Human Optimization

Are you on a health journey? If so, you know that it can be both challenging and rewarding. There are many things to consider as you work to improve your health, including cultivating resilience. Resiliency is important for everyone, but it’s especially crucial when you’re trying to make changes in your life. Here are some tips for building resilience while on a health journey.

WHAT IS RESILIENCY?

Resiliency is the ability to adapt and cope in the face of adversity. It’s an important skill to have because it helps you to keep going even when things are tough. Resilience is what allows you to bounce back from setbacks and continue working towards your goals.

Mental strength is a key component of resilience. If you can learn to manage your thoughts and emotions, you’ll be better equipped to handle difficult situations. This doesn’t mean that you won’t feel pain or setbacks, but it does mean that you’ll be able to cope with them in a healthy way.

HEALTH JOURNEY

When patients come to us, we always tell them that adopting a healthy lifestyle is a journey, not a sprint. This means that there will be ups and downs along the way. It can be easy to be discouraged when you have a setback, but it’s important to remember that this is all part of the process.

Since we offer Functional Medicine services, the majority of patients come to us with complaints such as fatigue, digestive issues, hormonal imbalances, and mood swings. They’ve often been to multiple doctors and tried many different things, but nothing has worked. As a result, they can be feeling frustrated, hopeless, and even a little bit angry.

It’s important to remember that these feelings are normal. It’s also normal to feel like giving up at times. It can be easy to give up when you feel like you’ve tried everything, but it’s important to remember that there is always hope. However, it’s important to keep going. If you can cultivate resilience, you’ll be more likely to stick with your health journey and see the results that you’re looking for.

TIPS FOR CULTIVATING RESILIENCY

  1. ADAPT A POSITIVE ATTITUDE

One of the best ways to cultivate resilience is to adopt a positive attitude. This doesn’t mean that you have to be happy all the time or that you should ignore your problems. It simply means that you should try to focus on the good things in your life and look for the silver lining in every situation. When you have a positive outlook,  you’re more likely to see the possibilities instead of the obstacles.

2. BE MINDFUL OF YOUR THOUGHTS

Your thoughts play a big role in how you feel and how you react to difficult situations. If you find yourself thinking negative thoughts, try to reframe them in a more positive light. For example, instead of thinking “I can’t do this,” try thinking “I can do this.”

It’s also important to be mindful of the language that you use. For instance, instead of saying “I have to go to the gym,” try saying “I get to go to give my body daily movement.” This small change in language can make a big difference in how you feel.

3. LEVERAGE CHALLENGES AS OPPORTUNITIES

When you’re on a health journey, it’s important to see challenges as opportunities. This means that instead of feeling discouraged when you have a setback,  you should use it as a chance to learn and grow. Maybe you didn’t stick to your diet as well as you wanted to this week. That’s okay! Use it as an opportunity to reflect on what went well and what you could improve next week.

4. SET REALISTIC GOALS

One of the best ways to set yourself up for success is to set realistic goals. This means that your goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. At our practice, we create plans of action that help patients set and achieve their health goals. 

5. CREATE A SUPPORT SYSTEM

You don’t have to go through your health journey alone. In fact, it’s often helpful to create a support system of friends, family, or even healthcare professionals. When you have people to lean on, you’ll be more likely to stay on track with your health journey.

Cultivating resilience is an important part of being successful on a health journey. By adopting a positive attitude, being mindful of your thoughts, and setting realistic goals, you’ll be more likely to stick with your healthy lifestyle and see the results that you’re looking for.

Did you know that your brain is protected by a special barrier? This barrier, called the blood brain barrier (BBB), acts as a shield to keep harmful toxins and bacteria from entering your brain. The BBB is made up of a network of cells that line the inside of your blood vessels. These cells act like a filter, preventing anything from passing through except for nutrients and essential elements needed by your brain. But what happens when the BBB is damaged? Can it be repaired? Read on to find out!

WHAT IS THE BLOOD BRAIN BARRIER?

Our brains are special organs. Not only do they control all the activities of our body, but they’re also enclosed in a protective skull. This protection is necessary because the brain is extremely sensitive to damage. One of the ways it’s protected is by something called the blood brain barrier (BBB). The blood brain barrier is a special barrier that separates your brain from the rest of your body. The blood brain barrier is formed by a network of cells that line the inside of your blood vessels. It is made up as a single-layered lattice of cells that are closely joined to one another. These cells, known as endothelial cells, act like a filter, preventing anything from passing through except for nutrients and essential elements such as oxygen and glucose to pass through to your brain. Anything else, including harmful toxins and bacteria, is blocked from entering. This barrier acts as a shield to protect your brain from harmful toxins and bacteria. The BBB is also maintained by a layer of astrocytes, which are star-shaped cells that support and protect your brain cells.

DAMAGE IN THE BBB

While the BBB does a great job of protecting your brain, it can also be damaged. When the BBB is damaged, harmful toxins and bacteria can enter your brain and cause damage. One way this can happen is by injuries such as a skull fracture. A skull fracture is a break in your skull bone. When this happens, it can damage the cells that make up the BBB. Another way the BBB can be damaged is by diseases such as stroke, meningitis, and encephalitis. In a stroke, for example, blood flow to part of your brain is interrupted, which can damage the BBB. These diseases can damage the endothelial cells that make up the barrier, leading to the passage of harmful toxins and bacteria into your brain. The BBB can also be damaged by things you eat and drink. For example, research shows how alcohol and certain drugs can damage the cells of the barrier. This can allow harmful toxins and bacteria to enter your brain and cause damage.

VAGUS NERVE & BLOOD BRAIN BARRIER

Recently on the IFHO blog, we discussed the importance of the vagus nerve.  The vagus nerve is a special nerve that connects your brain and your gut. It controls many functions in the body, including digestion and the immune system. Studies have shown that the vagus nerve can also play a role in maintaining the integrity of the blood brain barrier. When the vagus nerve is stimulated, it sends signals to the endothelial cells that line the blood vessels in the brain. These signals help to keep the cells tightly joined together, preventing harmful toxins and bacteria from entering. This suggests that the vagus nerve may be a way to protect your brain from damage caused by diseases and injuries.

LEAKY BRAIN

A leaky brain is an inflammed brain. Inflammation refers to the body’s response to injury or infection. When the BBB is damaged, it can trigger inflammation in your brain. Not all inflammation is bad. The body’s inflammatory response is important for healing and repairing tissues. When our body is injured, inflammation is the first line of defense. It’s what helps us to heal. However, when inflammation becomes chronic, it can be harmful. Chronic inflammation is when the body’s inflammatory response doesn’t go away and continues long after the injury or infection has healed. This can lead to a number of health problems. Leaky brain is a condition in which the blood-brain barrier is damaged, leading to the passage of harmful toxins and bacteria into your brain. When chronic inflammation occurs in the brain, it can lead to a wide variety of problems. What causes leaky brain?  There are many things that can cause chronic inflammation in the brain and lead to a leaky brain. Some of the most common causes are:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Infections, such as meningitis, encephalitis, and Lyme disease
  • Stroke
  • Alcoholism
  • Drug abuse
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Gut Dysbiosis (infections)
  • Leaky Gut
  • Autoimmune Disease
  • Mental Health Conditions
  • Stress & Vagus Nerve Dysfunction

STUDIES ON THE BBB

One area of research on the BBB is with NFL players. NFL players are at risk for head injuries, which can damage the BBB. Concussions are incredibly common in professional football. There was a study that looked at the brains of former NFL players from a brain donation program after they died. The study found Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) was found in 110 of 111 brains of deceased former NFL players[i]. The damage was most often found in the areas of the brain that are responsible for memory and thinking. The study also found that the damage to the BBB was linked to the players’ level of cognitive impairment.

