Category Archives: sleep

COVID-19 Sweden vs Other Countries

5/21/2020 deaths/ million 7 day running average doubling time
cumulative deaths/million/day days
SWEDEN 379 3.3 46
Norway 43.6 0.13 241
Finland 54.9 0.52 138
Denmark 95.6 0.49 120
USA 282 4.02 49
NZ 4.3 0 598
stay home test-trace leadership
isolate example
SWEDEN no yes ?
Norway yes yes good
Finland yes yes good
Denmark yes yes good
USA late/variable POOR poor
New Zealand yes excellent excellent

Sweden was a source of controversy for the choice against instituting a stay-home policy. As you compare Sweden with other Scandinavian countries above you will see a dramatic difference in deaths per million (cumulative), running 7 day average deaths per million per day, and doubling time. The higher the doubling time (in days) the more a country has slowed the spread. New Zealand is the obvious winner. Early and aggressive action, effective test/trace/isolate, excellent leadership and example by the president are the hallmarks of success in New Zealand. Of course New Zealand is a small island with minimal international business and tourism so the comparison is not fair. HOWEVER, their success and strategy are obvious.

The US failed (and continues to fail) on test/trace/isolate despite the bluster and misrepresentations from the Whitehouse. California and Washington instituted early measures with respect to stay-home but without adequate test kits all of US states have been unable to execute the test/trace/isolate strategy proven effective in other countries. President Trump promised California 100,000 nasal swabs per week three weeks ago. They have not arrived. (California Department of Public Health)

Thus comparing USA to Sweden we see that with adequate social distancing, test/trace/isolate, Sweden did almost as well (or as poorly) as the US where stay at home was employed on a variable time line and to different degrees between the states.

You can review worldwide data, download spreadsheets, choose countries for comparison here.

Test/Trace/Isolate + Social distance + Masks4all + cooperation = SUCCESS

Had the US responded early and effectively, stay-home could have ended very quickly and safely with much less economic disruption.

Poor Management = inadequate Test/Trace/Isolate and other measures.

The New England Journal of Medicine published an article discussing the failure of the
USA relative to Test/Trace/Isolate.

Failing the Test — The Tragic Data Gap Undermining the U.S. Pandemic Response

 

The importance of  Reviving the US CDC after annual cuts by the Trump Administration is discussed here.

On March 25 the NEJM published an editorial on responding to the pandemic.

We did not follow the recommendations.

The AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE, a conservative think-tank, published a comprehensive Roadmap to Reopening.

Unfortunately we have not followed that roadmap.

So boost your immune system and meet the challenge with your personal behavior. Be smart.

  1. Avoid alcohol consumption (alcohol wreaks havoc with your immunity)
  2. Get plenty of sleep (without adequate sleep your immune system does not work well )
  3. You must follow good sleep habits
  4. Exercise, especially out of doors in a green space, supports the immune system
  5. Get some sunshine and make sure you have adequate Vitamin D levels.
  6. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet rich in micronutrients.
  7. Practice stress reduction like meditation and yoga which improves the immune system
  8. Eliminate sugar-added foods and beverages from your diet. These increase inflammation, cause metabolic dysfunction, and suppress immunity.

THIS WEBSITE PROVIDES INFORMATION FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. CONSULT YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER FOR MEDICAL ADVICE.

Eat clean, drink filtered water, love, laugh, exercise outdoors in a greenspace, get some morning sunlight, block the blue light before bed, engage in meaningful work, find a sense of purpose, spend time with those you love, AND sleep well tonight.

Doctor Bob

 

COVID-19: ARDS, CYTOKINE STORM, and GLUTATHIONE

My good friend Dr. Deborah Gordon recently sent me a terrific article on an Integrative Medicine Approach to Covid-19. It confirmed much of what I have discussed about COVID-19 and provides 383 scientific references (many of which were cited in my previous posts). Thank you Dr. Deborah!

In my last post I promised to write about glutathione and cytokine storm.

Cytokines are proteins made by our immune system. When our body suffers an infection, cytokines act as essential signaling proteins that produce a defensive inflammatory response. In a cytokine storm the usual regulatory process that helps resolve inflammation becomes disturbed and self destruction can occur.

With COVID-19 this can happen in any organ of the body but frequently starts in the lungs, resulting in ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome).

