CAM basics

Making a new start with NEW START

This article covers CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) at its most foundational level – the choices we make on a daily basis to live a healthy, or not so healthy, lifestyle.

I first learnt about NEW START in college back in 1997 while studying Health Promotion.  The idea is fairly basic, but the results are profound!

I remember hearing the success stories of people once afflicted with arthritis, clogged arteries, depression, and numerous other lifestyle-related illnesses suddenly come alive after a two to six week program.  Guests who, in the beginning of the program, could only walk a few steps before needing to catch their breath, were now racing up the hills and enjoying the newfound vitality.

NEW START… an acronym created by a guest at a well-known US based health retreat called Weimar Institute has become known world wide.  The video describes the basic outline of the concept.



On a personal level, my family’s experience with NEW START has been a positive one.  I will explore more of how we fit it in to our daily lives…

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Nutrition – I have to daily choose to eat more fresh foods, particularly vegetables.  Deciding before the time what will be for the meal works out a whole lot better compared to throwing something together last minute and assuming it will be balanced.  I’ve had to learn (and am still attempting to apply) that the salad should not be an afterthought, but the majority of the plate.  I found some good reading in the book ” Make peace with your plate” by Jess Ainscough, the Wellness Warrior.  The mindset shift in diet and lifestyle change is one of the more difficult changes to make in life but she gives many convincing reasons to do so… a recommended book to read.

Some other tips in this area are:  eat less from crinkly packets (refined foods); avoid gluten products (I’ll write a post about this soon); add in fresh vegetable juices or smoothies to boost the nutrition; steam instead of boil; shallow fry or oven bake instead of deep fry; reduce the use of dairy products; the list could go on and on.

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Exercise – Admittedly I struggle with this one.   Unlike my marathon fit hubby, I struggle getting out of the house just for a walk.  Writing this blog though has once again reminded me of the need… increasing the heart rate brings with it so many other physical benefits:  improving circulation, increasing breathing thus increasing the oxygen level in the body, sweating out toxins, balancing the appetite, lifting the mood, and so many more.  It really only takes 30 minutes around 4 to 5 times a week to maintain health.  Losing weight or using exercise for therapeutic purposes will require more time put into it though.

Exercise is so important that researchers have found that smokers who exercise are healthier than non-smokers who don’t exercise.  There is a whole science behind the physiology of exercise, but the important thing to remember is to get a bit of both aerobic (brisk walking, cycling, swimming, etc) and anaerobic (weight training – light or heavy, according to the abilities). “Just do it” – a slogan that should be in all our minds… some is a whole lot better than nothing!

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Water – Something so simple and available, yet so under-utilised.  Everyone has their preferred way of taking it in – sips all through the day, a glass here and there and some people enjoy their “allotment” for the day all in one go.  No matter how you get it in, it needs to be done, preferably spread throughout the day.  And it’s not just any kind of liquid, it needs to be something that quenches the body’s deep need for hydration.  Coffee, sodas, milkshakes, etc. don’t constitute rehydrating liquids.  Vegetable juices, herbal teas, lemon water, and the old fashioned tap water… now these are thirst quenching.  Quite often the body will mistake thirst for hunger, so we grab a snack and assume we’ve done the body good while actually the foundation issue continues to deteriorate.

My family have enjoyed using a water filter which removes most heavy metals, fluoride, pesticides, and chlorine.  It alkalises the water and ionises it too.  We’ve had the older, bulkier version for many years.  It talks to you and says “alkaline water selected” in a sweet American accent – the kids love it!  I can actually feel the difference of the “shape” of the water on my tongue compared with regular tap water which feels hard.  I also find it more efficient at quenching thirst than regular tap water.

Dehydration is a serious modern scourge that has created many irritable, cranky people.  It’s so unnecessary!  This book taught me so much about the need for water, and how many symptoms, that would usually require medication, are relieved by the simple intake of more water.

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Sunshine –  We all have a love/hate relationship with the sun.  We need it to live, but we shirk away from it for fear of sunburn and melanoma.  My family have just about never used sunscreen due to the chemicals it it.  If we use anything its a natural brand, like this one, when at the beach.  We keep hats on and if we’re in the sun during the hottest times of the day then we make sure everyone is covered in the areas prone to burning.

