8 Areas for Health (Pick 1!)

You don’t need to do everything at once.

Pick one thing.

Once you’ve upgraded your life that area, pick another.

The elements of a healing protocol lifestyle are all connected and they all support each other.

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed about addressing all the components at once, don’t.

Pick One3Starting is the thing.

Here are eight areas to focus on that will each improve your health.

Pick one!

  1. Nutrition;
  2. Sleep;
  3. Stress Management;
  4. Connectedness (to people);
  5. Connectedness (to nature);
  6. Habits & Patterns;
  7. Self-knowledge; &
  8. Goals.

1. Nutrition

A great place to begin.

But if changing your eating makes you cringe, pick something else! And come back here later. Continue reading

The Paleobiology of Sleep

Sleep2

Until recently we thought that Matthew’s disrupted sleep was just another one of his symptoms.

Yet another broken thing that needed to be fixed.

Now we’ve learned that his pattern of sleeping for a few hours, waking for a while and then returning to sleep for another session toward morning is a natural sleep pattern for humans.

The Paleobiology of Sleep

In 1992, a century after the advent of electricity, Dr Thomas Wehr published the results a groundbreaking study which simulated wintertime conditions for ‘middle-latitude‘ humans before we had artificial light.

Study subjects experienced 10 hours of daylight in which they could do as they pleased. And then 14 hours of darkness.

When not unnaturally constrained by electric light, it turns out that the human sleep pattern resembles that of other animals. It’s polyphasic, meaning that it occurs in two or more phases within a 24-hour period. Continue reading

Achieving Your Health Goals

Achieving Your Health Goals 2

You and your health are part of a situation.

If there’s something you want to change about your health, start with the situation.

Most advice about goal achievement skips this step. But a quick analysis of the situation (system) that is impacting your health will help ensure that your goals are appropriate and your strategies are effective.

Ready? Let’s do it!

An easy way to begin is by asking: Is this situation simple or complex? Continue reading

The Microbiome: the Protocol

My favorite Healers & Optimizers, from the top, left to right: Angie, Alt, Chris Kresser, Sarah Ballantyne, my husband Matthew~, Eileen Laird, Terry Wahls, Dave Asprey, Mickey Trescott, Mark Sisson

Some of my favorite Healers & Optimizers, from the top, left to right: Angie Alt, Chris Kresser, Sarah Ballantyne, my husband Matthew~, Eileen Laird, Terry Wahls, Dave Asprey, Mickey Trescott & Mark Sisson

Health and disease begin in the gut. Hippocrates said it and these people agree:

So, I mapped the systems that are impacted by intestinal microflora in the Origin of Illness.

Then I used that map to determine what parts of the system are actionable, to create a list of things we can do to support microbiome health.

Thereby creating a microbiome protocol~.

In this post, let’s look at what some of my favorite healers and optimizers have to say about each of the elements in this protocol:

Actionable Microbiome 3

We’ll find out what they think, classic web-log style~.

In part one we’ll cover stress management, diet, sleep and physical activity. In part 2 we’ll review caffeine, chemicals, mindful drug use, environment and gut health therapies.

Stress Management

Sarah Ballantyne, the Paleo Mom, explains how stress undermines health & how it can lead to hormone imbalance. She also writes about her personal battles with stress.

Mark Sisson, originator of the The Primal Blueprint, offers the definitive guide to stress, cortisol and the adrenals and covers how stress can make you fat.

Eileen Laird, of Phoenix Helix, interviews Datis Kharrazian in this podcast, in which Dr Kharrazian refers to stress as “the single most impactful factor on the expression of autoimmune disease”.

Dave Asprey, the Bulletproof Executive, shares 6 ways to hack stress  and covers meditation for stress relief and anxiety.

Mark Sisson also offers 15 stress hacks and 10 forgotten stress relief tips.

Susan Vennerholm, of Backcountry Paleo, considers restorative yoga and  how optimism helps manage stress in her guest posts on the Autoimmune Paleo blog.

