Category Archives for "aging"
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Nobody wants to get old, but we have to face facts that we will. On episode 427 of the 40+ Fitness Podcast, Dr. Patricia Selassie shows us the art of Aging Brilliantly.
Dr. Selassie, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Dr. Selassie (02:36):
Thank you so much. I'm so excited to be on your podcast Allan.
Well, I am eager to talk about your book because I loved, loved, loved the title when I saw it on Amazon coming out soon, and I was like, okay, I got to get this. I got to get her on here. The book is called Aging Brilliantly: How to Eat, Move, Rest, and Socialize Your Way to Long Life. And in that book, I think you do a really good job of just kind of taking us through some of the basic fundamental things that we should be doing to keep ourselves healthy and in doing so, aging better.
Dr. Selassie (03:09):
Absolutely. Yeah. It's back to the basics, you know, I think that that's always going to be the foundation.
And the way I kind of get into it when I'm talking to clients is I'm like, let's look for the big rocks. You know? And it's, I think everybody pretty much knows I could eat better, I could move more, I could rest better and I can socialize more. So it's a, it's kind of this natural go-to. Can you kind of go through those four pillars and just kind of talk about what each one means to us and how we should be mindful and focused on each one?
Dr. Selassie (03:41):
Yeah, absolutely. And even though these are just the basics, I just want to say that the basics are heavily backed up. By research, I mean there's been tons of science and clinical studies showing that these four pillars are really important for aging brilliantly. So eating, I mean, you know, right now I think that everybody is really kind of gets excited about the latest trends, you know? And if you've been in the health field for a while, you understand that these ideas change. Like I think maybe 10 years ago or not even that long ago, everybody was like all excited about the paleo diet and eating bacon and now everybody's all excited about the plant-based diet, but if you're around 20 years ago, the plant-based diet is really just the vegan diet, but despite all the trends, no matter if you're like I'm gluten-free or I'm paleo, which is not a trend for some people, but no matter what diet you're on, the most important thing I think is really that you get some of the fundamentals that you see in all diets, which is going to be healthy plants.
Dr. Selassie (04:47):
No matter what type of diet you are on, you want to make sure you're including plants. And good fats are really important and I know that there was a time when everybody was eating fat-free and now we've got to like get with the times because when I fat-free is just not the way to go. There's been the most research done on the Mediterranean diet and I think it's a very adaptable diet for lots of people. Whether you have gluten sensitivities or you don't want to eat animal products or you can't, you know, you don't do well on dairy. There's always food available for people and ways to make it more tailored towards you. And the Mediterranean diet shortly is just pretty much lots of plants. You want to have nuts and seeds and oils, a little bit of fish, a little bit of protein.
Dr. Selassie (05:38):
And that's the basic pillar of, and there's definitely more details in the book. Moving is really important. I think that we all understand now that we live a very sedentary life. Most of us are working at a cubicle. We're not even standing. And studies show that even a little bit of moving, so I think a lot of people get intimidated because they think like, Oh, I've got to start that CrossFit now. You know, or I got to, you know, New Year's is here, so I got to start my exercise regime. But a lot of the studies are showing just even three minutes every hour makes a huge difference in your health and aging well. So moving and moving every chance you get.
Dr. Selassie (06:19):
Resting is really important. People do not prioritize sleep. In fact, I live here in Brooklyn, New York, and people I think glorify like, Oh, I can get by on four hours or I only need six hours.
But it's really about if you want to age brilliantly, you've really got to prioritize rest and rest is sleeping, is associated with everything. Better body types or healthier body sizes, less stress on the brain, better performance at work and for school, for children. So rest is really important and I don't think it gets focused on as much. And then the last thing is socialization. Whenever you have people that you are loving around you, whether it's like your true flesh plant family or friends, which are like family that you choose. And also purpose, like serving people in the world, making the world a better place, those people tend to age longer. You know, there, there's a reason for them to kind of hang around. And so they do.
Yeah, you based a lot of this off of Buettner's work, The Blue Zones. And so this is a brilliant piece of work. And I, I did have Dr. John Day on the show and he found a small city in a small town village actually in China that was kind of remote and found a lot of these same things. You know, the way they eat, the way they move, the way they rest, the way they socialize was just kind of their natural day to day life, which was a lot more reminiscent of how we were in 1700s, 1800s and early 1900s. And then automobiles and transportation of food and industrialization of our food kind of put us on this path of moving kind of away from that. And I think that's why we're seeing a lot of the issues that we're seeing today is because we're just not really applying these four pillars in our life on a daily basis.
Dr. Selassie (08:19):
No. And just like you mentioned industrialization of food and agriculture, there's also things that we've introduced in our lives that were not there in the 18 hundreds like smartphones and electricity and computers and things like that that are sort of keeping us attached to the desk, you know, so and getting us off our natural rhythms. You know, we can be looking at a smartphone way into the wee hours of the night and then realize later it's, Oh my gosh, it's 2:30 AM. I hear that a lot. So we forget about that. We're human and we have natural, you know, natural basic needs that we need to make sure we're incorporating into our life.
Yes. Now the Mediterranean diet you mentioned, and I think this is really, really important because you know, like you said, there's, a lot of push and most of them, the way I turned them as their elimination diets, when you, when you kind of break down a vegan diet or a carnivore diet or paleo diet or keto. All of these diets are basically focusing on one type of food or deemphasizing the other foods. And saying, okay, you shouldn't eat this and you can eat really crap food and be a vegan. You eat really crap food and be a carnivore. Interestingly enough, you know, if you're not paying attention because you know, it drives me nuts when I'm like, Oh I'm just going to eat bacon for 30 days. And I'm like, okay, you'll lose some weight cause you'll get tired of eating bacon. But beyond that, is that, is that really going to help you age well?
Is that really gonna give you the nutrition that your body needs to be healthy and maybe losing weight is something that's kind of important to you. The doctors told you you need to do that and if this helps you do that, that's great. But you have to go back to something that's generally sustainable. And that's the one thing that kind of comes out in the science over and over again is that the Mediterranean diet is effectively one of those diets that you can stick to. Uh, because people did eat that way and have eaten that way for centuries. Now that the interesting thing about the Mediterranean diet that I think is misinterpreted, this doesn't mean go eat at the olive garden every day. It's slightly different. Now you, you, you briefly touched on, on the Mediterranean diet. Could we dive just a little bit deeper into kind of the background for, you know, these folks are living longer and they're getting a lot of heart, healthy, natural ingredients. Can you kind of talk about that a little bit?
Dr. Selassie (10:50):
Yeah, sure. And I just want to comment on what you're saying that a lot of people you hear about these amazing results that they get on, they get from like, Oh, I went on the this X diet. Like the keto diet is a great example and you're right, it's pretty much eliminating products that might not be so great for us, like things made from flour, which doesn't really have a lot of life in it. And suddenly, they lose a lot of weight, but it is honestly a hard diet to sustain. And the Mediterranean diet is a diet that's very easy for most people to sustain. It's just a matter of making sure you include, it's very inclusive. You've got to include a lot of these foods. So I think that the foundation, like I said, is plants. There's a lot of, you know, all kinds of plants.
Dr. Selassie (11:36):
I mean, you know, you've got your leafy greens, you want your foods from cruciferous family, like the broccoli and the cauliflower and the chards. And you know, other foods like that have been shown in some of these blue zones to really be healthy for us. Tomatoes and eggplants and things like fava beans and all kinds of beans. Lots of these cultures that, that live where they've got people living to a hundred are eating lots of beans and all different kinds. Black beans in Nicaragua and fava beans around the Mediterranean, and even soybeans in Japan. So, that's really important. There's lots of olive oil used in the Mediterranean Diet and I think all of what all is in general have very healthy properties for us. They're very strong antioxidants. They even have even has antimicrobial and antiviral properties, or at least the olive leaves.
Dr. Selassie (12:37):
And the fat is really a sustainable oil. Like it helps us. It's a sustainable oil and it also helps us as humans to sustain our blood sugars. It helps balance out our blood sugars. And it's a really good fat You just want to make sure you don't cook on high heat. You know, there's, are there things like grass-fed butter for example, is considered a good fat. And also from close to around the Mediterranean. Meat, you know, an animal protein is also consumed but not in that, not these big pound quarter-pound burgers. You know, it's more like it's part of the meal that includes many other food. Also even sardines and fish and even eggs, but in smaller amounts. But it is included in the diet. Lots of spices I think are really important. And yeah, I think that you're right, when we think of the Mediterranean diet, we might just think, Oh, this means pizza, you know, around Italy or lots of flour products. But there are, you know, there are, there is so much processing and the American idea of a pasta is a little bit different than how it is in the Mediterranean. They're served much smaller proportions and there's a variety of other foods and variety is really the key.
Yeah. And one of the other things that I will say about most of the countries that are around the Mediterranean area is they, they eat differently than we do. And what I mean by that is a meal is an event. They, they don't go, they don't go to dinner and eat and scarf down a pizza and then go watch Netflix. They meet up, they start socializing and they might have a beer, but they're going to sit down and they're just going to start socializing. And then there'll be kind of a, you know, some olives will be put out. So maybe some cheese, a little bit of this and a little bit of that. They'll sit there and nibble and then, you know, the main course will come out and you know, they'll work through that. But they're spending most of their time talking and showing and listening and getting along and socializing and de-stressing from the day.
And then they might have a glass of wine, maybe two, but usually just a glass. And then they might have a light refreshing fruit or something for dessert and then boom, they're done. I mean that's their meal. But that meal took two hours, maybe two and a half because it's a part of their social environment building. So it's not, you know, the meal is not just to scarf down enough food to feel full. It's, it's intended to be a part of a social structure. So I think when you look at the four pillars, we don't often think of how related each and every one of these are. We have to eat to move, we should socialize while we're eating. And if we're using our time with friends and family in the right way, it reduces stress and just makes us feel more inclusive. So the Mediterranean diet to me is a little bit more than even just a diet. It's a lifestyle.
Dr. Selassie (15:36):
Yeah, I totally agree. Like, you know, putting your fork down in between bites, you're in parasympathetic mode, which is the kind of rest and digest mode you're practicing. That's actually what I call in my private practice, proper food hygiene. You know, you're like, you're resting you're not like answering emails on a computer while you're chewing, you're, you're actually looking at your friends and families in the eye or listening to what they have their day when exactly right. It's part of socialization. It's not these big portions of food that we all get quiet and dive into and talk with our mouth full. It's kind of like a much slower pace and the portions are smaller and there's rest in between.
So yeah. It's an event and I think that's what I really liked about when I'm at the times I've been over in Mediterranean countries with people that are from that area is that they just, they approach everything a little bit differently. It's a little bit like that over here in Panama, but not, not quite to the extent of what I saw in Spain, in Italy. But, um, one of the areas that I really want to get into because it's part of the reason that I am in Panama is just stress. And in the book you did a good job of talking about what stress does to our brain. Could you take a little bit of time to talk about that relationship and what's going on?
Dr. Selassie (16:53):
Yeah. So I just mentioned it. There's, there's two different modes in our body. You can be in sympathetic mode, which is really fight or flight or parasympathetic mode, which is rest and digest. And in this day and age, most of us are in sympathetic mode, sympathetic mode. Our bodies were designed to shuttle between the two. I talk about like how you're most, you're supposed to mostly be in parasympathetic mode where you're like walking around, living your life with your family and then like a predator might jump in your way. And I'm talking about like thousands and thousands of years ago. And your, your design, when you see that predator to either run that's the flight or fight, fight the predator. But these days there's no predator. What there is our bills, an angry boss, a coworker that's hard to deal with, even work projects that have to get completed.
Dr. Selassie (17:50):
Commute's, terrible communities that people have to endure. And so a lot of the times our bodies are in a constant sympathetic mode. And what happens is you constantly stimulate your brain that way, and it sends signals to what's called the amygdala. And your amygdala is important for, it then sends signals to the hypothalamus, which is another part of your brain that basically sends messages all over. And if you're amygdala gets overused or over kind of overstimulated, then it gets bigger and bigger. And this is something that you don't want. You don't want an enlarged amygdala. You want, you know, it's sort of like when you, when you, you use your biceps over and over again, you get a bigger bicep. But that's something you do want with an amygdala you don't because now you're a McDilla is overstimulated and it sends these cascades to your body of all these stress hormones that happen.
Dr. Selassie (18:46):
And so furthermore, the frontal cortex of your brain as it receives some of these stress signals get shrunken. So you have such a thing called age-related cognitive decline. And that's basically, you know, when you start forgetting names of people, even people that are close to you or you can't remember that vocabulary word or you walk into a room and you forget why you walked in there, can't remember where you put your keys. Now this is a sign that your brain is pretty much starting to age, but I think a lot of it is really can be delayed if we were to kind of stop stressing out, take time to take care of ourselves and give our brains a little bit of a break. You know. And then again, all the pillars are intertwined. So like sleep is a really important time for your brain to regenerate. You're not regenerating or restoring when you're at work in your cubicle or washing the dishes, you're really restoring your brain when you're resting.
Yeah, that's during one of the stages of sleep, that's when your body's actually flushing out the brain and cleaning it, which is are the restorative part of sleep. If we're not getting good sleep cycles or enough of them, we're not taking care of our brain. Now you touched on something and I think this is also really, really important because it's, it's so hard for people to do this and I'm just, I'm going to stereotype a little bit, but I don't mean in a bad way. It is. I think women have always been the caretakers of people and as a result, you know, so they're taking care of the children, they're taking care of the home, they're taking care of and they a lot of times it's very, very difficult to take that step back. I know as a personal trainer sometimes I just get so tied up into, you know, my business and taking care of the people I'm working with that sometimes I also don't do this and it's, it's called self care. And in the book you share some restorative self care ideas. Can you, can you kind of go through a few of those, what you think are some good ones for us to consider?
Dr. Selassie (20:43):
Yeah, I totally relate to that. I mean, you know, I'm a woman. I have five children, I have a private practice and a lot of times, and I talk about this in the book, that I get caught up in, Oh, I don't have time to prep a meal. I don't have time to, you know, drink a glass of water right now and be running to the bathroom. I have these children to take care of, I have my patients. I have, but let guess what I mean, if you don't take care of yourself, all of that, you will lose all of that, you know? So you've got to prioritize yourself and it doesn't mean that you have to stop everything and like move to Panama. Though that is really good. I would highly recommend that. But if you can't manage that right now, I mean there's a couple little tips that you can do.
Dr. Selassie (21:29):
Like for example, water is so important. You could savor a big glass of water. That's something that I do first thing in the morning before anybody else gets up is I make sure I drink certain amount of ounces of water and I savor it. And I really think about how this is, you know, hydrating me and giving me life. There's other things that you can do to just squeeze in a little self care, like a bath versus a shower. It might take you maybe 10, 15 minutes more, but it can, you know, your muscles under the hot water, it really, it really, let's go, you know what I mean? And then if you put some magnesium salts in there, you're adding some nutrients that can help relax your muscles. And it's alone time. It's me time. It's like there's nobody that can really bother you.
