5 Surprising Ways The Place You Live Affects Your Health
In late 2007, I left a well-established career as a physical therapist working with Olympic athletes and my lifelong home in Adelaide, Australia, to move to Brisbane. Although Brisbane was 1,300 miles from almost everything I knew and loved, I felt happier and healthier there, within just a few days of the move, than I had in almost a decade. The wisdom of geomedicine had changed my life.
Let me explain.
I suffer from familial amyloid polyneuropathy, a disease triggered by a mutation of the TTR gene. The disease is both neurodegenerative and autoimmune in nature — and is a diagnosis that, on average, is fatal within 10 years. By the time I moved to Brisbane, I had already had symptoms for almost a year. Did I only have nine years left?
Familial amyloid polyneuropathy is characterized by abnormal protein deposits that can affect the nerves and other functions of the body. It began suddenly for me with sharp stabbing pain in my chest in early 2007, which quickly spread to my spine. Although I had been injured playing sports more than a few times, I had never experienced pain like this. Constant. Severe. Breathtaking.
Without many options for effective treatment, I tried what was offered — pain and anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, hydrotherapy, and mobilization exercises — but nothing had much effect. I decided to get cellular.
I began researching genetics, and whether my mutated TTR gene could be changed — for the better. My research led me to a few geneticists and researchers in the field of epigenetics, which studies the factors that can influence the expression of genes, such as the TTR gene. That’s when I learned about geomedicine — a branch of medicine concerning the influence of climate and other environmental factors on health — and how it was a major player in my personal health.
Epigenetic factors include elements like diet, exercise, stress, and the environment in which you live. Without knowing it, I was living in a climate that aggravated my condition. With my doctor’s guidance, I discovered I could influence the expression of the TTR gene, and consequently decrease my pain, simply by changing my environment and lifestyle. Over the past seven years, I've used this approach to live a life that's almost entirely pain free.
My move to Brisbane marked the beginning of a period in my life when I would learn not just to be healthy, but also to thrive. Unlike Adelaide’s dry climate and extreme seasons, Brisbane’s humid, subtropical climate was much better for my body and mind. Why? While certain factors may be universally detrimental — exposure to pesticides, chemical fumes, and toxic waste — other environmental influencers are unique to each individual.
I’ve learned a good deal about geomedicine, and it's transformed my health. Here are five tips that may help you improve your well-being, too!
1. Pick a temperature that works for you.
Each person reacts differently to changes in temperature, which can affect the production of various hormones, organ function and bodily processes. For me, the extreme temperature variations in Adelaide wreaked havoc on my inflammatory condition. The temperate year-round climate of Brisbane (usually between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit) helps my body maintain its equilibrium.
Start to notice the climates where you feel your best, and make sure your home and workspaces are as much a reflection of that as possible. Whether you thrive in tropical heat or cool mountain breezes, you can adjust indoor temperatures to reflect these needs. If the climate where you currently live is very different from where you truly thrive, you may want to consider a future move to improve your level of health.
2. Understand that humidity affects your body’s processes.
Each person’s body demands a particular amount of light and heat to reach balance and optimal wellness. A hot, dry climate may be ideal for some genetic makeups yet extremely difficult for others. I discovered that a humid climate helps my skin to eliminate toxins and keep my tissues breathing and moving more freely.
If you know you do better in seaside humidity or arid desert climates, you can adjust your indoor space accordingly, using a humidifier or dehumidifier to support your body. You can also plan your next vacation to be in an ideal environment for your health!
3. Find the altitude that will take your health to new heights.
Certain bodies thrive in higher or lower altitudes. I’ve found that my blood pressure, water retention and breathing are all disrupted whenever I’m more than 1,000 feet above sea level. My body simply functions better at sea level.
Notice how your body and mind feel when you spend time at different altitudes, such as hiking in the mountains or walking on the beach, and allow these observations to guide where you spend your free time.
4. Get the negative ions you need to stay positive.
Negative ions are air particles present in forests and near waterfalls and beaches. These particles can increase oxygen levels in the blood, strengthen the immune system, promote cell rejuvenation, and enhance vitality of muscle tissue for some people. Moving from a dense urban environment to a seaside city increased my exposure to the positive benefits of negative ions.
The next time you’re feeling depleted, try taking a walk in nature or near running water, and breathe in those positivity-making negative ions. Or do the exact opposite if that feels right for your body — you may be someone who needs more positive ions.
5. Be aware of the effect of artificial light.
Bodies are predisposed to react in distinct ways to the stimulation of light. Light helps to regulate sleep, sexuality, and other hormonal functions. As a result, fluorescent and other artificial lights may be harmful to your personal health. Making adjustments in my home, workplace and lifestyle in order to be exposed to ample amounts of natural sunlight keeps me feeling healthy.
Blue light, common in many office environments in the form of energy-efficient LED lights, emit more of a "winter" spectrum and may leave you feeling more tired and lethargic, whereas yellow light, such as tungsten bulbs, emit more of a "summer" frequency and may keep you happier and more awake. It’s easy to switch out fluorescent and other artificial light bulbs for full-spectrum bulbs — and it could make a huge difference in your health, alertness and productivity!
Discovering the power of my environment to harm and to heal, I was inspired to found The Ultimate Human Foundation, a nonprofit organization aimed at utilizing epigenetics and personalized health to improve wellness around the world. Alongside a global team of doctors and scientists, I developed a wellness platform that applies epigenetics and geomedicine to deliver personalized health insights. If you are interested in learning more, I encourage you to visit ph360.me.