In most clinical contexts the mortality rate of ARDS is 40-45%. In the context of COVID-19 it is 80-90 % lethal in most clinical reports (twice the usual mortality rate for ARDS). However, the ICU doctors in the Northwell Hospital system in NYC have been using NAC (n-Acetylcysteine).

While using NAC as part of their treatment protocol of COVID-19 associated ARDS, they are getting 50% of patients off the ventilator with a significant reduction in mortality rates compared to previous reports (personal communication with a Northwell physician and also mentioned in the Review Article cited above.)

This drug (also available as a dietary supplement) has been used for decades to treat acetaminophen (APAP) overdose (Tylenol brand name, also called paracetamol in Europe). If not treated early APAP overdose commonly causes death from liver failure.

Chronic acetaminophen toxicity is the most common cause of liver failure leading to liver transplant in the US.

How does this treatment  with NAC work in the setting of APAP overdose?

“When paracetamol is taken in large quantities, a minor metabolite called N-acetyl-p-benzoquinone imine (NAPQI) accumulates within the body. It is normally conjugated by glutathione, but when taken in excess, the body’s glutathione reserves are not sufficient to deactivate the toxic NAPQI. This metabolite is then free to react with key hepatic enzymes, thereby damaging liver cells. This may lead to severe liver damage and even death by acute liver failure.”

NAC (n-acetylcysteine) provides cysteine, one of the three amino acids that make up glutathione.

“glutathione synthesis is primarily controlled by the cellular level of the amino acid cysteine, the availability of which is the rate-limiting step.”

So by providing a source of cysteine, the body produces more glutathione which can detoxify the liver damaging metabolites of APAP.

Glutathione is our MASTER ANTI-OXIDANT. Since a cytokine storm involves an overwhelming amount of oxidative stress, glutathione is obviously important.

Clinical research in the 1990s established that the lungs of patients with ARDS are very deficient in glutathione.

A profound 20 fold reduction was confirmed in this study.

“Glutathione is a tripeptide that is able to react with and effectively neutralize oxidants, such as hydrogen peroxide. The present study found that the alveolar epithelial lining fluid of patients with ARDS was deficient in total glutathione compared with that of normal subjects (31.5 ± 8.4 versus 651.0 ± 103.1 µM, p = 0.0001) and patients with cardiogenic pulmonary edema (31.5 ± 8.4 versus 154.1 ± 52.4 µM, p = 0.001). In addition, a greater percentage of total glutathione was in the oxidized form in patients with ARDS compared with normal subjects (30.6 ± 6.1 versus 6.4 ± 2.9%, p = 0.03). This deficiency of reduced glutathione in the alveolar fluid may predispose these patients to enhanced lung cell injury.

Subsequent studies of humans with ARDS on ventilators showed clinical benefit by increasing glutathione levels with NAC.

“In our controlled clinical trials with NAC we found that patients with ARDS have depressed plasma and red cell glutathione concentrations, that these levels are substantially increased by therapy with intravenous NAC and there are measurable clinical responses to treatment with regard to increased oxygen delivery, improved lung compliance and resolution of pulmonary edema.”

Despite these findings decades ago, the use of NAC for ARDS has not been widely adopted. But it would make sense to employ this inexpensive medication, widely used for APAP overdose, for ARDS and in particular for cytokine storm caused by COVID-19.

Oxidative stress decreases glutathione levels and if these levels reach a critically  low level in tissues, organ damage can ensue rapidly. Cytokine storm is the extreme example.

Chronic alcohol abuse also decreases protective glutathione levels in the lung.

In my recent posts on COVID-19 I have pointed out that alcohol (even 2 drinks) suppresses the immune system for at least a few days. Alcohol consumption is a double hit, first as an immune suppressant, then as a major source of oxidative stress and reduction in protective glutathione levels. Two glasses of wine tonight followed by a COVID-19 sneeze in your face the next day could be the difference between an effective immune response (mild symptoms) versus an overwhelming life threatening infection!

Likewise, one night of inadequate sleep (which immediately suppresses immunity) followed by a COVID sneeze in your face the next day could have the same deleterious effect.

Below is a chart from the review article mentioned at the start of this post. Notice the top line states “ADDRESS SLEEP, STRESS, DIET, SUGAR, ALCOHOL

If you have been reading my posts on COVID-19, you have heard this before.

integrative medicine chart

Notice the second row in the chart with escalating doses of NAC as intensity of disease increases. When cytokine storm hits NAC dose recommendations peak and glutathione (available for IV administration) is recommended. IV glutathione surprisingly is not part of most hospital formularies and I have never seen it used in a hospital setting. Functional medicine physicians sometimes use it outside of the hospital setting. IV glutathione has become a sexy and lucrative office procedure in some functional medicine practices.