Dr. Selassie (22:16):
You can lock yourself up in the bathroom. Going out in nature, I think is a huge one. Even, you know, like I live in a city, so I'm either in my office or in the subway or in a car or in a building. But even just going out to a park, you know, a green space. And even just for three minutes, 3 to 10 minutes. It doesn't have to be long. Of course the more time you can spend in nature, the better. But our bodies need that. Our bodies are used to seeing plants and getting energy from live things. So that's also a really quick thing that you could do. Like literally just leave your building for a minute, look at some trees. Taking a nap, that's always my favorite one. Like there's nothing like you could be going, going, going and exhausted and you're really not getting much done.
Dr. Selassie (23:02):
But sometimes then that might be all you need. I talked about savoring a glass of water they can, there could be savoring a glass of herbal tea. I mean there's just, there's just so many things. Reading something inspiring I think is really important. One I really love is connecting with an old friend. I've had some amazing, fantastic conversations with people. Just pick one randomly that I haven't maybe talked to in a couple of years and just say, Hey, what's up? There's something really special about connecting with someone and it doesn't mean that, Oh gosh, I haven't spoken to John for two years, it's going to be an hour on the phone. It might just be, you know, 5/10 minute like I'm thinking about you just sending you some love, some good energy, you know, so connection is another one.
Yeah. Now this can sound like a lot and I think when people are looking to change, they're like, Oh, I got to do all these things. I gotta do all these things and I for one I don't, I don't even have enough time to do the things I'm already doing. My to do list just grows every day and I keep pushing things off and pushing things off. And so this just feels, sometimes it feels like there's, there's more there to do. And I would say probably not, but it's really hard for a lot of people to just bridge that gap. Now in the book you talk about setting an intention. And I like, you know, in every chapter as you go through, you have a self assessment set of questions for someone to just kind of answer a few questions really easy, get a score. And then based on that kind of a general idea of how well they're doing on those things. So by the time they get to this sudden intentions part, they should have a pretty good idea where they're weakest, where they're strongest. And what are some of the questions that they answered that they didn't get the score that they thought they should've gotten. Can you talk about setting an intention and what are the steps? What are some things that people would want to consider as they're thinking about doing these things? Because I think you're right, setting the intention is really the key to getting anything done.
Dr. Selassie (25:03):
Yeah, I mean I, I totally get it. Like my things to do list seems to be getting longer and longer too, every single day. And the thing is though, if you want to age brilliantly, you're going to have to, that might have to be sort of a goal that you're going to attain. Otherwise you're basically receive what I call a certain future, which is just can it be aging? You know what I mean? If you don't take a step here or there, you're just basically going to be aging rapidly instead of aging slowly. So you know, that's the thing as you've got to take some time to sort of assess what's going on. I think the self assessments help you to do that and kind of see what areas of your life that would really make a bigger impact for you. So the smallest shift with the bigger impact is really where you start and after you do all the assessments, you'll kind of, you'll, that will kind of come through.
Dr. Selassie (26:00):
You'll kind of see like, wow, sleep is really a big thing that I've never prioritized. Maybe that's an, and I like to sleep. So maybe that might be an area that I really work on. And you want to kind of even look at yourself like where do you see yourself in five years? Where do you see yourself in 10 years or 20 years? Or like I would say that like if you're in your 50s now, you know, where do you want to see yourself in two decades? Do you want to see yourself active? Do you want to see yourself like doing and enjoying all the things you love? Do you see yourself with grandchildren? Do you see yourself playing tennis or you want to kind of project in the future and what will understand now? What will it take to get there? If you see yourself tennis in two decades, so like let's say you're in your mid fifties now and your mid seventies like what would that really mean?
Dr. Selassie (26:50):
That would really mean like preserving your joints, you know, keeping your joints active, you know, taking care of your physical body. If it's really just like seeing and being around your grandchildren, you know, maybe something like diet is going to be more important. You know, you can talk about that. You can think about your diet, you can set some intentions, you can think about your grandchildren and what you want them to see you doing. And I really believe in writing things down because when we kind of think about our intentions or we imagine that's really important, but when you write it down, it's sort of like you're writing a contract to yourself and it's sort of becoming manifested through words. So I really encourage people to get what I call a super agers journal. I'm a big fan of journaling and started. Sort of set these intentions down and, and write down what it is that you see yourself doing and how you can, you know, what are some baby steps or little tiny 1% shifts that you can take to get towards that?
Yeah, I think a lot of people miss out on just how powerful small movements can be, particularly at first, you know, it's like as you're making a snowball, you start out with just a handful of snow and that handful of snow is easy enough for you to grab. And then as you start rolling that down the Hill, it's going to get bigger and bigger. And so just starting with something small over time can have some really great impact in your life.
Dr. Selassie (28:14):
Yeah, totally. I think that as a mom with five children, I can get really lazy and I can be like, you know, ask my daughters, go in the kitchen and fetch this for your mother or run upstairs and turn the thermostat down. But I started to really realize like I am, it's almost like I'm sitting on a throne and pointing and telling my staff what to do, but that's not going to keep me alive and around to see my grandchildren. So I make the extra effort to go up the stairs and put away the laundry or stand up when I'm seeing patients stand up every hour. These days, we've got so many little gadgets on our watches, on our smartphones that can remind us to do that and standing up. I mean, that can be something that can really impair someone as they get older is just standing up from sitting. So you've got to use your, you've got to use your joints, and even just standing up can make such a huge difference. You're actually pumping, there's no blood supply into your hip joint or your knee joint. And so pumping in the nutrition right directly into the knee joint by movement is really the best way to do that.
Yes, I define wellness as being the healthiest, fittest, and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?
Dr. Selassie (29:30):
Well I think that one is definitely being active with your friends and family, especially like you mentioned, the women who sometimes start to really focus you know, where the time they're in their mid fifties they're really focused on their career. They're really focused on their family and they forget about their girlfriends. So I think that really enlarging your circle, social circle is really important and it doesn't have to be a huge social circle, but you want to always kind of be stepping out. So I think that that's one strategy, whether it's like having tea with a new person, maybe it's even somebody that could be a possible business colleague, but maybe you're going to go out and like ask about who they are and what's their family like and kind of include socialization into your life. Just a little bit more. Prioritizing sleep I think is one of my favorite ones and I think if you go to bed before rather than sleep in, you're going to, there's more of a likelihood that you'll get those sleep cycles in. Your, the sleep that you get before midnight is actually really important because I get more of those cycles and we're diurnal human beings.
Dr. Selassie (30:40):
We're not nocturnal like rats. So trying to go to bed early I think is another great strategy. You know, just go, just do it. Just put yourself in bed. A third one is kind of, you know, one that I think is really great is kind of go into your local farmer's market or getting, ordering one of these CSA shares online or are there so many different local agriculture, organic agriculture boxes that you can get and just trying a new vegetable, just like seeing it, kind of discovering it and cooking it. Just seeing what you can make out of it and enjoy it.
Thank you. If someone wanted to learn more about you, learn more about your book Aging Brilliantly, where would you like for me to send them?
Dr. Selassie (31:26):
So my website is doctorselassie.com and the doctor is spelled out, so it's simply D O C T O R S E L A S S I E. and you can read all about me. I have a private practice here in Brooklyn, but I do see people via zoom or Skype or on the phone and there's, you'll see my book, but my book is basically on pre-order at Amazon right now. So you can just also find it on Amazon. Dr. Salassie aging brilliantly.
Okay. Well. This is going to be episode 427 so you can go to 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/427 and I'll be sure to have a link to Dr. Selassie's page and to the book there.
Dr. Selassie, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
Dr. Selassie (32:13):
I loved being here. Thank you so much Alan. Thanks for the good work that you're doing for all of us over 40
The following listeners have sponsored this show by pledging on our Patreon Page:
|– Anne Lynch||– John Somsky||– Melissa Ball|
|– Barbara Costello||– Judy Murphy||– Melissa Cardinali|
|– Bill Gioftsidis||– Leigh Tanner||– Tim Alexander|
|– Debbie Ralston||– Margaret Bakalian||– Wendy Selman|
The following listeners have sponsored this show by pledging on our Patreon Page:
Before we get started today, I wanted to take just a moment to reach out to you and offer this special invitation. I’m opening up my calendar to give you a free 15-minute consult. During this consult, there’s no obligation. I’m there to help you reach your health and wellness goals, so we’ll talk about the things that are getting you stuck. We’ll come up with strategies that will help you be more successful and we’ll look for those little things that you might be missing on your wellness journey. So if you’re ready to do something special before the summer, go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/15min. And I’ll be sure to have that link in the show notes. So, do go to the show notes if you forget this, but it’ll be out there – a free 15-minute consult with me; the same kind of consult that I would normally have with my clients. This one’s going to be for you absolutely free. Go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/15min. Thank you.
We all want to look and feel our best. In her book, The Ultimate Age-Defying Plan, Ashley Boudet helps us use a plant-based diet to slow the aging process.
Allan (2:19): Ashley, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Ashley Boudet (2:22): Hi Allan. Thank you for having me.
Allan (2:24): Today we’re going to talk about your book, The Ultimate Age-Defying Plan: The Plant-Based Way to Stay Mentally Sharp & Physically Fit. I can say I have celebrated my 53rd birthday this year. That term “age-defying” starts to resonate with me as I’m kind of turning onto what I would call the second half of life. Age-defying is pretty darn important.
Ashley Boudet (2:51): Yeah. Well, you’re pretty young. It’s been so much fun writing the book and also learning. And it’s a little bit of a relief, I think, to learn that there are things that we can do to stay young. A lot of people look at me and they’re like, “What do you know about aging?” But I thought turning 40 would be a big deal. And I think that even though I try to ignore age, it doesn’t really matter that much. There was something about it a few years ago that was like, “What’s going to happen?” I thought it would be something big or a big change in it. It really wasn’t.
And I think my fabulous coauthor and I would both agree that we both have felt better later – 40s and 50s and on, than ever. So it’s turned into an opportunity in a way. Sometimes eating well, exercising and all of those things come easier when a person is younger and may have a different meaning when you get a little bit older. It’s more of an opportunity, and what I call it is self-care. We talk about this a lot in some of our classes, that the way we really do see the future of medicine is self-care, is learning to take care of yourself and bringing the power back. And that also includes cooking.
Allan (4:08): That’s what I really like, is your book’s unique in this perspective. I’ve seen doctors that have brought in folks to write recipes for them before, but this is a book that you could naturally tell the book knew what the recipes were because they’d eaten it. It was almost, I’m not going to say a love of food, but it really talked about how you can use food to nourish your body. And we’re going to talk about that acronym in a minute, but that food’s a big, big part of that; in fact, the first part of it. But as you’re going through the book, it was telling you if you’re looking at this stuff and you want to get these nutrients in, here are the recipes, here are the page numbers. Go after it. I thought that was really cool because it wasn’t necessarily a prescription. It was empowering someone, like you said, to do self-care.
Ashley Boudet (5:05): Exactly. As a naturopathic doctor, many times, and even in my early training, I would give people lists of things that you shouldn’t, or ways that you should eat or things that could help to support your body. But I learned that actually knowing what to do with those foods was so huge. Some people had no idea how to even make a food taste good. And Mark calls what he does “food activism”. He’s been in this vegan chef world for a long time and he’s very clear that it has to taste good for anybody to even try it, to even begin to bring vegetables into their life on a regular basis. What we also do in our classes, and we wanted this book to be similar to that, where it’s bringing up the experience of the food and the experience of how these things are medicines and how they work in our body.
Allan (5:59): I was looking at something as simple as wanting to get more dandelion root into my diet and saying it looks different; it doesn’t look like all the other lettuce and stuff that I would normally eat in a salad. How do I put it in there and make it a normal part? Some of that I’ve found works really well with smoothies, it also works very well with a salad. But it is a little intimidating when you’re looking at a particular vegetable that you’ve never cooked with before and saying, “Here’s this big purple eggplant. What do I do with it now?” There are some recipes in the book that will actually help me do that.
Ashley Boudet (6:35): Yes, exactly. And we like to encourage people to use these recipes as what Mark calls a “template”. So, to try this recipe and then to begin to get more creative and to bring in another food. Like if you’re doing a green salad or something with greens, how can I make this work with dandelion? And just to start experimenting more, but to kind of give you a place to start, so you can then have years and years of recipes that you can just come up with yourself.
Allan (7:04): There are 175+ of them in this book. So this is a really good start for anyone that does want to either go plant-based or at least make sure they’re getting more plants in their diet, because I think that’s important for all of us. You have an acronym in the book that I really like. I tend to go towards numbers and acronyms; it’s just something I love. You have a really cool acronym – NOURISH. Do you mind going through each of those pieces and what they mean for us?
Ashley Boudet (7:36): Sure. I love the word “nourish” itself, because I feel like it’s a very rich word. It kind of invokes the idea of really taking care of yourself. We like to simplify things. The book has seven ingredients or less; we want to make things really easy and doable for people. At the same time, the information and the idea of this age-defying plan – we want to keep it as simple as possible and to look at the things that we do every day that we feel could be the most powerful and healing. So, NOURISH is pretty easy to remember. I’ll go through them quickly.
N is nutrition – the basic nutrients that we need for our body to work.
O is oxytocin. And I love that. Oxytocin, not a lot of people know what that is, but it is what they call the “happiness hormone”. There was a study not long ago that I think was pretty widespread out there that was talking about how hugging for I think it was 20 seconds or something – like a long hug – actually would increase the levels of this pleasure or calming hormone in your body. There are so many things that also will increase oxytocin. This is one of the first actual studies that looked at the blood levels of the hormone, but anything that makes you feel good. So I put oxytocin in there, and that can be being outside, talking to a friend, even eating a really delicious meal, laughing, things like that. So, that’s the O.
“Use it or lose it” is all about using your brain and your body in the way that they want to be used. So, challenging yourself, getting rid of that idea that it’s too late to try something new. If maybe you thought you might want to do a triathlon – not that that’s something I would do – but use it or lose it. Always moving your body and never feeling like it’s ever too late. Also, challenging your mind as well. And we go into all of these in more detail in the book, obviously.
R is for relationship, and that is the importance of really nourishing your relationships and nourishing the idea of a connection to a community, to how we contribute to our community and how we share our stories with each other. That can be very nourishing.
I is for intention, and by this we mean knowing what’s important to you in life, having a vision for your life, knowing what you value and making choices from there.
Then the last two – pretty obvious, but super important on the top of my list really, are sleep and hydration. Sleep is the importance of getting your body that downtime to shut down and recuperate. In the book, I have some studies that are really interesting about how sleep helps us to detoxify as well.
And then hydration – this is simply getting enough water. This is something that, living in Colorado in a dry climate, I’m always having to remind people of. But really anybody can benefit from sometimes drinking a glass of water when they’re looking and wondering, “What’s wrong with me? Why don’t I feel well?” in many different ways. Also we talk about with hydration, using water as medicine. So this can be taking an herbal bath or jumping into a cool river and having our circulation react to that and really awakening our nerves and our cells in that way.
So, those are the things that we have learned both separately and together over years that have really helped us to stay healthy; things that are important to do every day. They seem very simple and they’re actually very powerful to us.
Allan (11:32): You put a lot of good detail in the book on each and every one of these; some considerations, some things you can do to get this. I really appreciated that this was not just a, “Here’s the acronym” and then, “Go do these things.” You actually provide a lot of guidance in the book on exactly how to do those things.