Diet

An anti-inflammatory & nutrient-dense diet is the core of all the healing and optimizing protocols, including:

As well as customized variations, such as a low-FODMAP AIP.

All of these protocols are based on the same science and are fundamentally aligned. They are all gut-healing, anti-inflammatory, ancestral eating systems.

This is a big subject, but in short, healing protocols (like the AIP & Wahls) tend to be be more restrictive than the optimization protocols (like Primal & Bulletproof), but then they are elimination diets, with the assumption that some off-limits foods may be reintroduced in time. Whereas, though both Primal & Bulletproof make allowances for more dietary flexibility, optimizers recommend this pattern of eating as a lifelong commitment to peak performance.

So, it’s kind of like this:

Healing & Optimizing Protocols

Sleep

Chris Kresser considers sleep to be one of the 9 steps to perfect health.

Sarah Ballantyne writes about sleep requirements & sleep debt and the link between sleep & weight.

Eileen Laird considers skipping sleep as a cause of an autoimmune flare. Mickey Trescott has explored why sleep is important for people with autoimmune disease. Joanna Frankham describes her difficulty with sleep and what she’s doing about it.

Mark’s Daily Apple has over a dozen posts on sleep. Here’s one: How to Manufacture the Best Night’s Sleep in Your Life.

High Leverage Physical Activity

High leverage means you get maximum benefit for your effort.

In the case of exercise, it’s actually really easy (and pretty common) to be low-leverage: to put out a lot of energy in for a negligible (or even negative) result.

Chris Kresser explains this in his post Why You may Need to Exercise Less, and suggests that instead we move like our ancestors. He also advocates High Intensity Strength Training.

Exercising inappropriately can be problematic for people with an unbalanced microbiome. Sarah Ballantyne addresses this in two podcasts: Exercise Performance & Gut Health & The Too Much of Exercise. On her blog she also stresses the importance of exercise, explores the benefits of gentle movement, and tells us why she likes yoga.

Dr Terry Wahls explains how exercise to promotes brain health.

Susan Vennerholm, guest blogging again at Autoimmune Paleo, also cautions against over-exercise as a person with an autoimmune condition, and writes about cardio, high intensity interval training and resistance workouts.

Mark Sisson wins first prize for the highest number of exercise-related posts. His primal movement recommendations are summarized here. He has also written about  why exercise feels like a drag; why it’s the best medicine; the relationship between exercise and inflammation; and managing mitochondria through exercise. He also makes the case against cardio.

 Next up we’ll learn what these biohackers have to say about caffeine, chemicals, mindful drug use, environment, and gut health therapies~.

Find part 2 here.

Healing Optimization

 

 

Biohacking tip #1: Gather Data

what gets measuredTo successfully hack your health & well-being you’re going to need data.

The data you gather will depend on what you are trying to heal (or optimize), and what strategy you are using to get there.

Data comes in 2 flavours: quantitative & qualitative.

Quantitative data quantifies; qualitative data describes.

For example:

  • Keeping a journal about your biohacking experience is qualitative.
  • Using technology to measure your brain activity or heart rate is quantitative. As is filling out an assessment form that includes pre-determined response options.

Biohackers like the quantitative, because it generates numbers & numbers are easy to compare over time.

So here’s a quick introduction to some approaches for gathering quantitative data for your biohacking experiments.

More on qualitative data for biohacking soon~.

Quantitative Data

Gary Wolf co-founded a company called The Quantified Self. His 5-minute video exemplifies the quantitative ethic in biohacking:

Dave Asprey, in his recent book The Bulletproof Diet, is devout about technology for biohacking, both for self-optimization and to gather data.

Hacking Sleep

Dave suggests the app Sleep Cycle to track sleep patterns, as well as other tech-hacks for improving sleep quality. (If you decide to try the app, follow his advice & put your phone in airplane mode).

Because substandard sleep aggravates systemic inflammation, and (in my opinion) reducing inflammation is the goal for biohacking health, sleep is a high-leverage area of focus.

Sleep quality is especially critical for people with autoimmune conditions. But given enough inflammation, I believe we’ll all end up in autoimmune response, so sleep is a great prevention for autoimmune as well.

