Out of the Fog

Out of the Fog: Strategies to Prevent Brain Fog and Sharpen Cognitive Function

It’s easy to take your mental health for granted until one day you realize that you haven’t been feeling as mentally sharp as you once were. Maybe you’re having more frequent slips in memory or you feel like you’re walking around with your head in a cloud. When these moments occur, you may be quick to dismiss them, but brain fog, in a sense, is the body’s way of indicating that the brain is not working the way it’s supposed to be. So, what is brain fog and why does it happen?

Brain fog is not an actual clinical condition, but rather a term for a subjective set of symptoms that people experience. Some may be affected by poor concentration or a decrease in intellectual productivity, while others may experience memory problems (difficulty with recalling words, details, etc.). Other symptoms can include feelings of confusion, depression, and headaches. People of any age and gender can experience any one or all of these symptoms at any given time.

These changes in cognitive function are not only mentally exhausting, but they can also have a very real effect on a person’s emotional wellbeing. Operating in a reduced state of mental acuity can knock down a person’s self-confidence, cause workplace productivity to suffer, and may even be a reason to withdraw from social outings. But it’s important to understand that brain fog is not a normal part of the aging process.

There are many factors that can initiate symptoms of brain fog; some that you may not think are related. Unlike dementia, which can be permanent, and in some cases, progressive, brain fog symptoms are likely to improve when contributing factors are addressed.

Here are 6 common contributors with tips on what you can do to improve or even eliminate your symptoms altogether.

 

1. Poor nutrition.

The connection between the brain and the gut is also known as the “gut-brain axis.” It’s a bi-directional connection, which means that the gut and the brain essentially speak to each other. This means that when the integrity of one component is compromised, the other is directly affected. Therefore, poor nutritional choices will have a direct effect on brain function.

Highly processed meals and drinks that are loaded with simple sugars and other artificial ingredients can cause a disruption in the gut flora and lead to a condition called intestinal permeability, or leaky gut. When the gut lining is weakened unwanted substances are able to break through the protective filter between the intestines and our bloodstream. The are several issues that then become a problem. The first is that the body will start to make antibodies to foods, causing allergies to foods we would not have been sensitive to when the intestine was healthy. The other issue is that when the intestinal barrier is impaired, the barrier around the brain that helps protect our brains from immune substances floating in the blood now can enter the brain and incite an inflammatory reaction. This can show up as fatigue, sleep disturbances and alterations in mood, anxiety, and depression, and brain fog.

In addition, common food additives like aspartame, Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), and nitrates/nitrites promote widespread inflammation and oxidative stress by producing free radicals that cause damage to brain cells and DNA when they overwhelm antioxidant levels in the body.

Solution: We should never take our food choices for granted! There are things that can be done nutritionally to help clear brain fog, boost energy, and increase productivity. Start by cutting down on processed foods and eating whole, organic, and non-GMO foods whenever possible. Next, eat probiotic-rich foods to help balance your gut flora and get rid of harmful bacteria. Probiotic-rich foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, Kombucha (watch out for sugar content), and kefir. If you have trouble getting these foods onto your plate, another great way to get good bacteria into your diet is supplementing with a daily probiotic.

2. Biotoxicity and Neurotoxicity

Biotoxins and neurotoxins are environmental toxins that can poison our physical and mental health. As toxins penetrate the blood-brain barrier, they are free to circulate throughout the body – including the brain! Once there, the glial cells that work to defend the nerves and brain cells from damage are compromised and unable to do their job. Although the symptoms vary, a common complaint of someone diagnosed with some form of toxicity is brain fog.

Solution: Eliminating biotoxins and neurotoxins from your home is the first step in any detoxification process. This may mean professional removal of mold-infested areas, air purification, and a change to buying “green” products that do not contain harmful ingredients like pesticides and other toxic ingredients. You’ll also need to make changes to your diet to exclude food items that may contribute to leaky gut. A compromised gut lining will allow more toxic substances to circulate through your body instead of being eliminated. If you have symptoms of brain fog talk to your physician about whether getting tested for the presence of biotoxins or neurotoxins make sense for you.

3. Sleep Disorders

In the United States, as many as one-third of adults do not get the quality of sleep the body requires. It’s during sleep when the body is able to repair itself by calming inflammation and maintaining hormone production. When these two processes – both important elements in brain health – are compromised it can negatively impact your memory, decision-making, the capacity to focus one’s attention, and the ability to complete complex creative activities, among other things.

Solution: There are a lot of things you can do to improve your sleep pattern. Breathing techniques, meditation, dietary adjustments, starting an exercise routine (or adjusting your current one), and establishing a bedtime routine are just a few examples.
If you think you may have an actual sleep disorder, a first step in further evaluation is to answer the eight questions on the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. If your score is equal to, or higher, than 10 the results should be discussed with your doctor.

4. Celiac Disease

People with Celiac Disease (CD) are no strangers to brain fog. Just like poor nutritional choices can lead to leaky gut, so can an allergy or sensitivity to gluten. The difference is, with Celiac Disease your immune system mistakes gluten, a normally benign food ingredient for most, as a foreign and deadly invader. When it’s detected in the body, the immune system begins to attack and destroy the gut lining and causes leaky gut. Once the villi are damaged the body is unable to absorb the nutrients it needs to keep the brain and body healthy and allows harmful substances to enter. Brain fog is a common symptom of people who are ultimately diagnosed with Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance.

Solution: Patients who have been diagnosed with Celiac disease and/or gluten intolerance report a noticeable and significant improvement in cognitive impairment after eliminating gluten from their diet.

