Shawn Stevenson Story

I recently learnt about Shawn Stevenson on Living La Vida Low Carb Show and his story of recovery from a degenerative bone and spine disease is pretty amazing.

Below is a summary verbatim in Shawn’s own words from the podcast:

He was an athletic scholar , kind of performing at a high level for his school. At age of 16, he was doing a time trial for 200 metres when he broke his hip. This kind of phenomenon is reserved for 90 years old. The trainers managed to get him back on the track at the time but no one really asked the question “Why did this happen at all?”. But it all came full circle when he was 20 and was diagnosed with degenerative bone disease.  –  his spine  was degenerating. The doctor shows him MRI scan of his back and tells him “you have spine of an 8 year old.” Unfortunately the condition couldn’t be cured and can only be managed. Shawn remembers asking the doctor “Does this have anything to do with what I am eating?”. Doctor replied that this condition has nothing to do with what you put in your mouth but put these pills in your mouth anyways because they will help him deal with the pain. 2.5 year later, Shawn was sick and tired of being sick and tired and something moved in his consciousness. He took a decision that he will be in charge of his health and not focus on negativity.

Trivia – Decision derives from a Latin word which means to cut away (think incision), so he decided to cut away any thought of he is not going to be healed.

He put a plan into play and it worked in 3 phases:
1. Movement: Body needs to move to heal itself. Doctors were just recommending him bed rest and more bed rest. He came upon a study of horses , all of whom had broken a bone or two. So they were being supplemented with calcium to increase their bone density. The horses were divided into 2 groups: one were given calcium only and the second group was given calcium and were encouraged to move. The group which moved ended up with much higher bone density and the other group had negligible impact.

2. Body requires raw material to build itself: Just like if a house porch is broken, you will need raw materials to build it. Shawn asked an interesting question to himself : what is my spine actually made of ? He started to understand some big misnomers in convential medicine like doctors recommend calcium supplements to increase bone density but such individual end up with 33% higher chance of dying due to cardio vascular diseases. Shocker?  This is because of calcification – this is an end product (See my explanation below) Another one of the big end product is silica and Shawn was eating Papa Johns and chinese food every day. He realized he was deficient in silica, magnesium, vitamin C and sulphur. Vitamin C and sulphur through a process called Biological Transmutation, they create new tissues!!! So he stopped eating fast food, started cooking at home and using whole foods.
In 30 days, his pain vanished.

3. Sleep: As he was healing, his sleeping patterns changed. His circadian rhythms kicked in and he naturally started to go to bed earlier and started getting up earlier. Benefits of sleep have already been covered in a previous post.

So for Shawn, food was his medicine. And he went a step further and took supplements for his special situation when food wouldn’t suffice. I tend to support this view as well that we can’t entire rely on the food alone to get all micronutrients we need to thrive. Almost everyone is deficient in Vitamin D3 and Magnesium and it’s nearly impossible to get enough of these from the diet.

To understand what Shawn means by calcium supplementation increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases – When certain supplements like calcium are taken without their co factors or activators, they don’t quite work like they should. For example in this case, you reason that Calcium is an essential raw material for bone formation so you supplement with  Calcium hoping it will increase your bone density but how do you know it’s going to stick on your bones and teeth and not end in your arteries. If calcium ends in your arteries, you end up with calcified arteries and now you are a higher risk of death due to cardio vascular diseases. The correct protocol is to have Vitamin D3, Vitamin K2 and Calcium together because they work synergistically. K2 acts like an activator for Calcium and Vitamin D3 and ensures that  calcium should end up on our bones and teeth and not in our arteries.

If you really want to geek out on Vitamin K2 and how it took us 62 years to understand it’s role as an activator, check out this article from Chris Masterjohn.
On the trail of elusive X-factor

Shawn Stevenson has a pretty popular podcast called The Model Health Show

Here is TEDx talk by Shawn Stevenson and like me you will end up  becoming a big fan of cacao, the mother of chocolate. That’s raw cacao and not your Cadbury’s or Lindt milk chocolate.

