• tanellewestgard

Where to begin

Updated: Sep 20, 2019

One of our great mentors and professors at Boucher, Dr. Bob, drives home the importance of a concept called The Five Determinants of Health. The title is somewhat self explanatory, but these five factors are what many say we must first look at when assessing health. They seem simple, yet often overlooked.

Let's take a look:

1. Breath

Stop reading just for a moment, and pay attention to your current breath. Normal? Okay... now make an effort to breathe in as much as your lungs are able to accept and slowly let it out. I can't speak for everyone, but isn't it surprising how much air we are actually able to breathe in, in comparison to a normal breath. What if all our breaths were that deep and purposeful.

Breathing practices start with awareness. From there, people find benefit from breathing exercises, meditation, yoga and many other practices.

Benefits of deep breathing include but are not limited to: improved mood (1), increased blood flow to brain (2), immune system support (3), natural pain reduction (4), stress reduction (5) and decreased blood pressure (5) .

2. Hydration

W stands for two great things: wine & water. The latter being something we absolutely need to not only survive but thrive. How many litres of water do you get in a day? Most people have no idea. But at minimum women need 2-3L per day (men around 3-4L per day). Put it this way... one bottle of wine is 750mL, so we must drink the equivalent of approximately 3-4 of those (in water) a day. If you're already doing that, cheers to you! But the rest of us need to get our butts into gear.

Just to reiterate that point:

A study done on young female athletes showed that a mere 1.36% dehydration lost via exercise led to decreased mood, lower concentration as well as an increase in headache frequency and fatigue (6).

3. Nutrition

This topic has more recently become a frontrunner of health (as it should!). It is also constantly evolving and making great strides towards the place it deserves to be in health care. Most of us now know the benefits of a healthy and balanced diet. The problem is which one? This is a complicated topic that I hope to dive into in the near future.. stay tuned!

4. Exercise

Not only for your body but for your mind! Everyone always attributes exercise to weight loss and a fit figure. While both may be a desired outcome, people often forget about the other benefits including the health of our brain (7, 8). Exercise makes us feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally. Sure.. maybe not during, but definitely after!

The term exercise can be different for everyone: from a 20 minute walk with a friend to running, boxing, hiking, swimming, climbing, cycling, yoga, pilates, barre, and endless other opportunities. Find a type of exercise that you enjoy but more importantly that challenges you and leaves you feeling fulfilled.

5. Connection

Referred to as the other type of Vitamin C. We all need to feel connected to ourselves, to others, to our beliefs and or religion, and to this remarkable earth we call home. This looks different for everyone and can evolve over time. Continue to build, protect and cherish those connections xo


Van Horlik, B., (2019). History and Philosophy Notes. The Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine.

1) Lavey, R., Sherman, T., Mueser, K. T., Osborne, D. D., Currier, M., & Wolfe, R. (2005). The effects of yoga on mood in psychiatric inpatients. Psychiatric rehabilitation journal, 28(4), 399.

2) Newberg, A. B., Wintering, N., Khalsa, D. S., Roggenkamp, H., & Waldman, M. R. (2010). Meditation effects on cognitive function and cerebral blood flow in subjects with memory loss: a preliminary study. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, 20(2), 517-526.

3) Black, D. S., & Slavich, G. M. (2016). Mindfulness meditation and the immune system: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1373(1), 13.

4) Zeidan, F., Gordon, N. S., Merchant, J., & Goolkasian, P. (2010). The effects of brief mindfulness meditation training on experimentally induced pain. The Journal of Pain, 11(3), 199-209.

5) Nidich, S. I., Rainforth, M. V., Haaga, D. A., Hagelin, J., Salerno, J. W., Travis, F., ... & Schneider, R. H. (2009). A randomized controlled trial on effects of the Transcendental Meditation program on blood pressure, psychological distress, and coping in young adults. American journal of hypertension, 22(12), 1326-1331.

6) Armstrong, L. E., Ganio, M. S., Casa, D. J., Lee, E. C., McDermott, B. P., Klau, J. F., ... & Lieberman, H. R. (2011). Mild dehydration affects mood in healthy young women. The Journal of nutrition, 142(2), 382-388.

7) Cotman, C. W., & Engesser-Cesar, C. (2002). Exercise enhances and protects brain function. Exercise and sport sciences reviews, 30(2), 75-79.

8) Szuhany, K. L., Bugatti, M., & Otto, M. W. (2015). A meta-analytic review of the effects of exercise on brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Journal of psychiatric research, 60, 56-64.

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