Lifestyle Medicine: a holistic approach to chronic disease prevention and management.
Lifestyle medicine is a rapidly growing field focusing on evidence-based, person-centred care to help individuals make healthier choices and adopt better habits. This holistic approach acknowledges that a person’s physical, emotional, environmental, and social factors all contribute to their overall well-being.
The need for lifestyle medicine
The prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, respiratory and musculoskeletal conditions, and mental health issues has reached alarming levels worldwide. These chronic conditions are largely influenced by complex lifestyle factors and require a different approach to prevention and management.
A new hope for healthcare
Traditional medical approaches often fall short in addressing the root causes of NCDs, providing only symptomatic relief rather than long-term solutions. Lifestyle medicine fills this gap by empowering healthcare professionals and patients with tools and techniques to prevent, reverse, and better manage lifestyle-related diseases.
Lifestyle medicine interventions include:
- Mental well-being: fostering emotional and psychological health through mindfulness, stress reduction, and coping mechanisms.
- Social connection: encouraging strong social support networks, healthy relationships, and community involvement.
- Healthy eating: promoting a nutrient-dense, balanced diet that emphasises whole foods, plant-based options, and proper portion control.
- Physical activity: supporting regular exercise, mobility, and functional fitness for overall health and disease prevention.
- Sleep: prioritising quality and quantity of sleep to enhance physical and mental restoration.
- Minimisation of harmful substances and behaviours: addressing the reduction or elimination of tobacco, excessive alcohol consumption, and other risky behaviours.
These are known as the 6 pillars of lifestyle medicine.
While lifestyle medicine is not a cure-all for every health challenge, it offers a comprehensive approach to tackle lifestyle-related conditions. It should be integrated into healthcare systems to ensure optimal health outcomes for individuals and societies.
This is a useful Lifestyle Medicine and Food as Medicine Essentials Course Bundle, and it is free – 5.5 CME/CE hours from Am. College | Lifestyle Medicine on Vimeo.
Baking as Lifestyle Medicine (BALM) is evidence-based.
Baking as Lifestyle Medicine (BALM) fits perfectly within the BALM Protocol, which focuses on improving gut health, mental well-being, and overall health by adopting specific dietary and lifestyle changes. Here’s how the 6 pillars of the BALM Protocol support the concept of baking as lifestyle medicine:
- Increase fibre: baking using high-fibre ingredients, such as whole grains, seeds, and nuts, can significantly improve gut microbiome health. This, in turn, can support overall health and wellness. Incorporating fibre-rich ingredients in your baked goods is a practical and delicious way to increase daily fibre intake.
- Increase diversity: the BALM approach emphasises using a wide variety of plant-based ingredients in your baking to promote a diverse gut microbiome. By incorporating different grains, seeds, fruits, and other plant-based ingredients, you can create nutrient-dense baked goods that contribute to overall gut health and well-being.
- Ferment: sourdough baking, which involves a natural fermentation process, increases the bioavailability of key nutrients and reduces the gluten load. This process can improve nutrient absorption and enhance the health benefits of baked goods.
- Increase levels of antioxidants: using diverse blends of grains and incorporating antioxidant-rich ingredients such as green tea, cocoa nibs, and herbs in your baking can significantly increase the antioxidant content of your baked goods. Antioxidants are essential for combating inflammation and promoting overall health.
- Increase probiotics alongside your bakes: incorporating probiotics in your diet, along with your fibre-rich and diverse baked goods, can improve gut health and support mental well-being. Consuming fermented foods like live syrups, vinegars, sourdough fizz, sauerkraut, and cultured butter, can promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and positively impact mood and stress resilience.
- Reduce refined sugar: reducing refined sugar intake can help decrease inflammation and improve overall health. By choosing healthier sweeteners and limiting the use of refined sugar in your baking, you can create delicious baked goods that contribute to overall well-being and adhere to the principles of the BALM Protocol.
Baking as Lifestyle Medicine aligns with the BALM Protocol by focusing on increasing fibre and diversity, fermenting ingredients, enhancing antioxidant levels, incorporating probiotics, and reducing refined sugar. When applied to baking, these principles can transform how we nourish our bodies and minds, ultimately promoting overall health and well-being.
- Increase fibre and diversity:
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/fiber/
- American Heart Association: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/whole-grains-refined-grains-and-dietary-fiber
- Ferment and probiotics:
- Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/8-health-benefits-of-probiotics
- Cleveland Clinic: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/the-benefits-of-fermented-foods-and-5-diy-recipes/
- Increase antioxidants:
- Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/multimedia/antioxidants/sls-20076428
- Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods-high-in-antioxidants
- Reduce refined sugar:
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/added-sugar-in-the-diet/
- American Heart Association: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/added-sugars
- Lifestyle Medicine:
- American College of Lifestyle Medicine: https://www.lifestylemedicine.org/
- British Society of Lifestyle Medicine: https://bslm.org.uk/
These resources provide some evidence-based articles that explore the various aspects of the BALM Protocol, supporting the idea of baking as a means to improve overall health and well-being.
Find out more about Baking as Lifestyle Medicine courses:
View our BALM courses