By Dr Tonya Cruikshank
In this Conversation Series Dr Tonya Cruikshank discusses how we can create genuine human health. She weaves 30 years’ experience in Western Medicine as a Specialist GP with the deep awareness of the need for a holistic approach.
Tonya’s philosophy centres around the merit of living well by connecting mind and body. In her years as a GP she saw more and more how health was not just impacted by our physical body and genes. When, as a busy mother of three juggling a professional career, her own health was comprised, she realised how common this was in our society.
We often don’t think about health problems until we or someone around us is in pain, but we can have more influence than we realise. By making lifestyle changes that support the natural healing and repair systems in the body we can reduce the likelihood of developing cancer and other illnesses. In New Zealand, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 3,000 people are diagnosed each year with bowel cancer (of those only 1,200 will survive).
Medical science has conquered a lot, but prevention is key. How can I keep myself as healthy as possible while still living a rich life?
We have rounded up Tonya’s top recommendations that are proven to reduce cancer risks:
1. Nutrition. We want to be feeding our microbiome which fuels our overall gut health. To do this we need a diet rich in vegetable fibre, grains in whole form (she notes that the gluten argument has gone a bit sideways), legumes (anything that’s a bean or a pulse), nuts and seeds. Fuelling your body with nutrient-dense foods, that are unprocessed, will optimise your overall health.
2. Sleep. Getting at least eight hours sleep a day reduces the rates of most illnesses, including cancer. We can maximise the quality of our sleep through good nutrition and reducing stress.
3. Emotional Wellbeing. The autonomic nervous system is the cornerstone to this as it regulates certain body processes, such as blood pressure and the rate of breathing. In “peace time” (when our system is relaxed) we metabolise well and drop into fat burning as our immune systems are firing. But when we’re busy, tired and stressed our long term defense systems are offline so we are much more likely to become unwell . Fight or flight has kept us alive for generations but the more we are in fight or flight the more our gut can’t function. Stress can look like many things and keeping it at bay is an important aspect of health.
4. Mindfulness. Meditation & mindfulness are great for the nervous system and this is where we see the power in Dr Tonya’s work. Defining the practice of noticing what is happening in your internal world and creating time for pause (even a few minutes a day can have an impact). Your body needs to have relaxed moments and it is really helpful to grow a sense awareness that your body is communicating with you- symptoms don’t always need pills all the time- they may need you to change something. This is fundamental to holistic medicine.
Dr Tonya spoke of her experience with low mood and fatigue and cites this as a gift (and ongoing learning) as she needed to learn new strategies and techniques for herself. She now uses these to also help others reconnect health and body. What is your story? Uncover the traumas both big and small. Almost all of us have had experiences in our lives that were challenging. We may have logged our own beliefs as a result and these uncomfortable feelings can be triggered by everyday human stresses. Learning to know yourself, be aware of what is happening for you and care for yourself is a major step to improving and supporting your health
To find out more about Tonya’s journeys to whole health visit: