Life Optimising Hacks: Perform well by day – sleep well by night
We only have one life and regardless of how much money you have, if you are tired, miserable and in pain then it isn’t much fun. As the saying goes, ‘Health is Wealth’ and I feel this is true if you are 5 yrs or 90 yrs old. To fully enjoy and make the most of life, whatever you choose to do with it, mental and physical health are the key.
Welcome to my world of bio-optimisation
We do not come with an instruction manual and in our ‘hectic information over load’ society it is very easy to get confused and overwhelmed, particularly when it comes to what is healthy and what isn’t. I want to share 10 simple tips and insights I have learned over 20yrs for you to learn how to optimise your biology and hormones to help you feel better, look better, sleep better and perform better. There are of course more, but I’ve focused on key ones that can easily be implemented by anyone, and there’s only so much room on the page!
Science is one of my life passions, and it is through this and my experience and training that I have developed these key life enhancing hacks. I studied biochemistry & genetics for my degree and my PhD is in molecular mechanisms. I have taught Pilates and other movement classes for 10yrs, I am trained in functional neurology and I am a certified hypnotist and have been helping people using hypnosis and related therapies since 2013. I have studied religion and religious practices since I was at school, as well as eastern medicine, so I am familiar with meridians, energy flow and ancient herbal medicine, although I am not trained in therapies like acupuncture or Ayurvedic medicine.
Here are some of the top questions I regularly get asked:
- How do I get a good nights sleep?
- Does meat heal or harm?
- Does six meals a day ‘boost the metabolism’ or cause health issues?
- Should I take vitamins?
- What are all these chemicals in the environment doing to our bodies and what can we do to protect myself and my family?
- Why am I still overweight even though I do ‘everything right’?
- What kind of exercise is best?
- Is fasting key to health or just an eating disorder in disguise?
- Is coffee good or bad?
- Does a glass of red wine help with heart disease or is it the root of gut issues?
- How do we look after our spiritual health now that religious practice of all kinds is on the decline?
- Why am I tired all the time even though I go to bed early’?
- Is mindfulness just woo-woo or is it key to health?
I will cover these questions and my top 10 hacks in more detail with some further links provided below. As we all like to learn in different ways, I made a video for this topic for those of you who prefer to watch/listen rather than read. Just scroll down or click HERE.
Controlling Your Hormones To Control Your Wellbeing
Hormones are like chemical messengers in the body and there are 100s of them and they have different jobs and this biological messaging system needs to work properly for you to feel good and function well. I will outline a few key hormones that are important in optimising your health that you have some control over by using my 10 diet and lifestyle tips. I will also introduce you to some biological processes which are important to health:
- Melatonin – Going to sleep hormone,Cortisol / Adrenalin – Gears & wakening up, but also stress hormones if out of balance.
- Insulin – Storage and growth hormone, important for blood sugar stability, bodyweight and preventing insulin resistance / type 2 diabetes.
- Growth Hormone – Repairing, rejuvenating and renewing cells in the body
- Thyroid Hormones – Accelerator peddle which runs your metabolism.
- Mitochondria – Makes energy for the cells also called the powerhouse of the cell.
- Autophagy – Body’s trash management. Removal old, damaged and malfunctioning cells.
- Circadian Rhythm /Body clock – Disrupting your body clock with bad sleep, eating at the wrong time, getting too much blue/junk light and not enough natural sunlight leads to health issues and mood problems.
- Cerebellum – The ‘little brain behind your brain’. This is your brain’s 2nd in command and is key for learning, balance, movement, speech, vision and balance. You want to have a good cerebellum, particularly as you get older.
- Detox – Cells pushing toxins out, processing them and moving the them out properly through the liver, gut, kidneys and skin.
- Inflammation – ‘Irritated cells’ leads to pain, tiredness, brain fog, weight gain, water retention & disease.
Modern Disease and Illness
You would think everything would be rosy in the western world now that we have pretty much eradicated infections diseases like polio, cholera and TB, we have excellent medical facilities, 1000s of medicines/supplements and an abundance of food.
However here is an epidemic of modern diseases which affect people of all ages that result from junk light, bad sleep, processed food, too much food, toxins and lack of movement.
- Chronic pain
- Chronic fatigue
- Allergies and autoimmune disease
- Gut issues
The reason for the rise in these conditions is multi-faceted but the impact our modern lifestyles and diet has on our mental and physical health is undeniable.
