Top 3 weight management strategies on the Autoimmune Protocol

JFC Petra WW and AIP1This is the 4th in a series of posts about Women, Weight and the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP).

Find the first on Joanna Frankham’s blog.

This post focuses on the top-three strategies for weight management identified through research that Joanna and I conducted with 20 long-term AIPers, 90% of whom indicated that weight management still causes them stress.

Our Method

Through a confidential survey, one question we asked respondents was about weight management strategies that worked for them while on the AIP. The question wasn’t multiple choice: people had to come up with their own ideas.

11 of the 20 women who participated in the survey had not yet identified things that worked. Nine of the 20 women had. From these responses, three strategies emerged. Continue reading

Self-care for Caregivers

Self Care

If someone you love has a chronic health condition, you need to get really good at taking care of yourself.

Especially if they have an illness that is going to affect you in the long term.

For a short-term situation, like a broken bone or a cancer that resolves, you may be able get away with running your caregiving efforts on stress hormones. With the idea that when the crisis is over, you can take time to recover.

But by taking that approach, you are gambling with your future. You are assuming that the crisis will resolve, and that life will return to some kind of normal.

And that is not always the case.

First, because there is always the chance that the situation you are facing with your loved one will get worse.

Second, because a new situation might emerge.

Not taking care of yourself when you find yourself in the role of caregiver is like buying stuff on credit. Of course we all have to do it sometimes. But if you rely on it too heavily and you can’t pay down your debt, the compound interest will start to create problems all on its own.

I’m an Example

Continue reading

The Health Impacts of Prejudice and Discrimination

The Health Impacts of Prejudice & DiscriminationTwo things to know about stress:

  • It’s a major factor in all kinds of health issues, including autoimmune disease; &
  • It’s notoriously hard to manage.

The good news? Some kinds of stress are preventable. Like the kind that results from living with prejudice and discrimination.

If we can eliminate that prejudice and discrimination.

Prejudice and Discrimination

This week I had the privilege of supporting a group of youth when they presented at a mental health conference. Their presentation was on The Impacts of Hetero-normativity & Cis-normativity on Youth Mental Health.

First question:

Q: What’s Cis?

A: Identifying as the gender you were assigned at birth.

The youth were speaking from experience. About the impacts of prejudice and discrimination on the mental health of LGBTQ+ youth.

But the same argument could be made for the impacts on their physical health. Currently and in the future.

Now that I understand the connection between stress and health issues, I’m always looking for opportunities to prevent stress. In my own life, and for other people. Especially young people.

Because I’m interested in disrupting the patterns that may one day cause people to tip over into autoimmunity or other chronic health issues.

So let’s look at this (entirely preventable) source of stress and illness.

Hetero-normativity & Cis-normativity: What’s the problem?

Continue reading

Stress, the Brain and Blood Sugar

Stress, the Brain and Blood SugarStress.

We had a really big, bad financial surprise last week.

It caused a huge amount of stress.

Even as we’ve been experiencing this stress, I’ve been observing how we’ve been reacting to it.

Matthew and I have responded differently:

  • He’s had a major flare of autoimmune symptoms as well as a significant increase in nausea. All the progress he made through his recent biofilm & yeast-busting protocol evaporated almost overnight. Not necessarily permanently. But for the time being, he’s back to where he was at this time last year. Hardly able to eat. Not able to do much.
  • I have been experiencing increased anxiety, but I have also been noticing a decrease in my brain’s ability to function and I’ve been feeling spaced out and irritable between meals. Which I know from experience is related to a blood sugar imbalance.

We already know that Matthew is acutely susceptible to stress. So we aren’t learning too much from the reaction that he’s having.

But I am learning a lot about my own physiological responses to stress, and how it affects my blood sugar and my brain.

Stress, the Brain and Blood Sugar

Continue reading

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

Nature (our habitat)

Our HabitatWe have capacities we’ve forgotten.

Or have never known.

They’re hiding in scraps of urban wilderness. In the wild (and rewilding) places that still grow all around us.

Inviting us to return to our habitat.

