You Are What Y’all Did With What You Eat

I recently listened to a great webinar on one of my favorite health experts, Dr. Robert Lustig, a neuro-endocrinologist and New York Times best-selling author (Fat Chance, The Hacking of the American Mind, and Metabolical). He has been active in promoting health policy to reverse the obesity and diabetes pandemic that is engulfing our society.  

In this blog, I’ll share some highlights from this 70-minute webinar (hosted by the Commonwealth Club of California) and the two key tenets from his new book, Metabolicalthe Lures and Lies of Processed Food, Nutrition and Modern Medicine.

Dr. Lustig’s standard mantra used to be “you are what you eat” but now stands corrected with the revised statement that “you are what y’all (food industry) did with what you eat”. He is referring to food processing and the food industry that tricks you into thinking you’re eating healthily when in fact, you’re eating all the foods that are basically designed to destroy your health.

So, he has two essential rules to live by when it comes to judging ‘healthy food’. Eat foods that:

  1. Protect the liver
  2. Feed the gut

Any food that does both is healthy and any food that does neither is poison.

Protect the Liver

  • Ged rid of sugar in the diet. Sugar is like alcohol as liver metabolizes it the same way and over time, leads to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Although virtually non-existent in the 1980s, 45% of us have NAFLD today. In particular, children are what he calls the “canaries in the coal mine” as they are getting these diseases of aging. Type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease used to be diseases of alcoholics and aging and now children are getting them. Dr. Lustig estimates that 20% of normal weight children and 40% of obese children have a fatty liver today and blames this on the sugary, processed foods that kids consume.
  • Eat organic and stay away from pesticide-ridden foods (eg: Round-up), excess iron and heavy metals.
  • Avoid eating too much BCAA (branched chain amino acids) – unless you are a body builder, you don’t need to consume excess BCAA as this gets converted to liver fat and results in insulin resistance.
  • Dr. Lustig advocated two lab tests to get a baseline on your liver condition:
    • ALT – 25 is optimal , NOT 40 (which is the new reference range). In 1976, the ALT upper limit was 25 but now it’s 40 because so much of the population has fatty liver disease. These reference ranges reflect the population so as the country gets fatter, the ranges are also moving up.
    • Uric acid level – upper limit is 7.0 but it should be no higher than 5.5 as this marker is a proxy for sugar consumption.

Feed the Gut

  • You need to feed the bacteria in your gut with insoluble and soluble fiber to keep it happy and avoid conditions like leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome and systemic inflammation.
  • Dr. Lustig is known as the “anti-sugar crusader” in the industry and his lecture has over 100,000 views (I watched it three times as it was that good) – here’s a condensed version. However, he claims that fruit is healthy even though it has sugar because the amount of sugar in fruit is dwarfed by the amount of both soluble and insoluble fiber which prevents sugar absorption in the gut. Insoluble fiber forms a latticework and soluble fiber forms a gel and they both act as secondary barriers to prevent early absorption of sugar getting to the liver. If your gut doesn’t absorb it early, it goes further down to the intestine where the bacteria will chew it up for consumption to feed the gut. So even if you consumed the fruit, some of that sugar was spent to feed the microbiome.
  • Processed food has no fiber and there’s a reason why the industry doesn’t like fiber. For example, an orange does NOT freeze well as the ice crystals macerate the cell walls and when thawed, becomes mushy. But if you squeeze the orange and freeze it, it’s highly storable making it easier to sell. However, in processing the orange, you’ve deprived your microbiome of all the important fiber in the fruit.
  • Dr. Lustig explains that it’s what’s been done to the food that matters. There are four classifications of processed foods known as the NOVA system, and he uses an apple to describe what each class means:
    • Nova Class 1: An apple is unprocessed and doesn’t need a food label
    • Nova Class 2: Apple slices have been minimally processed as it’s been sliced, destemmed and placed in packaging
    • Nova Class 3: Apple sauce has been crushed/cooked and may or may not have added sugar
    • Nova Class 4: Apple drink which is the juice plus preservatives and added sugar with all the fiber removed. Nova Class 4 is considered ultra-processed and the predictor of disease. He claims that if it has a logo (those juices in the boxes with a cool name on it), it’s ultra-processed.
  • Meat is another example. You would think that meat should be Nova Class 1 if you are buying from the refrigerated meat aisle in the supermarket. However, if the animal comes from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO), that animal had to be pumped with antibiotics in order to survive. This permanently changed the cow’s microbiome which pervades in the meat. And when we eat it, we are causing gut dysfunction by eating the ‘sick’ meat. Hence, this meat is considered “processed” because of what the food industry did to it. But it’s not on the label as the food industry does not have to disclose any of this.

It’s the Insulin, Not Just the Glucose

  • Dr. Lustig says that people think glucose is the problem but it’s insulin that drives chronic metabolic disease. Rising glucose levels are a proxy for a rise in insulin so it’s important to keep both down. Giving insulin to Type 2 diabetics to control blood sugar is not the answer and it’s important to note that insulin has two functions:
    • The first is metabolic – insulin takes up blood glucose and lowers blood sugar
    • The second is cell growth – Insulin also drives cell division and can promote coronary artery muscle division to drive heart attacks and promote breast glandular cell division to develop cancer. 
  • Dr. Lustig states that it’s not just glucose but fructose (like high fructose corn syrup) that accelerates metabolic disease and insulin resistance. Fructose goes to the brain and negatively affects cognitive and behavioral health. There’s a wealth of research and evidence on how food affects the brain and the use of sugar-free diets (ketogenic) to treat conditions like bipolar disorder, depression and schizophrenia.

So, what did I learn from this? First, get some baseline data on liver, fasting glucose and insulin levels as Dr. Lustig recommends so you know where you stand today.  Second, eat a whole-foods, non-processed diet with plenty of pesticide-free vegetables and fruits and clean, grass-fed meat. Dr. Lustig follows his own advice – he and his family used to go out twice a week for meals but given that you really don’t know what you are being served at most restaurants, he has cut back his meal outings to just once a month.

Want to learn more? Check out Metabolical – this book has over a 1,000 references which could not be printed as it would add 70 more printed pages so he made all the references available on the book’s website.

Your Gut & Weight Loss Connection

Have you heard all the buzz lately about the role that your gut microbiome has on your weight? There’s an ever-growing body of research around this with plenty of evidence for the association between gut bacteria and obesity in both infants and adults. In fact, the microbial changes in your gut can be considered a factor involved in obesity development as modifications to the bacteria in the digestive tract can reshape the metabolic profile. So, if that has you thinking about popping bottles of probiotics or even a fecal transplant to lose that extra baggage, read on…

Awesome bacteria

We have many hundreds of different species of bacteria in our gut and while some are harmful and cause illness, most are necessary for human health. They produce vitamins (like vitamin K) and can help your body fight off invaders. They determine how the foods you eat are digested and can promote satiety. So, having a lot of varied, beneficial bacteria is clearly good for you. This study conducted on human twin subjects showed that the obese twin had lower bacterial diversity compared to the non-obese twin.

