Body & lifestyle connection

Body & lifestyle connection

‘On vacation we sometimes eat foods that we don’t digest well in our daily life, and still feel fine;’ we looked to connect the dots between our body and our lifestyle with Haya Shahin, functional medicine practitioner based in Dubai.

Haya’s journey started as a teenager, with erratic periods coming every nine months. She was put on the pill but did not really understand the origin of this syndrome that affects teenage girls recurrently in the Middle East. Originally Palestinian, she grew up in Dubai and went to university in the UK. A few years ago, after undergoing severe stress she was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome which even led her to the ER. She received symptomatic relief but no clear direction about her diet, or habits that led to this. Her miscarriage, a few weeks later, got her emotionally drained. She decided to change her lifestyle completely. She started by eating healthier, exercising and then committed to get her certification, first in nutrition and then in functional medicine. Now a mom of four, she looks at the entire lifestyle of those who consult her, over a period of time to dig into their eating, exercising, relational and sleep habits. She will observe how their mood, energy and body ease evolve over holidays, work or when at home, to smoothly implement changes. ‘The cheapest and easiest habits can be the healthiest,’ she says, as she recalls a trip to her friend’s village in Lebanon, they went to the butcher at dawn and had the freshest ‘sawda nayeh,’ lamb liver. ‘It’s about eating real food.’

The focus on nutrition and gut health, she explains, is because 80% of immunity is in our gut. It is not just about what you eat, but also how you digest, how you process food on a daily basis, if you eat in a state of rest or anxiety. Our nerves connect our gut to our brain and our moods can be determined by the state of our gut, and vice versa. We are regularly exposed to stress and toxins, whether air pollution or chemicals in our daily products. Sometimes we can avoid them but most times it is about shifting from a fear mentality, and giving your body what it needs to handle and react appropriately. Being around air purifying plants or eating real foods, as close as possible as you find them in nature, eating local, getting to know your farmer, where your fruits are picked, sitting in the sun, are some simple habits we can start with. Choosing your labels carefully, reducing packaged processed food, and, when buying them, looking for labels that have at most five ingredients and only words you can recognize. She also recommends replacing seed oils; sunflower, palm or canola with butter, ghee, olive oil or coconut oil, as the former are highly inflammatory. Haya continually explores the relation between our diets, lifestyle and our moods & ailments; a lack of vitamin D can for example leave you angry, foggy and tired, while magnesium, she tells us, helps three hundred functions in the body and stress can deplete this master mineral. It is about giving our body what it needs to help it cope with the environment.


Photo credits: Jasmin Chew


* This article is for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should consult your physician or other health care professional for specific medical advice.