Monthly Archives: June 2018
Monthly Archives: June 2018
Kiki asks, “Should I focus on strength, flexibility, or both? I answer her question and get a bit deeper into the various fitness modalities providing a way for you to decide for yourself.
Allan: Hello, and thank you for being a part of the 40+ Fitness podcast. Today’s show is going to be a little bit different. I’ve been doing a lot of interviews lately. In fact, I was just looking at this – up to today I‘ve interviewed over 175 authors and experts, so quite a fit bit of interviewing going on on the show. I thought I would mix things up, particularly because I received a call through the SpeakPipe app on the Contact Page. A listener had a question and she asked me to do a podcast on a specific issue. It's actually a very important issue and it is something that I think everyone should know. So I wanted to take a little bit of time to go over her question, and it was a good question. So if you have some questions, I do want you to reach out.
You can go to our Contact Page. There’s a couple different ways to contact me there. If you’d like to potentially have your question answered via audio, on the show, then do use the SpeakPipe. I can also do that in email, so you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll be glad to answer any and all questions. I do answer all of my emails, so if there’s something going on and you have a question, please do take the time to reach out. I am here to help you and I want you to know that if you’re needing something and you don’t know the answer to it or know where to look, I’m your guy. Send me an email or contact me on the SpeakPipe, which is through our Contact Page on the website 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com. So, the question today comes from Kiki, and I’m going to go ahead and play her audio section. So here we go.
Kiki : Hi. I have been listening to your podcast and I was wondering if it would be possible maybe to do a podcast about flexibility and muscle strength past the age of 40. My physio said that women over 40 should be concentrating more on muscle building than flexibility, but I always thought it should be a balance of both. So I was wondering if I’ve got it. Thank you very much. Thanks for listening.
Sponsor: Before I answer Kiki’s question, I just wanted to remind you that this podcast is sponsored by Teami Blends. You can support the podcast by going to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Tea. And when you’re there, if you use the promo code 40plus, you can get a 15% discount on a purchase of $30 or more. They have great tea products so I could get to know them. I’ve actually ordered some more. I really do enjoy their teas and I know you will too. Go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Tea.
Allan: Kiki, thank you so much for that question. When my clients come to me, they come to me from many different walks of life, different age ranges, obviously over 40, but I have clients in their 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s. So, it can vary from time to time as far as what fitness modality you should focus on. I agree with your doctor somewhat that strength is important, but I also agree that the answer is probably both in your case. So, let me go through each of the fitness modalities. There are five of them that I think my clients should spend most of their time focusing on when we’re over 40:
When we talk about strength, the reason that strength is so important is that we tend to lose muscle mass and strength once we’re over the age of 35. It’s a process called sarcopenia. Now, the doctor could have said, “I want you lifting weights so you can retain or gain muscle.” In talking to a woman, a lot of times you see them kind of deflate a little bit because they don’t want to get bulky. Of course, they believe if they’d go lift weights, they’re going to look like a bodybuilder, and that’s just not so. You don’t have the testosterone to do that. You actually don’t have the physical capacity, the energy that it would take for you to put on a significant amount of muscle. You may be able to add a few pounds of muscle, but again, if you’re so onto your weight, obviously you’re going to be, “I don’t want muscle”. We’ll talk about that in a minute.
Strength is a good way to have that open conversation with someone because they can see a need for strength. If you can’t open a jar, if you can’t pull yourself up from your chair, if you can’t reach down and grab something off the ground, like a bag of groceries – then that’s going to be something that’s going to be debilitating later. It’s going to keep you from having liberty, it’s going to keep you from being independent when you get older. If you don’t lift, you’re only going to get weaker. There’s just no other way around it. You can’t live your normal lifestyle and not lose strength. You have to do resistance exercise to retain or gain strength. So, I encourage all of my clients to strength-train. I think it’s very, very important for everybody to strength-train.
Now, mobility is also very important. You can’t reach down and pick up that bag of groceries if you can’t get the full range of motion in your hips, knees, ankles. Having good mobility is important because if you move incorrectly, you have the potential of injury. So, I agree with you that flexibility and mobility are very important modalities for us to maintain. There can be good reasons for you to want to improve beyond what you’re doing now, particularly if there’s an activity that you’re interested in doing. So if maybe you want to go canoeing, there’s a lot of mobility that’s required for you to be in a canoe and operate that canoe. So having the ability to get in and out of that canoe, you’re going to need good working knees, good working ankles. And as you’re rowing, you’re obviously going to need good rotational mobility. So yes, flexibility is also very, very important. So those are the two, what I would call the prime ones that most people should be doing.
I’m also going to talk about total body composition. Rather than just talk about weight loss, because I think every one of us can probably say, “I’d like to lose a couple of pounds of fat or more, but I don’t want this to just be about weight loss because if I lose weight, I might also be losing muscle, and that’s not a good thing.” You might lose two pounds, but if that two pounds is muscle, then you’re actually in worse shape. You’re actually less healthy, because now your body fat percentage has gone up. So instead of thinking about what the scale is telling you, you should think of body composition as a percentage of body fat, or a percentage of muscle mass. Whichever way you want to think about it – cup half full, cup half empty.
Most of us are going to go by body fat percentage – those are things that can be measured. They can be measured with a caliper at a gym. So you can go into a gym and a trained personal trainer can go through a process with the caliper. You can use electrical impedance, although those tend to be off a good bit, and a lot of that will depend on your hydration. If you stay hydrated, they work pretty well. But it could help you give a trend. So you can use them on a consistent basis and see if there’s a trend, but don’t think that’s actually what your body fat percentage is. There’s also the liquid submersion and the BOD PODs that use air. I prefer the DEXA scan. There’s a price to it. I do it probably about once every other year, just to know. But in a general sense, I can tell by looking at myself, measuring my body circumferences around the waist, stomach, hips, neck, arms and legs – I can generally tell how I’m doing on my body composition.
So, total body composition is important because if we allow ourselves to have a little too much body fat, that leads to issues like cardiovascular disease, we can get diabetes. There are other things going on there. You do want to focus on your body composition, but if you’re doing appropriate strength training, then you’re maintaining your muscle. The rest of that is going to be done in the kitchen. So eating good whole foods is actually going to help you lose that body fat. That’s what we want to focus on there – not so much the weight as to make sure that we’re eating good foods and we’re losing body fat.
Balance is important, because particularly as we get into our late 60s, 70s, 80s, there are lot of falls, and most of the falls are sideways when they happen, that someone gets really, really hurt bad. So if you fall sideways and particularly if you haven’t been lifting the weights for strength, you have the potential of breaking a bone. So having good balance is one of those things that can help prevent you from falling in the first place. The strength will help because when you do the resistance exercise, you’re also helping to strengthen your bones, not just your muscles. You’re strengthening your bones. So, a good strength training regimen and then having some balance work, and I prefer to do balance work in a couple different planes. It’ll be one foot or the foot, so you get used to that. You mix that up a little bit. And then you can also work on it from the perspective of moving side to side, being comfortable with your feet side to side and not tripping up as you move from side to side. So shuffles and what I call with karaokes – those types of movements will help you maintain lateral balance, which will prevent falls. So knowing those things, you do want to make sure that you maintain balance, and as you notice that your balance is getting worse, that’s when you want to say, “Okay, I need to focus a little bit more attention to balance.”
Finally, I go into life-specific. So, you have a grandchild, and the grandchild wants to run around, so you’re going to need maybe some additional cardiovascular fitness just so you can keep up with that little bugger. Maybe you want to play some tennis, so hand-eye coordination and agility are something that you want to keep up with. Or maybe in your younger days you were on the track team and you want to try some Masters track, so some speed work might be something that would be important to you. It’s really about your lifestyle and what are those other little bits and pieces that are going to make you better at being that person? That’s where the last piece comes in.
I’ve gone over five different fitness modalities – they’re strength, flexibility, total body composition, balance, and life-specific. Those are the five that I would spend most of my time on. Now, it’s really hard to do all of those at one time and it’s really hard to know which one matters most, which is why I want to take a few minutes to go back over the GPS model that I talked about in episode 296. GPS stands for grounding, personalizing, and self-awareness. If you do those three things, then you’re going to know exactly what your body needs now.
Let’s walk through the GPS model. Grounding is where we’re going to take our “Why”. It’s the grandchild – you want to be there for your grandchildren. The vision – what does it look like? Where do you want to be with the grandchild? Maybe you want to be the grandmother that can get down on the floor and color with them and also run around the park with them and keep up with them, be able to pick them up from the ground and walk with them. If that’s your vision of you with your grandchild, now you have this idea of what you need to look like, what your physicality needs to be. The type of human, athlete effectively, that you need to be to be that grandparent.
If you take your “Why”, which is your grandchildren, and what that vision is, you now have a commitment. You can make a commitment to be that person, and you make that commitment out of self-love, just like you would make any other major commitment in your life, like when you get married or when you profess your faith at your church or your synagogue or your mosque or whatever. When you go into this and say, “This is who I want to be and this is why I want to be it, and I believe it in my heart, and emotionally want this”, and through self-love, you make that commitment – a strong, emotional, deep commitment to make that happen – that’s your grounding. Now you have a center, now you have a reason to do this, and now you know what you need to do because you know what it looks like.
The personalizing is where you start thinking about, if you’re going to take a trip and your GPS says, ”Go up to the next intersection and turn left.” So, just like your GPS would tell you what to do, now you’re saying, “I want to be able to lift up my grandchildren and I want to be able to keep up with my grandchildren.” Those are two fitness modalities – strength and cardiovascular conditioning. At this point, now you’re saying to yourself, “I know I’m going to need my strength and I know I’m going to need to be able to keep up with them.” So putting together a program or a set of goals now that says, “I want to be stronger” – how do you measure that? Maybe you go in and you get your baseline. So you go do some work and say, “I want to be able to deadlift and squat and bench press. Maybe that’s the three lifts that I’m going to measure myself on.” And those are what most weightlifters call “the big 3”. We test with those in high school, we use those as athletes. So the deadlift, the squat and the bench press is a good metric to know that you’re building strength.
Maybe for you it’s pullups and pushups. You get the idea that you can come up with some baseline, and then you can start working on your overall body strength using compound movements. And then as you do that, you should notice improvement in those baseline exercises. So you’ll set smart goals; you’ll say, “I can bench press 100 pounds”, or maybe it’s 50 pounds or 20 pounds. Whatever it is, you have a max strength. You say, “I want to improve that by 10% this next month.” Early on that 10% is possible. So it is one of those stretch goals; it’s attainable though. So part of the smart is attainable. If you try to keep going 10%, 10%, 10%, there’s going to be a point where that’s just not attainable because your strength curve just won’t allow you to get that strong. But you can early on particularly see very large improvements in your strength as you get more comfortable with these exercises. Setting a smart goal that pushes you and making it time-specific – within a month or within a quarter or within a year – those are very good. I prefer the smart goals to be shorter term. Saying you’re going to do something within a year is really hard to keep you focused. Saying you’re going to do something within a month, six weeks, eight weeks – those are probably a little bit more appropriate to ensure that you have consistency and you really work towards them.