5. Estrogen

In women, the onset of menopause can trigger a myriad of symptoms including fatigue, weight gain, mood swings, hot flashes, joint pain, and brain fog. Research suggests that when it comes to changes in memory and other mild cognitive impairments that accompany menopause, the decline of estrogen levels may be partly to blame. We know that the brain is full of estrogen receptors that have neuroprotective and antioxidant benefits. The decline of estrogen during menopause compromises neuronal function and increases the risk of developing age-related neurodegenerative disorders.

Solution: Although there is no single solution that works for every woman, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy can relieve many of the unpleasant symptoms that most women experience during menopause, including brain fog. Talk to your doctor about a screening that will help identify hormonal imbalances so they can be effectively treated.

6. Side-Effects from Medication

Statistics show that over 20% of US adults report using 3 or more prescription drugs in the past 30 days and nearly 12% use 5 or more. Additionally, it’s not unusual that patients receive prescriptions from specialists in addition to their primary care physician, and supplement use is not always reported accurately. This leaves a lot of room for unwanted side effects, including brain fog.

Solution: Make sure to review your medications with your primary physician annually, and more often if necessary, particularly if you feel like you haven’t been yourself.

In sum, the good news about brain fog is that there are ways to help clear it up, boost your energy, and improve your productivity and memory. The key is keeping your brain well-fed, your body well-rested, and keeping your physician in the know about any changes in your mental acuity.

For individuals who would like to work directly with our providers, we offer comprehensive services that utilize the best alternative and conventional medicine solutions to keep your brain young, healthy, and vital. For more information, visit KaplanClinic.com/building-a-better-brain/. To make an appointment with one of our physicians please call 703-532-4892.


References:

Carabotti M, Scirocco A, Maselli MA, Severi C. The gut-brain axis: interactions between enteric microbiota, central and enteric nervous systems. Annals of Gastroenterology. 2015;28(2):203-209.

Jedrychowski, Et al. Cognitive function of 6-year old children exposed to mold-contaminated homes in early postnatal period. Prospective birth cohort study in Poland. Physiology & Behavior. Volume 104, Issue 5, 24 October 2011.

Lichtwark , Et al. Cognitive impairment in coeliac disease improves on a gluten‐free diet and correlates with histological and serological indices of disease severity. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics. Volume 40, Issue 2, July 2014.

Yelland GW, Gluten-induced cognitive impairment (“brain fog”) in coeliac disease. Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 2017 Mar; 32 Suppl 1:90-93. doi: 10.1111/jgh.13706.

Zárate S, Stevnsner T, Gredilla R. Role of Estrogen and Other Sex Hormones in Brain Aging. Neuroprotection and DNA Repair. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. 2017;9:430. Published 2017 Dec 22. doi:10

What Is A Functional Medicine Assessment?

Functional Medicine (FM) is a holistic, integrative approach to health and well-being that evaluates how each biological system is working and supporting the health of the whole, interconnected body.

Physicians who use this approach look for signs of imbalance and areas of health that can be optimized. If deficiencies are found, FM doctors investigate the root cause of the deficiency by looking at the patient’s environment, thoughts, diet, lifestyle, possible infections, medications, levels of activity, social support (family, friends), and level of stress, as all of these factors could be supporting or exacerbating the disease.

Functional Medicine differs from Conventional Medicine in that while Conventional Medicine is excellent at treating acute and urgent conditions, it tends to treat symptoms and not the underlying cause of those symptoms.

Functional Medicine physicians assess six major areas of health.

In looking for clues that may be contributing to symptoms of illness or disease we systematically assess and optimize the following six major areas of health:

  1. Immune system: We look for signs of inflammation and auto-immune diseases (including Hashimoto’s thyroid disease, lupus, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, pain, allergies/sensitivities, etc.).
  2. Energy systems: We assess for factors that may be depleting your body’s energy, including your mitochondrial (energy part of cells) health, nutrient deficiencies and excesses.
  3. Heart and metabolic systems: We evaluate for signs of heart and vascular disease and abnormal blood sugar values.
  4. Hormone systems: For women, we assess for signs of PMS, fibroids, perimenopause and menopause, estrogen dominance, and other conditions of hormone imbalance; and for men, we assess for signs of loss of motivation, focus, low libido, andropause (low testosterone), erectile dysfunction, poor work-out recovery, poor exercise endurance, fatigue, and other conditions of hormone imbalance.
  5. Detoxification system: We assess for signs of toxin overload or the inability to release toxins from your liver and body. This system is key for optimal health of the body as well as maintaining a youthful appearance and vitality.
  6. Gastrointestinal/digestive systems: We look for signs of inflammation in the gut, food sensitivities, and infections. This system is also vital to all other systems operating effectively and preventing autoimmune diseases, weight gain, and inflammation throughout your body (joints, sinuses, lungs, thyroid, etc.).

A Functional Medicine Assessment entails:

  • listening to what your concerns are and asking questions that help and reveal any issues.
  • performing an exam to assess for any physical signs of deficiencies or signs of excess that may be supporting disease in your body.
  • ordering tests that will look at how effectively your body is performing certain functions. Some tests include:
    • saliva tests to evaluate your body’s ability to respond to stress and maintain healthy sleep and energy levels;
    • hormone tests that show if your body is releasing optimal amounts of hormones to support your energy, mood, sexual health, brain clarity, bones, focus, energy;
    • thyroid tests that can demonstrate if you are producing the proper levels of thyroid hormones to support mood, energy, weight, skin/hair/nails, brain clarity, and more;
    • stool analysis that reveals if your gut and immune system are sufficient to support your digestive and immune system needs;
    • food sensitivity and allergy testing that may uncover an unhealthy gut and foods that are contributing to brain fog, bloating, constipation/diarrhea, IBS, weight gain, and more;
    • lipid profile that assesses if you have the type of cholesterol molecules that lead to cardiovascular disease;
    • inflammation profiles that evaluate the level of inflammation that your body is dealing with;
    • and many more tests are available if needed.

