In my years of researching health and wellness it has become clear to me that connection between humans is an essential aspect of good health, if not a crucial foundation.
Human beings are intrinsically social creatures. We thrive on being around other humans. Our health, quality of life and even our very survival depends on the social connections we cultivate and maintain.
In the Blue Zones research they found the most important factor in longevity was “building good relationships with friends and family”.*1 It has been demonstrated in research that “social isolation” is actually detrimental to our health – as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day! We all need some ‘’me time’ to recharge and be alone with our thoughts, but some quality time to connect with people you enjoy being around is essentially revitalising on many levels.
The true cost of isolation
“Loneliness and social isolation have the same cardiovascular effects as smoking 15 cigarettes per day, but these factors also increase the risk of “all-cause morbidity,” in other words, dying from any cause. Loneliness increases the risk of developing dementia by 50% and stroke by 32% while increasing the morbidity risk of cancer by 25%.”*2
One could argue that lockdown is a necessary extreme to save lives, but the fear created is deep and pervasive. Continued isolation and social distancing caused by the fear of others, being afraid to be outside and loss of our freedoms can result in far more deaths as demonstrated by research.*3 Fear and anxiety are specifically counter-productive to maintaining good health. We already know how powerful our minds are. The placebo effect is testimony to this fact – how we can recover from illness with the belief that we are receiving medicine that will cure us without actually receiving any medicine at all.
It is vital to keep in regular contact with friends, family and loved ones – digitally for now 😉 Not only for your own health, but for theirs too.
“More diverse social networks were associated with greater resistance to upper respiratory illness.” *4
Social from the inside out
We are also intrinsically social creatures internally. Our health depends on billions of organisms working in harmony allowing the body to function – mostly made up of good bacteria, and a small, healthy population of ‘bad bacteria’. It’s an elegant, efficient ecology if it’s in balance.
“Up to 90% of diseases can be traced back to the gut and health of the microbiome”*5
More than half of the human body is not made up of cells, but actually consists of a massive, interconnected microbiome with each organism playing a part in the symphony. 75 – 80% of our immune system is the microbes in our gut! It is imperative to look after these gut flora and make them stronger. This is done by regularly consuming probiotic-rich fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha and kefir. Also eat prebiotic foods that feed your good bacteria such as fresh fruit and vegetables, like apples and leafy vegetables. For a real gut flora boost with extra immune strengthening nutrition, include potent superfoods like omega and fibre-rich chia seeds, alkalising, fibre-rich baobab (see our famous Bao Mayo recipe) and L-lysine-rich, prebiotic mesquite (try these more-ish Mesquite Chocolates.)
Another way we increase immunity is by being around each other, and, believe it or not, sharing bacteria and viruses which act as a natural form of immunisation. We are ingesting them all the time and our bodies are continuously creating new antibodies to protect us. So you see, connecting with each other and the world outside is pivotal to being in peak health.
Connection through cacao
My favourite connection food by far is chocolate. Why do we call it a connection food? Cacao supports positive mental health! This is thanks to an abundance in feel-good nutrients, like anandamide and phenylethylamine (PEA which is known as the Love Chemical.) We feel connected when we feel good and when we feel love. When we feel connected, we have more energy to invest in creating the life we want… this is most likely why chocolate is a favourite food among humans across the planet! And, as if that isn’t fantastic enough, cacao also acts as a prebiotic food, supporting the health of good bacteria and so, fortifying the immune system. *6 *7
It sounds paradoxical right now, but staying healthy is all about connections and diverse networks, externally and internally. Make that extra effort to connect to loved ones and get into nature – barefoot if possible. Be sure to focus on how to get more goodness to your gut bacteria, the building blocks of glowing health.