Mars and Venus

So what’s the first thing that came to your mind when you read the caption? Perhaps ‘Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus’? Dr John Gray, author of several books in this Mars and Venus series was recently on BulletProof Radio. The podcast kind of blew my mind. Most times I listen to a health podcast like BulletProof Radio or Paleo Solution I hope that I will  learn one new thing about healthy lifestyle. I think I walked away with at least 5 gems in this podcast and not just the usual fats-proteins-and-carbs. Important as it is, that stuff gets boring really fast. Brain health and brain anti-ageing is much more fun because brains at the center of everything and pretty much a mystery. Reducing brain inflammation is fun. Mind you, food and lifestyle choices that lead to body inflammation will also cause brain inflammation because brain and body are one. It’s fascinating to hear about health and nutrition from the lens of brain rather than body weight. You want to look good and be healthy for as long as possible and thriving brain has to be the focal point of this strategy. Mars Venus series Dr John Gray has sold over 50 million books and his work has been in translated into 50 languages. He is considered one of the foremost relationship experts and so I expected them to talk about relationships and sexuality and how men and women are different. The first book has been out for 2 decades now. Around 15 years ago, the Dr shifted his focus from just relationships to relationships and brain health. Not to mention that he was facing a personal crisis, he was in early stages of Alzheimer’s. Conventional medicine has a pathetic record for treating such complex and chronic diseases. So he ended up not taking this route. Through  lifestyle change, nutrient dense diet and vitamin-mineral support he managed to reverse his symptoms. He also inadvertently fixed his ADD which he always had but never really thought about it till his wife mentioned to him that he was much calmer now or doesn’t procrastinate. It’s amazing that Dr understands not only the big picture about male female relationships in terms of emotional and sexual differences, but has mapped these down to hormonal differences, all the way down to mineral and nutrient deficiencies in our body and brains. No small feat. And he totally digs BulletProof coffee. Super impressed with the guy. Let’s dig into the show:

1. Attention Deficit Disorder(ADD), stimulants and Dopamine effect – ADD manifests in 4 different forms – Hyper sensitive, Hyper focussed, Hyper distracted, Hyper compulsive. Dopamine is pleasure, motivation, focus and interest. When you hear something new and you are interested, huge amount of dopamine gets produced. So whenever you have high dopamine response the brain gives you fewer dopamine receptor sites and then it’s gone. So you need to do it again and again. If you over stimulate, you lose receptor sites! On first use of cocaine, you lose 30% of receptor sites temporarily, so life feels 30% less pleasurable, interest and focussed and so they seek that cocaine stimulation again. Kids with ADD have low dopamine levels in the brain. So these kids are pushing too hard and seeking stimulation. When they are given a drug like Speed, Adderall basically Methamphetamine, these kids calm down. Why? Well it produces dopamine. If you allow the brain to make more dopamine, it slows down or starts behaving normally – calm and focussed. Other stimulants are sugar, processed carbs, video games and pornography. You will have to take away the over stimulation (cocaine, sugar, porn) for the receptor sites to come back up. Coffee works through a different pathway than methamphetamine or sugar or Speed which are dopamine stimulants. Coffee doesn’t overstimulate unless you do too much. And putting butter and MCT oil prevents this overstimulation. Dr jokes half seriously – “Why don’t you just give the kid coffee or bulletproof coffee and parents are horrified that they can’t give coffee. So they don’t have a problem giving a drug with effects like cocaine but coffee is a problem?”

2. Flow state – Flow state is not quite over stimulation but you can easily deplete you brain of nutrients and minerals by being in flow state for too long. I can personally attest to this that whenever I have done my best work in the morning after bulletproof coffee in flow state, once you are done with that creative piece of work, you feel exhausted afterwards. You are like a race car and you deplete nutrients and minerals. You also need healthy gut flora to make these nutrients. Lot of high performers in the history get into flow states, produce master pieces and then crash and burn until next time when body has again enough nutrients to get into flow state. Dave: “It takes more zinc and copper to lift more, create more, remain longer in flow state.”