So set some smart goals. You know you want to work on strength – you set some smart goals for strength. You know you want to work on cardiovascular – so maybe it is, “Right now I can walk for 30 minutes without getting winded. I want to be able to add maybe another 100 meters to that 30 minutes by the next time I walk.” So I’m walking faster and I’m building speed. Or maybe you’re going to turn that into some interval running. Maybe there’s a little bit of jogging in there, so I’m going to jog to the signpost. Over time your expectation is either you get the distance done faster, or within the 30 minutes, you get more distance. You can choose how you put those goals together, but you can set smart goals for your running or your walking and cardiovascular fitness, in the same realm.
So you get involved. Now here’s the thing – nobody’s perfect. We have physical limitations. But we also have capacities, and many people don’t understand that their capacities often far exceed what their brain believes. Unfortunately, our body is never going to do more than what our brain believes. If you had a child trapped underneath a car, you’ve heard the stories of women and men that had been able to pick up a car to get that child out. How did they do that? Where did that strength come from? They inherently had it in them all the time, and when their brain turned off as to what limitations they had, their capacities kicked in. So taking some time to understand what your mental and physical limitations are, is a very important step because you don’t want to break yourself. Don’t go out there thinking you’re going to be able to double your strength in a few days, therefore you’ve got to work out every day. Be thinking in terms of, “I know when I work out I get really sore, and I’m sore for a day or two, so maybe I’m going to work out every other day, and I’m going to work out different body parts.” Maybe you’re going to do a full body workout one day, next day is going to be your running day or walking day, then you’re going to do another workout, and then another walking day, and maybe then take a day off to rest and recover. And now what you’ve thought of is, “This is what I think my limitations and my capacities are right now from a physical perspective.”
And then you’ve got to think about the mental perspective. I know when I go to work and I work all day and I get off at 6:00 and I go to drive home, and it’s turn right to go to the gym or turn left to go home and have a glass of wine – I have to make that decision. But I’m tired and I know in the evenings I’m so tired that that’s a very hard decision to make. So what do I do? Maybe I should do my workouts in the morning before I get tired, before it’s really that hard. And I fix up my gym bag in the morning, I put it right in front of the door, I put my gym clothes right there on my dresser, so as soon as I get up, I see my gym clothes, I put my them on, I grab my bag and I go out the door. If for whatever reason I don’t get up in the morning – because maybe you’re not a morning person, then I still have my gym clothes there, I still have my gym bag. So I take my gym clothes, I fold them up, I put them in my gym bag and I dedicate myself to say, “My commitment, based on my grounding – I need to do this.” So this gym bag is going to sit in my car on the passenger seat. When I come out of work, I’m going to see that gym bag sitting there, just like I would see a wedding ring on my finger and say, “I committed to myself through self-love to do this thing. So tonight I turn right and I go to the gym.” So I know it was a little while I went onto the GPS model, but I wanted to take a time and talk about it again because I think it’s really important for us to get our minds right first. This GPS process that I’ve laid out here is really about making sure you know why you’re doing this, knowing what you should look like, and from that perspective it really does open up to, “These are the fitness modalities that are going to matter the most to me.”
I’ll give you another quick example for myself. My “Why” is my family. I want to be around for my family, I want to be around for my children and my grandchildren. And as I put together the vision of that, it was not just be there, not just be the cheerleader sitting on the bench, watching them do what they do. I wanted to be engaged with them while they were doing the things they loved. My daughter was into CrossFit so I wanted to be able to do CrossFit. Then she wanted to do mud runs, I wanted to be able to do those obstacle courses with her. That meant I had to work on the fitness modalities to do that.
Also, I want to have a lifestyle that I enjoy. I want to enjoy my life so I’m a better person, I’m a happier person to be around. One of the things that was missing from my life at the point in time where I made that commitment was that I wasn’t playing volleyball anymore, and it was really bumming me out that I wasn’t capable of playing volleyball the way that I had been. I knew that that was a cardiovascular fitness thing, it was a mobility thing. So, to do the mud runs, I needed the cardiovascular fitness and I needed the strength. For me to do the volleyball, I needed the mobility and the cardiovascular. You see how now I have three modalities that were very, very important to me because they tied in directly to my vision, they tied in directly to my “Why”. By tying those all in, I now had a baseline, and it was a commitment, self-love, and now I know which of the fitness modalities matter most to me.
I’m still going to go back and tell you, I think strength, mobility – which includes flexibility, and total body composition are things that we should all always be working on. The others become important to us and we want to focus on those when they matter. So the question then is, if I’ve got all these fitness modalities, I can’t do 18 different workouts a week to maintain or build all of these at the same time. How do I go through a process of methodically building myself where I need to build myself, and then figure out how I can make all that work? There are only so many hours in a day, we’re mostly all working. We’ve got to get things done, and then we have a very short window of time to get this fitness thing done. So how do I do all of them? There’s a couple of different things you can do.
One is called cross-training. Obviously, if you get into a cross-training program, maybe it’s a circuit for strength, therefore you’re working your cardiovascular system and your strength at the same time. Maybe it’s a process where you do something like a bootcamp, where there’s a little bit of all of it going on. And you’ll see improvements. Particularly early on, you will definitely see improvements with anything that you do. So just know that early on – yes, work on all of it. But as you get a little bit stronger and as you mobility improves, as your cardiovascular fitness improves, you’re going to find it very hard to do these cross-training things that are going to be sufficient for you to do all the time. You’re going to want to focus on one thing at a time, at points in time, just so you can improve those more.
That is a process that we call “periodization”. With periodization, what you do is you figure out one or maybe two modalities and you say, “For a period of maybe the next six or eight weeks, that’s my thing. I’m going to focus on that.” Periodization is basically where we’re going to take one or two modalities and we’re going to focus on it for about six to eight weeks. That might mean I want to start really working on my strength and I’m going to take about a six-week period of time and I’m really going to bear down on my strength training. I’m going to get those compound movements that I want to do, I’m going to put in maximum effort for my strength, and I’m going to really bear down on that. Then after I finish that six to eight weeks, I’m going to mix up my program. So maybe body composition is also something that I’m very interested in building, so I do a period of time. Like I said, for strength, I get done with that six to eight week period and I say, “Now I’m going to change up my programming to make it work a little bit more for building muscle mass.”
And there are slight tweaks and variations of those. For the most part, if you’re working strength, you’re going to see some muscle mass improvement. If you’re working muscle mass improvement, you’re going to see some strength, but they’re not in complete overlap. There are ways to maximize and optimize one over the other. As we were talking, for me, I want mobility, strength, and cardiovascular fitness. So what I may say is, “I’m going to do a strength period and with the strength period I’m going to work mobility. And during my cardiovascular period, I’m going to go ahead and work mobility.” So I do a big strength push and I’m doing mobility on the side. And then I do a big cardiovascular push, and I build mobility on the side. And then I can alternate and go back into strength. So you see where you can get these things all improved and then as you do that, you’re going to see optimal improvements in that particular modality. So I would never really say just do one modality, particularly if you notice doing multiple ones together gets you the results. But if you find that you plateau and your strength is not really improving, your mobility is not really improving, your cardiovascular fitness is not really improving – then that might be a time for you to really bear down on that certain modality.
So the answer, as you said, is really both. And I would say it’s even more all-encompassing than both. It’s really all of them. You should be aware of how all of them impact your vision, how they’re going impact your life, and you should dedicate the appropriate amount of time to each of those five modalities that we talked about.
I hope this has been helpful. Again, if you have any questions at all, please go to the Contact Page and leave me a message on SpeakPipe. I get back to those immediately with the short answer. If it makes sense for me to do a podcast on, I will in do one. Otherwise you can email the question to me and if you’re comfortable with it, I’ll read your email and do the same thing with a podcast episode. Please do reach out if you have questions. I love that interaction, I love that opportunity. I want to take your question because you are not the only one with that question; there are others out there. I want to take the questions that you have and I want to teach others with that.
That all said, I am going to somewhat change up the format here. I haven’t really done a lot of solo episodes since the year started. It’s been a lot of interviews. I might not even have done a single solo episode since the year started, so I’m going to actually start mixing in a few more solo shows as we go. It might be something like a three to one ratio, sometimes maybe two to one. We’ll see how that works out, but I do want to have some more solo shows and I do want to continue to bring on experts on topics that matter to you. So just know that I am out there. If you have topics, issues, things you’re concerned about, I’m available. Reach out to me. I do want to make this show important to you. I want to make it as valuable to you as I possibly can, so please do reach out to me so I can do that for you. Thank you.
Fit at Mid-Life: A Feminist Fitness Journey by Samantha Brennan and Tracy Isaacs discusses an approach to fitness that does not require you to focus on your looks but more on the quality that being fit adds to your life.
Allan (3:16): Our guests today are both PhDs, academia and researchers on feminist issues. Together they created Fit Is a Feminist Issue – a popular blog offering feminist reflections on fitness, sport, and health. We will discuss their book Fit at Mid-Life: A Feminist Fitness Journey. They are Samantha Brennan and Tracy Isaacs. Samantha, Tracy, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Tracy (3:41): Thank you.
Samantha (3:42): Thanks.
Allan (3:43): The title of your book, Fit at Midlife – of course, that’s going to attract me because I’m pretty much there. I hope I still have the other half coming up, because I’m 52 right now. Right now I’m targeting that probably being somewhere around the middle. And then I got into the subtitle, and it’s A Feminist Fitness Journey. I wasn’t sure where you were going to go with this, to be honest. And when I see “ist” or “ism” at the end of a word, it can get muddy. I typically try to stay away from those. But the way you approach this in the book I thought was actually very, very good. I didn’t understand where you were coming from just with the subtitle, but once I got into the book, it made a lot more sense to me.
Tracy (4:29): Good. That’s what most people seem to find.
Samantha (4:33): We’re really about inclusive fitness. We’re writing about our perspective as women in midlife approaching fitness, but lots of the lessons there, especially around starting out, when you’re not sure what level you’re at, or your concerns about body image – those might apply more to women, but I think they apply to everybody.
Allan (4:52): Yeah. Contextually, sometimes it’s very hard for me to connect with a client. I’m a man, obviously, and I’ll be talking to them and some of the words that they’re using, I have to sit back and wrap my head around, why are they particularly using that word? Does that mean anything in particular? And I think one of the words that gets used, but I don’t think most people have built a good context around it, is the word “fitness”. And you cover that in the book. You get into, fitness is not always just being able to run a mile in four minutes or just being able to deadlift 500 pounds. Fitness can mean something different for all of us.
Tracy (5:42): Right, because there are multiple measures.
Samantha (5:46): Actually, I think a lot of people do mean one thing by “fitness”, which is you look fit. So they say, “She looks really fit.” What do you mean by that? What it means really is that she looks lean, she looks thin, and I think for me getting beyond that message is pretty important.
Tracy (6:06): I would agree with that. We want to divorce the idea of fitness from the idea of thinness, because almost every single fitness plan or program is about weight loss.
Samantha (6:18): That’s one thing I think that’s different for men. There’s a lot of pressure on men to look muscular, and these days to look muscular and lean, but at least in the sports we recognize that there are a lot of awfully fit big guys. No one thinks football players aren’t fit, or no one thinks that some of the larger male athletes aren’t fit. They’re just big men. But we don’t really have that. Even though those women exist in, say, the Olympics, when we think about women in fitness, we tend to think about maybe the CrossFit ideal these days – the lean and muscular women, and that’s what fitness is about, is achieving that look. It’s not about doing things, it’s not about exercise and health. It’s about attaining a certain kind of appearance.
