While doctors and scientists don’t know exactly what causes many health conditions, they do know that maintaining healthy habits will give you the best shot at living a long and active life. Many health problems can be avoided or managed by lifestyle considerations like eating a good diet of fresh and unprocessed foods, getting regular exercise and enough sleep, keeping stress levels low and maintaining a healthy weight. Needless to say, unhealthy lifestyle choices such as smoking and over-consumption of alcohol need to be factored in and cut out! Here are just a few health conditions where diet and other lifestyle choices can have a big impact.
The ABC of IBS
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition that affects how the bowel works. Symptoms include abdominal cramping, stomach bloating, flatulence, diarrhoea and/or constipation. IBS can be triggered by factors including food intolerances, stress, hormonal factors or medication. Being able to manage IBS might involve: a) reviewing food, drink, medication and other triggers that seem to cause symptoms; b) giving up avoidable triggers; and c) adopting a healthy diet and other lifestyle choices to reduce symptoms.
Crohn’s disease is another painful abdominal condition. This disease causes inflammation within the digestive tract that can lead to abdominal pain and
cramping, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, fatigue and weight loss. Some foods that can commonly cause or worsen symptoms are dairy products, high-fibre grains, alcohol and spicy foods. Recommendations for avoiding or managing the condition include eating a balanced, healthy diet and making note of any foods that provoke symptoms, exercising regularly and managing stress with relaxation techniques.
Look after thy thyroid
We don’t tend to pay much attention to the thyroid gland – until it stops working properly. This gland in our necks helps control many important functions, and if the production of the thyroid hormone is disturbed, a range of health problems can result. An underactive thyroid can cause tiredness, weight gain, depression, constipation and hair loss, while an overactive one can result in heart palpitations, weight loss, anxiety, sweating, insomnia and fatigue, among many other symptoms.
To keep your thyroid happy and healthy, it’s recommended that you eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, lean proteins, healthy oils and other natural whole foods to improve your overall health while minimising your intake of soft drinks, potato chips, takeaway foods, sweets and other junk foods.
Hashimoto’s disease is a common cause of an underactive thyroid. This disease, which has an unknown cause, is an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, resulting in too little thyroid hormone being produced. Some health experts believe that paleo, gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan diets can benefit people with Hashimoto disease.
Cutting the chance of cancer
The term ‘cancer’ covers a large group of complex diseases with many causes, and diet and lifestyle choices can play a role in developing – or not developing – certain types of cancer. Researchers estimate that about one-fifth of all cancers in the US are
linked to excess weight, lack of exercise, poor nutrition or excessive alcohol intake. Poor dietary habits increase the risk of cancer at many sites in the body and also contribute to weight gain, which – in turn – further increases the risk of cancer. The risk of cancer can be reduced with a healthy diet, which includes lots of fresh vegetables, fruits and whole foods, being physically active every day, and keeping to a healthy body weight.
Food is thy medicine
You might have noticed a common theme here, with every one of these conditions able to be avoided, managed or improved with a healthy diet. It’s certainly food for thought!