Watching a woman smoking a cigarette and walking down the street in Montreal, I am struck by the number of idiotic habitual behaviors to which humans wed themselves. You wouldn’t see a dog walking around smoking.
I really enjoy watching the You Tube contributions of Dr. Sarah King, PT, DPT, who is a Parkinson’s physical therapist (and owner of Invigorate Physical Therapy and Wellness). She wrote a letter called Things I Wish I Could Have Told You the Day You Were Diagnosed with Parkinson’s – the letter is here; the video here. I recommend it for everyone – it could have been written for anyone recently diagnosed with “aging.”
To believe we are not broken, that a future is still ours to create, and that we can get where we want to go with small changes applied with urgency is important for everyone.
The four areas of health on which I have been focusing – sleep, nutrition, movement and stress control – are the fundamentals, the bedrock, of my health. I focus on no, or very low, cost interventions that anyone can implement. I was going to list my top recommendations to optimize each of these when I realized they are all elements of one main thing – health! They aren’t separate and alone. Each of them feeds the success of the others, and its impossible to say that what you eat does not impact your sleep, or vice versa.
Having said that, here’s what is working for me right now:
Eating a ketogenic diet and fasting intermittently each day (limiting eating to the hours between 11 am or noon and 6 pm)
Moving for a minimum of one hour each day, including some HIIT and some balancing.
Keeping a gratitude journal daily.
Thinking happy thoughts 😉
And … getting 8 hours of sleep every night, enhanced by:
1. A very dark room. No lights but moonlight.
2. Cooling the room, the bed, and my body.
3. Getting away from blue light well before bed time and reducing EMFs as much as possible. Basically, the mobile device must be put in another room, in airplane mode, in the earlier evening.
4. Generating my own melatonin by walking outside in the mornings.
5. Reducing nasal stuffiness by reducing histamine-rich foods, particularly red wine, dark chocolate, and aged cheeses. (I know, could I have listed three foods I love more?)
6. Getting enough vitamin D (with K2) and enough magnesium.
7. Drinking sleepy time tea before bed.
8. Getting to bed by 10 pm so I have at least three hours of sleep before the witching hour of 1 am.
A visual depiction of your health might be this: a clean, neat chain of DNA pulled taut, a chain that is tugged on and pulled at by all kinds of outside factors during your long life. The chain gets dirty, and stretched thin in places, and that is aging. If however, the chain breaks, you have yourself a disease that can be acute (like a cancer) or chronic (autoimmune, or neurodegenerative) disease. A disease that our allopathic doctors continue to treat with the same tools that may have enabled the disease in the first place.
What broke my chain of health? Was it an intervention like the thyroid my doctors recommended be removed via radioactive isotope? Or a long-term treatment, like the statins I took for years? Was it something more systemic like all the food I have eaten that’s been raised with glyphosate, or meat raised on factory farms with antibiotics and growth hormones? Was it the inflammation caused by too much manufactured “food” and not enough of the fresh nutritious stuff, or by the sugar that was a true addiction for me for most of my life? I have drunk a lot of good wine, used a lot of commercial skin and beauty products, flown a lot of miles exposed to high altitude radiation. I have let stress run my life. I have gone whole years without serious exercise. Any of these stressors could have been the tug that broke my health chain.
My goal in this thing we call retirement is two-fold: first, to learn everything I can about whole health and apply these lessons to myself so that I don’t break my chain of health in another spot, and second, to sound the alarm to those who can hear the bell.
I found this video today and recommend it to anyone considering a ketogenic diet as part of their strategy to fight Parkinson’s. It describes a limited study, done with a group of five patients who moved to a ketogenic diet for a period of time. The results were very interesting.
One commenter asks whether the diet is “worth it” given the significance of food in his life, describing food as his/her last pleasure in life. I have heard people make comments like this before and I would say that if food is your last pleasure, then your food is eating you. If you aren’t sure what the difference is between you eating your food or your food eating you, I’d recommend a 30 day immersion into the ketogenic diet so you can feel the meaning.
There are so many pleasures in life; food is just a distraction (a huge cultural one, but a distraction nonetheless).
I know, I know, I went on a five day fast!
At 80% done, day four, with 96 hours complete, I decided to end the fast. Not due to hunger, but because my energy was so low and the overall achy-ness was extremely uncomfortable. My notes from that last day :
- PD medicines are taking a long time to kick in or not working at all. The few times I did feel them fully kick in, they did not last as long as when I am not fasting.
