Dr Ron Ehrlich is a holistic dentist based in Sydney, passionate about understanding stress in our modern world, and encouraging people to be an active participant in their own health journey.
In addition to being busy in his own private practice, Dr Ron has recently written a book called ‘A Life Less Stressed’. He also hosts a weekly podcast ‘Unstress with Dr Ron Ehrlich’ where he interviews world experts, forward thinkers and thought leaders to empower listeners to live a life less stressed.
Blackmores Institute caught up with Dr Ron to hear more about his definition of stress, and the five pillars of health and wellness.
For those that haven’t read your book, or listened to your podcast – you’re a holistic dentist. Can you tell us what a holistic dentist is?
As a holistic dentist, I recognise that I am dealing with a whole person. That may sound obvious but given how our healthcare system is organised into increasingly more specialised areas it is easy for the ‘whole person’ to be forgotten. That whole person has a digestive system, has a respiratory system, has a nervous system, has a whole lot of other systems. I need to respect those and understand how their oral health impacts on their general health, and how their general health impacts on their oral health, and what other factors may be affecting their health. I need to be mindful of the whole person and my potential effect on them.
As a holistic dentist – how did you come to write a book on stress?
There were three main themes that have interested and inspired me personally and professionally over the last 35 years and this was an opportunity to reflect on that, share it and also a way of drawing a line in the sand from which to continue my own journey. Writing a book is a very cathartic, empowering and for me, enjoyable experience.
The three themes are understanding what ‘holistic’ means, defining and understanding ‘stress’ in our modern world, and encouraging people to be the most active participant in their own health journey through life.
Most people are familiar with emotional stress - but in your book you talk about 5 different types of stress – can you elaborate on these?
From the moment we are born our body constantly tries to maintain balance - it’s called ‘homeostasis’. Anything that challenges that process has the potential to upset that balance.
We all acknowledge that stress plays a role, but what do we actually mean by ‘stress’? Defining that is important, because these stresses have the potential to throw us off, and upset that balance. In order to deal with a problem, you first need to know what that problem is.
I look at stress as a combination of five factors, all of which have the potential to compromise our health and those are:
- Emotional stress
- Nutritional stress
- Environmental stress
- Dental stress
- Postural stress
Over the last 35 years I have used this model and found it a great way to not necessarily have all the right answers, but if does help me to ask all the right questions.
Can you tell us more about dental stress?
You may not think of dental stress, but I’ve written that and I’m including it for anybody who is listening that has a mouth, and that is interested in their health, and has never fully connected the two.
Many people associate oral health with the absence of pain. Nothing could be further from the truth. We estimate that at least 95% of oral health conditions aren’t associated with pain. It’s an epidemic, a silent epidemic which is affecting our digestive systems, our respiratory systems, its affecting our ability to eat, to breathe, to sleep well, and the mouth is where two of the most common infections occur.
There is also the issue of toxicity and biocompatibility of materials implanted in your body, chronic inflammation - the common denominator with all chronic disease, which is connected to degenerative diseases, heart disease, cancer, auto immune diseases, chronic headaches, neck aches and jaw pain.
And yes, it’s all potentially happening right under your nose. Your mouth and oral health has something to do with all of those things. If you are not taking oral health/dental stress seriously you should because your body already does.
In your book and on your podcast you talk about the 5 pillars of health and wellness – can you describe these for us?
- Sleep – without a doubt the most important part of the day. It’s the body’s’ non-negotiable, built in life-support system. Use it or lose it. It’s a question of quantity and quality. Prioritising a consistently good night’s sleep is the first step. And good sleep hygiene – preparing for and ensuring you’re getting a good night’s sleep is also important. Over 90% of the population need 7-9 hours sleep a night. The second issue is the quality of your sleep.
- Breathing – we can go without food for weeks, we can go without water for days, but after a few minutes without air you are dead. But there is a difference between just breathing to stay alive and breathing well to be well. Breathing balances out body chemistry which affects every system in our body. Breathing affects how well you sleep and also even affects your posture.
- Nutrition – you are what you eat, and considering we share our bodies with ten times more microbes than human cells and they are critical to our mental and physical health, the question you should be asking is, are you feeding your friends or your foes.
- Movement – we need to move regularly and build it into our day. Throwing in regular exercise is an added bonus. We need to focus on functional movement, flexibility, strength and core stability.
- Thought – thoughts are things that influence how our genes express themselves for better or for worse. Having positive emotions; feeling engaged and finding meaning in what you do; and valuing and nurturing the relationships you surround yourself with have all been shown to be the greatest predictor of health wellness and longevity. Expressing gratitude has also been shown to be a powerful tool, empowering for you and the people you express gratitude to… its also free.
Is there one pillar that you think is more important than the others? One you would start working with?
Sleep without a doubt is it. Every health measure, physically mentally and emotionally is affected either positively, with a consistently good night’s sleep or negatively. Every treatment is improved. With a consistently good night’s sleep you will have the physical and mental energy to make the best decisions about how you nourish your body, how often you move, how well you breathe and the thoughts that you have. Its foundational and to me, non-negotiable. It’s my/our life support system.
What’s the first piece of advice you would give someone wanting to regain control of their health?
Read my book! I’m being a bit facetious there, but what I’m saying in the book is that you have to accept that you are the most important person in your health journey. That you have the greatest control over your own health. You can either be a victim, or you can take control. You may not always have control over everything, but you have control over a lot.
You also need to have a tolerance of ambiguity. We love certainty in our lives but that’s just not the way the world works. There are grey areas and we need to have a tolerance of ambiguity.
They’re the 2 things. In order for things to change you can’t keep doing the same thing. You need knowledge, knowledge brings power. But you have to accept responsibility too.
I’ve spent 40 years talking to patients 1-on-1 and part of the book has been an opportunity to extend that conversation. I just think it’s a really important time to get a message of personal empowerment out there. I have a lot of fun doing it. I know there’s a lot I don’t know, but there’s a lot I do know and I’m happy to share it. It’s about getting the message out there, and empowering people to be as well as they can be.
If you’d like to read more about Dr Ron, subscribe to his podcast, or purchase his book please click here: https://drronehrlich.com/