So honored to be with all stars Robb Wolf and Chris Kresser at IHH-UCSF’s Annual Integrative/Functional Medicine Conference 2018!!
What a wealth of information was shared by the all-star line up of speakers this weekend at UCSF’s Annual Integrative/Functional Medicine Conference. Chris Kresser, Robb Wolf, Dr. Akil Palanisamy, Dr. Sara Gottfried, Dr. Terry Wahls, Dr. Grace Liu, and more stellar doctors and scientists from UCSF, Harvard and beyond, graced the stage and generously shared their research and wisdom with us. How validating it was to hear these top-notch docs proclaiming the principles we teach in the Primal Health Community. And to see their scientific evidence proving how these methods not only reverse chronic disease, but the aging process itself.
As a former medical student at UCSF, I was filled with a flood of excitement to be back in this remarkable institution where I had originally begun my professional health career. In the midst of my third year at UCSF School of Medicine, I chose to accept an opportunity to dance professionally in Paris, France. I embarked upon a career as a professional dancer, and dove into learning to optimize human performance, physically and mentally. Ever a student, I am constantly learning from icons in the fields of medicine, health and wellness, and striving to connect the dots so that I may implement them strategically. And now, as a high performance movement and health coach, I aim to streamline the information into practical systems, and effectively teach them to others, so that they may lead themselves to optimal health and performance.
What were the prime take aways? The importance of intermittent fasting, ketogenic diet, reducing carbohydrates in all forms, zero tolerance for refined sugars/grains and chemically refined vegetable oils.
Dr. Akil Palanisamy spoke to us about the power of the ketogenic diet and detoxification to reverse Type 2 Diabetes. In fact, research shows that in 94% of cases, (VIRTA Health Study) insulin use can be decreased or eliminated through these measures. Interesting to note, is the similarity of this protocol to that promoted by Dr. Joslin in the 1920’s for treating diabetes: with 5% carbs, 20% protein, 75% fat, it was a diet rich in game, fish, gelatin, eggs, butter, olive oil, coffee and tea. Trend, or return to ancestral wisdom??
Dr. Palanisamy linked the rise in insulin resistance and obesity in the general population to the increased use of pesticides, chemicals and Persistant Organic Pollutants, PCB’s and heavy metals. His solution is a detox protocol, with an emphasis on vegetables (cruciferous; cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower; beets and leafy greens), turmeric/curcumin, green tea (elevates glutathione in the body), sulphur (garlic, onions), cilantro, parsley and other herbs. He discussed the importance of sweating induced by an external heat source (sauna) versus an internal source (exercise). His book, The Paleovedic Diet, outlines his system combining Ayuervedic Medicine with Paleo/Ancestral Principles.
Dr. Terry Wahls spoke of her remarkable recovery from debilitating Multiple Sclerosis (MS) through adherence to her own system, The Wahls Protocol. Her TED talk is not to be missed. She emphasized the importance of choosing appropriate whole foods to reverse autoimmune reactions and multiple diseases. She emphasized the importance of whole food sources of micronutrients, especially zinc, magnesium, biotin, vitamins K2, D, A, lipoic acid, and acetyl carnitine. No pill can encapsulate the array of bioactive compounds in whole food. Like Dr. Palanisamy, she hailed the importance of cruciferous vegetables, onions, garlic, mushrooms, leafy greens, organ meats, and avoidance of sugars, processed foods, lectins (proteins in plant seeds/skins that disrupt the gut barrier and nervous system, and trigger autoimmune cascades) such as gluten. Gluten and other lectins, along with casein, a protein in dairy products, are linked with detrimental effects on the brain, even when gut symptoms are not present. Thus, subclinical effects may build up over time without any overt symptoms. Through simple changes such as those outlined in the Wahls protocol, and that of Dr. Dale Bredesen, dramatic improvements have been observed in reversing diseases of the brain and nervous system. The improvement in cellular repair and mitochondrial function can be extrapolated to extended physiological upgrades in the body, leading to the healing of multiple systems simultaneously (cardiovascular, hormonal/endocrine, musculoskeletal, etc). The key is improved cellular repair and mitochondrial activity, which are the foundation of health in all physiological systems.
