The Five Pillars of Health

By Dr. Keivan Jinnah

Achieving good health, like building a strong house, requires a solid foundation, and strong supports. In 20 years of naturopathic and Chinese medical practice, I have concluded that there are 5 essential supports to building a healthy "internal" house. I call these supports The Five Pillars of Health. They are all equally as important, as the house really doesn't stand very well if any of them are weak or missing. In my working with patients, I synthesize a Chinese medicine understanding of where the difficulty is with a western natural medicine approach. For that reason, I have linked each of the pillars of health to one of the 5 elements in Chinese medicine.

The First Pillar: Food. What we eat every day is going to determine the health and energy of our cells and how well our metabolic pathways work. We all know that the old adage "You are what you eat" is true. High nutrient, high vibration, organic foods leads to healthy, high energy cells. Like a car, the many metabolic functions of the cell need to be given good fuel to run properly. Giving our cells low quality fuel, in the form of processed, fast or packaged foods, trans and oxidized fats, excessive carbohydrates, hormone and chemical-laden meats and dairy, will lead over time to very low functioning of the cell. The mitochondria, the machinery in our cells that make energy, get junked up and this ultimately presents as fatigue and many other symptoms. I liken the Chinese Element of Wood to this first pillar. The element of Wood is the energy of the liver, of plants and growth.

The Second Pillar: Lifestyle. What we do every day will largely determine our body's ability to heal itself. Every night when we sleep our metabolism changes and our cells go into rebuild mode. They do this to repair the damage that has occurred, and clean out the garbage that has accumulated during the day. Adequate and good quality sleep are often compromised in our modern fast-paced, "too much to do" world. Other issues such as screens, cell phones and the constant bombardment of EMFs affect our body's ability to produce melatonin, a necessary hormone for proper sleep. The result is that our bodies rarely get sufficient sleep to repair damaged cells and to take out the metabolic garbage from the day's work. Another vital aspect to a healthy lifestyle is body movement during the day. Some form of physical movement is essential to stimulate and enhance circulation to our cells and our brain. I liken this pillar to the element of Metal. Metal represents the energy of the lungs, the nervous system and energy circulation in the body.

The Third Pillar: Relationships to others. The people close to us have tremendous effects on our health. Those effects can be positive or negative, and are often both. It is useful to examine how the relationships we have with people that we interact with every day either charge us and give us energy or deflate us and rob our energy. Ultimately, our health is dependent on the equilibrium and energy we maintain in our system. This pillar corresponds to the element Fire. Fire is the element of the heart, of our mind and blood circulation in the body.

The Fourth Pillar: Relationship to ourselves. Just as with our relationships to others, our relationship to our self can support us, or sabotage us, and our health. The words we are saying to ourselves all day, every day, have an enormous effect, not just on the vibrancy of our cells, but also on the ability for us to take the steps we know we should take to be healthier. There are deep and very personal reasons why we tell ourselves the stories that we do. The important part is that they are stories and we need to embrace ourselves and forgive ourselves to free ourselves up for healing. The element of Water is connected with this pillar. Water represents the kidney and the deepest energy in the body. In Chinese medicine, the kidney connects us to our ancestral energy.

The Fifth Pillar, The Central Pillar: Relationship to spirit. Relationship to spirit is about having a relationship with something bigger than ourselves. This comes in many forms, it can be a religion, but it certainly doesn't need to be. It can be the particular philosophy that someone lives by, or the awe of a scientist at the intricate complexity of the natural world. The aspect of health that this nourishes is the sense and acknowledgement that we are connected to everything around us. This sense of connection allows us to realize that we are part of a larger mosaic that we should not ignore. Our health cannot be separated and isolated from the health of our communities, the health of the natural environment, and the health of the world around us. This pillar corresponds to the Earth element. The Earth element represents the spleen, receptivity, our mother, that which holds us, and our center within.

About Dr. Keivan Jinnah

Dr. Jinnah is offering a new optimal health program at Natural Choices Health Clinic called The 5 Pillars of Health. In this program Dr. Jinnah will meet with you once a month over five months. The meeting will be in the context of an office visit and each month's visit will focus on one of the five pillars. Dr. Jinnah will explore with you how that pillar might be affecting your health and offer support with natural therapies and possible Chinese Qigong movements.


If you would like to receive quarterly health news and updates from the doctors at NCHC, please sign-up for our E-Newsletter here.

Return to the Current eNewsletter Section >