- I am extremely low energy and winded doing normal activities
- My body feels achy – back, joints, legs. In particular, my hamstrings and gluten are very sore.
- I don’t feel any hunger, but I am suddenly fascinated by photos or ideas of food
- The cold I have had since Sat (before the fast started) is better but not gone. I’d say this cold has run a normal course, given my history.
- The first two nights of the fast I slept better than the second two nights.
- I never really felt the cognitive clarity or energy that people talk about
I ended the fast mid-day on a Thursday, and continued to feel weak until Saturday morning when I felt incredible.
In retrospect, I am happy with the fasting results, and would do a short fast again. One thing I would do differently at each end of the fast:
- Starting when I have a cold and unable to sleep is not optimal. I’d start after a couple of days of solid kenogenic eating.
- Due to out of town guests, we ate out on Saturday morning and evening, and again on Sunday mid-day. Ending with restaurant meals in the first 48 hours is also not great. I’d want to end next time with a few days of solid kenogenic foods.
This week, I will be going on a short 5-day water fast. Here’s why:
We evolved as a species in an environment where food was not available all of the time, refrigerated and waiting for us to graze upon. It is said while we were evolving as hunter-gathers, we spent about 95% of our time searching for food. (The other 5% was spent reproducing.) Basically, we are not built to be shoveling food into our bodies from the time we wake up until the time we go to sleep, and our disease rate increases reflect this.
Because of the enormously long time (100,000 generations) we spent as hunter-gathers, we have within us physiological and behavioral responses that are activated when we must go without food. As modern humans we can tap into these evolutionary responses by fasting occasionally and giving our bodies a reminder of an earlier time that only our cells remember. This lecture by Mark Mattson is about his team’s research into the link between modern health and these evolutionary responses.
They have shown that intermittent energy restriction (IER) along with vigorous exercise, can increase numbers and strength of synapses and can enhance brain function and mood. IER is fasting – for a block of days, for a period of 24 hours several times each week, or by limiting our intake times to fewer hours daily. The two activities – IER and exercise – increase the neuron activation state and energy demand, which results in:
- Production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) – I want more of this because it encourages the growth, regeneration and creation of new neurons and synapses
- Mitochondrial replication – I want more of these because they produce energy and keep me young
- Enhanced autophagy – I want this because it is the removal of oxidatively damaged proteins. (Just as an aside, the 2016 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to Yoshinori Ohsumi for work in this field, and his Nobel lecture is available online.)
- Reduced inflammation – I want this reduced because inflammation is wearing on my mitochondria and another “yank on the genetic chain”
- Peripheral changes in energy metabolism that occur during fasting (and exercise) may also contribute to a healthy brain.
Fasting has been called the single most profound metabolic intervention for modern health.
I am about to find out!
This is a list of the researchers, medical doctors, and other health professionals who I have been following, and learning from, in 2017. You can search for them on YouTube and find any number of interviews that will clarify their areas of expertise and hypotheses. I consider each of the people on this list to be examples of the next stage of medicine – they look at human health as a system, and have gone far above and beyond the tools and facts presented to them in their original, traditional medical training. If you wish to own your health – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual – I’d encourage you to check out any of these experts.
Mark P. Mattson, Ph.D is Chief of the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging Intramural Research Program National Institute on Aging. He is also Professor of Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpcVku45hFY
Dale Bredesen, M.D. directs Alzheimer’s Disease Research at UCLA, founded the Buck Institute on Aging, and is the author of The End of Alzheimer’s. https://www.drbredesen.com
David Perlmutter, M.D. is a Board-Certified Neurologist and four-time New York Times bestselling author. His most recent book is Grain Brain, The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs and Sugar. https://www.drperlmutter.com
Valter Longo, M.D. is an Italian-American biogerontologist and cell biologist known for his studies on the role of starvation and nutrient response genes on cellular protection aging and diseases. He is a professor at the USC Davis School of Gerontology and director of the USC Longevity Institute. https://bluezones.com/2016/04/fasting-for-longevity/
Steven R. Gundry, M.D. is an American cardiac surgeon and held the Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery title while he was a Professor at the Loma Linda University School of Medicine. His most recent book is The Plant Paradox. http://drgundry.com
Zach Bush, M.D. is a triple board-certified physician (Endocrinology and Metabolism, Internal Medicine, and Hospice and Palliative Care) who is first an educator. He seeks to provide a grassroots foundation from which we can launch change in our legislative decisions, ultimately up-shifting consumer behavior to bring about radical change in the mega industries of big farming, big pharma, and western medicine at large. http://www.zachbushmd.com
Joseph Mercola, D.O. runs a web-site that is full of energy and information about functional health. http://www.mercola.com
Thomas N. Seyfried, Ph.D. is a professor at Boston College. He runs a research program focused on mechanisms by which metabolic therapy manages chronic diseases such as epilepsy, neurodegenerative lipid storage diseases, and cancer. The metabolic therapies include caloric restriction, fasting, and ketogenic diets. His most recent book is Cancer as a Metabolic Disease.
