The Importance of Hydration, Sleep, and Exercise
Image by Gerd Altmann

The Old English word haelp meant "wholeness, being whole, sound, or well." The Proto-German word hailitho also means "whole." Old Norse offers helge, meaning "holy, sacred." This wholeness refers to all your vital parts and processes as present, properly arranged, and in harmonious balance.

 Our bodies are made up of 75–85 percent water at any given time. We require water to sustain life for basic metabolic functioning, to energize the body, to maintain health, detoxify, and heal. Without water, many systems of the body are compromised and begin to break down, often without notice, until tissue damage has accumulated sufficiently to grab one’s full attention.

A cornerstone of any gut-repair program is hydration. Dehydration is a primary cause of ill health. You must drink plenty of pure water! Tea and coffee are not water and don’t count. Neither do soda water, tonic water, and various flavored waters from the store.


Caffeine, coffee and tea, sports drinks, sugar, alcohol, medications, an arid environment, electrolyte imbalances, stress, and physical activity dehydrate the body. To compensate, drink the right amount of water between meals on an empty stomach. Consider starting the day off right with 8–16 ounces/250–500 ml, at least 30 minutes before breakfast. This can promote a bowel movement and begin hydrating you immediately. Drink more water between meals. I caution you not to drink too much water at meals, only a small glass for supplements, because it dilutes stomach acid and inhibits digestion.

Many forms of inflammation can be traced back to chronic dehydration. Chronic pain can be a sign of dehydration. Arthritis, which means “joint inflammation,” can be worsened by dehydration because cartilage consists largely of water. When it begins to dry out, it can’t glide as well and becomes damaged, leading to pain. Histamine responses to the environment or food allergens are also strong indicators of dehydration. Primary (idiopathic) hypertension has no known cause but can be the result of chronic dehydration.

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As dehydration sets in, blood pressure rises to keep vital cells hydrated. Consider reading Your Body’s Many Cries for Water: You’re Not Sick; You’re Thirsty: Don’t Treat Thirst with Medications by Dr. F. Batmanghelidj.

The Right Water Matters

It’s also important to drink the right kind of water. Tap water has a long list of disadvantages, including contamination from prescription drug residues and heavy metals. Toxic chemicals are often used to disinfect the water, and contaminants like copper, bromine and chlorine, toxic residues of pesticides, herbicides, plastics, and fluoride are the norm.

Distilled water can leach vital minerals out of your body, a process known as chelation. It may be useful during a short cleanse but not long term. There are also problems with reverse osmosis (RO), which is by far the most common filtering method. RO removes most chemicals and minerals but doesn’t seem to hydrate the body well. (In my work with people who drink a lot of RO water, their labs still show signs of dehydration.) In addition, pre and post filters can quickly become contaminated with viruses and bacteria. Short-term use during travel is acceptable, and RO systems will render contaminant-free water.

The best way to filter water is with a slow-working carbon filter. Remember, filters must be changed often, and the vast majority of carbon filters are not designed to remove fluoride, nitrates, sodium, inorganics such as lead and mercury, or microbiological contaminants like coliform and cysts like Giardia and Cryptosporidium. However, high-density, solid carbon .5 micron block filters (such as ones used by Multipure) handle a great deal more than the cheaper models. Be sure to read the labels and find out what the particular filter is designed to remove.

The best water is wild, which means it comes from a fresh spring. If you don’t have a spring nearby, then purchase real spring water, preferably bottled in glass.

It’s important not only to drink clean water but also to bathe with it. You might consider installing a whole-house water filtration system or specialized shower filter. It’s a solid investment toward better health. Finally, avoid the fancy bottled waters—most of it is glorified tap water at best. Don’t be fooled by labels touting its “alkalinizing” properties.

Finally, try to drink from glass or stainless steel containers whenever possible. 

The Importance of Sleep

The way you sleep affects how you feel during waking hours. Quantity and quality matter! Loss of sleep can slowly impact your health over time, or it can hit you in an instant.

Ongoing sleep deprivation has been linked to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes. Sleep helps your brain work properly and therefore improves learning, attention, and creativity. Chronic lack of sleep can slow metabolism, alter hormones that regulate appetite, and make you gain weight. As some of you have already experienced, sleep loss can cause irritability and mood swings. Sleep deprivation decreases immune function and can even contribute to certain kinds of cancers.

You also need adequate quality sleep every night. For most adults, 8–10 hours of sleep is about right. Children need more: 11–12 hours per night; while teenagers require 9–11 hours of good sleep every night. Limited or poor-quality sleep can impact your health without your initial awareness. Unless they’re chronic insomniacs, most people don’t even recognize they have sleep deficiencies.

