“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
It must have been a special occasion almost thirty years ago when I opened the front door of my parents’ home and walked inside. It had been awhile since my last visit and I could smell food preparation coming from the kitchen. The dining room table was set with all the special table settings - plates from the china cabinet and silverware from the velvet lined wooden box. It might have been Passover, Thanksgiving or someone’s birthday; I just remember that that night was a gathering to come together in celebration of something.
There was something about the energy in the house that night that was different. As we sat down to eat, family and friends gathered around and instead of avoiding my father and turning my body away from his - something I did habitually without realizing it - I faced him at the table. Instead of averting my eyes so as not to be noticed by him, I looked at him, squarely. I had spent years trying to stay out of his way so as not to be a target of his rage and not to be within his line of fire, which could come at any time. On this night, I faced him, looked at him, without fear, hardly recognizing him. Who was this childlike man who sat there, shy, a little sheepish without speaking. The quieter he was, the more my mother talked, filling in the gaps of his emptiness. What was happening? Was I in the wrong house?
Dr. Dale Bredesen, author of The End of Alzheimer’s, has spent the last forty years researching the brain. In the book, he says that at the beginning of his research, his intention was to create a medication to stop, or reverse, the damage that comes from the ravages of cognitive decline. Over those many years as his research continued, instead of discovering a medication, he came to the realization that there would never be one medication that would stop the progression of the disease; there can not be just one medication because there is more than one type of Alzheimer’s disease. He realized that the only way to stop, prevent or reverse the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, was to change lifestyle habits. This stunning reality is not only important for those of us worried about the possibility of sinking into the heartbreak of Alzheimer’s as we age; it turns out that this group of lifestyle habits will also successfully treat or prevent all the diseases of our time - cancer, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders and Alzheimer’s dementia - successfully. Instead of compartmentalizing body parts and seeing specialists that are only good at one thing, when we live holistically, the body becomes healthy - All of it.
It’s often the simplest solutions to the most difficult problems; sometimes, they are so simple that we miss them altogether. After I heard Dr. Bredesen speak, I bought his book and have so far read through it twice. This information is groundbreaking, but also profoundly basic. The recommendations in this book can be found in the habits of the healthiest, most long lived people in the world, many of whom have no formal education. Instead of a laundry list of medications to take, visits to specialists and assisted living homes, the recommendations are those healthy habits that we seem to have left behind in our digital world. Yet, if we don’t go back to them and live as our ancestors did, we may not survive.
Yes, it takes more effort to change your diet, learn to prepare meals from scratch out of real food that doesn’t come out of a package. There is no quick fix medication for this. Yes, it takes an effort to design a movement plan, put it in your schedule every day and avoid sitting for hours at a time. There is no medication for this. Yes, it takes an effort to minimize stress by learning Mindfulness practices, but the outcome is wonderful when you get your life back and instead of losing your mind, you gain a spontaneous, sharp brain. It may not beat you over the head the way a medication does, but the subtleties are worth it. And, finally, it takes an effort to reach out to friends and family, create community and practice kindness. There is no medication for this, but our brains significantly heal for the better from this behavior and isn’t your brain worth it? Humans are tribal; our brains thrive when we connect face to face with one another. Put down your phone...
Give me your hand...
My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease when he was my age; he died shortly after. In his book, Bredesen leads us, step by step through the process of defining the types of Alzheimer’s disease and ways to avoid them. Along the way, you will not only learn to side step this terrible disease, but create a thriving body at the same time. The genetic factors of the disease are only one cause; even if you don’t have the ApoE4 gene, there are types of Alzheimer’s that have nothing to do with a genetic tendency. For instance, one type is caused by inflammatory factors which can be avoided by staying off sugar and treating Insulin Resistance. Another is chronic toxicity caused by exposure to mold or toxic chemicals that over time will damage the brain. Most importantly, all types can be avoided and treated successfully by creating lifestyle habits that rid your body of inflammation and toxicity.
This is a big subject, but an important one. What is more important than how your brain functions? In the next few blogs, I will take you along with me, defining the different types of Alzheimer’s more completely and showing you how to live in ways that will keep your brain and the rest of your body working optimally.
As I was leaving my parent’s home that night almost thirty years ago, dining room cleared and fine china washed, my mother met me at the door. “There have been some changes in your father. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed,” she said. I had noticed.
The mind can go in a thousand directions.
But on this beautiful path, I walk in peace.
With each step, a gentle wind blows.
With each step, a flower blooms.
-Thich Nhat Hanh
It’s a miracle, really, how the body heals. One day you are injured and the next, it’s as though nothing had ever happened. I deeply believe that bodies want to heal - they prefer a balanced state. I tell my patients this all the time, even when they come in with back pain that has lingered forever. It will heal, with the right steps, the right knowledge and the willingness to put in the work. All bodies want to heal. I see it every day and have experienced it in my own body.
Some years ago, I rented a house on a beautiful Malibu ranch with rich soil fed by a creek, well water and pounds of manure from surrounding properties. The land was owned by an Iowa farmer who never finished grade school, but was Iowa cunning and knew how to work the land. When I moved in, he gave me a small plot to grow my garden and left me to figure out how to do it. After hours of digging, making neat rows and finally planting the precious seeds, he walked by as I was watering each careful row. “Do you think it will grow”, I asked, anxiously; it was my first garden. He barely looked up and said, in the most confident, casual way, “It’ll grow”. Of course it would, because when you have all the right components - sun, great soil and enough water - things will grow. Just like, when you do the things that create health, bodies want to heal and be healthy.
