Living in Natural Harmony: Introduction to this Blog

We are Ana, Marjan and Christoph, three neuroscientists who met in Geneva during our PhD/MSc in Neurosciences. We found that beyond Neuroscience, we had another common interest: we are passionate about a healthy and natural lifestyle.

Ana

I hold a PhD in Neuroscience from the Universities of Geneva and Lausanne, Switzerland, an MSc and BSc in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Lisbon, Portugal, and a Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS) in Nutrition for Disease Prevention and Health from the ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology), Switzerland. I am also currently working as a post-doctoral neuroscience researcher.

I have been very much interested and passionate about everything concerning nutrition and natural medicine for at least 6 years. I have been reading many books and scientific articles about these topics and implementing what I have been learning in my daily life. I didn’t of course change everything at once, it has been a journey (I started by completely eliminating sugar from my diet!). Nutrition is a very important topic for me and I have been seeing that my health really improved since I eat real food. But my interest in natural medicine goes beyond nutrition. Although I think nutrition is the basis, I do also believe that other factors play a role in maintaining or achieving health, namely stress management techniques, exercise, a good quality of sleep and trying to minimize exposure to toxins (at least the things we can control). For instance, I realized that many body care products that we put everyday on our bodies contain aluminum, parabens, plastics and many other chemicals, which are toxic for both us and the environment. So, I decided to stop using them, and for the past few years I have been making my own body care products, such as toothpaste, deodorant and body creams, using only natural products (which, besides being healthier for me and the environment, they are also much cheaper).

I want now to share what I have been learning regarding nutrition and many other natural medicine topics (and recipes!) and spread this so important information to help people keep or achieve health, while caring about the environment. I really believe that, if truly implemented, lifestyle changes can make a huge difference in people’s lives by preventing and overcoming certain diseases.

Marjan

I studied psychology during my BSc years, followed by an MSc in Neuroscience and I will start my PhD very soon. I have always loved people and wanted to make them feel better. That was my main motivation for starting a BSc in psychology, because I wanted to help people overcome their mental and emotional issues. At the end of my BSc, I realized I could solve the problem more profoundly if I only knew how these bad things happen to some people in the first place and what happens in their brain that leads to such negative outcomes.

I love clinical neuroscience and will continue being a neuroscientist of course. However, during my spare time, I do a lot of research about the part of neuroscience and psychology that deals with the power of our mind and the things we can change about ourselves by training our brain. I have done a lot of research about the effect of meditation and all the things we can do to help us have a healthier and happier life. I have traveled to many countries in different continents and for some reason the majority of people I have met did feel comfortable enough to open up their heart to me and I am grateful for that. I have talked to people from different races, ages, and socio-economic backgrounds. I am amazed how similar we all are in terms of our basic needs, even though we all tend to forget that. We are all in pursuit of a better, happier and safer life and the only different factor is the mean that we use to get there.

My participation in this blog will involve posts that will share these experiences with you. I will try to tell you everything I have learnt from psychology, neuroscience, workshops and extensive research about how to reach a state of mind that is calm and satisfied the majority of time. And for the times that you face some adverse events (from a negative thought to fights, conflicts and even loss of loved ones), I will try to share with you how to best react in order to reach that serenity state again as soon as you can. Since a healthy mind and body are both very much dependent on healthy eating (which depends on how the food is produced), we decided to incorporate these posts in the same blog and present them to you together as a complete package for a healthy lifestyle.

Christoph

I hold a PhD in Neuroscience from the Universities of Geneva and Lausanne, Switzerland, an MSc and BSc degrees in Biology from the ETH Zurich, Switzerland. Currently, I am studying for a second MSc degree in Agronomy at ETH Zurich.

I have always been fascinated about nature, life and health. During my studies of memory and emotion for my Neuroscience degree, my interest for health-related topics grew stronger. One important aspect of it was food. Having been a vegetarian for many years, I was already conscious to some extent about what I was eating. However, reading about raw food opened a whole new world for me. My passion for healthy food ultimately led me back to plants, and to questions about how our food is produced. I came in contact with the concept of permaculture, a sustainable way for agricultural production and with an emphasis on the care of our Earth. This interest in our food led me to study agronomy to better understand current strategies for food production in order to find sustainable ways to produce healthy food.