To schedule an appointment with one of our Functional Medicine specialists, call 703-532-4892, ext. 2.

Why would you do a Functional Medicine assessment if you’re healthy?

Because of its whole health approach, an FM assessment and its recommendations can help prevent illness while optimizing your current state of health, so you can:

  • enjoy vitality, longevity and a youthful appearance at every age;
  • maximize your energy and mobility to live the life you choose;
  • prevent unnecessary weight gain;
  • maintain healthy heart function;
  • allow smooth transitions into each phase of life, i.e., young adult years, reproductive years, retirement years, menopause/andropause, etc.;
  • maintain hormone and thyroid health;
  • support your immune system to prevent illnesses;
  • optimize your gut health to support your immune system, weight, and tolerance to different foods and prevent disease;
  • support a healthy mood and mental health;
  • encourage healthy sleep and rejuvenation;
  • prevent metabolic disorders like diabetes and insulin resistance;
  • and so much more!

We’ve gathered all of this information, now what?

Functional Medicine’s approach is patient-centered and patient-directed; once we’ve gathered all of your information, we listen to you. Together we’ll discuss and prioritize your unique wellness goals. Once those are established we can start working towards the areas that will best help your major wellness goal first, then systematically addressing all other issues, as supporting longevity and wellness relies on improving all facets of your health.

This approach typically utilizes several modes of treatment, including stress reduction & management, mind-body tools, improving nutrition, healing your gut, supporting detoxification, exercise, acupuncture, herbs/botanicals, supplements, manual medicine, and when needed, medication.

Managing Colds And Flu

Almost everyone gets a cold during the winter months and for the majority of cold-sufferers, rest, fluids, and over-the-counter medications are enough to help them recover. But winter sickness can mean something more serious for the 5-20% of US residents that come down with the flu each season, with approximately 200,000 hospitalizations attributed annually to flu-related complications.

Flu season starts as early as October and can last through April, for this reason, we recommend that you get vaccinated against the flu without delay if you haven’t done so already. We recommend preservative-free flu vaccine.

Basic Flu Prevention Recommendations

In addition to getting a flu shot, there are other precautions that you can take to lower your risk of contracting the flu or to shorten the duration of any respiratory illness.
Dr. Kaplan offers the following basic flu-prevention steps:

  1. Get a preservative free flu shot.
  2. Wash your hands often and thoroughly.
  3. Keep unwashed hands away from your mouth and eyes.
  4. Use a friendly cleaner to wipe down doorknobs, phones, your mouse, and keyboards.
  5. Get plenty of sleep (7-9 hours is optimal for most).
  6. Drink plenty of fluids – Water is needed for your body to clear toxins and helps to thin secretions
  7. Make wise nutritional choices, including limiting your consumption of alcohol, refined carbohydrates, and sugar, all of which lower immune system functioning.
  8. Take 5000 IU’s of Vitamin D3 daily. Have your Vitamin D-25-Hydroxy level checked every 3 months and aim for a level between 50 – 80.
  9. Exercise regularly, preferably outdoors. Exercise is great for an immune system boost.
  10. Take some deep breaths and meditate, it can boost your immune system significantly.
  11. Increase intake of probiotics. 70-80% of your immune system cells are found in the gut. Certain probiotic strains have been shown to reduce the risk of acquiring common cold infections so take a high quality probiotic or better yet, include fermented foods in your diet. Ask your doctor how to start to include these in your diet or supplement regimen.
  12. Talk to your doctor about whether periodic vitamin IV’s would be right for you.

Supplements for Prevention

The following supplements can strengthen your body’s immune system to help prevent getting sick. Check with your doctor to see which ones are right for you.

  • Oscillococcinum – ½ a tube a week through the flu season (October – April).
  • Monolaurin – 2 pills twice a day through the flu season.
  • Probiotics
  • Colostroplex – nourishes and supports and the immune system. Supplementation with bovine colostrum has been found to lower flu occurrence and duration.
  • High quality multivitamin such as Innate Response “One Daily” or Pure Encapsulations “ONE.”
  • Astra Essence* – helps strengthen the immune systems of people who have suffered significant immune system degeneration due to severe illness or invasive medical procedures such as radiation and chemotherapy.
  • Astra C* – promotes the production of secretory IGA – an antibody that fights infection on the mucous membranes of the human nose.
  • Astra 8* – recommended for those with a history of recurrent lung problems. Astra 8 is also suggested for patients who have chronic fatigue.

*NOTE: Do NOT take more than one of the “Astra” products simultaneously. Astra supplements are used for prevention and should be used when you are well. If you start to get sick stop taking all Astra supplements.

Treatment Strategies If You Do Get Sick

  • Vitamin IVs – intravenous vitamin therapy provides a quick and vigorous boost to the immune system, helping to shorten the duration of acute illnesses such as the common cold and flu.
  • Herbal Treatments – we recommend herbal remedies such as Dispel Invasion, Sambucol, and Isatis Gold for treatment of symptoms associated with cold and flu to strengthen the immune system. These herbal remedies are most effective when taken at the first sign of cold symptoms. However, these products should not be taken together or in conjunction with other medications without consulting a physician first.
  • Homeopathic Treatments – in addition to preventing flu infection, we recommend the homeopathic remedies Oscillococcinum and Umcka when cold and flu symptoms are present. This product helps strengthen the immune system without causing drowsiness and is most effective when taken at the first sign of cold symptoms.
  • Zinc Lozenges – there is good evidence that zinc in lozenge form reduces the severity of symptoms of the common cold.
  • Vitamin C – this powerful immune-system booster can shorten the duration of common colds and should be taken as soon as you feel that you may be coming down with a respiratory illness.