Dr. Sharon Meyer explained the anti-inflammatory, fat burning, disease reducing effects of the ketogenic diet. Based on a diet very low in carboydrates (from above ground non starchy vegetables), low in protein (from high quality wild/free range animals), high in healthy fats (ie., avocado, coconut, ghee, omega-3’s, MCT), the ketogenic diet helps the body shift out of glucose, into fat, as fuel. When glucose and glycogen stores are depleted, fat –a clean burning, lasting source of energy–becomes the prime fuel. One can liken this to switching from quick burning dirty coal to solar energy. Once becoming a “fat burning beast” (as mentor, Mark Sisson says) a person no longer suffers cycles of hyper/hypoglycemia and subsequent bursts of high insulin levels, which lead to inflammation and disease. One enjoys burning fat stores off their body, and ingested dietary fats, and going for longer periods of time without hunger. Once a person has become fat adapted, they can begin going longer periods of time without food, and enter the period known as ketosis. This is an energy state that has been vital throughout evolution, keeping humans sharp and resilient in times of famine. Ketones are generated when fatty acids are burned. Beta-hydroxybutyrate, the most abundant ketone, is highly anti-inflammatory, improves immunity and mitochondrial activity, protects neurons, inhibits seizures and cancer, leads to weight loss and cardiovascular health, elevates mood and cognitive function. The health effects are extraordinarily compelling.
While a ketogenic diet is only advocated once one is fat adapted, Intermittent Fasting (IF), the process of going for extended periods of time between meals/snacks, can lead to similar health benefits. Digestion and processing food takes energy away from cellular repair and detoxification. When one alleviates this demand and goes for longer periods of time without food, the body goes into deep healing and repair states, scavenges for rogue cells (such as those which lead to cancer) and eliminates them. Essentially, if the body is likened to a factory, this is time for the cleaning crew to come out and get everything in top condition again before the next working day. Once food comes in again, energy is diverted away from this cellular repair and regeneration, towards digestion and metabolism.
Mark Sisson’s Book, The Keto Reset Diet, is a prime resource for learning how to do this safely and effectively. Jump on board and enjoy the incredible health benefits.
Dr. Grace Liu gave a compelling presentation on The Altruistic Flora: How Keystone Bacteria in the Microbiome Help You Gain and Maintain Metabolic Flexibility. She outlined how the agricultural revolution and rise in processed foods parallels the deterioration of the human microbiome and rise in disease. Diversity of gut flora leads to metabolic flexibility, a hallmark of health. This is the ability to switch from glucose/glycogen to fat/ketones as fuel. Adoption of the paleo diet, with its elimination of sugars, processed foods, grains and chemically refined oils, has led to incredible outcomes in recovery from autism, arthritis, and other autoimmune diseases, due to, as Dr. Liu describes, the rise in diversity of the microbiome. She stressed the importance of quality sleep, stress balance and toxin removal in healing the microbiome.
Dr. Sara Gottfried, all star physician from UCSF/Harvard/MIT, and multiple NY Times best selling author, presented her Five Breakthrough Strategies to Reverse Aging and Inflammation, Reset Gene Expression and Boost Vitality. Who doesn’t want that??
At the age of 45, Dr. Gottfried looked at the quality of her telomeres (like little caps on the ends of DNA strands) and was stunned to realize they tested for the biological age of 65. By implementing her protocol, her telomere tested biological age has been reduced by seventeen years. That is compelling scientific evidence for the anti-aging effects, at a DNA level, of lifestyle choices. She emphasized that health is 10% genetics, 90% environment and lifestyle. No excuses. Reclaim your health and take action.
She outlines how “Inflam-Aging” is due to the Standard American Diet, and the skyrocketing incidence of insulin resistance, gut permeability, and decreased microbiome diversity. Also a culprit is reduction in exercise and movement. Her strategy to increase “HealthSpan”, the time spent disease free and vital (which can be calculated at www.healthspanscore.com) is outlined here;
1. Increase type II muscle fibers; Move!! Our fast twitch fibers deteriorate with time and must be stimulated with explosive, high velocity, jumping, swinging motions. If box jumps and kettle bell swings are not your thing, start with some simple hops, jump rope, or jumping jacks.
2. Limit Carbohydrates
This is directly linked to decreased mortality and disease. Find the optimal amount for you; too little carbs can lead to thyroid and adrenal imbalances.
3. Intermittent Fasting
She’s on board too. Sixteen hours of IF is needed to produce ketones, but even a twelve hour period of IF has beneficial results. Start where you can, and challenge yourself to go a little it longer without food over time, allowing your body to benefit from the deep healing chemistry that occurs. IF benefits include resetting insulin sensitivity, elevating mental acuity, reversing fatty liver, improving myelination of nerve cells, transforming with fat to beige fat, weight loss, decreasing inflammation and elevating mitochondrial activity. Exercising in the morning fasted state can enhance the benefits of intemittent fasting. Insulin sensitivity is greater in the morning, and may be an opportune time to take in any carbs for the day. Eating one’s last meal several hours before bedtime allows the body to complete digestion, and enter the restorative healing stage while sleeping. Eat when you will be using the energy, not before resting.