The bacteria in your gut can even impact how fats from foods are absorbed and stored in the body. I envision these bacteria running around my gut doing aerobics to burn off the dietary fat I consume so it’s not stored in my thighs.

Sharing awesome bacteria

I am definitely not advocating sharing any fecal matter with anybody (unless you absolutely need a transplant) but this research is part of a growing body of evidence that your gut CAN shape your weight. A fecal microbiota transplant, also known as a stool transplant, is the process of transferring fecal bacteria and other microbes from a healthy individual into another individual. FMT is an effective treatment for C. difficile infection. This study showed that the sharing of thin mice fecal matter prevented the development of increased body mass and obesity-related markers in obese mice mates.

So, how do we cultivate awesome bacteria? As Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

  • Fiber

One of the reasons why the whole foods-based approach to eating is recommended is due to its high fiber content. So, it should come as no surprise that studies are showing that people eating a high fiber diet have lower weight. This is not just due to the fact that fiber lowers insulin levels and promotes satiety but also the role that the gut bacteria has in digesting that fiber. This review shows how fermentation of dietary fiber by gut microbiota leads to the production of short-chain fatty acids (butyrate, propionate and acetate) which suppresses inflammation, carcinogenesis and maintains a healthy balance of the digestive tract.

Remember, processed food = no good fiber (cardboard has fiber but your gut won’t process it)

Whole food = good fiber

Eating a diet rich in high-fiber vegetables and fruits will keep the bacteria in your GI tract busy and happy and help you achieve a thin-person gut microbiome. 

If you feel like you need some help as no one has a perfect diet, you can try supplementing with probiotics. There are numerous studies done on various strains of probiotics and its impact on weight loss. Here are a couple for you to check out:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24299712/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25473159/

Strains containing Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus have the most evidence for assisting with weight loss – here are ones that have been independently tested for strength and quality:

Lactobacillus:

Bifidobacterium:

  • Flavonoids

Did you know that your gut likes to digest antioxidants commonly found in plants called flavonoids? And that studies have shown that flavonoids can prevent weight gain? Flavonoids are a class of compounds (with six different subtypes) that are rich in antioxidant activity to help ward off inflammation, rid toxins and keep you svelte.

Here is a list of foods rich in flavonoids:
  • Fruits – apples, all berries, peaches, grapefruit, lemons, limes, red and purple grapes
  • Vegetables – broccoli, kale, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, scallions, celery, red peppers
  • Herbs/tea – chamomile, parsley, peppermint, white/green/oolong/black tea
  • And don’t forget dark chocolate!

Heart Disease Fighting Foods

As mentioned in my previous blog, cholesterol is just one factor in a comprehensive approach to managing risks for heart disease. Lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, alcohol, smoking, and toxins/pollution have a significant impact on our vascular health. So in this blog, I will highlight some superfoods that you can incorporate into your diet to keep your arteries in tip-top shape. 

Avocados and avocado oil

Avocados are nutrient dense and packed with healthy, monounsaturated fat. In this study, participants who ate an avocado daily had significantly lower levels of oxidized LDL (the kind that clogs up your arteries).

Avocado oil is mild so it doesn’t impart flavor to the food and comes with a high smoke point (over 500F) so it’s a great option for cooking and stir-frying all types of food. I no longer use olive oil for frying as the high cooking temperature can damage the oil. In general, the safest way is to stir-fry the food in water or some broth and then add in oil towards the end to minimize high temperatures.

Here is an avocado oil to try:

Berries

Berries are low in sugar and loaded with disease-fighting phytonutrients like flavonoids and antioxidants. In this study of over 1,200 subjects, regular consumption of berries significantly lowered LDL cholesterol, systolic blood pressure, fasting glucose levels and Hemoglobin A1c.  What’s not to like about blueberries, raspberries and blackberries? I buy fresh berries in season but most of the time, I opt for frozen – they store well with many varieties available anytime.

Broccoli sprouts

Compared to standard broccoli, broccoli sprouts have 30-50X more glucoraphanin – a known antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic compound. In this study, consumption of high glucoraphanins resulted in significantly reduced LDL. You can find broccoli sprouts in the produce section – they come in a small container by the alfalfa sprouts section. You can add some broccoli sprouts to top off salads or add them to your morning shake. 

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is a rich source of flavonoids (powerful antioxidants) due to the high cocoa content and has been proven to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. In this study, an analysis of interventional studies done with dark chocolate/cocoa products showed it reduced low-density LDL and total cholesterol levels. If you love chocolate but don’t want the sugar, try these sugar-free options. I ate these while wearing a continuous glucose monitor and noticed how my blood sugar was smooth and steady even after eating a whole bar!

55% Cacao:

My personal favorite:

70% Cacao:

Fibers from legumes and beans

  • Chickpeas, which are a type of legume, are full of fiber and have been shown to reduce total cholesterol levels and fasting insulin.
  • Lentils are another great plant fiber food. In this study, the substitution of red meat with legumes improved glucose control and cholesterol profiles among diabetic patients. 
  • Other heart-healthy beans to try include kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans and cannellini beans.

Green tea

Green tea is rich in catechins, which are antioxidants (a major active compound is epigallocatechin gallate – EGCG) and have been widely used and studied for reducing inflammation, aiding in weight loss and preventing heart and brain disease. In this clinical trial, subjects treated with green tea extract showed significant reduction in LDL cholesterol and an increase in leptin (the satiety hormone). In this study, daily supplementation with green tea extract improved blood pressure, insulin resistance, inflammation and oxidative stress along with lipid profile.

It’s a superfood with many benefits. In lieu of extracts, I prefer to drink green tea daily. Here are the ones I would try:

Green tea has also been highlighted for fighting diabetes – check out my blog on this topic.  

Konjac root fiber

Konjac plant, or the root, is a Japanese root vegetable that is full of fiber. It has been used by people in East Asia for thousands of years and is mainly grown in Asian countries. Similar looking to an odd-shaped potato (as they come from the same family as potatoes), it contains a fiber called glucomannan – a viscous soluble fiber that is being studied as a dietary intervention for reducing cardiovascular risk. In this study, the use of konjac root significantly lowered LDL cholesterol and non-HDL cholesterol. Did you know that konjac root is used to make noodles and rice? They are called shirataki noodles and are available as a low carb, low calorie substitute for pasta and rice dishes. I use the shirataki noodles to put in soups and the shirataki rice to blend with regular white or brown rice. Here are my favorites:

Spaghetti

Rice

Oat Bran

Oat bran contains high levels of beta-glucan, a viscous, soluble fiber that is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. This systematic review showed that oat beta-glucans have a lowering effect on LDL cholesterol and very low density lipoproteins (which are artery clogging) and hence recommended as part of a vascular health dietary regimen. 

Here’s one to try:

Olive Oil

The vascular protective properties of the Mediterranean Diet have been well documented, with the importance of olive oil highlighted in lowering the risk of heart attacks and strokes. In this study, consuming at least half a tablespoon of olive oil per day was associated with a 21% lower risk of heart disease. Olive oil, particularly, the extra virgin kind, contains the highest concentrations of polyphenols – the powerful antioxidants which have been shown to reduce oxidized LDL cholesterol, improve HDL cholesterol and reduce blood pressure. 

To insure I’m not ingesting any oxidized olive oil (resulting from high temperature and long storage), I buy olive oil in small quantities and use it as a finishing oil (when stir-frying to minimize heat contact) and for room-temperature dressings and toppings. Unfortunately, the olive oil industry is rife with fakes and oil blends. In a future blog, I’ll share what to look for when buying olive oils. These two have been tested by an independent lab to be pure olive oil and are noted for their high polyphenol content: 

Red Grapefruit

Red grapefruit contains higher quantities of bioactive compounds and higher antioxidant potential than the blond variety. In this study, a diet supplemented with red grapefruit improved lipid levels, triglycerides and serum antioxidant activity.

Salmon

Salmon is fabulous not only for its flavor but also for the high concentrations of heart-protective omega 3 fatty acids. This study has shown that intake of fatty salmon reduced triglycerides and increased HDL cholesterol levels when compared to lean fish (cod). Opt for wild salmon whenever possible as it is higher in minerals and contains less contaminants than farmed salmon (pesticides, PCBs). For convenience, I opt for frozen salmon.

Walnuts

Are you nuts for nuts? How about some walnuts for heart health as they are rich in healthy fats, vitamin E and folate? In this study, inclusion of walnuts in the diet for six months improved endothelial function and LDL cholesterol levels.

How to Prepare for the COVID Vaccine

With vaccine availability now broadening to more groups, you may be wondering what steps you can take to prepare yourself for the shot(s). In this blog, I’ll describe some do’s and don’ts to consider. It’s important to note that these are not short-term solutions but ways to reach optimal health which will support the vaccine response and also protect you from illness.  

Stay away from processed foods

In this peer-reviewed study conducted by the Environmental Working Group, it’s been shown that a food preservative known as tert-butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), commonly used in packaged foods like Pop-Tarts, Rice Krispies Treats, Cheez-Its and over 1,000 processed foods, has been found to harm the immune system. Unfortunately, chemicals like TBHQ were approved by the FDA decades ago and there has been no re-assessment of the safety of food chemicals. So, it’s “buyer beware” and all the more reason to stay away from processed foods and eat WHOLE.   

Eat an anti-inflammatory diet

Although there is not enough research to support that anti-inflammatory foods can make the COVID vaccine more effective, in general, it’s a good idea to eat a healthy diet. This earlier study found that increased fruit and vegetable intake improved immune function and antibody response to the pneumonia vaccine. Eating whole foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, fish and grass-fed meats with minimal processed foods will generate less inflammation in the body and over the long term, improve immune responsiveness. Also, vegetable oils like corn and soybean oils which are prevalent in processed foods are pro-inflammatory and should be avoided. So, now is a good time to change your habits to “clean eating” to reap the benefits all year long. Here is my earlier blog on some inflammation-fighting super herbs which can be added to your diet.

Cultivate a healthy microbiome

Recent studies suggest that a healthy gut microbiome can increase the immune response to vaccines by modulating immune function and acting as a natural vaccine adjuvant. So to support a diverse and healthy gut microbiome, aim for fiber-rich and fermented foods that will encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria. Greens, cruciferous vegetables, yogurts, kefir, kimchee, sauerkraut and kombucha are great options and should be eaten regularly. 

Reduce alcohol and get proper hydration

As good as alcohol may taste going down, in excess, it leads not only to dehydration but a hangover which could exacerbate your vaccination side effects. Excessive and frequent alcohol consumption can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to infections. So keep your drinking to a minimum and stick to non-alcoholic beverages the day before. In addition, make sure you have plenty of fluids to keep you internally moisturized for vaccine day.

Get adequate shut-eye

While there are no formal studies done on the COVID vaccine and sleep, it’s no surprise that the quantity and quality of sleep impact your immune system. So a good night’s sleep will help offset fatigue the next day and prepare your immune system for the shot.

Supplements ideal for balancing your immune system include:

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These essential fatty acids are known for their anti-inflammatory, immune-modulating and possible antiviral effects and have been recently studied for their impact on COVID-19 prevention and immune dysregulation. I would suggest getting these fatty acids in whole food form (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines are good options) but if you don’t think you are getting enough in your diet nor a fan of oily fish, you can opt for a supplement. Here’s one to try:

  • Vitamin C:  Recent evidence indicates that oral vitamin C (2-8g/day) may reduce the incidence and duration of the respiratory infection. In this study, the use of intravenous vitamin C (6-24g/day) has been shown to reduce mortality and ventilator time and is suggested as the adjunctive therapy for COVID-19. Here are two to try that have been third-party tested:
    • Powder form: https://www.vitacost.com/solaray-vitamin-c-powder
      If you don’t normally take vitamin C, start out with half a teaspoon first and gradually increase to avoid any trips to the bathroom. I prefer the powder form as it is inexpensive and I can dose as I need.
    • Liposomal form: More expensive but easy on the tummy:

  • Vitamin D3: Over the past year, it has been noted that people with low levels of vitamin D were more vulnerable to COVID-19 with higher morbidities. This recent study assessed the role of vitamin D in reducing the risk of COVID-19. Vitamin D is known to reduce the concentration of pro-inflammatory cytokines, increase levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines, enhance the production of natural antimicrobial peptides and activates defensive cells that could destroy COVID-19. Here are several in various dosages:

  • B-complex: A good B-complex can be a part of your arsenal for keeping the immune system healthy and fighting off inflammation. Although studies have not yet been done on COVID-19, this study has shown the influence of the B vitamins (B1,B2,B3,B5,B6 and B12) in lowering proinflammatory cytokines and increasing anti-inflammatory cytokines. Here are a couple to try:

  • Zinc: Commonly used to combat colds, zinc is known to bolster the immune system. In a study conducted in Spain, they found that patients who had higher levels of zinc were more likely to survive COVID-19 than those with lower levels. Here are several verified options:

Regardless of what precautions you take and preparations you make, however, the main thing to remember is that even after you’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you should keep taking precautions in public places like wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces until we know more.

Inflammation and How to Reduce it with 9 Super Herbs

In some of my previous blogs, I noted the importance of inflammation and how it impacts our health including heart disease, diabetes/obesity, pain, insulin resistance and even skin conditions. In this blog, I’ll share some natural ways to manage inflammation so our body has just enough (but not too much) to support our well-being.  

First, what is inflammation? Inflammation is the body’s natural response to protect itself against harm, and there are two types: acute and chronic. Acute inflammation happens when you cut your finger or bruise your elbow and your immune system kicks in to protect the area with white blood cells which can cause swelling and/or redness. This type of inflammation is essential as it protects your body from infection or further damage. Chronic inflammation is also a response to unwanted attacks but is the more insidious type as it could evade detection for a long time and can manifest in a wide range of symptoms. For starters, you may have chronic low-grade inflammation if you experience the following:

  • Belly fatresearch has shown that belly fat (called visceral fat which surrounds the organs in the gut) can lead to inflammation, insulin resistance and other metabolic problems.

  • Gut issues  – Your gut is a bellwether for inflammation as it’s one of the first places you will see symptoms. Chronic inflammation can lead to leaky gut or intestinal permeability, which can cause bacteria and toxins to leak through the intestinal wall into the body and manifest in digestive issues like bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation.

  • High Blood pressureStudies have shown that inflammation may trigger high blood pressure which in turn increases the risk of heart attack or stroke.

  • Low energy – If you often feel fatigued despite getting a good night’s sleep, your body could be fighting off chronic inflammation. When you’re chronically inflamed, your immune system is on hyperdrive which requires more cellular energy to ensure rapid generation of immune cells, which in turn depletes you of the energy you need throughout the day.

  • Memory loss and mood changes – If you keep forgetting things and/or feel anxious or depressed, the inflammatory markers in the body can lead to mental and cognitive decline, especially as we age.

  • Routinely sick – If you have chronic inflammation, your immune system may be overworked and as a result, you are more susceptible to colds, flus or whatever is going around.

  • Sore joint and stiffness – While stiffness and soreness is fine after a vigorous workout, consistent pain from daily activity is a tell-tale sign of chronic inflammation.

  • Skin irritation – Skin rashes like eczema and psoriasis are linked to inflammatory mast (immune system) cells that are activated which trigger the rashes to the surface.

  • Sugar crashes and highs – Chronic inflammation leads to insulin resistance which makes your body unable to adequately manage glucose. This can lead to swinging glucose drops and also highs from consuming refined carbs and sugar.

The good news is that there are natural ways to fight chronic inflammation; and it starts with what’s in your kitchen. Here’s my top recommendations:

Chili Pepper (capsaicin)

A lot of research has been done on the pharmacological properties of capsaicin (the active compound in chili peppers).

The analgesic, anti-inflammatory or apoptotic (cell death) effects of capsaicin show promising results with evidence demonstrating that the oral or local application of capsaicin can reduce inflammation and pain in rheumatoid arthritis, promotes gastric protection against ulcers and induces apoptosis of tumor cells. 

So, if you can handle the heat, sprinkle it (I like the bottled hot sauces) on eggs, soups and other dishes.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is not only delicious, it’s great for fighting inflammation. This study showed that cinnamon supplementation improved several markers of cardio metabolic health due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. There are so many ways to enjoy cinnamon:  cinnamon tea, cinnamon with coffee, cinnamon bread. Here’s a tea to try with 3 types of cinnamon:

Clove

This interesting study showed the use of clove buds for ameliorating the impact of oxidative stress and inflammation caused by binge-drinking (acetaldehyde is the by-product of alcohol metabolism). This doesn’t imply that you can knock down several clove-infused martinis without any ill effect but how about adding this spice to your anti-inflammatory arsenal?

Garlic

Garlic is technically a vegetable but generally used as a spice/herb. The active sulfur compounds (allicin) are known to exhibit potent anti-inflammatory properties. To get a good dose of the allicin into your system, how about a garlic supplement to try in addition to your diet? Here’s one to try:

This one is nice because it is odorless and contains one of the highest levels of active S-allyl-L-cysteine (SAC – which comes from allicin) tested:

Ginseng

Ginseng’s active compound, ginsenosides, have been studied for lowering markers of inflammation. In this study, ginseng supplementation has been shown to reduce C-reactive protein (inflammation marker) levels. You can buy ginseng as a tea or extract – I like the liquid form of Korean ginseng – here’s one I use:

Green Tea

Green tea is indeed a superfood loaded with polyphenols, one of which is the powerful anti-inflammatory epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). Studies have indicated that green tea and EGCG suppresses the protein expression of inflammatory cytokines and inflammation-related enzymes.

In lieu of coffee, try a cup of green tea. It contains a modest amount of caffeine so if you’re sensitive to caffeine, limit it to morning drinks. Here are some of my favorites:

Rosemary

Rosemary has a host of ANTI properties – with antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and anti-tumor effects. In addition, it has shown clinical effects in improving mood, pain, anxiety and sleep.  What’s not to like about rosemary? It’s fragrant as an essential oil, a great herb for dishes, and makes a delicious tea. Try a few drops of this oil to your diffuser:

Turmeric

Turmeric has over 300 active compounds but the most well-known is the antioxidant polyphenol curcumin. Curcumin has been widely studied for supporting oxidative and inflammatory conditions including metabolic syndrome, arthritis, anxiety and obesity.

Unfortunately, your body doesn’t absorb curcumin well on its own so when supplementing, look for products that have been fermented or contain black pepper (bioperine) which has been demonstrated to increase bioavailability by 2,000 percent. Here are several to try:

I like to add fermented turmeric powder to my shakes but here is a convenient capsule form:

How about an easy recipe to make tea with some of these super herbs?

  • Boil 5-6 cups water
  • Add:
    • 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger root
    • ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
    • ½ teaspoon of whole clove
  • Let it simmer for 20 minutes
  • Strain it into a glass jar
  • To one cup of the brewed tea, add one packet of the liquid ginseng, a shot of honey or stevia to taste
  • It’s ready to enjoy! You can drink it hot or cold

How the Gut Affects Fatigue

I recently listened to a webinar interview featuring Dr. Michael Ruscio, who has conducted a lot of clinical research in the area of digestion and been widely published in peer reviewed journals. He is the author of Healthy Gut, Healthy You and is a guest speaker at the Fatigue Super Conference. He discusses the importance of good digestion and ways to achieve optimum health through a healthy gut. From my own personal experience dealing with fatigue and energy issues, I was happy that he validated a lot of what I’ve been through and the research I’ve done to date. Here are some key points from his interview:

  • Energy and mood are inextricably linked. When you are tired, you feel depressed. This happens to me – when I have good energy levels, I feel like I can conquer the world. When I’m tired and fatigued, I get depressed and feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders. This has to do with inflammation and the small intestine. The small intestine is the most immune-active area of the body with the largest density of immune cells. In the small intestine, the immune cells have to be well calibrated to deal with the external environment (coming from food) and the internal environment (the bloodstream). If there are disruptions in the flora with bad bacteria and fungus, the body will trigger inflammation as a response. These excess levels of inflammation affect centers in the brain and cause fatigue and depression.

