Category Archives: inflammation

Sleep! You can’t live without it.

Circadian rhythm refers to the cycling of hormones according to the time of day. Every hormone cycles with daylight and darkness, each in it’s own way. Our brain has a master clock, called the circadian clock, controlled by specialized cells deep in the brain. There is a direct connection from our retina (in the back of the eyes) to the circadian clock in the brain. Blue light (part of the normal outdoor spectrum of light) stimulates very specific receptor cells in the retina which in turn communicates directly with the circadian clock telling the brain whether it is day or night. To synchronize our hormones and achieve restorative sleep, we must get outdoor light exposure to our eyes (without sunglasses, early in the day) and limit light exposure in the evening.

Artificial light, especially from cell phones and other devices that emit intense blue light, shift work, late night social activity, poor eating habits, sedentary lifestyle and at the opposite extreme, late evening workouts,  can all disrupt our circadian rhythm preventing adequate restorative sleep. A rare genetic illness called fatal insomnia that strikes adults at middle age prevents sleep and results in death within a few months, highlighting the importance of sleep. Sleep deprivation can kill a human quicker than starvation! Adequate amounts of deep non-REM sleep are required for tissue regeneration, healing, DNA repair and immune function. REM sleep with dreaming provides great benefit by organizing our memory, discharging the emotional content of traumatic events, and facilitating creative brain activity. One night of short-sleep produces a state of inattention and slow reflexes as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol intoxication. Chronic  short sleep and disrupted circadian rhythm results in increased risk of depression, cancer, hypertension, diabetes, dementia, obesity, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, heart attack and stroke, to name a few. Sleep interruption immediately halts weight loss during a calorie restricted diet (likely the result of hormonal disruption). So getting an adequate amount of restorative sleep every night is essential to good health. Here a few tips to help achieve a good night’s sleep each and every night.

  1. GET OUTDOOR LIGHT EXPOSURE ON YOUR EYES WITHOUT SUNGLASSES EVERY DAY, EARLY IN THE DAY. This helps set your biologic/circadian clock. Even on a cloudy day, outdoor light is much stronger and natural than indoor light. It is essential for setting your biologic/circadian clock. If you cannot get outside, stand or sit in front of a large window for 20-30 minutes in the morning, looking outside. Take a lunch break outside without sunglasses. Wear a shade hat instead of sunglasses. Your brain needs to experience natural outdoor light during the day.
  2. Avoid bright light in the evening, especially the light from TV, computer screens, cell phones, which all emit intense blue light and trick your brain into thinking it is daytime. Wear blue light blocking glasses/goggles for 2-3 hours before bed. (Amber tinted glasses which block blue light can be purchased on-line and can be worn over reading glasses) There is also software available that will decrease the blue light intensity of computer screens and cell phones in the evening.
  3. Practice time restricted eating. Limit all eating to an eight hour period, thus providing for an over-night fast of 16 hours. If that does not seem possible try to limit eating to a 10-hour period which provides a 14-hour overnight fast. This improves sleep, circadian rhythm, blood pressure, blood sugar and reduces stress hormones. NO SNACKS BETWEEN MEALS. NO FOOD FOR 2 HOURS BEFORE BED. For every hour decrease in eating time period from 12 hours to 8 hours you get health benefit.
  4. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet.
  5. If you snore, are overweight/obese, fall asleep during the day, or do not feel refreshed in the morning ask your doctor to order a sleep study. Obstructive Sleep Apnea makes restorative sleep impossible and increases risk of heart attack, stroke and most chronic diseases.
  6. Avoid alcohol altogether and avoid caffeine after late morning.  Alcohol in the evening may help you fall asleep but it results in a withdrawal from alcohol during the night. This disrupts normal sleep patterns.
  7. Sleep in a cold, dark, quiet room. Use black-out curtains, no night lights, no phone charger lights, no lights of any kind should be on in the room. Any amount of light in the room impairs the production of melatonin which facilitates sleep onset.
  8. Have a winddown time every evening. Develop habits of non-stressful activities, soft music, dim light, casual conversation, enjoyable reading. Do not spend evening time dealing with finances, conflict, or emotional activity.
  9. Try a magnesium supplement before bedtime. Magnesium glycinate, magnesium citrate, magnesium gluconate, are absorbed much better than cheaper supplements such as magnesium oxide. Magnesium L-Threonate is expensive, but it crosses the blood brain barrier into the brain with the greatest brain penetration of all magnesium supplements.
  10. Manage stress with yoga, meditation, regular exercise (but no intense exercise in the evening.) Perform most of your exercise outdoors in a green space. This provides much more health benefit than the equivalent exercise indoors.
  11. Regular contact with supportive family and friends is essential to health and reduces stress. The greatest predictor of health vs disease is the amount of social connectedness an individual experiences.
  12. Establish regular wake-up times and go-to-bed times. Regular sleep habits are essential. If you must rely on alarm clocks you do not have good sleep habits.

