According to a recent study, only 10% of our health is down to genetics, leaving the remaining 90% down to environment and lifestyle factors. Revolutionising the way we think about our health and advocating simple changes for a healthier body and mind is GP Dr Rangan Chatterjee – a pioneer in the emerging field of progressive medicine and known for his 360-degree approach to health as seen in BBC One’s Doctor in the House. Ahead of the launch of his new book The 4 Pillar Plan, we caught up with the health guru himself to discover his golden rules for a healthier life...
Take A Screen-Free Sabbath
We underestimate how much ‘noise’ and distraction is bombarding our brains every day from our phones. Everyone can benefit from some phone-free time and a great way to do this is to dedicate one day per week when you don’t look at your phone – Sunday is most probably the easiest option for those who work in the week.
If a whole day seems too much, try cutting down the time you spend on your phone first. The simplest way to start is by taking notifications off all your apps; also try turning off the automatic sync function on your e-mail inbox – this way, you can look at your phone to take a call or send a text, but you won’t know that you have 20 emails waiting for you at the same time. Even a phone-free hour can have a significant impact on stress levels. Over time, you’ll learn to control how and when you use technology, and use it in a way that helps you, rather than enslaves you.
Reclaim Your Dining Table
The stresses of modern life are without a doubt affecting our digestion and how we eat. Many of us live in ‘fight or flight’ mode rather than ‘relaxation’ mode; but our bodies digest food best when we are in ‘relaxation’ mode, which is when the parasympathetic branch of your nervous system is activated. Modern life (eating on the go, rushing around, endless to-do lists, email bombardments and social media) can be overwhelming, which can have a negative effect on our digestion. Wherever possible, make an effort to eat at a table free from electronic devices and chew each mouthful ten to 15 times – just this process alone will boost digestion significantly.
Follow The Five Ingredient Rule
If you want to boost energy levels, avoiding refined and highly processed foods is the way to go. The simplest way to clean up your diet is to start looking at food labels – if a product contains more than five ingredients, it’s likely to be highly processed. All the diets around the world associated with good health outcomes may vary in their fat and carbohydrate content, but the one thing they all have in common is that they’re minimally processed.
Embrace Gut Health
There’s a reason talk about gut health is showing no signs of abating – a healthy, well-functioning gut really is the key to a stronger immune system and better all-round health. The quickest and most effective way to improve your gut health is to cut out all highly-processed and high-sugar foods. In their place, introduce as many brightly coloured vegetables as you can. The different coloured vegetables contain different compounds, called phytochemcials, as well as high amounts of fibre, which is the perfect combination to encourage the growth of good gut bacteria. A bonus tip is to make your diet as diverse as possible – make it a habit to try something new each week, and ideally every day.
While what you eat is of vital importance, when you eat can have an impact too. Get into the habit of eating all of your food within a twelve-hour time window – this can help your sleep quality, weight, blood sugar control and immune system function. For example, if you have your breakfast at 8am, try to finish your evening meal by 8pm. As soon as you start to give your body a break, incredible things start to happen. After six to eight hours, the liver will have used up its internal fuel sources, in the form of glycogen, and soon after this the body will start to burn its own fat. After 12 hours, a process called autophagy will have kicked in – a bit like your body’s form of housekeeping, this clever process will get rid of any toxins that have built up during the day.
Try Movement Snacking
Make a habit of doing three or four ‘movement snacks’ five days a week. The kitchen is a great place to try this – try doing 20 squats while you boil some vegetables or take two bottles of olive oil and use them as weights. The point is to get your heart pumping three or four times a day – it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that small bursts of movement like these won’t have much effect, but it’s the little things you do every day that translate into big health outcomes.
Get Morning Light
Exposure to natural daylight is incredibly important when it comes to your mood and productivity, and studies show that exposure to bright morning light could have even more of an impact. Try to do as many of your recommended 10,000 steps in the morning, as exposure to natural light will help to set your body’s circadian rhythm. One recent study even found that exposure to bright morning light correlates with a lower body weight.
The 4 Pillar Plan by Dr. Rangan Chatterjee is available now from Amazon priced £16.99. For more information visit DrChatterjee.com