Humans are incredibly innovate, creative and intelligent and the amazing technology we have created makes my mind boggle.
However, our genes which in a nut shell are the instructions to make a human, are still designed for when we lived in caves, hunted for food, moved from place to place, ate simple wholesome food, slept a lot, spent a lot of time outside, went days without food and had no electricity or pollution. Our biology hasn’t had time to ‘catch up’ with our modern day luxuries and technology.
To add to this we have invented 100,000s of chemicals, some which are incredibly helpful and life saving. However some are harmful and our biology hasn’t had a chance to learn how to ‘detoxify’ ourselves from these new chemicals. There are some plants and compounds like alcohol, cannabis, coffee, tea and many more which humans have been enjoying for 1000s of years, so to some extent we can still ‘have fun and stay healthy’, if they are used sensibly and correctly.
In addition, we have made holes in the ozone layer, polluted our environment, invented processed food and machines to ‘do everything for us’ as well as fun but addictive things like Netflix, social media and computer games.
Top tips to live a healthy life in the 21st century
In brief, here are my top 10 tips and I go into more detail below so you can understand the biology, impact and effects of these key hacks:
- Sleep is vital for health – Invest some time into learning and practicing goof ‘sleep hygiene’
- Minimise artificial ‘junk light’ and blue light from screens and LED lights, particularly in the evening as they will cause a bad night’s sleep. Get natural sunlight and go out in nature when you have the chance
- Fasting will help you control your insulin levels and weight. Fasting also increases growth hormone, decreases inflammation, encourages autophagy (body spring cleaning), helps with gut issues and dental issues by giving these areas a rest from food. Eating every few hours is not good nor is eating before bed.
- Good quality grass fed and unprocessed animal produce like meat, eggs and wild caught fish contain easy to absorb protein, good fats, vitamins and minerals in the correct form that your body can absorb. Much better than supplements
- All exercise is good and do not underestimate the power of walking. Complex movements in dance, Pilates, yoga, martial arts and Tai chi keep you mobile and flexible are also good for your brain, particularly your cerebellum. Resistance training that involves body weight exercises or lifting weights is key for metabolic health, strength and health regardless of your age.
- If you want to drink coffee or alcohol then limit your intake. Wait till 9.30am for your first cup of coffee to avoid making your cortisol go too high, avoid coffee after 2pm and avoid alcohol before bed as they will disrupt your sleep
- Avoid taking in toxins to keep inflammation down protect your thyroid gland, mitochondria and cerebellum as they are the most sensitive to toxins and if you damage these you will run into health problems.
- Learn how to remove toxins safely and effectively from your body. Juicing and green smoothies are not good ways to detox and you can end up putting more toxins back in to your body.
- Do not underestimate the value and power of spiritual health, meditative activities, meditation for health and managing stress.
- Always do your own research from valid scientific sources and publications, not Google and ‘the media’. Be careful of following the views just one person ! One size doesn’t fit all and nobody knows everything, including me!
Sleep Hacks & Junk Light – Tips 1 & 2
Research is increasingly showing that bad sleep is just as bad as poor diet and not exercising; it is linked to many diseases such as obesity, cancer, dementia, depression, anxiety and diabetes. If you are prone to chronic pain a bad nights sleep is very likely to make your pain worse.
Avoid screens or bright light about 2 hrs before bed as blue light inhibits the production if melatonin, our natural sleep hormone. If you can limit how much blue light you are exposed to from screens during the day that will help keep your cortisol (stress hormone) and appetite hormones under control as well as helping you get a good nights sleep.
Blue light and UV can also damage your eyes resulting in irreversible eye damage and sight issues. There are glasses available that can block out blue light in the day and all light in the evening if you do have to work on your computer a lot or late in the evening.
Expose your self to natural sunlight in the morning for about 10 min or more by going outside to ‘set your body clock for the day’.
If you are after a supplement for sleeping the best one in my view is liposomal melatonin, made by Quicksilver Scientific. Melatonin is your natural sleep hormone and taking it in a liposomal form means it will be absorbed more quickly and effectively than a tablet. I never had much luck with melatonin powders or tablets. Liposomal melatonin is also extremely useful for minimising ‘Jet Lag’.
Avoid taking B-vitamins or multi-vitamins in the evening as the B-vitamins are used to make certain neurotransmitters (brain chemicals).Too much of the more stimulating neurotransmitters when you are trying to get to sleep can make you jittery, anxious and lead to insomnia.