My favourite sleeping well techniques or sleep hacks (Update2)

There are a few essentials pillars which are needed to build and maintain the structure of healthy and thriving body and brain. In computer talk, you have to have good hardware and software. No matter how good the software is, it’s not going to be as awesome on lousy piece of hardware.  And it’s a lot easier to fix the hardware – that is the physical aspects of our body and brain. Once you have a great working hardware or an energetic body and brain, then you have the energy to bring it on and go after what you really want in life.
To my mind, these are nutrient dense foods, sleep, stress and exercise. I would rate sleep nearly as high as eating a nutrient dense diet, if not higher and unfortunately it’s often sacrificed. An hour of extra browsing in the night or watching Netflix, we all do it. What I have learnt over the last year is that sleep is absolutely non-negotiable if you want to get anywhere close to your peak performance – whether that’s at work or in the gym or just feeling great. Both the quantity and quality of sleep matter. I like to get around 8 hours of sleep and for most people the range is somewhere between 7-9 hours. It’s better to err on the side of sleeping more than sleeping less. You know you have slept well when you can wake up naturally without an alarm clock and you feel refreshed.  

So why should you care about sleep? It’s the most deeply anabolic state. That’s just a fancy way of saying that this is when your body is healing, growing and recovering. Just about everything else we do during a day is catabolic (muscle wasting, tearing up tissues). Activities like mindful meditation and deep sleep are deeply anabolic. Think about this: When you walk out of a gym training session 1 hour later, you are in a much worse state than when you walked in. Yep, you heard that right. Your inflammatory markers will all be high. But if you give your body time to recover from this acute stress with good diet followed by good quality and long sleep, you will not only be better off but stronger too. So you build muscles not in the gym but later when you are recovering, especially in the deep sleep phase of the sleep.  The key is to train and then recover like hell and it’s nearly impossible without adequate and quality sleep.  Everyone needs adequate and quality sleep but you may need it even more if you like to train in the gym or have generally a busy and hectic lifestyle.

3 important things happen in sleep:

1.      Auto immune repair: In the deep-sleep phase of the sleep your body, brain and immune system work together to repair themselves. In fact immune system is learning about the stuff that has happened during the day to it and is figuring out which foods are friends and which are not or if mistakes were made in identifying harmless things as harmful and that could have triggered an auto immune reaction. So, deep sleep part of the sleep is absolutely critical.