A few words about alcohol, caffeine and sleeping pills.

A drink or two in the evening may help you relax but it disrupts your sleep by causing a mild episode of alcohol withdrawal as your liver metabolizes the alcohol and your blood levels drop. Even this slight degree of alcohol withdrawal will impair a good night’s sleep.

Caffeine impairs sleep by blocking adenosine receptors in the brain. Adenosine is the neurotransmitter that increases gradually during the day creating a sate referred to as sleep pressure. Some people metabolize caffeine quickly, others slowly. The slower you metabolize caffeine the longer it takes to clear it from your adenosine receptors. Without adequate sleep pressure (adenosine receptors filled with adenosine in the brain) you cannot fall asleep. Many sleep experts recommend complete abstinence from caffeine and suggest that if you need caffeine to get started in the morning you are regularly sleep deprived.

Sleeping pills of all kinds interfere with normal sleep architecture. While they facilitate falling asleep, they impair your ability to achieve deep restorative stages of sleep and can produce many undesirable side effects including addiction, withdrawal symptoms, sleep walking, sleep driving, worsening of asthma and COPD, constipation, diarrhea, daytime drowsiness, burning and tingling sensations, unusual dreams, weakness, heartburn, etc…. Most importantly they all interfere with cycling through the various stages of sleep in a normal, restorative pattern!

If you want to explore these concepts in depth here are two excellent books that discuss sleep and circadian rhythm.

Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker Ph.D.

The Circadian Code, by Satchin Panda Ph.D.

Eat clean, sleep well, spend time exercising out of doors, love one another.

Bob Hansen MD

Western Diet (high sugar, refined carbs, unhealthy fats) alters genes and causes inflammation

New study (in mice) shows fast food makes the immune system more aggressive in a detrimental way.

Major points:

  1. The immune system reacts similarly to a high sugar, high (unhealthy) fat and high calorie diet as to a bacterial infection.
  2. Unhealthy food seems to make the body’s defenses (innate immune system) more aggressive in the long term. Even long after switching to a healthy diet, inflammation towards innate immune stimulation is more pronounced.
  3. These changes may be involved in the development of arteriosclerosis and diabetes.
  4. These changes are due to alterations in gene transcription (up-regulation of genes associated with inflammation)
  5. This up regulation of pro-inflammatory genes persists even after converting to a healthier diet.

Read more at News from IRT

Here: Fast food makes the immune system more aggressive in the long term: Study shows that even after a change to a healthy diet, the body’s defenses remain hyperactive — ScienceDaily

And here Western Diet Triggers NLRP3-Dependent Innate Immune Reprogramming: Cell

This study is an example of epigenetics, where an environmental factor (diet) alters the expression of genes. We know that regular consumption of a variety of colorful vegetables mediates many beneficial effects and part of that process involves altering the transcription of many genes related to health and our ability to defend against Oxidative Stress .

The epigenetic effect of nutrition can be transmitted to the next generation.

The epigenetic effects of diet include many aspects of health including  cancer risk.

And epigenetic changes in humans can begin  before birth in response to maternal nutrition and maternal exposure to environmental toxins .

Diet also effects the gut microbiome, which in turn affects health .

So avoid fast food and other forms of processed-refined foods. Eat a whole foods-ancestral diet that includes a variety of organic colorful vegetables and fruits, grass fed/finished meats and wild seafood. This will not only provide important micro and macro nutrients but will also turn up and turn on genes that prevent disease.

Live clean, sleep well, laugh and love.

Doctor Bob

Anti-inflammatory diet, are 9 servings of vegetables per day possible?

I often recommend a specific diet to decrease inflammation, decrease pain, and improve healing of tissue. I have been asked by patients to post this nutritional plan on my website so here it is (see below). In addition to this post, I will place the diet on a separate page along with recipes for vegetable soup and bone broth.

The recipes (vegetable soup and bone broth) meet the anti-inflammatory diet guidelines and also follow the more restrictive “Autoimmune Protocol”. This nutritional approach provides an array of micro nutrients that fight inflammation, support tissue repair, decrease the risk of chronic disease, and help maintain  a healthy gut flora (good bacteria in the intestines).

When I recommend 9 servings per day of vegetables patients often tell me it is impossible to achieve.  But it is not impossible, nor is it impractical. Every Sunday afternoon I make a large pot of vegetable soup that will keep all week in the refrigerator. I bring  generous servings to work every day for breakfast, brunch, and/or lunch and add some meat or seafood prepared the evening before (left-overs) on the side. The key to eating 9 servings per day is to have a variety of vegetables at every meal. The vegetable soup makes that goal not just achievable but convenient.