Another study was done on retired NFL players who had a history of concussion. The study found that these players had a higher level of harmful toxins in their brain than people who didn’t have a history of concussion. The study also found that the players with a history of concussion had a higher level of protein associated with brain damage[ii]. This suggests that head injuries can damage the BBB and lead to the entry of harmful toxins into your brain.

Another area of research on the BBB is how it can be repaired. Some studies have shown that when the BBB is damaged, it can be repaired. For example, a study showed that when the BBB was damaged by a stroke, the barrier could be repaired by giving the patient erythropoietin (EPO), which is a hormone that helps your body make red blood cells. This suggests that there may be ways to repair the BBB if it is damaged.

HOW THE BBB AFFECTS THE WHOLE BODY

Our brains play a vital role in keeping our bodies healthy. The brain controls all of the functions of the body, including breathing, heart rate, and digestion. When the BBB is damaged, it can allow harmful toxins and bacteria to enter the body and cause damage. This is because the barrier not only protects the brain, but it also protects the rest of the  body. This affects our entire bodies , not just our brains.

FUNCTIONAL APPROACH TO THE BLOOD BRAIN BARRIER

Functional medicine is an approach to medicine that looks at the body as a whole. It takes into account all of the factors that can affect your health, such as your lifestyle, environment, and genetics. Functional medicine physicians often use a systems biology approach to treatment, which means they look at how all of the systems of the body work together.

At IfHO, we do that and more as partner with you to become your health intelligence partner with the goal of optimizing your health. We accomplish this with our signature precision medicine approach. We are a Maryland Functional Medicine but our providers use a combination of therapies that are tailored to your specific needs with a health optimization goal. We believe that our Medical Team should make use of the latest scientific research to offer our patients personalized medicine, based on real data. We call this precision health and it is the future of healthcare.

Our focus is not only looking at the root cause, but also to measure, quantify and optimize the patient’s personal health. We take a preventative approach, personalized, and precise approach in helping our patients control their risk factors early on in order to avoid chronic illness down the road. Our team of medical providers use a comprehensive approach with every patient that comes into our office, looking at all aspects of health including lifestyle, environment and genetics. There is no generic one size fit all protocols. No two patients receive the same treatment plan since we work with each individual to create a personalized plan. We empower our patients with the right tools and information, so they can take control of their own health. This is the future of longevity!


[i] https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2645104

[ii] https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa1900757

The vagus nerve, also known as the gut-brain axis, is the longest nerve in your body. This nerve starts in your brainstem and extends down to your abdomen. It plays a role in many of your body’s functions, including digestion, heart rate, and immune response. The vagus nerve is also involved in some mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression. The vagus nerve is also a key player in your body’s nervous system, and it can be a major factor in your overall health. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the vagus nerve and its role in your health.

WHAT IS THE VAGUS NERVE?

Vagus stands for wandering in Latin, and that’s an apt description for this nerve. The vagus nerve is a long, thin nerve that starts in your brainstem and extends down your neck and into your chest and abdomen. Nerves in the body are made up of bundles of nerve fibers, or axons, that transmit signals between the brain and the body. The vagus nerve is made up of both motor and sensory axons. Motor axons carry signals from the brain to the body, telling the muscles what to do. Sensory axons carry information from the body back to the brain. The vagus nerve is one of twelve cranial nerves, and it is the longest nerve in your body. This nerve plays a role in many different body functions, including digestion, heart rate, and immune response. The vagus nerve is also involved in some mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression.

GUT-BRAIN AXIS

The vagus nerve is often called the gut-brain axis because it is involved in both gastrointestinal and mental health conditions. The gut-brain axis refers to the relationship between the brain and the gut, and it’s a key factor in your overall health. You can learn more about the gut-brain axis here: https://ifho.org/gut-brain-axis-the-ultimate-communication-channel/. The vagus nerve is responsible for sending signals between the brain and the gut, and these signals play a role in both digestion and mental health.

The gut-brain axis is a two-way street, and the gut can also send signals to the brain. The gut sends signals to the brain through the vagus nerve, and these signals can affect your mood and mental health. The gut also sends signals to the brain through the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system is the part of the nervous system that controls the body’s automatic functions, such as heart rate and digestion. The autonomic nervous system is divided into two parts: the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the “fight or flight” response, and it increases heart rate and blood pressure. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for the “rest and digest” response, and it decreases heart rate and blood pressure.

The vagus nerve is part of the parasympathetic nervous system, and it plays a role in the “rest and digest” response. When the vagus nerve is stimulated, it can decrease heart rate and blood pressure. The vagus nerve is also involved in the production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in memory and learning.

ACETYLCHOLINE

Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in memory and learning. This neurotransmitter is produced by the vagus nerve, and it plays a role in both mental and physical health. Acetylcholine is involved in learning and memory, and it can also help to protect the brain from damage. This neurotransmitter is also involved in muscle contraction, and it can help to improve muscle function.

VAGAL TONE

Vagal tone  is the term used to describe the activity of the vagus nerve. Vagal tone is measured by assessing the electrical activity of the vagus nerve. This measure can be used to assess the health of the vagus nerve and its impact on overall health. High vagal tone is associated with better health, and low vagal tone is associated with poorer health.

Vagal tone can be affected by many different factors, including stress, diet, and exercise. Stress can decrease vagal tone, while diet and exercise can increase vagal tone. Diet and exercise can also help to improve the overall health of the vagus nerve.

STIMULATING THE VAGUS NERVE

How can we take care of the vagus nerve?

There are a few things that can help to stimulate the vagus nerve:

  1. Diet: Eating a healthy diet is one of the best things you can do for your overall health, and it’s also good for the vagus nerve. Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help to improve vagal tone.
  • Exercise: Exercise is another great way to improve your overall health and vagal tone. Getting regular exercise can help to increase blood flow to the vagus nerve and reduce stress levels.
  • Massage: Massage can also help to stimulate the vagus nerve. Massaging the neck and head can help to increase blood flow to the vagus nerve.
  • Cold therapy: Cold therapy, such as ice baths or cold showers, can also help to stimulate the vagus nerve. The cold temperature can help to increase blood flow and reduce inflammation.
  • Stimulating activities: There are also some activities that can help to stimulate the vagus nerve. Activities such as singing, chanting, or even gargling can help to activate the nerve.
  • Deep Breathing:   Deep breathing helps to increase blood flow to the vagus nerve and reduce stress levels.

By following these tips, you can help to take care of your vagus nerve and improve your overall health.