Alessio Fasano, M.D. is an Italian medical doctor, pediatric gastroenterologist and researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital. He has made major contributions to the understanding of autoimmune diseases, in particular celiac disease, and is a super-entertaining speaker and educator.
Sachin Patel, D.C. is the founder of the Living Proof Institute and was my introduction to the field of functional medicine. He describes himself as a guardian of truth and a warrior of light, and he has lived up to those words in multiple ways for me. He is the single best public speaker I have ever seen on the topic of true health. https://thelivingproofinstitute.com
Darren Schmidt, D.C. has focused 100% on clinical nutrition since 1998. He owns the Nutritional Healing Center of Ann Arbor and is also a professional speaker on health. His purpose in life is bankrupt drug companies by helping lots of people become healthy.
Sleep is one of the four main pillars of good health, and something I continue to focus on. I used to be a sound sleeper, but in the past five years have found myself awake for significant hours of the night, or waking in the morning with no sense of being rested. I’m focusing on building some new sleep habits in September to continue to optimize my health.
Recent research from the University of Rochester shows that when you sleep, your brain removes toxic proteins (by-products of neural activity when you’re awake) from its neurons. Your brain can only adequately remove these toxic proteins when you have sufficient quality sleep. When you don’t get high-quality deep sleep, the toxic proteins remain in your brain cells, wreaking havoc.
Besides the obvious attention I give this area of my health – a good mattress, keeping the room cool and dark enough, going to bed early, and limiting exposure to my iPhone for the last hour of the day – I found an article on Inc. yesterday that had some tips that were either new to me, or framed differently. I summarized it below, but urge you to read the article at the link if you believe your sleep could be improved.
Titled This Is What Your Overactive Brain Needs To Get A Good Night’s Sleep and written by Dr Tara Swart, it suggests:
“While falling asleep might seem like a passive process, there’s a whole cocktail of neurotransmitters involved in it, including histamine, dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, glutamate, and acetylcholine. But that means there are many physiological “levers” you can pull on your way to a better night’s sleep. Get your evening routine right, and you’ll be able to enjoy the spoils that come with it–better concentration, memory, and moods, enhanced creativity, and reduced inflammation and stress.”
Dr Swart’s recommendations include:
Lose the routine glass of red wine before bed. Why?
Because your liver uses more resources to try to break down the toxin, your brain is starved for the energy it needs to recuperate effectively for the next day.
Eliminate as much artificial light as possible after the sun sets. Why?
Because darkness triggers the pineal gland to release melatonin, and it may be confused by all artificial light. Try switching to either paper books, or an activity that doesn’t rely on light once the sun goes down. I think campfire light is sleep enhancing!
Skip the snack before bed. Why?
Many foods stimulate the brain, at a time we want to be calming it.
Smell some lavender, or jasmine. Why?
Lavender is a powerful neuromodulator, which means that it lowers your blood pressure, heart rate, and skin temperature, making you more relaxed and likelier to fall asleep.
Drink nut milk with turmeric before bed. Why?
Make your own relaxing bedtime drink using almond milk (full of magnesium that reduces the stress hormone cortisol) plus turmeric (anti-inflammatory) plus a little Manuka honey (boosts immunity).
Soak in the tub with Epsom salts. Why?
It is a great way to relax – both the warm water, and the cool down afterward – signal your body that it should get ready to sleep. Plus you can add magnesium salts to the bathwater, and that helps decrease cortisol levels.