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Best-selling author, Ben Angel and I met in Saint Petersburg, Florida, April 2017. We quickly realized we were both passionately working on the same project: biohacking our health to "become unstoppable." However, my project was in the form of a screenplay demonstrating the newest in biotechnology that has the potential to help troubled teens regain their life back, and Ben was working on his newest book, Unstoppable; A 90 Day Plan to Biohack Your Mind and Body for Success (New York, NY. Entrepreneur Press,) to be released October 2018.
Several months passed sharing each other's research, when Ben approached me to look at his book proposal accepted by Entrepreneur Magazine's Press. It gave me goosebumps. What Ben was hoping to achieve by this 90-days challenge, was to biohack his health back. Ironically, I had been doing the same thing for the past two years with some success, yet progress for me had stalled. He asked me if I would become his copy editor, and I jumped at the opportunity to be involved in such a powerful project.
As Ben shared his incredible story with me, I realized his book was on the forefront of a paradigm shift happening in the healthcare system. Although he was at the top of his career as one of Australia's leading personal branding and marketing authorities with hundreds of thousands of followers, show cased in many magazine’s and appearing on several talk shows in Australia, he was physically and emotionally crashing. Similar to me, he met with teams of doctors and taking hundreds of tests, however, he was not getting the answers he needed to combat his extreme fatigue, brain fog, irritable bowels, mood swings, severe asthma, food allergies, and more. Doctors just offered him more prescriptions and sent him on his way. It wasn't until Ben left Australia and moved to the states to live did he realize he had to take his health into his own hands. His research lead him to the top gurus in the health and well being industries and eventually came to the realization: you can achieve optimum health, if you're willing to do the work- and leave no stone unturned.
Knowledge is Power: Begin Your Individual Plan
A year before meeting Ben, I sought out doctors in the Reno area that took a diverse approach to healing, and not just with pharmaceuticals. Even though my regular physician told me my complete blood panel was normal, I knew there was more going on underneath the numbers. It wasn't until I found the Gerber Medical Clinic with an integrative medicine approach to healing, that the tides began to change for me.
We aren't born with a pharmaceutical deficit!
Finding a physician that has furthered their medical education in the fields of Functional Medicine and Integrative Medicine is paramount. Functional and Integrative doctors define your symptoms and look at ALL contributing factors - such as environment, genetics, activities, and mental health – to determine the root cause of the problem. When treating a condition, [their] aim is to reduce increased trauma by combining prescription medicine, herbal remedies, supplements, stress-management, and other non-invasive well-researched techniques and therapies. This means not only do they have their doctorate in medicine, they have gone further in their training toward holistic medicine to understand the interconnectedness between all of the systems in the body. Their patient assessments usually consist of:
Nutritional support/herbal therapies
Manipulative therapies such as chiropractic, acupuncture
Where to Start First: Ben and I both started with the gut.
Your Gut Microbiome
This critical system in your body controls numerous major components to your health, well-being and energy output. Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, and chronic diseases are all end products of our gut biome becoming permeable due to toxins, antibiotics, pharmaceuticals that kill your gut, artificial sweeteners, genetically modified food sources, agricultural hormones, chemicals and stress. Symptoms vary, but most start with inflammation of the intestinal lining causing diarrhea, bloating, cramps, constipation, mood swings, rashes, hives, headaches, weight gain, and more.
When the gut is healthy, you can properly digest most foods, energy levels rise, and a general sense of wellbeing occurs. Think of the last time your stomach/intestines were bloated or cramping. You felt miserable. It's not in your head. Your gut is telling you something is not right.
Creating a healthy gut flora strengthens 70% of your body's immune system, supports mood altering neurotransmitters, like serotonin and endorphins, and improves nutrient absorption. Weight loss is easier when this system is well balanced. I had to do something to reset my system without adding prescriptions to my regimen.
I began my plan with a closed system hydrocolonic that gently flushes out your intestinal system. I felt lighter, and was amazed by the energy that came afterwards. My one mistake was not introducing multiple strains of healthy microbiomes like Dr. Perlmutter's Garden of Life Probiotics. It took me listening to Ben's account of his colonic a year later, to trigger my memory that I needed to take multiple strains of probiotics and prebiotics (non-digestive fibers) that feed these little critters. Shelf-stable, multiple strains of probiotics are necessary for a balanced flora that you can get from eating locally grown foods, as well as take in supplement form. Sadly, the American food industry jumped on this bandwagon introducing probiotics into their products, though most of the probiotic bacteria die when in transit to the shelves.