WEARABLE DEVICES

Biometric devices, also known as wearable devices, refer to the measurement of biological features. This term is often used to describe the measurement of physical features, such as fingerprints or facial features. Biometrics can also be used to measure physiological features, such as heart rate or blood pressure. We see them commonly used in wearable smart watches, which track our fitness and sleep. Many wearables now track HRV  (heart rate variability), which some experts believe is a good marker of vagal tone. HRV refers to  the variation in the time between each heart beat. Low HRV is associated with high stress and poor health, while high HRV is associated with good health. You can learn more about HRV in our blog post here: https://ifho.org/blog-heart-rate-variability/.

While non-medical wearable devices should not be used to diagnose, track, or treat any health condition, they can be a helpful way to gain insight of your daily activities and key metrics that may influence your overall health.

Institute for Human Optimization

In conventional medicine,  the vagus nerve is often overlooked. However, in functional medicine, the vagus nerve is considered to be an important part of overall health. The vagus nerve is involved in many different functions, and it can have a significant impact on overall health. Functional medicine practitioners believe that the vagus nerve can be a key player in many different health conditions. The vagus nerve is involved in the gut-brain connection, and it can impact gut health. The vagus nerve is also involved in the stress response, and it can impact the immune system.

At IfHO, we do that and more as partner with you to become your health intelligence partner with the goal of optimizing your health. We accomplish this with our signature precision medicine approach. We are a Maryland Functional Medicine but our providers use a combination of therapies that are tailored to your specific needs with a health optimization goal. We believe that our Medical Team should make use of the latest scientific research to offer our patients personalized medicine, based on real data. We call this precision health and it is the future of healthcare.

Our focus is not only looking at the root cause, but also to measure, quantify and optimize the patient’s personal health. We take a preventative approach, personalized, and precise approach in helping our patients control their risk factors early on in order to avoid chronic illness down the road. Our team of medical providers use a comprehensive approach with every patient that comes into our office, looking at all aspects of health including lifestyle, environment and genetics. There is no generic one size fit all protocols. No two patients receive the same treatment plan since we work with each individual to create a personalized plan. We empower our patients with the right tools and information, so they can take control of their own health. This is the future of longevity!

Water is essential for our bodies to function properly. Every cell, tissue, and organ in our body needs water to work correctly. In fact, our bodies are made up  of about 60% water. It’s no secret that drinking plenty of water is important for good health, but what are some of the specific benefits of doing so? Here we’ll take a look at some of the top health benefits of staying hydrated. From keeping our organs functioning properly to helping us maintain a healthy weight, this weeks blog will go over all the health rewards that come with drinking water and staying hydrated.

THE ROLE OF WATER

Water is made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, and it’s this simple chemical structure that gives water some of its amazing properties. For example, water is:

  • A Good Solvent: This means it can dissolve many different types of molecules, making it ideal for transporting nutrients and waste products around the body. It does so by dissolving them into smaller particles that can easily pass through the body’s cells.
  • A Polar Molecule: This means that it has a slightly negative charge at one end (the oxygen atom) and a slightly positive charge at the other (the hydrogen atoms). This gives water molecules a strong attraction to each other, which is why water is such a good solvent.
  • A High Specific Heat Capacity: This means that it takes a lot of energy to heat up water. This is why our bodies sweat when we’re hot – the evaporation of sweat from our skin helps to cool us down.
  • A Great Heat Regulator: Water can absorb and release large amounts of heat, which helps to keep our bodies at a stable temperature.
  • A Major Component of Bodily Fluids: Blood, sweat, urine, and tears are all mostly water.
  • Helps Lubricate and Cushion Joints:  Water is a key component of the fluids that lubricate and cushion our joints.

LOW GRADE DEHYDRATION

Most people are chronically dehydrated and don’t even know it. Mild dehydration can cause fatigue, anxiety, headaches, and difficulty concentrating. In fact, even just a 1-2% drop in hydration levels can negatively affect your mood and energy levels. Low grade dehydration affects  nearly 75% of Americans and is a major contributing factor to the rising rates of fatigue and poor concentration. Improper hydration affects the cells internal environment  and the way they function. How?  When the body is not properly hydrated, it pulls water from other areas in order to maintain proper function in the brain and other vital organs. This causes those other areas to become dehydrated, which can lead to all sorts of problems such as  dry skin, constipation, and joint pain.

How much water should you drink?

The amount of water you need to drink depends on a number of factors, including your age, activity level, and health. The 8×8 rule (drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day) is a good general guideline, but may not be appropriate for everyone.

For example, people who are physically active or live in hot climates may need more water than the 8×8 rule recommend. On the other hand, people who are elderly or have health conditions that cause them to retain water may need less than the 8×8 rule suggests.

STAYING HYDRATED

Staying hydrated at a cellular level does take much more than water.  In order to properly hydrate the cells, a combination of water, electrolytes, and minerals are needed. Electrolytes  such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium help to regulate the body’s fluid levels and are essential for proper cell function. Minerals such as calcium and phosphorus are needed for strong bones and teeth. Proper cell function means  that the cells can properly do their job,  which is to remove waste products and toxins from the body, deliver nutrients to where they are needed, and produce energy.

To stay properly hydrated, I recommend trying to incorporate water dense fruits and vegetables. In doing so, you can increase your water intake while also getting the added benefits of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Adding a pinch of high quality sea salt  to your water can also help to replenish electrolytes.

BENEFITS OF STAYING HYDRATED

Proper hydration is essential for our optimal health and wellness. Benefits of  staying hydrated include:

  • Improved Mood and Energy Levels:   When the body is properly hydrated, the brain functions more efficiently and mood and energy levels are improved.
  • Better Cognitive Function:  Dehydration can lead to poor focus, difficulty concentrating, and decreased cognitive function.
  • Increased Physical Performance:  Dehydration can cause fatigue, muscle cramps, and decreased coordination. Staying properly hydrated can help to prevent these effects and improve physical performance.
  • Improved Kidney Function:  The kidneys rely on water to filter waste products from the blood. When the body is properly hydrated, the kidneys are able to function more efficiently.
  • Reduced Risk of Chronic Diseases:  Proper hydration is essential for the proper function of all systems in the body. Dehydration can lead to chronic problems such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and kidney stones.
  • Improved Skin Health:  Dehydration can cause the skin to become dry, wrinkled, and dull. Proper hydration helps to keep the skin looking plump and youthful.
  • Improved Joint Health:   Dehydration can cause the joints to become dry and inflamed. Proper hydration helps to keep the joints lubricated and reduces inflammation.
  • Improved Digestion:   Dehydration can cause constipation and other digestive problems. Proper hydration helps to keep the digestive system moving smoothly.

6 TIPS FOR OPTIMAL HYDRATION

  1. Drink water first thing in the morning: Drinking water first thing in the morning helps to rehydrate your body after a long night of sleep. The first thing  you put into your body sets the tone for the rest of the day, so make sure to start your day off with a tall glass of water.
  2.  Invest in a good cup:  Investing in a good quality water bottle or cup can help to make drinking water more enjoyable. If you have a cup that you really like, you’re more likely to drink from it throughout the day.
  3. Use an App to track your water intake:   There are lots of great apps out there that can help you to track your water intake. By tracking your water intake, you can ensure that you’re drinking enough throughout the day. Some apps have features like reminders to  drink water, which can be really helpful.
  4. Substitute Soda or Juices with Sparkling Water:   If you’re looking for a way to add some flavor to your water without all the sugar, try adding some sparkling water. You can find sparkling water in a variety of flavors,  or you can even make your own by adding fruit slices or mint leaves to plain carbonated water. I personally enjoy adding fresh oranges or limes to my sparkling water.
  5. Install a good filter:   Installing a good water filter can help to ensure that you’re drinking clean, pure water. This is especially important if you live in an area with poor water quality. A good water filter will remove impurities from your water,  making it taste better and be better for your health.
  6. Water Rich Foods:   Including water rich foods in your diet is a great way to stay hydrated. Some water rich foods include fruits and vegetables like watermelon, cucumber, tomatoes, and strawberries. Including these foods in your diet will help you to reach your daily water intake goals.

