The Salutogenic Paradigm – The Key to Understanding Health

The collection of beliefs we hold to concerning a particular topic is referred to as a paradigm or worldview. There are many paradigms in the world concerning a wide variety of topics. Virtually no topic varies as widely in beliefs as does health and well-being. There are two primary paradigms concerning health that agree in some respects but tend to be concerned with very different focal points.  

The first paradigm is known as allopathic medicine. Merriam-Webster ( defines allopathy as,  “a system of medical practice that aims to combat disease by use of remedies (as drugs or surgery) producing effects different from or incompatible with those produced by the disease being treated”. The allopathic view typically looks at disease as something that happens to the body from outside the body. While this viewpoint can clarify why certain conditions arise and how they can be treated, it does very little to explain how people can help their own bodies adapt to the physical, chemical, and mental stress of everyday life.  

The paradigm that is concerned with health and how health is built is known as salutogenesis. Merriam-Webster ( defines salutogenesis as, “an approach to human health that examines the factors contributing to the promotion and maintenance of physical and mental well-being rather than disease with particular emphasis on the coping mechanisms of individuals which help preserve health despite stressful conditions”. It’s a term that was created by the sociologist Aaron Antonovsky, and it is very useful in helping us understand where health comes from and how to view our lifestyle habits.  

Comprehending the salutogenic paradigm assists us in taking control of our health by helping orient our thought process to those behaviors which when done consistently over a period will produce health and build our resistance to stress. Salutogenesis views disease as the inability of the body to adapt and overcome. By focusing on what makes us live and what builds health we will be able to maximize our resiliency and ultimately reduce our risk factors for developing unwanted conditions in the future.  

An editorial article ( does an excellent job in explaining how the basic framework of salutogenesis is viewing health on a continuum with perfect health and absolute ill-health on opposing ends. What we choose to do in our daily routines and behaviors will tip the scale to one end or the other. By understanding that every action we take either leads us into greater health or greater ill-health we gain the ability to make decisions based upon long term goals rather than short term enjoyments. This is a crucial distinction that will help individuals living in first world countries plagued with sedentary lifestyles and poor nutrition. Now that we have examined salutogenesis we can explore what are some of the behaviors that build health.  

Health can be broken down into three basic domains. Namely, physical, chemical, and mental. These domains do interpenetrate, so these distinctions are somewhat arbitrary; however, by making distinctions we can be more descriptive. Within the physical domain we have exercise, sleep, and ergonomics. Ergonomics is the study of reducing wear and tear on the body in occupational settings. The chemical domain contains diet, hydration, and supplements. Within the mental domain there is mental and emotional health, social well-being, and spirituality. By building routines into our daily lives that incorporate aspects of these various salutogenic categories we can guarantee that we are building our health and moving towards the desired side of the continuum outlined by Antonovsky.


Start your day with a brisk walk for a minimum of 20 minutes to enhance cardiovascular health. Make sure you incorporate your upper limbs with a strong cross-swinging pattern.  


Most adults require 7-8 hours of quality sleep to function optimally. If you wake up feeling refreshed, then it is likely you are getting enough sleep. If your sleep quality isn’t great, then consider reducing your consumption of stimulants like caffeine and limit your blue light screen time to 3 hours before bed.  


If you work at a desk, ask your employer if they would be willing to set you up with a sit-stand desk. Standing reduces the pressure on your low back by a considerable amount. Also, have your computer screen positioned so that you do not have to tilt your head to see all aspects of the monitor.  


Consider focusing on building gut health with pre-biotic and pro-biotic rich foods like green peas, sauerkraut, and sourdough.  


Many people overhydrate. Your urine should not be clear. The ideal color for urine is a pale yellow. Adjust your intake of water accordingly. Adding small amounts of apple cider vinegar to your water can help replenish electrolytes.  


Many Americans are deficient in Zinc, Magnesium, Iodine, and B12. Consider supplementing to make up the difference. Magnesium is best absorbed through the skin topically in lotion form using magnesium chloride. Iodine can be applied topically as well with what’s known as “iodine painting”.  

Mental and emotional health:  

Before you go to bed take out a piece of paper and something to write with and detail three things that you’re thankful for. Intentionally focusing on what you are thankful for can help change your thought process away from despair and sadness.  

Social well-being:  

It’s important to have a support structure. Call a friend you haven’t seen in a while and get some food or coffee. It’s time to connect after the rigors of the recent COVID pandemic.  


Prayer has been shown to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the primary system for rest, digest, and heal physiology.  

About the author:  

Dr. Joshua Burnham is passionate about helping people restore their health naturally. He is an Owatonna chiropractor that specializes in the Gonstead Technique. You can contact him by reaching out to him through his office’s website (