Tracy (7:05): In popular culture, but that’s not what we think fitness should be about it.
Allan (7:10): When I sit down with a new client and we go through what I call basically “making a commitment” – it’s a vow that I want them to make – and the thing I talk to them about is, first I need to know why. Why you want to do what you want to do. And I have to say that invariably 95% of the clients that come to me want to lose weight. This is what they believe their goal should be. So they’re like, “I need to lose weight. I need to lose 10, I need to lose 15, I need to lose 50 pounds.” And I let them want that. I say, “Okay, I understand where you’re coming from, but we’re going to talk about health and we’re going to talk about fitness. It might not always be about weight, it might be about something else.” So the second part of the commitment piece is where I start getting into what I’d call “vision”. And I might need to change that word, because I don’t want it to be thought of as, this is how you look, because it encompasses a look and feel. It’s being comfortable, being confident, enjoying what you’re doing and knowing that you have the capacity. So mine is, I run, I’ve done some obstacle course races with my daughter – the Tough Mudder and Spartan and things like that. I’ll do those races. They’re extremely intense and difficult and not many people over the age of 50 are doing them, but I’ll go out and do them with my daughter. My commitment, my thought is, if my granddaughters or grandchildren are into that type of thing, I want to be able to compete with them. I want to be out there with my grandchildren. Not just my children, but my grandchildren when they come along.
Tracy (8:50): You want to age well. You want to experience vitality and energy and capacity, not just in your 50s, but in your 60s, 70s, 80s. I look at my dad, who is 80 and he’s told me on the weekend he’s playing the best tennis of his life. He’s played tennis ever since I can remember, and he’s always been a good tennis player. So I want to be like my dad.
Allan (9:18): That’s how I want to put it out there for folks, but it is so hard to get them away from the scale. And I think one of you said you put it in a box and put it in your closet.
Tracy (9:30): I put it back in its original packaging with the Styrofoam ends and everything. We put it way up high so it’d be a big conscious pain in the ass. If I took it down I have to really think about it, and I did not.
Allan (9:47): Yeah. So when I think of fitness – and it’s kind of where you’re going in the book – is you’ll do different things. It might be weightlifting or rowing or triathlon or anything like that, but what you’re doing is you’re fit for a task, fit to live the life you want to live, not fitness as a fitness model or a physique model would look. I’m not after six pack abs. If they happen as a function of what I’m doing to train – that’s great, but I’m not training specifically just for the look that my body would have.
Tracy (10:22): And then if you don’t achieve that look, you won’t abandon your activities, which have all kinds of other benefits. But if it’s only that you’re going for that look, or only going for the weight loss, not everybody’s going to achieve that. In fact, a lot of the data shows that not many people will achieve it in any lasting way, sadly.
Samantha (10:46): We have two groups of people who really lose out. Once the people who start physical activity and don’t lose weight and then say, “Well, it’s not working”, so they quit. So those people lose out. The other group are people – our physiotherapist was talking about his wife who the doctor never mentions to her that she works out, and no one ever suggests that she should exercise. People don’t suggest that because she’s really thin and they think she’s already in pretty good shape, but she’s not. She gets winded walking up a flight of stairs. I think lots of people in their own lives actually mistake being thin for, “There’s no real need for me to work out.”
Allan (11:25): I was talking to a therapist at a clinic, and they deal with people with kidney issues. There’s a term out there called TOFI, which is thin on the outside and fat in the inside. So there’s this whole population of people that are very fortunate that they don’t look heavy. They don’t gain a lot of weight, but they can have a huge amount of body fat and be unhealthy, because they’re not eating the right way. They’re not taking care of themselves. And so, as you’re defining fitness in the book, which you’re basically saying is you find those things to do. We’ll talk about your “Fittest by 50” mindset. This was a longer range thing that you were working towards as you got into your late 40s, and then you were trying to work towards a goal by the age of 50. But you weren’t thinking in terms of, “I’m going to do this till I’m 50 and then I’m going to quit.”
Samantha (12:22): No, not at all. We both continued right on ahead.
Tracy (12:26): Right. We were thinking of it as setting us up for the second half of life.
Allan (12:31): Perfect. And that’s why terms like “diet” and signing up and doing a program – and I know you guys were really negative on boot camps, but I think sometimes boot camps are good about getting people to show up because of the fact that you’re accountable and you’ve got some people there that you can actually connect with. So some of these things, even though they’re not always your favorite exercise – like, who likes burpees – but they are exercises that get you moving. And if it’s a boot camp that gets you started, but you’re not trying to define yourself as the next CrossFit queen and you’re not looking to get on a magazine cover – at that point you now have a more balanced aspect of what your life can be like and what this exercise can do for you. We did a burpee challenge. It’s not a boot camp thing, but there’s a lot of burpees.
Tracy (13:25): We did a burpee challenge too.
Samantha (13:27): I loved it. I had fun with the burpee challenge.
Tracy (13:29): I couldn’t handle it after about 50.
Allan (13:35): I had them over the course of 28 days. The beginners did 1,000 burpees in 28 days, and the advanced ones did 5,000. So you can see it’s a lot of burpees. But I had a woman tell me after she did the burpees, she wasn’t even thinking about it, but her boyfriend came over and they were going to go somewhere and she says, “What vehicle did you bring?” And he has a Navigator and a Corvette. He said, “I brought the Corvette.” And she said, “I hate getting in and out of that Corvette because it’s so low and I struggle to get in and out.” But she said she walked up, she sat down and she got in. It was perfectly fine. And then she got back out. He was even commenting, “You’re not having problems with the Corvette.” She’s like, “No, I guess the squats that I was doing basically have now strengthened me to a point where I can get in and out of your Corvette with no problem.” To me that’s a huge fitness win, in that she can now live the lifestyle and do the things she wants to do without having to be worried about what car he’s going to bring over, or how her inability to do something is going to affect her life. So, I really do like how you guys have gone on to fitness to say, this is about your ability to live the life you want to live.
Samantha (14:47): I think we both have realizations in the book where there’s something like that that we’re able to do, that it was nothing we were aiming at, but at the end of the challenge we were able to do. I’m trying to think of examples, but I think for both of us there are moments like getting in and out of the car, that, “Wow, this is something I used to find difficult, but now seems pretty easy.”
Tracy (15:07): For me, one of the things that really motivated me to get back into it – because I had done resistance training in my younger years, but I had let it go – was my groceries were starting to feel heavy. I thought, “I’m 48 years old and my groceries are starting to feel heavier than they used to.” Now I find I can practically lift them up over my head.
Allan (15:33): I’d say buy more vegetables.
Tracy (15:35): I’m vegan, I buy plenty of vegetables.
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Allan (15:55): The next topic I wanted to get into – and I know that women struggle with this because you hear it on a daily basis – is body image. But I’d offer to share to you, men have the same kind of concern; we’re just not as vocal about it.
Samantha (16:16): I’ve got two sons, so I know watching my sons go through this, so it’s an issue for them too. I just think it’s less of an issue and not the entire thing on which they think they’re judged in the world. Whereas I think for women it just occupies a bigger part of our mental space and a bigger part of how we’re treated in the world and the assumptions people make about us. If you’re a larger person, people assuming that you’re lazy. There’s all sorts of research that shows we have a lot of bad attitudes towards people who carry extra weight.
Allan (16:50): Yeah. And like I said, I think there’s a little of that with men; not as much. I have a neighbor, he’s 55 and he has one of those one-wheeled skateboards, with a big wheel in the middle. He rides all over the place on that thing, and I’m thinking that’s pretty decent balance. He also wind surfs and does these other things that you’re like, “That’s not normal behavior for a 55-year-old”, but he’s doing it. I think one of the big challenges that men have, as well as women, is we just seem to want to compare ourselves to something we see as a peer group. And the magazines don’t help because they’ll sit there and show Robert Downey Jr. I know he didn’t live a really good lifestyle when he was in his 20s, because I read about it a lot. But he’s in his 50s and he’s fitter than he’s ever been, and posing for muscle and fitness magazines and things like that. I guess knowing it’s possible makes you want something for yourself. But to me, I just don’t know that the body part is what’s going to really keep you involved, particularly, like you said earlier, if we’re not seeing the results.
Samantha (18:15): No. I think for most people you don’t get the kind of results you want unless you’re going to make it your full-time job, and most of us can’t do that.
Tracy (18:24): We’re not celebrities like Robert Downey Jr. He has a team, a personal trainer that’s dedicated to him and maybe he works out every day with that trainer. He might have a chef. What I like about our book is that we’re ordinary women with big careers and families and we’ve done this. And we don’t have six packs, but we’re in pretty good shape.
Allan (18:52): I want to talk a little bit about your experiences, because you both got into this together, and throughout the book you take us on a journey, which was basically two years for both of you. Could you each take a little bit of time to talk about your reasons for wanting to do this? It was a two-year journey, so it was not something you just said, “I’m going to do this in six months and do this thing.” This was a targeted approach, long-term approach. And then some things that you learned along the way.
Samantha (19:25): Sure. So I was already pretty active, but I found the things I like to do and just did those things. So, I was a cyclist, I was still riding my bike lots, but I was no longer riding as far or as fast as I like to ride. I was doing aikido, but at that point I wasn’t testing for any belts. I was just doing the things that were easy and made me happy, but I wasn’t really challenging myself. So what I wanted to do going into the Fittest by 50 challenge was up the ante on both of those things. So I wanted to up the ante on cycling, to ride further and faster. I wanted to try some new things, to kind of break out of a rut. So I tried CrossFit, rowing, I tried lots of different things during the course of the challenge. I added a lot more weight training. Then I wanted to do some belt testing in aikido and move up a few levels. And by the end of the challenge, I’d ridden my bike from Toronto to Montreal, which is about 400 miles, 660 kilometers. And I’ve gotten a lot stronger. I’d been faster maybe as a cyclist before, but never as strong at the same time. I used to just weight train during the winter offseason, and I started weight training year round. I tried a bunch of new things, so I think I’ve met my goals. I was pretty happy, and it was a fun challenge for me.
Tracy (20:54): When Samantha proposed being the fittest we’d ever been in our lives by the time we turned 50, I said that’s a project I can get behind because I had also sort of stagnated. I was walking a lot and doing yoga, and I had just started back into some weight training, but I was feeling pretty green at it actually. I very much had associated fitness with thinness, even though I knew that that was not right. We’d been having this conversation about feminism and fitness for many, many years, like 25 years. So I knew that it wasn’t right, but I couldn’t let go of the body image as the main driver of all the things that I did. And so one of my goals in the challenge was this mental shift. I wanted to lose that sense of having to look a certain way and that that’s the reason why I would do these activities. I really wanted to lose that.
Allan (22:00): Can you tell us a little bit about that? It sounds like you were trying to reprogram.
Tracy (22:08): Yeah, I was. So one of the first big things that I did – you mentioned it already – I put my scale away. So about three months into the challenge, I had tried sport, nutrition counselling, and finally, I just said, “Forget it, I’m going to do intuitive eating.” Everything in the sports literature would argue against it, but basically, you eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full or when you’re satisfied, you eat what you want and you don’t weigh yourself. That is what I had to do to let go of that obsession.