Ashley Boudet (11:53): Right. We wanted it to be, one, something simple that didn’t feel too overwhelming for people. We also have one page on NOURISH, so we were hoping that could be something people could take with them at the gym or something, just to remind themselves of what all these things mean.
Allan (12:14): Now, one thing that I have not really talked about a lot on the show, and it was kind of surprising because this is episode 377 – we’ve never really talked about kidney and urinary tract health. As I was reading your book I saw the section on that and I was like, “376 episodes leading up to this, we haven’t had this conversation.” So I was really glad that you got into it. The kidneys, obviously we know they filter our blood. We know that if someone gets diabetes, over time they are very likely to cause damage to their kidneys and perhaps need dialysis. Dialysis shops are popping up all over the country pretty much faster than weight loss clinics are. It’s just surprising to me how many there are now. We are not taking good care of our kidneys.
Ashley Boudet (13:12): Right. I wanted to put this in the book, and it’s kind of a small section in the book. I think from the naturopathic perspective, it’s less strange to talk about the kidneys as really important organs of elimination and balance in our body. Even if you look at Chinese medicine, the kidneys are central to health, and something that’s always looked at and addressed, kind of in a different way in Chinese medicine. I wanted to see what people are dealing with when they’re aging, and surprisingly, chronic kidney disease was one of the top 10. This was from the Council on Aging. I looked at the top 10 things that a lot of people are dealing with with aging, and kidney was number six. So it was right up there with heart disease and diabetes, and it’s because it’s connected to all of these things. In addition, all of these things that we can do every day, like drinking enough water and nourishing our bodies and our cells and exercising – all of these things are going to help to support our kidneys as well. So, the idea that I like for people to keep in mind is, it’s really scary to think of kidney disease. I’m not trying to minimize when someone has a very serious kidney disease, but all of these things that we do every day are also protecting our kidneys.
Allan (14:40): So, in many cases, kidney disease is also a lifestyle disease.
Ashley Boudet (14:45): Right.
Allan (14:47): Okay. Now, I’m someone who enjoys cooking. I probably don’t cook enough meals on my own, but as this is going on now and I’m down here in Panama, I’m going to obviously cook more, primarily because there’s not a huge number of restaurants within the distance and I would get very, very bored eating at the same ones all the time. So, I do tend to cook the majority of my meals. And I do recognize that one of the cool things about that is I actually now know what I’m putting in my mouth, so there’s no extra this or that getting snuck in there that I don’t want in my body. Can you talk about some of the value of when we cook our own meals? What does that do for us?
Ashley Boudet (15:36): Yeah, it’s huge. So, Mark has been teaching cooking classes for many years. And around the same time that I was doing my clinicals and telling people about nutrition and learning everything about nutrition was when I realized people need to learn to cook. I need to learn to cook. Honestly, when I was in school and in a doctoral program and was more stressed out, what really brought me to health, one of the main things was taking the time to cook for myself. It turned into really my time. So when we teach classes, I try to invite people to bring in all of their senses. As we’re starting to sauté the onions, to really smell those foods. And when we’re talking about which herbs we’re using, to smell those as well and to look at them and maybe even get a little bit more quiet and think about where these foods came from. So, using all of our senses and using all levels of experiencing that food is something that you can’t get when you just go and get takeout food or go to a restaurant. Some people talking about the prana in a food, and the prana is a very real thing. It’s the energy and you could say the love that someone puts into the food. That actually helps us with digestion and really contributes to our health as well.
Allan (17:00): What I found is that I get a lot of pleasure out of going to a local market, a farmer’s market, and literally sitting there with the person that grew the plant and asking them about how they grow this. You start seeing them just light up. I think they get more joy out of being a farmer at a farmer’s market than they make profit selling at a farmer’s market, because the food’s cheaper and better there. But you know that they picked this this morning. They got up at 6:00 in the morning to make the 7:00 or 7:30 farmer’s market time. They got up; it’s daylight, they picked it. It’s sitting right there. You take that home, rinse it off, and that becomes part of your dinner that night. To me, it’s so fulfilling to know that literally, this was a growing plant this morning and it’s on my plate tonight.
Ashley Boudet (17:56): Right. Isn’t that beautiful? It’s our connection to nature. Food is our medicine.
Allan (18:02): And it didn’t fly in from Chile. Not that there’s anything wrong with Chile, but that’s a long trip. The organic, locally grown produce is going to provide you better nutrition and you’re going to feel better about it when you’re helping out a local farmer with that purchase. A lot of times when I’m talking to folks, they’re saying, “I really struggle to cook for myself because I just don’t have enough time” or, “This doesn’t work out for me. I go into my refrigerator and there’s nothing there.” Can you give us some tricks – I know in the book you had seven – for meal prep and making it a snap?
Ashley Boudet (18:44): Yes. This is very important because it doesn’t matter what someone else thinks you should do; you have to do whatever is going to work in your life. We’re all busy and life keeps us going and going, so one is to think of it as something that you’re doing for yourself; so back to that NOURISH. I could go through the seven from the basic cooking techniques section, but it has to taste good and be easy and be something that you enjoy. This should be an experience that you enjoy. So some of the quick things that you can do to make sure that you’re prepared for having that good experience and it not being a stressful experience, are to prepare ahead of time, of course. We suggest maybe taking a weekend day and in a relaxing way to plan out a menu for the week and think about where you need to get these foods and what you need for that week, and get that ready. Then preparing ahead of time, and also creating an organized space. Maybe Marie Kondo can help – I know everybody’s talking about her these days. But really having a Zen space, is what Mark says helps so much to be able to make those meals more quickly and to have the preparation process be much more enjoyable. So, having a place for everything, knowing where to find what you need, and then planning ahead are some of the simple things that you can do to bring in both flavor and nutrition. We also have a few recipes in the book on making spice blends. The idea is that you can have different dried spices that you can blend together. You can put together parsley, basil, oregano and some other herbs and make an Italian blend, so we’re going to have Italian night. Or you can put together certain herbs with cayenne, and that can be more like a Mexican flavor or an Indian flavor. You can have those at your hand, and that way you can feel like you’re being more creative, but it’s also not too much work to have to do.
Another thing is – and this is something big that Mark teaches in all of his classes – is the idea of the template. So, the first meal, or some people say, “What’s a go-to meal?” To get nutrition and to also have it be interesting and delicious would be what he calls the “monk bowl”. It’s the idea of a bowl that has a nice balance – so a grain, a green, and a protein. The grain could be quinoa or rice, or even rice noodles or pasta. The green just means any veggies. You want to go crazy on the veggies and have all the different colors that you can imagine, not just green. And then the protein, which can be for a vegan diet something simple, like quick roasted tempeh or tofu, or you can do lentils or beans or something that you can either do in a quick cooker, or even a can or something like that if you’re in a hurry. When you have that base, then you can add extra things. The things that we like to add are some toasted seeds or avocado or something raw, like some raw greens on top, or even sauerkraut or something like that. Those are pretty simple things that you can have in your pantry or in your fridge all the time. And then in a few minutes you can create a really delicious, really nutritious meal that’s not the same as one that you’ve ever had before, because you can mix and match all these ingredients.
Allan (22:27): I liked all of that because this is something like the salad in a jar concept. That’s great, because you could set that up the night before. In the morning when you get ready, you go. So maybe you had the salad for dinner, you had the extra that you put in that jar, and that’s your lunch and you’re set. Now, the one that hit me in the heart that my wife, when she does listen to this episode, she’ll understand – I just mess up so many dishes when I’m cooking. But you guys had the tip in there to try to use the same pan for more than one thing, and a lot of the recipes do exactly that. I thought that was pretty cool, because I’ll go make something and it’d be 15 pans, and forks and spoons and all that dirty. It got me to thinking I am spending time washing these dishes, and in some cases my wife steps in and does that since I did the cooking, but it is time consuming. There are things we can naturally look to that are going to reduce the amount of time. So if time is the issue, you can remove that issue.
Ashley Boudet (23:37): Right. And on other days, when you have a little bit more time, you can make the big mess in the kitchen and make it your art space and go crazy. But on a regular day-to-day, make sure that this can really be a part of your life and not something that you just do every now and then. That’s the person that we were thinking of in this book, and how can we make this as easy as possible?
Allan (23:59): And I liked that a lot of the recipes can be batch-cooked or batch-prepared, particularly with the spice blends. I had never thought of that. My wife thinks I have a spice fetish. We did the move to Panama; I’m throwing out all these spices or giving them away. I just collect spices, because I think they make the meals delicious. As I’m down here in Panama, I have less selection but I’m making it work. Ashley, I define “wellness” as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?
Ashley Boudet (24:47): I like that too. I like to break it down into simples. So three things. I’m going to go back to NOURISH, and I would say, nourish your body, one. So this is food, water, movement, challenging – all the things we talked about. Nourish your mind – so your brain, your emotional body – finding joy, quiet, spending time in nature. And then nourish your connections. So, nourish your body, nourish your mind, and nourish your connections. And that’s your connection to family and friends, community, maybe your connection to greater, to all beings that live, and even maybe extending beyond to something greater than yourself, because that’s where we can answer, “Why am I doing all this stuff in the first place?”
Allan (25:38): Those were wonderful. Thank you. If someone wanted to learn more about you and Mark, learn more about the book, where would you like for me to send them?
Ashley Boudet (25:50): Mark and I together is Doctor and Chef, so our website is DoctorAndChef.com. And on that website you can find where to find the book, more information about the book, and we have some resources that are downloads and different information on certain topics that we talk about in the book that we go more in depth on.
Allan (26:11): I liked that there were a good many links to the resources section to dive deeper. The book is a great resource in and of itself, but you have some add-ons that they can go find. So the name of the book is The Ultimate Age-Defying Plan and you can find the links to all of that at 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/377. Ashley, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
Ashley Boudet (26:36): Thank you. It was great chatting with you.
Allan (26:43): I really love having conversations with folks like Ashley, where they’re stretching me to learn new things, to focus on things maybe a different way. It’s always great to get guests on the show that teach me something. I’ve really enjoyed this journey of podcasting, where I’ve been able to read all of these great books and have some really cool conversations. And one of the ways I think I can help you is by sharing that with you. If you find yourself stuck, you just want a boost to make your summer awesome – let’s get on the phone. I’m offering a free 15-minute consult. You go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/15min, and that will take you to my Calendly calendar. There you can book a time and we can get on a phone – it’s a Zoom conference line. Really easy, just you and I, 15 minutes. We’re going to set some strategies, we’re going to go over goals, and I’m going to help you make this fitness journey much, much better. So go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/15min. Thank you.
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Allan (1:15): Karen, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Karen Salmansohn (1:19): It’s great to be here.
Allan (1:21): Now, your book is Life is Long!: 50+ Ways to Help You Live a Little Bit Closer to Forever. I really enjoyed that title. It just kind of drew me in, because I’m on the other side of 50. When I got into the book I saw you promised your son Ari that you were going to live to 100. And I remember when I was in junior college, a friend and I basically made a bet. I don’t know that we’ll ever pay out on it, but I bet him that I was going to live to 110. So, I have kind of that forward looking. I think you had 57 different ideas and things to think about, as far as what you can do to improve your longevity. Many of these were going to add years, but quite a bit of them were actually more about adding quality to the years that you have as well.
Karen Salmansohn (2:09): Yeah, I say that I want to help people to live longer and younger. And there is a word that I read – I didn’t make it up – called “wellderly”, which are people that as you grow more elderly, you stay active and well. And that’s kind of what I’m going for.
Allan (2:27): Awesome. Now, we did used to see, I guess, 70-year-old bodybuilders, power lifters and marathon runners, or 80-year-old mountain climbers. We’re seeing that more and more, and I hope that most of us are realizing that the medical benefits and things that have allowed us to live longer doesn’t necessarily guarantee us that we’re going to be well when we get older.
Karen Salmansohn (2:53): True. But when you see role models like that, it helps you. It becomes a healthy, self-fulfilling prophecy the more you’re like, “That’s possible.” I write books in general that help to motivate people not just to live longer, but on other things. And there was a guy, Roger Bannister, that ran a 4-minute mile. Before he could run the 4-minute mile, everybody thought that would be crazy to try to run a 4-minute mile. And then after Roger did it, so many other people started to do it because they said to themselves, “Oh, that’s possible. If this Roger guy can do it, then I can do it too.” So if you start to see other people thriving as they get older, then it helps you to have a different mindset.
Allan (3:46): They are thriving, and I think that does give us that “possible”. And then there’s the other side of the spectrum – one of my best friends from high school died this last week.
Karen Salmansohn (3:56): Oh my gosh!
Allan (3:58): He was 52 years old, and he’s gone. These things just don’t happen. You have to do some things to make it happen. So, your promise to your son Ari, you’re doing; and you’ve researched and learned a lot of these things to say these are the things that you can do to make sure that you get there. And I think that’s the action. I don’t want someone to think it just happens, that there’s a day, it’s certain. You can prolong your life, you can live closer to forever.
Karen Salmansohn (4:29): Yeah, there are things that you can control, and some things are your choice. You can age quickly or you can age slowly, and some of that is your choice.
Allan (4:39): Right. I think there were 57 of these in here.
Karen Salmansohn (4:45): It’s funny, because actually when I wrote the book I was 57. I just turned 58 in August. So I didn’t even realize there’s almost a symbolic reason for there to be 57.
Allan (4:56): Yeah. And they say it has to be an odd number, so you couldn’t just stop at 50 anyway.
Karen Salmansohn (5:02): You know what happened actually behind the scenes? It was only supposed to be 50, but I got so passionate about research and wound up with over 100. And then I said to the editor I have trouble limiting it to 50, so she allowed me to add on another seven.
Allan (5:19): Good, because all of them are really, really important and I don’t think you could have cut any further into these and had it. You would have been leaving some on the table. So you’ve got a second book in you, that’s for sure. Now, one of my favorite ones is one that we talk about a lot when we get into nutrition, because a lot of the people that listen to this podcast do practice a ketogenic lifestyle so they’re eating more fat now. We’re getting away from the “fat is bad” mantra that’s been out there. But some fat is bad, and you say, “Give yourself an oil change.” Can you talk a little bit about that and how the oils that we eat can be good for us or they can be bad for us?
Karen Salmansohn (6:06): Right. There are high-quality fats and healthy oils that you can have. Some of the bad oils of course make people think that all oils are bad, but that’s not true. Are you on a ketogenic diet, low in carbs, high in fats from healthy oils?
Allan (6:26): Yes.
Karen Salmansohn (6:27): Is that a general ketogenic or do you do it every couple of months?
