Some of the key ways of ageing well without cosmetic help are well-documented: avoid the sun, quit nicotine, cut back on alcohol and eat a well-balanced diet. But there is an even better way: a holistic health approach that goes far beyond the doctor’s office or surgery.
“Holistic health – I get asked a lot about its meaning by my patients,” says Dr Hoda Makkawi, a consultant in family medicine, integrative holistic medicine and an anti-ageing medicine specialist at Euromed Clinic Dubai. “What is it? How it can help? How is it different from traditional medicine?”
Dr Makkawi, a regular contributor to local and international medical journals as well as Sky News Arabia and one of Arabian Business magazine’s top 100 smartest people in the UAE, says there is one key to understanding holistic health. It is not the absence of disease or sickness, but a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing.
“Holistic health is an integrated form of health that includes the mind, the body and the spirit,” she explains. “It is a form of medicine that reaches down deep to the root of the problem, allowing the body to heal itself using multiple modalities.”
With 18 years of experience, Dr Makkawi outlines her eight pillars of holistic health to livehealthy.ae which do indeed go far beyond traditional medicine.
“Each individual will prioritize the eight pillars differently and that is perfectly fine as wellness has a different meaning to each individual,” says Dr Makkawi. “But when your mind, body and spirit are in harmony and balanced holistically, you will be able to have the life that you always dreamed about and to pursue your goals with passion and with the fewest obstacles and least resistance.”
When we mention physical wellness, the first thing that comes to mind is exercise, and while exercise and movement are as essential as water and air to the body, they are not the only things we need to focus on. Physical wellness also includes nutrition and adequate sleep. Ask yourself: are you getting enough sleep? If not, what is keeping you from having a restful night’s sleep? The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults should get seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
To achieve your best physical wellness, make sure that each and every organ is working to its optimum function by having preventive physical examinations and getting your hormones balanced by a holistic practitioner.
“This has to be individualized and personalized based on age, sex, activity level and the individual body’s intolerances to certain foods,” says Dr Makkawi. “We need to stop thinking about food as nourishment only, as it can be medicinal or toxic to the body. Going back to our ancestors’ way of life and nutrition is something I advocate. For instance, eating lots of vegetables and fruits, eating real foods with no preservatives and additives, balancing our plate with lots of colors, a good portion of proteins and healthy complex carbohydrates is all vital. I always advise my patients to avoid foods with labels that feature ingredients that we can’t even read. By far, the most important is enjoying every bite of your food and eating it with mindfulness.”
“This is the ability to handle life’s stressors, to adapt to changes and difficult times that circumstances can throw at us,” says Dr Makkawi. “The way we express ourselves when we are dealing with emotional turmoil in life is very individualized. Some seek professional help, others internalize or keep a journal or share with family and friends. All methods are beneficial and can help.”
“This is about connecting to form positive relationships, having the benefit of a support system that gives you a sense of belonging, as well as an engagement in a better, happier life,” says Dr Makkawi. “Having strong, healthy, social interactions and ties is critical to our well-being and existence. Friends should be a unique version of yourself, adding joy, happiness and fulfillment to your life. They should act as your backbone whenever and wherever you need them. Be selective about the social circle with which you surround yourself and be aware of toxic relationships; know when to eliminate them from your life. After all, the mind and the body are connected. What affects your mind by negative emotions can affect your body’s balance and create disease.”
“It is different for everyone. For some, it is the connection to nature or a higher power; for others, it is religion,” says Dr Makkawi. “It is extremely specific to each person, directing us to a set of values and without it we can’t have a personalized journey in life. It can be a form of mindfulness, a guide and a check on our intentions, helping us to maintain an approach to life that is value-based.”
“Learning should be a pivotal part of life,” says Dr Makkawi. “This can be reading, keeping a journal, learning a new language, learning new skills, engaging in conversations and expressing interest in different topics – anything that can enhance the brain function and helps to build up neurons and new synapse channels to keep our brain active. It is exactly like lifting weights to increase muscle strength. We need intellectual health to enhance our brain function and prevent diseases like dementia.”
“Deal with your finances. Ask yourself key questions. Are you living within your means? Are you planning for your future? Do you have debt? Are you saving each month? Do you have a proper budget and are you living within it and covering the essentials? Do you prioritize your spending? Are you able to keep up with life’s financial challenges, if they arise? Are you investing in good channels? These are just a few of the questions that are very personal and individualized to each of us, but by answering them honestly and having a good, clear understanding of your financial state, you will be able to plan when you can enjoy financial freedom.”
“This is the relationship of an individual to the environment around them, whether it is the immediate environment or a larger one such as your workplace and the place you live,” says Dr Makkawi. “Supporting your environment can have an immediate impact on you and the community. It is a reciprocal relationship: the greater you respect and protect your environment the better your environment can help maintain, support and bring balance to your daily life and well-being.”
Featured photo courtesy Dr Hoda Makkawi
Jennifer Bell is an award-winning British journalist. She has worked for The National newspaper in the United Arab Emirates as well as the The Press, in the United Kingdom. Based in Abu Dhabi, she splits her time working for Arab News and PRWeek Middle East. She also contributes to regional titles including Gulf News, Arab Weekly, Arabian Business, and The Business Voice.