  • Inflammation in the intestinal tract has an impact on cognitive function and energy levels. There is clinical evidence that probiotics can improve fatigue, anxiety and depression. Also, poor gut health will impact the proper absorption of nutrients leading to deficiency.

  • Inflammation is like the police – it is the enforcer of your immune system. Bad bacteria or viral pathogens are rescued by inflammation that is generated by the body to protect itself.  The right amount of inflammation is beneficial but if the gut kicks out excess inflammation, that’s when you will see a cross-system impact. The gut barrier is inflamed, and it impacts the blood brain barrier and the mitochondria. It alters the environment in the gut to make it hospitable for unsavory guests and creates a more pro-inflammatory setting.

  • Inflammation is not only isolated to the gut. For example, if you have an intolerance to gluten, it can manifest not only in the gut but on skin (acne, breakouts), joints (pain), and brain (fog).

  • Key influencers in digestion:  
    • A low FODMAP diet has been shown in patients with fibromyalgia to improve fatigue and pain. Traditionally used for patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), low FODMAP stands for low Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Monosaccharides And Polyols. That means eliminating foods like: wheat, legumes, garlic, onions, milk, yogurt, cheese, figs, honey, mangoes, blackberries and low-calorie sweeteners, all of which contain high FODMAP.
    • Gut function and sleep are also linked.
    • Probiotics are a good intervention. They’ve been shown to help improve sleep under stress or those with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
    • Other factors: stress and exercise, early antibiotic use, lack of exposure to natural environment to seed good bacteria (Cesarean births and non-breast fed infants), overly hygienic practices.

  • The gut is also impacted by hormones. Although the impact on male hormones is not very pronounced, female hormone mediated symptoms are more easily identified. The gut detoxifies hormones like excess estrogen and as a result, women may be more impacted by the gut hormone connection.

  • Dr. Ruscio believes that in this country, doctors over-diagnose low thyroid and under-diagnose gut issues. A lot of people may be getting a hypothyroid diagnosis due to fatigue, constipation, dry skin and depression even if they are within the normal range of hormone levels. Because patients that are ‘hypothyroid’ often take supplements and vitamins, make dietary and sleep changes in addition to their thyroid medication to improve their condition, it’s hard to separate out which variable is truly working. Symptoms of low thyroid can be very similar to a gut problem so it’s possible that the integrative doctors are overlooking gut issues when evaluating the symptomology of the patient. Acccording to Dr. Ruscio, about 10-15% of the US population has IBS-related issues whereas only about 4% of the population has true hypothyroid issues. This was a fascinating insight for me as I’ve been hypothyroid for years. I’m now working with my integrative physician who recognized this – we are evaluating the gut through a comprehensive probiotic/prebiotic program to see if this will improve my status.

  • From a dietary regimen standpoint, your family history, treatment history, and presentation of symptoms should tailor your diet approach – whether it’s being a carnivore or a vegetarian, the most viable diet is one that works for you. You should find out if you are eating too few carbohydrates, for example. Chronic fatigue patients often feel worse on a low carb/keto diet – I felt the same way when I tried the keto program. It made me feel like I had the constant ‘keto’ flu with low energy levels. It’s important to not ‘vilify’ proteins or carbs. Dr. Ruscio is not a fan of any extreme forms of diet but recognizes that different diets work for different people. Even the low FODMAP approach could be an issue for some – too much vegetable and roughage could cause a flare-up for some. I’ve tried just about every diet and after years of experimenting, I noticed that I tend to do best on a “pegan” diet (Paleo but limited meat/fish and lots of vegetables) with some carbs but not too much.

  • Dr. Ruscio cautions that labs are not an exact science – they are only indicators. Clinicians often get tunnel vision when looking at lab work and treat patients based on the numbers. They need to look at the patient’s symptoms and judge from clinical experience what the labs are telling them. He shared some astonishing examples of fraudulent companies that were exploiting lab data to drum up business. 
    • UBiome was under federal investigation for fraudulent practices like using 5-year old stool samples that have been stored in sub-standard laboratory conditions and using the data to give medical advice.
    • Neuroscience Labs and its sister company pled guilty to using unapproved and unvalidated normal lab ranges for tests and manipulating the test data to sell their supplements and nutraceutical formulas.

Regarding lab work as an indicator, I recently had this experience with my integrative MD.  One of my viral load test data wouldn’t budge no matter what I did. However, because my symptoms have improved along with other metrics of health, she decided not to worry about the lab result and to discontinue testing.

  • Probiotics can be put into three categories: The traditional lacto bacillus and bifido strains; yeast strains (Saccharomyces boulardii); and spore-forming strains (bacillus).  Dr. Ruscio has seen pockets of research for these strains helping different conditions. What he’s noticed is that in the Irritable Bowel Syndrome area where probiotics are most studied, there is a trend towards treating patients with multi-species formulas rather than a single type. He sees this as the middle-of-the-road treatment with single species at the low end, all the way up to a fecal transplant as the extreme. His analogy is the 3-legged stool and considers the triple therapy as the most robust and comprehensive way to apply probiotics. Probiotics are actually anti-microbial products and a standard treatment for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). Probiotics can clear the fungal infection, help with motility and reduce inflammation in a non-invasive way (as opposed to antibiotics). This was very interesting to hear as I am in the midst of a comprehensive probiotic program now under the guidance of my physician – I’ll be anxious to see how it will impact my health after the 3-month experiment.  

  • It’s important to work with a good functional medicine/integrative medicine doctor and build a dashboard of your history, conditions and symptoms to see and understand your response against each of the therapies.

  • If you are on your own and cannot see the doctor, where should you start? 

  • Consider the importance of dietary and lifestyle interventions. What you put in your mouth, how much you move/exercise and the state of your mind and sleep are all contributing factors to a healthy gut.    
    • Mild apnea or sleep disorder breathing can be caused by your gut. Also, congestion that is histamine-mediated is usually caused by problems in the gut. So breathing better will help you sleep better which will give you more energy. Some of your sleep issues can occur independently so not all emphasis should be on the gut.
    • If you’ve had orthodontics like braces and head gear, you may be at higher risk for sleep apnea because the oral archway has been compressed with sub-optimal respiration. If you think you have sleep apnea, you should get checked through a sleep study.
    • If you want to try a ‘self-check’, use the app Sleep Talk. It only records when you are making noises.

It’s a fascinating interview – my belief is that energy is KING and anything we can do to optimize and improve it will help us live with vitality.

Check out Dr. Ruscio’s website for more information about him and his practice.  

www.Drruscio.com

Metabolic Dysfunction and How It Can Cause Diabetes and Chronic Diseases

I listened to another fascinating (albeit long) podcast on the Broken Brain series on how out-of-control blood sugar can cause belly fat, brain fog and chronic disease. Dr. Casey Means was the guest and she is a Stanford-trained doctor and associate editor of the International Journal of Disease Reversal and Prevention. Her mission is to reverse the epidemic of preventable chronic disease by empowering individuals with personalized tools (i.e. continuous glucose monitors – CGM) that promote sustainable dietary and lifestyle choices. As a pre-diabetic myself, I have been using some of these tools to monitor how my body responds to my diet and activities of daily living. I was quite shocked at what I learned from a month’s use of a CGM and if this blog speaks to you, it may be something you may want to discuss with your doctor.