NAC has high bioavailability, meaning it is absorbed well in our gut. So oral supplementation can rapidly and effectively increase levels of glutathione in the body. IN FACT, treatment of acetaminophen overdose in the ER typically begins with oral NAC (often administered through a naso-gastric feeding tube, passed through the nose and into the stomach) Doses are often calculated by the regional poison control center (available by phone 24/7/365) and subsequent doses follow a standard protocol based on weight.

I would encourage you to read through this COVID-19 INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE review article.

It is thick with science but you might be surprised by how much you understand and learn.

In the chart above there is specific mention of Vitamin C supplementation in escalating doses as degree of illness increases. Vitamin C is an important anti-oxidant and in that sense is a glutathione sparing agent helping to mitigate glutathione depletion.

Other important factors mentioned in the article and the chart above include items mentioned here in previous posts: ZINC, ZINC IONOPHORES, phytochemicals (quercitin, EGCg, curcumin), Vitamin D, exercise, sleep, stress reduction, sunshine.

So I will close this post the way I have closed on many posts related to COVID-19.

Support your immune system.

  1. Avoid alcohol consumption (alcohol wreaks havoc with your immunity)
  2. Get plenty of sleep (without adequate sleep your immune system does not work well )
  3. Follow good sleep habits
  4. Exercise, especially out of doors in a green space, supports the immune system
  5. Get some sunshine and make sure you have adequate Vitamin D levels.
  6. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet rich in micronutrients.
  7. Practice stress reduction like meditation and yoga which improves the immune system
  8.  Eliminate sugar-added foods and beverages from your diet, sugar increases inflammation, contributes to metabolic dysfunction and impairs immunity.

In a future post I will describe my PERSONAL approach to dietary supplements in the context of COVID-19. I will also discuss the issue of an ADVANCED DIRECTIVE, in case you are hospitalized.

THIS WEBSITE PROVIDES INFORMATION FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. CONSULT YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER FOR MEDICAL ADVICE.

Eat clean, drink filtered water, love, laugh, exercise outdoors in a greenspace, get some morning sunlight, block the blue light before bed, engage in meaningful work, find a sense of purpose, spend time with those you love, AND sleep well tonight.

Doctor Bob

Glutathione review links are below:

Glutathione!

Mitochondrial Glutathione, a key survival antioxidant

Glutathione: overview of its protective roles, measurement, and biosynthesis

 

 

 

Study shows only 12% of US adults are metabolically healthy!

What does this mean? The authors of this study looked at several important markers of health: waist circumference, fasting blood sugar, hemoglobin A1c, blood pressure, triglycerides, HDL, and whether someone was taking any medication related to these markers. They used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2009-2016. Only 12.3% of US adults qualified as healthy on all measures. So how did we get into this horrible situation?

Let’s step back and look at modifiable factors that play into these health measures.

  • Adequate restorative sleep
  • Stress
  • Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Sunlight (Vitamin D)
  • Social connection
  • Environmental toxins
  • Rest

I have discussed the importance of sleep in several posts. Following this link you will find recommendations for good sleep habits that can enhance the quality and duration of your sleep.

If you have not watched Dan Pardi’s discussion of “HOW TO OPTIMIZE LIGHT FOR HEALTH” I recommend you watch this.

STRESS

Stress reduction is a huge topic. Managing stress involves so many areas it deserves a separate discussion. But here are some basics. Getting adequate sleep is the place to start. Activities like Meditation, Yoga, moderate exercise (walking outdoors in a green space) Tai Chi, music, practicing Mindfulness, and spending time with family and friends are all potential avenues to reduce the deletrious effects of stress in our lives.

NUTRITION

I have presented one approach to an anti-inflammatory diet  and if you have not read through the details just follow the link. The low hanging fruit begins with elimination of processed foods, sweetened beverages, and pro-inflammatory “vegetable oils” (OILS made from corn, soy, cottonseed, safflower, sunflower, canola, margarine). EAT WHOLE FOODS.

TO LEARN ABOUT THE ILL-EFFECTS OF “VEGETABLE OILS” LISTEN TO NINA:

EXERCISE

My post about exercise as medicine can be found here. 