About two weeks ago, I slipped walking down a steep, slippery trail, fell on my left arm and broke both long bones in my forearm close to the wrist. I heard them snap as I landed and the pain was terrible. When pain takes over, there are no other thoughts; the mind and its wisdom, beliefs, attitudes and even its intuitive insights are blocked by pain sensations. In this state, there is no reasoning.
I know this because almost ten years ago, I was in a similar predicament on a hiking trail with a large golden retriever on another sunny, Spring day. I broke lots more bones that day as the retriever jumped on me and we tumbled down the rocky trail together. I walked with a cane for the good part of that year. The pain of those shattered bones was like nothing I had ever experienced, but as soon as I could, I began to move. Every day, I hooked my feet to an elliptical machine, leaned on the bars and moved. Then, when I felt it was time, I laid down my yoga mat and went back to my practice. The depth of that practice enabled me to get rid of the cane and get back to my life as I knew it before the fall.
It had been such a beautiful spring day, Audrey enjoying splashing in creek water and running up the mountain. Everything was green from recent rains and there were puffy white clouds in bright blue sky - Idyllic. But, even these things were blocked by the realization that my life was about to change with visits to doctors and a cast on my arm. From Urgent Care to an Internist to a referral to a hand surgeon - three doctors later - I refused surgery and a hard cast. “I’m a Chiropractor who practices Functional Medicine”, I told them, “Let me manage this with you.” Three weeks in, inflammation and bruising are gone and movement is returning.
Whether you are looking to heal the symptoms of cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, cancer or osteoporosis, the basics are all the same; you must treat the whole body.
Until that first hiking accident eight years ago, I didn’t know I had osteoporosis and had not done a bone density scan. During the Functional Medicine Clinical Development program I am involved in, I was lucky enough to hear a lecture by Dr. Keith McCormick, a doctor whose expertise and experience is in treating osteoporosis. As an accomplished athlete himself, he had discovered hip fractures in his own body from intense training when he was just in his forties. We think of osteoporosis as a condition of elder women; the truth is, there are many causes for this bone weakening condition in both men and women and it can begin early without our realizing it.
While listening to his wonderful talk, I was glad to know that my instincts about health were aligned with his and that treating bones is a whole body activity requiring, among other things, a balanced gut microbiome, a blood alkaline state, appropriate movement and good supplementation. You will find these things in detail in his book, “The Whole-Body Approach to Osteoporosis.” In the meantime, here is what I have been doing:
Diet: (This is my everyday diet.)
-Intermittent fasting from 10:00 PM - 1:00 PM (I will do another blog on the benefits of fasting.)
-No dairy, gluten or nightshade vegetables - ever.
-Mostly plant based organic dark, leafy greens, colorful vegetables filled with polyphenols, rich in antioxidants. The more color, the better! My favorites are purple sweet potatoes, red carrots and radicchio. These are alkaline rich foods.
-Occasional organic blueberries and coconut yogurt.
-Prebiotic foods that feed the gut flora - jicama and Jerusalem artichokes are my favorites.
-Probiotic foods like sauerkraut and kimchi.
-About 60-70 grams of protein per day, split between two meals - pasture raised chicken and eggs, pasture raised turkey, duck eggs and wild SMASH fish (Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovies, Sardines and Herring). I like Vital Choice's selection of packaged fish.
-Raw organic nuts and seeds to snack and throw on salads: Almonds, Macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts and Walnuts.
-Homemade bone broth made from pasture raised chicken and organic vegies.
-3 Cacau unsweetened wafers
-6-8 glasses of filtered water from a reverse osmosis filtration system (I like Aquatru)
-3-5 cups organic Yerba Matte green tea.
-Olive oil (unheated), Coconut oil and Coconut butter, Almond butter, avocados and avocado oil for heating.
-Fresh herbs and sea salt.
-2-4 scoops UltraClear Plus, a powdered medical food that I add to my tea and smoothies, from METAGENICS, a company I trust (See below).
-4-6 grams fish oil - a high quality combination of EPA/DHA.
-2 grams Vitamin C
-Cal Apatite Bone Builder (Metagenics)
-400 mg Mag Glycinate
-100 mg CoQ10
-2000 mg D3, plus natural sunlight without sunscreen daily
-1-2 tsp. Black Cumin Seed oil
-3 drops DHEA
-15 drops Pregnenolone
-10 drops licorice root extract
-Hiking, 1 hour per day.
-Yoga practice (no Downward Facing Dog), 15 minutes to 1 hour per day.
-Pranayama (breathing) practice.
-Guided meditation, 20 minutes twice per day.
-8 hours sleep
As I mentioned above, I would practice the same routine to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, diabetes or other autoimmune conditions, cardiovascular disease or cancer. All of these conditions are treated successfully using whole food nutrition, appropriate movement and stress reduction. Notice, there are no prescription medications above; I believe these lifestyle habits are the best medicine.
Dear friends, if you have any questions about my routine or would like me to dig deeper into any of these topics in future blogs, feel free to reach out. Better yet, do you have an office kitchen or group that would appreciate learning more about preventing osteoporosis or any other chronic conditions? I love teaching these things and would be glad to come and show you how it’s done. Until soon...xo
References: There are many, but here are just a few -
-The Whole Body Approach to Osteoporosis, McCormick
-Dr. Lani’s No-Nonsense Bone Health Guide, Simpson
-Eating on the Wildside, Robinson