Here are the highlights from the podcast:

  • We make energy from converting sugar and fat and this metabolic process is a core fundamental pathway of every cell in the human body. At optimal function, we have good memory, physical health, skin, etc. However, over time when we eat a lot of carbs and sugar and junk food, our cells get numb to the constant insulin release and this forces our body to release even more insulin to get the glucose into our cells. This leads to what is known as ‘insulin resistance’ and metabolic dysfunction eventually causing diseases like Type 2 diabetes.

  • Dr. Means emphasizes that many chronic conditions like Alzheimer’s, fatigue, depression, polycystic ovarian syndrome, high blood pressure or heart disease are all related to metabolic health.

  • We are eating 100X more sugar per person than we did 150 years ago. In the US in the 1850s, Americans ate about 2 pounds of sugar per year vs. 200+ pounds per year we consume today. Our bodies are not designed to process all this sugar so it stores it as fat. In addition, chronic stress, lack of sleep and sedentary lifestyle also translate into mitochondrial cells not functioning well. Today, 88% of Americans are not metabolically healthy and we need to change our behaviors and choices to control this epidemic.

  • If you ask people if they eat healthily, many will say yes (including me) but we don’t know how our body responds to these healthy foods unless we can measure and track it. For example, they did a study with a group of people by giving them oatmeal – considered a healthy food. The glucose levels for some of those that ate oatmeal approached diabetic levels while for others, it didn’t. Everyone responds differently so we need to measure and track individually and not just follow some guideline telling us what’s a healthy food vs. not.

  • Continuous glucose spiking throughout the day generates inflammation and glycation (which promotes aging). The huge insulin surge that accompanies the glucose spike means the glucose will soon crash, drain you of energy and also stop you from burning fat. Every time you eat, your insulin levels go up. So if you eat 6X a day which is recommended by some fitness coaches, you are causing glucose spikes 6X a day which elevate insulin levels and puts a block on any fat burning as you will be using the glucose instead. Over time, this leads to the development of visceral organ and belly fat.

  • Fasting is good for metabolic health because insulin will remain low so your body will use the stored glucose and then burn body fat. We have become metabolically rigid by keeping insulin high all the time. Our ancestors went through periods of feast and famine with ease because they were metabolically flexible. That’s how our bodies are designed and we need to train our body to keep our glucose and insulin down.

  • Dr. Means also advocates that if we are fasting, we need to stop eating early. Eating carbs late at night is associated with insomnia and messes with our melatonin release. Also, our glucose levels will bounce around all night which keeps our body temperature elevated. We fall into DEEP sleep when our body temperature drops. If we have to eat later in the day, try to go for a walk before or after the meal.

  • Sleep is very important for metabolic flexibility. One night of poor sleep can promote insulin resistance. In a study conducted on young men, 4 nights of poor sleep (less than 5 hours) showed markers of pre-insulin resistance.

  • We need to choose foods that don’t spike our glucose levels. This doesn’t mean we need to eat a ketogenic or a low carbohydrate diet. We just need to know what combination of carbs works for our body. A banana can spike glucose for some people and not for others. A study conducted in the Journal of Cell showed that a group given the exact same diet responded differently: that’s because genetics, microbiome composition, baseline insulin sensitivity, visceral fat, exercise, and sleep all differ from person to person. A good choice for you isn’t a good choice for others. I felt vindicated in listening to this – I kept telling friends/family that I can’t just have a bowl of veggie bean soup for lunch without feeling super hungry shortly thereafter. Well, my CGM gave me the truth – my glucose shot up with a lunchtime meal of a bowl of bean soup.

  • A single blood prick or glucose measurement is not sufficient as it’s only a single point in time measurement. However, a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is highly beneficial because it provides us with instantaneous feedback throughout the day on how our body responds which empowers us to make decisions. Dr. Means suggests a CGM for a month to get a sense of what works for your body and then do it again in six months. I did mine for a month and was amazed at how combining certain foods did/did not impact glucose and when and how I ate them made such a difference. It also allowed me to choose foods and combinations to avoid glucose crashes with subsequent hunger pangs, cravings. For example, I found out that after a healthy meal of scallops and a large salad, I was able to enjoy a double scoop of ice cream for dessert with only a moderate increase in my glucose level.
  • Dr. Means also suggests we eat lots of veggies and include those that are higher carbs like carrots and sweet potatoes but do it judiciously and train your body to use and process these carbs. If you completely exclude carbs from your diet, your body cannot be trained to process them – that’s why people that come off a strict ketogenic diet often gain back their weight.

  • Note on COVID: Covid absolutely discriminates against people with metabolic dysfunction and as we soon discovered, there is increased risk of mortality for those with diabetes, heart disease and obesity. We need to have significant public health investment towards rapidly improving metabolic health if we want long-term, positive outcomes with Covid.

  • What are the mechanisms for Covid?
    • High blood pressure impairs our immune function and also immune cells are stunted and cannot move properly when glucose is in the body.
    • People with diabetes have an upregulation of the ACE2 receptor and this is how the virus gets into the cells.
    • Lung fluid has more sugar in people with diabetes and that makes viral replication easier.
    • Inflammation is high in people with diabetes, obesity and heart disease and this upregulates the cytokines. And it’s this immune response to Covid that kills people.  If your cytokines are already elevated, when the virus is added, it is a compounded effect that makes the response more deadly and exaggerated.

  • In conclusion, we desperately need disease reversal programs AND coaching programs to manage metabolic health.

If you’d like to listen to the full podcast, click here:

Podcast: How Out of Control Blood Sugar Can Cause Belly Fat, Brain Fog, and Chronic Disease

If you’d like to try using a CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitoring) device, please consult your physician.