3. What else triggers dopamine? Success stimulates dopamine. So does Danger. If you have a successful career or relationship, you are making enough dopamine. But imagine a 19 years old with bleak outlook who seeks dopamine dose. He may end up joining a gang and introducing a bit of danger in his life and that becomes his addiction. Drama in marriage between the couples – arguing and yelling. Anytime you are yelling and shouting it implies danger. Grieving – You can become addicted to grieving to get dopamine dose especially if you don’t have a nutrient dense diet. Parents are chronically grieving loss of a child – they are hopelessly depressed and on medication and can’t get out of the state. When parents were shown the photo of the child, same parts of brain lit up on the brain scan as when you take cocaine.

4. Dr eats good high quality meat (not a lot) and doesn’t demand perfection in his food. He is not dogmatic about it. Whole food based.

5. Blood sugar – Imbalance in blood sugar, hiking and falling, is one of the biggest problems because glucose is one of the fuels for the brain and you brain goes haywire. Your blood sugar spikes and falls and your brains a mess. This is where Dr revealed 3 amazing supplements (2 of which I didn’t know). First two have to with calcium regulation and first one is important for blood sugar regulation–

i. Membrane support via AEP (Calcium 2-AEP Or Calcium-Mag-Pot-2AEP) – Work of Dr Nieper from Germany has patent on this and he bonded calcium, magnesium and potassium.  It provides cellular membrane support. Dave has been taking Calcium 2-AEP for 15 years to get membrane support and kidney protection (Dave has only 1 kidney). I think it’s vital to stress this point – healthy cell membranes. That is what can stop pathogens from getting into the cells or health of receptors on the cells (think insulin receptors if you are wondering how it helps with blood sugar regulation). Cell membranes are made of fat and this is why you would want to eat butter and avocado (undamaged fats) and not margarine. It’s the raw material for your cells folks and it takes time to rebuild them. Dr: “Nobody knows about this guy (Nieper) and everyone should be taking this.”

ii. Vitamin K2 – Calcium regulation and metabolism is vital. Anybody who is depressed is not making enough GABBA in the brain because there is issue with calcium regulation. It allows brain receptor sites to remove calcium and regenerate themselves. Calcification also stiffens the veins leading to cardiovascular issues. I already supplement with K2 and I also get it nutritionally via butter, pastured egg yolks and chicken livers.

iii. Lithium-Orotate – One of the minerals people lose most when they eat sugar is lithium. One of the functions of lithium is to regulate calcium in the brain and lithium is considered a medicine for ‘bi-polar’ people. You would want lithium orotate and not lithium carbonate which is want psychiatrists recommend. Food that has the most lithium in it is beetroots. Where do we get most our sugar from? Beets. As always things naturally exist in a balance and that’s how they should be consumed. Personally, I intend to make Calcium 2-AEP and Lithium-Orotate part of my supplement stack. A very close family member has a history of nerve issues and bipolarity and is already on some lithium supplementation probably the carbonate one. I really hope this helps them.

6. Women and blood sugar – When women get hungry, their blood sugar has already dropped and drops much further than men. It’s already an emergency situation, cortisol rises and it’s like a bear is chasing her. Too bad, you are the only person around and so she will remember every mistake you have ever made. Get her some food already with a bit of healthy carbs. Nut and goji berries? An apple?

It’s astonishing the amount of supplements he has reviewed on his website.

http://www.marsvenus.com/list/john-gray-mars-venus-health

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Wonders of Activated Charcoal

It’s not surprising that we don’t hear much if at all about health practices that are effective and cheap. Eating sulphur rich vegetables just don’t get the attention to detox yourself and are not as flashy as 500 $ detox program involving magic pills and carrot juice. No one gets to make money off Brussel Sprouts, Broccoli or Onion. Besides, part of us believes in magic pills or one simple trick that will burn all the fat.

My knowledge about Activated Charcoal at times makes me feel like I have a secret, a tool in my tool box which gives me an unfair advantage. Shout out to BulletProof executive Dave Asprey – I first learnt about it on BulletProof Radio.

A word on detoxification first….

Detoxification according to functional medicine is one of the 7 fundamental systems. It’s a truly essential job – getting rid of both endogenous (that is produced within our bodies) toxins as well as exogenous (external via food or environment) toxins. You could eat a very nutrient dense diet but if your cells aren’t getting cleared of the toxins or you are getting inundated with exogenous toxins, you are going to feel the terrible effects sooner or later.