The anti-inflammatory diet described below provides ample fiber to feed your healthy gut bacteria and avoids the sugar and refined starches that can produce gut dysbiosis (unhealthy balance of bacteria in the intestines). Vegetables provide five times the amount of fiber per calorie compared to grains. You do not need to eat bread or cereal to get fiber.

So here is the anti-inflammatory diet. it is consistent with the Mediterranean diet as well as an Ancestral-Paleo diet.

Caution: if you have diabetes and are taking medications, this diet reduces carbohydrates and eliminates added sugar so adjustments in diabetes medications are necessary to avoid potentially dangerous low blood sugars. So consult your physician or primary care practitioner.

9 SERVINGS  OF NON-STARCHY VEGETABLES PER DAY, 3 SERVINGS FROM EACH OF THREE CATEGORIES. Organic as much as possible. (Read about the Dirty Dozen here: Dirty Dozen | EWG’s 2017 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce )

  1. DARK GREEN LEAFY VEGETABLES, 3 SERVINGS PER DAY EQUALS 3 CUPS MEASURED COOKED OR 6 CUPS MEASURED RAW
  • Arugula, Beet Greens, Bok Choy, Chard all colors, Chicory, Cilantro
  •  Dandelion Greens, Endive, Escarole, Kale-all kinds, Parsley, Radicchio
  • Radish leaves, Spinach, Turnip Greens, Watercress
  1. Colored vegetables, 3 cups daily:
  • GREEN: Artichoke, Asparagus, Avocado (FRUIT), Cabbage (red and green) Celery, Cucumber with skin, Okra, Olives, Peppers, Zucchini with skin
  • RED: Beets, red cabbage, red peppers, cooked tomatoes (fruit)
  • YELLOW: Carrots, Pumpkin, Squash-summer and winter, Sweet potato,
  1. SULFUR RICH VEGETABLES, 3 CUPS DAILY: Some leafy greens are also sulfur rich so there is overlap in these categories
  • Arugula, Asparagus, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Collard Greens, Garlic, Kale, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Mushrooms, Onions red-yellow-white, Radishes, Scallions, Shallots, Turnip Greens, Watercress.

Berries (any kind) ½ cup per day. This can be substituted for one serving of vegetables.

OMEGA-3 rich fish-seafood (at least 16 ounces per week)

  • Anchovies, clams, herring, mackerel, mussels, oysters, salmon, sardines, trout, calamari (squid), saltwater fish should be wild, shellfish farmed OK, farmed trout OK.

Meat ideally grass fed and grass finished, hormone and antibiotic free.

Poultry and eggs free range, any wild game meat or poultry.

Drink only filtered water, coffee, tea, bone broth (homemade is best) and kombucha.

No grains, cereal, bread, pasta, no food made from flour, no oats, wheat, barley, corn etc.

No legumes (beans), no peanuts

No dairy except Ghee for cooking (optional)

No processed food made with added sugar or hydrogenated oils (which contain trans-fats)

No “vegetable oils” (soy oil, corn oil, etc.)

Use only extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil and ghee. Limit EVOO to low heat cooking or add after food is cooked. The other oils on this list have higher smoke points.

Do not use store-bought salad dressing which usually has added sugar and inflammatory vegetable oils. Make your own salad dressing with EVOO and vinegar or lemon juice.

For more information about the AIP (Autoimmune protocol)  I suggest you visit these websites:

Autoimmune gut-repair diet – Autoimmune protocol | Dr. K. News

The Autoimmune Protocol – The Paleo Mom

The Autoimmune protocol is more restrictive than the anti-inflammatory diet and is beneficial for individuals with autoimmune disease.

Live clean, sleep well, exercise outside in the sunshine, love and laugh.

Dr. Bob

The Broken Brain Docuseries is now re-running

Due to popular demand the producers of this terrific series are making it available again  on line this weekend. If you have not taken advantage of this information you can do it here:

Replay (YouTube) | Broken Brain

Enjoy

Bob Hansen MD

The Broken Brain on-line “docuseries” is running now.

I would encourage everyone to watch this series of daily interviews and discussions on lifestyle and brain health. This was organized and produced by Mark Hyman MD, director of the Functional Medicine Clinic at Cleveland Clinic, well known author, speaker and physician, Discussions cover many topics including environmental toxins (such as heavy metals and Roundup), nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress reduction, gut bacteria, and more with specific reference to the effects on your brain and risk for dreaded conditions such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, etc. These conditions can be prevented and when present, they can be treated with interventions not usually employed by modern medicine, unless you are fortunate enough to be working with a Functional Medicine practitioner.

You can sign up to receive a daily email with a link to the on-line video. Each video in the series is available for 24 hours starting at 3 PM PST, 6 PM EST.

