The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to make a fresh start, whether we commit to getting organized, getting in better shape or generally taking better care of ourselves. Whatever we hope to accomplish in 2024, it starts with health of the mind, body and soul.
If you are resolved to have your best year yet, start with these wellness-reset tips from local experts in seven key areas:
“Detoxing can conjure up some scary thoughts — sweating, sitting on a toilet for hours, vomiting and fatigue — but it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. Simple detoxing that doesn’t need a health professional’s supervision is available to everyone. It’s a twofold approach of add-in and leave-out.
First, it’s adding in more of what helps to flush out the digestive tract and liver. Spices, some herbal teas, fresh, raw vegetables and fruits naturally help the liver (a major player in detoxing) function better, and the darker, even bitter, ones do the most.
Daily, add in more beets, kale, endive, brussels sprouts, artichokes, spinach, blueberries, cranberries, apples, lemon, dandelion tea, turmeric and ginger. On the flip side, leaving out what clogs things up and makes the body work harder is essential for detox: highly to moderately processed foods, dairy, added sugar and alcohol. Since part of detoxing is cleaning out unhealthy cells and lowering inflammation, not eating after 6 p.m. (or a solid 12-hour window) will give your body additional support and can expedite the process.”
– Heidi Sexton, certified health coach through the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute and founder of the wellness blog and newsletter TheHopeBuilder.com.
TAKE A BREAK
“A key word for 2024 – relax! Taking time for leisure isn’t just about gaining peace of mind. It also reduces stress, which means improved concentration, digestion and blood flow, as well as less fatigue and greater emotional wellbeing. A trip to the spa is always a good idea, and fortunately, you don’t have to travel far to indulge in some pampering. You certainly can stay local, but if you want to use your passport, there are entire islands in the Caribbean that offer all-inclusive resorts designed for total escape.
Relaxing also can mean being active, enjoying nature, and just having fun. A cruise vacation, a cabin in the mountains or even giant water parks are the prescription for many families. Taking care of yourself will help improve your wellness — which makes the whole family feel better.”
– Paige Heitzmann, accredited cruise counsellor, certified travel advisor with Travel Affiliates
“Women need to be aware of health recommendations for their unique needs during each stage of life. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology advises women of all ages to have an annual wellness visit, which includes a thorough health history, physical exam and review of recommended screening tests and immunizations.
- Because heart disease is the number-one killer of women, those age 18 and older should have regular blood-pressure checks and lipid (cholesterol) screening. Additionally, smoking status, physical activity and diet should be assessed.
- Cervical cancer screening (Pap smears) begins at age 21. Although Pap smear intervals will vary depending on the patient’s personal history, an annual pelvic exam should be done on all women, even those who have had a hysterectomy or undergone menopause.
- Mammograms are ordered starting at age 40 for regular-risk individuals and earlier for those who are at high risk.
- Colon-cancer screenings should begin at age 45, and osteoporosis screenings begin post-menopause.
Find a provider you trust and who will listen to your individual needs. Prevention and early detection are the keys to a long, healthy life!”
– Amanda Sterling, board-certified women›s health care nurse practitioner, master of science of nursing, IBCLC
DIET AND EXERCISE
“A plant-based diet will continue to be a stellar choice in 2024 for its multiple health and sustainability benefits. Packed with essential nutrients, fiber and antioxidants, plant-based foods contribute to overall wellbeing — supporting heart health, improving digestion and reducing the risk of chronic diseases. The appeal of the Mediterranean diet will continue as more people discover the win-win of taste and health. Embracing a diverse, balanced diet rich in whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains, is essential.
As technology continues to improve, we will be tracking our health in a whole new way in terms of fitness and health. Wearable devices will provide full health management. Wearables are about to detect a wide range of health problems, including irregular heart rhythms, sleep disorders, respiratory conditions and more. They also will be vital in monitoring mental health, with features like emotion and stress detection.
Group fitness courses will still be popular in 2024, but there will be a trend towards unique options. This could include classes that focus on specific types of fitness, such as functional fitness, dance-based workouts or strength training for older adults.”
– Kaisha Colston, content creator and fitness blogger, fabfitfeminine.com
“Taking charge of your health may be top of mind in the new year, but it shouldn’t just be a once-a-year thing. For women, this means making sure to schedule those essential healthcare visits.