And then the other thing that I did was I signed up for a triathlon, which was extremely out of my comfort zone. I didn’t run very well, I certainly didn’t know how to ride a bike with clipless pedals or any kind of racing road bike, and I hadn’t been swimming in years. So, all of a sudden I had this daunting thing to train for that how my body looked was the last thing on my mind. It was more like, how the heck am I going to finish this event? So I re-oriented my focus in a way on the performance side. And you know what? It was transformative. I shifted my Fittest by 50 goals after that first summer. My goal was to do an Olympic-distance triathlon in the second half of the challenge. The one year I did four triathlons of different distances, and my entire focus was on the performance. Through the training I stopped weighing myself, putting the scale away. I did reprogram myself and I really am still there today. It was incredible actually.
Allan (24:11): Good. And so, Tracy, what I’m hearing is that you’ve basically put something out in front of you that was going to effectively force you to address your training.
Tracy (24:24): Yes, to focus on something else.
Allan (24:26): Yeah, with passion and knowing that it’s really going to be about the performance: “How can I be comfortable swimming a distance, spiking a distance, running a distance? And then I’m going to put them all together. I’ve got to have the fitness level to be able to perform and do those things.”
Tracy (24:42): Yeah. And it’s a learning curve. In triathlon, the transitions even are things you need to train for, like how do you transition? How do you get your wetsuit off but your bike shoes on?
Allan (24:55): Yeah, I’ve never actually done anything like that. Like I said, I’ve done the mud runs, but you wear what you wear and if it comes off while you’re running, you just leave it. I could see that being one of my huge challenges – if I didn’t just drown in my race really early, then it would be, “Now I come out of the water. How do I get on this bike and not kill myself?” And you’re up there in Canada, so it’s cooler. You are wearing a wetsuit, so definitely.
Tracy (25:30): My first event – the swim got cancelled because it was too cold. They turned it into a duathlon – a run, bike, run. And I hadn’t really prepared for that, because I still wasn’t a very strong runner. It’s like, “Oh my God, we have to do two runs?”
Allan (25:49): That’s good, it mixed it up. And I think that’s where I want to go with Samantha, is that you tried a lot of different things that were going to tax you in ways that you had not been taxed before, and you probably learned a lot about yourself as a result.
Samantha (26:02): Yeah, I did. There were things I loved that I realized just did not fit into my life or my lifestyle. So, I’d always wanted to try rowing. I know lots of cyclists who are good rowers and they’re often thought of as complementary sports. They place demands on the body; you’ve got to be super strong and aerobically fit. And so I joined a master's women’s rowing team and loved it. But I discovered that they have a kind of dedication to schedule that I just can’t have, given my job, how much I travel for work and given family demands. So they have certain times where if you are going to be on the water at 7:00 PM, you have to be there and on the water at 7:00 PM. And if you have a certain spot on a boat, you train for that position. And if you can’t make it because you’re away at a conference giving a paper, you have to find someone who can come in and take that spot in the boat who’s also trained for that spot. It’s tricky.
And so I thought in the end probably rowing for me is going to be a retirement sport. It’s going to be a thing I can do one time somewhere near a lake and I can just say I’m going to be there two or three days a week, mornings or evenings, and make that commitment. It’s also a lot of traveling for racing. So rowing involves derigging all the boats, loading the trailer with all the boats, driving hours. And then some of the races are five minutes long. So it’s a lot of derigging and carrying. It’s a sprint effort, so it’s a lot of derigging, carrying boats, loading trailers, driving, re-rigging, carrying boats to the water, and then it’s over. The comradery is great. I love going to rowing events, but I would rather be on my bike for three or four hours, which simply I throw on cycling clothes, I put some air in my tires and off I go. A lot less coordination, organization. So I found it was interesting to try different things and see what worked and what didn’t. I loved rowing and I loved being on the water, but I’m going to have to wait till I have a less big job and a different kind of schedule, I think.
Allan (28:16): I can see that. Team sports are great for that comradery, for getting you out there and keeping you out there, particularly if they’re counting on you to be a particular function on the team week in and week out – then yes, you’re there. But that is a commitment of time and effort that you have to be able to fulfill. But I think it’s awesome that you guys put this together for yourselves and you went through and followed through with it. You have a blog, and now the book. If someone wanted to learn more about you or the book or the blog, where would you like for me to send them?
Tracy (28:52): For the blog they would go to FitIsAFeministIssue.com. That’s our WordPress blog. We blog seven days a week there, at least once a day. Samantha blogs every Monday and Wednesday and I blog every Tuesday and Thursday, and then we have regular contributors and occasional guests. So that’s the blog. And the book, Fit at Mid-Life: A Feminist Fitness Journey, is published by Greystone Books out of Vancouver and it’s available on Amazon. And we would love it if you read the book and want to write a review on Amazon.com. That would be great too.
Allan (29:29): Cool. This is going to be episode 324, so you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/324 and I’ll have the links to the book, to their blog and all of that right there. So, Samantha and Tracy, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
Tracy (29:46): Thanks, Allan. It was nice chatting with you.
In her book, Living in the Chemical Age, Janet Newman lays out a solid plan to protect your family and yourself using some basic protective measures. In our discussion, Janet and I cover why chemicals are an issue, what is wrong with our drinking water, and how mold can become a huge issue.
Allan (3:09): Janet, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Janet Newman (3:13): Thank you so much, Allan. It’s great to be here.
Allan (3:16): So your book is Living in the Chemical Age, and it’s something that I’m always just vaguely aware of in the back of my head. It’s like, is this the best thing for me, and how am I doing this, or am I doing the right thing here? Your book really is a good primer, I think, for someone that is beginning to think about these things and how they can go about cleaning up their lives and trying to get some of these chemicals out of our life, rather than constantly be dealing with the toxic issues that we have. Both you and your husband had suffered from some of these problems, and that’s, I guess, what got you really interested in writing the book.
Janet Newman (4:01): Yes, that’s true. I always was aware of what I ate and really tried to be health-conscious pretty much from my young adulthood on, but I wasn’t really aware of all the toxins that we’re bombarded with on a daily basis. It wasn’t until I started having my own health challenges in my early 40s that really started getting me on that track of, what is it that’s in our food and water and personal care products that might be causing some of these issues?
Allan (4:45): I like how in the book you put the whole concept that our body is kind of like a silo. And as we just continue to pile on these different chemical exposures, there’s a cumulative impact. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Janet Newman (5:01): Yes, I can. So I used the description of a silo, because I think it’s from my upbringing. I grew up in Michigan, and although I wasn’t in a rural setting, I did see grain silos periodically. And for me, when I think of the body’s immune system, if you will, and all the toxins that are accumulating, it’s easy for me to imagine a cylinder or a grain silo, if you will, that has different layers of these chemicals filling it up. I believe that if we take in more than we’re able to excrete, then those just keep piling up and up and up until it gets to the top. And that’s when we usually see some kinds of disease, or even just troublesome symptoms that start to appear, when our body can’t tolerate anymore and it just starts rebelling, if you will. It says that there’s a problem, and it could manifest itself in many different ways, from skin eruptions to headaches to inflammation. I think most of these chemicals that we’re being exposed to are man-made; they didn’t exist before the Industrial Age or maybe 100 years ago. So, I don’t think that our bodies have had an evolutionary chance to really adapt to all of these chemicals. And since our bodies can’t utilize or digest these synthetic chemicals, we’re challenged by them and they have a chance to potentially wreak havoc on our body.
Allan (6:50): Yeah. And I don’t know that we want to adapt to these things, because there are some animals that do reproduce a lot faster than we do, and they’ve somewhat adapted to some of these things and it’s not all that pretty. So I’m not sure that adaptation is the right answer here. Probably 20,000 years from now, we might be able to handle something we’re doing today. But there are things we can do today and I wanted to get into a few of the things, because they’re all around us. I try to forget that it’s there sometimes, just for sanity’s sake, but it is always there. So, a few things that I did want to talk about. The first one is water, because I think more and more people are saying, “I’m not going to drink the tap water because of X, Y, Z problems”, and they’re going to the bottled water. But really, one might not be any better than the other. Could you talk a little bit about water, what we’re exposed to in a lot of our tap water, what we can do about it, and then when and how maybe bottled water could be an alternative? What are some things that we could consider as we’re going through this whole process of having cleaner water?
Janet Newman (8:07): Sure, absolutely. Our bodies crave water, they need water to function. It’s just a matter of how clean the water is, and that’s what we really need to focus on. It’s not a matter of, “Should we switch to other beverages?” We need pure water to drink. One of the problems that I have discovered with our tap water – and we’ve all heard about the Flint water crisis and the lead. And that’s not just Flint, Michigan that has the problem; it’s anywhere that has corrosive pipes. There are several things that I discuss in my book that can lead to corrosion in pipes, but there are so many contaminants in our water. Part of it is that our municipalities that filter the tap water weren’t designed to filter out things like prescription drugs or birth control pills or industrial runoff. Some of the chemicals that we’re seeing are beyond what the filter’s capabilities are. So that’s definitely part of the problem with our tap water, is that we just don’t know what we’re getting. And I advise in my book to get your water tested professionally and see what is in there, so you know how to filter for it. There are different filters and filtration systems that you can put on your tap, and depending on what you’re encountering, what kind of chemicals there are, we’ll tell you what kind of filtration system you need.
And I do want to talk about bottled water. I’m actually thinking about doing a challenge for my people that are on my website, people that have read my book, but I think it’s really important. The challenge is to stop drinking bottled water out of plastic for 30 days. It really is not that hard, but I think we’ve just become so accustomed to the convenience of reaching for a plastic water bottle that sometimes we don’t even think about what the ramifications of that might be. One of the issues with plastic water bottles is the plastic itself. The plastic that is being used, if you look on the bottom, there’s a triangle and there’s a number 1 inside. That means that it’s made with PET plastic, and PET is an endocrine-disrupting chemical. What happens is when that ever heats up, say in a hot truck, or if you buy water that comes from overseas, for instance – there are many brands here, but there are many brands that we import. We don’t know the status of the temperature of those ships or those trucks that bring that water to our grocery store. So, when the PET gets hot, it leaches those chemicals into the water. So that’s the first problem.
The second problem is that – and I just saw another study about this last week – little micro particles of plastic that are in the water from the plastic itself. The study last week that I saw said that most of the plastic is coming from the actual top of the water bottle. So that’s the second thing. We don’t want to be ingesting plastic, nor do we want to be ingesting the chemicals that come from the plastic. And the third thing is that the bottled water industry isn’t required to disclose the results of their water testing. So we may be just getting tap water anyway in there; it might not have any filtration. A lot of the bottled water that I’ve looked at the label and it does say that it has reverse osmosis or other types of steam distillation, other types of filtering processes, but some of them don’t. So, when we reach for that bottle of water, I think it’s really important to start thinking about all the different things that could be in that water.
Allan (12:46): Yeah. It wasn’t this way 20 years ago, but now there’s an entire water section in the grocery store. There’s an entire bottled water section in the convenience store, if you’re traveling and you stop to get some gasoline, you walk in. Some of them are spring water, some of them if you actually read the label, it’s just municipal water, it’s tap water in a bottle. So now you’ve gotten the tap water and you’re drinking that; you’re just drinking it out of the bottle, which now, like you said, may be subjecting you to even more chemicals than it had when it was in the water system.