There’s a lot you can do to minimize your risk of flu or respiratory illness but prevention from infection isn’t guaranteed. Therefore, if you do develop flu-like symptoms this winter, make sure to see your physician right away to discuss the most effective treatment options available.

Regular Aerobic Exercise Allows for Longer, Happier Lives

Two recent publications reinforce the benefits of aerobic exercise and provide even more motivation to get out and break a sweat on a daily basis.
The first study, published in JAMA Network Open last week, found that sedentary lifestyles are as harmful to one’s health as having a chronic illness. Over the span of 23 years 122,000 adult patients underwent periodic stress testing to determine the link between mortality and aerobic exercise. The study found that better cardiorespiratory fitness was directly associated with longer life spans and better overall health, with the inverse also being true.

A review and meta-analysis, published in the journal Depression & Anxiety, looked at the association between aerobic exercise and major depressive disorder (MDD). The results of 11 qualifying studies were examined and it was determined that aerobic exercise had a significant anti-depressant effect and can be considered an effective intervention for MDD and other mental health disorders. Click here to read the abstract.

Look, we all know about the benefits of exercising, but we don’t always stick with it. These studies really highlight the importance of daily movement in living longer and happier lives. Start off slow and find something you like and most importantly stick with it, as consistency is the key to reaping the long-term benefits and safeguarding your health.
 

September is Pain Awareness Month

In 2001, Pain Awareness Month was established with the goal of raising public awareness of all the issues related to pain and pain management. This hits close to home for all of us at the Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine as we have been seeing and treating patients with chronic pain and illness for more than thirty years.
Health care organizations across the country take the lead with public campaigns and encouragement for individual chronic pain sufferers to be vocal with the challenges that affect their physical and emotional wellbeing. And with over 100 million people in this country living with chronic pain and depression we must remember that we are all touched by chronic pain.
How can you make a difference? Here are some simple ideas on how you can get involved:

  1. Share your story. Talk about your relationship with pain to a friend, loved one, physician, or support group. Sharing your experience can educate others, and knowing you are not alone is crucial for maintaining your emotional wellbeing. Here is a wonderful article about the power of support groups with information on how to find one in your local area.
  2. Get social. Follow one of the many chronic pain health organizations, including our Facebook page which offers daily posts featuring news on the latest research, provider insight and tips, and healthy recipes . By sharing information on treatments, new research and personal experiences within your network you are reaching a vast audience in mere seconds.
  3. Participate – or organize – a fundraiser. Many nonprofit pain organizations host annual fundraisers in a variety of formats. From Fun Runs/Walks to auctions there is something for everyone to be able to participate in. And for those who are more ambitious, many sites have information on how to become an organizer in your local community.
  4. Volunteer your time. Most non-profits can use an extra hand and will have a variety of ways to volunteer your time. Inquire about ways to help in fundraising, promotion/marketing, administrative help, or even peer mentoring. Evidence suggests that people living with chronic pain may even experience an improvement of symptoms when participating in volunteer opportunities.
  5. Make a donation. There are so many organizations dedicated to the study chronic pain. If you know someone suffering from a chronic pain condition, consider making a donation to a non-profit related to his or her condition.  In 2015, Dr. Gary Kaplan established the Foundation for Total Recovery in order to provide support and find a cure for all who suffer with chronic pain and depression by educating patients, partnering with leading researchers, academics and innovators, and studying data to find a baseline approach to diagnosing and curing neuro-inflammation. Other leading non-profits to consider include: U.S. Pain Foundation, American Chronic Pain Organization, National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association (NFMCPA), and the American Academy of Pain Medicine.

 

Save Your Tick…

While avoiding contact with ticks is the only way to prevent contracting a tick-borne disease it is not a reason to avoid outdoor activities. Taking steps to protect yourself from being attractive to ticks is one of the first lines of defense.

  • Wear light colored long pants, tucked into socks when outside. This makes seeing the ticks easier and prevents them from crawling up your legs.
  • Stay on clear paths when in the woods.
  • Change your clothes immediately when you get home and put the clothes you were wearing in the dryer for 30 minutes.
  • Most importantly, perform daily tick checks!

What should you do if you find a tick on you?
Save it!! Testing can be done on ticks to see if they are carriers of Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses (co-infections). If you’re not sure exactly how to remove it, this video shows very clearly how to remove a tick the right way:

Once you pull off the tick, place it inside a sealed zip-lock type plastic bag with a damp (not wet) paper towel. Do not soak in bleach, alcohol or preservative. The tick can be even months old and still be appropriate for testing.
There are a number of different labs that will perform tick testing. You can send the tick to a lab directly and do not need a doctor’s order. We use TickReport.com. You can place the order on their site by clicking the “Test A Tick” button. Complete the requested information, choose a test package (we recommend the comprehensive package), provide payment, and then send the tick as instructed. The prices range from $50 to $200.00 depending on the number of tests that you would like done. The results from this lab are received within 3 business days via secure email. Once you receive the results, you can share the information with your physician to guide your treatment.
If you have a known tick bite, do not wait for the results to contact your doctor; the sooner you are treated the better. Adjustments in treatment protocols can be changed if needed once you get the results back.
The importance of testing the tick…

  • Early treatment can be key in preventing chronic Lyme disease;
  • Not everyone presents with the classic “bulls eye rash” even though they have contracted Lyme or other co-infections;
  • Knowing the tick-borne illness that was contracted, instead of assuming, can guide the treatment; and,
  • Antibiotics are not benign, taking them when not needed or for extended periods can have long term consequences.