Hacking Your Heart & Preventing Diabetes – Dr. Rocky Patel Podcast Review

I’ve always been a fan of Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof Podcasts – he is probably the most famous biohacker that’s out there. On one of his earlier podcasts, his guest was Dr. Rocky Patel, a family physician who focuses on prevention and early detection and treatment of diabetes and heart attacks. He practices what he preaches and lost over 85 pounds following the program that he now advocates for his patients. Here are some of the highlights from the show:

  • Current food recommendations are not based on science but on US policy – we’ve been vilifying saturated fats but science shows that saturated fats and cholesterol are not the culprits.
  • Eating quality fats and saturated meat is actually good for you and will raise HDL cholesterol and make the brain work better.  There are now prescription drugs based on medium chain triglycerides (MCT) oils.
  • Dr. Patel follows a Paleo-type diet with the right amount of quality protein and good fats to maintain his health and weight.
  • Diabetes is a disease of insulin resistance. The pancreas needs to make more insulin to decrease blood sugar levels – with the excess sugar we eat, it works so hard that it gives up and then starts decreasing the production of insulin. Then the blood sugar goes up and this triggers the diabetes process.
  • A fascinating fact I learned on this podcast is that the pancreas burn-out starts 20-25 years before you actually become a diabetic! In pre-diabetes, the current metric for fasting blood sugar is considered 100-125 and the post-grandial (after a meal) glucose is 140-200, but the actual disease process of insulin resistance is a spectrum.   
  • In an interesting study published by a leading diabetologist in 2010 at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, a study on 8,000 patients showed that a one-hour post grandial glucose greater than 125 was consistent with insulin resistance. If the one-hour post grandial glucose was greater than 150, you are 13 times more likely to become a diabetic in the next eight years. In fact, the fasting sugar, two-hour post grandial glucose didn’t matter – ONLY the one-hour sugar number mattered. And you can do this test at home with a glucose meter.
  • He also noted that 80% of the patients he sees are insulin resistant.
  • Diabetes is correlated with heart attacks – LDL cholesterol did not make the top risk factor for heart attacks. The number one factor was the good to bad cholesterol ratio and number two was smoking. Taking your total cholesterol number and subtracting your HDL will give you the non-HDL cholesterol count which is a better marker.
  • Inflammation is a cause of atherosclerosis. Lipoprotein-associated phospholipase A2 (Lp-PLA2) is an enzyme that plays a role in the inflammation of blood vessels. Measuring Lp- PLA2 along with High-sensitivity C-Reaction Protein (Hs-CRP) will provide an indication of how inflamed your body is and your risk for heart attack.
  • Heart attack is not necessarily a progressive blockage – it’s the inflammation of the arterial wall over the plaque that can burst and cause blockage in blood flow.
  • Insulin resistance is the root cause of diabetes and inflammation is a cause of atherosclerosis. So if you are inflamed, your body will be laying down plaque and it won’t matter what your cholesterol is. You need to address the pro-inflammatory conditions of insulin resistance and diabetes.
  • For long-term and mid-term risk patients, he uses a combination of diet and lifestyle to address inflammation. Low dose aspirin, supplements like resveratrol, pcynogenol, grapeseed and pomegranate extract with niacin (B3) and Omega 3 (fish or krill oil) are basic add-ons to the program.
  • For near-term risk patients (those at the highest risk of heart attack), he will combine medications like statins and beta blockers/ace inhibitors to quickly squash inflammation to bring the risk level down so it can be managed over the long term by diet and lifestyle interventions.
  • His belief is that we need to combine natural and allopathic medicines to get the best outcomes. We don’t live in a natural world anymore so we need to biohack with the right combination that is personalized to our needs. We need a targeted approach but the long-term goal is to eventually wean patients off their medications.
  • One thing he absolutely recommends is getting dental check-ups every six months as periodontal disease will make inflammation go up and increase the risk factor.
  • He emphasizes the need to optimize vitamin D levels as most people have sub optimal levels. Don’t just take vitamin D – get tested first and then determine how much you need.
  • Managing stress and getting enough sleep is another must for optimal health – you need more than 6 hours of sleep per night.

The full podcast is posted below:

https://blog.daveasprey.com/podcast-32-hacking-your-heart-and-preventing-diabetes-with-dr-rocky-patel/

The Benefits of a Healthy Gut – Dr. David Perlmutter Podcast Review

This is a podcast from 2015 of Dr. David Perlmutter – he is well-known for his New York Times bestseller, ‘Grain Brain’, published in 2013. He is a board-certified neurologist and a Fellow of the American College of Nutrition. His key philosophy is around preventative medicine and he believes that diseases like Alzheimer’s, ADHD, MS, depression and auto-immune issues can be prevented with lifestyle changes, good diet and exercise. He also believes that a healthy gut microbiome is our body’s ‘brain maker’ and talks about the results he’s had with patients using these practices.

  • The peer-reviewed literature has been publishing information about carbs and gluten for several decades but no one has paid any attention – he wrote Grain Brain to make the public more aware.
  • As a neurologist, he was very involved in understanding how lifestyle factors affect human physiology and exploring beyond the brain into the gut microbiome – the 100 trillion organisms that live within us.
  • The argument against grains is that they are a concentrated form of carbohydrates. We are genetically programmed to seek out sugar but as a species, we’ve never consumed this much. Bread, carbs and grains are comfort foods but the amount we eat ramps up inflammation.
  • Our blood sugar is rising and research has shown in a study by the New England Journal of Medicine (2013) that there is a direct correlation of sugar level and risk for dementia.  As there is no treatment for Alzheimer’s/dementia, prevention is key.
  • Going gluten free is not the answer as it’s still high in carbs – you need to control the amount of carbs you eat.
  • An astrophysicist studying the gut microbiome in California using supercomputers noted that 1 gram of fecal material holds 100 million terabytes of information and plays a direct role in the health and functionality of the brain. These bacteria make neurotransmitters, aid in making serotonin, GABA, dopamine, and directly influence the level of inflammation in the body. Inflammation is the cornerstone of diseases like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, autism, etc. so healthy gut bacteria is very important. 
  • Studies have shown that fecal transplants have helped patients with Clostridium Difficile infections and reversed Type 2 diabetes.
  • When he works with patients, he starts off with a list of questions that helps him determine the level of disturbance of the gut bacteria like: Were you a C-section baby? Have you taken frequent antibiotics? Have you had your tonsils removed? Do you take NSAIDS? Do you have gut and digestive issues? etc.
  • There are tests available to test the quality of the gut BUT we don’t know what a healthy microbiome should look like (only at a high level). What is known that one of the best attributes for healthy microbiome is bio-diversity.
  • Fermented foods like sauerkraut, probiotics and prebiotics that are present in jicama, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, garlic, leeks, dandelion greens are all rich in fiber that amplifies the growth of good bacteria in your gut.
  • Also, our lack of a large array of different organisms, like parasites, also undermines bio-diversity. Humans have had parasites for a long time – we’ve developed tolerance to them and also lived symbiotically which contributed to our health. When we sterilize the gut, we set the stage for imbalances in the metabolism and favor overgrowth of bacteria that can make us fat.
  • The hygiene hypothesis proposed in 1986 holds that our obsession with hygiene and sterilization has paved the way for us to have allergic and atopic diseases and skin related issues.
  • Autism is an inflammatory condition and correlates with changes in the gut bacteria – researchers in Canada discovered that changes in gut bacteria in autistic children correlates to changes to chemicals in how the brain works. We need to let kids gets dirty and expose them to different organisms and not live in a sterile environment.
  • Stress stimulates the adrenal glands to make cortisol which allows us to be more adaptable to stress, but the downside is that it increases the leakiness of the gut, changes the gut bacteria and allows overgrowth of organisms like yeast. Cortisol also has a detrimental effect on the memory center. 
  • Gut is front and center to depression. Lipopolysaccharides (LPS), the cell wall that lives in the gut, goes into the bloodstream when the gut becomes permeable under inflammation. There is a correlation between depression, gut leakiness and LPS increase. This is also related to conditions like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
  • Overuse of antibiotics leading to antibiotics resistance is a key public health threat. Overuse of antibiotics is also correlated with increased asthma, allergic diseases and diabetes. C-sections deprive children of the microbiome during birth and your risk of developing diseases increases as you need to receive the genetic information from the birth canal. This first exposure of the right microbiome from the mother is critical for development.
  • Through years of a poor diet, our microbiome has become adept at extracting calories from food. Hence, weight gain and inflammation follows.
  • Prebiotics like acacia gum and pectin nurture the gut bacteria.
  • Interventional studies of probiotic bacteria showed changes that are measurable. A group of 75 children given lactobacillus rhamnosus showed that those that received the probiotic were healthy, whereas the control group had a 14% rate of autism and ADHD. 
  • Dr. Perlmutter’s daily routine: He is at risk for Alzheimer’s due to family history so he’s very careful about what he eats and is an advocate of regular exercise. He likes aerobics as he knows that this will turn on the genes that code for the chemical that will allow the brain cells to grow (BDNF factor). He favors a high fat, low sugar, grain free diet with lots of prebiotic fiber (15-20 grams), and adds in Vitamin D, Vitamin E, fish oil, a multivitamin and B-complex. He also only eats two meals a day and fasts for 12 to 15 hours after his last meal to keep his brain sharp.