4. Optimize Insulin
Dr. G explained that blood sugar/glucose levels rise 10 points every decade after age forty. By optimizing glucose and insulin levels, 60% of cognitive decline can be avoided.
5. Optimize Sleep
She stresses the sweet spot of 7-8.5 hours per night for the longest “healthspan”. Less that this elevates cortisol, triggers inflammation, disrupts insulin and metabolic balance, triggers appetite, inhibits decision-making, increases risk of smoking, sedentary behavior, and alcohol use, and increases cardiometabolic disease risk.
Finally, she spoke about “What Steals Youth”;
Sitting, poor posture, medications (especially anti-histamines, statins and anti-anxiety pills), high carbs, losing sleep, low vitamin D, high levels of perceived stress, social isolation, and lack of vision and purpose.
Dr. G emphasized that we all have different carb thresholds, and encourages one to follow biomarkers to determine optimal levels. If carbs are too low, adrenal and thyroid problems will occur. She likes to see fasting insulin levels in the range of 3-5, and fasting glucose at 70-85. Her new book, Younger, is packed with this information and more.
Due to travel time, I had to miss the presentations of Chris Kresser and Robb Wolf, two all stars in this line up of speakers, but I will catch them online. Their recent books, Unconventional Medicine outlining the future of healthcare, and Wired to Eat, are great additions to your top reading list. To see the presentations, check out the Institute for Health and Healing facebook page and see the link to the videos.
Aligned with Mark Sisson, as a Primal Health Coach, I found it fascinating to see the emerging scientific evidence presented by these doctors, supporting the Primal Health principles. What are some of the links and my top takeaways from the conference?
1. Reduce carbohydrates. Decrease the amount our cells are exposed to glucose and insulin over a lifetime to reduce inflammation, disease, and biological aging.
2. Optimize Insulin. The master hormone, like a conductor of an orchestra, insulin is essential but in excess it creates inflammatory cascades and hormonal dysregulation.
3. Increase healthy fats and ketones (via ketogenesis)
4. Increase Intermittent Fasting; allowing enhanced cellular repair and detoxification. Start with a 12 hour window and steadily increase as individually appropriate. 16:8 is an optimal ratio, allowing a higher generation of ketones to advance healing and repair. Eat carbs earlier in the day when insulin sensitivity is high, and during physically active periods. Finish eating several hours before bedtime to allow the body to enter deep restorative sleep and repair cycles.
5. Sleep. Strive for 7-8.5 hours of high quality sleep per night. This is repair and detox time, essential to cellular health and longevity. Mid day sun exposure, and turning off electronics at least two hours before bedtime, help balance the melatonin/cortisol cycle.
6. A Healthy Gut Microbiome is key to health. We have 10x as many bacterial cells in our body as human cells. We must ensure they are working for us, and not against us! Reducing carbs, lectins and chemical toxins, while increasing vegetables, prebiotics, probiotics and fermented foods are a great place to start. Rotate your foods; too much of anything can be toxic and impair microbiome diversity and health.
7. Increase type IIb muscle fibers. Move with power. Jump, swing, vary intensities. Lift heavy things 2-3x a week and sprint every 7-10 days.
8. Eat whole foods, especially those rich in micronutrients as outlined in the Wahl’s protocol and the Primal Blueprint pyramid.
9. Avoid toxins such as sugars (including most fruits), grains, processed food, refined veggie oils, lectins, casein, pesticides, herbicides, chemical cleaners, and unfiltered tap water.
10. Stop sitting/being sedentary. Move frequently at a low level through out the day. Take breaks to get up, walk, breathe and reboot.
Many people have asked if I regret not returning to UCSF after my dance career, to complete my last 1.5 years of medical school. I am grateful for the incredible knowledge and critical thinking strategies that I learned in medical school, for the honor of being involved so closely in my patient’s lives, and for interacting daily with the brilliant, compassionate community at UCSF. Yet, rather than treating disease with drugs and surgery, I am devoted to guiding people to thrive through intelligent movement, whole food (it is medicine!), rest/recovery and behavior. In this way, I hope to empower each person to reclaim their health, and lead themselves to optimal performance physically and mentally.
Thanks Everyone! I hope this helps you in your path to thriving. Here’s to your health and vitality,