Just cleaning out your system doesn't completely do the trick. I knew enough about sugar that if I continued with it in my diet, I could be feeding a bad fungal called Candida. Candida develops when you've stressed your gut microbiome with toxins, antibiotics, medicines, artificial sweeteners, etc. It becomes overpopulated with this fungus and ironically it craves sugar as its food source. Ben luckily went through a sugar-detox shortly after his colonic which greatly reduced his symptoms almost immediately.
Dr. Axe describes the symptoms of Candida overgrowth, which often goes unnoticed by general physicians:
Cravings for sweets
White coating on tongue
Loss of sex drive
Chronic sinus and allergy issues
Digestive problems (gas and bloating)
Weak immune system
Eating a diet low in sugar and various fermented foods and fiber can help nurture your essential gut microbiota, which can in turn destroy unwanted fungals and bacteria.
Ben’s intestinal issues were more severe than mine, so he went further in finding out exactly what was creating his discomfort and food allergies by having a Gut Microbiome Test by Thryve after interviewing co-founder and CEO, Richard Yin. Ben learned that his gut was missing critical gut flora that helps with mood, and food sensitivities, as well as having too much of the a particular type of flora that causes bowel inflammation. Thryve then sequenced his gut microbiome, and recommended thousands of food ingredients that were the best fit for him.
They also created a personalized probiotic for Ben to help repopulate his body with critical healthy bacteria missing in his system. He felt the difference within a day! Ben was finally able to reintroduce foods like milk back into his diet once his microbiome was rebalanced.
Support Your Body with the Proper Supplements and Diet
As you read in Can You Get Your Body Back After 50? Part II: Discovering What Happened, and Begin to Heal I discovered my body was in desperate need of support after taking Nature’s Vitality Natural Calm Magnesium Citrate, and my brain fog cleared immediately. I realized that my diet wasn't supporting my body and the stress it was under, so I researched ‘ways of eating,’ or WOE.
I decided to go Ketogenic, which is a WOE that provides your body with optimal fuel of satiating healthy fats, limited sugar, and is low in carbohydrates. Since I like to cook , I was able to find amazing keto-friendly recipes that helped support this lifestyle. I lost my first twelve pounds without the gym, or even trying. I had to make sure I wasn't stressing my adrenals, and as I discovered, this WOE gave me the energy I so badly needed.
Studies are now showing that over 2/3 of our population suffers from extreme exhaustion of the adrenals, although conventional medicine doesn't recognize this theory, due to the difficulty in diagnosis through multiple tests taken over time (similar to glucose testing.)
Our adrenals support our constant fight/flight response, and our chronic stress fires off cortisol, a neurotransmitter that makes our hearts race, our breathing quicken and adrenaline coursing through our muscles. Chronic release of these hormones in our systems affect our body in negative ways; weight gain, fatigue, brain fog, heart palpitations, muscle fatigue, headaches, joint pain, etc. Finding a doctor that can properly test you for adrenal fatigue and guide you on a path to healing is essential.
I also started a regimen of high quality, bioavailable supplements that would support my body during stress. These included:
Magnesium Citrate for adrenal support
Omega 3’s for heart and brain support
Vitamin B Complex for stress
Vitamin C for immune system support
Vitamin D3 for aiding mineral absorption and sleep
MCT oil in my coffee or capsule for optimal brain fuel
Nootropics for cognitive function for focus and clarity
Adrenal Fatigue and Exercise
Many ask if I worked out during this past year of healing from adrenal fatigue. I did not do the ordinary gym routine at all. I couldn’t. In the beginning I did, since the health industry touts, “No pain, no gain,” but my adrenal system couldn’t support any stress whatsoever. Even a three mile walk became exhausting to where Rich would have to come pick me up halfway through.
I waited until I got a handle on the fatigue to continue on my biohacking journey. The supplements helped, as well as following a Keto diet of healthy fats as my fuel. It was about 3 months later when I was able to go for bike rides, walk, swim and do yoga to regain back my muscle strength.