Here is the link to get started with the third episode in this series.

Episode 3: Dementia and Alzheimer’s [LIVE] | Broken Brain

To Your Health,

Bob Hansen MD

Cartoon humor: A Prescription for Health!

 

prescription-for-exercise-cropped

Hat tip to Tommy Wood MD, PhD for introducing me to this great cartoon.

So what would happen if your doctor prescribed this? Would you be shocked? Would you follow the advice? Sadly few doctors make such recommendations as explicitly as this cartoon and fewer patients follow the advice.

How important are the elements in this advice?

They are essential. We too often focus on dietary concerns at the expense of ignoring other important low hanging fruit. Early morning  outdoor exercise with exposure to natural light in a green space, even on a cloudy or rainy day, is essential for health. Why? There are many reasons. Click the link above to read fitness expert Darryl Edward’s discussion with references. In fact outdoor exercise in a greenspace is more beneficial than the same exercise indoors. The reasons are many, including but not limited to Vitamin D production.

Early daytime exposure to natural outdoor light helps to maintain our Circadian rhythm and align the biologic clock in all of our cells and organs with the central biological Circadian clock in our brain. Most folks do not know that we have a biologic clock deep within our brain and that all the organs and cells of our body also have clocks. They all need to be synchronized with each other and with the sun for optimal health. When they are not synchronized bad things happen. Night shift workers and other folks with disturbed sleep have higher rates of cancer , depressionhypertension, heart attack and stroke.

Maintaining our circadian rhythm is vital to achieving adequate high quality restorative sleep. In turn, obtaining adequate restorative sleep contributes to lower cardiovascular disease risk in addition to four traditional lifestyle risk factors.

Exposure to artificial light at night disrupts our circadian rhythm and impairs the onset of sleep.

In medical school I learned that our retina has two cell types, rods and cones. But advances in science have revealed a  third cell type called retinal ganglionic cells. 

These cells are  particularly sensitive to blue light and directly connected to our central biological clock . Exposure to artificial light, especially from TV screens, computers, cell phones and other electronic devices after sunset disrupts our sleep cycle and delays the onset of sleep. That is why wearing blue light filtering glasses in the evening helps many folks to improve their sleep quality and duration.

Sleep deprivation for even one night causes elevation in interleukin 6 levels the following day. Interleukin 6 suppresses immune function and excessive levels cause bone and tissue damage (especially cardiovascular). Sleep deprivation  increases  Stress hormones (cortisol, adrenalin), decreases prolactin and Growth hormone , and decreases the nightly production of ATP .

Melatonin , often called the sleep hormone, is produced most abundantly during restorative sleep and essential for tissue healing, immune function, cancer prevention, and defense against tissue oxidation. These are just a few of the roles melatonin and sleep cycles play in determining our health..

So exercise outdoors in a green space daily to help synchronize your biologic clock with the sun, dim the lights in the evening and if you must watch TV or work on electronic devices before bed wear Blue Light filter glasses .

Of course eating an abundance of colorful fresh organic vegetables and fruits, and practicing some stress reduction techniques every day are equally important and essential to health and functional status.

Finally, not mentioned in the cartoon above is another healthy lifestyle choice, intermittent fasting (IF). IF will be discussed in the next post.

Until then, sleep well, exercise regularly out doors in a green space environment, eat clean, learn and practice some regular stress reduction techniques and read the next post about IF.

Bob Hansen MD

Functional Medicine: Getting to the Root Causes of Illness, A cure for Alzheimer’s

Today I watched a great TED talk by Dr. Rangan Chaterjee discussing his own journey in the discovery and implementation of a functional medicine approach to caring for his patients. The concept of using basic science and clinical science to diagnose and treat the root causes of illness, rather than treating symptoms, has been around for more than two decades.  This approach has recently started to attract more attention, especially within the community of younger physicians who have become more dissatisfied with the frustrations of traditional allopathic medicine.

Here is the talk. Dr. Chatterjee covers lots of ground in a passionate and informative talk.

Enjoy this talk. If you would like to learn about how a functional medicine approach can CURE ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE then watch this video of Dr. Bredesen who gave this lecture at a meeting of the American College of Nutrition.

Doctor Bredesen, an acclaimed neuroscientist, researcher, and more recently a brilliant clinician, has been criticized by the academic research community for implementing a clinical research protocol that addresses more than one variable at a time! Unfortunately, medical science has been handcuffed by the drug-model of clinical research wherein only one variable (drug vs. placebo for example) is studied. But if an illness has many potential contributing root causes, changing only one variable is doomed to failure, as Dr. Bredesen explains in this lecture.

Sleep well, eat clean, get outdoors every morning to help keep your circadian rhythm and biological clock in order.

Bob Hansen MD