What’s a healthy lifestyle?
Every time I write a “what’s new” type of article, I hope the reader is up to speed with a basic healthy lifestyle and has healthy habits for eating, exercise, and sleep. These are the real basics. Everyone wants to live a life absent from disease and frailty, a new term coined as a “healthspan” rather than a mere lifespan. Let me share with you the Functional Medicine developments that have taken hold as dogma over the last year, making the following issues the basis of how you will remain healthy and active until you’re 100!
Here are the healthy habits we’ll cover:
- Healthy eating plans
- Intermittent Fasting
- Exercise guidelines
- Sleep updates
- NAD enhancement
- CBD and Medical Marijuana
- Lighting and EMF’s
- Emerging therapies
What should I eat?
Many of you are on the “keto kick” or want to eat keto, but it’s not a good idea to eat this way “all the time,” without a break. Why? Because long term, uninterrupted keto eating is thought to lead to a less diverse, and therefore less healthy microbiome. Eating “keto” works for weight loss and diabetic control quite nicely. When you are eating a keto diet, it’s best to stop for the weekend every couple of weeks. Long-term, when you are “keto-adapted” you can go in and out of being ketotic at will. Now, this said, I’m not saying everyone should eat this way.
The healthiest diet is still a basic anti-inflammatory diet that excludes sugar and focuses on whole, organic foods. The latest twist in anti-inflammatory eating is the avoidance of lectins–especially gluten, most grains, beans, and all but high-fat dairy, preferably A2 dairy.
For those with leaky gut or any autoimmune disease, an autoimmune protocol diet is recommended. This AIP diet is also great for weight loss, for those who can’t tolerate “going keto.”
The fashionable plant-based eating plan is actually how I used to eat (fully vegan) and what I try to maintain about two-thirds of the week with plant-based, AIP meals. However, with zero fish or eggs for me, I can’t get enough protein since grains and beans are off of my list. If you haven’t tried it, nutritional yeast (I like Bragg’s) is a cheesy tasting topping that adds protein to veggie dishes, almond meal pasta, and more. Several well done epidemiological studies show that vegans do indeed have lower rates of heart disease and cancer.
Finally, a word about the popular “Paleo eating plan.” I like that this diet excludes nasty lectins; gluten, grains, beans, and dairy. What I do not like is the whopping amount of animal protein this diet not only allows but recommends. First, too much animal protein “jacks up” your omega-6 fatty acid load to make your omega 6:3 ratio way too high; into the “inflammatory zone.” Next, research shows we eat too much protein as it is. Protein helps build muscles, but it also stimulates the mTOR pathway too continuously, which might increase your risk of certain cancers. Lastly, with methane being a source of “greenhouse gas,” the amount of grain necessary to create beef (as well as chicken) is shocking. In my humble opinion, it is dangerous for the planet to be consuming the amount of meat that Americans tend to consume; Paleo diet or no Paleo diet.
Modified Pescatarian Diet
My “vote” goes towards a Modified Pescatarian diet, which is anti-inflammatory and low in lectins. This diet is an anti-inflammatory diet that includes fish and a little bit of high-fat dairy; while recommending avoidance of grains (other than sorghum), beans, and most dairy products.
I’ve heard about fasting, but it’s too hard!
Unless you have been sleeping underneath a giant pizza pie, you have heard about fasting, and no, it is not a “fad.” Numerous studies show that it is anti-inflammatory to the point where some forward-thinking trauma centers are “fasting” acute trauma victims. Studies show it assists with weight loss and maintenance, metabolic syndromes, cardiac disease, brain health, and mitochondrial health. The different intermittent fasting schedules include time-restricted feeding (TRF), true intermittent fasting (IF), different caloric intakes for fasting, and fasting mimicry (which is relatively new). For the sake of brevity, you can review the types of fasting here; but I’ll focus on what works and what’s absolutely “doable.”