– Nan Kinder, RN

Dr. Peter Diamandis on Technology, Longevity, and Great Ideas

Peter Diamandis, MD, PhD, author of the books Abundance and Bold, founder of XPRIZE Foundation, and co-founder of the companies Human Longevity and Planetary Resources, gave a keynote address at the Vatican that focused on longevity and innovation in the field of regenerative medicine.
Dr. Diamandis’ remarks were both thought provoking and inspiring and I thought it was a wonderful piece to share with you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
– Dr. Kaplan

VATICAN REMARKS

Every year I take the major XPRIZE benefactors (Vision Circle & Innovation Board members) on an Adventure Trip. This time, we went to Vatican City to discuss longevity and regenerative medicine, piggybacking on the United to Cure conference hosted by the Pope.
The notion that the Vatican hosted this event, and even had a panel on “the morality of immortality” (or the immorality of mortality) is pretty amazing (more on this in a future blog). It’s more evidence that we’re living during the most extraordinary time ever in human history.
Since I had the great honor to give the opening keynote, I thought I’d use this blog as an opportunity to share my remarks. Let’s dive in.

Contextualizing Human Progress

It’s hard to remember how extraordinary the world is today when we’re bombarded 24/7 by news about problems and disasters. History provides valuable context, however.

  • Some 700 years ago, the Plague killed 200 million people in a single year — 40 percent of England.
  • About 500 years ago, famine claimed 3 million lives in France.
  • 100 years ago (in 1918) World War I claimed 16 million lives, while the flu pandemic caused 50 million deaths. All in a single year.

If these were our current headlines, we would be in shock.
We forget how much the world has progressed in the past century alone.
The per-capita income for every nation on the planet has tripled. The human lifespan has doubled. The cost of food has dropped thirty-fold. The cost of transportation hundreds of fold. The cost of communications millions of fold.
The human lifespan is another way to contextualize progress:

  • In the Middle Ages, the average human lifespan grew to 35.
  • A century ago, it was the mid-40’s.
  • Today, it’s around 80.

One of my missions — which I share with many of you — is to discover how we can add 20, 30 or more healthy years to our lives. How do we make 100 years old the new 60, and then intercept exponentially growing technologies to extend the healthy human lifespan beyond that?

Exponential Technologies Driving Longevity

We take the technology and the empowerment we have today for granted.
I teach my Abundance community that whatever becomes digitized enters a period of slow, deceptive growth. Next, it becomes disruptive, and then it dematerializes, demonetizes, and democratizes products and services.
Consider storage, which is critical for the genomics world today.
In 1981, 1 gigabyte of storage cost half a million dollars. Today, it’s 25 million times cheaper at 2 cents per gigabyte.
How about computation? In 1971, Intel put out its first computer chip, the Intel 4004. It had 2,300 transistors on at $1 each.
Intel no longer actually tells you how many transistors are on their chips, but the recent Core i7 had 14.4 billion transistors at less than a millionth of a penny each.
This represents a 330 billion-fold increase in price performance in 45 years.
If you have a smartphone, you have more computational power in your hand than all the governments on the planet had just 30 years ago.
But that doesn’t compare to what’s coming next in quantum computing. This year, we expect to see ‘quantum supremacy’ — that moment in time where a quantum computer can solve a problem that no classical computer can do.
Google recently unveiled Bristlecone. This new quantum computer chip has 72 qubits. By the time it gets to 300 qubits, it can perform more calculations than there are atoms in the known universe.
We’re about to see an extraordinary revolution in drug discovery.
Pharmaceutical companies today are spending decades and billions of dollars to discover molecules that affect us. But soon, quantum computers will allow us to model molecular interactions at a level like never before.
Imagine an individual working on a quantum computer on the cloud who is able to look at the interaction of a particular molecule with all 20,000 coded proteins in the human genome. Drug discovery will go off the charts. This isn’t happening 30 years from now, but in the next decade.
What about communications? We take it for granted, but in 2017, we had 3.8 billion people connected on Earth. In the next five years, we’ll see the deployment of the 5G global network that Qualcomm has been developing.
We’re about to see Facebook and Google with balloons and drones and satellites. OneWeb will deploy 900 satellites leveraging a $1.2 billion Softbank investment, and then layer on top of that 4,425 satellites being launched by SpaceX, and we’re about to connect every single human on the planet with a gigabit connection speed.
A gigabit connection for everyone, effectively for free.
That connection represents a lifeline for health sciences. It’s an ability to upload data or enable AI support.
And it doesn’t slow down. With the Internet of Things and a proliferation of sensors, by 2020 we’ll have 50 billion connected devices with a trillion sensors in the world. By 2030, we’ll see 500 billion connected devices with 100 trillion sensors.
In terms of health, every single person will have the ability for real-time monitoring. Every single element of their lives — their glucose, their blood pressure, the microRNAs, their vitamin D levels — can be uploaded to an AI that can convey their exact health status.
We’ll all have a version of JARVIS from “Iron Man.” These personal AIs can collect our data and enable us to be the CEO of our own health.
The acceleration continues with genome sequencing. Back in 2000, the price of sequencing a human genome — all 3.2 billion letters of your life — was $100 million and 9 months’ time. Today, it’s $1,000 per genome, and within two years, with Illumina’s newest machines, it will cost about $100 and be completed in 1 hour.
We’re talking about trillionfold increases in price-performance capability, which is in turn driving a revolution in cellular medicine, stem cells, natural killer cells, CAR T-cells. It’s extraordinary.
I believe nothing is truly scarce. Nothing.
We have the ability, with access to these technologies, to say, “This is the problem I want to solve.”
We often talk about our desires and our abilities.
I posit that we’re living in a time a day and age that within our lifetimes, we will truly have the ability to meet the needs of every man, woman and child on this planet.
You may have heard me say, “The world’s biggest problems are the world’s biggest business opportunities,” and, “If you want to become a billionaire, help a billion people.”
What is the challenge you desire to solve? What is the impact you want to create?
I believe that each of us should be taking on what I call the Impact Pledge… to stand up and say, “During my lifetime, this is the problem that I want to solve. This is what I stand for.
It used to be that capital was restrictive. Today, we’re living in a world of crowdfunding, angel capital, venture capital, and even startups being funded by sovereign wealth funds. But it doesn’t end there. In 2017, the world saw $3.8 billion in ICOs (initial coin offerings) — an entirely new mechanism to generate investable capital.
And even that is accelerating, in the first four months of 2018 alone, there was $6.2 billion of ICOs. Capital is flowing to great ideas.
What is your great idea?
Each of us has what I call a Massively Transformative Purpose in our lives that motivates us to pursue the seemingly impossible.
What we do with our time matters.
What Moonshots we take on to change the world matters.
What impact do you want to make on this planet?
You have access to everything you need. More knowledge on Google or Baidu, more computational power on the cloud, more capital, more access to AI.
With this abundance, what else do you actually need?
Ultimately, it is the “dedicated, passionate human mind” that makes all the difference.
A mind with the audacity to think thoughts like…
I refuse to allow this disease to go on for a day longer.
I refuse to not have the ability to feed a billion people, or to save a billion women’s lives.
We are alive in a time of great capabilities.
The choice is yours.
Let’s create a world of healthcare abundance.
Let’s make disease a thing of the past.
Let’s make 100 years old the new 60, and then once we get there, we can debate how we get to 150 or even 200.
– Dr. Peter Diamandis