Allan (6:33): I do it seasonal. So, the way it’ll work for me is, I think about how my ancestors ate. And what I know is they’re Northern and Eastern European. So, I’m an all-white guy, and I cannot jump. But that said, they didn’t have access to berries and fruits during the winter, so they would not have been eating a ton of vegetables during that time of the year. They probably would have been hunting a lot more smaller animals. They would have been going for fish. So I eat a lot of fish, I eat a lot of smaller game like chicken and things like that, turkey. But that said, I know occasionally they’re going to get hungry enough and they’re going to sit there and see an opportunity to go kill an elk. So, a good high-quality red meat was an occasional thing that they had in their diet. And then when the summer / spring came back around, then there’s berries. And you walk out in the field and see a field of blueberries or blackberries – they would just eat, they’d just gorge. So I go through a season of what I would call “feasting”, and then I’ll go through a season of what I call “famine”, where I’m mostly on fish and meat, with leafy green vegetables and that type of thing. Some vegetables, but not a lot. That puts me into ketosis for a period of time. I just flip it, because I like football season and Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s. I don’t want to have to think about my food as much during my feasting season. I get to kind of do that; and high-quality beers and all the other. So, I have my feasting season and then I have my fasting. Or not so much fasting season, but my famine season. I just cycle through generally that way, for the most part.
Karen Salmansohn (8:16): Right. That’s great, because then you have the variety and you don’t get bored if it’s just the same thing. That can get people to cheat and go off of a healthy diet plan, but you created a system where it’s variety and change.
Allan (8:33): And when I’m eating the higher fat, moderate protein – because I do still try to stay with a moderate protein – I’m still looking to eat fish, because fish oil is important and it’s good. I’m a big fan of olive oil and avocado oil and that type of thing.
Karen Salmansohn (8:51): Avocado oil is my personal favorite. I have a huge bottle and I do everything with avocado oil. I love it. And it’s also good for your skin. I think we’ll be talking about it – I don’t like to put things on my skin, because that gets absorbed into your body, that have chemicals. So I try to keep my moisturizers as chemical-free as possible. But a lot of times when you tell people that aren’t familiar with the ketogenic diet to make sure that they have a diet high in fats, they think, “Oh great, French fries!” No, no, no, no, no. No fried foods. No, that’s not what this is about. I love avocados. It’s a great way to make sure that you get some healthy fats. I make a healthy avocado smoothie and it fills me up, because when you have foods with fats, it also helps you to feel fuller faster, which helps to make sure you don’t do those cheap eats because you’re feeling more full. So, that helps a lot. And then MCT – medium-chain triglyceride oil – that’s been known to help with your brain’s cognitive functions, as well as weight management, gut health and inflammation. There are people that add that to coffee – MCT oil. I’m sure you’ve read about that.
Allan (10:19): Yeah. Basically what this is, is an oil that has been derived typically from coconut oil, and it’s broken down into, like she said, medium-chain triglyceride. And what happens there is, the body really only has the option to use it for energy in the moment. When you have this stuff, your body’s going to immediately want to start using it for energy. So you’re going to feel an energy boost and a cognitive little pickup, which is why I think a lot of people like to add it to their coffee. But a note of caution – you have to ease yourself into using MCT oil, or you’re going to have a mess on your hands because it will cause some digestive problems if you’re not ready for how much you’re eating. I have some down in my pantry and I will typically do something like, let’s say I want to have a big salad for lunch. So I’ve got my leafy greens and that’s all set up. I will put some olive oil in, I’ll put some balsamic vinaigrette, and then I’ll put a little bit of MCT oil in there and shake it up, and use that as a part of the salad dressing. And I don’t have a 2:00 let down at all. A good lunch like that with heavy fat – I’m really going to be good until dinner. And sometimes that salad might be the first meal I even have that day. Naturally, because I’m in ketosis, I don’t feel hungry in the morning. And fasting was one of your other…
Karen Salmansohn (11:56): Intermittent fasting. We could talk about that too. There’s so much. It used to be that breakfast was the most important meal of the day, but there’s a lot of research that says that if you skip breakfast, that’s actually good for you. And the grazing throughout the day, which everybody said was great for you, is now coming back with research that says that that might not be so good; that intermittent fasting is better for your mitochondria.
Allan (12:27): I’ve done the self-study. I’ve looked at it both ways for myself, and I think that’s the important thing, to experiment with what works for you. If you’re going to eat carbohydrates, make that a good amount of your food. So, you’re going to eat the grains, the beans, legumes and all that. If that’s the approach you’re going to take, you’re probably going to want a good breakfast – steel-cut oats and those types of things, because your body is going to need the sugar. Whereas if you’re in ketosis, your body’s already producing ketones, it isn’t going to be as necessary. So I think it really depends on your way of eating as to how important that first meal is. I still call it “breakfast”, even if it happens to be 2:00 in the afternoon.
Karen Salmansohn (13:16): That’s funny.
Allan (13:19): Now, other oils – the oils we would want to avoid.
Karen Salmansohn (13:23): Processed oils. You should look on packages. It’s not just something that you cook with, but anything that you buy – if it has soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil, cotton seed oil, sunflower, palm, the partially hydrogenated oils – all of that, keep away from.
Allan (13:46): I say if it’s in a can or it’s in a clear bottle, it’s probably not going to be a good oil for you because it’s so shelf-stable, it’s just going to sit there. They make it in such a way that it can just sit there and not go bad.
Karen Salmansohn (14:05): And I see now they’re trying to make potato chips with the better oils, but I still think that potato chips are potato chips are potato chips. It’s still processed food. Anything with a barcode, you have to be a little suspicious of.
Allan (14:21): That’s another one you slid in there.
Karen Salmansohn (14:24): I’m passionate about this.
Allan (14:26): I know you are, and that’s why I don’t think you could have left one out, because they interconnect and overwind so well together that also in planning this conversation, it was difficult for me to decide. At the beginning, I set my number at no higher than seven. So, we’ve got to get moving if we’re going to get all seven of these.
Karen Salmansohn (14:49): it also brings up why I wanted to write the book, which is that I wanted to curate the best tips, and write it in a fun, easy to understand way. I love reading. I’ve had this skillset for a while – I don’t know what it is – to read even boring, complicated research studies, and then I write it up with humor, and easy to understand. It’s something that I’ve always been able to do – write up boring, complicated things in a fun, easy to understand way. And that was my goal for this book, to do the hard lifting of reading and then narrow, focusing it down to the most important stuff and make it easy to read, with fun graphics. There’s an illustrator that we found and I just love her style. In fact, I’m bringing her back for my next book that’s going to come out next year. I just love her graphics. She’s so talented.
Allan (15:44): It is a beautiful book. And you’re right, you did take this, but you didn’t just say, “This is a rule.” You actually took the time to do the research. You point to the research, but you don’t get real dry into, “Here are all the things they found in this study.” You just place it out there and say, “I’ve done my research, and here’s where I found it. If you want to go down that rabbit hole, here’s the information. You can go ahead and really dive in and get deeper into this if you need to.”
Karen Salmansohn (16:14): One thing that I’ll say – I’m just thinking about this now as you’re interviewing me – I made the research and information so easy that I could actually talk about it with my eight-year-old son, because I wanted to get him on board. One of the tools that I mention is that you are who you eat with, which I think we might want to talk about too.
Allan (16:37): Let’s go ahead and talk about it.
Karen Salmansohn (16:38): Okay. Well, my son was eating all of this stuff like pizza, macaroni and cheese and bacon. So, when I was around it, it became more challenging to resist it. And potato chips and Doritos and all of that, like a kid. And I wanted to raise him so he could make the choice of knowing if he really wants to eat that. I spoke about everything with him in such a way that he could understand this. And also, he would be my accountability buddy and we could do it together. Now, I allow him because I want him to have a normal childhood, to have the pizza, the macaroni and cheese. But he knows to do it in moderation. He’s aware. The tools in this book are broken down in such a way that they’re so easy to understand that you could talk about it with your kids and get them involved in eating healthier. It’s written in such a way.
Allan (17:48): It is. I don’t want to say it’s a kids’ book, but you’re absolutely right. This is something that anyone can sit down.
Karen Salmansohn (17:58): It’s a logic, there’s a logic. My little guy is pretty smart for his age, but I do think that you could bring it in and talk about it with your family and get the whole family active in it, because as I say, you are who you eat with, and you wind up being affected by those around you and how they eat. So, you want to get people in your family who you eat with all the time actively eating healthier. They actually have other studies too, which is interesting, where people also sometimes take on the income of the people that they spend time with.
Allan (18:39): That’s a Jim Rohn quote where he says, “You are the product of the five people you spend the most time with.” And it’s because of both things. One is, you learn good habits from them, and we keep ourselves accountable.
Karen Salmansohn (18:57): Even there’s something called “emotional contagion”. You even become sometimes in the mood of the people that you hang out with. All of this is so interesting to me, how that winds up happening.
Allan (19:08): Yes. So let’s switch gear a little bit, because I really enjoyed your conversation in the book about supplements.
Karen Salmansohn (19:18): First thing I want to say is that I really do try to get all of my vitamins from food, rather than from a bottle. But I do have some supplements that I turn to. And I want to be clear that everything in this book, before you make any massive change in your diet, you should talk to your doctor, because everybody’s different. Everybody is body is different, and I don’t want to recommend something to somebody if they have their own health challenges or something that they might not even know about. They should see a doctor.
Allan (19:59): I totally agree.
Karen Salmansohn (20:02): That in mind, I am a huge fan of taking a vitamin D supplement, but I make sure that it has K in it – D3 with K2. My own doctor, who vetted the tools in this book, told me that pretty much everybody these days, at least here in New York City, where people spend a lot of time indoors versus outdoors, have a vitamin D deficiency. I take it in liquid form, by the way. I feel it goes into my system better. And I don’t like pills that much, I just don’t like swallowing them. They make me nauseous, I feel uncomfortable. So I get a bottle of liquid vitamin D3 that has K2 in it. The K2 helps your body to absorb it. It kind of works like a traffic cop to ensure that the D3 goes to the right places in the right amount, more swiftly. They call it “the sunshine vitamin” for people that aren’t getting enough sunlight. It has so many benefits – mind, body, spirit, all of those things.
Allan (21:13): You can actually go into your doctor and get a lab test that will look at your vitamin D levels to see if there is some level of deficiency there. You don’t have to be on vitamin D3 all the time. I actually live in the Sunshine State of Florida, and so I get a good bit of sunshine when I’m able to get out and walk around and do things. But that said, I know the vast majority of us in the Northern hemisphere, there’s going to be a period of the year where we’re not going to get enough sunshine, either because we’re indoors for inclement weather or the sun is just not at the right angle for us. So, we do need to check that. This is one of those times when you do want to go to your doctor for a wellness visit and if you’re concerned about your vitamin D and don’t want to take a supplement all the time, you can have it checked and decide if that’s the best course of action for you.
Karen Salmansohn (22:06): Out of curiosity, since you live in the Sunshine State, do you ever have a vitamin D3 deficiency?
Allan (22:14): I have not. My doctor still kind of wants me to take vitamin D3 because so many of his patients have a deficiency. But I just tell him to look at it quarter on quarter. Right now we’re finishing up the summertime. I know in most parts of the country right now it’s a little cooler. It’s still in the high 80s and sunny here, so I’m out and about getting sun pretty much every day, just doing normal stuff around the house. So right now, no, but sometimes around February it gets a little on the low side, and I do actually start supplementing.
Karen Salmansohn (22:53): Well, I’m a big fan. And here in New York, pretty much all my friends are on D3. It’s very common here in New York. The other one is Coenzyme Q10. Again, check with your doctor, but that one is well-known to help with longevity and energy, and pretty much helps everything – your heart, lungs, brain, immune system. It helps your mitochondria to burn fuel, and anything that’s good for your mitochondria is good for your health and your length of life. So, that’s one that I take all the time; I take it every day. What’s your thoughts on that? Have you heard about that one?
Allan (23:46): I’ve heard a lot about it. Typically when I’m talking to somebody and they get into that, it goes into heart health. Again, that’s the energy aspects of the mitochondria, when you have strong, energized mitochondria. Your heart is a muscle that has to have that energy to fire every single beat for the rest of your life, as long as that is. For a lot of people the question isn’t, “Should you take it?” It’s, “Why aren’t you taking it?” And then the other side of it is, your body can actually produce it and you can actually get it from food sources. Typically, we just aren’t getting enough and we aren’t producing enough.
Karen Salmansohn (24:31): The next one is green tea extract, which can get into your system more than just having a cup of green tea. They also make green tea powder, but they make a liquid extract. Green tea, as everybody knows, gives you a great boost of antioxidants. Again, antioxidants help to fight cell damage that’s caused by free radicals, all of that. It helps to reduce blood pressure, it improves your blood fat levels, it boosts your heart health. It helps with your skin, your memory, and it helps with cancer, research says. So, this is a basic one that doesn’t have some of the risks that some of the other vitamins and supplements have. But again, check with your doctor.
Allan (25:26): Yes. Now, one thing you mentioned earlier – you talked about using avocado oil as a moisturizer. And I think that is important to moisturize where you need it, for sure. But I think a lot of women are going to want to look a certain way and it’s become fairly common to say, “I need this makeup” or, “I need to do this with my nails”, “I need to go for this pedicure, that manicure.” We’re putting things on our skin with the knowledge, but not a true awareness of what chemicals are in some of these products that we’re putting on our skin.
Karen Salmansohn (26:09): Right. Well, I am very aware of that. Actually, when I was pregnant with my son, I had my baby late in life. I was 49 when I got pregnant. I had an estrogen patch that I was supposed to wear; I put it on my arm. Things seep into your body through your skin. Isn’t that how you stop smoking too, you put a patch on? I don’t know. I never smoked.
Allan (26:40): There is a product; I think it’s called NicoDerm or something like that. But there are patches, yes, that provide some nicotine through the skin. There are vitamin patches. Testosterone and estrogen are both done either through patches or through creams that’ll go through your skin. So yes, we do absorb these things into our blood system, into our whole system through the skin, because it is an absorptive organ that can take things in.
Karen Salmansohn (27:15): I’m very aware of what I put on my skin. I don’t want to plug a specific product, but I only buy one brand that smells great, and I use that. Or I could use avocado oil from the kitchen and put that on and feel like my skin looks fantastic. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. That’s what’s so funny. These companies sometimes charge you so much, but it might be better just to pick a natural product like coconut oil or avocado oil. I really watch having my nails done, because the more I’ve read about nail polish and even being in a nail salon, with the fumes from that nail salon – so many studies on that, that were very scary when I started to read about this. So, I actually cut back on nail polish, pedicures and manicures. And if I do go, I try to go to a salon during a non-busy time so there’s not much stuff in the air. I read ingredients on products and I really make sure that nothing has formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen. Some of these things are so scary. Toluene is an additive they put in gasoline. Some of these I can’t even pronounce, and if you can’t pronounce it, chances are it’s really terrible for you. But even things with fragrance in them – the word “fragrance” has been linked to cancer, birth defects, and central nervous system disorders. So, I really watch it with the chemicals that I add into my body through beauty products.
Allan (29:04): Yeah. And it does take some research to find out what’s in these products. Right now there’s a new kind of industry out there of folks that are trying to put out really good products that don’t have these things in them.
Karen Salmansohn (29:19): They have nail polish now that doesn’t have some of these things, and I sometimes use that. But I definitely don’t like to go to the nail salons anymore because of what I’ve read with the fumes in the air.