Time-restricted eating is doable, meaning you can fit it into your daily lifestyle and not have to count calories or “go hungry.” However, let me interject here that most Americans are not used to “feeling hungry” for long; and I would suggest that you tune in to how you feel when your GI tract isn’t having to work hard all day. You might find that you have more energy and mental clarity.
What’s the perfect “eating schedule?” According to studies, a 16/8 schedule of timed eating is superior, but a 14/10 (so doable!) schedule is pretty darned good as well. You can have black coffee in the morning and then decide when your eight or 10-hour window of food consumption should be. Ideally (primarily for optimal glymphatic “cleaning” in the brain while you sleep), you should be food and beverage free four hours before you go to sleep. My personal eating window is noon-eight o’clock PM.
How little exercise can I do to be healthy and active?
Each type of exercise (cardio, HIIT, stretching, forms of yoga, and strength training) has a place in your fitness routine. However, for cardiovascular benefits, weight maintenance benefits, brain, bone, muscle mass, and other benefits, here is what current research shows.
You can take your dog for a brisk walk five days a week for 30 minutes and do two or three (six minutes minimum high intensity) HIIT routines and cardio-wise, you’re “good to go.” Stretching routines can be as little as five minutes twice weekly; depending on your flexibility. Strength training can be seriously streamlined down to twice weekly; with a good one-set-per-body-part routine like this.
Do I really need 8 hours of sleep?
Other than the rare few people who have demonstrable genetics, along with others in their family showing that indeed they can “get by” on four or five hours of sleep per night, less than eight hours is woefully inadequate for proper bodily repair during the night. Studies have shown that a majority of Americans are not getting enough good quality sleep.
What’s new is the usefulness of new products such as liposomal GABA to stop brain-race, and help both sleep initiation and re-sleeping problems. The use of melatonin seems to be controversial in the “mainstream” medical literature. However, in the Functional literature, it is well established, with new liposomal preparations also being useful for re-sleeping issues; especially in patients with posterior pituitary problems that cause low MSH such as all patients with toxic exposures including chronic Lyme and mold.
What’s new in microbiome health?
The human microbiome is made up of 10–100 trillion symbiotic microbial cells with unique genes, principally from bacteria (and some yeast) in the gut. Our “bad” or unhealthy gut bacteria, of which we have up to ten times more than human cells, thrive on the things that create inflammation in our body, including sugar, refined carbs, unhealthy fats, and processed foods (to name the biggest offenders.)
These 100 trillion “bugs” send out chemical messages to the brain to influence not just our gut health but our overall health and mood as well. To have a healthy body and brain, you need a healthy gut. Breaches in the gut-brain barrier (from “leaky gut”) are responsible for all sorts of brain-related issues. I’m going to assume you are aware of the importance of gut protection, prebiotic fiber, and so on. Here’s a review of that information.
What’s rather new data regarding microbiome health is the proof that a more diverse microbiome tends to lead to better health. The latest data regarding microbiome diversity is in the arenas of prebiotics (the fertilizer) and probiotics (the seeds).
Prebiotic fiber is comprised of non-digestible carbohydrate compounds found in fibrous foods that assist in the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. Foods, spices, and supplements high in polyphenols appear to promote gut diversity. Hazelnuts, berries, dark chocolate, and cloves, along with red onions and artichokes, are good sources of polyphenols. The ECGC in green tea supplements, as well as grape seed extract, are good polyphenol-rich supplements. Evidence is emerging in favor of using fructooligosaccharides as prebiotic supplement powder or in foods. Once again, we see onions as well as chicory, garlic, asparagus, unripe banana, artichoke as great “gut foods.” They are all thought to assist gut health by producing healthy-gut-bug-food such as butyrate. Speaking of butyrate production, cook with either ghee or MCT oil to “max this out.”