Drinking plenty of water is essential for our health and well-being. By staying properly hydrated, we can improve our mood, energy levels, cognitive function, physical performance, kidney function, skin health, joint health.  Leave a comment below  and let us know how you stay hydrated throughout the day.

Institute for Human Optimization

We are seeing more a paradigm shift in healthcare.  At IfHO, we partner with you to become your health intelligence partner with the goal of optimizing your health. We accomplish this with our signature precision medicine approach. We are a Maryland Functional Medicine but our providers use a combination of therapies that are tailored to your specific needs with a health optimization goal. We believe that our Medical Team should make use of the latest scientific research to offer our patients personalized medicine, based on real data. We call this precision health and it is the future of healthcare.

Our focus is not only looking at the root cause, but also to measure, quantify and optimize the patient’s personal health. We take a preventative approach, personalized, and precise approach in helping our patients control their risk factors early on in order to avoid chronic illness down the road. Our team of medical providers use a comprehensive approach with every patient that comes into our office, looking at all aspects of health including lifestyle, environment and genetics. There is no generic one size fit all protocols. No two patients receive the same treatment plan since we work with each individual to create a personalized plan. We empower our patients with the right tools and information, so they can take control of their own health. This is the future of longevity!

Did you know that your body has its own internal clock? This “circadian rhythm” is responsible for regulating many different bodily functions, and can play a big role in your overall health. The start of Daylight-Saving Time this month is a good reminder to talk about circadian rhythm—the internal clock that governs our sleep-wake cycles. Most of us are familiar with the yearly ritual of setting our clocks ahead one hour, but do you know what circadian rhythm is and why it’s important? Understanding your own circadian rhythm and how to work with it can be an important part of maintaining good health. In this blog post, we’ll discuss what circadian rhythm is, how it works, and some ways that you can optimize your own rhythm to improve your health. Stay tuned!

Circadian rhythm is a natural, physiological process that regulates many different bodily functions.  It is controlled by a part of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which responds to light and dark signals. These signals help to synchronize our body’s clocks with the 24-hour day-night cycle.

The circadian rhythm has a huge impact on our health. It can affect everything from our energy levels to our sleep quality. How rhythmic or not your circadian rhythm is can have wide-ranging effects on your health, including but not limited to the following:

Heart Health

Key functions of cardiovascular health work on a circadian rhythm[i]. When there is a disruption to our circadian rhythm, it can increase our risk for a whole host of cardiovascular problems. Heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure and irregular heartbeat have all been linked to circadian rhythm disruption. A 2019 research study found a higher risk of heart attack after both time changes, but particularly during daylight saving. It is believed that the sudden shift in light and dark can confuse the SCN and cause it to send mixed signals to the heart.

Metabolism

The body’s metabolic rate is also tied to its circadian rhythm. When the rhythm is disrupted, it can lead to weight gain, insulin resistance and other metabolic problems. People who have a more regular circadian rhythm are more likely to have a healthy weight, while those with disrupted rhythms are more prone to obesity and metabolic disorders. Metabolic homeostasis, the body’s ability to maintain a healthy weight, is regulated by the circadian rhythm.[ii]

Sleep

The quality of our sleep is also closely tied to our circadian rhythm[iii]. The more regular and in sync our rhythm is, the better our sleep tends to be. People with disrupted circadian rhythms often suffer from insomnia, restless leg syndrome and other sleep problems. Poor sleep at the systems level can lead to a number of health problems, including obesity, diabetes and heart disease. There are specific disorders with known links to the central clock. These are known as circadian rhythm sleep disorders (CRSDs) and include:

Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder (DSPS):  People with this disorder have a hard time falling asleep and waking up at conventional times. They tend to go to bed late and wake up later than most people.

Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder (ASPD): People with this disorder fall asleep early and wake up very early, often before sunrise.

Irregular Sleep-Wake Syndrome (ISWS):  People with this disorder have no real pattern to their sleep and wake times.

Jet Lag:  This is a temporary disruption of the circadian rhythm that can occur when traveling across time zones.

Shift Work Disorder:  People who work at night or rotate shifts often have trouble adjusting their circadian rhythm to the new schedule.

Irregular Sleep-Wake Syndrome (ISWS):   People with this disorder have no real pattern to their sleep and wake times.

Cancer

While the link between circadian rhythm and cancer is still being studied, there is some evidence that circadian rhythm disruption can increase the risk of cance[iv]r. One study showed that women who worked night shifts had a higher risk of breast cancer.[v] Another study found that people who slept fewer than six hours per night were more likely to develop colon cancer.[vi] More research is needed to determine the precise link between circadian rhythm and cancer, but the preliminary evidence is suggestive.

Blood-Sugar Regulation

The circadian rhythm also regulates blood sugar levels[vii]. When the rhythm is disrupted, it can lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Studies have shown that people with regular circadian rhythms are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, while those with disrupted rhythms are more prone to the disease.

Asthma

Asthma is the result inflammation in the airways, which makes it difficult for you breathe.  In terms of circadian rhythm, asthma follows a “diurnal pattern” which refers to the regular daily fluctuations in symptoms. Asthma typically worsens during the day and is better at night. Research has shown that the disease path of asthma is closely linked to the circadian rhythm of certain inflammatory pathways.[viii]

Hormone Regulation

The circadian rhythm also regulates many hormones, including cortisol and melatonin. When the rhythm is disrupted, it can lead to hormone imbalance and a number of health problems. For example, people with disrupted circadian rhythms often have difficulty regulating their stress levels, which can lead to anxiety and depression. Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate sleep-wake cycles. When the rhythm is disrupted, it can lead to problems with sleep and insomnia.

OPTIMIZING YOUR CIRCADIAN RHYTHM

There are many ways to optimize your circadian rhythm and improve your health. Some tips include:

Daytime Light Exposure

Getting plenty of natural sunlight during the day is essential for keeping your circadian rhythm in check. Sunlight helps to synchronize the SCN and keep it aligned with the external environment. Make sure to get outside for at least a few minutes each day, even if it’s just to take a quick walk.

Blocking Light at Night

If you’re unable to get outside during the day, try to avoid exposure to artificial light at night. Blue light, in particular, can disrupt your circadian rhythm. Make sure to use blackout curtains or eye shades especially if you need to sleep in a room that has artificial light.

Staying on a Regular Schedule

Keeping a regular sleep schedule is one of the most important things you can do to optimize your circadian rhythm. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends.

