When is the right time to prioritize your health? Is it after the diagnosis or before? And what does prioritizing health even look like? Most people believe health is the absence of disease. True optimal health, however, is personal. It goes much deeper. It is your complete physical, emotional and social well-being. It factors in the active role that you take to manage these things in your life. It evolves, and while many things aren’t, the desire and actions you take to attain optimal health are in your control.
One can think of disease and optimal health as two ends of a spectrum, with many different scenarios in between. There is more to health than just living without a diagnosis. The integrative and functional health approaches seek to treat the body as a whole and aim to discover the root cause of medical issues. These approaches also encourage preventative health. Movement, stress management, food choices, sleep and addressing trauma are just some of the ways we can start to take back control and prioritize our health.
Our bodies are made up of intricate systems that interplay more than most people realize. Gut reactions, feeling butterflies in your gut when nervous and feeling “gutted” by difficult news are all expressions that relate our gut to emotions and feelings. These expressions hold the key to what we now know about the gut/brain connection. Functional doctors look to the gut for answers to anxiety, depression and neurological diagnoses such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome (PANS) and other issues relating to hormones, the thyroid and our immune system as a whole. This makes gut health something to prioritize when striving towards optimal health.
If you already have a diagnosis, it is only the beginning of your journey to take back control of your health. Whether you’re already feeling the symptoms or able to start prioritizing your health before they begin, working with a functional health coach and doctor will help you get to the root of your issues and support you on your journey. Are you ready to start prioritizing your health? If not now, when?
Did you know your largest organ is your skin? Protecting it is vital, but sunscreens can be your friend or foe. When it comes to ingredients, avoid avobenzone and oxybenzone, which have been tested and found readily absorbed into the bloodstream of humans at unsafe levels. Chemicals like oxybenzone are suspected hormone disruptors, linked to thyroid cancer in female rats, and harmful to our environment (e.g., coral reefs). Instead, opt for mineral-based sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Remember to use hats, sunglasses and SPF clothing as well, rather than solely relying on sunscreen.
Another key thing to avoid when choosing your sunscreen: spray sunscreens. Spray sunscreens can cause inhalation of aerosol chemicals that are untested in this capacity, and that can cause lung issues. Check out ewg.org for the Environmental Working Group’s guide to the safest, most effective sunscreens for your family.
While protecting your skin is critical, sunscreens block the absorption of vitamin D. Check your levels during your next blood test. Much of the population is low in this critical vitamin. So, make sure to eat vitamin D–rich foods like salmon and eggs and talk to your doctor about taking a supplement, if necessary.
Brooke Lam, mother of two, is an attorney, educator and certified health coach with Keeping Families Well, helping families manage diagnoses and attain optimal health and wellness goals.