Eating. Sleeping. Pooping. These are, by far, the top three things that have the most effect on your health. If all of these three actions are working out well for you, you're on the right track. Of course, there are many other options out there to enhance your health and well-being: exercise, fresh air, meditation...the list goes on. But if you are getting the first three right, you are creating a solid base of health to build on to with these other things. If you aren't eating, sleeping, and pooping well, adding all that exercise and meditation is like building on top of a crumbling foundation.
Eating the right foods, and in the right quantities, is the first step in building the healthy qi that will carry you throughout your day...and life. The Chinese believe that food is medicine, and will often prescribe dietary changes before doing any other sort of work on the body. We all know that garlic builds up our immunity, preventing us from getting sick, but did you know that almost every other spice in your cabinet has medicinal properties, as well?
You don't need to get a degree in herbal medicine to eat well, but you should educate yourself a bit on what you are putting into your body. I am constantly amazed at the misconceptions people have about food. Patients will come in and talk about how healthy and strict their diets are, and then discuss the pound of cheese they eat every night ("I only eat foods that are natural!") Eating unprocessed foods is a good idea, but that doesn't mean that everything natural is necessarily good for you. I've also had patients who are very weight-conscious brag about their low-fat diets...only to find out that they are basically living off of bread and non-fat ice cream. Again, not the best choice. So, read a book...do some googling...or talk to your friendly neighborhood acupuncturist. The information is out there, you just need to incorporate it into your lifestyle.
After the eating comes the pooping...and if you aren't doing it, or you are doing too much of it, it's a sign that the overall qi of the body might be suffering. Poop is pretty much the ultimate measure of what is going on internally. Bloodwork might tell you more, but it's not nearly as convenient as getting this information in the comfort of your own bathroom. We acupuncturists can gather a world of knowledge about what is going on inside you by finding out about your bowel movements, but all of you regular people out there only need to know a few things. Your poop should arrive 1-3 times a day, be formed but not hard, and come without blood, pain, or an unusual degree of effort. If all of this applies to you, you're in good shape. If not, a change in diet may be in order. We acupuncturists can also get things moving regularly, if need be.
And sleep...oh, lovely, lovely sleep. At least, that's how I think of it now-I look forward to drifting off into sweet dreams and can't wait to go to bed at night. But I remember feeling quite differently about my bed a few years ago, while I was suffering from a bout of insomnia. I was stressed going to bed, because I knew I had several hours of tossing and turning ahead of me. I was stressed waking up, since I barely had enough energy to get through the day. I think of insomnia as a sort of cancer of the spirit, slowly eating away at every other aspect of your life and health. If you simply aren't getting enough sleep due to a lack of effort on your part, make some changes that will allow you to get more. Trust me, your body will thank you. If you are a true insomniac, though, there are many options out there to help. Working on this is an investment in your health. Visit a sleep therapist, an acupuncturist, an herbalist. We can all start you on the path to getting your sleep, and ultimately life, back.