My hubby and I lived in Norway for the first year and a half of our married lives where the sun exposure was pretty minimal.  There just wasn’t enough time in the summer to “stock up” on vitamin D for the long winters.  Us foreigners to that climate had to either endure the SAD days in winter – seasonal affective disorder – or go onto vitamin D supplements.  We all need just a few minutes of sunshine on our uncovered/unsunscreened skin every day.  Even taking off the glasses or sunglasses to get the light in the eyes for a bit helps to reset the melatonin levels to improve sleep.

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Temperance – This can be a touchy subject… some people really don’t like going down this road of self-control/difficult choices.  Our bodies are bombarded with so many unnatural elements and toxins in the environment around us that when a choice is placed before us to deliberately choose something that will knowingly hurt us… well, its a tough one.  If it feels good, do it, right? I’m not going to preach to anyone here, we all know our vices, but know this… for each choice you make to not put something harmful into your body, you are making a choice for your health and your future.

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Air – Fresh air… I’m so blessed to live in a part of the country where there is plenty of fresh air.  We sleep with the windows open, even on cold nights.  We make sure there is air flowing through all the rooms of the house daily – that means there needs to be an entry AND exit point (i.e. door and window, or window and window).  A stuffy room, or even pure air conditioned room with no fresh air flow, is conducive to lack of productivity and fatigue.  If you want to have a productive time and keep the brain fresh, then open those windows and breathe the air in deeply.

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Rest – Sleep is another essential to a balanced lifestyle.  Parents with new babies will relate to the dire need of sleep and the dramatic symptoms of sleep deprivation.  When our children have a late night, we can usually expect a cranky child the next day.  Kids need lots of sleep.  Ours have a consistent bedtime of between 7 and 7:30pm – right up to the 9 year old.  Baby goes down earlier, around 6:30.  Wake up times are usually 12 hours later.  We’ve followed this from day one of having children in our home and we haven’t regretted it.  As parents, we need our time together, and kids need sleep time for their brains to grow – its a win/win situation.

There is a school of thought that says “one hour sleep before midnight is equal to two hours sleep after midnight”.  Whether this has been scientifically proven or not, there is definite merit to the practice of it.  Evidence-based practice has certainly proven this to be the case with the amount of people who prefer using the early morning hours for study or effective work.  The mind is a whole lot fresher in the morning than it is at 11 o’clock at night when attempting an assignment or such like.

My hubby and I have found that a sleep mask is a great asset to maintaining a good night’s sleep. We use this mask and this one.  The first one blocks out 100% light, so its great for any time of day, the other one is softer and good for side sleepers (like me).  Highly recommended if you have street lights outside your window or night lights for kids!  Another thing we do for great sleep is to keep the lights turned down from 7pm – before the kids go to bed.  This induces the brain to accept that sleep will happen soon.  If gadgets will be used, they go on to “night” settings – kindle, iPad, etc.  We have found that sleeping with an earthing sheet gives the sensation that we’re sleeping on the lawn outside.  It’s refreshing, gets rid of that ‘static’ feeling, and reduces inflammation at the same time.  (I’ll write a post about that one day soon too.)

Rest is also so much more than just sleep.  Rest is about reducing stress levels by resting one full day out of seven.  Its taking a weekend away every now and then, and a lengthy holiday in quiet surroundings once a year for regrouping and “finding” one’s self.

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Trust – Whether you’re a believer in God or not, it is a necessary part of life to acknowledge that stress needs an outlet.  For my family, trusting in the God is part of our “stress management plan”.  For others it could be overcoming fear, or choosing not to worry, or just focusing on the positive side of life.  All of the above tends to happen when in a relationship with a higher power.  Either way, choosing positive coping mechanisms, building relationships, and managing conflict situations with wisdom and tact, are all ways to reduce stress levels.

Well that’s the end of my essay!  I do hope someone has learnt something from this.  The bottom line is to start with small changes, keep it simple, but just do it – balance in life is achievable, and so is health!


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