Let me illustrate this with 2 examples.
You are eating the best possible lean meat proteins in the form of let’s say salmon and tuna and you feel really great about making these healthy choices. Unbeknownst to you, you are also getting a trace dose of mercury and other heavy metals. Now it’s the dose which makes the poison and so these trace amounts don’t make any difference in 1 or 2 or even 5 years. However, if your body is not detoxing as well as it can, these minute amounts will add up over time and you end up with heavy metal toxicity.
Or imagine you eat out and drink and soon after you don’t feel too great. A little bit of brain fog. It’s happened to me several times after I have eaten out. Eating out is fun but a bit of compromise in terms of quality.

Liver is the seat of detoxification in the body and in charge of detoxifying our bodies from internal as well as external toxins. While I feel less concerned about a healthy liver clearing cellular toxins – because liver has dealt with these for millions of years and perhaps understands them much better. It’s the external toxins coming into the body via eating food outside that can make liver’s job harder. And every hero can use a sidekick.
Enters our sidekick: Activated Charcoal. World’s oldest and most reliable detox.

Now before you get the idea that I have lost my marbles and eating charcoal would kill us, let me allay your fears.
0) If nothing else, stuff given to infants has to be absolutely safe?
Gripe water is given to infants and young children if they experience stomach indigestion.
Have a look at Colic Calm Gripe Water and it’s first ingredient is Activated Charcoal.

ColinCalm

So it’s considered a food supplement.

1) Charcoal is not digested or absorbed in the gastro-intestinal tract.
2) There is a 10,000 years of history of charcoal use in Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine as well western medicine to soak up poisons and improve intestinal health through a process called ADSORPTION. (That’s not a typo. Adsorption means to bind and not absorb.)
3) In fact, Activated Charcoal (A.C.) is commonly used in hospital emergency rooms. Why? Because charcoal is an age-old remedy for counteracting poison. If you ingest poison as fertilizer or bad alcohol or a large dose of medicine by mistake, then a large dose of A.C. will help your body flush out the poison faster.
4) What do you think is present in water filters and purifiers?

ActivatedCharcoal_WaterFilters

So what is ACTIVATED CHARCOAL (A.C.) really?
A carbon source like wood or coconut shells is burnt and the black charred carbon that is left behind is charcoal. These tiny charcoal particles have a large surface area. This charcoal is then activated with oxidizing gases like steam or air at high temperatures and so it becomes negatively charged. This further increases its surface area or adsorption capacity. Consider this, just 2 g of A.C. has surface area of a football field! It has a very strong negative charge and a lot of toxins in the body or those we eat are positively charged. So it ends up attracting all these toxins and taking it out of the body.
If you look at a bottle of A.C. it will say somewhere that it is a “digestion aid”.

ActivatedCharcoal

This brings up an important question – Can A.C. bind to the nutrients in our food?
First there is very little evidence that A.C. binds to organic nutrients in our food. More importantly, when you eat out and suspect less than ideal food, nutrient density becomes a lot less important. I am less concerned about losing some nutrients or proteins to A.C. and more interested in getting rid of anti-nutrients or toxins.

More important question though is – Can A.C. charcoal interfere with medication?
Yes, it definitely can. The recommendation is not to mix your medicines and A.C. and talk to your doctor about it. There is very little evidence that A.C. can block uptake of synthetic vitamins\minerals. However, this can be alleviated to a large extent by timing when you take A.C. Common sense dictates that you shouldn’t take your vitamin\minerals and A.C. together. A general guideline is to take A.C. in-between meals or one and half hours after the meal.

Another clever use of A.C. is for dental hygiene. If it can bind to toxins in the gut, it can bind to toxins in the mouth. Check out Katie’s experience on wellnessmama.com.

You can really go for any decent brand. But If you are in a bit of mood to splurge and want to get the best A.C., look no further than Upgraded Charcoal, the charcoal is obtained from coconut shells only.

Upgraded Charcoal

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.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uV2ynZ1VcnE

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.