Eating a Healthy Diet

A healthy diet is also essential for keeping your circadian rhythm in check. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and make sure to get enough protein and healthy fats. Avoid eating processed foods and sugary snacks, which can disrupt your rhythm.

Exercising Regularly

There is an old saying that couldn’t be truer: “A tired dog is a good dog.”  Exercise is crucial for keeping your circadian rhythm in balance. Make sure to get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day, and try to do it at the same time each day whenever possible.

Managing Stress

Finally, managing stress is essential for keeping your circadian rhythm in check. When you’re stressed out, it can throw off your rhythm and lead to a host of health problems. Make sure to practice relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises on a regular basis.

Caffeine Intake

Caffeine is a stimulant that can also disrupt your circadian rhythm. Try to avoid drinking caffeinated beverages late in the day, and try not to drink them at all if you’re struggling to get to bed.

CONCLUSION

The circadian rhythm is one of the most important patterns in your life and it has a significant impact on your health.  By understanding how this pattern works, you can make small changes to improve your well-being. We hope that this week’s blog post has helped increase your knowledge about circadian rhythms and their importance. Be sure to follow us next week for another informative blog post!


[i] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21641838/

[ii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3781773/

[iii] https://www.nigms.nih.gov/education/fact-sheets/Pages/circadian-rhythms.aspx

[iv] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7120250/

[v] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7013618/

[vi] https://sleepeducation.org/short-sleep-adds-colon-cancer-risk/#:~:text=A%20new%20study%20shows%20sleeping,a%20precursor%20to%20cancer%20tumors.

[vii] https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2009/10/bodys-circadian-rhythm-tightly-entwined-with-blood-sugar-control.html#:~:text=But%20what%20sets%20that%20circadian,mechanism%20for%20regulating%20blood%20sugar.

[viii] https://hms.harvard.edu/news/circadian-rhythm-asthma

Your immune system is designed to distinguish between what belongs in your body (e.g., I like you, myself) and what doesn’t (e.g., I don’t like you, not myself). For this purpose, it uses specialized cells to carry information around the body about which substances are friends or foe. It does this by tagging these molecules with pieces of protein called antigens. These pieces of information are carried on specialized cells – white blood cells – and displayed to other white blood cells by the process of antigen presentation. Immune cells use this information about which things in your body, good or bad, belong and which don’t as a guide to perform different tasks such as killing invaders. Autoimmune conditions are conditions where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues (and sometimes organs). Autoimmune conditions are increasing at an alarming rate yet diagnosing them can be tough. This week’s article will discuss the 5 basic components of autoimmune conditions.

Autoimmunity encompasses a diverse range of conditions that occur when something goes wrong with our immune system.  In fact, the immune system is meant to be a smart one. It receives information from our microbiome and has different cells that perform unique tasks – T-helper cells, cytotoxic T-cells, B-cells, etc. – all of which have a very particular purpose in their job description. This makes it tough for autoimmune conditions to sneak by undetected. Autoimmunity arises when something goes wrong in one of these components. When the immune system malfunctions, it starts to attack its own cells, tissues and organs. It can also lead to inflammation which is often autoimmune conditions are associated with excess amounts of systemic inflammation. Such conditions are referred to as autoinflammatory or autoinflammatory disorders.

Autoimmune conditions generally require 5 components: genetics, environmental factors, loss of gut-barrier function, an unruly immune system, and an imbalanced microbiome.

1. Genetics Our genetic code is made up of 46 chromosomes, including 22 pairs of autosomes (a chromosome that is not a sex chromosome) and one pair of sex chromosomes (X/Y). The sex chromosomes determine whether we develop male or female traits. Each cell in our body has the same DNA; however, different types of cells express different genes. For instance, liver cells only express the genes that play a role in liver function. The genetic code contains both “sensor” and “effector” information. Sensor information is expressed as recognition molecules called receptors and effectors are the responses generated by certain mechanisms when they bind to their receptors. Some of these receptor and effector mechanisms are enzymes and ion channels. Most cells in the body do not express receptors that recognize antigens (proteins that induce an immune response). However, some cells such as B-cells and T-cells — which play a key role in adaptive immunity — express receptors on their surface called immunoglobulins (antibodies). When an antigen binds to the B-cell receptor, the B-cell becomes activated and changes its gene expression to produce plasma cells. These plasma cells secrete antibodies that bind to the antigen. Then, other immune system cells aid in clearing the antigen out of circulation. The presence of these proteins on their cell surfaces is the first step in the immune response, which then triggers an adaptive response.

It has been suggested that genetics play a role in the development of autoimmune diseases, including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. The risk of developing an autoimmune disease is increased if you have family members with one or more autoimmune diseases. Many genes are believed to be involved in autoimmune disease, and it is believed that certain genes make people more susceptible to developing an autoimmune disease. For example, celiac disease an autoimmune condition that affects the small intestine is thought to be strongly influenced by genetics. A person with celiac disease is at increased risk of having family members with celiac disease, especially if they are related through blood (inherited). While your genes play an important role, they do not have to be your health destiny.  You can make changes in your lifestyle that affect your genes. 

2. Environmental Triggers: Environmental triggers are stimuli that exist in their environment which cause them to become ill. Environmental triggers are generally defined as non-infectious agents or conditions, although some infections can also be included within this definition. Examples of environmental triggers include chemicals, allergens, medications, ultraviolet radiation, thermal conditions, pollution, etc. Some environmental factors are known to possibly trigger or worsen autoimmune conditions, including celiac disease and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.[i] For example, gluten consumption has been identified as a possible triggering factor for autoimmune diseases, especially celiac disease. Some data even suggests that there is a higher prevalence of autoimmune conditions among those living in geographic regions where gluten consumption is more common. This means that people who live in areas with a high percentage of people who eat foods containing gluten (such as wheat or other grain products) may have an increased risk of developing an autoimmune condition, including celiac disease.

3.Loss of Gut-Barrier Function[ii]: Our gut-barrier function is a complex process that prevents unwanted substances from reaching our blood, lymphatic system and other areas of the body. Our body doesn’t want us to get sick, so there are mechanisms in place that work together to create this barrier. It has been suggested that the gut-barrier may be breached or damaged by environmental triggers, food ingredients or medications. This allows substances from the lumen of the intestine to enter our internal environment and trigger an autoimmune response. It is believed that the innate immune response in autoimmune conditions is created when our gut-barrier function is compromised and foreign antigens (antigens are fragments of proteins that induce an immune reaction) enter into systemic circulation. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a condition where there is a breakdown in gut-barrier function which results in an uncontrolled inflammatory response. The breakdown of the gut barrier may be due to genetic factors, environmental triggers or loss of mucosal integrity. Loss of gut-barrier function is common in autoimmune conditions, especially celiac disease and psoriasis.

4. An Unruly Immune System: The immune system has two main divisions that are responsible for protecting us from foreign invaders:   innate immunity and adaptive immunity. Innate immunity is our first line of defense against foreign invaders.[iii] It is non-specific and protects us by using physical, chemical and cellular barriers. The innate immune system reacts immediately to stop infection. This response takes place in all individuals, regardless of what organism or antigen has caused the stimulation. Innate Immunity usually stops an invasion within minutes to hours. Examples of this include fever, inflammation and the production of mucus. The second line of defense is our more specific adaptive immunity. In contrast to innate immunity, it takes days to weeks to fully activate. It works by creating a memory of the foreign invader and being able to recognize it if it were encountered again in the future. Adaptive Immunity, also known as T-cell mediated immunity, creates specific responses to antigens (the specific substance that causes the immune system to respond). Antigens can be proteins, such as those found on bacteria or viruses. They may also be tumor-associated proteins and transplant tissue antigens.

