9 cheap ways to hack yourself to better health — from adding salt to your water and eating flaxseed daily

Posted: 5th January 2024

Wellness needn’t cause financial ruin. Madeleine Spencer has a list of easy habits that won’t cost you more than a few pennies

There are, to my mind, two deeply-unappealing facets to how wellness practises and products are presented. The first is in the form of fluffy farcical ideas like bubble baths acting as a panacea for all life’s woes. A bubble bath is a joy, sure, and it can bookend a crap day — but cure all ills it cannot, obviously.

The second is the preposterous notion that being well can be bought (though of course finances play a role and pretending otherwise would be insane), when a whole host of truly-effective measures don’t involve big spends but rather small actions, repeated often.

On that note, there are plenty of small things that make a big difference, many of them free, some with minimal cost associated. Here are my favourites in this arena, to see you into January (and beyond) healthily and without lightening your wallet significantly.

1. Add salt to your morning water

I know this sounds absolutely rancid, but, ever-game, I have tested it in my usual lemon hot water concoction and actually it’s barely noticeable. The result of adding a small pinch of sea or rock (but never table) salt to your first drink?

“It’ll mineralise the water, making it more hydrating to the body and will support adrenal function first thing, which is when our adrenal glands should be making stress hormones to give us energy,” explains clinical nutritionist Dr Stephanie Moore.

2. Cold water rinse after your morning shower

Yes, we are all now positively bursting with information about how great the Wim Hof cold water methods are and anyone with more than a passing interest in feeling well is already an acolyte – but nutritionist Michelle McKenzie is emphatic about the benefits, explaining that studies prove it boosts the immune system, nervous system, endocrine system, and cardiovascular system, will improve circulation, up sleep quality, encourage the release of endorphins, and so on and so forth.

Basically, it is well worth a try, and you can start with turning the shower on cold. A word on my experience of this: I find it best to begin at the ankles, then tackle the tank. The whole thing all at once is unmanageable for me unless in the midst of a heatwave.

3. Try flaxseed to avoid constipation

Flaxseed is high in fibre and omega 3s, making it a good addition to your diet, but nutritional therapist and author Eve Kalinik told me that adding 1-2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed helps to manage and alleviate constipation by adding bulk to the stools.

I usually add them into my yoghurt mix, where I don’t even register their presence, but doctor Silvano Mascadri at Palace Merano recently told me that in cases of acute constipation, popping a few spoons of flaxseed in water for a few hours so they swell, and then drinking works wonders.

4. Do some foam rolling

At-home fitness efforts require double the discipline because home is, well, rather distracting on the whole, isn’t it? I once paused a YouTube workout to hoover, then decided I should probably mop before carrying on. I think on my part there’s an avoidance of discomfort going on, which is why I think if you’re anything like me, you might be more inclined to stick to a routine involving stretching and release at home, and especially enjoy Personal Trainer Sophie Allin’s suggestion of foam rolling daily to reduce pain, improve blood circulation, release muscle tightness, and help prevent injury when working out.

Her suggestion is to proceed slowly, spending 1-2 minutes on each muscle group, then holding in tight spots for 30 seconds (that bit feels very intense, by the way). It’s a good idea to try it as a five-minute wake up routine, or pre-workout.

5. Fat is your friend

If you want to enhance the absorption of vitamins from certain sources of vitamins A, K, and E (i.e. all the fat soluble ones which are generally found in leafy greens like broccoli or kale), a little bit of good fat like olive oil can assist matters, according to Kalinik.

I always buy cold-pressed and try to find some in a container that doesn’t let light in so as to keep the oil in as high quality as possible for as long as possible.

6. Give yourself a massage

Nowhere near as fun as having someone else give you one, but needs must. Dr Viyay Murthy explains that administering a warm oil massage in particular is helpful, increasing circulation, and providing a much-needed sense of warmth while alleviating stress, activating the lymphatic system and, of course, feeling good.

You could start with your stomach following guidance if your digestion has been playing up, or go straight in for the kill on tight shoulders or hamstrings. The oil is a good idea, by the by, and I tend to just use whatever moisturiser I have lying around. It’s worth mentioning that if you use coconut oil and are prone to spots on your body, it’s a good idea to shower post to reduce the likelihood of break outs.

7. Consider your eating habits

All the experts I spoke to had a lot to say on this, so I’m going to condense their wisdom. First, intermittent fasting for 12-14 hours was heavily endorsed by Michelle McKenzie, who also added that when you do eat, “make it real food.”

We all know what real food means by now – but making an effort to stick to that one is quite something different. Dr Stephanie Moore also backs fasting, telling me it’s “super-beneficial for gut health, metabolism and brain health.” She is keen to encourage slower eating: “doing so and focusing on your food and not eating on the run/while distracted is a game changer for weight loss, appetite management and for improving absorption of nutrients from food.”

8. Think about how you breathe

It surely seems elementary, breathing. We need to do it to stay alive, so surely we are all doing it ‘right’? Apparently not, with a wealth of studies springing up to bear testament to the positive effects of breathing through the nose and conversely how adverse mouth breathing is.

Dr Stephanie Moore advises starting with awareness. “Try to notice how you’re breathing throughout the day. If you breathe in through your mouth not nose, get into the practice of closing your mouth. This helps relax the nervous system and lowers blood pressure whereas mouth breathing can increase stress hormones and cause the oral microbiome to shift negatively.”

9. Sleep

This you definitely know already. But it bears repeating that a good night’s sleep – better, many good nights’ sleep – will improve everything from concentration to immunity to mood.

Everyone I spoke to for this article was emphatic on this, encouraging good sleep habits, and aiming for 8 hours a night.

Source: 9 cheap ways to hack yourself to better health | Evening Standard

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