‘5 simple steps to upgrade your health to live your best life’

Part 1 – Diet: What to eat and when not to eat (aka intermittent fasting)

Last week I had the pleasure to launch the new Arctic Talks series, a series of talks on how to live your best life at Arctic Café, W Hotel Verbier, with a chat on the 5 simplest steps you can start doing today that will help you achieve optimal health and slow ageing.

I explained some of the newest research findings behind these simple strategies, for or you to make educated choices based on science, rather than another fad diet to fall off. In case you missed it, I have summarised some of it below for you, or watch the recording here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CxnMCmNX094

Ever pondered about the difference in lifespan vs health span? Although average life expectancy has increased dramatically in the last 100 years, this has not been accompanied by an equivalent increase in healthy life expectancy. (1).

Age-associated disease such as cardiovascular (i.e. stroke, heart attacks), type 2 diabetes, neurodegenerative (i.e. Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Parkinson), and others, render ‘old age’ (with the onset getting younger) into an often times dreaded time period, dependent on medications and declining bodily and cognitive functions. We survive rather than thrive.

Even throughout early life we are faced with an epidemic of conditions such as autoimmune (i.e. multiple sclerosis, lupus, chronic inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis), obesity, diabetes, autism, ADHD, anxiety and depression, PMS, endometriosis, IBS, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, cancer, and many other problems that can reduce quality of life significantly.

For most of us, we wish to live a long and fulfilled life, whether that is because we would like to see our grandchildren grow old, whether we feel we have a purpose on this planet we would like to yet achieve, or simply because we enjoy living. In order to fully live, we don’t want to just live long, but, most often more importantly, have the cognitive ability to achieve our dreams and goals, a working memory and a balanced mood that allows us to be in charge of our emotions and actions. We’d like a strong body that allows us to do daily and joyful activities without injury or pain, to feel energetic, and to look radiant and youthful. All this equates to quality of life for most of us, and has in recent years been termed as healthspan.

Scientists have established ‘9 hallmarks of ageing’, and termed ageing a ‘disease’, meaning our bodily systems deteriorating and ‘gone wrong’. In nerdy terms, these are

  1. Genomic instability
  2. Telomere attrition
  3. Epigenetic alterations
  4. Loss of proteostasis
  5. Deregulated nutrient sensing
  6. Mitochondrial dysfunction
  7. Cellular senescence
  8. Stem cell exhaustion and
  9. Altered intercellular communication (2)

Much research is dedicated to finding drugs that target and modify these pathways. All sounds complicated and too far removed from day-to-day? That’s where the Functional Medicine approach comes into play.

Cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, mood disorders like depression, hormonal problems like infertility or lack of libido, fatigue, cancers, type 2 diabetes, obesity, joint pains and autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Multiple Sclerosis or Rheumatoid Arthritis –

What seem like very different conditions, and they sure are in their symptoms and severities, the underlying systems gone wrong are (mostly) the same.

Research shows that

  • Low grade systemic inflammation (also termed ‘inflammageing’)
  • Excess free radical damage (oxidative stress) & mitochondrial dysfunction (energy production)
  • Blood sugar imbalances and metabolic malfunctioning (including insulin resistance)
  • Nutrient and building block excesses and deficiencies
  • Methylation problems (
  • An overstimulation of our fight-or-flight nervous system and cortisol away from our rest-and-digest nervous system
  • Gut microbiome imbalances and chronic lingering infections
  • An overburdened detoxification system (liver, kidneys)

are at the root of all of them, triggering defects in all of our organs and systems, causing excess damage to our genetic coding, rusting and degradation of our cells.

The great thing is that each of them can be influenced by our daily choices. So without further ado, let’s dive into the 5 basic things you can start doing today that will give you the biggest bang for your buck, and the most effect on all of the above mentioned processes.

In today’s blog post I will go into part 1, DIET, with the other 4 tweaks following in a future blog post. Comment below which part you are most interested in and I will do my best to elaborate! 🙂 xx

  1. Diet – What to eat & when not to eat
  2. Movement
  3. Sleep
  4. De-stress & Play
  5. Go natural where you can

 

PART 1: DIET – WHAT TO EAT & WHEN NOT TO EAT

Within Functional Medicine, we believe food should be used to both nourish your cells and functions (80%) and also your soul (20%). The aim is a lifelong approach to optimal health and wellbeing by supplying the body with all the building blocks it needs to thrive, while removing things that may hamper it.

Foods supply important building blocks to make up your every cell in the body. In order to function optimally, we need water, protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. When the body does not get all the essential building blocks, certain pathways start to deteriorate, sludge starts to build, and health slowly deteriorates (often unnoticed for many years), until a full-blown challenge arises.

 

Food as medicine

Think about this in terms of building a house. It can be built out of straw, or bricks. You have the option to build your body and mind out of the highest quality and lasting materials. – or not.

Benefits:

  • Reduced inflammation
  • Fat loss, especially around the midline
  • Improved energy levels and sleep
  • Mental clarity
  • Hormone balance
  • Mood support
  • Gut health and a balance between good and bad microbes (anti-candida)
  • Anti-ageing

 

FOODS TO INCLUDE MOST DAYS:

  • High quality protein, about 0.8-1.3g/ kg body weight per day, unless you have a condition that may warrant lower intake such as a history of cancer. This will help stabilise blood sugar, increase your metabolism (help make hormones such as thyroid), fertility and libido, energy levels, mood (our neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin for focus and happiness are made from protein!) and much more

  • Plenty of vegetables – the old ‘eat the rainbow’ recommendation still holds true. You want to mix them up, getting some cruciferous veg such as broccoli and cauliflower to support liver and hormone health, to make our master antioxidant glutathione, and more. Dark purples and leafy greens for DNA health (supporting methylation which decides on which genes may get turned on or off), antioxidants, heart health, anti-inflammatory properties, fiber to support your gut microbiome. Add in some seaweed for thyroid health.