For more information on ‘junk light’, sleep facts and ways to get a better nights sleep click HERE
Food and Eating -Tips 3 & 4
Nowadays it can get very confusing what is healthy and what is not when it comes to diet. My three key points here would be:
- The amount and when we consume
- The source and quality of produce
- Nutritional content, vitamins and minerals
The amount and when we consume – Fasting
Fasting offers a wide variety of health benefits and can help you avoid disease and lose weight. It is perfectly safe, normal and healthy to be hungry and humans are very well equipped to go days without food.
Fasting is great for gut issues as it gives the gut a chance to heal as digesting food (particularly the wrong type) is stressful for the gut. Gut health is key for a healthy immune system and brain as you may have heard of the Gut-Brain connection.
Fasting is also very helpful for people with autoimmune disorders so if you suffer from one of these then strongly consider fasting as a method to minimise symptoms.
Source, quality and nutritional content of food
Humans are hunter gatherers and we have been eating animal produce and meat, as well as whatever plants we could find ever since we existed. Farmed grains like wheat, and corn are not healthy and are something relatively new our ‘cave man genetics’. If you are struggling with health, gut or weight issues try cutting out wheat and grains as they are inflammatory and often contain mould toxins due to storage. Some people are very sensitive to mould toxin and removing it gets rid of their health problems. These would be issues like chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, weight issues and mood issues.
Eating good quality, grass fed meat, eggs and live kefir is fine. Animal/fish produce are ‘complete foods’, containing all the nutrients you need, particularly if you eat organ meats like liver or heart or whole animals like mussels, clams. Wild caught, non-farmed fish is great too as it provides a good source of omega-3 oils that are key for brain health. Tuna and swordfish should be limited due to the high mercury content. High sugar, processed foods along with cheap vegetable oils like canola, sunflower and soya, particularly if they are used to fry food, should also be avoided as they are very inflammatory.
Due to the depletion of minerals like zinc, magnesium, chromium from the soil, getting enough minerals can be hard. When it comes to vitamins they need to be in the correct form and this means that vitamins from plants, animals and tablets are not the same. Getting minerals and vitamins from plant form is harder than in animal form as the plants lock their nutrients away to keep them for themselves, so if you eat a plant based diet you will need to take some vitamin and mineral supplements.
People with autoimmune disease and inflammatory diseases like arthritis often eliminate or drastically reduce their symptoms by following the carnivore diet which excludes all plants. This sounds like some crazy fad diet but there are lots and lots of very inflammatory compounds in plants which upset the immune system. There is lots of autoimmune disease in my family and my brother has ankylosing spondylitis, which is why I have researched this topic in depth. To learn more about the carnivore diet and health look up Dr Paul Saladino MD or Dr Shawn Baker MD they also have lots of useful videos on YouTube to help you.
Exercise – Tip 5
The body is a machine that is designed to move, so it is common sense that sitting all day is no good for health. Moving about is key for staying mobile, flexible and injury free. Going to exercise classes or sports clubs is a way to meet people and loneliness or feeling isolated are health risks in themselves and bad for mental health
My two key tips here are both mobility and stability matter: You need to be both strong and flexible.
If you are very flexible or ‘bendy’ it can mean your joint and ligaments are not supported properly making injuries or dislocations more likely.
People who are very strong can often be very stiff and lack of joint mobility not only makes you more injury prone it actually limits your strength too. Gymnasts and Olympic lifters are both very strong and very flexible.
Exercises like Pilates, dance, yoga and tai chi also stimulate the brain and nervous system and help improve coordination. This is because complex and new movements stimulate the cerebellum, which is the little brain behind the brain. You cerebellum is vital for efficient brain function, accurate movement, learning, balance, vision, coordination, emotional balance, memory and speech. After the age of 40, if you do not train your nervous system, balance system and visual system they will degrade. ‘Use it or lose it’.
Resistance training (using weights or body weight) is vital for keeping muscle mass which is key to health – and it doesn’t have to involve getting ‘bulky’. Muscle is active metabolically so it is helpful for weight management and helping with blood sugar / diabetes it gives the sugar in the blood somewhere to go. Muscle is particularly important for older people who want a good quality of life.