Allan (29:35): I don’t go to nail salons, so I get to live forever. Now, I’m a huge proponent of telling folks, “You need to do wellness visits, you need to go see your doctor.” But you put in here, “An apple cider vinegar a day keeps your doctor away.” I appreciate the tie-in with the old statement we would have with the apple and the doctor. You do want to go to your doctor, but you don’t want to have to go to your doctor. I think that’s where we’re going with this. Can you talk about how apple cider vinegar is going to keep me from having to go to the doctor?
Karen Salmansohn (30:12): It’s actually been known to help with blood sugar levels. I don’t want to hype too many products, but I buy these really tasty ones that they make. It’s so funny – there’s a whole industry with apple cider vinegar-type products where they have funny labels and really funny names. In fact, right now by accident, not even thinking about it, I bought one today at a store called Fizzy Fox, and it’s really cute. It has apple cider vinegar with carrot, ginger and turmeric. And it tastes so good. I have that in the mornings. I love having apple cider vinegar in the morning because I feel like it gets my body cleaned out. At least that’s how I feel. I start my day with it; that way I also get it out of the way. They say it helps you with sugar cravings. I buy the ones that are mixed with other things, but you could just add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to water. You have to watch it. Oh my God, absolutely don’t just take a spoonful of apple cider vinegar; you will die. I mean not die die, but it’s terrible.
Allan (31:33): It is. I can attest it is an unpleasant experience. One time I didn’t dilute it enough. I put it in with about eight ounces of water and a tablespoon. That a little tough when I drank it. You do want to dilute it, and it may be something where you take half at one time and then half later. Sometimes I’ll squeeze a bit of lemon or lime in there, and that kind of changes the texture of it, the taste of it a little bit. So there are ways you can mask it, like you said, with the cumin, the carrot and the flavorings, if you want to go that route.
Karen Salmansohn (32:11): The one that I have right now is so yummy. I don’t even think about it as apple cider vinegar, but I know it is. That’s why I’m drinking it. I have ones in my refrigerator in the other room that come mixed, like an elixir. It might even have the word “elixir” on it. Those are the ones with the funny names, the funny labels. They put in things like maple syrup, and that helps, and really good flavors. I love those. I’d also recommend you Google it and you’ll see. I don’t want to promote a particular brand. The American Diabetes Association is a big fan of people having apple cider vinegar, because it helps control insulin and it’s been shown to help with appetite control, and it helps you absorb minerals like calcium. It has so many benefits. Big fan.
Allan (33:05): Yes. Now, we want to brush our teeth because we want the beautiful white teeth as we get older, and we don’t want to potentially lose those teeth as we get older. But there’s another reason to brush your teeth and floss. Could you talk about that?
Karen Salmansohn (33:24): There is oral bacteria in your mouth if you’re not taking good care of your teeth. This actually goes into your body, because your gums have blood vessels in them. And if your gums are not healthy, that means your whole body will have a consequence from this as well. So, you have to take really good care of not only your teeth, but your gums. The better you are at controlling your oral bacteria, the better your whole body’s immune system will be. So, floss, brush more than twice a day even, if you can, and make sure that you’re taking care of your gums as much as your teeth.
Allan (34:18): That’s one of those things that should just be a ritual to us, but take your time and clean your teeth. I don’t mean that to berate anybody; I’m just saying a lot of us get in a hurry. Bedtime rituals are really, really important, and when you get up in the morning, obviously that’s a good time as well. But make this a part of your nighttime ritual. We want to get away from screens, we want to make sure our sleep’s good quality. So, taking just a few extra minutes to really make sure that you do a good job there is, one, going to make your dentist and the person who’s cleaning your teeth very, very happy; but two, it’s going to help you live longer.
Karen Salmansohn (34:56): It’s so interesting that everything’s so interconnected, but your gum disease could affect your heart health. Everything’s interconnected.
Allan (35:07): Yes, it is. And that’s, again, why I think all of these work so well together, because you’re not just impacting one system. When you make a change like this, you’re really impacting a lot of them. People like simple rules. Well, here’s a simple rule, but the reality is it interconnects with 56 other rules. If you’re doing all of these, you’re really covering all of your basis. But I want to leave with what was my favorite one. As I was reading this one, I was like, “This is why Adam Sandler is going to help me live forever.” I could watch The Waterboy over and over and over again, because I love that movie and it makes me laugh every time I watch it. Why is Adam Sandler going to help me live longer?
Karen Salmansohn (35:59): This one, I had to squish in six studies. There are so many studies that the more you laugh, the better your overall health. It boosts your immune system, it helps with the free radicals. There are studies all around the world too, even in Japan, where I wouldn’t even think of that country as being huge proponents of comedy. But they found that laughter seems to lower levels of this dangerous protein, and it helped with progression of some kind of diabetes-type disease that causes kidney failure. They did a whole study on it in Japan, so now the Japanese are huge fans of Adam Sandler, I guess. It’s all over the world these studies have been done. I know that in general, happiness has been linked with longer health, but laughter in particular. They now have yoga classes that are laughter-yoga classes. I know that there have been studies that watching funny movies helps, just being with funny friends, looking at life with a more funny lens, trying to find the humor in things, not taking things so… It helps lower stress, and stress is bad for your longevity. So, definitely watch those funny movies, be with funny friends, try to find the humor in your life. And I tried to make the book funny, so hopefully you got a bunch of chuckles reading the book, so that helps you as you’re reading.
Allan (37:42): Yes, absolutely. And it’s just a really cool book. The illustrations are beautiful. Very simple rules per se, and source material. This isn’t just something you made up or thought this is what people would want to hear.
Karen Salmansohn (37:58): We had so much source material, Allan, that we couldn’t fit in the footnotes in the book. I had to put it up on my website, because I had so many studies that we’d have to add on another 10 pages in the back. So, the publisher said, “Can you just put this on your website?”, because I had so much research. It’s all up on my website, which is even interesting. People go to my website, they can find it over there at NotSalmon.com, because the research studies, when you read those, you find out even more. This whole topic of longevity, I find very fascinating.
Allan (38:36): Yes. And your website you said was NotSalmon.com?
Karen Salmansohn (38:40): Yes. My last name is Salmansohn, Karen Salmansohn, and everybody mangles it and they’re always going, “Salmonson”. I’m always going “Not salmon, not salmon.” So, I figured if I made my website Karen Salmansohn, three people would know how to spell it and I’d get no traffic. So, it’s NotSalmon.com.
Allan (39:01): Alright. Anything else? I know you told me earlier that your mom’s going to be involved in this project at some level. Could you share that with us?
Karen Salmansohn (39:11): One of the many tips in the book is, “Delay when you retire, delay when you expire.” And my mom is an actress and a voiceover narrator her whole life, and she is 87 and still going strong. And so, when the publisher said, “Let’s do an audio version of the book”, I thought, “I think I’ll give it to my mom because it will be a beautiful thing.” First of all, she’s still working, and the book is about celebrating staying active into your later years. And then I’ll have this forever recording of her. I went to the session with her and it was this mom / daughter thing with her recording it. And she did a great job. She’s funny and she made reading the book feel fun to listen to. So my mom is the voiceover on Life is Long!. My 87-year-old mom.
Allan (40:05): Awesome. I’m going to make sure to have links to that on the website and links to your website as well, so they can go see the research and all the cool things you’re doing there, because this is not your first book. There’s a lot of other great material and books out there that they should check out. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/346, and I’ll have those links there. Karen, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
Karen Salmansohn (40:30): Thank you for inviting me. This was fun.
Allan (40:40): If you enjoyed today’s episode, would you please take just one moment and leave us a rating and review on the application that you’re listening to this podcast right now? I’d really appreciate it, and it does help other people find the podcast, because it tells the people that are hosting these podcast episodes out there on their apps that you’re interested and they know that other people like you might be interested. So please do that. If you can’t figure out how to do that on your app, you can email me directly and I’ll try to figure it out for you. Or you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Review, and that’ll take you to the iTunes where you can launch that and leave a review there. I really appreciate the ratings and reviews. It does help the podcast, it helps me, so thank you very much for that.
Also, I’d really like to continue this conversation a little bit further, so if you haven’t already, why don’t you go ahead and join our Facebook group? You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Group, and that’ll take you to our Facebook group where you can request entry. It’s a really cool group of people, like-minded, all in our 40s, all trying to get healthy and fit. I’d really love to have you out there and have you a part of that conversation. So, go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Group.
I apologize if I sound a little bit hoarse today. I’m in the process of recording the audiobook for The Wellness Roadmap. It’s a lot harder than I thought it’d be. A lot of reading out loud, a lot of re-reading out loud, a lot of fits and starts, but it’s coming along. I’m really looking forward to getting the book released soon. If you go to WellnessRoadmapBook.com, you can be a part of the launch team and be on the front lines of launching this book, The Wellness Roadmap. So I hope you will go to WellnessRoadmapBook.com and become a part of the launch team. I really need your help to make this thing happen, and happen the way it should. So again, WellnessRoadmapBook.com.
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Dr Kenneth Pelletier has written a wonderful book called Change Your Genes, Change Your Life, where he discusses the linkage between epigenetics and health.
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Allan (1:23): Dr. Pelletier, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Dr. Pelletier (1:29): Thank you. It’s good to be here.
Allan (1:31): The book is called Change Your Genes, Change Your Life. The topic of genes and what we’re learning in the last couple of decades has been fascinating to me. It’s one of those things, whenever I see an article or a book, I want to read that, because I know that we’ve learned so much and we’re learning so much now, that I’m going to get something valuable out of it. And I definitely got some value out of your book.
Dr. Pelletier (1:58): Thank you, that’s good to hear. And you’re right, genetics testing and the promise of genetics or the lack of delivery on the promise of genetics really is the hot topic in the last five years and it’s going to be really into the near future.
Allan (2:19): When they went through the process of sequencing the genome, or basically understanding how this was supposed to work, there was this flood of news out there that they were going to be able to fix practically everything. That didn’t quite play out. What we learned when we were in school was, your eye color, other things are determined by a gene, based on families. We learned that; I’ve unlearned a lot of it since then. There’s really only a small percentage of our genes that are really fixed like that, where this gene is going to affect eye color or this gene is going to cause maybe potentially this particular disease. But it’s really a small percentage of them that work that way, right?
Dr. Pelletier (3:13): Yes, actually a very small percentage; it’s probably as low as 5%. Those are known as fully penetrant genes or monogenic genes. So, conditions like lateral sclerosis, that are clearly genetically caused – those will show up usually in the first six months of life, and that’s in effect the 5% that we know is monogenic or fully penetrant. After the first six months of life, the vast majority of what we see as late life chronic disease is caused by the interaction between the gene and the environment, and that’s the basis for epigenesis. So, epigenesis means above and beyond, or over the gene. It’s all of the influences that impact the gene after that first six months. Now, there are late life conditions that show up that do have a genetic expression, but the reality is, again, we may have an 80% likelihood of a certain condition at any time in our life, but it means that people who have the identical same gene, there are 20% of them that never have that disease show up. The question is why? And that is the fundamental question that’s now come up with epigenesis. And it’s interesting because James Watson of Watson and Crick – the discoverers of the structure of the DNA in 1954 – was the first human to have his human genome completely mapped. That was about five, maybe six years ago now, and it’s a great quotation that if he brought his completely mapped human genome to his family doctor, that he or she would know 1% to 3% more about his health than from just doing a good physical. One to 3% – that’s a pretty insignificant amount.
Allan (5:18): It is. It’s hard to see that though. I’ll give you my story. My father and my mother split up when I was very, very young. So I never really spent time with my father or knew much about him. But more and more now that I am getting to know him and that side of the family, there are so many similarities between my father and I, from the way we look, the way we act. Almost everything we do, I’m very like him. You see that on the outside – there’s this genetic component that’s, I guess, driving me to look and behave similar to my father. But what we’re seeing is still only a very small percentage of what’s out there.
Dr. Pelletier (6:03): That’s a great example. In the book, I’m very clear. I’m not denying the reality of genetic predisposition. That’s very real. In fact, there’s a whole chapter in there where I look at, what do we really know about genetic inheritance? And you’ve just rattled off color of your hair, certain looks, certain features. If you think about it, those are relatively superficial. But what we’re looking at are the deeper issues of what kinds of illnesses will you have, how healthy will you be, how long will you live, what’s going to happen to your cognition, your mental acuity, your physical fitness levels? What are your dietary preferences and what’s the impact on you as an adult? Those things are governed by a deeper layer of biochemistry. And that’s really what we’re looking at, is what things do we have within our control that we can influence day in and day out, that change the predisposition? The title of the book, Change Your Genes, is actually a trick title, because the genes actually don’t change. Genes are fixed. What does change is the expression. So, whether a gene becomes expressed or suppressed depends on everything that happens between it, other genes, our internal environment, our physical environment, radiation exposure, environmental toxins, etcetera. We have genes that do give you a certain look, a certain high color, etcetera, within your family. But then we have all of the other influences happening throughout our life that govern pretty much most of what constitutes our adult life and functioning.
Allan (7:53): I want to go past the language, because I had always thought of epigenetics as turning a gene on or off from an expression perspective, but you mention in the book that it’s not always an on or off. Sometimes it’s more like a dimmer switch.
Dr. Pelletier (8:07): Actually it is a dimmer switch. The common language is a gene turning on or turning off, but that’s not really the case. It is precisely like a dimmer switch. The gene itself is surrounded by a molecular coating; they’re called single-nucleotide polymorphisms, which is really a mouthful. They are referred to SNPs, and these SNPs are what interact with the biochemistry within the cell, which is like an ocean. So the gene is in an ocean within the cell, and the ocean is influenced by everything in our life, our diet, our stress. That’s really how the gene gets regulated, and the term really is “regulated”. So, it is like a dimmer switch. You can either turn up an influence, or turn it down. You can’t turn it off altogether. You can turn it on full board; in most cases we don’t want that to happen. But that mechanism of dialing a rheostat on a light dimmer is actually exactly how the gene expression occurs.
Allan (9:16): Okay. There are seven, what you call biologic pathways, that cause this dimmer switch to be adjusted. Do you mind going through the seven?
Dr. Pelletier (9:26): No, not at all. This is basic human biochemistry, but there are really seven pathways in the human body, and each of those pathways is governed by a multiplicity of genes. Those seven pathways are at the end of which determine your state of health and illness, and the way it shows up in our body is you have biomarkers. So you’ll have an indication of inflammation or not, or a degree of inflammation. Some inflammation is good, too much is bad. So just to rattle them off, and we can discuss any one of them in detail.