Janet Newman (13:25): It’s true. There are two other factors with bottled water that a lot of people don’t think about, and that is the expense. It’s very costly to produce these bottle, and they’re produced through the oil and gas industry. PET is based from that. I think we’re thinking about cost and we’re also thinking about, what happens when we dump that water bottle? Where is it going? If we throw it in the garbage, then we have pollution to think about that eventually goes into the ground water and eventually it could make its way into our oceans. We have such a problem with plastic in our oceans. I’m sure everyone’s seen recently on Earth Day, some photographs of our plastic garbage patches in our oceans. It’s really kind of disgraceful that we’ve allowed it to get that way. So just thinking about, when you reach for that bottled water there are so many different avenues of why there is a better choice. I always say, filter your water at home, bring it in a stainless steel or a glass bottle, and carry that around with you every day. It’s not going to leach chemicals, we know that it’s filtered and it doesn’t contain any of the harmful chemicals in it from the beginning, and you’re not contributing to our environmental problem.
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Allan (15:15): Now, one of the other things about tap water that I think is interesting, and you highlighted this in the book as well, was not just what they’re not filtering out, but what they’re actually putting in. So they’re putting fluoride because we’re eating so much more sugar now, so our teeth are rotting. So they’re putting fluoride in the water to help keep our teeth from rotting. But that fluoride is not in the best interest of our health. Data is coming out now to basically show us that it’s really messing us up.
Janet Newman (15:53): Yes. I think that in the 1940s there was a study that showed that people who lived near certain types of rocks called “calcium fluoride” had really great teeth. Unfortunately the type of fluoride that we’re putting in our water now is not calcium fluoride, it’s sodium fluoride, and it’s actually a byproduct of the fertilizer and aluminum industry. Basically this type of fluoride has shown to have many adverse effects to our health. One of the things that are most troubling is that it accumulates in the brain. It’s been shown to lower IQ and interfere with memory. So, definitely problematic. And from an aesthetic perspective, if you have too much fluoride in your body, it causes something called “dental fluorosis”. You may have seen people with this, but it’s like mottling of the enamel that has bright white spots on their teeth. Who wants that, really? But there are some good things that are starting to occur. They are doing more studies, and there are definitely some activists out there. One is called the Fluoride Action Network and they’re working with the EPA to try to eliminate fluoride in our municipal water supply.
Allan (17:37): Well, good luck with that, because the EPA doesn’t really seem to want to help us out when it’s human health. It’s just crazy. Now, it’s starting to warm up and more and more people are going to be outside, and I encourage people to get outside. They’re going to want to probably apply some sunscreen. And you had a very interesting story. You were basically looking for a particular type of sunscreen that had zinc in it, rather than some of the other chemicals that they might use. And you were at what we would call it a “health store”. They build themselves out as a health store, but they weren’t carrying any brands that had zinc in them, because they said the customer demands sunscreen that absorbs in and doesn’t show white on their skin, and therefore they don’t carry it. At least carry one brand, even if no one’s hardly buying it. Carry it – you’re a health food place, after all. But could you talk a little bit about sunscreen, what we should look for when we’re trying to buy a good quality, healthy sunscreen?
Janet Newman (18:45): Yes, absolutely. Sunscreens are basically divided into two categories – there are chemical sunscreens and there are mineral sunscreens. You can probably tell I’m going to tell you to use the mineral sunscreens. The chemical ones – a lot of them have been banned in other countries, which makes you sit up and take notice, why hasn’t the United States banned those? But they’ve been shown to cause free radical damage. They tend to enter the bloodstream. Instead of just coating your skin, they actually get absorbed into your body and they can do some not so nice things to your body. And it also is linked to the bleaching of coral reef. So if you’re going on a vacation where there is scuba diving or anything like that, just know that you could be potentially harming the environment as well.
I like to stick to products that have zinc oxide in them. Titanium dioxide is another mineral sunscreen; it’s the only other mineral sunscreen. There have been a few studies lately, actually since this book has been written, where it shows that titanium dioxide may cause some issues to be concerned about as well, but that’s primarily when it’s in nanoparticle form. What I mean by that is when the particles are so small that they can be sprayed as opposed to applied like a cream or gel formulation. So because they’re so small, they tend to get absorbed into your skin as well, and there’s some speculation that that can cause damage. So what I like to say is that anything with zinc oxide is definitely safe, it stays on top of the skin. They’re starting to create formulas that aren’t nanoparticle size, but they’re not going to be as white and pasty looking as they used to be. When I think of zinc oxide, I think of those pictures in the ‘50s with surfers with the big white stripe on their nose. It’s not as bright as that anymore. But I think that sticking with mineral sunscreens is definitely going to be your safest bet.
Allan (21:22): Okay, cool. I was sitting on my balcony this morning, and typically the wind blows well enough here that I don’t have to deal with mosquitoes too much, but I guess it wasn’t blowing enough this morning. So I’m sitting outside and the mosquitoes are having a nice feast breakfast on Allan. I don’t typically wear insect repellent at all. I have on occasion when I know I’m going someplace – particularly I’ve had some travels to Africa, and that’s not a place you necessarily want to play around with mosquitoes. If we’re looking for an insect repellent, what are some things that we should consider and be looking for with that?
Janet Newman (22:04): Good question. A lot of people reach for the heaviest possible insecticide that they can find, carrying DEET. And DEET, I have to tell you, is a little stronger than you want to put on your body. It was formulated for World War II soldiers that were in jungle-like conditions to prevent malaria. But honestly, it is so strong and toxic that it can melt synthetic fibers, it can damage paint. I just think that if it’s something that strong, you really don’t want to put it on your body. DEET has been shown to absorb through the skin and it gets excreted through your kidneys. And who knows what it’s doing from point of entry to point of exit? I personally wouldn’t want something that can melt synthetic fabric being put into my body. The EPA says it’s safe, of course, and there are lots of products on the market that contain DEET, but I just don’t think we need something that strong.
If you’re going to Africa or somewhere where there are a lot of mosquitoes and you’re bushwhacking through the rainforest or something, then there is something called “picaridin”. And picaridin is derived from black pepper, and it is super, super effective. In studies they show that it’s as effective as DEET, and it’s not going to have any of the safety risks that DEET does. So, my husband just went to Africa last summer and he used picaridin and he had amazing success with that. He didn’t get bit once. So, if you really need something strong and effective, I would suggest looking for picaridin. Now, if you’re just in the backyard or your kids are out playing, I would use something that has oil of lemon eucalyptus, because that is one of the only plant-based insect repellents that has been approved by the CDC to be super effective.
A lot of times it’s used with other oils, such as lavender or tea tree oil or citronella or things like that, that may be used in addition to it. But what they found is that the oil of lemon eucalyptus is an oxygen mask for your bodily scent. When we sweat or when we exhale, those are the scents that mosquitoes are attracted to, and when you use oil of lemon eucalyptus, it masks those scents in such a way that it confuses the mosquito. So they may see you but they’re not going to smell you, and the likelihood of you getting bit is much, much lower.
Allan (25:21): Cool. There was one part of the book that you got into when you started talking about mold that really, really hit home, because we bought this house and we got inside and there was a mold problem. My wife just knew it. She was like, “I’m sensitive, there’s a mold problem. We need to get this taken care of.” And so we brought in some guys and they went to clean our ducts. They’re like, “We can just clean the ducts and that’ll probably solve your problem.” Well, they actually stirred up all the mold spores, so within three days it was everywhere. It was horrible. So we had to bring in another expert, and this guy stripped out all of our duct work, got all of the insulation out of the attic, because there was mold everywhere. He helped us clean that up. It was not cheap by any stretch, but we got it done and now we’re in a mold-free house. Can you talk a little bit about mold, why it’s such a big problem for us and what people should be doing to one, determine that they don’t have a mold problem, and two, if they do have a mold problem, what steps should they take to remediate the problem?
Janet Newman (26:29): First off I have to say, I’m so sorry that you went through that and I can completely empathize. Secondly, I’m so glad that your wife is sensitive because she was able to sense that something was off, and a lot of people can’t tell. Sometimes mold just doesn’t have an odor and it can lurk behind walls and ceilings and in air ducts and things, and they have no idea. And people just become ill and they don’t know why. So, mold is such a big problem, especially for flood-prone zones, but anytime that you have a leak or a spill in your home, mold only requires 24 hours to start growing. I should point out too that mold requires four things to grow. It needs moisture – obviously that’s a big one. It needs oxygen. It also needs the right temperature, usually between 40 and 100 degrees is kind of the sweet spot for mold. And it also needs a nutrient source. And when I talk about that, I mean things like paper or cardboard, dry wall, even carpeting.
Those four things are in our homes all the time. And so it’s really important – the first thing I say to people is to make sure that you have a really good dehumidifier that is controllable, and that you can adjust the settings to about the sweet spot. Again, it’s about 45% humidity. It can be between 40% and 50% to be safe, but that’s the goal that you’re trying to reach, because mold is tricky. I think there are thousands of types of mold; I think it’s 100,000 types of mold that I read in one source. So we don’t always see it, we don’t always know it’s there, we can’t always smell it. If you suspect that you have mold in your home, there are so many different tests on the market today that you can use. Usually it’s just you take a dust sample and you send it off to a lab, and there are instruction on how to do all of that in the kit. Knowing what kind of mold you have is key. You can also hire someone – it sounds like you did, and we also had to do as well. They have all kinds of different little gadgets, but one of them is a moisture meter, and they can go around your home and test all of your baseboards and your walls to see if there’s potentially any moisture behind that you can’t detect with your eye.
So yes, mold can cause a lot of health problems. My husband and I both had completely different symptoms to the mold that we were exposed to, and that’s why we didn’t think there was a common denominator there. He had arthritis symptoms and was actually diagnosed with an auto-immune form of arthritis. I was having migraine headaches that were just awful brain fog, migraines. And because those are so different, we didn’t think that it was being caused by the same issue. It wasn’t until my husband went to a functional medicine doctor, where she said she kind of noted the timing of our new home and when his symptoms started. And she said, “I think I want to test you and your wife for mold.” And it came back that we both had pretty severe mold exposure. It took a long time, and like you said, it’s not cheap. We had to remediate our home; it took almost a year. We had the cost of remediating the home and the cost of detoxing from the mold in our bodies. It took us quite a long time, it was about a year for both.
Allan (30:56): My wife had to go in for surgery, because her sinuses had gotten so bad. They went in and thought the mold was in there, so they did some work there to basically scrape out her sinuses, for lack of a better description of what it was. She went through that. But the guy came in and was really good. Of course I was getting a lot of bad news. Every time he did something, he’d say, “Well, we pulled this away and we found that, and we did this and found that.” And it’s like the cash register’s ringing, but you have to do it. So we have all new duct work in the house. We have a dehumidifier that actually sits up in our attic and runs full time now. He did the black light irradiating and spraying stuff with, I guess it was peroxide, and probably some other chemicals I might not want in my house. But at that point the mold was the enemy, and it’s all hands on deck.
This book, Living in the Chemical Age – I think it’s really a good opportunity for us to take that step back and really start to assess what our health is, and maybe some of these things that just might be around us that we haven’t paid enough attention to – the fluoride in our water, the chemicals that might be in our water, what’s in our air, what’s in our skin products and our sunscreens and our insect repellents, and obviously mold and other things that could be going on around us.
