The 5 Pillars Of Health – D.R.E.S.S For Health Success

The 5 Pillars Of Health – D.R.E.S.S For Health Success

Oct 06, 2020Berna el Khoury

As a functional health practitioner, my job is to look for hidden stressors in various areas of the body, which is done through functional lab tests as well as the impressions which I form about the client when taking comprehensive and detailed data about their history and complaints.

The labs look into imbalances in four different areas of the body, which are at the root of most modern-day chronic illnesses – These are the hormonal, immune, digestive, and detoxification systems. The next step is to prepare a protocol based on behavioral changes in several areas, which represent the 5 pillars of health; diet, rest (sleep), exercise, stress reduction and natural supplements. Each one of these pillars is equally important and we cannot maintain health without addressing each one. You can think of it like you’re assembling a table with five legs, you will not have a strong foundation or a very well-functioning table unless you use all the parts.

Diet - This is probably the most important of the 4 pillars, at least it’s the base where I usually start with my clients. It is essential that we consume the right foods in the right ratio for our current body needs. This is determined through my correlation of the lab results as well as some general guidelines that support the body through healing. The most known culprits being; processed/junk foods, high fructose corn syrup, additives/stabilizers (artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors, MSG), genetically modified foods (GMO’s), trans fats and highly refined vegetable oils (which are very inflammatory due to their highly imbalanced omega 6: omega 3 ratio), gluten, dairy (can be tolerated by some people, depending on the source and quality). Other foods which may need to be avoided on a temporary basis as the body heals due to certain health conditions are; dairy (as previously mentioned), eggs (specifically egg whites), legumes/beans, gluten-free grains and nightshades. You want to emphasize on consuming nutrient- rich whole foods; organic meat, poultry and seafood, vegetables, fruits and healthy fats (avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, seeds etc.)

Rest - Establishing a good sleep routine of 7-8 hours is essential for the body to detoxify and rebuild itself, so think of sleep as an active state rather than an inactive one because your body is doing a lot of work when you are getting your good zzz’s. The optimal sleep schedule would be from 10 pm to 6 am, keeping in mind that 2 hours of sleep before midnight equals 4 hours of sleep after for proper repair. Sleep deprivation can have long and short-term consequences ranging from hormonal imbalances to diabetes, increased risk for cardiovascular disease, rapid skin aging, a lowered sex drive and depression. Some tips for improving sleep quality are; eating dinner around 3 hours before bed, avoiding blue-light exposure before bed or using blue-light blocking glasses/screen mode, dedicating 30 minutes before bed for relaxing (such as soothing in a warm bath, meditating, reading a book, and/or listening to calming music), avoiding caffeine after 2 pm, improving your sleep environment by using a Himalayan salt lamp, making sure the room is dark and quiet, avoiding liquids to prevent waking up to urinate, and including some supplements like magnesium, can also help - I wouldn’t recommend buying a supplement you think you need, instead, I recommend working with a certified health coach (like me) to help bring your body into balance.

Exercise - There’s a quote that says, “not exercising is just as bad as smoking”. However, exercising is beneficial only as long as we’re engaging in the right type of exercise, with the right intensity for our current state of health. We often make the mistake in thinking that the harder we push ourselves physically (and sometimes mentally too) the greater the benefits. However, that’s not always the case, in fact, more often than not, we burn ourselves out and jump into extremes with strenuous trainings that only wreak havoc on our hormones and overall health. Instead, we should work on finding the right balance - The goldilocks zone between too much and too little. For someone suffering from chronic fatigue, their body is already burned out and they're usually feeling depleted. Therefore, it would be counter-productive to advise them to take part in strenuous types of exercises like high intensity interval training for example. Our objective is to eliminate contributors to stress, not add to them. They might even have a history of overtraining that lead to their current fatigued state. Therefore, such a person would benefit more from incorporating some low impact training into their lifestyle, rather than engaging in rigorous exercises. This means things like a slow class of Yin yoga, Thai Chi, Pilates, regular walks (preferable in nature), etc. It would be even better if they could find something they enjoy doing as well. A good way to tell if the activity or training you choose is adequate for you, is to monitor your hunger, energy, and cravings afterwards. When you train correctly, you should be able to recover relatively quickly from whatever type of exercise you do. In time, as you work on healing your body, you will be able to pick up the pace. I would suggest working with a trusted personal trainer to come up with the best-fitted exercise regimen for you, at the moment, and adjust for it over time – customization is key. We should mention that regular daily movement is essential to a greater degree than hard-core training. As humans evolved, they never lead a lifestyle similar to the desk-job-laptop-bound one we lead today, they always prioritized movement. This is an important aspect that we need to try to apply to our modern-day lifestyles – making the effort to park a little further and walk more, cleaning the house, doing the dishes, going for a walk with friends instead of meeting for coffee, taking walks while listening to your favorite podcasts, standing up and stretching your legs every hour or so (if you use a daily tracking app some have notifications that remind you to not stay put for extended periods of time). I recommend using a tracking device and aiming for 10,000 – 15,000 steps a day.