Return to the Heart

How to Avoid Blood Clots and Other Circulatory Health Problems While Flying

Recently, I flew from Colon, Panama, to Dallas, Texas, and then home to Dulles, Virginia – a total of 7 hours on planes. Wow, were my arms tired!
Actually, it wasn’t really my arms that were bothering me at the end of that flight. It was my feet, ankles, and lower legs. They were sore, and they had swelled up so much that they scared me. This had never happened to me before. I made an appointment with Physical Therapist Jessica Coleman, who walked me through the ABC’s of in-flight self-care.
It turns out that I did exactly the wrong things:

  1. I SAT quietly, nearly motionless, for the entire 7 hours that I was flying.
  2. I didn’t drink a lot of fluids, so I wouldn’t have to get up and disturb the person seated beside me.
  3. I didn’t wear compression stockings (I had never considered them before thinking they were too ugly!).

Jessica informed me that I needed a new in-flight routine, including:

  1. Wearing compression stockings. She recommended “Bauerfeind Sports Compression Socks.” I now have a pair. They look normal and they are soft to the touch and super comfortable to wear. Good one, Jessica!
  2. Wearing loose clothing. By wearing loose clothing you will not constrict the fluid flow in your body.
  3. Moving. Jessica instructed me to walk the aisle periodically, as often as possible. I mentioned, “turbulence,” and she responded, “There’s a lot you can do while seated: point your toes, roll your feet in circles to keep the blood moving, turn your feet out and then in, bump your knees up and down, twist from your waist as far as you can, reach your elbows up, bend forward as much as possible to stretch your spine, tense your glutes, then relax.” Repeat every 30-45 minutes.
  4. Drinking lots of water. Staying hydrated enables your lymphatic system to keep fluids moving efficiently through your system. Consuming water also has the inevitable effect of leading to Step 2 above (walking the aisle to the rest room). Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated drinks because they cause fluid retention. Water is best!
  5.  
    And Jessica recommended one post-flight recovery step:

  6. Elevating your feet above your heart. Once you arrive at your destination, lay on the floor or bed, and put your legs up on a wall or headboard. Staying in this simple position for about 20 minutes has been shown to decrease the effects of jet lag and facilitate venous return to the heart, helping you to avoid blood clots. Not to mention making your back, legs and feet feel fantastic.

If you do experience swelling in your lower limbs after air travel, consider scheduling a session with Jessica, so she can read you the riot act! Or, you can schedule a session of lymphatic message to gently direct fluids that have accumulated in the body’s tissues back to the cardiovascular system.
On a more serious note, Jessica also pointed out that if you experience swelling and pain in only one leg, if you have a history of blood clots, or you are at an increased risk of getting a blood clot because you recently had major surgery or you are taking certain medications, you should check with your physician before you fly.
The good news: I’ve taken several long flights since February, and by following Jessica’s instructions, I have avoided a second episode of foot, ankle, and lower-leg swelling.
Thanks so much, Jessica. – F.C.

