IFM 2016 Top 5 Lifestyle Tips
This year I was fortunate enough to attend the Institute for Functional Medicine’s annual conference in San Diego. It was fantastic to be amongst like minded scientists and clinicians with the collective goal of researching and practicing lifestyle medicine. Here are my top 5 takeaways from this years event.
Sleep for Health!
Circadian Rhythms are important to all cells of the body. There are multiple physiological changes that happen according to the time of day. The correct alignment of these rhythms influence metabolic, inflammatory and neural pathways. All organs including pancreas, intestines, even kidneys have their own circadian rhythm. This is why sleep deprivation has been shown to increase cortisol, glucose, blood pressure and even pro-thrombotic factors that can lead to stroke.
-Restrict unnatural light before bed, this will stimulate photoreceptors to keep your brain busy and inhibit melatonin, the sleep hormone essential for circadian rhythms
-Get some natural light in the mornings – whether it’s a walk, or sitting outside and having your breakfast. Bathing yourself in the light will send signals to your entire body that the sleep phase is over and the morning circadian rhythms are starting
-Go to bed when sleepy – Restrict time in bed for when you’re actually asleep! It creates an environment that ensures bed time is sleep time only
-7-8 hours is ideal but everyone is slightly different, see what works for you
Keep Calm and Keep Meditating
Studies demonstrate that mindfulness can be a tool not just for anxiety and depression. It’s been used to control pain, improve memory and even boost immune system function. There’s some fascinating research that shows meditation increases telomerase enzyme activity that reduces the biological process of ageing.
-Try and meditate daily, I try and squeeze in 10mins twice a day where possible
-If you’re new to meditation try an app like headspace or the many available on YouTube
-Try and incorporate mindfulness in every aspect of your life .. and that includes if you couldn’t fit a meditation session in that day! Don’t beat yourself up about it, keep calm and try the next day.
One for the Docs!
As a medical practitioner, if you exercise, eat well and meditate you’re much more likely to encourage your patients to do so and support them! The promotion of a healthy diet and lifestyle is something that we’re all taught at medical school, but motivating ourselves let alone our patients can be tough. Try keeping to a regimen yourself and you’re more likely to empathise with your patients and inspire them to do the same!
HIIT the Gym!
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is quite fashionable these days but there is a lot of research behind it. A number of studies compare short interval training to slow continuous moderate exercise (aerobics). As well as better weight outcomes and anaerobic exercise capacity researchers have found patients are more likely to ADHERE to the exercises because they’re so time efficient. These exercises aren’t limited to just the young
-Try out a Tabata class (named after one of the early researchers of Interval training in 1996!)
-Keep to your own pace if you’re new to Sprint Interval Training and build it up
-Always consider training with a physiotherapist or personal trainer if you suffer from any conditions that may hinder your ability to exercise (heart disease, obesity, Diabetes)
Time your food
During the conference we learnt about just how important sleep is. Food affects the timing of your peripheral organ clocks that have their individual circadian rhythms. By eating at specific times researchers found better metabolic effects and weight control outcomes.
-Have discrete windows of ‘food availability’ use an eating window of 8-9 hours in your waking day
-Don’t eat late at night. Try to finish your eating period 2-4 hours before retiring
-Try high protein and fat meals in the mornings instead of cereals and refined carbohydrates