All the new research points in one direction: to be well, humans need to live as we evolved to do.

In our patterns of eating, sleeping, and moving, in our relationships with each other and with nature, if we can get ancestral (while maintaining all the best bits of our technological and medical advances) we’ll be fine.

Our Habitat

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAccording to Richard Louv, author of The Nature Principle and Last Child in the Woods, “we have yet to fully realize, or even adequately study, the enhancement of human capacities through the power of nature.”

But those studies are starting to roll in, and the results are astonishing. Continue reading

Stress Management

Stress ManagementThese days, the only thing I track is my stress.

That’s because stress is the #1 leverage point for my health.

I know that if my stress is in line, I’m exercising appropriately. Eating well. Sleeping enough. Connecting with my kids and Matthew. Getting enough time to myself. Keeping up with my day job (but not letting it rule my life). Moving forward with my core personal projects.

If any one of these elements of my life is being neglected, my stress spikes. 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 #6: What’s Actionable?

Biohacking Tip 6Last week I considered the Origin of Illness.

I made a system map, to portray the role of the microbiome in our health.

That map ended up being a crazy bunch of interacting elements, linked by a tangle of arrows and feedback loops, leading to a sort of doomsday scenario of increasingly crappier outcomes.

It was a spaghetti diagram~.

Just contemplating it is stress-provoking.

And stress leads to elevated cortisol levels, which leads to gut dysbiosis, intestinal permeability & inflammation.

And we want none of those things.

Which is why this post is going to deconstruct that spaghetti diagram and get us on a more positive footing with this whole situation.

But before we start the deconstruction, here it is:

Microbiome 4

(For a break-down & explanation see The Origin of Illness).

Deconstruction

Before the deconstruction begins, let’s acknowledge that this map is incomplete.

It omits unknown system elements. We don’t know what they are, so we can’t map them.

It also ignores known system elements, like mitochondria and blood sugar.

Like any model, it’s a simplification.

One day I’ll create a more comprehensive one. More elements. More arrows.

But the working hypothesis here is that what’s good for the microbiome is good for the body.

And in any case, there’s plenty to take action on here.

Constructing & Deconstructing a System Map

Anytime we encounter a complex system, we can attempt to understand it through mapping.

Once it’s mapped, we can identify which elements are actionable. To help us change it.

Last week I created a system map. This week, I’ll identify the actionable elements. They’re yellow:

Actionable Microbiome 1

Clarification: ‘Actionable’ doesn’t mean you can control these elements. It just means that you can try.

Necessary Caesarean births happen.

Some of us need to take life-saving or pain-reducing drugs.

As adults, we can’t change the method of our birth or the type of food we ate as children.

So, the yellow elements are potentially actionable. Starting from the beginning of life.

But let’s simply things further and just focus on what adults can do to hack their own biology in the present.

Here are those present-tense action-items for adults, in green:

Actionable Microbiome 2

But this spaghetti diagram just got worse, right? More boxes, more arrows.

Here’s the fun part~.

Even though we’ve established that we’re adults, this is where we get to be preschoolers. After building this elaborate tower, we get to knock the whole thing down.

Even better, we get to keep the all good stuff (the green bits) & toss out the nasty parts (everything else).

After the creative deconstruction, here’s what remains:

Actionable Microbiome 3

There it is. The protocol. Yours & mine.

Next post, I’ll explore these elements, including a quick tour of the blogosphere to find out what our favorite Health & Optimization experts have to say about each of them~.

But first a quick overview. Of how to change.

Create Change

Some steps for creating intentional change in complex systems:

  1. Understand the system;
  2. Identify what is actionable;
  3. Assess leverage;
  4. Take action;
  5. Observe impacts & measure outcomes; and
  6. Repeat.

The Origin of Illness helped with the first step: understanding the system.

This post tackled the second: Determining what is actionable. We’ll begin to explore those actionable elements in The Microbiome: The Protocol.

And soon we’ll consider #3: Assessing leverage~.

I’ve already covered #5: Observing Impacts & Measuring Outcomes in previous Biohacking Posts, including in Biohacking Tip #1: Gather Data.