Regarding probiotics, we like to give a nice multi-strain mixture of the bifidobacterium and lactobacillus probiotics to our patients. However, long-term, especially for those with inflammatory bowel disease or even irritable bowel disease (or possibly “everyone”), sporulating probiotics may turn out to be a better choice. The two types of sporulating probiotics being most closely studied are two in the bacillus species; bacillus subtilis and bacillus coagulans.
How do I help my mitochondria without making it a full-time job?
Mitochondria produce energy as adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which your body then uses as fuel. Some cells have more mitochondria than others. Your brain and heart cells are jam-packed with mitochondria, as are your muscles. You want your mitochondria working at full strength to keep your energy levels up, your brain sharp, and your heart and muscles at peak performance. The creation of new mitochondria is crucial for optimal and vibrant aging. As we age, we need to actively stimulate mitochondrial biogenesis with activities and supplements. Even “crazy-sounding” things such as IV ozone! This data is not so much “new” as it is “reinforced” and given a prominent place in determining future total-body and brain health in our “older years.”
This article should help make your life livable while you become healthier, so here are behaviors everyone should have as a part of their “good health program.” Cold is your friend. If it’s winter where you live, go outside until you shiver once or twice a day. If you live in the tropics (as I do), when you take your hot shower, turn the water to cold at the end and stand under it for about one minute to produce a shiver. And if you really want to “get into it,” get a $99 ice vest online; it feels great to wear it for 20 minutes after a workout. Next, recall the section above on exercise and just be aware that it’s the HIIT that stimulates your mitochondria. Lastly, choose good supplements for your regimen so that your mitochondria are getting a daily workout from all angles. Here’s my fave!
What’s all the buzz about NAD?
Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) is one of the most important chemicals in our bodies. It is necessary for over 500 enzymatic reactions, and it plays a vital role in the regulation of almost every single major biological process. Healthspan-promoting activities, including caloric restriction, fasting, and exercise, increase NAD+ levels in our body. Research findings suggest that increased NAD+ levels help counteract the effects of a poor diet, promote mitochondrial health, improve several well-known markers of cardiovascular health, and slow the aging process in the body and the brain.
NAD+ (which can be given IV and sub-Q) and its related molecules, nicotinamide riboside, and nicotinamide mononucleotide have been put into popular nomenclature thanks to Dr. David Sinclair (Harvard researcher with a best selling book which touts his research findings). He discloses that he has a financial interest in some supplement companies, but that certainly doesn’t discount his discoveries.
A growing body of research from Dr. Sinclair’s lab plus multiple other labs suggests that exogenous sources of NAD+ precursors, so-called NAD+ “boosters” – nicotinamide riboside and nicotinamide mononucleotide – increase cellular levels of NAD+. The implications for health and age “reversal” are just astounding.
The least expensive way to supplement is via a product (search on Amazon or their website); Niagen, which is nicotinamide riboside, with optimal dosing being one gram per day. For those of you who have read that NMR (the other form) is more biologically available, it is, but it’s quite a bit more expensive. I use doctors-only NAD+ products for my patients, which are administered intra-nasally and via sub-q injection- these are the “strongest” and will activate stem cells.
What’s new in brain health?
There has been more evidence linking poor sleep to dementia. Those of you not getting good, restful sleep should do something about it! In addition, the role of the glymphatic system of “nocturnal brain cleaning” has been elucidated even more over the last year. To emphasize again, leaving a good “window” between food or beverages and the onset of sleep is crucial for optimal glymphatic system function. And so is “good sleep.” In the “brain supplement” department, we have learned that the optimal dose of daily oral resveratrol supplementation to boost BDNF is one gram per day.
Do I need CBD? Is marijuana use healthy?
We have known for years that the endocannabinoid system has receptors all over the brain, nervous system, and immune system. It very well may be that everyone would benefit from some whole hemp-CBD1 and 2 receptor supplementation as we all age. The data appears to support its usefulness in boosting immune function and brain health, including treatment of TBI. Right now, we know that CBD1-whole hemp supplementation is useful for pain and sleep. We know that certain types of CBD are useful for some seizures, and other types are useful for anxiety. Here is a summary.