Technology

But despite the typical biohacker’s obsession with gadgets, high-tech methods aren’t required to gather useful quantitative data.

Any standardized measurement system that rates wellness in one or more domains can be compared over time, and therefore used to track progress.

Here are a few low-tech examples:

Spoon theorySpoon theory

Spoon theory is used by people with chronic illnesses, including autoimmune conditions, to describe the amount of energy available on a given day for life tasks. Although spoons are a subjective unit of measurement, and therefore can’t be compared between people, they can be used to quantitatively track fluctuations in one person’s energy over time.

Spoons also enable chronically ill people to quickly assess & quantitatively communicate about their energy levels to others. As a healthy person, I have found spoon theory really useful as a way to understand my husband Matthew’s reality (& why he sometimes can’t cook dinner or unload the dishwasher. Literally.)

Spoons are a small enough unit of measurement that you can also track subtle improvement trends (or declines) that may not show up in other measurement systems.

The Medical Symptoms Questionnaire

Many Functional Medicine practitioners use the Medical Symptoms Questionnaire (MSQ) for assessment purposes.

You can use the MSQ to generate quantitative data, and with repeated use of the questionnaire, you can then chart your progress by comparing your scores in particular domains, as well as your scores for overall well-being.

Find a printable pdf of the MSQ here.

If you get a low score on the MSQ, you know your health is on-track, and you can start biohacking for optimization (because ‘good’ health is just the beginning~).

I like the MSQ because it measures both frequency and severity of symptoms, enabling tracking across a couple of dimensions at the same time. However, it is of little use to people whose health is already fantastic and who are therefore seeking optimization data. In that case, you might need to customize.

Customize

You’ll want to track symptoms or capacities that are of particular interest to you.

For example:

Biohacking for healing:

  • the number & type of of painkillers or other pharmaceuticals you take;
  • the size & range of psoriasis or eczema patches; or
  • where you feel pain & its severity (give it a rating between 1-10);

HumanBiohacking for optimization:

  • the amount of time you spend in a state of flow each day;
  • how long it takes to fall asleep each night; or
  • the number of sprint intervals you do.

Design your own questionnaire to gather this data.

Use a diagram of a human to keep track of the location of particular symptoms. Colour code them for severity (green, yellow & red work well) & use the same colours at each assessment, to enable comparison over time.

Document

Whatever quantitative data you gather: standardize your system for best results.  Create your personalized assessment strategy, then write it up & duplicate it, to ensure consistency.

Gather data at regular intervals.

Whether you are using spoons, a sleep app, the Medical Symptoms Questionnaire or a combination of methods, be sure date (& file) each quantitative assessment for comparison purposes.

It’s also also important to document what interventions (hacks) you are implementing (and any other variables that may be impacting your well-being).

But that’s another blog post~.

The Electromagnetic Connection

Electricity 2It’s not easy to find the paper Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity and Implications for Metabolism, hidden away on page 799 of Advancing Medicine with Food & Nutrients (2nd edition).

Easier to find the man who co-wrote it.

Finally, an explanation (& validation) for our long-standing suspicion that one of Matthew’s issues is an electromagnetic sensitivity.

Picking up where Benjamin left off…

BenjaminTurns out, metal conducts electricity.

The wiring in your house.

And the metal in your body.

When infused with metals, our bodies can become conductors.

Our hypothesis

Matthew grew up playing in polluted creeks in Southwestern Ontario. Known pollutants from industries in the region include lead, mercury and nickel. From there, he moved on to automobile manufacturing, where he worked with powdered nickel, molybdenum, and cobalt. Then he switched to airplane manufacturing. He worked on some big ferries, too. The planes & ferries were all about aluminum, with some alloyed silicon, copper & manganese.

He’s riddled with metal, we figure.

We decided that he was electromagnetically sensitive years ago. Even though none of his doctors believed such a thing existed.

He was always better away from cities, out of cell phone range. He felt better when the power went out (I do, too).

