By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
As a doctor, one of the things I always keep my eyes open for are what I call “unintended consequences”—unexpected problems that arise from adopting new things. I used to see it a lot with prescription drugs. Sure, they fixed one problem…but in the process, they created two or three more!
Sadly, this dynamic is something I’m seeing more and more in our technology-driven world. Despite all of our scientific and medical advances, we’re sicker than ever.
I believe this is happening because our reliance on technology—be it electricity, industrial food production, or wifi—is progressively disconnecting us from nature. However, I also believe that we can correct many common health problems simply by adopting the kind of healthy-vibrational lifestyle that gets us back in touch with the innate rhythms and energies of the body.
Let’s take a little test. I’d even be willing to bet that you already have at least one sign of a “nature deficiency”…
Sign #1: You Have Trouble Sleeping
If you toss and turn all night, a circadian rhythm disorder may be to blame.
The circadian rhythm is your body’s “internal clock,” and it’s tied to light and darkness. When the brain senses darkness, it tells the body to produce the sleep hormone melatonin. When it senses light, it tells the body to produce the hormone cortisol, to wake us up. But when the rhythm becomes disordered, neither hormone is produced the way it’s supposed to be.
How does that “disordering” happen? One reason is too much light too late in the evening, which can slow or prevent the release of melatonin. But the real problem, in my opinion, is too much stress. Chronic worry often leads to high cortisol levels, which keep us from being able to relax at all.
How to fix it: First, cut back on the amount of artificial light in your environment a couple hours before bed. That means turning off overhead lighting and—most of all—putting away your phone, tablet, and other electronic devices. This will help reinforce, or re-establish, your body’s natural production of melatonin.
Second, make Earthing (also known as “grounding”) a regular part of your health regimen. Earthing is the simple act of reconnecting with the natural electromagnetic energy in the Earth’s surface. As we’ve adopted more and more “creature comforts” in our lives, we’ve gotten away from being in regular contact with the ground, and we’ve lost the health benefits that come with that. One of those benefits is helping to balance the autonomic nervous system by turning off your stress (“fight-or-flight”) response. This lowers cortisol, making it easier to fall asleep at night.
The easiest and cheapest way to practice Earthing is by going for a barefoot walk on a natural surface—grass, sand, dirt, or stone—for at least 30 minutes a day. If getting outside isn’t an option, Earthing products are also available. (Learn additional ways to lower cortisol levels.) I also strongly suggest sleeping grounded using an Earthing pad or sheet, to maximize your connection time and enhance sleep quality.
Sign #2: Your Heart Is Skipping Beats
One of the most common concerns I used to see during my years in active practice was heart palpitations. Most of the time, these “skipped” beats, flutters, or racing heartbeats turn out to be nonthreatening in terms of risk. But they can be powerful messengers that you’ve fallen out of touch with your intuition, or are denying important emotions. The unusual rhythm is just the heart’s way of getting your attention!
Another issue that could be disrupting your heart is the electromagnetic radiation/frequencies (EMF) emitted by wifi, phones, computers, and other electronics. Anecdotally, most of us know how stressful it is to spend days in front of a screen, but there is also some science that links EMF with increases in autonomic nervous system activity and heartbeat irregularities.
How to fix it: Take an honest self-inventory. Are you holding back on expressing some strong feelings? Are there situations in your life that worry you more than you think they do? Are you trying to be someone you’re not? Address the issues that are weighing you down, and your heart is sure to lighten up.
As far as electronics go, it’s hard to turn them off altogether, but most of us can afford a 1–2 hour break from them every day. (Start with less, if you need to—any amount helps.) Use that time to go for a walk, to meditate or take up a yoga practice, or to just sit quietly and reconnect with yourself. You can also use that time to incorporate Earthing into your day. Since Earthing helps rebalance the autonomic nervous system, it can offset some of the negative effects of EMF, along with strengthening your body’s ability to handle stress in general. Avoiding foods and beverages known to cause heart palpitations can also help.
Sign #3: Your Digestion Is Off
Excess gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea are uncomfortable at best—miserable and embarrassing at worst. They’re also are signs that your diet needs a “nature makeover.”
The extra sugar, trans fats, and artificial colorings, flavorings, and preservatives in packaged, processed, and fast food can upset the natural balance of healthy and unhealthy bacteria in your gut. This can lead to a variety of tummy troubles, not to mention allergies, poor immune function, and a range of other issues.
How to fix it: Ditch the junk food and focus on eating whole, organic, high-vibrational foods—especially ones that are rich in fiber. Think fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and low-glycemic whole grains. Good bacteria in the gut feed on fiber, so eating more of it means those bugs are likely to multiply, and to eventually crowd out the bacteria that cause you discomfort. For the best all-around eating plan, check out my Pan-Asian Modified Mediterranean (PAMM) diet. To support a healthy microbiome (the society of bacteria in your gut), be sure to also take a quality probiotic supplement, and/or eat fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, Kim chi or sauerkraut, which offer probiotics as well as prebiotics (which the good bacteria eat). For added support, you might also want to take a prebiotic supplement.
Sign #4: You’ve Got the Blues
If you’re feeling down and can’t pinpoint why, one reason may be a lack of vitamin D—the sunshine vitamin. This can especially be a problem if you live in areas farther north, where winters are long and dark.
Unfortunately, we don’t spend as much time outside as we once did, and that prevents our bodies from naturally converting sunlight into this vital nutrient. We work long hours indoors; we entertain ourselves indoors with apps, games, and videos; and we prefer to drive instead of walk. When we do get out, we slather on sunscreen to protect ourselves.
How to fix it: Get outside—without sunscreen—for 20 minutes every day, if you can. Go for a walk, or just sit on your patio or in your yard and feel the energizing warmth of the sun on your face and skin. (This is one of the reasons I love living in Florida!) Your body will do the rest. If you plan to be out longer than 20 minutes, though, you’ll need some protection. Throw on a hat or a light long-sleeved shirt, or apply some zinc oxide to exposed skin.
While you’re out, put your bare feet on the ground, too. A recent study showed that an hour of Earthing also can improve mood.
So, how did you do? Could you benefit from an extra dose or two of nature every day? Most of us can. Fortunately, it’s easy to get started with practices like Earthing and the PAMM diet. Add them to your days, and you can look forward to a lifetime of better health!
- Havas M. Radiation from wireless technology affects the blood, the heart, and the autonomic nervous system. Rev Environ Health. 2013;28(2-3):75–84.
- Chevalier G. The effect of grounding the human body on mood. Psychol Rep. 2015 Apr;116(2):534–42.
- Ghaly M and Teplitz D. The biologic effects of grounding the human body during sleep as measured by cortisol levels and subjective reporting of sleep, pain, and stress. J Altern Complement Med. 2004 Oct;10(5):767–76.
- Chevalier G, et al. Earthing: Health Implications of Reconnecting the Human Body to the Earth’s Surface Electrons. J Environ Public Health. 2012;2012:291541.
- Anglin RE, et al. Vitamin D deficiency and depression in adults: systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Psychiatry. 2013 Feb;202:100–7.
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