Regular check-ups are more than just a doctor’s visit. Scheduling annual well-visits can help catch problems early, or even prevent them altogether. These visits also can help you develop a relationship with your primary care physician and ensure he or she is familiar with your health history should you need more advanced care in the future.
Blood pressure and cholesterol checks are vital for heart health. High blood pressure and cholesterol often have no symptoms but can lead to severe issues, like heart attack and stroke, if left unchecked. Regular skin exams help spot any potential signs of skin cancer early on. As women age, bone health also becomes crucial. Doctors might recommend a bone-density test to check for osteoporosis risks. These tests usually are administered to women 65 and older, but some patients may qualify earlier based on personal history or family history. Bone density tests usually take place every two years after your initial test. However, this may vary based on your bone health. Keeping up with mammograms, colonoscopies and Pap smears also is essential.
Remember, preventative care is not one size fits all. Your healthcare provider can guide you on what’s best for your specific needs based on your overall health and family history.”
– Dr. Taylor Hairston, family medicine physician at Ochsner Health in Gulfport
MENTAL HEALTH AND SELF-CARE
“With so many holiday celebrations to overwhelm us, and now entering Mardi Gras season, we may be feeling frazzled. Remember to take some time for yourself to let your mind and body recharge. Try not to put extra pressure on yourself. Be realistic with your time and what you agree to do. It may help to make a list of priorities; these may be personal and professional. Just mapping things out can ease anxiety by keeping you organized. It helps to talk with someone about how you are feeling, and it is ok to ask for help.
Take a minute each day to look in the mirror and remind yourself that:
- You are strong.
- You are capable.
- You are beautiful.
- You are unique.
- You are enough.”
– Kay Daneault, executive director, Mental Health Association of South Mississippi
“Navigating supplements can be confusing, but it’s almost a necessity now. We live in a time of depleted soils and agribusiness, genetically modified foods, pesticides and foods shipped worldwide. Online, even prominent medical doctors are “pushing supplements” for everything from virility to longevity, yet rarely do consumers receive the promised benefits.
If you are looking to supplement your diet, start with your dinner plate. Try to eat at least 30 different plants (mostly vegetables) each week to ensure you are getting the basic vitamins you need. To that, I’d add that the most important addition is minerals, as everything in the body rides on minerals. Most of us are drinking more water these days, which can flush out minerals; a good way to add them is with a plant-based, liquid mineral that includes fulvic and humic acid.
For all vitamins, try to avoid too many synthetic ingredients and additives. Read the labels, and if they contain ingredients you don’t recognize, your body probably won’t recognize them, either. Some ingredients to avoid are magnesium stearate, silicon dioxide, titanium dioxide, starch, microcrystalline cellulose and polyethylene glycol. Notice whether capsules have red, blue or yellow dyes. To test your multivitamin, check the source of vitamin E. If it has Dl-tocopherols, it is laboratory made, while D-tocopherols are from a natural source.
Supplement guide by age
For children and young adults:
- A natural multivitamin with minerals
- A consistent source of good fats to nourish the brain.
- Elderberry syrup or gummies during cold and flu season
- Natrum Mur homeopathic pellets for runny noses
- Generally, plant-based products are preferable; all herbs have vitamins and minerals, so drinking herb teas and taking plant-based vitamins is the best way to supplement. For example, calcium from rocks and dairy are poorly absorbed by the body, but plant-based calciums are absorbed readily.
- When taking pharmaceutical drugs, supplementing should be checked by a physician or someone knowledgeable about the potential side effects.
- Everyone can and should take a good multiple/mineral tablet or liquid, omega 3 oils from small fish and vitamin C.
- We can have enough vitamin D if we get out in the sun, but if your level is low, it is wise to supplement with D3 to absorb more calcium and K2 to get it into the bones.
- Green and herbal teas are the safest for nutrition. Chamomile is great for sleep, and green tea is energizing. Echinacea/elderberry boosts the immune system, as does lemon. Hibiscus balances blood pressure.
- For bone health, a plant-based calcium derived from algae instead of rocks is advised.
- For brain health, take a good omega 3 and vitamin D3
- Take a good multi-mineral/vitamin.”
– Betty Sue O’Brian, traditional naturopath, certified Indology instructor, co-Director Southern Institute of Natural Health