Stress Reduction - Stress can be internal, external, mental/emotional, physical or physiological. Besides working on minimizing the stress of internal imbalances in the body (in the hormonal, immune, digestion and detoxification systems), which is my main area of expertise, we must also address other areas of stress as well. The aim is to eliminate as much as possible the stressors that are within our control and minimize the negative effects of those beyond our scope. That way we create a new environment that supports healing. Habits that help minimize stress include; keeping a gratitude journal, spending time in nature, practicing morning yoga (a few rounds of sun salutations), praying , meditating, doing breathing exercises, watching the sunset, trying new activities, going on adventures (road-trips, camping or small getaways) and seeking therapy when needed. When it comes to physical stress, a licensed chiropractor can help the body heal from physical trauma. An important thing to highlight here is creating healthy habits in our own homes (the external environment in which we spend most of our time – at least the 8 hours we’re sleeping); by reducing the use of harmful materials (like plastics and teflon cookware), radiation (EMFs), endocrine disrupting ingredients & heavy metals hidden in products we use on a daily basis (like skincare, makeup, cleaning products etc.). We must educate ourselves on the harmful ingredients found in those products and opt for clean non-toxic products from organic sources for house cleaning and personal use (beauty, skin & hair care), invest in a high-quality air purifier to eliminate harmful toxins, find ways to enhance detoxification & elimination (by staying hydrated, consuming an antioxidant rich diet, sweating/exercising regularly, taking epsom salt baths and using saunas). The EWG (environmental working group - have detailed resources on harmful toxic ingredients, endocrine disruptors, safe and hazardous personal care and cleaning products and the most heavily sprayed crops. Other helpful practices we can experiment with include: infrared saunas, cryotherapy, acupuncture, massages, and coffee enemas. The last piece of advice would be to try not to take life too seriously, have fun and laugh often - being around people that spread positive energy and make us laugh, watching comedy shows/funny sitcoms and playing with dogs. Research shows that comedy lessens stress, therefore lowering blood pressure and strengthening immunity!

Supplementation - As their name suggests, they supplement to, and will work hand-in-hand with the other 4 pillars. I usually recommend supplements that fill 3 functions "the 3 S's":

  1. Substitution: for missing vitamins and minerals that are no longer available naturally in our food supply, since our modern lifestyles have depleted our soils and as a result, the quality of our food has diminished greatly - even organic foods lack important nutrients. Therefore, there are some things that we may need to substitute for on the long-run.
  2. Stimulation: Therapeutic use of vitamins, minerals and botanical herbs for a specific time period - they can either suppress or stimulate certain functions and metabolic processes in the body. For example, we may need to boost liver function so things like vitamin B-12 and Milk Thistle can help provide this stimulation.
  3. Support: This is one of the biggest areas and it can be something we need to support temporarily or long-term, for maintenance. For example, we may suggest some adaptogens and digestive enzymes to support the adrenals and digestion while we work on resolving the underlying causes, until the body returns to normal function. However, for someone who's had their gallbladder removed, they may need to supplement with ox bile for life in order to be able to digest fat.

In conclusion, a sustainable healthy lifestyle consists of a comprehensive approach that covers all these areas and by applying changes (new habits and wellness principles) in each one we can rebuild health, reverse or reduce greatly our symptoms and live our life to the fullest. One cannot exercise his or her way out of a processed foods based diet, just like one cannot supplement their way out of an unhealthy diet or a poor exercise routine. I definitely recommend working with a certified health coach to help you find what’s best for you, guide and support your journey to health through. This way you save yourself from the vicious cycle of trial and error and the consequences that come along with it (wasting time, energy and money on things that may or may not help). Furthermore, by doing the proper testing we eliminate the “guessing game” and get hard data/clues that will guide our course of action. Finally, by digging deeper into the root causes, we get long lasting results instead of chasing symptom after symptom and applying temporary band-aid solutions, and so this is a much more efficient way!


Berna el khoury is a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® practitioner who specializes with those who have food sensitivities, digestive issues, mold biotoxin illnesses, histamine intolerances, autoimmune illnesses, hormonal imbalances, parasites, candida and leaky gut. Since every individual has a unique biochemistry, I do not subscribe to a one-size-fits-all diet or wellness protocol. Instead, I use special functional nutrition lab tests to investigate and identify hidden malfunctions and imbalances that are at the root cause of your chronic health symptoms. Then, I develop a natural, personalized dietary and lifestyle protocol to help you heal and get rid of your chronic symptoms.

My Functional Nutritional Program:

  • Helps you identify the “root causes” of your chronic symptoms instead of managing symptoms individually with medications.
  • Improves digestion and bowel regularity and eliminate IBS symptoms - heals your leaky gut and reduce or eliminate food reactions.
  • Reverses chronic autoimmune symptoms such as chronic pain, fatigue, brain fog, anxiety, and depression.

I help people like you who want to:

  • Be able to eat more than the same ten foods day in, day out.
  • Understand your tolerance thresholds with foods that trigger a hyper-response in your bodies.
  • Feel in control of your symptoms rather than feeling like your symptoms have control over you.
  • Uncover what really triggered your intolerances (because it always goes deeper than food).

Improve digestion and bowel regularity and eliminate IBS symptoms - heal your leaky gut and reduce or eliminate food reactions.

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