  • Small amounts of high quality carbohydrates, such as found in real fruit, or tubers, beans, chickpeas, dark chocolate etc. Berries have been shown in many studies to be cardioprotective, apples help lower histamine (via its quercetin content), tubers and legumes support gut health if consumed in small doses and properly prepared by supplying your gut microbiome with food (resistant starch!).

  • But overall stick to a low carbohydrate intake to keep your blood sugar stable, reduce advanced glycation end products (sugars attaching themselves to your cells and ‘rusting’ them), keep your cells healthy and strong. You may even want to incorporate intermittent periods of ketosis, for its anti-inflammatory, rejuvenating benefits. Unless one has a specific condition that may necessitate for one to stay in a longer ketogenic state, current research indicates it may be best to not stay in ketosis continuously, but cycle in and out of it. Not always being in ketosis appears to be important for your metabolism, including hormones like thyroid and leptin, connective tissue health, heart muscle health, keeping sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, etc) and stress chemicals (cortisol etc) balanced.

  • Good fats! You likely have heard of the importance of omega 3s in fish, but they really are just that important. Omega 3s as found in salmon, shrimps and more seafood are crucial to lower inflammation, support brain, heart, hormone health, mood, cellular functioning and so much more. Stay clear of tuna, as unless you find baby tuna, its mercury downside outweighs the omega 3 upside. Small amounts of omega 6s found for example in nuts and seeds are essential also, but need to be in a good balance with omega 3s to not turn inflammatory. Olive oil has been shown to lower cardiovascular risk, coconut oil to speed up metabolism and ketosis. Saturated fats such as found in cheese and meats (and coconut oil) have been given a bad rap for increasing LDL (the bad kind of) cholesterol. However, newer research reveals that saturated fats actually increase the particle size of the LDL, making it less dangerous, so small amounts as found in a balanced wholefoods diet, along with some olive oil can be part of a healthy lifestyle, as long as one doesn’t have a genetic condition called hereditary hypercholesterolemia, in which case caution may have to be practised, and blood levels best monitored with a Functional Medicine practitioner experienced in this field.

 

WHEN NOT TO EAT – Aka intermittent fasting

You may choose to stick to the traditional 3 meals per day (with no snacking in between!), or incorporate intermittent fasting on some or most days of the week.

Fasting is another way of achieving ketosis and with it autophagy, aka cellular housekeeping. Being in a fasted state drops insulin and will in fact put our bodies into a ketogenic state. Cellular renewal is turned on more powerfully if we fast than if we add a bunch of fats to get into ketosis. Even the greatest, organic omega 3 fats and olive oil can get oxidised and create more free radical damage if consumed excessively.

Think of it as in how much harder it is to tidy up the house if you have people and kids visiting, rather than moving them out into the garden while you tidy inside.

Same goes for the body, if we are constantly eating, the body is busy digesting and tidying up after each meal, without having the ability to do a proper deep clean. to get rid of any old, sick or mutated cells by our intrinsic mechanism called autophagy. Our bodies are actually quite amazing at being able to stay healthy and ‘young’, if only we give it the chance to do its job.

There are different forms of fasting, from a daily intermittent fast where you compress the ‘feeding window’ into anything between 2 to 8 hours by eating only one or two meals, to fasting once a week for a full day, to longer term versions. There are real water fasts and fasting mimicking techniques.

  • The shorter fasts (up to 18 hours per day) allow our bodies to turn on our body’s cleaning mechanism, getting rid of old, sick and mutated cells, to shed a few kilos, without affecting our metabolism or hormones negatively.
  • Longer fasts have been shown to turbocharge cellular clean-up and activate our own stem cells, however may affect hormones and should not be done without supervision.

Ideally don’t wait with your first meal until much past noon, as research shows that eating earlier in the day has a completely different metabolic response in the body (aka on cholesterol, cortisol, inflammatory markers etc), than if eating the same meal but late in the day.

Especially women appear to benefit from not waiting with breaking their fast past noon, and not to fast more than 24 hours on a regular basis, unless they have a specific health condition that warrants it. Again, best to work with an experienced practitioner in that case.

 

WOMEN WITH A MONTHLY CYCLE/ IN REPRODUCTIVE YEARS

Women in their reproductive years should avoid going too low in carbs (strictly keto) and excessive fasting on the days leading up to their ovulation (days 12-14) and second phase of their cycle (day 18-28), to avoid problems with ovulation, fertility and estrogen dominance.

 

The 80/20 rule

But as everything in life, stick to 80/20 rule, meaning really pay attention to nourishing your cells 80% of the time, and then 20% of the time, have fun, play, eat things you may otherwise really miss. You may just notice that your taste buds change, and you don’t enjoy the same processed and high sugar foods any longer!

 

If you’d like to learn more about the basics on how to eat & live for optimal health and anti-ageing, I have a special offer for everyone that is listening to or reading this Arctic talk/ post and wanting to learn more:  https://functionalmedicine.me.uk/cartflows_step/course-landing/

Use coupon code ‘arctic’ for a 20% discount on my ‘4 week health reset’ course, which is made up of pre-recorded videos explaining step-by-step how to optimise and upgrade your health, plus worksheets, pdf printouts on how to put your meals together, create healthy habits and shopping lists, what to do when eating out, and more. As it is pre-recorded, you can choose to do it quicker or slower, and go at your very own pace.

Stay tuned for Part 2 – the other tweaks for health optimisation. Comment below which part you are most interested in, and I will do my best to spend extra time to elaborate on these more :). xx Speak soon 

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