5. Imbalanced Microbiome: The human microbiome is a complex, vast and dynamic ecosystem of microbial and human cells that live in and on our bodies. We have an estimated 2-4 pounds of microbes living inside us, which is about the weight of a bowling ball. These microbes are made up of approximately 1000 different species from more than 39 major phyla. Our microbiota (the bacteria, viruses and fungi that live in or on our body) contains at least 160 times more bacterial cells than human cells. These microbial communities vary greatly and can be affected by many factors such as diet, genetics and environmental exposures. Bacteria within the microbiome produce enzymes and other chemicals which help to maintain health. The majority of these organisms exist in the gastrointestinal tract, where they synthesize vitamins, process carbohydrates and fats and degrade toxins and drugs. When our microbiome is imbalanced, this is called dysbiosis. Dysbiosis is when there is an abnormal composition of the microorganisms that comprise our microbiome. The microbiome can be disrupted by changes in diet, use of antibiotics and aging, among other things. It’s been estimated that over 50% of people with autoimmune conditions have alterations in their gut flora when compared to healthy individuals. Although researchers are still determining what a healthy microbiome looks like, it has been shown that the gut microbiota in patients with autoimmune disease is different from those who typically lack inflammation.

Institute for Human Optimization

We are seeing more a paradigm shift in healthcare.  At IfHO, we partner with you to become your health intelligence partner with the goal of optimizing your health. We accomplish this with our signature precision medicine approach. This may include functional, traditional, and/or naturopathic medicine. Our providers use a combination of therapies that are tailored to your specific needs with a health optimization goal. We believe that our Medical Team should make use of the latest scientific research to offer our patients personalized medicine, based on real data. We call this precision health and it is the future of healthcare.

Our focus is not only looking at the root cause, but also to measure, quantify and optimize the patient’s personal health. We take a preventative approach, personalized, and precise approach in helping our patients control their risk factors early on in order to avoid chronic illness down the road. Our team of medical providers use a comprehensive approach with every patient that comes into our office, looking at all aspects of health including lifestyle, environment and genetics. There is no generic one size fit all protocols. No two patients receive the same treatment plan since we work with each individual to create a personalized plan. We empower our patients with the right tools and information, so they can take control of their own health. This is the future of longevity!


[i] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5706077/

[ii] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22109896/

[iii] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17904335/

Maryland Functional Medicine

Maryland Functional Doctor

Maryland Functional Physician

F

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Have you ever wondered why sugar makes everything taste better? Sweetness is one of the most sought-after flavors in foods, and for good reason – it pleasurably stimulates our taste receptors. But what if we told you that all that sweetness isn’t so sweet after all? In fact, consuming large quantities of sugar can have some pretty nasty consequences for your health. Keep reading to find out more.

NO “HEALTHY” SUGARS

Despite marketing claims, there really isn’t a “healthy” sugar or sugar alternative. Sugar in the body regardless of form, all is broken down into simple sugars. In fact, the body does not differentiate between naturally occurring sugars and those that are added to foods.  The metabolism pathway is the same regardless of whether sugars are naturally occurring or are added to foods during processing. It does not matter whether the sugar is of natural origin or whether it is added, all sugars are broken down into glucose, fructose and galactose. These three simple sugars are absorbed into the blood stream where they are used by the body for energy or stored as glycogen in muscles or fat cells.

GLYCEMIC INDEX

The glycemic index (GI) is a numerical system for measuring the effects of carbohydrates on blood glucose levels. Carbs are ranked according to how they affect blood sugar. Foods that contain simple sugars, such as white bread and soda, have high GI scores because they cause sudden spikes in blood sugar. Foods that contain complex carbs, such as oatmeal and legumes, have low GI scores because they cause gradual increases in blood sugar.

The glycemic index is a complicated system for determining the speed at which carbohydrates digest and reach the bloodstream as glucose. However, it does not take into account how much of those carbohydrates one actually consumes or what the total effect on blood sugar levels will be.

For example, the glycemic index of table sugar is 65 compared to carrots which have a glycemic index of 49. However, one teaspoon of table sugar only has 4 grams of carbohydrates- about the same amount as one medium carrot. It would take 18 carrots to provide 16 grams of carbohydrate, which is equivalent to one teaspoon of table sugar.

The glycemic load (GL) is the best way to measure how fast carbohydrates are likely to raise your blood sugar levels after eating them.  It takes into account both the GI number and the actual amount of carbohydrate consumed. For example, table sugar has a high glycemic index (65), but a low glycemic load (4) (carrots have a high glycemic index, but a very low glycemic load).

NO HIDDEN SUGARS

Refined sugars are all made up of the same thing: sucrose. No matter what type of sugar you choose, if it is not listed as “sucrose” or another specific type of sugar, then it is most likely made up of mostly table sugar.

The best way to avoid hidden sugars in foods you eat is to look for ingredients that end in “-ose”. These are all different types of simple sugars: glucose, maltose lactose, sucrose, fructose, galactose, xylose.

PROPORTIONAL TO WEIGHT

Sugars provide fewer calories per gram than fat and protein. For example, one teaspoon of sugar contains 16 grams of carbohydrate and 4 calories; one tablespoon of honey contains 64 grams of carbohydrate and 265 calories; and one pat of butter contains 0 grams of carbohydrate and 509 calories. The high calorie content in sugars is why people gain weight when using them.

Added sugars are different from naturally occurring sugars, such as the lactose found in milk or fructose in fruit, which also contain other nutrients. Added sugar is just that — added to foods during processing where it provides calories but no other nutritional value.

OUR TOP RANKED SUGARS

Maple Syrup: Maple syrup is one of our top ranked sugars because of the minerals such as manganese zinc, and iron, and is also a good source of antioxidant plant nutrients. Maple syrup is also on our top ranked lists as it is a more sustainable sugar. Maple syrup is sourced from the sap of maple trees; tapping the trees doesn’t harm the tree or affect future yields.

Date Sugar: Date syrup is not just sugar as it is actually a food made from a fruit.  Dates are one of the richest sources of antioxidants, specifically phenols. Date sugar is also gluten-free and contains 3 grams of fiber per teaspoon for “bulk” so you can use less sugar in recipes. 

Raw Honey:  Honey is an antioxidant powerhouse.  Raw honey contains more antioxidants than most other sweeteners because of its darker color, which comes from the plant phytonutrients that bees collect from dark-colored flowers. I prefer pure raw honey over “raw” blends with added sugars or flavors.

Blackstrap Molasses:  Molasses are by-products of the process to make sugar white.  Blackstrap is the final product, which makes it the most concentrated in nutrients, including calcium potassium, iron, magnesium and vitamins B6 and B12.