The best way to exercise is to play as described by my friend Daryl Edwards in his TED talk.

 

Most Americans do not get enough, but some get too much. Moderation is important.

SUNLIGHT

Getting outdoor light exposure early in the day and avoiding the deleterious effects of artificial light in the evening (wear blue light blocking glasses in the evening) are two important ways to get the most benefit from light exposure, improve your sleep and enhance your Vitamin D level. Exercise outdoors in a green space provides more benefit than walking the treadmill indoors.

SOCIAL CONNECTION

Blue Zones are areas in the world that have the greatest numbers of individuals living to age 100. The climates and food varies among the various areas. They  all have two things in common. First is a high degree of social connection, strong family ties, lifelong friends. Social connection within a supportive community is arguably one of the most important factors affecting health, longevity, and healthspan. Second, they eat REAL WHOLE FOOD.

blue zones longevity hotspots.jpg

 

ENVIORNMENTAL TOXINS

Part of eliminating environmental toxins includes consuming organic fruits and vegetables and eating meat, poultry and eggs from hormone-free, antibiotic-free, free- range/pastured sources. (ALL PART OF AN ANCESTRAL/PALEO DIET) If you are not familiar with the “dirty dozen” and the “clean 15” head on over to EWG.org where you will learn not only about what foods have the most/least residual pesticides, but also what personal care products and household cleaners are safe for you and your family.

WATER: Because humans have spent the last 4-5 decades polluting our air and water there is probably no water supply that is totally free of enviornmental toxins. To minimize your consumption of enviornmental toxins, filter your drinking water through a high quality system.

REST

Matthew Redlund MD has written a great book “THE POWER OF REST”. Here he discusses why sleep is not enough.

The fact that only 12% of American adults are metabolically healthy should be cause for great alarm. All chronic and degenerative  diseases including dementia, heart disease, stroke, arthritis and cancer rise as metabolic health deteriorates.

Remember, this website offers educational information only. Consult your health care provider for medical advice.

Sleep well, exercise outdoors, laugh, love, engage in meaningful work, drink filtered water, eat clean, eat whole foods, get plenty of sunshine, spend time with those you love.

Doctor Bob

 

Can LED light bulbs, computer screens and TV make your pain worse?

The answer is probably yes.

The mechanism(s) go like this:

Exposure to full spectrum light in the evening > reduces quantity and quality of restorative sleep which in turn > increases chronic inflammation and contributes to depression both of which make pain worse.

Exposure to full spectrum light in the evening also > reduces nitric oxide production > which increases blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease and metabolic disorders.

In animal studies interruption of circadian rhythm with artificial light exposure when the animal would typically be sleeping decreases memory capacity.

And fat tissue has specific receptors for light which alters fat storage. Increased visceral fat produces more inflammatory cytokines and chemokines which sensitize pain fibers and increase inflammation throughout the body.

Exposure to artificial light in the evening even worsens the grades of children in school.

Adequate restorative sleep is so important that I prescribe all patients with chronic pain 2 pages of  sleep hygiene recommendations.

To optimize your circadian rhythm get some early morning light exposure (without sunglasses) before 12 noon and at sundown reduce your ambient light exposure to mimic the natural light outdoors. Sleep in absolute darkness and wear blue light blocking glasses in the evening.

You can learn more about this topic by listening to a 12 minute TEDtalk by Dan Pardi who does research in the Circadian LAB at Stanford.

Hat tip to Tommy Wood for bringing this TEDtalk to my attention.

Sleep well.

Doctor Bob.

My Autoimmune Disease: remission with the AIP (and one medication)

In September of 2018 I awakened with swollen, red and painful hands. I could not make a fist. I could not grip a steering wheel without extreme pain. I left dropped items on the floor because it was too painful to pick them up. All of my joints were painful and stiff. My legs were swollen. My wife had to help dress me so I could go to work. The simplest hand techniques to perform nerve blocks were painful. Just putting on sterile gloves caused severe pain. This happened just a few days after a week of camping. I felt weak all over and had trouble sleeping, unable to find a comfortable position.

(My camping vacation included digressions from my typical paleo/ancestral diet. I drank wine, ate some gluten containing foods and some dairy. I ate some wheat and sugar containing deserts.)