Methylation is a molecule that is like the period at the end of a sentence. It tells a gene, “That’s the end of your statement, period. End of discussion.” That’s methylation. And the other is inflammation that we’re all very familiar with. There’s acute versus chronic inflammation. There’s oxidative stress, so it’s literally the stress induced in the act of metabolism. Every time we metabolize any food product, it involves oxygen, and there are more or less degrees of oxygenation that occur. So oxidative stress is the third. Detoxification is the fourth. Our body, our liver, our intestinal tract is constantly detoxifying things from the environment and our food, etcetera. The fifth is immunity. The basic function of the immune system is to differentiate self from not self, who you are from every other pathogen person or thing in the environment. That distinguishes kind of a border between us and our environment, between us and other people, is your immune system. It maintains the integrity of your biochemistry. The sixth is lipid metabolism. That’s basically how well we digest and utilize fats. And the way that this has a very direct impact on many people is, we have the statement – we’re all supposed to eat a low fat diet. That’s simply not accurate at all. There are some people that can consume an enormous amount of saturated fats, both animal and plant-based, and they have no problems whatsoever. They don’t develop heart disease, it isn’t a predisposing factor. There are other people who are highly sensitive to lipids and they have to really restrict their diet. We can talk about how this whole area of epigenetics helps us identify really optimal diets, as opposed to general guidelines. And the last is mineral metabolism. Those minerals are all of the nutrients and trace elements in whole foods. How well the body manages that is the basis for hormone production, for basic body chemistry. Those seven pathways, again, are basic human biochemistry. That’s in virtually every biochemical text, but what we’re now finding is that each of these are governed in turn by genes, and usually a collection of genes. And how those genes regulate and get in the way – we talked about a rheostat – these pathways result in biomarkers or changes that we can detect in the human blood, and that in turn affects our organs, our state of health, etcetera. So it’s this chain reaction, if you will, from the bottom on up.
Allan (13:09): As I kind of understand this then, from a health perspective… Right now we’re getting into some of those chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s – what we’re doing in our lifestyle, our behaviors, some of the chemicals we’re exposed to, inflammation that we experience, and oxidative stress – all those things are working within our bodies based on our gene profile and which of our genes have been ratcheted up or ratcheted back down.
Dr. Pelletier (13:46): Absolutely. You just described very accurately the whole process. Exactly. Again, these are standard pathways, whether you’re looking at integrative medicine or conventional medicine. These all exist within the human body. What’s really new is that we’re finding that these pathways are under our influence. These are not biological mechanisms that are set in place and invariant and just run. These are influenced by everything we do, day in and day out. I think that’s both the good news and the bad news. Someone might say, “That scares me. I don’t want to have that much control over my life and my destiny and my health.” And other people say, “Wow, that’s great. It means I have a greater influence over my own health and longevity and wellbeing than ever thought.” And my book really comes down on the latter case, which is, this is good news. If you know what these pathways are, if you know what your genetic predisposition is, and if you know what you can do about it – that’s all good news.
Allan (14:50): It is. It’s like if someone knows, “I lost my grandmother to diabetes, I lost my father to diabetes.” So you see that family lineage – that’s not your destination. You may be more predisposed to diabetes, but there are things that you can actually do to prevent that from happening.
Dr. Pelletier (15:09): Absolutely. There are many studies of identical twins, and what those studies indicate is that a very, very small percentage of major chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome – very few of those are actually the same in adult twins. So you have identical twins that have exactly the same genetic code, if you will, built into their cells, but as adults you have maybe 30% of them manifest the same cancer, maybe 10% manifest the same heart disease. So the actual percentage of a disease in a person’s gene among identical twins is very low. That means that everything that each of them has been doing differently in their lives is really the governing factor. Again, to me that’s very exciting news, because genes are not our destiny. They’re clearly a push, and some of the pushes are good. Again, it’s not always vulnerabilities.
There really are two basic models that you see in the public information literature on genes. One is a disease model. 23andMe gives a prediction about the likelihood of you having a particular disease. That’s a disease model, and I honestly am not supportive of that, because you and I would submit our genes and we would have virtually the same information come back. So it’s not really a predictive model; it’s statistical. It says you have a 60% chance or a 40% chance. What about the other 30% or 40%, or sometimes more than 50% of people with the identical profile who don’t have that particular disease? The other is the area of healthy biomarkers, which is what we’re really talking about, which is how do you identify when these markers are telling you that you have a higher than normal inflammation or lower than normal inflammation? And what can you do about that to maintain this optimal zone? So it’s really a health model. You’re using the same technology, but you’re reading it differently. One of the analogies I use is that if you walk into a supermarket, everything has a barcode. If you could read the barcodes, you would know a tremendous amount about that lettuce, or that soup, or that cereal – it would be where it came from, what the date was, some certain contents, etcetera. But we don’t have the means to read the barcode, so we just look at it. It’s a mystery. It’s exactly that same way with genetics. We are born as human beings with a barcode, and now we’re learning to read it. That’s what’s really fascinating.
Allan (17:59): What I liked about this was that one, it helps me understand why two people can basically do the same things, live the same way, but have very different health outcomes. I’ve always felt, from an eating perspective, someone will sit there and they’ll say the Inuits ate just fat and they did just great. Someone else will sit there and say you just need to eat fruit and vegetables. I actually did the 23andMe, and I was more fascinated about where my ancestors were from than anything else. I don’t know what the 2.6% Neanderthal actually means, but that’s out there. My lineage, everybody above me, is from Northern and Eastern Europe. Looking at that as a lifestyle, what they would have eaten – they would not have had access to tropical fruits.
Dr. Pelletier (18:58): Correct. You’re absolutely right. In fact, just as a side note, you mentioned about 2.6% Neanderthal in your chart. Virtually every person that’s tested will in fact show up as having Neanderthal genes, because at certain points in evolution, Neanderthal and what we now know is Homo Sapiens interbred. So, there are these Neanderthal genetic predispositions in our bodies. That’s quite a recent discovery. And one of the avenues of thought is that because this is in effect a more primitive genetic predisposition, that some of what we see as violence or post-traumatic stress syndrome or other kinds of hyper regression in individuals may in fact be this Neanderthal gene manifesting itself. So that’s another little subset of genetics, which is kind of fascinating.
Allan (19:52): So I could just tell someone, “Don’t bring it out. I’ve got this 2.6% out here.”
Dr. Pelletier (19:58): That’s it. And you’ve really hit on the essence of what the book is about, which is once you know… So, if you know that both parents were smokers, or both parents had obesity, or whatever the predisposition is, and you get your genes test and you found you have a low lipid metabolism quotient so you’re predisposed not to metabolize fats very rapidly or completely. Once you know that, then you say, “I then have to pay more attention to my diet. I need to, in fact, have a low fat, Mediterranean, ideally, kind of diet.” So it’s that knowledge that you can use to change your, in effect, destiny into something you can regulate. Diet is the single most potent influence on gene expression that we know of. Stress is another, and certain biochemical exposures from the environment. But diet has a huge part to play in genetics. Whenever I’m at conferences and you hear one speaker after another; there’s one saying the ketogenic diet, then another one says, “No, Paleolithic.” And then there’s high fat and low fat, and no fat, and various forms of fasting. Those are all general guidelines, general recommendations. It’s like a suit of clothing or a dress. If you buy it off the rack, that’s fine, but it’s never going to fit you perfectly. It’s all in the tailoring that makes it uniquely you, makes it look good, makes it look like a high-quality piece of clothing. So, all of these guidelines kind of fit someone but they don’t fit anyone. And until you know your own biochemistry, your own composition, your own genetic code, then you don’t know which of those match up with you. Maybe you really are a Paleo diet, maybe you really are a non-fat diet, maybe you are a periodic fasting person, but you don’t know until you get this code deciphered. And it will tell you sometimes things as specifically as to consume walnuts, not almonds, because you can digest walnuts by your genetic predisposition and pathway, but almonds are relatively indigestible for you, or you even have an allergy to almonds. Some people have peanut allergies – that’s a genetic predisposition. So again, it’s a matter of specificity. I think you’ve heard this phrase – we’re hearing “personalized medicine”. Even Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, uses the phrase “personalized medicine”. That’s what we’re coming to, where you use these tests, these assays, this knowledge to really make these general guidelines applicable to you.
Allan (22:49): Okay. So, if I want to buy a suit off the rack, as far as how to eat, and then I want to start tailoring it myself, what approach would you start with, and then how would you go about deciding your tailoring needs?
Dr. Pelletier (23:04): That’s a great question; maybe very personal. When I look at all of the dietary recommendations, there really is only one diet that has a large body of research over decades, where both the biochemistry makes sense, the epidemiology makes sense, the disease outcomes, etcetera. It’s basically the Mediterranean diet. And the Mediterranean diet is literally the diet that is consumed by countries along the southern part of the Mediterranean – so Greece, Italy, France, Spain, Turkey, North Africa even. That region has a very particular diet, which has predominantly fish as a protein source, not red meat. It is high in vegetables and fruit, and deeply colored vegetables and fruits. You can think about carrots and tomatoes, or apples and oranges. So, fruits and vegetables that are deeply colored, leafy green vegetables, etcetera. It has a moderate alcohol consumption, which is kind of a nice thing. It’s basically high fiber, and all in effect natural ingredients. These are not ideally products that are grown with a great deal of chemistry involved in their growth. So, the Mediterranean diet is kind of the optimal diet, with the most research underlying it. If you think about many of the other diets that are touted, in terms of fat content, fasting, not fasting, high protein, low protein – they’re really variance of the Mediterranean diet. The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study in the last year that looked at seven or eight of the common diets that are touted in public, and they followed people out, they looked at the outcomes at one year. What was interesting is there were no differences. There were weight losses on all of the diets, or improvements in health status on all of the diets for about three to six months, and then there was what’s called “regression to the mean”. Basically people went back to their usual baseline, and at one year these positive changes that had shown up in three to six months were all gone. People had gained weight, they were back to eating how they were, they had unhealthy biomarkers. So, basically all the diets are either equally good or equally bad, depending on your perspective.
Allan (25:49): I would think that might be the Hawthorne effect, if you’re familiar with that. When you’re being watched, you tend to be a little bit more spot-on. They looked at it from the work perspective – workers that were watched worked harder. I think maybe in that first three months, they know they’re being tracked and at that point they’ve got this, “I want to be good.” Then after a while, the Hawthorne effect wears off. The observer is still there, but they begin to ignore the observer. I think that might just be a human behavior thing, more so than to really say that a diet worked or not, because I think a lot of people probably just fell off the wagon at that point. Or were they still really trying to eat that way?
Dr. Pelletier (26:31): Absolutely. You hit it right on the head. Any dietary change that forces you to pay attention to what you’re eating, you will lose weight and your health will improve, period. It doesn’t matter what it is. So, pick any diet that you think is going to be the wonderful diet that’s going to cure all your ills, and if you stick with it for 10 to 12 weeks, you will get benefits. You’ll lose weight, you’ll look better, feel better, until you go off it. The issue is not, “Can we change our diet and improve our health?” The issue is, “Can we change our diet and sustain it for a lifetime?” That’s the biggest challenge. In integrative medicine, or even in conventional medicine, the biggest challenge is not, can you help people, can people stop smoking, can they reduce alcohol, can they reduce weight, can they increase exercise? The answer is “Yes” to all of those. That’s unequivocal. We’ve got tons of research that demonstrates that. What we don’t have is research on how people could sustain that change. Going back to the JAMA study, to me one of the most amusing things was that the diet that actually showed a sustained weight decrease, sustained over one year, was Weight Watchers, and the factor that you just said about the Hawthorne effect. The nutrition value of Weight Watchers is okay. It’s not great, it’s moderate. But the difference is they have support groups. They have partners, they have diets, the foods are supplied to people, so it’s sustained. It’s that psychological group support, psychological commitment to that dietary program that is responsible for the sustained weight loss and health benefits. It’s not inherent to the diet per se. It’s not a particularly healthy diet, but it’s one that people stay with because of the surrounding program. There’s a lot we can learn from that.
Allan (28:32): Yes – get help, get accountability partners. And they go in for weekly weigh-ins, so there’s a constant reminder that Monday is coming up and they’ve got to do their weigh-in. So they’re paying a little bit more attention over the weekend to try to make Monday not such a day.
Dr. Pelletier (28:52): You’ve got it. Absolutely. Absolutely correct.
Allan (28:57): One of the things that I’ve been dealing with and really focused on from a health perspective over the course of the last year, has been stress. I had a very stressful corporate job. I was laid off. I actually now look at that as a blessing, because now I can actually focus on my life and my stress. And I have choice, which I feel really, really good about. But stress is also one of those things that can really impact how our genes express and what’s going on with our bodies.
Dr. Pelletier (29:32): Absolutely. Other than diet, probably the second, in some cases primary influence on genetic expression is stress. You also cited in your own case a really critical term, which is “choice”. When we can influence external events and realize we have a choice, not over the external event, but we have a choice of our response – that one insight is critical. There’s an apocryphal story about William James, who’s the founder of modern psychology. He was in a profound depression. He suffered from depression his whole life, and he was in a very deep depression. And what roused him out of his deep depression was the realization that he had a choice between one thought and the next. That infinitesimal moment when he could choose between one depressing thought and another, versus a depressing thought and a happy thought – that roused him out of his depression and gave rise to much of what he wrote. So, you’ve hit on the critical factor of choice.
Now, with stress, it’s interesting. Stress is a complex subject, but let me try to be brief. There are really two kinds of stress. One is short-term, immediate, when the source of stress is identifiable and resolvable. If you think about it, you step off the curb, a car honks its horn, you jump back on the curb and that saves your life. So, the short-term stress, which in my book I call “type 1 stress” – the body is built to take that, we owe our survival as a species to it. If we didn’t have it, we’d be dead. Then there’s a “type 2 stress”, and that occurs when the source of stress is not immediate, not identifiable, and not resolvable. If you think about it, most of the stress in our lives – worry about income or children or career planning or a conflict in a relationship – those are all long-term, not even always identifiable, and not readily resolvable. That’s the culprit. The type 2 stress is the killer. That’s what affects our genes, and the effect is through pathways. As one example, excessive stress would increase inflammation. Inflammation predisposes to diabetes, heart disease, rheumatology diseases, irritable bowel, and a whole rash of other conditions. So, this type 2 stress is the worst.
Now, the common pathway between both of those is that if you perceive something to be threatening – so again, it’s this matter of perception – if you think something is threatening, your body will react as though it’s a real physical danger. So if you think that a change in your income is a threat to your physical wellbeing, your body will react as though you’re being stalked by a saber tooth tiger. It goes on red alert, all of your stress hormones, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and your body chemistry changes to one that’s a red alert. For a short period of time, no problem – our bodies are meant to take that. In fact, if you think about a pleasurable activity – sky diving or whatever your thrilling pleasure is – we voluntarily enter into these situations to get that high. So, short-term stress actually gives us a high, it increases perception and judgment, road to recall, etcetera. It’s a good thing. When it goes on for too long, normal increases in body chemistry, normal increases in biological changes become a problem. So blood pressure will go up in the short run. If it stays elevated, that’s hypertension. Our heart rates become slightly arrhythmic and rapid. If it goes on too long, that becomes tachycardia or various forms of life threatening arrhythmias. Our bodies become rigid so we’re not pushed over. If that goes on for too long, we have musculoskeletal contractions and pains and headaches. The last one would be if blood flow to the periphery of the body shuts down in type 1 stress, it’s like with any other animal. If we’re in a fight and you’re cut, you won’t bleed as much and you won’t succumb to loss of blood. In the long run, it becomes things like peripheral artery disease, Raynaud’s syndrome, a whole host of other conditions. So it’s this type 2 stress that’s the culprit.
