Board

Sustainable wellness, then, requires that all the areas of your life operate in wellness on their own, and in balance with each other. When I’m working with athletes, if their quadriceps muscles are overtightened compared to their glutes and hamstrings, they are going to experience pain and inefficiencies in their workouts. As I’m sure you can personally attest, when any area of your life is outside the optimal range for “wellness,” it depletes all the others. By contrast, when all the areas of your life are in balance, the net effect is that the performance of all the areas is enhanced.

I bet you can think of a time from your own life that:

  • Stress at work made you feel physically ill.
  • Physical illness made you question your relationship with God.
  • Back pain made you grumpy and miserable.
  • Being grumpy and miserable hurt your relationships.
  • Debt kept you from sleeping.
  • Sleep deprivation affected your mental sharpness.

Partners In Wellness

One of the things that I so admire about Dr. Romero is that she doesn’t stop with the symptoms you present to her. She doesn’t drop a chemical prescription on your headache or your recent weight gain. She digs deeper to find the root issues. She understands that your headache is probably tied to poor posture at work compounded on your three-Coke-per-day lifestyle. She identifies root causes, which are very often tied to diet or relationship problems.

Did you know that, of the 35 major disease categories, all 35 are linked to obesity or some other dietary abnormality? Even if you are not obese now, the same food choices that will eventually drive you to obesity are also at the heart of cancer (sugar), heart disease (excess carbohydrates and unhealthy cooking oils), diabetes (sugar and excess fruits), colon diseases (inadequate fiber and probiotics), and so on.

Unsustainable Life Models

If you want to see an unsustainable lifestyle model, you don’t have to look far:

  • Living in constant stress and anxiety burns out your endocrine system.
  • Alcohol gradually burns out your digestive system.
  • Mistreating people gradually ruins your relationships, and eventually your emotional, mental, and physical health.
  • Treating sickness with prescription drugs comes with negative side effects.
  • Antibiotics destroy your immune system, starting with the bacterial biome in your gut.

Any behavior that depletes some part of your wellness (which is now more comprehensive than you might have thought a few minutes ago) can be considered an “unsustainable wellness behavior.”

Not Trying To Be Nosy

So, if it feels like Dr. Romero and I are getting a little too personal with our questioning, we don’t mean to be nosy. The reason for it is simple: we want to go past the symptoms and deal directly with root causes. Headaches and back pain are never the root issues – they are almost always symptoms of a deeper issue, be it a subluxation in the spine or repressed anger in the heart.

As I’ve said here before, if you are feeling sick, you might have a heart condition. Check your stress, anger, and unforgiveness gauges, along with your Vitamin and sleep gauges.

Next Steps

If you want to know more about sustainable wellness (I know I do!), I hope you will join us on Thursday, April 12th, as we welcome Dr. Romero to our Fundamental Foods and Friends Dinner. Each of these dinners is fun and informative, and the food is AMAZING!

And if this article resonated with you, it will probably resonate with someone you know. Take 8 seconds now to share it on your favorite social platform.

Thank you for helping us get the word out.

“At the end of your FEELINGS is NOTHING. At the end of your PRINCIPLES is a PROMISE.”  — Eric Thomas

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