When it comes to sustained wellness, the daily choices we make in what we eat, think and do make a profound difference. Dr. Vince Sferra, founder of Natural Medicine & Rehabilitation in Somerset, puts this philosophy into action in his personal life and helps patients make mindful choices that keep their bodies and minds strong.
It’s important to pay attention to how you use your body, Dr. Sferra says. People should incorporate regular exercise with some degree of intensity to improve their energy and put strength into their routine. “A mistake people make is considering their daily activities as ‘exercise.’ It’s not; they are just watering it down,” he says. “Just because you are active during the day does not mean you are reaping the same benefits of intensive exercise.” Also, take note of how your body is at rest—and consult an expert like a chiropractor for advice on body positioning. Oftentimes, people may relax or sleep in a position that creates havoc in their spine or joints, Dr. Sferra explains.
Be cognizant of what you put in your body. Eliminate processed foods and sugars from your diet. “We’ve come to think that it’s normal to eat these things, but our bodies must detoxify them and then it pays the price in chronic diseases like obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and arthritic problems,” he says. “We all succumb to temptations, of course—and a little bit won’t hurt—but it becomes a problem when people eat this stuff every day.”
For example, after indulging in a decadent night on the town, you can expect to feel sluggish the following day. Dr. Sferra advises you eat light, drink more water than you usually do and fortify your diet with antioxidants, anti-inflammatory supplements and some extra vitamin C. “That should help people who live a healthy lifestyle bounce back in a day,” he says. “However, such indulgences could cause more problems for people who in general do not take care of themselves.”
Dr. Sferra encourages people to not subscribe to the way society tells them to eat. “Be your own captain of your ship, learn about nutrition and do what is right for yourself,” he says.
Eating diverse and abundant amounts of fibrous vegetation in its most healthful state—not adulterated with pesticides or overcooked—will give your body the nutrients, vitamins and minerals it needs to optimally function. “Select produce that is grown in healthy, mineral-rich soil,” Dr. Sferra says. “There’s a big difference between eating a vegetable that was grown on a local, organic farm and one that is beaten-up and has been sitting on a grocery shelf for a while.”
The state of your health is directly tied to the health of your microbiome—the trillions of beneficial microorganisms that live in our bodies, especially in our gastrointestinal tract. “This good bacteria feeds off the fiber from vegetation, especially those that are organic and in a raw, lightly cooked state. By eating poorly, like eating a lot of sugar, we are changing the dynamics of the microbiome, which can impact our immune system, gastrointestinal lining and inflammatory processes,” Dr. Sferra says.
Attending to your mental health is key to sustained wellness. “Number One: Stay socially active,” Dr. Sferra says. “As people peeled back and removed themselves from society over the past year, we’ve seen a lot more depression and mental health issues. The more you pull back, the less stimulation you are giving your brain. We need to challenge our brains regularly.” He suggests cognitive activities such as creating art and music, playing games, completing puzzles, learning a new language or embarking on a different career.
Physical exercise also benefits the brain. “This is especially true of resistance training. It forces you to coordinate control, which stimulates the cerebellum,” Dr. Sferra says. “Exercise plays an enormous role in slowing mental decline from chronic degenerative diseases of the brain like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s or dementia.”
Exercise also positively affects the body’s reaction to stress. “Our bodies are equipped to deal with stressful incidents and bounce back, but the body’s response to chronic, ongoing stress is what is, figuratively speaking, killing people,” he says. “When the body’s cortisol levels and adrenaline levels go up over time, it is destructive to immune and gastrointestinal functions, and destroys the hippocampus, which is the area of the brain where your memory is encoded.”
Parents should lead by example and teach children starting at a young age how to make the right choices. “What bothers me most is seeing middle-aged people having a difficult time undoing bad habits and struggling with good habits that for other people are just second nature. They struggle because it was not instilled early on,” he says. “I have five children. When my oldest—four boys—got into their late teens and twenties, not only did they understand healthy living, but they also were teaching it to their friends. My adolescent daughter understands as well. She may have a slice of pizza on the weekend, but otherwise, she is cutting up vegetables for salad and having a protein with every meal. She owns it.”
Learn more about healthy lifestyles at nmrnj.com.