And I like that I can get your book and say, “If I’m dealing with this kind of problem here, I want to know about this, I can go to that part of the book.” And it’s a really good brief understanding of saying, “These are the things I need to look for. I know what kind of filter I want now, once I get the test”, and all that kind of stuff. It’s really an actionable book to basically help get yourself away from some of these chemicals. I don’t think anyone can ever be completely chemical-free. As long as you’re breathing or bathing or eating or anything, there’s probably going to be some chemicals. But this book does go a long way towards helping us get healthier and being able to use that to somewhat diagnose if we might have a problem with the product, and then we can just exchange that product for something else. That form of substitution might be enough for you to realize, “I did have a problem with that chemical, or maybe I didn’t, but I go and do something else.” But the chemicals are all around us, so that’s the scary part of the book. But I think the good part of this book is that there are things that we can do about it. We just have to be aware.
Janet Newman (33:35): Exactly. You can’t eliminate all the toxins in your environment; it’s impossible. One expert said that we’re exposed to 250 pounds of chemicals on a daily basis. So it’s impossible, they’re everywhere at this point in our lives. But you can definitely do a lot of things to reduce your exposure and to reduce that toxic burden in your silo. I try to give a lot of helpful tips and resources for people, so that it’s not so scary and people feel empowered that they can actually make healthier choices and really take control of their own health.
Allan (34:18): Yeah.
Janet Newman (34:20): I’m glad you liked it.
Allan (34:21): I did, I did. If someone wanted to learn more about you, learn more about the book, where would you like for me to send them?
Janet Newman (34:27): Sure. You can go to my website – LivingInTheChemicalAge.com. I’m also on Instagram and Twitter, and my book is available on Amazon. So, there are lots of different ways to find me.
Allan (34:41): Alright. Well, this is episode 323, so you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/323, and I’ll be sure to have links there to the resources that Janet just mentioned. So again, Janet, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
Janet Newman (34:56): Thank you, Allan. It’s been wonderful. Thank you so much.
Dr. Darin Ingles is the author of The Lyme Solution. He is a respected leader in natural medicine with numerous publications, international lectures, and more than 26 years of experience in the healthcare field. His practice focuses on chronic immune disorders including Lyme disease, autism, allergies, asthma, recurrent or persistent infections, and other immune problems. He uses diet, nutrients, herbs, homoeopathy and immunology to help his patients achieve better health.
Allan (4:00): Dr. Ingels, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Dr. Darin Ingels (4:05): Thanks for having me, Allan.
Allan (4:07): The book, The Lyme Solution – I admitted this offline to you and I guess I’ll go ahead and make this admission now – I have zero experience with Lyme disease. I’ve never known anybody that’s had it personally, I’ve never seen anyone experience it. So I am coming from a position of complete ignorance, if you will. But I think that’s really important, because as it gets warm and I want my clients out and about, I say, “I want you out there getting into nature, I want you moving around, I want you experiencing nature, getting the sunshine, enjoying the outdoors.” That’s a big function of health. At the same time, there is an exposure out there, and without fully understanding the nature of that exposure, it’s this scary thing. “What if I get bit by a tick, what happens then?” I do think it’s a valuable conversation to have, or at least good knowledge base to have, even if you’ve never experienced it, and hopefully never will. Coming from my point, it was really good to understand there is a risk when I get outside. And I can put those in numerical context – I think you said there were 300,000 cases per year of Lyme disease, which seems like a lot. But when you figure there’s 360+ million people in the United States, it’s not a huge, huge number, but those that are affected, many of them are in really, really bad shape. So again, it’s really a good overall primer and education to understand there is a risk and what to look for, which I think is probably the more important thing.
Dr. Darin Ingels (5:48): Right. Lyme disease has really become epidemic, not just in the United States but really around the world. As you mentioned, we have about 300,000 new cases that are reported, and most of us who are in this world would argue that that’s grossly underreported. We don’t know what that true number is, but consider it’s probably half a million people or more. And remember, that’s every year. So as you start stratifying that over the course of a decade, we’re now talking millions and millions of people dealing with chronic Lyme disease. It’s become one of these things that, particularly for people who really enjoy being outdoors. We know that New England and the central part of the US are areas that tend to be endemic for Lyme disease, but really Lyme disease has been reported in every state in the country. So whether you live in Washington state or Arizona or Texas, in places that we don’t typically think of Lyme disease as being problematic, in reality it is possible. And I think people who spend a lot of time outdoors have to be very vigilant about protecting themselves against ticks because they are out there, and for some people can become very damaging in the long term.
Allan (7:01): Yeah. My wife is the worrier of the two. One of us has to do it, I guess. She’s constantly worried about tick bites and things like that when we’re outdoors. I have a property about seven acres out here and I’ll get out there in the bush of it and be cleaning it up, and she’s like, “Check your body for ticks, check your body for ticks.” And I do. I guess that’s one of the things that I came to learn from your book, is that the deer tick that we’re talking about is actually not the tick I’m used to dealing with in the Southeast as often. The ticks we’re dealing with are a little bit bigger than this deer tick. The deer tick would actually be much smaller, which is something I didn’t know. So let’s take a step back. Things I knew was Lyme disease was an auto-immune disease, I knew that it was passed by certain ticks, I knew about the potential of a bull’s eye type mark where you got bit, those types of things. But could you take a step back and tell us what is Lyme disease, how does it get spread and how do we contract it, as a start to get us going in this conversation?
Dr. Darin Ingels (8:11): Lyme disease is actually a bacterial infection and it’s transmitted primarily through a tick bite, and as you mentioned, it’s mostly through the bite of a deer tick. However, these ticks can transmit other types of bacteria and viruses, independent of Lyme disease. We know up in New England where I spend part of my time, 30 plus percent of the ticks up there carry Lyme disease plus something else. So there’s an additional risk of getting some other illness that’s not Lyme disease, that you can get through those tick bites. Down in the Southeast where the deer ticks aren’t as endemic, there are other types of ticks. There’s the dog tick or the wood tick, and as you migrate over towards Texas, there’s the lone star tick. All these ticks can transmit various types of infections, some of which are Lyme disease, others which are something else.
When people get exposed to these ticks and if they have transmitted that bacteria, you can basically feel flu-like, and a lot of people when they are experiencing symptoms – they get a headache and joint pain and body aches, they might spike a fever and chills. It’s kind of a nondescript illness, and often it gets passed off as you’ve got a virus or some other kind of bug running through you and hopefully it will pass. But that bull’s eye rash that you mentioned is the telltale sign that if you see it, there really is nothing else that we know of that causes that kind of rash. That’s very stereotypical for Lyme disease. Unfortunately, when you look at the research, we know that maybe 40% or less of people who get bit by a tick that carries Lyme disease actually gets that rash. So the lack of the rash certainly doesn’t tell us about whether you do or do not have Lyme disease.
One of the characteristic things we also see in Lyme disease that’s very unusual is what we call “migratory joint pain”. What this means is one day your right shoulder hurts, and the next day it’s your left knee, and the next day it’s your right ankle. When you start getting this pain syndrome that seems to vary from joint to joint and body part to body part – there’s nothing really else that looks like that, other than Lyme disease. So the deer tick is still the biggest transmitter of Lyme disease. There’s some information out of Europe that suggests that perhaps even mosquitoes and fleas may transmit Lyme disease, and that might make sense in that I see a lot of patients who live in areas that aren’t known for having Lyme disease that actually have Lyme disease. So perhaps there is another insect factor that’s spreading it. But again, as of now, when you look at the statistics, New England and the Central Midwest are really the big endemic parts of Lyme.
Allan (10:51): Yeah. And I guess that’s one of the hard parts of this – you may think that you’re just getting a spring or a fall flu, or you might be thinking, “My joints hurt because of the weather. It’s getting a little moist out, it’s probably going to rain tomorrow.” As we get a little older, there are the aches and pains, and we’ve gone through enough flus to say, “This is a flu. It goes away in a few days, and then I’ll be fine. If I’m not okay on Monday I’ll go to the doctor and he can give me a shot or an antibiotic or whatever he wants to do.” So, Lyme disease often gets missed. And I know that in the book you put a quiz that takes us through a series of questions that if we get to the end of that and we score better than, I think it was 45 on this particular quiz, it’s very likely that we do have Lyme disease. It can be confirmed with some tests.
I’ve gone over things in here with podcasts before; we’ve talk about acute and chronic. So I’ll just quickly go through. Acute is something that’s right there – something happened and you know what happened. Here’s the event, you can actually point to it. Chronic is when something sticks around for a while and you might not even know when the actual event, so to speak, occurred. It’s just continuing illness or a continuing problem. You’ve identified acute and chronic with regards to Lyme disease. Can you talk a little bit about what those differentials are of how it’s acute versus chronic and what the basis is? And then what are some of the symptoms that we would look for on the basis of whether we’re dealing with something that’s immediate, like acute, or something that’s a little bit more long-term, like chronic?
Dr. Darin Ingels (12:35): In acute Lyme disease, as I mentioned, you feel really ill and it’s like if you had any other type of infection. You can get a high fever, swollen glands, chills, body aches, joint pain. You can get a headache, you can get back pain. You just feel like you’ve got a bug that often will knock people down for a handful of days. I think the big difference, when you get a virus, a cold, things like that – you might be sick for a few days to a week, maybe 10 days, and then it seems to resolve on its own. Or maybe you’ve gone to your doctor and got a prescription for antibiotics, and that cleared it up and you feel fine.
What happens in Lyme disease often is that you might feel a little better or you don’t feel any better at all. And you start getting into two weeks, three weeks, a month or longer, and really not feeling well. And as it migrates out of that acute phase into a chronic phase, what we really start to see are more neurological symptoms. So people will complain of this condition called neuropathy, where you get numbness and tingling in your hands, your feet and other places on your skin. People will describe these sensory distortions where you feel a burning in the skin and yet you look at the skin and it looks completely normal and pink. People complain of feeling clumsy, they trip a lot, they drop things a lot. They start having memory problems, cognitive impairment, short-term memory loss.
All of these various neurological symptoms can be a sign that you’ve gone out of that acute infection stage and now it’s becoming more of this auto-immune problem. We’ve got some pretty good evidence in the literature that Lyme disease has the capacity to trigger your immune system in a way that it starts making antibodies against your own neurological tissues in your brain, and that inflammation in the brain can really start to cause a lot of these various neurological symptoms. It’s interesting when you look at all of the symptoms that have been associated with Lyme disease – there’s almost 100 symptoms. It’s really pretty varied. We call Lyme “the great imitator” or “the great mimic”, because it looks like so many different things. That’s why when I have people who come into my office who’ve basically been sick for weeks and months on end and they’ve been tested 20 ways to Sunday, and can’t seem to find an explanation of why they feel the way they feel – Lyme disease is always something that’s on my mind, because it is one of the few things out there that can cause this sort of long-term illness, particularly when we hear about a lot of joint and muscle problems, and the neurological symptoms.
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Allan (15:31): I think the thing that struck me with all of this as I was going through the reading – there’s a theory about mitochondria, that it was basically at one point a separate bacteria that moved into our system and became a part of humans and animals over time. It really seems like Lyme disease has a little bit of that nature to itself, that it’s somewhat trying to take over us as an organism. It’s actually very, very smart. I guess maybe not intelligent, so to speak, but the way it works and the things that it does make it very hard to, one, diagnose, and two, to actually get rid of.
