Osteopathic Approach to Nutrition and Lifestyle
Osteopaths take a holistic approach to health, helping their patients to maintain habits and attitudes that promote well-being and prevent disease. Good nutrition assists healthy functioning, both in terms of providing energy, building up the immune system, and contributing to proper digestion. Other factors incorporated into a healthy lifestyle include following an appropriate exercise regimen, avoiding behaviors that jeopardize health, finding effective methods to cope with stress, and receiving regular medical checkups.
Research show that eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet not only provides energy, but helps individuals to maintain a healthy weight, improve their quality of life, and prevent or control a number of serious illnesses. Longevity is partially attributable to remaining well-nourished. Obesity, a problem of epidemic proportions that is indirectly responsible for a high percentage of patient deaths, is almost always avoidable through proper nutrition.
Eating the Right Diet
Osteopaths are well aware that each individual requires a customized diet that takes into account size, age, activity level, health conditions, allergies and personal likes and dislikes. Within the parameters of the patient's personal needs, osteopathic nutritional counseling recommends a varied diet, one containing a balance of various foods. In addition to including an appropriate balance of protein, carbohydrates, unsaturated fats and fiber, a healthy diet should:
- Be rich in whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fruits and vegetables
- Include proteins, like lean meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts
- Be low in saturated fats, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars
- Contain necessary vitamins and minerals
Osteopaths approach nutritional counseling as a form of education, believing that the more informed individuals are about what they eat, the more likely they are to maintain a healthy diet. Patients are instructed to eat fresh foods as frequently as possible, to read labels, and to avoid ingesting food additives and chemicals. Because of the prevalence of childhood obesity, children should be instructed in good eating habits when they are young.
Eating the Proper Amount
Although a great deal of cultural attention is paid to avoiding obesity, avoiding malnourishment is equally important. Osteopathic advice on caloric intake is based on the requirements of the individual patient.
While many patients may have to keep their caloric intake low, other patients, especially infants, older patients and patients with certain physical problems, may need to ingest nutritional supplements to keep their weight at a healthy level. For patients with certain conditions, the osteopath may recommend eating many smaller meals daily rather than the usual three.
Osteopaths are trained to detect dietary excesses and deficiencies through patient consultation, physical examination, and laboratory testing, striving to discover the underlying reasons, dietary or otherwise, for their patients' ailments.
Disease Conditions Prevented or Improved by Proper Nutrition
While there are other factors involved in the development of disease conditions, such as genetic makeup and environmental influences, proper nutrition and eating habits can play an important role in preventing, staving off or mitigating many illnesses, including:
- Arthritis, asthma, gout
- Certain types of cancer
- Digestive disorders
- Hypertension and heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
There is also some evidence that certain autoimmune conditions, especially those involving inflammation, such as rheumatoid arthritis, may be positively affected by increased intake of vitamins D, vitamin E and other antioxidants.
Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle
In addition to offering nutritional counseling, osteopaths are attuned to their patients general health and are trained to guide their patients toward a healthier lifestyle.
Maintaining Physical Strength and Flexibility
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle includes, in addition to eating well-balanced nourishing meals:
- Engaging in regular exercise
- Avoiding smoking
- Avoiding excessive alcohol use
- Avoiding recreational drug use
- Finding ways to minimize stress in the daily routine
- Getting an appropriate amount of sleep
Maintaining Emotional Balance and Stability
Everyone has to deal with the tension and stress of everyday life. Different individuals find various coping mechanisms more helpful than others. Osteopaths may recommend one or more of the following means of stress reduction to their patients:
- Deep breathing
- Individual or group counseling
- Self-help group participation
- Yoga, Tai Chi, or Qigong
In many cases, developing or pursuing a recreational or creative activity is a fine way of managing daily stress.
Osteopaths concern themselves not simply with managing or curing disease conditions, but in promoting the general good health and well-being of their patients.