If 2020 has taught us anything, hopefully it’s to appreciate simplicity and look to more holistic and sustainable methods of staying healthy. Once the dust settled a bit this past summer and I recommitted to my goal of clean eating and consistent yoga, I decided to enhance my routine by seeing a functional medicine doctor to get a baseline for my current health and know exactly where I’m deficient or have sensitivities.
As I filled out the extremely detailed questionnaires and personal and family medical history forms, I was asked, “When was the last time you felt well?” And they meant really, actually well. Not just existing with an absence of symptoms. My answer? When I did my last Ayurvedic cleanse.
While I pondered this, it struck me that an Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle—created over 3000 years ago, based on the belief that true health requires a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit/soul—is exactly where functional medicine’s roots are buried.
Rather than treat symptoms based mostly on patient testimony (which is always biased), a functional medicine practitioner collects detailed information about your past and present health, and spends at least an hour with you during your first visit. Blood will be drawn for hormone level, allergy, and cholesterol information, and you may be asked to do an elimination diet to determine any food sensitivities.
Yes, it’s a big commitment. I was even asked to rate on a scale of 1-5 how willing I am to make necessary changes and actually work with them to improve my health. I was a solid 4-5, while the rest of my family doesn’t seem to be ready quite yet. I’m hoping my example will help motivate them!
Inspired Health Integrative & Functional Medicine Center breaks their program down into the Seven Pillars of Inspired Health:
- Sunshine + Nature— Daily exposure to the outdoors and natural doses of Vitamin D are instant mood boosters and help improve sleep and boost your immune system. I.H. recommends a minimum of 20-30 minutes of sunlight per day and 2 hours a week immersed in nature.
- Community— Spending quality time with friends and family, especially those who encourage you to relax and laugh, is what humans thrive on. Even introverts benefit from a small, tight community that understands when they need to withdraw and recharge. Choose your tribe and support each other!
- Nutrition (Food + Water)— A mostly plant-based diet, with minimal or no dairy, gluten, or sugar, is the fuel our bodies need. And don’t forget to drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water daily for hydration and detoxification. Seasonal cleanses help boost your immune system too.
- Sleep— Aim for 6-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, and keep electronic items in another room or turned off. A small snack 30-60 minutes before bed can help regulate glucose and cortisol levels during the night.
- Movement— Find a type of exercise you truly enjoy and commit to 45-60 minute sessions 3-4 times a week. Bonus points for doing it outside and getting #1 in at the same time.
- Stress Management— Do what de-stresses you. It might not be what your family prefers and that’s ok. Yoga, hiking, meditation, music, dance, hanging out with your pets… if it calms you, it counts.
- Creativity— This was my favorite on the list! I’ve always told my kids that they need to be creative to be happy and it’s true. And it doesn’t have to be “artsy”— maybe your creative outlet is cooking or gardening or teaching yoga.
When we learn what is actually causing our symptoms or ailments and use a holistic approach to healing, we spend less time guessing what’s wrong and spend more time thriving. Which is what the first Ayurvedic practitioners believed too.