The solution, and this is where the perception comes in – think about it – just identify, how do you know when you personally are under stress? For some people, their mouth gets dry – that’s the normal response. Neck tension, loss of appetite, racing thoughts, a stomach upset. Something tells you you’re under a lot of stress right now. If you can identify when you are moving down that type 2 pathway, you can then initiate a stress management technique. That could be meditation, it could be yoga, it could be simple abdominal breathing, it could be reciting a poem or a prayer that’s meaningful to you. It could be seeing an image of being on a beach or walking in the mountains, or whatever. That will interrupt that cumulative type 2 destructive response into a short-term type 1 interval which you can manage and recover. So the trick is not avoiding stress. It’s to cycle in and out of this optimal zone, where you have enough stress to be stimulated, to be excited, to be thrilled by what you’re doing, but not so much that it’s taxing on your body. That’s the difference. So, the type 1 stress does not have an adverse effect on your genes. Your genes are set up for short-term responses that basically preserve our integrity and our lives. The difference with type 2 is that it upregulates, in effect overexpresses that genetic predisposition in a way that’s ultimately destructive. So that, if you will, in a perhaps too long-winded answer, is really how stress affects our health, but also interacts with our genes and determines how well we do or do not manage the stress in our lives, which is inevitable. Stress is life. If we weren’t stressed, we’d be dead. Stress is certainly not bad. Excessive stress is simply destructive.
Allan (36:36): What I would find is that if there was an acute stress, I just need to move, in some form of movement. Sometimes it was throwing around heavy weights, sometimes it was just going for a walk in nature, and the acute stress, that type 1 stress would go away very, very quickly. If I found myself shallow breathing, just basically chest breathing – that’s when I would start to recognize that I was consistently stressed. This was something that had been going on longer than just a few minutes. And that’s where I found meditation and box breathing or something like that would be a good practice for me at that point in time to kind of let some of that go. Unfortunately I wasn’t, and in my mind I’m still not really, really good at relieving stress as well as I should. So that’s a practice and some things that I’ve been working on in the last several months, because I see that as the next big rock for me to be dealing with on my health. I’m pretty good about my food, and now I want to deal with that one. I appreciate you taking the time; you didn’t go too long at all. That was actually excellent. I appreciate that.
Dr. Pelletier (37:51): You just took out exactly in your own personal situation what we’re talking about. So, for you, the shallow thoracic breathing – that’s hyperventilation. When we’re under stress, your brain needs a lot of oxygen. You begin to breathe shallowly and slowly, a lot of oxygen to the brain for rapid reaction time. When it’s over – think about it – you usually take a deep sigh, right? You go, “Phew. That was close. It’s over.” That tells your diaphragm, “Unlock, start to breathe more abdominally.” If you can do that, which is what you’re practicing, then that’s the way to break the type 2 into type 1. The other critical thing that you said – again, you’re right on target – is, practice. If someone said, “I want to learn to play the piano”, you’d say, “You’re going to need lessons and practice, and it’s going to take you time.” And they’d say, “Yeah, of course, I know that.” But if the person says, “I want to learn how to manage stress better”, and you say, “It’s going to take practice. You have to learn it, it’s going to take time.” They look at you like, “Really? Why should that be the case?” The point is, it’s a skill. Like any other skill, you can learn which one you need, when to initiate it, and as you do more of it, you get better over time. And quite literally there’s research that shows that as you practice a stress management technique, most of the benefits that you accrue initially are imaginary. You think that you’re relaxing, and really you’re not changing your blood chemistry very much at all. But as you practice, the convergence between perceiving that you’re managing it well and it actually happening on a physical level, happens. Initially people say, “I give up” or, “It’s not really working.” It’s true initially, but over time it will.
Allan (39:38): Good, thank you. The book is Change Your Genes, Change Your Life. Like I said, this topic just fascinates me to no end. It’s a really good book. If someone wanted to learn more about you and the book, where would you like for me to send them?
Dr. Pelletier (39:57): I have a website, and it’s very simple – it’s DrPelletier.com. It has information on the book. I post articles, most of which have come from the book, out of the original sources for it. There are some videos of lectures I’ve given, all the way from Singapore to Istanbul. It’s a good site; it’s just DrPelletier.com – very simple. Thank you for asking.
Allan (40:29): So you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/344, and I’ll be sure to have a link there. Dr. Pelletier, thank you for being a part of the 40+ Fitness podcast.
Dr. Pelletier (40:41): Thank you. I’ve really enjoyed this discussion, and you’re very knowledgeable. I appreciate the fact that you’ve obviously really thought about this. So thank you for letting me be your guest.
Allan (40:51): You’re welcome. Thank you.
I hope you enjoyed that conversation as much as I did. Dr. Pelletier is a fascinating man and his book is so well done. If you’re interested at all in epigenetics, this is the most recent research. He really did a great job with the research and did a really great job of explaining things in the book. I’d encourage you to reach out and get that book. If you enjoy the podcast, I’d like to ask you if you wouldn’t mind stepping in and becoming a patron and supporting the show. I want to thank the folks that have already done that. You’re helping to cover the cost of posting and all the support I get from audio and the show notes and everything that goes into getting a podcast done. We are doing some extra episodes this month, so there are some additional costs. I appreciate anyone and everyone that stepped up to become a patron. And you can as well, by going to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Patreon. Of course you can go to the show notes of this episode at 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/344, and I’ll have a link to Patreon. You’ll see that right on the top there. And I list the patrons that contribute at least $4 a month, so it’s about $1 an episode for most months. It’s about $0.50 an episode for the month of October. So, please do go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Patreon and become a patron of the show. Show your support and help me make this podcast is wonderful as I can.
And if you haven’t already, please do check out WellnessRoadmapBook.com. I’m building that out right now to support the launch of the book, which is expected to happen in the early part of December. I’m working on getting everything synched up there, but I’m putting together the materials there so you can learn a lot about the book. And if you want to learn any more, you can go ahead and sign up to be a part of the launch team. The launch team gets weekly updates that I don’t share anywhere else, and they’re also going to get some pretty cool bonuses and surprises as we go along. So, thank you for those that have joined the launch team. I really appreciate you. And if you haven’t joined the launch team, please do – go to WellnessRoadmapBook.com. Thank you.
Dr. Stephanie Gray is the author of Your Longevity Blueprint. On this episode, we talk about nutritional supplementation, hormones optimization, and how to find a doctor to help you stay healthy.
Allan (1:06): Dr. Gray, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Dr. Gray (1:10): I’m excited to be here. Thank you for having me.
Allan (1:12): Your book is Your Longevity Blueprint, and I really enjoyed the read. A lot of great information and put in a way that I think is very understandable for quite a few people. But the book in my opinion is not actually about so much longevity as, how do we maximize our health and wellness so that we actually enjoy living longer?
Dr. Gray (1:37): Well said. Yeah, I would agree. I was really trying to create some nine actionable steps for readers to optimize their health, because unfortunately many individuals don’t even know functional medicine exists. They don’t know that testing options exist to help them optimize their nutritional status or help them detoxify their body or increase their hormone levels. So I was hoping this book would really introduce the audience to functional medicine.
Allan (2:03): Yes. And I think most of us go to a doctor when we’re sick, we’re not feeling well, and the doctor asks what are you symptoms and you tell them fatigue, brain fog, several other things that are kind of going on in your life, not sleeping well, maybe some migraines. And the doctor says, “Well, here’s some Prozac”, or whatever. It’s a symptom-diagnosis. It’s like there’s a chart in the back of their office, or maybe they’ve memorized it. If they’re thinking you have this – this is how you fix it, with some form of medicine. But the reality is, medicine isn’t really designed to fix us. It’s designed to fix a symptom.
Dr. Gray (2:50): I totally agree. We need conventional medicine, especially unfortunately if you get in an accident. We have great emergency care here in the United States. In my book I reference Dr. Patrick Flynn’s analogy that conventional medicine is more of the fire department approach. So if you have a fire, conventional medicine can help you put out that fire, but really only using two tools – drugs and surgery. Unfortunately, when you have a symptom like fatigue that isn’t really an emergency, conventional medicine doesn’t necessarily help you get to the root cause of the problem. Like you mentioned, a lot of times they’ll just recommend taking an antidepressant or a stimulant medication, when that’s really not getting to the root cause. It’s not really explaining the “Why” to the fatigue. That’s what makes functional medicine different – we do explore the “Why”. We try to explore if the patient has low thyroid or low sex hormone status or maybe their nutrition is terrible, but we want to get to the root cause of the problem and not just give the patient that Band-aid approach to their health care.
Allan (3:50): It’s very interesting to me. Hippocrates said it a long, long time ago – “Let food be thy medicine.” And now it’s changing. It feels like it’s changing – more and more understanding that the food which we put in our mouths in volumes can do a lot more for our health than the one little pill or 12 little pills that we’re taking over the course of a day. I think a lot of that is because when we’re fueling our body and we’re building our body with better stuff, we end up being better. But a lot of folks don’t actually recognize that they have nutritional deficiencies. A lot of my clients will come to me and say, “Allan, should I be supplementing with something? Should I be taking an iron supplement, or should I be taking vitamin B or C?”, or whatever the cool thing is today. And my short answer is, “I have no clue, because I don’t have your blood test to see if there are any deficiencies. I don’t really know the quality of your food to know if you’re getting most of the vitamins you need. I don’t know if you’re getting outside to get enough sun exposure to have the vitamin D that you need.” Can you talk a bit about the nutritional deficiencies and some of the symptoms we might be seeing some of the things we can do, what to look for with supplements? Because you said it in a book, one a day actually isn’t one a day. You would need to take four of them just to get what your basic bodily needs are. But even then I’m not sure we actually get all of that from that one a day, just based on total quality and everything else. I know that’s a lot to throw out there, but could you tell us a bit about nutritional deficiencies and how we can recognize them and what we can do?
Dr. Gray (5:35): Sure. If you don’t mind, I might go off on a little tangent here. I think first we should clarify why we are so nutritionally deficient, because a lot of my patients say, “Why did my grandma never have to supplement, but I do?” Sadly, our world has really changed. The nutritional value that used to be in an apple grown in your grandma’s backyard unfortunately was better, much higher in nutritional content as compared to an apple today. Our apples might be three times the size, but they’re not packing that nutritional punch that apples used to. Unfortunately, our food sources are just not as nutritionally dense. We have very deficient soil, and even the USDA agriculture figures will show the decline in over 40 crops that they’ve been tracking for years. We know that the food that’s growing in this deficient soil is now deficient. Soil should be rich in antioxidants and vitamins and minerals, producing in foods the same, and that’s unfortunately not always the case. I even have patients who are growing their own food in their backyard and it’s organic, and the foods still, again, don’t pack that nutritional punch. That’s not our fault, but unfortunately that’s working against us.
The processing of foods also depletes nutrients. Half the time the food we’re eating has been harvested or picked days, weeks, even months before we’re eating it. And so, as you can imagine over time the nutrient content in those foods is declining. And then sometimes we even cook with really high heat, high temperature, and that’s blasting our foods, destroying some of the nutritional value. So, we’re unfortunately set up to be nutritionally deficient. And then when we add things like some lifestyle choices – if we choose to consume alcohol or caffeine, or smoke – those are all going to use up or deplete our body of nutrients. And if we take medications, many of my patients are shocked to know that the medications they’re taking are depleting them of nutrients. Many individuals are aware that drugs like statin medications for cholesterol can deplete CoQ10. And CoQ10 is a very important antioxidant in the body. It can help us with energy, and many patients who are taking a statin medication end up with myalgias or muscle pains, because their body has been robbed of that CoQ10. And that’s just one example. All sort of medications, even things like birth control, one patient might feel is just a basic medication, actually does deplete B vitamins and even magnesium.
So, very quickly, I just wanted to go over some of the reasons why we unfortunately are so low on nutrients. Then you add maybe exercise, or if you have a very stressful life, and again, what’s happening – your body is using up those nutrients. So, unfortunately we now, in our world today, need to supplement more than ever before, more than our grandma decades ago. That’s part of why we need the nutrients. But in my book, Your Longevity Blueprint, I try to describe nutrients as working in our body like putting a key in a keyhole. The nutrients are going to unlock certain processes in the body. I tell patients to think of nutrients as what you need, literally, to produce energy in that Krebs cycle, if you remember that from high school science class. You need nutrients to make hormones, hormones that make you feel good. So you just don’t want to be set up to be nutritionally deficient. The list of symptoms, I could go on and on, but fatigue is obviously one symptom. We could go nutrient by nutrient and discuss the symptoms that can exist.
Allan (9:25): For the core ones – vitamin D, C, B, the core ones. Maybe some of the minerals. I think this would be quite valuable, because I do believe that people will know if they don’t have enough iron, they may feel a little anemic and their energy will be low. Sometimes the doctor will pick that up in a blood test and say you’re low in your iron. That’s a fairly common test that a standard doctor would do, but it’s not often that a doctor will do a full blood panel to look at how deficient you might be in these various vitamins. So I think us having some basic recognition of when we might be deficient in a vitamin, so we know we at least need to start doing the diagnostic work.
Dr. Gray (10:03): Sure. So, B vitamin deficiencies are very common. B vitamins are what help our adrenals, they help us adapt to stress, they help us produce energy. One of the first supplements I’ll have a patient, especially an athlete start if they’re really tired is just a B Complex to see if that’s helping. Some patients can even have symptoms in the nervous system, so if they’re getting tingling, burning symptoms, whatnot, a lot of times they will need the B vitamins as well.
Vitamin D deficiency can also lead to fatigue. Actually I live in Iowa, so many of my patients are very low in vitamin D, just because we don’t have the sun year round. Patients who are low in vitamin D are going to be more likely to get sick, get the flu through that flu season, so that’s one of the first nutrients we try to optimize in our patients come fall time, so they can get their level high to protect them through the winter. I’ve had even patients young, in their 20s and 30s have fractures, and it’s not normal to have fractures when you’re young. One of the first things we’re then looking at in those patients if they end up with osteopenia or osteoporosis, is their vitamin D status. Sometimes, shockingly, even young patients are very low in vitamin D. Vitamin D helps greatly with bone density, so not just in the young populations, but also in the older populations we want to make sure we’re increasing vitamin D. Vitamin D greatly helps with mood, so if we think of seasonal affective disorder through the winter, that makes sense. Patients get more depressed when there’s no sunlight, they’re not getting their vitamin D through the winter. Those are some of the symptoms of low vitamin D.
And then you mentioned vitamin C. Vitamin C is great for immune support also, so that’s typically also a nutrient that I’m going to recommend through the winter, just to help support the patient for not getting sick. Many patients will bruise very easily, so one of the first nutrients we’ll recommend for them is also vitamin C. Vitamin C helps strengthen the capillaries so that they don’t bruise as easily. And then, do you want me to keep going?
Allan (12:08): A couple of the minerals I think would be valuable too, because there are some of them that are quite important and if we’re not monitoring those, there’s going to be some risk there.