I like to think in a holistic way, finding optimal solutions, seen from many different angles. Besides neuroscience and nature, I am also interested in spirituality as well as physical exercise. I think that in order to be balanced in life, many factors are important to be included in our lives. I am looking forward to write articles about different topics, with the goal to identify sustainable strategies for a successful life.

Our view

We know that physical and mental health can be achieved and maintained by taking care of many lifestyle aspects. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about natural health approaches in general. Many consider them as “alternative” or “not scientific”. Well, this is simply not true: literally thousands of studies have been performed about the benefits of a healthy nutrition, exercise or meditation.

Virtually everybody has already understood that something has to change. We are polluting the environment and ourselves, while getting distant from our roots. We are becoming sicker and getting the so-called “civilization diseases” that used to be either non-existent or much less prevalent. And the way we are living nowadays is not sustainable anymore. We see all kinds of products which are not only unnecessary, but they also damage our health and the environment. And for many of these products, there really are many healthier and environmental-friendly alternatives.

We have heard many times people saying “but actually, life expectancy is rising”. Well 1) this is not true anymore, life expectancy is now actually decreasing in the United States of America [1] and 2) even if it is true in other industrialized countries, what quality of life do we really have? Living longer than our ancestors but with diabetes, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, heart disease, cancer, depression and other disabilities, is not really what people aim for. One thing that we already have heard is “because we live longer, we now have all these diseases that our ancestors didn’t have, they just didn’t reach our age”. If it is so, how is it possible that these diseases are showing up in younger and younger people, even in kids?!!! Do you really believe it is because people grow older now?! We don’t.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the leading causes of death in 2015 worldwide were [2]: heart disease, stroke, lower chronic respiratory disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease… the so-called “civilization diseases”. Can they, at least in most of the cases, be prevented by lifestyle changes? Most likely.  Many people think “oh, I just got bad genes”. This is not true. Genes can be turned off and on by environmental triggers (if they are not turned on, you will never get the disease). This is called epigenetics. For example, it has been found out and published in one of the most renowned scientific journals, Nature, that cancer risk is heavily influenced by environmental factors (90%),  while genetic factors contribute little (10%) to cancer development [3]. Why is this good news? Because it means that you actually have a high probability of preventing cancer by lifestyle changes!!

There is currently the mindset “I got the disease, I go to the doctor, he/she prescribes me a pill, and I will be fine”. In fact, in the case of acute diseases, drugs can be lifesaving (for example, in the case of an acute allergy). However, in the case of many chronic diseases, the use of drugs can lead to the disappearance of some of the symptoms or to the “control” of the disease, but rarely to the cure (therefore, it is called “chronic disease”), because the root cause was not addressed. And many times, you get other health problems due to the side effects of the drugs, and sometimes you might even take other drugs for minimizing the side effects of the other pills that you are taking.

Natural Medicine aims to find the root cause of chronic diseases, considering the body as a whole. When you treat the real root cause, the symptoms of all diseases will consequently disappear. We believe that in order to prevent and overcome many chronic diseases, and achieve a higher wellbeing, it is very important to take natural medicine approaches into account, which involve lifestyle changes, including primarily (but not only):

– eating real food. Change your diet, eat real food free of toxins (organic vegetables and fruits) and you will improve your health. Did you know that Hippocrates, the father of Medicine, said:

Let food be your medicine, and let medicine be your food

– being more active: at least moderate exercise every day (such as walking) is very important.

If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.” Hippocrates

– sleep – among many other benefits, during sleep you are detoxifying your body.

– emotional and stress management techniques, such as meditation, relaxation and engaging in activities that you enjoy.