As a physician I ordered a variety of blood tests for tick born illness (such as Lyme’s Disease), rheumatoid arthritis, and other disorders that could cause my symptoms. All tests were negative except for an inflammatory marker (hsCRP) which was very high.

I queried physician friends about something I may have overlooked. No suggestions were forthcoming above and beyond what I had already done.

I prescribed myself a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug  NSAID. That provided modest relief but I was still suffering severe symptoms.

After 6 stubborn weeks I consulted a rheumatologist and he diagnosed me as having  “sero-negative” rheumatoid arthritis. Given the choice of several pharmaceutical interventions I chose the least toxic and started a drug called hydroxychloroquine. I was told it would take about 3 months to produce results, and in the meantime should continue the NSAID.

I immediately started to follow the Autoimmune Protocol AIP

Within one week of the AIP the redness in the joints of my hands was gone.

Within 2 weeks the pain in my joints was significantly reduced.

Within 3 weeks the swelling in my hands/fingers was completely gone and I stopped the NSAID. I no longer had pain in my hands and fingers while doing every day tasks.

Within 4 weeks I was able to resume my daily yoga and Pilates routine.

Within six weeks I felt in complete remission.

My rheumatologist agreed that I appeared to be in remission at follow up visit (no signs of inflammation, synovitis, etc., on examination with resolution of presenting symptoms) but he was and remains skeptical about the auto-immune protocol.

My clinical response was clearly way ahead of the expected time sequence for hydroxychloroquine. I concluded that the AIP was a major factor in my recovery.

All X-rays and MRI scans of my joints (which have suffered from osteoarthritis) were negative for the typical findings associated with rheumatoid arthritis.

The autoimmune protocol is a combination of lifestyle modifications involving diet, sleep, exercise, and stress reduction. It goes beyond the paleo diet. The paleo (ancestral) diet  eliminates processed/refined foods,  grains, legumes, dairy, added sugar, and refined vegetable oils. It stresses the consumption of a variety of organic vegetables and organic fruit, grass-fed meats, organ meats, free range poultry and eggs, wild seafood. The auto-immune protocol adds further restrictions: no nuts, eggs, nightshades, seeds, spices from seeds, and absolutely no alcohol.

There are many reasons for the added restrictions under the AIP. The added dietary restrictions are important for what they avoid but also important for the resulting increase in other beneficial foods that are allowed. The foods are omitted because they can cause or contribute to: gut irritation, dysbiosis, act as carrier molecules across the gut barrier, increase gut permeability, and/or cause inflammation. In theory, by eliminating those foods (hopefully on a temporary basis) and substituting nutrient dense less potentially harmful foods, we reduce some of the contributing factors to autoimmunity and inflammation.

For a detailed discussion of the AIP I suggest you visit Sarah Ballantyne’s  website and read her book: The Paleo Approach, Reverse Autoimmune disease and Heal Your Body.

Avoiding potentially harmful foods and beverages while increasing healthy nutrient dense foods represents the major focus of many individuals following the AIP. But equally important are the other lifestyle components. These include obtaining adequate  restorative sleep, reducing/managing stress (Stress Reduction and Health), getting reasonable amounts of playful exercise (this should be fun and occur in a green space as much as possible), sunshine, eliminating exposure to  environmental toxins, drinking filtered water, and frequent contact with supportive family and friends. Without addressing all of these areas one is not likely to succeed in achieving remission from an auto-immune disease.

In addition to Sarah’s Ballantyne’s book and website, if you have an auto-immune disease I recommend Dr. Terry Wahl’s website and book. Dr. Wahl’s, a medical school faculty physician, teacher and researcher,  was wheelchair bound with Multiple Sclerosis and facing death having failed all available medical treatments as well as some experimental drug protocols. She read about functional medicine, paleo nutrition and evolutionary biology in order to create her own treatment plan. One year latter she was in remission and riding her bike 20 miles. She subsequently raised money to do clinical research using her version of the AIP and has published a successful clinical trial.

There have been few controlled clinical trials of the AIP for auto-immune disease, largely because it does not involve drug research (no profits to be made) and because the NIH does not like to fund studies that alter multiple parameters at one time. Unfortunately, NIH funding has followed a drug and surgery model of medical treatment and does not look favorably on lifestyle interventions (one exception being the Mediterranean diet). I hope that bias changes in the future. In the meantime, physicians and scientists like Terry Wahls MD and Dale Bredesen MD, PhD (neurologist/researcher/author, The End of Alzheimer’s) remain pioneers in functional medicine and lifestyle interventions, being left to start their own foundations and raise money to fund medical research.

