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Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Relative Value of Wellness Strategies

Usually I report facts and research here rather than give you my opinion.  Some of today's info is going to be my opinion--based on a lot I read, my experience and based, too, on the experience of others.  And I will identify the parts that are opinion.  But let's start with some facts.

It's not quite mainstream, but there are more and more peripheral experts and researchers who are talking about inflammation -- that chronic, 24/7, never-shut-off inflammatory response that is at the root of all disease processes.  Even those in the more mainstream camp will acknowledge an inflammatory component of most diseases.

It follows from that information that if you stop the chronic inflammation, you stop the disease process.  Some would also agree (and it's also my opinion) that stopping chronic inflammation can heal the damage already done.

For anyone with less than optimal aging and wellness it's an interesting experiment to try stopping the things that cause inflammation and see for themselves if they can heal what's gone wrong.  I know I did, and I know many others who also have done this work.

Do we know what causes chronic inflammation?  You bet!!!  There are lots of things about modern life that are inflammatory, most of them being the things you put in your mouth (or do not, like vital nutrients).  Also in that list of causes are things like lifestyle choices (not enough sleep, constant worry, isolation, not enough exercise) and the myriad toxins, irritants, and chemicals found in our environment. 

If you want the Reader's Digest Condensed version of the facts about inflammation, check out my booklet, "Inflammation Run Amok: You don't wear out, you flame out" found here:

That booklet and much of the information available about inflammation tends to weight all the anti-inflammatory things equally.  So today, you get my opinion on how they should be weighted more realistically.  In other words, what are the biggies that give the most bang for the effort?

Number one inflammatory thing for modern humans is the two sides of the coin--blood sugar and insulin.  Anything that raises blood sugar, also increases insulin and both are HUGELY inflammatory.  Actually, this goes beyond my opinion--the research is pretty clear that the higher the blood sugar (and therefore insulin) the higher the incidence of all disease, especially the big ones of modern life--cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and dementia.  I will come back to this in a minute.

Number two biggies is the Omega 3-Omega 6 balance out of whack.  They work as antagonists to each other, doing exactly the opposite things.  Omega 3 is anti-inflammation, Omega 6 is pro inflammation.  Right in the middle is exactly right--a balance.  Omega 3's are mostly found in animal products, Omega 6 is found in mostly plant sources.  Your human ancestors got some of both.  In modern life you've been brainwashed into the mainstream idea that grains are good, vegetable oil is healthy and animal products are bad/evil/suspect.  The result is up to 20 or 40 times more omega 6 oils than omega 3 oils and inflammation run amok.

I think these are the most impactful factors in chronic inflammation and therefore the things that when changed can have the most impact on healing.  In fact that is what I see in my own healing journey and that of my friends, family and clients. 

How do you get blood sugar (and therefore insulin) down to healthy levels?  All carbohydrates convert to sugar with digestion.  Protein does not.  Fat does not.  So carbohydrates are the only macronutrient where you can make the any difference.  Sugar itself and other sweeteners are hugely inflammatory.  If you are very healthy, you probably can stand a little sugar once in a great while, but very much or very often is doing damage.  Remember, too--in spite of the mainstream hype to the contrary--grass seeds (grains) are just very compact bundles of sugar and they raise blood sugar dramatically.  Whole or otherwise.  The nutrient content is low, the sugar content is high and most grass seeds contain anti-nutrients that are fairly toxic besides.  Just in:  New Kindle book is free today titled "Whole Grains, Empty Promises: The Surprising Truth About the World's Most Overrated 'Health' Food"

Fruits and vegetables are carbohydrates and digest to blood sugar, too. BUT, they don't have very much sugar and unlike grains, they are nutrient dense and the sugar convers much more slowly during digestion.  More vegetables, a little fruit, and no grains and sugar is going to go a long way to getting blood sugar down--not just down, either, but down low.

Animals protein and animal fat are critical foods for humans for a variety of reasons.  1) they do not raise blood sugar.  2) protein builds and repairs tissue, muscles and organs.  3) animal products contain omega 3 oils that counteract inflammation.  4) animal products are the best or only sources of some important vitamins and minerals.

Think about how our long ago ancestors lived.  Do you suppose they cut all the fat off or out of the animals they hunted?  Did they press the oil out of grass seeds?  Did they live on bread or cocopuffs?  Chances are very good they ate all parts of the animals they hunted--including the fatty brain and organs.  They gathered eggs, small animals, bugs and whatever leaves and fruits and roots they could.  That is our genetic heritage, what we are biologically suited to eat, not pepsi and ice cream and bagels and cereal.  We are adapted to that sort of ancestral diet with seasonal and geographic variations.

And just as an aside, if your metabolism got out of whack from an inflammatory diet and you gained a middle aged middle, those full fat cells become part of the problem.  They start producing their own array of inflammatory compounds.  A downward spiral if there ever was one. So even as you work on reducing an inflammatory diet, you might need a bunch of extra anti-inflammatory help from Omega 3 oils till you can get the fat cells emptied out.  Fish oil (a good brand with no soy, please) can help tremendously.

Most of the people I know and work with start seeing noticeable results within days to a couple weeks.  Individuals differ, of course.  The older you are, it's likely you have accumulated more inflammatory damage and it takes more anti-inflammatory steps and time. 

And here's my opinion that I've come to by experience and have seen no one talk about--I think when you get blood sugar low and Omega 3's high, (the macronutrients optimized) the body can handle a lot of the smaller insults of modern life.  Not that I advocate smaller insults and I'm trying to eliminate all...but, things like a short sleep night, or smog in a city, or the crappy chemicals in water and food, or being a little short of Vitamin C, or stressing...I think the body can handle a few of those things when the biggies are already handled.

But if you did nothing more for your health than the above two steps, you will probably add many years to your life span.  Far more important than the years added, is the quality of those years and they'll be a lot more fun!

Please email me if you'd like some help on any of this.  I am actively working with clients on these ideas now and promise you can see results!

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