Three Health Indicators – Sleep Digestion Regularity
Health Awareness and Disease Prevention
Awareness is the key to managing your health. Awareness allows you to be proactive in preventing disease instead of reacting to imbalances that have grown out of your control. Identifying imbalances in the patterns of sleep, digestion and bowel movements are good indicators for monitoring your health.
Sleep is a basic but important requirement that rejuvenates the body. A good sleep pattern should be approximately 7 to 8 hours of restful and uninterrupted sleep. The following conditions may indicate a poor sleep pattern: difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, not feeling rested upon waking, excessive dreaming, night-sweats, and waking up to urinate. Anything that chronically disturbs your sleep cycle will diminish your body’s ability to function efficiently. Here are some tips that may promote restful sleep. Avoid eating and drinking before sleeping. Drinking fluids before bedtime will interrupt your sleep if you have to wake up to relieve yourself. A consistent balance of rest and activity can support a good sleep pattern. A lack of activity may reduce the need for sleep. Inconsistent bedtimes can disorientate the body’s natural rhythm and cause irregular sleep patterns. The occurrence of back pain while sleeping may be alleviated by placing a pillow under your knees when lying on your back or between your knees when lying on your side to relieve pressure on the lower spine. It may also be helpful to keep your bedroom dark, and noise free. A small bag filled with lavender can be placed under your pillow as a natural sleep aid to promote relaxation.
Digestion is a major health indicator. Ensuring the body is properly nourished can greatly depend on how efficiently the digestive system digests food, absorbs nutrients and eliminates waste. The intestines dominate a large portion of the digestive tract measuring approximately 25 feet in length and tightly packed into the abdominal cavity. It is important to keep the digestive tract open and flowing freely. Some signs of digestive imbalances include heartburn, hiccups, belching, nausea, constipation, vomiting, headaches, cravings, mouth sores, poor appetite, excessive hunger, loose bowel movements after eating, abdominal bloating, or tiredness after eating. The following tips may improve a weak digestion: eat as close to natural as possible, eat fresh whole foods and minimize processed foods, eat slowly and chew your food well allowing it to mix with saliva (digestion starts with chewing), eat at regular intervals, avoid eating in the evening before bedtime, avoid overeating and full sensations that will congest your digestive tract, and don’t take ice cold drinks and food. Digestion is better when food is eaten at room temperature or warm.
Are you regular? Bowel movements may not be the main topic of discussion around the water cooler but awareness in regularity can prove to be an important health indicator. A regular bowel movement should occur once per day. The stool should be well formed, not loose, not dry, not too hard, and not excessively malodorous. Bowel movements should be effortless. Internal bleeding may make stools black in color and should be evaluated by a medical professional. Diarrhea can lead to dehydration and should also be medically evaluated. Constipation is considered a major risk factor in the development of diverticular disease. The increased pressure required in difficult bowel movements can damage the walls of the large intestine. This excessive force can lead to the formation of pockets (diverticula), which can become inflamed and clogged. Sufficient exercise, fluid intake and fibrous foods such as fruits and vegetables can help support regularity.
The amount of information presented here is potentially overwhelming so it is lightheartedly advised to digest it slowly and perhaps sleep on it to encourage a pleasant outcome.
Christopher Carlow, D. Ac.Doctor of Acupuncture May 6, 2006