Raw Cane Sugar:  Raw cane sugar has a milder flavor than refined white and brown sugars and can be used as a replacement for either in cooking and baking. Despite the title, it is actually not a raw sugar.  The crystals are made from evaporated sugar cane juice which can be unrefined, but is often further processed via filtration and decolorizing. Raw cane sugars are also found under the names of turbinado, panela, demerara and muscovado.

NO CALORIE SWEETENERS

There are also no calorie sweeteners that have no calories and no impact on blood sugar. However, there is a downside to this.  No calorie sweeteners don’t provide any nutrients and actually could potentially cause increased cravings for sweet foods because the body expects calories when it senses a sweet taste. Also, no calorie sweeteners may not be safe to consume long term. Most health organizations recommend eating these products in moderation. Sugar alternatives are highly processed and many may cause inflammation and other health problems; they also deplete the body of minerals and nutrients.

Stevia:  Stevia is a plant that has been used as a sweetener for hundreds of years. It contains no calories because it doesn’t break down during digestion, so all you absorb is its sweetness. I recommend getting your stevia from the whole plant rather than a refined product and I prefer liquid or powdered forms to granulated.

Monk fruit:  Monk fruit is another natural, no calorie sweetener that has been used for hundreds of years in China and Southeast Asia. It contains antioxidants and has been used as both medicine and tea to aid digestion. Refined products contain some calories as they must be concentrated from the fruit.

Yacón Root: Yacón root is a plant native to South America and has been used as food and medicine for centuries. It contains inulin which helps make it taste sweet and provides prebiotics, like dietary fiber, that feed the health promoting bacteria in our gut.

Allulose:   Allulose is a naturally occurring sugar that is very rare. It tastes sweet but doesn’t raise blood sugar or insulin levels, which has made it popular with makers of reduced calorie foods. We don’t know enough about allulose because it hasn’t been studied long term so we are unsure as to if it can cause problems when consumed regularly.

So, what’s the takeaway? The bitter truth is that all of those lovely sweeteners we love are metabolized in the same way, and can have negative effects on our health when overconsumed. While sugar intake has been linked to obesity and type II diabetes, it may also play a role in other chronic diseases. Next week, we will explore the impact on sugar and healthspan. In the meantime, follow us on social media for weekly insights in the field of longevity.

Maryland Functional Medicine

Maryland Functional Doctor

As we approach the end of another year, many of us are looking ahead to the New Year and setting resolutions or intentions for ourselves. One area that is ripe for change is our health. One great way to set healthy intentions for the New Year is by thinking about what you want to achieve physically, emotionally, and mentally. Maybe you want to lose weight, get in shape, or eat healthier. Perhaps you’d like to reduce stress levels or boost your energy. Here are some tips for setting effective health intentions for the New Year.

. . .

WHY SETTING HEALTH GOALS IS IMPORTANT?

In medicine, we work daily with our patients and set goals we want them to achieve by their next follow-up visit. Setting these realistic goals allow for them to not only be an active participant in their health, but to create daily habits to achieve their optimal level of wellness. Similarly, you can set goals for yourself. Not only can setting health goals help you achieve your objectives, but they can also be a great source of motivation as well as encouragement as you work towards those goals on a daily basis.

HOW TO SET HEALTHY INTENTIONS?

First, you want to identify what it is that you want to change about your health.

Are you experiencing symptoms or do you want to prevent symptoms?

Are you feeling stressed out by the daily grind of life, are you not sleeping well at night, are you looking for an alternative way to manage symptoms of depression?

Do you feel like this is a good time in your life to achieve one of these objectives?

Once you have identified the things that you want to change, it is important to realize that change is a process and nothing will happen overnight. Remembering this can give you the motivation to push through those times when your progress is not as quick as you would like.

SUSTAINABLE, LONG-TERM GOALS

Once you’ve set realistic goals for your health, create small daily habits that can help you achieve your health objectives. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, schedule time each day for exercise and track your food intake. If sleep deprivation is affecting your mood or productivity at work, try to go to bed earlier or take a 20-minute nap during the day so you are more alert.

If you are struggling to stay motivated on your new behaviors, set up some accountability for yourself. For example, if you are trying to lose weight, tell a friend about your goals and ask him or her to check in with you daily on your progress.

Lastly, remember that achieving health goals is not only about the big picture of your overall well-being, but also the little things that we do each and every day. By committing to a health change and creating daily habits that can help you maintain this new behavior, you will be on your way to a happier and healthier 2022!

IMPORTANCE OF EATING HEALTHY & NOT FAD DIETS

Fad diets are common in the new year.  Many of these diets can help you lose weight quickly, but it is typically not sustainable and they provide no long-term benefits.

Eating healthy does not mean that you have to go on a strict diet or eat bland food. It simply means that the majority of your foods each day should be fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains (e.g. brown rice or quinoa), lean proteins (e.g. fish, poultry, beans), and healthy fats (e.g. nuts, seeds, olive oil). While you can lose weight on these diets, they are not good for the body long-term since they do not include many of these important foods that contain antioxidants and other important nutrients that help us function optimally.

ARE YOU GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP?

Many times, when we don’t get enough sleep, we find ourselves reaching for a cup of coffee in the morning to wake up our brains and bodies. Or perhaps you have noticed that after a night without much sleep, your mood is less than stellar and you cannot concentrate as well at work.

While sleep is not the only factor in maintaining good moods or optimal energy levels, it plays an important role.  Make sure that you are getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night to maintain your health and wellness!

BRAIN HEALTH & EXERCISE – ALSO IMPORTANT FOR YOUR HEALTH

Studies indicate that participating in regular exercise helps prevent dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and mild cognitive impairment. Regular exercise also has benefits for body weight, cardiovascular health, sleep quality, productivity at work, mood disorders (e.g., anxiety and depression), stress management, self-esteem and self-confidence, and the list goes on.

If you are not currently exercising regularly, start by committing to exercising 3-4 times per week for 30 minutes each time.  Remember to always speak with your physician before starting any exercise program!

It is also important to note that exercising does not have to be boring or strenuous. Find activities that you enjoy, such as walking, hiking, swimming, biking, yoga or dancing. And if you love a good workout in the gym, make sure you are getting results from all of your hard work!

BONUS: TIPS TO KEEPING YOUR HEALTH OPTIMIZATION GOALS ON TRACK 

– Map out your goal and the steps it will take to achieve this goal.  Be specific and realistic when you set your health optimization goals so that you can identify what is needed to reach your objective.

– Determine the resources available in order to meet these goals, such as time, money, family support, etc.

– Identify a support system of friends and family who are trying to achieve positive health changes as well. Having this network of people around you will help you stay accountable on your path to optimal health!

– Stay focused and dedicated to these new behaviors by reminding yourself why you made these goals in the first place.  Revisit your goal statement often, whether it is printed out and hanging near your computer or written on a notecard in your wallet. Having this daily reminder of why you are taking these steps to improve your health will help motivate you throughout the year and beyond!

– Track your progress and celebrate each success along the way. This does not mean that you need to weigh yourself every day, but rather take note of how you are feeling and how it is easier to stick with your new behaviors.

Health optimization is not an easy task, but by setting your intentions for 2022 now, you are preparing yourself to achieve these goals. So say goodbye to those FAD diets that promise quick weight loss or guilt-free eating habits that leave you feeling deprived. Instead, commit to making healthy lifestyle changes that will improve your health and wellness in the long term and make sure your friends and family are on board with keeping you accountable!

