The benefits of a healthy lifestyle
So how about lifestyle: behavior/exercise, meditative experiences, diet. Everybody knows these, nobody does them, but we should all be doing these. We should all be thinking about ways of integrating these into our lifestyle, because these all have possible effects on genetics and thus, epigenetics.
Standard behavioral recommendations; 30-60 minutes of aerobic exercise, 4-6 times a week. Our strength training a couple of times a week – not easy. This guy says, “This morning I spent an hour on the bike. Tomorrow I intend to start peddling.” Yeah, start somewhere, right? And in my office, we are working with people on developing exercise programs. Everybody who does TMS in my office, we are also developing an exercise routine. We’re coaching them, starting with where they’re at and developing some kind of routine to improve their exercise physiology.
“Refusing to go to the gym is not the same thing as resistance training”. Yeah, remember that. So it is hard to get people to exercise who arent exercisers. It’s easy if you’ve been an exerciser or if its part of your lifestyle. You know it makes you feel good, you do it. If you haven’t done it, you don’t know it, and you’ve got to learn it, but you can start in small steps and build.
Meditative experiences: transcendental meditation, focused attention, mindfulness, effortless transcending. There are different words that people use. There are lots of different styles of this. Prayer – within a religious context – music, tai chi. I know that my days are better, my brain is quieter if I have taken the opportunity to meditate, so I do that as part of a personal exercise and meditate every day unless there’s some catastrophe that day. And they balance me. They keep me able to focus, to be engaged with other people, by doing other things that I really love to do. And I am just encouraging people to figure out some way that works for them, that they can enter that state where they can calm their brain on a regular basis. Hopefully daily, doesn’t need to be forever. It could be a half hour or 15 minutes if you can get it. 15 minutes is a lot better than nothing.
Then diet: standard recommendations that we give are minimized consumption of processed sugar. I don’t know if you know this but sugar’s poison. You’ve got to think of it like that. And if that’s the case, then we’re flooded by poison right?. You walk into any grocery store and any coffee shop, the sugar is calling you, right? We want to minimize the consumption of grain products. I can talk about that a little bit but gluten, in particular, appears to have some negative effects on especially the development of inflammation. Take Omega-2 fatty acid and/or eat more fish, preferably small fish. Big fish tend to accumulate mercury and small fish, like sardines, and even fish like trout and salmon can have less mercury in them. Big fish, like tuna, have more mercury in them.
They ask for 12 hours a day. That can be a little bit challenging if you’re like me, but you can work towards it. That means don’t eat between dinner and breakfast. So for me, I often get home at 6 o’clock. We might have dinner by 19:00. I like to go at least until 07:00 the next day. Really, what I like to do, is go until about 09:00 or 09:30. I’m getting 14 hours and that would be optimal. I get hungry, I need to function, my brain feels like it can’t engage as well. Sometimes I eat, but I’m working towards that.
Take vitamin D. Almost everybody – especially Northern latitudes like South Dakota – is vitamin D deficient. Virtually everybody that we’ve tested – and we’ve tested over 200 people – has been vitamin D deficient.
So this sugar consumption business: natural sugars in fruits and vegetable, and unsweetened dairy products seem to be okay. You just want to limit granulated sugars, processed sugar, high fructose corn syrup – which is in every processed food almost – honey, maple syrup, things that have highly concentrated sugar. So fruits and vegetables – especially fruits – have sugar in them, but you’re also eating fiber. That reduces the glycemic index, and that makes them less likely to trigger an insulin response. We’ll talk about the problems with insulin response in a minute. And this is it, so high sugar consumption results in a hyperinsulinemic state. So insulin follows sugar because it’s trying to put the sugar in, itself. We are more hyperinsulinemic now as a culture than at any time in the history of the world, because we’re eating more sugar. Our bodies aren’t used to that.
Chronic hyperinsulinemia and elevated blood sugar are toxic to the brain, so when you have your next candy bar, remember you’re doing some toxicity to your brain. It doubles the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, hyperinsulinemia does, due to excessive sugar intake. Again, we’re probably more hyperinsulinemic than at any point in the history of mankind.