Dr. Darin Ingels (16:16): Yeah. Lyme diseas is really the ultimate shapeshifter of its characteristics. For people who don’t know, Lyme disease is what’s called a “spirochaete”. If you look at it under a microscope, most bacteria are like little balls or rod-shaped organisms. Spirochaete is a very long corkscrew-shaped organism. And even though it’s technically a bacteria, it actually behaves more like a virus and therefore it can penetrate tissues, it can penetrate cells and it can literally ball itself up so that the immune system essentially can’t identify it. I think part of the reason that people end up with the chronic Lyme disease is that this organism will change its shape, hide from the immune system so the immune system doesn’t get rid of it the way it should. It kind of hides in the corners of the body where the immune system is either not looking or if it gets inside your cell, the immune system can’t see at all. Then given the right set of circumstances, it starts to rear its ugly head again and uncoils itself, and then it becomes more problematic and can continue to stimulate more inflammation. So like you said, it’s a very clever organism. Out of all the bacteria and viruses that I know of, I think it’s the one that has the greatest capacity to evade the immune system.
Allan (17:31): I think that’s really important to emphasize – we need our immune system to basically deal with this. Initially, I think you said within the first 72 hours, maybe some antibiotics would be able to knock it out, but once it’s gotten embedded, once it’s done its thing and it’s in your body and it’s replicated to a point where it’s got its fountainhead, it’s got its foothold in you – at that point you really need your immune system to fight this, because dealing with antibiotics for month after month, year after year really isn’t a practical solution. But your book does actually provide some practical solutions. And one of the things I really liked about the way you put this out there was, a lot of the things that you’re talking about in what you call the five stages of immune-boosting plan – those stages are probably things we should do getting ready for cold and flu season, getting ready for any other thing that we’re going to do it. We need our immune system to protect us. That’s what it is. It starts with the gut and everything else, but the reality is, these are practical tips you can use. Even if you don’t have Lyme disease, it’s just going to make you healthier overall. Do you mind going through the five stages of your immune-boosting plan?
Dr. Darin Ingels (18:58): Sure. The first step is really about gut health. What we know from science is that 80% of your immune system is, so if there’s anything in your gut that’s not functioning well, it’s harder for your immune system to function well. So many people I work with that have chronic Lyme disease have a history of chronic gastrointestinal problems. Whether it’s constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, there’s usually some element that something in that system hasn’t been working well. I can imagine for a lot of people, they already had an underlying gut problem, and then they got bit by the tick that carried Lyme, and that just went from bad to worse. So the stage was already set to start having immune problems. We really talk a lot about how to repair the gut, how to restore it. Certainly for anyone who’s been on antibiotics, perhaps for sinus infections, bronchitis, pneumonia – every time you take an antibiotic, you start eradicating a lot of your normal bacteria. There’s so much research coming out about how important your normal microbiome is, your normal bacteria, for maintaining so much of your good health, and it’s tied into weight, metabolism, mood, of course all the gastrointestinal issues – so really a critical part of having a healthy immune system. So I walk you through certain nutrients that can help repair the gut. I talk about specifically probiotics and their health benefits, having the right strains at the right amount is very important, particularly for people who’ve already been on antibiotics. We can talk about things like glutamine and digestive enzymes that can help your body break down the food and make sure you’re absorbing it the way you should. So, it really is about looking at what specifically for you may not be functioning as well as it could in the gut, and then helping repair that.
The second step of the plan is really about diet. I had Lyme disease, myself – that’s really why I wrote this book. I’ve tried various diets for myself and with my patients, and what I found is what we call an “alkaline diet” seems to work best. What I like about it is that it’s really geared on eating foods that help keep inflammation down in your body, because ultimately it’s the inflammation that people really feel and that’s what triggers a lot of the symptoms. In a nutshell, what an alkaline diet entails is eating a mostly vegetarian diet, where we try and limit animal protein and fruits to about 20% of your total dietary intake. And then we eliminate any junk food, processed food, dairy products and coffee. These are foods that tend to be very acid-forming in the body and therefore are more prone to stimulate inflammation. So if we can control it that way, it helps reduce inflammation in the gut and potentially in the joints and the brain and elsewhere on the body. Coffee is the one that people will always kind of sneer at me when I say that. I love coffee, but I found for myself that even a sip of coffee, my neuropathy would get a lot worse. So I know people say, “Well, it’s just a little bit, it’s okay.” But for some people that little bit can be a bit too much. So, when people are starting any kind of diet change, I really recommend following it 100%. That way you can really feel the full impact of what that diet is doing for your body.
Allan (22:15): I think that’s a really important thing. There’s a big push out there, “Let’s do 80 / 20. If you’re doing it right 80% of the time, you’re going to be fine.” And I would say you’re going to be fine about 80% of the time if you’re dealing with something. A lot of folks that are listening to the podcast are wanting to lose weight, and I’m like, “You’re not in that 80% of your time right now. You’re in that 20%.” So we’ve got to ratchet down on things a little bit until we can find the balance, and when we find that balance we’re there. And you’re talking about a similar situation. We’re dealing with a disease here that can really wreck us if we don’t take care of it, so this is not the time to be thinking about justifying or trying to get to a point where we’re saying, “But it’s okay because everybody else is doing it” kind of mindset. Not everybody else right now is dealing with Lyme disease. If you want to get past this, you want to fix yourself, then you have to make these tough choices. You’re not going to like it, but it might not be permanent and you’ll get back into that point where you can be the 80 / 20 and everything will be cool. But we’re talking about actually trying to fix a disease. So, taking that time right now to follow this anti-inflammatory type of eating is going to improve your overall health and put you in a better position to fight this bug.
Dr. Darin Ingels (23:41): Yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head. It really is about choices. And when you’re not feeling well, you have a choice to make the change or not, but when people do make those choices, they feel a lot better, faster. And again, as you get to a point where you’re feeling better, you could be more liberal with the diet, but when you’re really feeling horrible and tired and achy, it’s better just to toe the line and follow the program, and you’ll feel much better, faster.
Then the third step of the plan is really about treating the act of infection. I walk you through a series of herbal protocols that I’ve personally used and what I’ve used on thousands of Lyme patients. And again, it’s different than just taking antibiotics. Where the antibiotics are geared to just killing the bug, herbal protocols not only will help eradicate the bug, but will also work on everything else that Lyme does to your body. A lot of these herbs are anti-inflammatory, they help improve circulation, they help boost your immune systems, they’re nutritive to your gut. We’re really encompassing a much broader scope of what Lyme has done to your body than just the eradicating the organism. Plus we don’t get all the negative side effects that you typically get when you’re on antibiotics long-term. People don’t generally get diarrhea, they don’t get this infection called “Clostridium difficile”, which can happen. All those negative things that we tend to see with long-term antibiotics, we don’t see what the herbs. There are a lot of different herbal protocols out there; I highlight the ones that I’ve seen the best success with. People can get those herbs online, the dosing’s on there, exactly how much to take, what to take. My recommendation always is when you start on herbs – six to eight weeks on each protocol to really give it a fair shake. If you get to a point where you really aren’t feeling any different, then it’s time to move on to the next protocol. That’s all outlined in the third step.
Allan (25:34): I like how you prioritize them. You say, “This one’s the one that I’ve found to be the most effective for the most people.” And then you say, “If that one doesn’t work, you can start these other ones.” Some of them you say are relatively intense; the dosing and what you’re doing are a little bit tougher to handle. But you’re trying to start someone out at one that you’ve seen good results with, that you feel is the best for the most number of people. I like the fact that you’ve organized it in a way that gives them that kind of information, because so many times it’s like, “We’ll try this protocol. Well, that didn’t work. Okay, we’ll try this one.” And it sounds like you’re throwing things at it, whereas you actually take the time to describe all of them and explain why you’ve put one protocol in front of another.
Dr. Darin Ingels (26:20): It’s been my own personal experience and what I’ve seen with thousands of patients. This is the hierarchy in which I’ve seen the best results with the least side effects. But if that’s not working for you, here’s plan B. There are some people who just happen to do better on one protocol over another for no real logical reason. But you do have to give it a fair shake, you do have to give it enough time to do what we want it to do. But at some point you have to draw a line in the sand and if it’s not working – time to move on to the next one.
So the fourth step of the plan is really about environmental control. We all get exposed to so many different things in the environment that undermine our immune system. The average American gets exposed to over 80,000 chemicals a year, and all of that is potentially damaging to your immune system and perhaps other body systems. There’s a lot of this stuff that you can do at home – you can control what you use in your home, and this includes things like Windex, Tilex, 409, lawn care products, pesticides, herbicides. All of that stuff can have a cumulative effect on your body. And we know a lot of these chemicals get stored in our fat cells, so I do talk a little bit about ways to detoxify your body to help eliminate those, to reduce your body burden. But certainly anything that you can control at home, stop using these products, stop buying these products – that just lowers the burden on your body and potentially on your immune system.
One of the big things I highlight in that section is about mold. Depending on where you live in the country – where I am, in the Northeast, mold is a huge problem. Most people have a lot of exposure, whether it’s in their home, school or work environment. Mold toxicity is probably the one thing that mimics Lyme disease the most. When I’ve been working with patients for a while and we’ve been doing their Lyme treatment and we’re not seeing the kind of success we’d like, mold is always the next thing on my list that we need to examine. I recommend if you live in most of the country that gets humidity or moisture, it’s a good idea to have your home tested and make sure you don’t have any hidden mold. You don’t have to see mold to have a problem. Most people who have these issues don’t know that it’s there, which is why it’s a problem. Unless it peeks through your drywall and you see water stains, you would have no idea. But sometimes you can get just a little pinhole leak in your roof. It’s in your attic and mold is growing and you can’t see it. You don’t know, but it’s enough there that can affect your health. So that’s something worth investigating.
Allan (28:45): We have a horror story on that. We bought a house and it needed some repairs – we knew it when we bought it. But my wife said she just knew there was a mold problem. She could just feel it, something was wrong. So we brought in an expert, they came in and he was really proud to say he was a walking mold detector. If there was mold in the house, he would know. He went up into my attic and ducked around a little bit, and came out and said, “You’ve got a moisture problem but doesn’t seem to be any mold.” And then he asked about our duct work and said maybe it’s an allergy issue. He says, “When was the last time you had the ducts cleaned?” I’m like, “We just bought the house, so probably never.” He says, “Well, we’ll clean the ducts.” And so he comes in and cleans the ducts and we pay the bill, and three days later, one of our bathroom walls is just coated with mold because he had stirred up these mold spores that were actually in the ducts. So we had to bring out someone else, because when we tried calling them, they didn’t come back.
Dr. Darin Ingels (29:52): Of course.
Allan (29:54): So we called someone else, and he comes out and he’s like, “Oh my goodness, we’ve got to pull all this duct work out.” He said we can’t keep this duct work. So he gives me a price on that, and then he starts pulling the duct work out and he’s like, “We’ve got a bigger problem. I picked up the installation underneath the ducts, and there’s mold all underneath the ducts that I didn’t see before.” And I’m like, “Okay, great.” So, all the installation, everything cleaned out. Fortunately it had not gotten into the drywall and the roof, or in that bathroom. So they were able to eradicate it. It was a very expensive problem to have, but it’s one of those things where you have to do it right. It is something that could really negatively impact your health. I was less sensitive; fortunately my wife was sensitive enough to know something was drastically wrong. To me, if I get a little bit nasally, it’s not a big deal. I don’t have to think a lot about it. But for her it was a big deal, so we did bring someone in and fortunately we did, because it could have been a much worse problem if we let it go any longer.