Addressing the Fear of Cognitive Decline & How to Be Proactive

Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. For most people, the subject of Alzheimer’s brings fear and trepidation. Why? Because the thought of deteriorating brain function and memory loss is frightening. Unfortunately, current medical treatments are inadequate, dealing only with its end result.
Alzheimer’s is characterized by the destruction of synapses in the neurons, the nerve cells in the brain, by amyloid plaques. In addition, “tangles” form in the cells leading to loss of brain function. This leads to progressive loss of memory and behavioral problems like aggression, hallucinations, and delusions, as well as deterioration of activities of daily living. This is heartbreaking for patients and their families.
Despite years of ongoing research, there are still many unanswered questions about what causes Alzheimer’s disease. Let’s explore some of the known risks associated with dementia and learn how to lower those risks.
You may not have heard the term “type 3 diabetes” as another name for Alzheimer’s Dementia. Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes, also called insulin resistance, are both strongly linked to the development of Alzheimer’s dementia. This could actually be good news because it means this is a preventable risk factor.
Why has the term Type 3 diabetes been coined?  Let’s start by discussing sugar, which in large quantities is a poison. The body is not designed to handle more than 15-20 grams per day yet a soda has at least 40 grams and the average American consumes 82 grams per day.
Excess sugar causes an outpouring of insulin from the pancreas and over time causes the cells in the body – including the brain – to become resistant to insulin. This leads to chronically elevated blood sugar which causes Advanced  Glycation Endproducts or AGES to be produced. These AGES then attack the eyes, kidney, peripheral nerves, and the brain!
Other causes of dementia include recurrent traumatic brain injury (concussions), infections like Lyme disease and syphilis, excess alcohol and drugs, prolonged general anesthesia, and sleep apnea. Heavy metals such as lead in pollution and mercury in dental amalgams, and large fish, like tuna, swordfish and shark increase the risk of dementia. In the 1800’s the term “mad as a hatter” came about because hat makers were using a form of mercury to make fur hats and it destroyed brain cells. Studies also show that living near major highways is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s, as well as living or working in a water-damaged building leads to growth of toxic mold, which poisons the nervous system.
There are several genes that predispose to Alzheimer’s such as the ApoE4. However, just because we have a gene does not mean it will be expressed. Every time we eat, exercise, sleep, meditate, communicate, create something, play, learn and love, we are turning genes on and off.
The good news is the brain can actually grow and change in a positive way, even as we get older.
Lifestyle strategies can promote neurogenesis (new brain cells) and neuroplasticity (changes in the brain and its pathways). These strategies involve a substance called BDNF or brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which promotes brain cell growth and connectivity as demonstrated on MRI scans. In fact, the hippocampus, which is involved in emotional memory, gets larger the more BDNF is available. A large part of the lifestyle strategy involves modifying the diet to lower unhealthful carbs and increase healthful fats thus lowering the risk of diabetes.
Strategies include:

  1. Reducing (non-vegetable) carbohydrate consumption, including sugars and artificial sweeteners, and grains, which can cause inflammation of the lining of the digestive track, or “leaky gut”. An inflamed gut causes an inflamed brain and reduces the size of the hippocampus.Functional testing looking at stool, urine and breath can determine if your gut is leaky. Replace nutrients lost from a leaky gut or poor diet like B12, folate, B6, magnesium and iron.
  2. Increase healthy fat consumption by increasing omega-3 fat intake and reduce consumption of damaged omega-6 fats (like processed vegetable oils) in order to balance your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. Omega-3 from fish sources shows lower risk of cognitive impairment.
  3. Add prebiotic fiber which nurtures gut bacteria and hippocampus. Probiotic supplementation which enhances the healthy bacteria in the gut, decreases the inflammatory marker, C-reactive protein, increases the antioxidant  glutathione , and improves mental status as measured by the Mini Mental Status Exam
  4. Exercise! Physical activity produces biochemical changes, increasing BDNF, that strengthen and renew not only your body but also your brain – particularly the hippocampus, the area associated with memory and learning. This is especially important for carriers of the ApoE4 gene. A good exercise regimen includes aerobic and resistance training at least 3-4 times per week for 30-45 minutes.
  5. A ketogenic diet is linked to an increase in BNDF, which causes the hippocampus to get bigger (better memory).This involves cutting down on carbohydrates which reduces insulin resistance (diabetes), and increasing good fats like avocado, olive oil, MCT (medium chain triglycerides found in coconut oil) and intermittent fasting 12-14 hours between dinner and breakfast so that the body breaks down fats and produces ketones.
  6. Consider getting tested for heavy metal and toxic mold exposure and work with your doctor to eliminate them.
  7. Balance hormones such as thyroid, cortisol, sex hormones and Vitamin D (which is actually a hormone).
  8. Work on getting at least 7-8 hours of solid sleep. If sleep is poor rule out sleep apnea. Low oxygen in the brain can lead to stroke and heart attacks, which are risk factors for dementia.
  9. Find out whether you are insulin resistant by getting a HgA1C test and fasting insulin.  Eliminating the risk of Type 2 diabetes (insulin resistance), can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s dementia (Type-3 Diabetes).
  10. Remember to take time to slow down, be mindful (meditation and yoga) spend time with loved ones, and take time to laugh and have fun. This is medicine for our minds.

Lisa Lilienfield, MD

supplements to aid sleep

Downshift Your Day and Get Set for Restful Sleep

Great things happen when we are well-rested: our breath is full, slow, and deep, the digestive system works well, and the body can focus on repair – including reduction of inflammation, tissue repair, and hormone production. In fact, getting regular, restful sleep is the best medicine for improving a health condition or for simply maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But modern living comes with a price. Overbooked, highly stressed, and often running on reserves, as many as one-third of adults in the United States are not getting the quality of sleep the body requires.