Brain Maker can be found on Amazon and there are plenty of resources available on his website:

www.Drperlmutter.com

The podcast is on the link below:

Dr. Joel Kahn Podcast Review: Heart Health, Mitochondria & The Gut

I recently listened to one of the earlier podcasts by Dave Asprey (the Bulletproof Executive) on heart health where he interviewed Dr. Joel Kahn, a cardiologist and author of the best-selling book, The Whole Heart Solution. Dr. Kahn is a well-recognized clinician in the field of invasive, interventional and preventative cardiology and was awarded the title of “America’s Holistic Heart Doc” by Reader’s Digest. He is a Clinical Professor of Medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, MI and the Director of Cardiac Wellness.

It was interesting to hear that Dr. Kahn is a low-fat vegan (which is something Dave Asprey is not a fan of for various reasons) and in this interview, he mentioned that when dealing with patients with cardiac artery disease (CAD), a mostly vegetable and low fat diet (oil free, not fat free) has been proven to help. Note that he didn’t advocate this necessarily for prevention but for treating severe CAD patients.

Here are some key highlights:

  • A healthy mitochondria is the key to a healthy heart. Mitochondria is where ATP is produced and is the powerhouse for cells (ATP or Adenosine Triphosphate is a complex organic chemical that provides energy to drive many processes in living cells). When you have heart disease, your body is producing less ATP and conversely, when you produce less ATP, you are prone to heart disease, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, etc.
  • Your mitochondria is very prone to toxicity – published data has shown that mycotoxins and air pollution can actually trigger heart attacks. In a study conducted around the Beijing Olympics, the incidence of heart attacks went down when all the factories were turned off for the Olympics but then went back up when the factories starting running again. It’s critical to live in a clean air environment. Dr. Kahn advocates a HEPA filter, if necessary, for the home.
  • Heavy metals like mercury amalgams (in your teeth) can also be mitochondrial toxins.
  • Our body makes less CoQ10 (a powerful antioxidant) as we age so we need to bring our levels up after age 40 with supplements. He also recommends PQQ supplement as a booster (Pyrroloquinoline quinone or PQQ is a recently discovered vitamin-like compound that is commonly found in plant foods and can stimulate mitochondrial function).
  • CoQ10 combats oxidative stress and is needed to make ATP – also, drugs like statins deplete CoQ10 so it’s important to take CoQ10 when on statin therapy. A peer-reviewed study conducted in Australia showed the benefit of CoQ10 before and after open-heart surgery: those that took CoQ10 had fewer complications and got discharged earlier.
  • Dr. Kahn is very selective about the use of statins and for non-high-risk patients, prefers to manage patients with lifestyle, diet and detoxification methods.
  • Dr. Kahn also believes that cholesterol shouldn’t be lower than 150 nor does he want to see levels in the high 200+. If patients he sees do not have heart disease, he uses vitamin supplementation to keep mitochondria healthy (Selenium, Glutathione, Vitamin D, CoQ10, Vitamin E, Trans-resveratrol to name a few).
  • Here’s a nice flight tip: Dr. Kahn noted that airline pilots have increased risk of melanoma due to the ionizing radiation in the sky and recommends taking chlorella and glutathione before a flight for protection.
  • He also advocates N-Acetyl Cysteine during flu season.
  • Dr. Kahn has seen transformative results with heart patients on CoQ10, Magnesium, L-Carnitine and D-Ribose supplementation but this is not supported by clinical trials/ research. There are other cardiologists that are using nutraceuticals to support their patients’ heart health.
  • A randomized study of sick heart patients that took the probiotic Saccharomyces Boulardii showed that heart ejection fractions went up with improved symptoms and ability to walk longer distances. Dr. Kahn believes that strengthening the defenses of the gut as a heart-related therapy is important. Having a sick gut from a poor diet that includes gluten, alcohol, sugar, etc. releases endotoxins and this has shown to affect cardiac function.
  • Dr. Kahn recommends taking charcoal to bind endotoxins and resistant starch prebiotics to mediate heart attack risk.
  • Dr. Kahn also recommends eating fermented foods but they must come from the refrigerator section; otherwise, they have been pasteurized so it’s not ‘living’.
  • Dr. Kahn recommends as a preventative measure the Carotid Intima-media thickness (CIMT) test with ultrasound to check the thickness of the inner layers of your carotid artery. 60% of Americans are at risk of heart attack but are asymptomatic so it’s a good idea to get the tests done. He prefers this over CAT scan as it minimizes radiation.
  • An interesting study has shown that repeated ultra exercise may actually accelerate heart calcification (I’m glad I don’t like ultra exercise!)
  • Here is another interesting study since I am a fan of Pellegrino. People that drank a lot of San Pellegrino mineral water took Vitamin D and Vitamin K2 to counteract the large amount of calcium present in the water – and it worked. So, I can continue to drink on!
  • A quote from another well-known researcher, Dr. Thomas Seyfried: “ A man is as old as his arteries.”
  • In summary, here are Dr. Kahn’s three recommendations to perform well:
    • Forks – food is power and can reverse plaque and heart disease
    • Feet – MOVE and avoid SITosis
    • Fingers – don’t smoke

His book Whole Heart Solution can be found on Amazon: