Unpacking the Concept of Regenerative Health

Apr 25, 2024

Perhaps you’ve heard of regenerative health?  It may seem a rather complicated term, but the concept is now quite popular within the longevity, biohacking, and functional medicine communities.  Simply put, regenerative health is another holistic approach to well-being that focuses on restoring and enhancing the body's natural ability to heal and thrive.  What makes it slightly different from functional or integrative approaches is the emphasis it gives to the interconnectedness of the various ‘systems’ influencing our health, i.e., our physical routines, the emotional and mental stressors (or stimulants) to which we are exposed, our nutrition and dietary routines and, very importantly, the larger environmental context in which we exist.

There are many who would say that this perspective or paradigm is exactly what we need now.  As you may know, we are now in the midst of what is called the ‘sixth great extinction,’ an epochal period in our planet’s evolution.  And, importantly, this extinction is caused primarily by us.  We, humans, are dramatically altering our planet’s balance, with many quite disastrous consequences for wildlife.  In their discussion of our impact on wildlife, the WWF writes:

Currently, the species extinction rate is estimated between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than natural extinction rates—the rate of species extinctions that would occur if we humans were not around. While extinctions are a normal and expected part of the evolutionary process, the current rates of species population decline and species extinction are high enough to threaten important ecological functions that support human life on Earth, such as a stable climate, predictable regional precipitation patterns, and productive farmland and fisheries.

Indeed, our behaviour, our industry, our systems are creating dramatic consequence for human health.  We’re not simply poisoning other species and our planet, we’re poisoning ourselves.  As you may have seen on Azoki’s instagram and linked in pages, we have been posting a lot about endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) over the past few weeks.  There’s quite strong evidence now that the chemicals we expose ourself to everyday in our water, our food, our cosmetics and self-care products are having a profound effect on our well-being.  In an important paper published in the prestigious journal, The Lancet - Diabetes & Endocrinology, a team of international American, European and Japanese physicians describe the research looking at EDC’s impact on human health.  They write: 

Evidence is particularly strong for relations between perfluoroalkyl substances and child and adult obesity, impaired glucose tolerance, gestational diabetes, reduced birthweight, reduced semen quality, polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, and breast cancer. Evidence also exists for relations between bisphenols and adult diabetes, reduced semen quality, and polycystic ovarian syndrome; phthalates and prematurity, reduced anogenital distance in boys, childhood obesity, and impaired glucose tolerance;

That’s alot. 

And, it’s why regenerative health makes so much sense.  Regenerative health advocates are asking us to stop ignoring the environmental threats that are impacting us and to begin addressing them.  It’s asking us to empower ourselves, to stand up for our health and well-being, and to begin actively adopting the lifestyle changes - and encouraging the policy changes - that will reduce at least some of the threats to our health.

In this sense, regenerative health is much like functional medicine in presenting a rather dramatic alternative to our conventional healthcare paradigm. Conventional health has attempted to define most illnesses as the outcome of one definable cause, e.g., a bacteria or virus, and perhaps for most acute illness, that makes sense.  But our chronic illnesses are entirely different in origin.  Recognising that, the regenerative health models works to locate individual illness, or wellness, within larger ecological systems, specifically highlighting the vital link between human health and the health of our planet.  It encourages a broad perspective on wellness that integrates nutrition, physical activity, and mental resilience, while simultaneously recognising how deeply those are influenced by our natural surroundings, e.g., by our soil, water, and air. 

Below, I try to quickly unpack this regenerative health concept, looking at the intersection of our health with diet and food sources, with physical activity, and with our mental and emotional states, three factors that have significant impact on our well-being.  In the discussion of diet, I also touch on the regenerative agriculture movement and its efforts to promote sustainable farming practices that can restore and revitalise our soil, biodiversity, and larger eco systems.  As I hope you will see, there is virtually no way to separate human health from the health of our  beautiful blue planet. 


[Regenerative health] encourages a broad perspective on wellness that integrates nutrition, physical activity, and mental resilience, while simultaneously recognising how deeply those are influenced by our natural surroundings, e.g., by our soil, water, and air.


Our Diets and Food.   As with functional and integrative medicine, the regenerative health framework defines whole-foods nutrition as a cornerstone of well-being - not just for us humans but for our beautiful blue planet as well. Necessarily, regenerative health places equal emphasis on the health of our food sources and the ecosystems that support them.  We can all probably understand that the quality and nutritional characteristics of our plant food is profoundly impacted by the soil in which it is grown.  Richer soil produces stronger, more vitamin and mineral-rich plants.  And, of course, high quality plants help grow healthier cows and goats.  The quality of food at higher levels of the food chain depends on the quality of foods at lower levels.  Everything is connected.

So, yes, we humans need nutrient-dense, whole foods to promote optimal health. And, importantly, by prioritising locally sourced, seasonal fruits and vegetables and sustainably raised animal products, individuals can not only nourish their bodies but also support regenerative agricultural practices. Happily enough, these practices involve methods that enhance soil health, promote biodiversity, and minimise environmental impact, setting up a virtuous cycle that we hope will make the Earth a healthier planet.

But interestingly, regenerative health also encourages mindful eating practices, emphasising the importance of listening to our body's hunger and satiety cues, as well as cultivating a deeper connection to the food we consume. That, and a real appreciation for the farmers and labourers who grow and harvest our food, is all part of the regenerative health framework.

It’s a very good thing.

Physical Activity & Movement.  Physical activity is another integral aspect of regenerative health, encompassing a wide range of activities that promote strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular health. However, regenerative health goes beyond traditional exercise routines to emphasise movement as a fundamental component of our daily lives.  Its about nurturing sustainable routines that bring movement into our everyday, such as walking or cycling for transportation, gardening, or practicing yoga. By reconnecting with our bodies and the natural world through movement, we not only improve our physical well-being but also cultivate a deeper sense of mindfulness and connection.  But again, it’s not just about the movement, it’s about active engagement with our environment. Whether it's exploring nature trails, participating in community gardening projects, or engaging in outdoor recreational activities, prioritising movement fosters a symbiotic relationship between human health and the health of our planet.

Mental & Emotional States.  In the realm of regenerative health, mental well-being is inseparable from physical health. Regenerative health advocates emphasise the importance of cultivating emotional resilience, stress management techniques, and supportive social networks to support overall well-being.   Mindfulness practices, such as meditation, breathwork, and nature immersion, are also integral components of regenerative health that promote mental clarity, emotional balance, and a deeper connection to oneself and the world around us. By prioritising self-care and nurturing positive relationships, we can all cultivate inner peace and ensure a certain resilience in the face of life's challenges.

And, again, regenerative health acknowledges the profound impact of environmental factors on our mental and emotional health.  For example, it emphasizes the therapeutic benefits of spending time in nature. By advocating for environmental stewardship and sustainable living practices, regenerative health promotes a holistic approach to mental health that should nurture both individual and planetary well-being.

Our Planet.  As I suggested at the beginning of the blog, the regenerative health movement is adamant about the interconnectedness of human health and the health of our planet. Stressing our intimate connection with nature, regenerative health advocates emphasise the importance of preserving and restoring ecological balance for the well-being of all living beings. If we can support practices that regenerate rather than deplete natural resources, such as regenerative agriculture, renewable energy, and waste reduction initiatives, all of us can play a vital role in mitigating environmental degradation and promoting planetary health.

. . .  So, I hope I have done this subject justice.  Indeed, regenerative health is big.  But the more I think about it, the most sensible it seems.  Aren’t we ‘natural?’  If we are, isn’t regenerative health simply preserving us and our welfare sustainably? 

I’d love to know what you think.


Yours in health & happiness,