What time of night you fall asleep is also important. Working a swing shift or a graveyard shift negatively affects your body’s circadian rhythms, possibly leading to cognitive impairment over time. If you’re on such a schedule, do your best to have it changed or get support to stay balanced.

It’s best to get to sleep no later than 10 p.m., except for teenagers, whose internal clocks are actually different during their developmental years. They tend to stay up later and need to sleep in longer. Unfortunately, schools have not yet embraced the science behind this phenomenon.

Create healthy sleep attitudes (aka “sleep hygiene”) by taking time to slow down in the evenings. Relaxing and down-regulating your nervous system is important. Find whatever helps you to de-stress, and practice it. Meditation, prayer, deep breathing, music, yoga, art, reading, sipping herbal tea, a walk out in nature, cuddling with a loved one, giving and receiving massages and foot rubs, playing with a pet, and journaling are a few ideas to get you started. Avoid overly stimulating activities, such as gossiping on the phone or internet, video games, intense exercise, or watching violent movies or television shows, including the news.

If you’re a party-goer, consider staying home more often and away from loud bars, concerts, and heated political debates. There are certainly times to let your hair down and have fun, but plan accordingly, so that your needs for relaxation, rest, and rejuvenation are met first. People who tend to chronically overdo it are more likely to have digestive and immune dysfunction.

The Importance of Exercise

Exercise is an important component of any comprehensive health and well-being plan. Cardiovascular training, resistance or weight training, and some kind of stretching, Pilates, Gyrotonic, and yoga practice will address most of the body’s fitness needs.

The benefits of exercise have been scientifically proven again and again. It reduces body fat, increases muscle mass, strengthens the cardiovascular system, increases HDL cholesterol (the good one), decreases your risk of diabetes and Alzheimer’s, lowers blood sugar, increases energy and lung function, and releases stress and tension in the body and mind. If you stick with it, your aerobic capacity will increase, along with oxygenation of your blood and brain, leading to more alertness.

Increasing your aerobic capacity will also make you feel younger. You’ll experience the benefit of increased endorphins, which are released by the central nervous system and pituitary gland during exercise and sexual activity. These are the “feel good” chemicals that actually mimic morphine—the chemicals responsible for the “runner’s high” you often hear about.

Start easy. Begin by taking a 15-minute daily walk. Studies show even 15 minutes can elevate mood, stimulate metabolism, and increase circulation and oxygenation of your cells, muscles, and brain. Gradually increase the duration to 30 minutes and incorporate a few easy hills. You might want to walk with a friend or family member or listen to an audio book to help with motivation and accountability.

New research shows that doing short bursts of intense effort yields more benefit with less oxidative stress than longer workouts of varying intensity. Interval training might begin, for example, with a five-minute warm-up with a medicine ball or stationary bike. Next comes 30 seconds of intense exercise, followed by 30 seconds of lighter recovery activity. For example, run, cycle, or swim as fast and as hard as you can for 30 seconds, then jog, spin, or swim at a slower, more moderate pace. During the interval go fast and hard. Push yourself. (You shouldn’t be able to speak during the interval because you’re breathing too hard!)

You can do stationary bike, jumping jacks, run with high knees and arms extended out from your sides, burpees, jump rope, or jump up and hit your knees in mid-air. If you’re just beginning, do only three sets of this and then a five-minute cool-down. Do this three or four times a week. After a week or two, consider increasing the interval to 40 seconds of intense exercise followed by 40 seconds of a slower pace. Do five sets. After another week or two, increase to 60 seconds of intense exercise, followed by a 60-second moderate- to low-intensity exercise, and do five to 10 sets, gradually increasing to as many as 15–20 sets over time. This is a very simplified version of high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

Exercise is an act of self-love. It’s an important key in both the prevention and treatment of every disease pattern. You have the power to choose health! But please, first check with your primary healthcare provider before embarking on any exercise program.

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Holistic Keto for Gut Health: A Program for Resetting Your Metabolism
by Kristin Grayce McGary

book cover: Holistic Keto for Gut Health by Kristin Grayce McGaryCombining the best gut-healthy elements of primal, paleo, and ketogenic nutritional plans, Kristin Grayce McGary offers a one-of-a-kind approach for optimal digestive health. Unlike the traditional keto diet, which contains inflammatory foods, her science-based, functional ketogenic program emphasizes a holistic nutritional and lifestyle plan to repair your gut while avoiding the dangers of gluten, dairy, soy, starches, sugars, chemicals, and pesticides. She reveals how nearly everyone has some degree of gut damage and explains how this impacts your immune function, energy levels, and many health issues.

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Kristin Grayce McGaryKristin Grayce McGary LAc., MAc., CFMP®, CSTcert, CLP is a highly sought-after health and lifestyle alchemist. She is renowned for reversing annoying and debilitating health conditions and helping people to live with clarity and vitality.

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