Both of these physicians have conducted clinical trials of lifestyle interventions (see below) that have produced revolutionary results, largely ignored by major medical societies and medical organizations. Progress occurs slowly, today’s iconoclasts are often tomorrows Nobel laureates.

Sometimes, despite significant clinical improvement with the AIP, some medication remains necessary with an auto-immune disease. If the auto-immune disease has been present for a long time, permanent damage may be present. That does not represent failure. If one can reduce drug doses, eliminate one or more drugs from a complicated medical regimen, and improve symptoms beyond what drugs alone achieve, I would call that success. Anecdotal reports from many patients (including my own) with auto-immune disease, suggest that it is not a cure-all, and those that show significant clinical improvement demonstrate various time responses ranging from weeks to several months in order to see results. But there are no down-sides to the AIP, no bad side-effects, no dangerous drugs, and only potential for clinical improvement. That seems like a no-brainer to me.

After eight weeks of strict dietary adherence, having achieved remission and appearing to be stable, I slowly added back small amounts of eggs, nuts and some nightshades (one at a time, observing for negative responses). I have been successful with that approach. I have not suffered any symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis since my initial remission. I remain on a paleo/ancestral diet and remain very cautions with regards to sleep habits, exercise, stress reduction, and social support. I try to laugh frequently and continue to engage in meaningful work. All of these components are essential to the AIP and to healthy living in general.

The following are links to published studies on the auto-immune protocol as well as links to a similar lifestyle intervention for Alzheimer’s disease. Another link is an editorial on inflammatory bowel disease and diet. The Autoimmune Protocol has been studied for Inflammatory Bowel Disease. In a peer reviewed published clinical trial it improved symptoms and inflammation seen on endoscopy, even producing remission in some patients. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5647120/) It has also been studied for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and found to be effective .(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6592837/)

Efficacy of the Autoimmune Protocol for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Efficacy of the Autoimmune Protocol for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Randomized control trial evaluation of a modified Paleolithic dietary intervention in the treatment of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis: a pilot study.

Multimodal intervention improves fatigue and quality of life in subjects with progressive multiple sclerosis: a pilot study.

Diet and Inflammatory Bowel Disease

A Multimodal, Nonpharmacologic Intervention Improves Mood and Cognitive Function in People with Multiple Sclerosis.

Reversal of cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease.

Inhalational Alzheimer’s disease: an unrecognized – and treatable – epidemic.

A colleague and scientist (Pedro Bastos), after reading my post, sent the following links to related articles (two by Loren Cordain, and a Master’s Thesis by one of his graduate students). For those interested in understanding the theories of molecular mimicry as triggers and mechanisms in autoimmune disease, Cordain’s work is outstanding.

Cereal grains, double-edged sword, Loren Cordain, 1999, Evolutionary Aspects of Nutrition and Health.

Rheumatoid Arthritis, molecular mimicry, dietary lectins, Loren Cordain, 2000, British Journal of Nutrition

Master’s Thesis, auto-immune disease and Paleo Diet, Trevor Connor

Eat clean, sleep well, exercise out-doors, get sunshine, love and laugh.

Bob Hansen MD

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

Weight loss, discussion by Tommy Wood MD, PhD

My friend and colleague, Dr. Tommy Wood, recently posted a terrific discussion on weight loss and the many factors to consider. You can read it here. Should Calorie Counting Be the Main Focus for Somebody Trying to Lose Weight (Body Fat)? | Nourish Balance Thrive

Tommy is the smartest physician I know. He researches a topic extensively and carefully separates bad science from good science.

If Tommy renders an opinion, you can take it to the bank.

Read the NBT post by Tommy at the link above and you will not be disappointed. Then sign up to receive short weekly e-mails with sound advice on health and nutrition.

I have discussed the importance of circadian rhythm, restorative sleep, hormonal effects of food choices, and the effects of stress. Tommy covers all of these and much more with links to scientific papers if you are interested in delving deeply into the issues. But if you just want sound advice on weight loss,  read the post and organize your life around improving your habits as he recommends.

Live clean, eat real food, spend time with friends and family, hug someone every day, engage in meaningful work, get sunshine early in the day, exercise in a green space and live in the moment.

Doctor Bob.