So how is elevated insulin toxic to the brain? So there’s an enzyme in your brain. It’s called insulin-degrading enzyme, this breaks down insulin – that’s cool. It also breaks down amyloid. This is the plague that develops in the brains of people that have Alzheimer’s disease. You get enough of this; you are more likely to have Alzheimer’s disease. So this insulin degrading enzyme; you want it to be available to break down amyloid. If it’s being used up breaking down insulin, because you’re in a hyperinsulinemic state, then you don’t have enough available to break down amyloid that can be developing, and that is one reason why hyperinsulinemia is toxic to the brain; because it uses up insulin degrading enzyme, and doesn’t allow you to break down amyloid as well.
The second dietary thing that we suggest is that people at least limit consumption of grain products, especially processed wheat. There’s some evidence that wheat increases inflammation throughout the body, including the brain, and we think that inflammation makes your brainsick. Gluten sensitivity seems to be the central problem, and it seems to create more problem for some people than others; people with celiac disease as a gluten-sensitive problem, but probably all of us have some issues with gluten. So it’s worth understanding the problem with gluten. So why is wheat or gluten a problem? Here’s the backstory. There’s a molecule called Gliadin, which is a component of the grain protein gluten, and gluten is found in wheat. Gliadin causes a substance called Zonulin to increase in the intestines, so when you eat gluten and gliadin comes out of the gluten, it causes Zonulin to be released in the intestine.
Zonulin appears to make our gut more permeable. If these are two cells in the GI system (clenches his hands together to represents the two cells), and there’s a pretty tight junction between them, then not much is going to slip through between my fingers. Maybe a little bit; small things. If this is affected by gliadin, those holes get bigger. So bigger things are slipping in between your cells and into your bloodstream. And why is that important? Well, your body is not used to those things and your body recognizes them as being foreign. It says, “these things don’t belong”, so it develops an immune response to these other bigger things that are sliding through in between cells, and causes an inflammatory state. That seems to trigger more autoimmunity.
We kind of have an epidemic right now of autoimmune diseases and hyperinflammatory states, and things like arthritis. Cancer is an inflammatory disease. Coronary artery disease is an inflammatory illness. All of these things may be worsened by that process of allowing bigger proteins into your bloodstream, through your intestines, and your body developing an immune response, and then your body subsequently developing an immune response to things that are sort of like those proteins that are found elsewhere in your body, and thus, you get autoimmunity. So we want to be thinking about that; how to make your GI system as healthy as possible to decrease inflammation, to make your brain healthier. All of these things are connected.
Omega-3, fatty acids, eat more fish; I suggest people start low but aim for about two thousand milligrams twice a day. Why? We’ll go into that in a second. Usually, this is completely benign. Most people have no side effects. On occasion, a person will have an upset stomach. Some people will burp up a fish taste. You can usually get around that by either freezing the omega-3 fish oil and eating the frozen tablets, or just finding a brand that doesn’t do that to you. Omega-3 decreases inflammation and improve hippocampus volume; improves brain health. They ask for 12 hours each day, and that again – we talked about that a minute ago – try to finish eating dinner, and then go 12 hours before breakfast or longer, and especially if you have an APOE4 gene; an example of knowing your genetics. If you have an APOE4 gene – which is a gene that predicts Alzheimer’s disease – probably, if you fast a little bit longer, you can decrease your likelihood of that gene expressing itself.
So why fast? It keeps your insulin level from spiking before bedtime since insulin spikes at that time seem to contribute to insulin resistance. Insulin inhibits the release of melatonin, which actually helps you sleep and inhibits growth hormone, which is good for keeping your brain vibrant. It promotes what’s called autophagy, which is a process in which cells recycle components, and destroy damaged proteins and mitochondria. So when you’re starving a little bit; when you’re a little bit low on blood sugar and your body is looking for food, you will break down old crappy cells that you need to get rid of anyway. So it kind of prunes out the bad stuff, and that’s what we think happens with autophagy. And the last thing that fasting does, is it induces ketosis, which is what we talked about earlier. Ketosis can trigger brain-derived neurotrophic factor release. That, plus exercise.
Take vitamin D. Here’s some reasons; reduces inflammation, reduces auto-immunity, improves brain function, reduces cancer cell growth, improves immunity, enhances mood and sleep, reduces the risk of heart disease. D3 is the most active form of vitamin D, so that’s what I suggest people take. It’s available over-the-counter. Almost everybody needs some, especially at this latitude, and for most people, there’s not a reason to not just take 2,000 units a day. Although, if you know your vitamin D level, you can be a little bit more precise about how much you need.