We moved several times, kids, cats & all, trying to find a place in the city he could live. At one point (in one house) he was in bed 18-20 hours a day, unable to function. He improved somewhat when we moved again.

We noticed these patterns and then started to test our theory. The electromagnetic sensitivity hypothesis held up. 100% of the time.

Finally, we took radical action. Disrupted careers, community & all of our kids to move to a small island with minimal electromagnetic radiation, where Matthew was able to somewhat live

I say ‘we’.

I had teenagers to fledge & there is no highschool there. In reality, we became a family with 2 residences. But not in a fancy way. More like in a lots-of-credit-cards-perpetually-maxed-out way.

I live primarily in the city. Matthew lives primarily on the island. We travel back and forth.

All his symptoms return when he’s back in the city, so he has to limit his exposure. We are a 4-hour drive apart and miss each other like mad. But he’s been able to start rebuilding his life there. And one day the teenagers will be fledged and we can live together again.

When we first met Dr Cline, I was hesitant to mention our electromagnetic theory. I’ve receive so many patronizing looks from doctors. But condescension can’t kill you, so I shared our hypothesis.

“Yes.” he agreed. “In fact I co-wrote a paper about that.” He pulled a big blue book off the shelf, flipped to page 799 and handed it to me. I left that day with a copy of his paper & I’m going to give you the quick version here.

ElectricityElectromagnetic Hypersensitivity and Implications for Metabolism

A brief summary of a paper by John C. Cline and Beth Ellen DiLuglio

Cline & DiLuglio explain that “The human body can be visualized as an electromagnetic semiconductor matrix that allows for instantaneous communication among all cells within the system.”

As electromagnetic semiconductor matrices, we interact with the electricity in our environments. Electromagnetic radiation comes from a variety of natural and human-made sources, but it’s the human-made ones that are proliferating and causing the problems.

Sensitivity to electromagnetic radiation increases the more metals & other toxins are lodged in the body. The more toxic our environment becomes, the less able we are to detoxify, and for some people electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) can result.

According to Cline & DiLuglio, there is still a lot to learn about the origins of this hypersensitivity: “The exact pathenogenisis of EHS is unknown but may be related to aberrant patho-physiological responses to the bioaccumulation of toxicants from various potential sources such as toxic chemicals/metals, surgical implants, infections, dental materials, and radioactive compounds.” They explain that “after surpassing a threshold of bioaccumulation, the body’s immune system loses the normal adaptive responses (tolerance) and becomes sensitized to exposures from unrelated stimuli such as [electromagnetic frequencies].”

Non-and-Ionizing-EMRSome researchers are starting to pay attention to electromagnetic hypersensitivity, as it is now found “in a subset of the population on a worldwide basis-wherever there has been a rise in the exposures to [nonionizing radiation]”, but others remain dismissive (or hostile), because acknowledging the scope of the problem would require an upending of civilization as we know it.

This dismissal is similar to the medical establishment’s attitude toward the implication of food in many of our serious health problems.

Nonionizing radiation, unlike the ionizing kind we’ve been wary of for some time, includes most of the standard accouterments of first world life: cell phones, wifi, electricity, appliances, televisions and the computer I’m typing away on right now.

What does nonionizing radiation do to individuals who are highly sensitive?

Cline & DiLuglio explain: “Symptoms of EHS can vary and mimic those found in many other disease processes. Therefore, a high index of suspicion is required by the health practitioner when gathering historical information. Common signs and symptoms of EHS are listed as: general malaise, headache, thought-processing difficulties, memory impairment, heart palpitations, sleep disorder, immune dysfunction, inflammation, blurred vision, weakness, dizziness, chest discomfort, muscle pain, tinnitus, fatigue, nausea, night sweats, restless legs, and paresthesias.”

Got any of those?

I wake up with a headache every morning in my city apartment. Never at our island cottage.

How is it diagnosed?

“The diagnosis of EHS is supported when symptoms improve with treatment.”

And the primary question: How is it treated?

By removing the sources of electromagnetic radiation as much as is possible, and supporting the body’s ability to detoxify.

I’ll address that in part 2.