2.  Mental cognition: Another important activity that goes on in sleep is re-arranging of memory like putting the books in the library back in order. Memories get organized, categorised. This stuff is not as important as the first part and unfortunately if you don’t get enough sleep or do not get enough quality sleep, the first part is given precedence over second part because it’s more relevant for survival and so it will steal time from the phase during which we dream. So, you may not feel as sharp or fluid the next day. It’s the difference between flash drive and hard drive, information is there but there is too much seek time.
3. Hormonal reset: Hormones are reset. Think of it like a computer reboot (I simplify of course).  For example, a good sleep makes you insulin sensitive and conversely a bad one would make you insulin resistant. Think about that for a second – if you want to lose excess weight, you should try to get really good sleep of 7-9 hours.
So here are a few tricks I have learnt to improve the quality of my sleep.
1. Timing matters – That’s true for both when you sleep and when you eat your evening meal.
Some of us are night owls but most of us should be asleep before 11 pm. I usually call it a day around 9 30 pm and hope to be asleep by 10 pm. If I try sleeping an hour later and even though I did get 8 hours of sleep, something still feels off. I track my sleep and I can see that I have had less deep sleep. So timing matters and as a basic rule of thumb, the earlier we sleep after the sunset, the better it is. It’s just how brain is hard wired and this is what we may have done for millions of years.
As for meal timing, it’s common sense to get done 3 or so hours before you really want to fall asleep. You don’t really want to be digesting a steak, as awesome as it is, as you are really trying to go to sleep.
No coffee after 2 pm: Seriously, no coffee after 2 pm, not even BulletProof coffee. Caffeine has a half-life of around 6 hours and so you will have still have plenty of it in your system around 10 pm if you have it late. 
2.  Cut down the lights– In my opinion there is way too much light in our lives especially in the second part of the day. Start turning down the lights 2 hours before you want to hit the bed. 
3.  F.lux: It will be naïve to think we won’t use our laptops and other gadgets in the evening. Well, just install f.lux on all the machines and devices you can. F.lux tracks the sun movement for your part of the world and will change the wavelength of the light being emanated from the device you are working on. Next point explain why this matters.
4.  Blue blockers: I have myself been guilty of watching Netflix shows right up to the point I want to sleep and in spite of nearly dark room, there is still way too much light coming off the TV. And f.lux is not available on all the devices we are consuming from. Well, that’s when blue blockers come in really handy – they basically block the blue spectrum part of the light. Blue light basically messes up with hormones like melatonin which help you go to sleep. Before electricity flooded our lives with light, for tens of thousands of years, all we had as a source of light was fire – be it from a fireplace or candles. There is a reason why fire feels so soothing in the night and it’s essentially red spectrum light with longer wavelengths.  I have 2 versions of blue blockers, ones that I can wear on top of my regular glasses or a Sports model (if I am still wearing contact lenses or when I don’t need to wear my glasses like when I am reading). These can be bought from here.

5. Raw Honey – Brain uses liver glycogen (that’s sugar stored as glycogen in the liver) over muscle glycogen when we are sleep. Remember brains still pretty active while we are asleep (no rest for the wicked) and always needs a little bit of glucose for functioning. For me, especially on the days I work out, I will have a small spoon of raw unprocessed honey last thing before I go to bed. Since honey is mostly fructose, it will go to the liver where it will get metabolized as glycogen and brain should have a bit more glycogen available if it needs it. If you are someone who is trying to lose weight, use your common sense and this option may not work for you. And if it’s not raw unprocessed honey, then don’t bother.

Raw Comb Honey
This is also one of the reasons why I don’t mind a bit of starchy foods like sweet potato or white rice  in the night as they are easily digestible and brain can use this glucose because mostly my next proper meal with proteins-fats-carbs is not until 16 hours later (because most days it’s just BulletProof coffee in morning).

6.  Magnesium– Almost everyone is under nourished in this extremely vital element.  Magnesium is used in over 300 enzymatic processes, including all of those involved in ATP production.  It’s also vital for proper transcription of DNA and RNA. It’s also needed to enhance cognition and increase memory AND promote relaxation and improve quality sleep. Both Mark and Dave recommend chelated forms of magnesium, that is those ending in –ate. Here are best forms of magnesium as recommended by Mark and Dave.
BulletProof Exec – Forms: Citrate, malate, glycinate, threonate, or orotate                                    

Marks Daily Apple – Forms: citrate, glycinate, or taurate                     The 2 brands I have been consuming are Active Magnesium and MagTech.

7.      Track your sleep – No, you don’t have to spend 100 bucks on a gimmicky device and it’s easier than you think it is. I am assuming of course that you have an iOS device like an iPhone or iPod touch or an Android device. Well, look no further than Sleep Cycle app. Start this app before you go to sleep, put it next to your pillow and it will your smartphone’s sensor to track your sleep. I am amazed how well this works. Without fail, put your phone in the flight mode. The worst thing you can do it sleep right next to a wifi mobile device, right next to your brain and you are aiming for good sleep.  Here is my chart from one of the nights and look at the amount of deep sleep that takes place in the first 3-5 hours of the sleep.
If you still aren’t convinced about the importance of sleep listen to Dr. Kirk Parsley on The Importance of Sleep. By the end of the video you will realize that sleep is more important than you think it is. A lot more important.