Are you having trouble with your body functioning as it should? How many of us have no time for the basics? Why can’t you just Eat, Sleep, and Poop?
If you are a human in the modern age, the basic tenets of health and wellbeing are often reserved for those that we are caretakers for instead of ourselves. We are diligent about making sure our children and pets are fed, that our loved ones get adequate rest (especially when ill), and that we properly inspect tiny bowel movements for normal color, consistency, form, and smell.
Then, there’s mom grabbing a piece of dry toast on the way out the door to bring her kids to school. Toast, which soon finds its way, half-eaten onto the floor of her car. And there’s that same mom, or another one, or a dad, or other human without tiny humans that puts priority on anything other themselves… barreling down the interstate sipping expensive coffee which will meet an empty stomach not to be filled until lunchtime.
Fatigue is the most common concern I see in our office. The majority of my patients with fatigue have sleep issues. The majority of my patients with sleep issues have stress issues. The majority of my patients with stress issues have digestive issues. I find that most people need reminding on how to set themselves up for healing success.
How to Eat:
Digestion occurs thanks to a particular branch of our nervous system called the parasympathetic nervous system. It is remembered by the phrase “Rest and Digest”. This branch is a setting that, in a healthy body, switches on when it’s time to eat stimulating secretion of digestive fluids and movement of our various digestive organs. This setting does not turn on if we are eating while driving, while angry, while watching the news, etc.
- The first thing to do to digest properly is to make time to eat. Let me repeat. Make time to eat. Eating is a basic survival necessity and we must do it at least sometimes to live. We should eat often if we expect optimum health.
- Second, be grateful. Giving thanks for our life including our meals and eating in a state of gratitude is one of the best ways to enter into parasympathetic mode. When you eat your food with love and gratitude, you WILL digest that same food better.
- Third, chew! Chew your food 30 times per bite (or more). Food break down starts here for a reason! You need your teeth and saliva to break down your food well so that the rest of your body (that doesn’t have teeth) can continue the process efficiently. Ease the work of your stomach and intestines by chewing properly.
How to Sleep:
Sleep is part of our daily rhythm. Our hormones, neurotransmitters, and all the processes of the body shift gears slowly to create a state of healing, rejuvenation, and balance. Except when it doesn’t. How many of you have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep? There are so many triggers for sleep issues, but physical and/or emotional stress is the one that almost always plays a role. Additionally, our world around us is not conducive to proper circadian rhythms. How do we bring ourselves to a point of getting the sleep we need?
- First, make time to sleep! Am I sounding like a broken record yet? Plan it, schedule it, give yourself a bedtime, and make it happen! Every adult I know knows how much sleep they need to feel their best. Why in the world isn’t everyone getting what they need? No excuses! You can live for longer without food than you can without sleep.
- Second, turn off the lights! Our pineal gland has the same receptors as our eyes (rods and cones), and it manages our circadian rhythms. Light stimulation is a perfect way to manipulate hormone levels in animals. Sheep’s breeding season can be changed just by using varying times of light stimulation to trick the pineal gland into thinking it’s a different time of year. You, human animal, are not above this trickery. Big, bright lights tell your body the sun is up. Smaller lights may tell it the moon is full. If we expect our body to know it’s nighttime, we have to tell it in a way it understands.
- Third, get a comfortable (nontoxic) mattress. No body can rest while uncomfortable or in pain. You should be sleeping on a surface that makes your body feel good. Get whatever cushions or pillows you need to properly support you and make sure your body is aligned before you get in! This is where exercise (including yoga) comes in along with chiropractic care and anything else that keeps your body properly in shape.
How to Poop:
No subject gets quite as much attention in our office as poop. How many times per day do you poop? What do you feel like before, during, and after pooping? What does it look like?
Anyway, plenty of people have poop problems, and a lot of them don’t even know they have a problem. Since parents usually don’t see their children’s poop after they learn how to wipe themselves, we are left on our own from that age until adulthood with no knowledge of how to poop unless we draw attention to it ourselves to tell our parents we have a problem or we are in pain. You should ideally poop in the morning and 2 more times, with a minimum of once per day, without pain, blood, mucous, or undigested food in a well-formed stool. Let’s talk about how to poop.
- First… I think you know what I’m going to say. Make time to poop! That morning BM is something a lot of us count on, but not everyone experiences the aforementioned perfect poop after they wake. If we jump right into our day and don’t make time to sit down and relax on the toilet for a few minutes, our body can easily hang on to all the waste that is ready to come out of our bodies. Kids are especially good at hanging on to poop if they are “too busy”. Set a good example and make time to poop! Some of us have loose stool in the morning, which can be due to stress (amongst other possible causes). If you make the time to relax and poop, your body will thank you.
- Second, drink water! Dehydration is a common cause of poop problems, usually constipation. Especially here in Arizona, you must drink plenty of water so you don’t shrivel up into a raisin
- Third, learn how to eat (see above). Pooping is the end of the digestive process. If we set ourselves up with a great digestive journey for our food, our poop will be healthy and happy and so will we!
Do yourself a favor, and get back to the basics. Get in touch with the baby inside that always knew how to Eat, Sleep, and Poop, and do it all over again.
Dr. Q is a naturopathic physician at Vitalship Naturopathic Family Medicine in Gilbert, Arizona. She is a mother of three home-birthed children and your partner in health.