In 2018, the wellness world transformed. People started having more open and sincere conversations about mental health, intermittent fasting went mainstream, and CBD took over the world (well, sort of). At the same time, people embraced green beauty, breathwork gained traction, we learned what it means to maintain a healthy microbiome, and some of us started to realize that social media might be impacting our wellbeing.
In these respects, 2018 was a good year, and we’re predicting that wellness will only continue to become more approachable and earth-friendly this year. Another big theme that seems to be on the horizon in 2019 is the integration of old and new. This year’s revitalize event presented by Mind Body Green forecasted that 2019 will be the year when more and more ancient practices that have withstood the test of time reenter mainstream consciousness. The 5,000-year-old healing system of Ayurveda, for example, has gone from a fringe detox regimen for hardcore yogis to the wellness program of Hollywood’s elite—and people are taking notice.
2019 is set to be another pivotal moment in our collective wellness journey. Here are 4 wellness trends to be on the lookout for this year.
Brain health becomes mainstream
In the past year, we’ve seen a rapid increase in new information on brain health. From Ph.D. Lisa Mosconi’s book “Brain Food” and the viral article, “The Cognition Crisis,” by M.D., Ph.D. Adam Gazzaley to Joe Rogen’s popular Alpha Brain supplements, we’ve learned that brain fog and subdued mental alertness aren’t just in your head. That is, what you eat and the activities you perform affect your memory and focus, and your brain might just be the organ that suffers most from poor dietary habits.
One of the biggest threats to our long-term brain health is Alzheimer’s disease. The reality is: If we live to be 85, almost half of us will have Alzheimer’s, making it the fastest growing epidemic in America. “By the year 2050,” write the directors of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Program at Loma Linda University Medical Center, “the cost of this disease alone will overwhelm not only our health care systems but our entire way of living as we know it.”
So what can be done to prevent brain-related illnesses? According to Mark Hyman, M.D., research shows that insulin resistance is a major contributor to the brain-damage cascade, causing oxidative damage, cognitive decline, and other types of neurodegeneration. As for remedies, we know that when it comes to brain health, nutrition is everything. “It’s a simple and irrefutable premise,” explains Mosconi, “the brain receives nourishment strictly through the foods we eat every single day.”
But what does a healthy brain actually look like? There’s still no agreement, but generally speaking, we should be seeking compounds that help to shield our eyes and skin against oxidative stress and aging. For Max Lugavere, health science journalist and author of the book “Genius Foods,” this begins by eating all the colorful foods you can get your hands on: “Everything from plant pigments like lycopene, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin to marine carotenoids like astaxanthin to the anthocyanins in blueberries and red onions.” Beyond this—plus getting to know your own dietary constitution—making a point to learn new things and exercising often can also have a big impact on brain health.
The endocannabinoid system will be as talked-about as the microbiome
2018 may have been the year CBD became mainstream, but in 2019 we’ll be hearing a lot more about the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is the major bodily network that the compounds in hemp—including CBD—interact with.
“Improving sleep, digestion, pain, stress—these are all already big businesses, Cannabis has the potential to be a completely novel approach to addressing these key functions,” Chi-Chien Hou, managing director of AFI Capital Partners, a growth equity fund, says of the market’s potential if the science continues to support its efficacy. According to Hemp Business Journal, the U.S. hemp industry will grow to a $1.9 billion dollar market by 2022.
At this point, hemp has shown incredible anti-pain, anti-seizure, and anti-inflammatory properties, but the science of the endocannabinoid system explains why hemp actually works in these ways. It also might help to show why many of us suffer from the afflictions of anxiety, inflammation, and pain in the first place. In fact, much like the microbiome, the endocannabinoid system has been shown to play a significant role in anything from anxiety and pain to mood, fertility, and even our weight.
According to Martin A. Lee, the director of Project CBD and the author of “Smoke Signals,” “the endocannabinoid system is involved in regulating most physiological processes that have been studied: immune function, pain perception, glucose metabolism, blood pressure, bone density, intestinal fortitude, sleep, mood, memory, neuroplasticity, and much more. It’s the reason cannabis is such a versatile medicine that can help so many conditions.”