Impact of Stress on Body

Let’s face it, stress is a fact of life. Stress is a biological and psychological response that occurs when we encounter a threat that we do not feel we have the resources to deal with. Any number of stressors, such as exams, divorce, the death of a loved one, moving, or job loss, will create a physical response in the body. You may experience an increase in heart rate, an increase in breathing, a rush of energy to the limbs, a decrease in digestive activity (impacting elimination), and the liver is stimulated to release glucose for energy.

This physiological process also referred to as fight, flight, or freeze, is an instinctual survival mechanism controlled by the autonomic nervous system (ANS). When we operate under stress on a daily basis, the heightened activity of the ANS can end up causing more damage than benefits. The key becomes how a person can effectively manage – or downregulate – the stress response, and this is something that can be practiced and developed over time.

Self-Assessment

By answering a few simple questions you can get a good sense of whether the amount and quality of sleep you are getting on average per night is enough. If your answer is “no” to any one of the questions below, it’s a good indicator that your sleep pattern needs adjustment.

  1. Do you have a regular bedtime?
  2. Do you get up at the same time every day?
  3. Do you sleep the entire night through?
  4. Do you have a way to downshift or release stress from your day?
  5. Do you wake up in the morning feeling rested and restored?

Preparing for Restful Sleep

Once you’ve identified that your sleep pattern needs improvement, there are several ways to teach yourself how to downregulate the nervous system in order to prepare for a better night’s sleep. This means setting some guidelines for yourself during the day and establishing a nighttime/sleep routine.
During the daytime:

  • Try to avoid drinking caffeinated beverages after noon and exercise should also be completed a solid two hours before sleeping.
  • If there are worries on your mind, jot them down in a journal to temporarily release them from your mind. Keeping a running list of “things to do” handy also helps to clear your mind before the evening.
  • Another extremely important element to getting restful sleep is managing others’ expectations and honoring your own boundaries. Taking on more tasks than one can handle is quite common, but it can really push us to our limits and cause unintentional stress. By setting some boundaries and staying within those lines as much as possible we can make more time available to decompress from the day’s activities.

In the evenings, aim for the following:

  • Avoid food or excessive drink after 7 p.m.
  • Avoid caffeine after Noon
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages
  • Honor your bedtime
  • Dim lights & disconnect from technology 2 hours before bed. Yes, 2 hours!
  • Arrange for comfort (soft sheets, warm blankets, and comfortable clothing)
  • Set the room temperature to one that is comfortable for you (some people sleep better in a cooler room)
  • Soothe the nervous system with meditation and stress reduction exercises – for tips, read on!

Stress Reduction

Aside from meditation, there are a number of exercises and other techniques to relax the nervous system before bed that can be done either with a partner or alone.

Just Breathe…

Belly breathing, also called diaphragmatic breathing, can soothe the nervous system. Watch and feel your belly expand with each inhalation. Breathing into the belly, instead of the upper lungs, can slow the heart rate and calm the nervous system. In addition, when your exhale breath is longer than your inhale breath, the heart rate slows down.

Practice inhaling for 2 counts and exhaling for 4 counts and repeat. As your heart rate slows, you may try to do a 4 count inhale and a 6 count exhale. Repeat this 4-5 times at least 30 minutes before bed. Note that your body may respond differently to the breathing, listen to your body and notice what calms your system and practice that.

Adrenal Hold
This is a soothing partner activity that I learned from Suzanne Scurlock-Durana, which involves cradling the adrenals to initiate feelings of calmness and relaxation. We have two adrenal glands, located on the top of each kidney. The adrenals are responsible for releasing the hormones cortisol, aldosterone, adrenaline, and noradrenaline that, among other processes, are involved in the fight, flight or freeze response.

Have the receiver sit comfortably in a chair so their partner, the holder, can easily reach their back to gently cradle the adrenals with warm hands (please, no energy work or bodywork). The holder creates a “safe basket” of warmth for the glands and allows the receiver to relax. This can also be done without a partner by using a warm pack for 5 minutes on the area. After a few minutes, the receiver will notice that they start to slow their breathing and may start to feel more relaxed. This is a wonderful way to calm down after a busy day of work and settle into a restful evening.

Triple Warmer Meridian

Within Traditional Chinese Medicine’s perspective on healing, you’ll find the concept of body meridians. Twelve major meridians channel life energy – or Qi – throughout the body, interacting with every major organ system. Good health is an indicator of balance within these energy pathways; likewise, diminished health and illness are indicative of an imbalance that must be corrected.

Triple Warmer is the meridian that controls our fight, flight or freeze response. According to Donna Eden, author of Energy Medicine, the triple warmer impacts the immune system and our ability to manage stress. When it is activated, the body is on high alert. When you practice tracing your triple warmer meridian backward, it can sedate or calm the fight or flight response.

For Triple Warmer techniques based on Donna Eden’s program, click here.

Other Tools to Aid in Falling Asleep

Create a bedtime routine to prepare your body for sleep.  This may include setting the stage so you are most comfortable and relaxed and ready for sleep:

  • Calming fragrances (lavender, chamomile)
  • Calming beverages (Organic Chamomile tea, Sleepy Time tea)
  • Dimming bedroom lights at least an hour before bed
  • Eye bags
  • SleepPhones and soothing sounds
  • White noise or a fan
  • Weighted Blanket – The deep pressure generated from a weighted blanket signals the brain to release serotonin, which in turn naturally calms and relaxes the body, promoting sleep and stress relief. Weighted blankets help calm children and adults with sensory integration disorder, autism, Rett Syndrome, Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHD, PTSD and Restless Leg Syndrome!

Sleep is our birthright and we have more control over it than we may think! Find the methods that work best for you to enjoy better quality sleep and the health benefits that go along with it.

– Christi Fath
Licensed Massage Therapist