– minimize toxin exposure and consider certain detoxification methods (our body already naturally detoxifies when you provide it with real food and other healthy lifestyle habits, but sometimes the burden of toxins is so heavy that it needs help – and we are not talking about those “miracle detox” products you see in the shops).

– taking care of your gut health (the gut microbiota has been linked to almost every disease)

– spices, herbs and essential oils.

It is of course much easier to take a pill than changing our whole lifestyle. But if we want to live healthier, and most likely to an old age, that’s what we should do. We have to reconnect to Nature, because we are from Nature! We want to let you know that it is still possible in our modern and busy world to achieve this. We hope that our posts will inspire you to become healthier and happier while caring about the environment! We should all take the responsibility of caring for ourselves, the environment and our future generations.

Also, we must realize that each time we go shopping, we are voting. Anything we buy is a vote for the good or for the bad. If there are a lot of “votes” for sustainable lifestyle choices, it is certain that things start to change. A very good example is the fact that organic farming has been growing a lot in the past few years as a result of people’s demands for organic vegetables and fruits.

For us, implementing the lifestyle aspects mentioned above in our life has been a real journey. We continue to get informed, read and try to implement what we have been finding in our personal lives. Every day is a new and interesting discovery.

Now we have reached a point that we do not want to just do research and keep the information for ourselves. We actually want to do something about it. Therefore, we decided to create this blog. We want to raise awareness and spread important and interesting information about natural lifestyle and health-related topics in order to help people improving their quality of life while caring about the surrounding environment. As scientists, it is important for us to provide the scientific evidence of what we are writing. In all the topics covered in this blog, we will review the scientific literature, summarize what we have learnt and try to write in a way that is easy to understand by everyone. You will see that these natural lifestyle / Natural Medicine topics are very much backed-up by science.

These are some of the topics that will be covered in this blog:

 –  Nutrition (healthy and wholesome food)

  – Meditation

  – Sustainable Agriculture

  – Exercise

  – Toxins and heavy metals

  – Gut health (you will see later on how gut health and brain health are related)

  – Brain health

  – Fasting

  – Herbs

  – Essential oils

  – …

  – DIY recipes of healthy and delicious meals, desserts and snacks, as well as natural remedies, and toxin-free cleaning products and body care products (such as toothpaste, deodorant, body lotions, lip sticks, blush, etc.), that are good and healthy for both you and the environment :).

For every topic, you will get all the sources and references so that you can read further and get more informed about that particular topic.

We would like to emphasize that the information on this blog is supposed to be only suggestions for improving your health and wellbeing. They do not aim by any means to replace your doctor’s advice.

All posts are available in five languages: English, Portuguese, German, French and Dutch.

For us, this is a very important new project, and we truly hope it does make a difference in people’s lives. We are doing the best we can to provide you with the best information about each topic. We hope that you will like the blog and that it will somehow help you and the ones you love 🙂

Please help us spreading this information by sharing our posts, as it can change someone’s life! 🙂

And you are very much invited to comment below each post!

Thank you so much for reading and sharing!

Live healthy and happy 🙂

Ana, Marjan & Christoph

Next Post: The importance of a healthy diet

References

[1]     https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db267.htm

[2]     http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs310/en/

[3]     Wu S, Powers S, Zhu W, Hannun YA. Substantial contribution of extrinsic risk factors to cancer development. Nature (2016). 529(7584):43-7.

2 Responses to “Living in Natural Harmony: Introduction to this Blog

  • Judy Kroetsch
    10 months ago

    Hi Ana and Christoph. We met you in Bali in September and this is the first opportunity we’ve had to explore your blog. It’s great! Really good information. Thanks! Did you ever see our blog?
    bali-paradise.travellerspoint.com

    • Ana Coito, PhD
      9 months ago

      Hi Judy! Thanks a lot for checking our blog out and for writing us 🙂 I’m happy you liked it 🙂 if you want, you can subscribe it so that we send you an e-mail when we have new articles :). I really liked your travel blog and I love your photos!! I’m happy to know you had a great time in Bali! 🙂 Have you seen our post here about Bali and the eco-lodge?

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