If these hypotheses are correct, assessing the health of this bodily system, which experts refer to as the “endocannabinoid tone,” could be a way to measure a person’s stress response. Of course, this could have massive payoffs, since 31% percent of U.S. adults experience anxiety disorders at some point in their lives, and also because stress can be a leading factor in many other common health issues such as heart disease, asthma, GI complications, and headaches. Some scientists believe the ECS might be the “master regulatory system” in the body, but more research needs to be done to learn about the different ways we can optimize it.
Ayurveda gains major traction
“Ayurveda is going through a renaissance right now because people are becoming increasingly aware of the mind-body connection,” writes Sahara Rose, the author of the newly released Ayurvedic cookbook “Eat Feel Fresh.” As practitioners move away from fad diets and trends, seeking instead science-backed forms of alternative healing that are rooted in ancient traditions, Ayurveda’s popularity has only continued to grow. “Ayurveda is the true science of life because it measures well being in terms of qualities of experience,” says wellness warrior Deepak Chopra, M.D. “People are observing that a diet, meditation, exercise routine or self-care practice that one friend swears by may totally not work for them, and that even foods and practices that worked for you last season may not work for you today,” he explains. “We are becoming more in tune that we are ever-changing entities, and this is the premise of Ayurveda.”
Hollywood has been largely responsible for bringing Ayurveda to the mainstream, with a number of celebs trying—and sharing on social media—the Ayurvedic cleanse called panchakarma. The panchakarma, which includes a specific diet, herbal regimen, oil rituals, and enemas, has gone from a peripheral detox program to the choice of Hollywood’s elite. Surya Spa, for example, located in the hills of Pacific Palisades, is a posh Ayurvedic outpost where many A-listers can be spotted. The spa treats people for the weeklong traditional panchakarma cleanses as well as attenuated one-day versions where practitioners can get their doshic tune-up (doshas are, in Ayurveda, the governing principles of the body).
Ayurveda has also become popular outside of Hollywood. This past year, a number of books were published on the topic, including Rose’s “Eat Feel Fresh” and Jasmine Hemsley’s “East by West,” which have helped consumers to formulate their own Ayurvedic program from home. These contributions are likely to grow in 2019, making Ayurveda more accessible and affordable.
Sleep health takes center stage
2019 will be the year that we all learn just how important our body’s biological clock is, which has everything to do with two important hormones: cortisol and melatonin. Simply put, the hormone cortisol is supposed to peak in the morning, helping wake us up and make us feel alert and ready to take on the day. Later on, melatonin starts to rise to encourage us to wind down at the end of the day. But when these hormones are out of whack, they can leave us feeling tired all day and totally amped when we are trying to get to sleep at night.
That’s because some of our body’s functions—including burning calories—run according to an internal schedule that has little to do with our lifestyle, a new study finds.
No matter whether we stay up all night or maintain a typical sleeping schedule, our bodies have an autopilot function that says to burn the most calories in the late afternoon and early evening, and the least in the early morning. The study finds that people burn about 10 percent more calories from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. regardless of the activity they’re performing—whether they’re getting off work or just waking up to start the night shift. But the most significant discovery may concern the hours when we’re burning the least calories.
“You need fewer calories to keep going from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m.,” writes Jeanne Duffy, Ph.D., one of the study’s authors and a neuroscientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School. “But if you’re up and eating then because of a night shift or erratic schedule, then those calories aren’t being used and are instead being stored.”
Another way to put it is that people with those schedules are at higher risk of weight gain and obesity.
“The lessons we can take from it are that people like shift workers who are up all night or not eating during the days or people who are on schedules that vary a lot—and that means eating at different times, especially early in the morning or late at night, that may contribute to weight gain,” Duffy explained to a Healthline contributor.
Calories aside, one of the most important things you can do to honor your circadian rhythm is maintain a consistent sleep-wake cycle. According to Michael Breus, Ph.D., a board-certified sleep specialist, “if there’s one thing you want to do to improve your sleep quality, it is keep a consistent sleep-wake schedule—even on the weekends. Why? Each morning when you wake up at the same time, you get sunlight through your eyes, which helps your circadian rhythm. This reset impacts every organ system and every disease state. In addition, your brain then knows when to fall asleep and when to wake up, and this allows your sleep cycle to become more efficient, and increase deep sleep.”
In 2019, we’ll learn even more about how to live the kind of life that supports a balanced sleep cycle, which could very well enhance our energy levels, productivity, and mood.