Medical marijuana and, in fact, marijuana, in general, has become quite a political topic. While I favor decriminalization, I do not favor “blanket legalization,” and here is why. The “pot” that existed in the marketplace 30-40 years ago had multiples less THC than the recreational or medical marijuana contains now in 2020. The amount dispensed from all sources; used by consumers; most definitely does what mom told you pot did—it kills brain cells.
Yes, it’s useful for some clinical applications such as chemotherapy nausea. But, otherwise, it’s the CBD in medical marijuana supplying a therapeutic effect, with rare exceptions. I have looked at the ratios of THC and CBD in medical marijuana preparations and studied the recreational market as well. At this time, there is no “brain safe” marijuana out there that I see, or that I have read about in the literature. If formulations of marijuana can be cultivated to contain less THC and more CBD, they may possibly be less harmful to our brains. I would also point out that the route of delivery should not be in the form of smoking, either.
Do I need blue blocker glasses? Are EMF’s dangerous?
The state of the research is in serious flux, no pun intended. If you want to look cool, go ahead, get those orange glasses, and wear them. Who knows when it will be proven that you have saved your eyes and your brain. Right now, my recommendation for you would be to dim your home’s lighting at sunset to lower your cortisol levels and re-enforce your brain’s circadian rhythm-something required for optimal health.
There is evidence that too much “blue light” (emitted from regular light bulbs and devices) after dark will possibly impact the quality of sleep and other bodily functions, including night vision. Therefore, in addition to dimming the lights, turn on a “blue blocker” app on your electronic devices. Also, consider getting a “red light” next to your bed, if you sit up and read before turning in, as I do.
Some studies have linked excessive cellphone usage to a type of brain cancer, but nothing is conclusive. To err on the side of caution, use headphones or your speakerphone. The data on EMF exposure is similarly inconclusive, but again, it might be prudent to turn off your router at night.
What’s new for our lifespan?
Cancer cures are just on the horizon, but as always, it’s best to take preventive measures and do all that you can to avoid “getting cancer.” Something most of us are adding to the basic regimen of anti-oxidants, gut augmentatives, anti-inflammatories and so on are liposomal vitamin C-to “nuke” cancer cell growth at inception, and ECGC green tea (proven to inhibit cancer cell angiogenesis which can cause metastatic disease in the bloodstream; even with early cancers).
Peptides are now being used more commonly in Functional Medicine practices, mainly for gut diseases, and for quelling inflammation from surgery or trauma. The two most non-HGH raising commonly used peptides are BPC-157 and alpha-thymosin-1; two fairly “natural” substances with a very low side effect profile. We may indeed have a “limitless” pill as Dihexa continues to help neurogenesis by increasing BDNF for patients with cognitive deficits.
The research is ongoing and fascinating regarding our future ability to cure disease by repairing genetic material. We are using stem cells (mesenchymal, umbilical, and placental) for all sorts of regenerative purposes. Perhaps the most therapeutic cellular therapy will turn out to be what the stem cells secrete-packets of “young factors” called exosomes. Clinical trials are ongoing for neurodegenerative disease, autoimmune disease, and more with IV exosomes. Joint health is being addressed with injectable exosomes. Exosome therapy may even play a role in skin rejuvenation. There is a lot of preliminary data that looks quite promising regarding the use of IV exosomes to treat illness, and perhaps even, dare I say, reverse cellular aging. I’ll leave you with that thought. Remember, 90 is indeed the new 60.
The low levels of nerve growth factor and its upstream regulatory kinases in prion infection is reversed by resveratrol.
An Autoimmune Protocol Diet Improves Patient-Reported Quality of Life in Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
Intermittent fasting interventions for treatment of overweight and obesity in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
Dietary Restriction and AMPK Increase Lifespan via Mitochondrial Network and Peroxisome Remodeling.
Metabolic Effects of Intermittent Fasting.