So, mold is a big, big deal. If you have moisture or live in a moist area similar to the Northeast – not an area where you want to play around. If you have mold and if you do find that you have mold, it is something to really go ahead and get cleaned up, because it can cause you some massive mess. I know we’re here to talk about Lyme, so I had to go off on a mold rant, but it can really wreck you too. If that turns out to be the problem, then really get that done.
Dr. Darin Ingels (31:28): Lyme disease, when people get infected, often it can alter your immune system in a way that you become more hypersensitive to environmental things like mold. I never really had a mold problem until I got Lyme disease. So I feel like it sensitized me in some way to mold. Mold is really the only allergen that still bothers me today. I’m not as hypersensitive where I can smell it when I walk in every musty building, like other people do, but it’s something that does have the capacity to really undermine your immune system. If you live in a part of the country where there’s a lot of moisture, that should be on your list to at least rule it out as a contributing factor to your overall health, definitely.
So the fifth part of the plan is really about lifestyle. One of the things I see for a lot of people after they get Lyme disease is that they don’t sleep well. And sleep is such an important part of when your body has an opportunity to restore and repair itself. We’ve got a lot of evidence that the brain repairs itself when you’re in that deep restorative sleep. And the more you miss it, the less opportunity your body has to really recover. I see so many people after they get infected with Lyme disease, they just don’t sleep well, whether it’s difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, and sometimes it’s a little bit of both. I outline various things you can do naturally to encourage getting better sleep, deeper sleep. The problem with a lot of the sleep medications is that they might put you to sleep, but they don’t necessarily get you into that deep restorative sleep. Whereas in the natural world there are a lot of nutrients and herbs that I think do a better job of accomplishing that. So, sleep is terribly important.
I think moving your body is incredibly important. When you’re achy and tired… I know when I was in the throes of Lyme disease, the last thing on my mind was going out and walking or hiking or doing anything physically active. It actually took me many years to get to a point where I feel like I could really do it again. But I talk a lot about different strategies that are very gentle, simple and inexpensive, that I think regardless of your physical state, there’s something there you can do to get your body moving. Because as you move your body, that’s when you move your oxygen, you get more nutrients to the tissue, you get rid of all that inflammatory material. It might be something as simple as stretching, it could be walking, swimming, yoga, tai chi. It’s just a function of what you enjoy, what you have access to, what you feel like you want to do. But I think it’s important that people get in the habit of doing something. As humans, we are designed to move, and again, for a lot of people it really makes a big difference. I hate yoga with the passion of a thousand suns, but when I do it, I feel so much better. It’s one of those things I go reluctantly, I don’t particularly enjoy it, but I really feel so much better. I can just feel my body moving and my muscles stretching and that stiff. tight feeling that so many of us with Lyme disease experience, really dissipates after a good yoga session. It is important to find something you enjoy doing, otherwise you’re just not going to do it, and that’s not the goal either. So find something you like and just be committed to doing it on a regular basis.
And the last part of all that is about stress management. Of course we kind of half-jokingly say, “Well, don’t have stress in your life”, but if you live in this country particularly, there’s always stress. And being chronically ill is stressful, and it’s stressful for your partner and your spouse and your family. But having an outlet to be able to express that, I think is very important. I always felt like I had a good support network, but at some point your friends and family kind of get tired of hearing about the way you feel, and you feel bad about burdening them. And people ask, “Oh hey, how are you doing today?” And you’re just nice and you say, “I’m doing great. Thank you for asking.” You don’t really want to tell them, “I feel terrible today and everything hurts, and my brain’s not working.” Having whether a Lyme support group or a therapist or whatever it is that works for you – I think having that place where you can really be honest and discharge the way you feel, is important. I have some patients who do it through art, some people who do it through music, some people who do it through a therapist. But having that safe space to be able to express how you feel and know that it’s okay that you’re going to have days where you feel pretty terrible, and that’s okay, and understand that it will pass and it’s fleeting. But in the throes of it, it feels pretty horrible. So, we talk so much about the physical aspects of everything Lyme disease does to your body, we kind of forget about the psycho-emotional aspects, which are significant. Your brain and your body are connected, and what one does, the other follows. So I think as much as we can encourage positive imagery and happy thoughts, so to speak, that’s a way that we can start helping encourage better healing in the body. It’s the one piece I see with so many Lyme patients that really seems to be missing. And I think it’s just an important part of overall health.
Allan (36:28): Yeah. And like I said, of the five, I think there was one that might not apply to everybody, but the other four – if we’re doing those ourselves for our health, we’re going to be much better off. And I completely agree. When you get to the lifestyle pieces of the exercise, the stress reduction management, and then of course the sleep – those are three core health components that we should be focused on trying to improve all the time.
I want to pick your brain while I have you here because l get this question from time to time. There are sleep supplements out there, and they’ll be like, “Should I be taking melatonin? Should I be taking GABA?” I do tell people I take magnesium before I go to bed, and part of the reason I take it is I do have low electrolytes for the most part. So I tend to take electrolytes as a supplement from time to time. What I found is if I take a magnesium supplement before I go to bed, I get more of that vivid dreaming and feel like I’m really getting into a deeper sleep. And I’m fairly comfortable because magnesium is electrolytes and mineral. But when we start talking about melatonin and GABA… I’m not going to say melatonin is a hormone per se, but it is something our body would make by itself. And GABA is something our body has in our brain, but there are questions about if you took it orally, how to get in through the brain-blood barrier.
So I guess the question I’ll ask with those, if you don’t mind going through is, are they really doing anything, and is it safe for us to take those on a regular basis? Because with other hormones, like if you took testosterone, your body is going to quit making testosterone because it got plenty. Same thing with estrogen, same thing with some of the others. If you’re putting it in there, your body’s not going to make any because it’s going to know that there’s enough there. And I’m not sure that melatonin wouldn’t be any different. Can you talk about those, because that is a topic I get asked from time to time and I just tell them flat out I’m not a doctor, I’m not a nutritionist. But since I’ve got a doctor on the phone, I just thought, let’s ask this question. What are your thoughts about melatonin and GABA?
Dr. Darin Ingels (38:44): Coming back to your example about hormones – yes, if you take a lot of thyroid hormone or for women who take estrogen – if you take enough of it, it will actually suppress your normal production. Our hormone systems are built kind of like a thermostat, where as your temperature gets to a certain point, it shuts the heater or the air conditioning off. The same thing happens in our hormone systems. We don’t know that that’s necessarily true in our neurotransmitter system though. So in the case of melatonin, melatonin is a hormone, and when we talk about supplementing with melatonin, we’re really talking about supplementing at normal physiological levels. So we’re talking about supplementing a level that would be your normal production, not super physiological doses that are far beyond what your body would normally make. Now, there’s some research, particularly in cancer care, that certain tumors, when you take high doses of melatonin, like 20 milligrams or more a night, can actually help stop tumor production. So I know in the cancer world, a lot of naturopathic oncologists are using high doses of melatonin for stopping tumor growth. But for people who just have a hard time falling asleep, which is what melatonin is designed to do – it’s really for the people that can’t fall asleep; it’s not really great for the people who can’t stay asleep. So we differentiate when there’s a sleep disturbance, whether the issue is falling asleep, staying asleep or both.
But I think melatonin for people who can’t fall asleep – when you look at the research, which is generally between one and three milligrams at night, and certainly for an adult three milligrams is perfectly fine and safe, even with long-term use. I’ve not read anything that suggests that it suppresses your natural melatonin, nor makes you dependent on it. And I have some people who go on melatonin for a period of time until they get their sleep pattern back on track, and then they’re fine and they don’t need to take it anymore. Melatonin, without looking at other reasons why people aren’t sleeping well, would be a little bit of a miss. Melatonin deficiency is probably not the problem. There’s probably something else going on that’s interfering with melatonin metabolism, so you’ve got to find out what that thing is.
Allan (40:48): It’s probably their iPhone.
Dr. Darin Ingels (40:52): In all seriousness, we know that definitely the blue screen that comes off iPhones and iPads does interfere with your sleep pattern. They’ve now demonstrated this in research. I always tell people that have trouble sleeping, especially two hours before you want to go to bed, you’ve got to cut off your iPhone and iPad.
Allan (41:11): I cannot get my wife to do that, to save my life.
Dr. Darin Ingels (41:16): We’ve all become a very addicted society to our electronics. And of course I think it’s practical too, because by the time you get done with your work day, you cook dinner, you clean up, you get your kids to bed – that’s the time you now have to yourself to answer email and do that. So for many of us, that’s our quiet time. Unfortunately, the timing is terrible because again, that blue screen… Now they make glasses that you can buy online that block that blue light. So for people who insist that they have to do that work late in the evening – go spend the $10 and get the blue blockers that block that blue light, and it’s going to certainly help with your sleep pattern. But melatonin, again, is really designed for people who can’t fall asleep.
For people who can’t stay asleep, this is where I think GABA actually works pretty well. But you’re right, there are some forms of GABA that don’t get absorbed very well across the gut wall. There are a couple of forms of GABA that have been studied that show they do actually cross the blood-brain barrier. I particularly use one called Pharma GABA, and there’s a few supplement companies that make that particular type. Pharma GABA clinically seems to work really well for people in keeping them staying asleep. There’s another one that’s a liposomal form of GABA that also seems to get absorbed fairly well. But if you’re just buying regular GABA off the counter that’s not in one of those forms, it probably won’t work very well.
The other nutrient that I like a lot of is called glycine. Glycine is the most basic amino acid and it binds to a specific part of the brain called the “locus coeruleus”, which nobody cares about, but it’s the actual part of the brain that’s sort of the on and off switch between excitatory neurotransmitters and the ones that make you calm and quiet. So by binding to that part of the brain, it basically flips the switch and helps the brain quiet down and starts inducing more of your sedative neurotransmitters like serotonin and so forth. So glycine is very safe, it’s very cheap. You can take 3,000 milligrams of glycine before bedtime and often people report that they feel like they get a deeper, more restorative sleep.
And you mentioned magnesium. Magnesium is the one nutrient you burn through the fastest in your body. And certainly if you’re a physically active person, you’ll burn through magnesium faster. Magnesium is a cofactor in a lot of neurotransmitter metabolism, so I think feeding those pathways probably helps induce better sleep. A lot of my patients do tell me they sleep better when they take more magnesium. If you get too much magnesium, you’ll know – it’ll actually give you loose stool. But I have some people who take 500, 600, 800 milligrams a day and actually do very well with it.
Allan (43:49): Okay. Well again, Doctor, it has been so cool talking to you. The name of the book is The Lyme Solution. If someone wanted to learn more about you, get a copy of the book or just learn more about Lyme disease, where would you like for me to send them?
Dr. Darin Ingels (40:52): Yeah, if they just go to my website – it’s DarinIngelsND.com – we’ve got a lot of great information about Lyme disease, the book, and we’d love for people to follow us and get that information.
Allan (44:20): Cool. This is going to be episode 322, so you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/322 and you’ll find a link to a Dr. Ingels’ website and the book, The Lyme Solution.
Dr. Ingels, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
Dr. Darin Ingels (44:37): Great. Thanks, Allan.