Don’t under estimate the power of walking! Even three 10 min walks a day offers health benefits. Going out in the sun is important in order to make vitamin D3 which plays a role in over 200 reactions in the body and low vitamin D3 can give chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia like symptoms. The form of vitamin D3 your body makes itself from cholesterol and sunlight is the best and it is ok not to wear sunscreen for a bit as long as you do not let yourself burn of course. Washing yourself or your kids too much affects how well your skin makes vitamin D3. It is also great to be out in nature and walk barefoot on the ground and this is called earthing or grounding. For more information on the health benefits of grounding visit https://www.groundology.co.uk/
There are 100s of activities out there for people of all ages and sizes as the gym and exercises classes are not to everyone’s taste. Find something you enjoy!
Coffee and Alcohol – Tip 6
If you don’t tolerate coffee or caffeine then avoid it, same with alcohol. If they are one of your guilty pleasures then wait until after 9.30am if possible for your first cup of coffee as this is when your cortisol levels have dropped. Cortisol is the hormone that wakes you up in the morning and you cant live without it, but it is also a stress hormone so you do not want it too high. Coffee is a stimulant and raises cortisol in some people more than others so having a very strong coffee too early can be over stimulating.
Buy good quality organic coffee if you can as well as supporting your local bean roasting business rather than places like Starbucks. If you are sensitive to mould toxins or want to avoid them then make sure you buy certified mould free coffee. Here are 5 brands:
2-3 cups a day is plenty and try to avoid coffee or caffeine after 2pm to make sure it doesn’t affect your sleep at night. More about coffee and health HERE
Alcohol is often part of us being sociable so it has uses, as being lonely is a health risk too which is often ignored. Alcohol can wreak havoc on those with gut issues as it encourages leaky gut, so if you suffer from gut issues then give alcohol a miss while you focus on healing your gut.
A combination of Quicksilver liposomal glutathione, methylated B-vitamins and milk thistle can help prevent hangovers or limit the toxic effect of alcohol, but this isn’t a licence to get drunk every night. Take the combo before you go out and when you get back (if you remember !)
Liposomal forms of supplements are the best in my view as they get absorbed into the blood very fast through the thin skin in the mouth, where as lots of other supplements in tablet or powder form do not get absorbed properly.
Toxins – Tips 7 & 8
The first way to avoid the many problems toxins can cause to your brain and body is to avoid/limit taking them in. Lots of toxins come from cosmetics, perfumes, deodorants and cleaning products, so it is worth seeking out brands or local vendors who offer toxin free versions. As I mentioned earlier, avoid poor quality meat and food as they are full of all sorts of unpleasant chemicals Be careful of certain dyes, food colourings and fire retardants as these and other toxins disrupt hormones and enzymes in the body, resulting in a variety of health issues like brain-fog, weight gain, fatigue, pain, insomnia, anxiety, neurological problems and cancer.
The second way to deal with toxins is to follow a biochemical detox program to remove the toxins safely and effectively from your body using specific compound to push the toxins out of the cells and binders to escort them out of the body. There are different protocols or action plans for removing toxins and drinking green smoothies is NOT the way to do it and will often make things worse, particularly if you use vegetables that are sprayed with pesticides.
Spiritual health – Tip 9
This is something that is easy to be neglected in our hectic technology driven society. There is increasing research showing the benefits of meditation or calming meditative like activities on health. The benefits are lowered blood pressure, less anxiety, improved mood and even longevity.
Some examples of calming activities that you can do on your own to get into a meditative or trance state are below:
- Painting / Drawing
- Being in nature
Do Your Own Research – Tip 10
One size doesn’t fit all and get your information from scientific research not the newspaper or Google. There are lots of knowledgeable people out there to learn from too.
The body’s bio and metabolic infrastructure is a complex and intricate biological machine and scientist learn new things everyday. Although everybody is unique, there are lots ways to tap into how it works to enhance our performance and wellbeing.
My tips above offer some simple ways you can make positive changes in 2020 to start to perform better during the day, and sleeping better at night.
Thank you for reading
Please get in touch if you have any questions or would like to book a one to one consultation with me to discuss a bespoke plan.
Keto, Fasting Detox Workshop
Sat 11th Jan 2020 10am – Broadgate Chiropractic clinic
Click on the link or image to find out more or book
CBD, Cannabis and Other Medicinal Plants
Sat 25th Jan 2020- 10.30 – Broadgate clinic Leeds