Dr. Gray (12:19): So magnesium is probably the most important mineral in my opinion. It’s important for I think, over 300 different enzymatic pathways in the body. I recently wrote a blog on magnesium and all the different types, picking the best type of magnesium and whatnot. But I use magnesium in my patients because it’s a very calming, relaxing hormone. So if they’re having any symptoms of overstimulation, meaning anxiety, if they can’t sleep, if their legs feel kind of creepy crawly, if they’re having restless leg symptoms or cramping in the legs, we’ll give them magnesium to calm down the cramps or calm down the mind or calm down the heart. So magnesium can be extremely beneficial, even to calm the gut. If patients have constipation, magnesium can help relax the bowels to facilitate daily bowel movements in the morning. Magnesium also helps produce your hormones. So you don’t want to be low in magnesium if you have low hormones, which we all do. Hormones decline as we age, so supplementing with magnesium can help prevent some of that loss.
Allan (13:4): I was really happy in the book that when you got into the discussion of hormones, you didn’t go just one way or the other. I’ve seen so many books where they say, “Let’s focus on the sex hormones because that’s what people care about.” And then other people say, “I’m dealing with people that have thyroid issues, so they’re looking for a book on thyroid issues.” It’s not very common that someone will say, “Let’s just look at this whole thing together.” To me, they’re the one to punch vitality and feeling and being the best you you can be. If your sex hormones are not optimized, you don’t feel as good as you could, and obviously if you don’t have the thyroid hormones working, you’re not going to have the energy level that you need to have to do the things you want to do. So, to me they’re both just as important. I understand when someone has an issue on one side or the other, they’re going to be more focused on that, but if we’re coming at this looking at it from a “How to stay as healthy as we can” versus “How do I cure illness”, I want to look at both. And I’m glad that you did. Could you take a little bit of time to talk about hormones? How do we actually go about optimizing our hormones so that we can be the best we can be?
Dr. Gray (14:38): Sure. I think the first step is to really know your body and know, “What symptoms am I experiencing? Have I had hair loss? Have I had brain fog? Am I more cold? Have I had weight gain or more fatigue?” Those are all low thyroid symptoms. If you’re thinking you may have some low hormone symptoms, find a provider who can help you order a comprehensive hormone panel to get your levels checked to see where you’re at. And I would love it if my patients would have had levels checked in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, so we could track subtle changes, any subtle decline that’s happening each decade or half decade, whatnot. Sometimes patients’ levels are really low end, and I don’t know if that’s their baseline, I don’t know if that’s where they’ve been for years, or if their levels are barely in the reference range, is this a dramatic decline? Years ago, were they very high end of normal and now they’re low end of normal? So, it’d be really nice to be able to track those levels over the years so patients could detect if their levels are declining.
But having comprehensive thyroid hormone levels done is extremely important. I describe this in Chapter 6 of my book. TSH is thyroid-stimulating hormone, which should be checked. But I said my book it stands for “too slow to help”, because by the time TSH is high, many times T4 and T3 are very low. So you only have T3 receptors in your body. T4’s whole role in life is to convert to T3, and many doctors never check T3. They only check T4, and if T4 looks good they assume the patient’s good to go. And that’s not the case. So, a big take home is to make sure you have a free T3 checked – that’s the gas pedal on your metabolism and your energy. You want your gas on hard. You don’t want your reverse T3, which is the brake pedal on hard. You want those flipped. It’s also important to have the reverse T3 checked, and then thyroid antibodies. If thyroid antibodies are high, that indicates your body could be attacking itself. Those are some autoimmune markers. The more that your body attacks the thyroid, the more thyroid function is going to decline. Even if your thyroid function is holding steady but your antibody levels are high, that’s great information to have to know, “I need to stay ahead of this to prevent my thyroid hormone levels from further declining.” I can speak to sex hormones as well, but just from a thyroid standpoint, those are great tests to have your provider run, to give you a gauge on where you’re sitting today, to know if low thyroid is a problem for you currently.
Allan (17:18): Okay. And then on the sex hormones, how would we go about optimizing those?
Dr. Gray (17:25): Again, the first step is to get your levels tested. I think a lot of women think they don’t need testosterone, but actually they do. I have women very young who already have zero testosterone due to big stressors in their life or whatnot. Sometimes it’s difficult to maybe admit that we lose hormones as we age, but men aged 30 to 70 are going to lose 1% to 5% of their testosterone every year, and women aged 20 to 40 lose 50% of their total testosterone production. So it’s important to have testosterone levels checked in both men and women, and also estrogen levels checked in both men and women. A lot of guys think they don’t have estrogen, but many men convert their testosterone over to estrogen, and that’s what men don’t want. We need to have lower estrogen, higher testosterone in men. So, checking those hormones is important. And then in women also checking progesterone. Progesterone’s the most soothing, calming hormone, great for sleep. Many women in their 30s and 40s get put on antidepressants or anxiety medications, and really the root cause of the problem was low progesterone, but no one ever assessed it. So, asking your provider to check estrogen, progesterone, testosterone is a great start.
Allan (18:40): Cool. And then from there you can decide how you want to address some deficiencies or some low numbers through the help of your healthcare provider.
Dr. Gray (18:51): Yes. And there are natural ways to boost hormones. We could talk about optimizing, again, nutritional status. Also, many times herbs can be very effective for patients who haven’t had hysterectomies, who still have all their organs. Using herbs can help to produce hormones. But in my clinic we do specialize in natural hormone replacement therapy for both men and women, and there are lots of options for those patients.
Allan (19:16): One of the things I really do want to recap here is that your standard doctor, bless their heart – they are going to go in and try to take care of you when you go and say you’re not feeling well. You may go in for regular checkups, so they’ll do the normal stuff, but the normal blood panel is going to be looking at your cholesterol and maybe they’re looking at some organ function, particularly if they know there’s some lifestyle things going on. They may check some bits and pieces of the data that you might want to have. But when you’re really looking at this, I think it’s worth at least once a year, maybe once every two years, if you need to push it off, is to go out get a full-on panel. What are my potential nutritional deficiencies, what are my potential hormone issues?
And I say this even if you don’t feel like you have symptoms, because one of the funny things is, you might think you’re normal – you might think, “This is my normal day. I wake up, I have trouble sleeping, I feel a little groggy in the morning. I do my coffee and I’m good to go for the day, as long as I drink coffee until 3:00 in the afternoon.” And that’s the normal day. And you say that’s normal, but you get yourself tested and you realize that your testosterone is a little low, perhaps your vitamin D is a little low, and your vitamin B, particularly B12 is low. If we actually supplement for these things, now you start to realize what actual normal should feel like, because you get back up to stability and you get up to where you’re now optimized.
Sorry to interject there, but I think so many people just go in and say, “Well, my doctor…” And the generation before us I think was so much more, “My doctor said it so it’s the absolute truth.” I think we have to be engaged as a part of our health care. The normal doctor isn’t necessarily inclined to want to go that route initially because he has seven minutes with you. He has to figure out what’s wrong with you, he has to prescribe medication, and then he has to move on to the next patient. But a holistic functional doctor is really going to have more opportunity and a more holistic view of health. I need to go find that person because my current doctor in my own town might not be that person. How do I find a contractor? In your book you say “contractor”, like doing the house stuff, but how do I find the right person to treat me for optimal health?
Dr. Gray (21:54): Good question. That’s the topic of the last chapter in my book. My book is about building a healthier body using functional medicine. So just to clarify to the audience here, I’m comparing how we maintain our home – we’re mowing the lawn, we keep hair out of the drain, we make sure we’re changing our furnace filters. We do all these things for maintenance for our home, but yet we don’t always do, or we don’t always know even what maintenance is available for our body. So, the last chapter of the book I discuss finding a contractor, who I describe as being a functional medicine provider, to help them rebuild and repair their body. We need conventional docs. If you have strep throat, if you have an emergency, we need them to be available, but unfortunately they don’t have a lot of training in nutrition. So again, they may tell you all your labs are normal – your blood count, your kidney, liver function, your cholesterol, as you were referring to, but they have never looked really deep. They haven’t really explored what a functional medicine provider could explore.
In your area usually, hopefully, you could find either an anti-aging, a regenerative or a functional medicine provider. You can search by your zip code on either the A4M, which is the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine’s website, or the IFM – Institute for Functional Medicine website, and hopefully find someone. Even if they’re not real local, a lot of these providers will see patients virtually, over the phone, or you can make a day trip to go see one. In a lot of the larger states, functional medicine is growing very rapidly. So, Florida, California, Texas, are states that are going to be easier to find providers than in the Midwest, where I’m from. There are probably only five or six in my state. But they are available; you just have to be able to find them. And they have the training. I have masters in Metabolic and Nutritional Medicine. Many of my colleagues have this training where they’re more understanding, they interpret the labs differently, and they have access to functional medicine labs. My primary care provider unfortunately can’t order a nutritional analysis; it’s just not available through our local hospital systems. But I have a contract with the functional medicine lab so I can run a fancy nutritional analysis on my patients. It’s 20 pages of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, antioxidants. We can literally test glutathione levels, which is amazing, and even looking at their omega-3 fatty acid levels in the blood. So, the unique thing about these functional medicine providers is that they do have some specialized testing that can really optimize your health. You just have to find the provider to work with.
Allan (24:33): Yes. I think that’s so critical because we can’t depend on the current medical system to make us well. If we’re injured, if we’re sick – yes, they’ve been doing that, they know how to do that. But if you really want to optimize health, you really want to feel well all the time and you really want to have longevity, like you say in Your Longevity Blueprint – but the reality is if you want to have a wonderful life and really enjoy it – these are some valuable tests for you to check out. Even if you’re not really having major symptoms – I do want to stress – get out there every once in a while and find out what your numbers are. I’m not going to advertise any of them here, but you can go look online. There are some sites that you can actually do full panels yourself. You just go to a local lab and they’ll draw. So a local phlebotomist will draw it and they’ll send it off to these labs, and they’ll do a full workup for you and send it to you. And it’s written in plain English to help you interpret what you see. At that point you can either have a conversation with your primary physician, or you can seek out a professional that’s going to understand what you’re going through and what you want to try to accomplish. Dr. Gray, thank you so much for being a part of the 40+ Fitness podcast. If someone wanted to reach out and get to know more about you, where would you like for me to send them?
Dr. Gray (25:55): They can check out YourLongevityBlueprint.com/40. That is a link to a page on my website where we’re offering a 10% off storewide purchases code. The code is thanks40. You can certainly check me out there. I do have a free PDF to download on three top tips to boost your hormones naturally. I talk about reducing stress, reducing your toxin exposure and fixing nutritional deficiencies. And you can certainly see my book in our book trailer video right on that website – YourLongevityBlueprint.com/40.
Allan (26:31): And as you said, there’s a lot more in the book than we could ever, ever hope to cover in a podcast. So, do check out the book. There’s a lot of valuable information in there for you to kind of understand what’s going on in your body, and some great actionable items for you to use in building your health and fitness. As I said before, Dr. Gray, thank you for being on the podcast.
Dr. Gray (26:52): Thank you. And to all the listeners – know there’s hope. If you don’t feel right, there’s an answer. Find a provider who can help you get those answers.
Allan (27:05): I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Dr. Gray. I certainly did. Really, a lot of good information there. The book is well worth the purchase, so I would encourage you to go out and get Your Longevity Blueprint. It’s a really, really good book. It’ll teach you a lot about yourself and help you be a big partner and big lead – the driver in your wellness journey.
So the last week I went to Panama – actually, it was an island set called Bocas del Toro. Spend some time with my wife, just kind of unwind, enjoy ourselves, learn a little bit about the place and the culture. It really does interest me, and maybe might end up being a place that we spend a lot more time than we had originally thought. We’re looking into that; more on that later.
I wanted to also let you know before we go that this is going to be the last week that I’m going to leave open the waiting list for The Wellness GPS. If you want to be a part of the launch team, the team that goes through and does their Wellness GPSs with me walking you through step by step, you need to go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/GPS. If you’re not on that list, you’re probably not going to hear about this because the list is filling up and there’s almost enough people on there now that it will fill the 20 slots. I can only work with 20 people because this is hands-on. I’m working with you daily for the seven-day challenge as we go about putting together our Wellness GPS. If you’re interested, you need to go there today and sign up – 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/GPS. I’ll announce it there when I open it, it’s going to be open until the 20 slots are filled, so it’s probably just going to be people that are on this waiting list that are going to get the opportunity to be a part of this challenge. It’s not an open challenge. It’s going to be open only to the individuals that are on this list until I fill the 20 slots, and then we’re done. So again, 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/GPS.
And then finally, I know I’ve been talking about it for the past few weeks, but we’re working on getting the final bit of manuscript together for The Wellness Roadmap book that I’ve been working on. And I’ve also put out a base site for the book. You can go to WellnessRoadmapBook.com to learn more about the topic matter of the book, learn a little bit about me. I am setting up a mailing list that’s going to be specific for the book. You won’t be getting other mailings from me; this is going to be my launch team. When you write a book, it’s really not an individual thing. Yes, I do spend a lot of time alone, writing and editing and typing and redlining. I’m not the most efficient writer out there, so it does take me a little while. So there’s a lot of alone time – don’t get me wrong – but launching a book is really a team sport, and I need you on my team. I need you to help me make this book a success, and the way we do that is we coordinate our work, we coordinate what we do. And the best way for me to do that with you would be through this mailing list. I will only mail you on that mailing list information about the book, the progress on the book, things like that. But I won’t be mailing you other stuff. So this is a very private, single-source, single-use email list. If you want to be a part of the launch team, please go sign up today. You can go to WellnessRoadmapBook.com, and at the bottom of that page you’ll see where you can give me your name and email and I can make you a part of the launch team. A launch like this can be a lot of fun, working together, getting things done. You’ll get some special discounts on the book, you might get some additional freebies and bonuses that I can throw in there. I’ll be looking at what I can do and what I can’t do, but this is the group that’s going to help me launch the book and make it a success, and I want to do as much for you as I possibly can. So go to WellnessRoadmapBook.com and go ahead and join the launch team today. Thank you.
Dr. Lee Know's bestselling book Mitochondria and the Future of Medicine shows us how the powerhouses of the cells are at the heart of health and fitness. When your mitochondria are working well, we have more energy and look and feel younger.
The mitochondria is an organelle in the cell. Like organs in the body, organelles each have particular functions. The mitochondria produce energy through APT. When they perform well, we have all the energy we need.
How we eat can really affect how well mitochondria perform. This includes ketosis, calorie restriction, and intermittent fasting. The amount of research is growing and understanding the metabolic pathways is improving. The research is proving out that ketosis helps mitochondria function better. Ketones being available as an alternative style of fuel helps the energy processes in our bodies function better.
The mitochondrial theory of ageing is becoming the most evidenced-based over all of the other theories including the free-radical theory and the wear-and-tear theory. Calorie restriction is the only proven way of extending life for healthy individuals. You're creating fewer free-radicals which leads to healthier mitochondria and a longer lifespan. The idea is to reduce calories avoiding starvation or malnutrition.
Sponsor: This episode of the 40+ Fitness Podcast is sponsored by Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Company. They are offering you a $39 bottle of their high quality, fresh-pressed olive oil for only $1. Go to 40plusfitnesspodcast.com/oliveoil to learn more.
Dr. Know went through some of the supplements you may want to consider for better mitochondria health (note: the links are affiliate links to products on Amazon).
To get in touch with Dr. Lee know or to learn more about the book Mitochondria and the the Future of Medicine go to WEBLINK.