Discovering Insulin Resistance and Healing with Fasting
It took me over a year to realize I was also suffering from Insulin Resistance. Although I was eating Keto for a year, my weight loss stalled. I was energetic, but not seeing results in any form of exercise or food restriction. Rich and I discovered the free documentary, The Science of Fasting, and I was intrigued. Then I remembered the first time I had heard about fasting from the wonderful French.
I heard about fasting many years prior from Mireille Guiliano, the author of French Women Don’t Get Fat: Secrets of Enjoying Food, Having Fun, and Staying Thin. She shared how generations of French women pass down the protocol of fasting to their daughters to keep trim and healthy. They prescribe a three to four day fast at least three times a year to reset your body’s systems and lose any extra weight you may have gained over the year. I remembered loving the recipes and feeling free to enjoy food once again while keeping trim. I loved all of her books feeling like she was a trusted friend showing me the way. However, the chronic stress I had experienced in recent years finally took its toll on my body, and I could no longer fight it off with food and supplements.
After further research, and finding Dr. Jason Fung's book, The Complete Guide to Fasting, I dove in head first with my first seven day water fast. This was extreme for sure, and I would not recommend doing this without clinical support, yet I noticed the benefits almost immediately. I was also fat adapted, meaning my withdrawal from sugars was minimal with only a few hours of a headache on my second day. I also supported my body with homemade bone broth, proper supplements, teas, minimal coffee and infused water.
Fasting: The Magic Bullet
Why did I do an extended fast? Apparently, the only way to heal from insulin resistance was to fast. My insulin was no longer effective in triggering my fat stores to release fat as energy for my body. I was only getting fuel from the food I ate, so my body never relied on my fat stores to power it. I was of the old mindset that you had to eat many small meals a day to power your body, but I learned so much of what we were taught in the 80’s and 90’s about food and exercise was wrong.
My week long fast would literally reset my body into ridding itself of any dysfunctional cells, pathogens, toxins and fat that inundated my body for decades. This is called autophagy. Autophagy takes place usually within the 12 to 14 hours of fasting. Mitochondria production and cells increase, hence the incredible energy I experienced when fasting. All of my systems reset, including my hormones! I no longer had the week long painful breasts before my period, and my cycle was easy with no pain. I slept through the night, and felt rested and restored.
You don't have to fast for seven days like I did, either. Intermittent Fasting, or IF can be successfully done to give you the same response, though it could take a few days longer. IF is when you fast from the last time you ate for at least 16 hours or more. This Fasting Window usually starts after dinner and continues while you sleep. Since you naturally fast while sleeping, 8 of your hours are hunger free! Dr. Fung states that after the 16 hour fasting window, autophagy can begin. Then you can break-fast by eating during a set window for 8 hours, then stop eating to fast again during sleep.
I will share in another blog the details of my seven day fast and what I learned, but I will say it was the most empowering thing I’ve ever done.
Fasting has become a part of my life for numerous reasons, and losing the last 13 pounds of extra weight was a blessing.
Finding Your Secret Bullet
All of us that are struggling with a chronic illness, weight gain or just plain not feeling healthy have the ability to improve our health and well being. It just takes a step by step approach to see what will work for you. Finding a supportive medical team with holistic views, getting proper tests that validate how you're feeling, being open to changing the way you eat and how often you eat, and adding supplements that support your health, are just a few ways to change your body back to its optimal health.
Some people find that a plant based diet makes them feel good, or Paleo may seem more their fit. You have to go by how you feel, and how you are supporting your body. Now the data and results are in about fasting, and I can’t tell you how empowering it is to finally feel like I can live life with good food and not have to rely on medications to get me through.
But it's the first step that matters. Wanting change, yet doing nothing, puts you right back where you started.
Fear does creep up, however knowing that you're doing something, anything, to help yourself is putting the Universe in motion for you. You will notice articles appear before your eyes about what you've been thinking of doing. You will notice people will pop into your life and tell you that tidbit you needed at that moment. It's like the Universe is listening to your silent struggles, and answers you if you're paying attention!
Ben took that first step, and his life has changed in so many incredible ways. His book will inspire thousands to do the same.
Be open to change,
Be open to a new way to thinking,
So you, too, can become unstoppable.
Evaluating Causality of Gut Microbiota in Obesity and Diabetes in Humans: //academic.oup.com/edrv/article/39/2/133/4772276
Improving the Gut Biome through Science: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/improve-gut-bacteria#section7