I hope that this article was helpful to you and wish you a very happy, healthy 2022.

Maryland Functional Medicine 

DNA methylation is a biological process that changes the structure of DNA. It can affect how tightly your genes are packaged and how easily they’re turned on or off. This process is an important part of normal cellular activity and helps protect cells from damage caused by stressors like toxins, poor diet, etc. Follow us on this week’s post to understand more about this process and its role in human health and longevity.

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WHAT IS DNA METHYLATION

Methylation is the addition of a methyl group (-CH3) to a molecule. In the context of DNA, it’s the addition of a methyl group to one of the bases, cytosine (C). DNA is formed by two strands that form a helical structure (also called the double helix). Each strand is comprised of nucleotide bases, which are labeled A, T, C, and G.[i] There are four types of DNA methylation:

1.  5-methylcytosine:  This is the most abundant and stable type of cytosine methylation.[ii]

2.  5-hydroxymethylcytosine: This is a byproduct of active DNA demethylation and can be reformed into cytosine methylation.

3. 6-methyladenine:  This is found in bacterial DNA and is a result of the methylation of adenine.

4. N6-methyladenine: This is also found in bacterial DNA and is the result of methylation of adenine, but it’s a result of a different enzyme system.

The addition of a methyl group to cytosine alters the way the DNA is packaged and can affect how genes are expressed. Methylated DNA is less accessible to proteins that read DNA ( transcription factors) and can lead to  gene silencing.

Silencing this process can change how genes are expressed. The methylated DNA is said to be “methylated” and the unmethylated DNA is said to be “unmethylated.” More than 70% of human CpG islands (sequences on chromosomes) are methylated.

DNA METHYLATION AND GENE EXPRESSION

When genes contain methyl groups, they tend to remain inactive and gene expression is decreased.  This is because methylation helps to “wrap” the DNA around proteins called histones, which keeps them from being accessed by transcription factors. Transcription factors refer to a group of proteins that bind to the DNA and help turn genes on or off.

Even though methylation can decrease gene activity, this process is important for normal cellular functioning. For example, it helps control inflammation by turning off genes that promote inflammation. It also helps turn off tumor suppressor genes in cells that don’t need to divide – like heart or nerve cells.

That being said, when it’s dysregulated, improper methylation has been linked with a variety of diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and autism.

The addition of a methyl group can also change the physical shape of the DNA molecule, making it harder for transcription factors to bind to it.

On the other hand, when genes are unmethylated, they tend to be turned on and gene expression is increased. When genes lack these methyl groups, the proteins they encode are more likely to be produced. This is why methylation can affect things like cancer development, as well as normal cell function.

HOW DOES DNA METHYLATION AFFECT THE BODY

DNA methylation is a necessary part of normal cellular function because it protects against stressors that can damage DNA. Cells are constantly under attack from harmful substances, radiation, toxins, poor diet, etc., so they have to be able to protect themselves. DNA methylation helps to do this by silencing genes that could cause damage.

When the body is healthy, DNA methylation works properly and everything runs smoothly. However, when the body is not healthy, it can lead to problems with methylation. For example, when a person is stressed out or has a poor diet, their cells become stressed and DNA methylation decreases.

PROBLEMS WITH DNA METHYLATION IN THE BODY

What causes improper methylation in the body?

There are a few things that can cause problems with methylation, including:

  • Nutritional deficiencies: A person who is deficient in certain vitamins and minerals (like B6, B12, zinc, and magnesium) may have problems with methylation.
  • Environmental toxins: Toxins from the environment can also interfere with methylation. These toxins include things like pesticides, herbicides, plastics, and heavy metals.
  • Inflammation: When the body is under chronic stress or has high levels of inflammation, it can have trouble with methylation. This is because high levels of free radicals can damage DNA and lead to problems with methylation. Methyl groups also help protect cells from free radical damage.
  • Age: As we get older, our ability to methylate decreases. This is because as we age, we lose cells that help with methylation, and our DNA becomes more susceptible to damage.[iii]
  • Genetics: Some people are born with genes that make it harder for them to methylate DNA properly.

DNA METHYLATION & LONGEVITY

While there is much to be discovered on DNA Methylation and longevity, there are some early indications that it may be involved in the aging process[iv]. One study showed that people with high levels of methylated DNA lived longer than those with low levels of methylated DNA. Another study showed that when cells are unable to methylate DNA, they age more quickly. More research is needed to determine the role of DNA methylation in longevity, but these early findings suggest that it may be important.

CONCLUSION

DNA methylation is a complex process that plays an important role in normal cellular function. When it’s properly methylated, it helps to protect against environmental stressors and inflammation. It also plays an essential role in mitochondrial function, which is important for energy production.

However, when the body becomes stressed – whether it’s because of deficiencies, toxins, inflammation, age, genetics, or other factors – then DNA methylation can become impaired.  This can lead to a variety of problems, including cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, and other health issues.  It’s important to understand how it affects you and what changes can be made for optimal health. We hope this article has helped shed some light on what DNA methylation is and how it works in your body. Follow us next week!

Disclaimer: The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Additionally, the information provided in this blog, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images, and other material contained on this website, or in any linked materials, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice and are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Before taking any medications, over-the-counter drugs, supplements or herbs, consult a physician for a thorough evaluation. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this or any website.


[i] https://www.genome.gov/genetics-glossary/Deoxyribonucleic-Acid

[ii] https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/5-Methylcytosine

[iii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3482848/

[iv] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16565708/

Oxidative stress is a term that refers to the deterioration of our cells and tissues due to an imbalance between the production of free radicals and antioxidants. Free radicals are highly reactive molecules with unpaired electrons, which can cause harm when they interact with other important molecules in our cells. Antioxidants, on the other hand, work by donating their extra electron to neutralize free radicals before they can do any damage. This balance between free radical production and antioxidant protection is essential for health because it has been shown that oxidative stress plays a role in many chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes mellitus type 2, cardiovascular disease (CVD), Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and Parkinson’s Disease (PD), and more. There are many risk factors for oxidative stress including genetics, diet, exercise habits and environmental pollution. In this blog post we will be discussing what oxidative stress is, how it affects our body, and more!

. . .

WHAT IS OXIDATIVE STRESS?

Oxidative stress is a natural phenomenon that occurs through metabolic processes in the body. It’s made by the release of free radicals during the process of lipid peroxidation, which involves an enzyme called lipoxygenase producing ROS while breaking down fats under oxidative conditions.[i] In other words, oxidative stress occurs when the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) exceeds the body’s ability to protect itself with antioxidants. Reactive oxygen species refers to oxygen molecules that have unpaired electrons, making them “reactive”. ROS is made when oxygen interacts with other compounds; this can be caused by many external factors such as air pollution or cigarette smoke. When the produced ROS exceeds the body’s protection (antioxidants), it causes the oxidation of important molecules like DNA, proteins, and lipids (fats). These ROS include free radicals such as superoxide anions, hydrogen peroxide, and hydroxyl radicals, which form during normal metabolic processes. Superoxide anions refer to the combination of two oxygen molecules to form a free radical. This compound lacks an electron and can damage different types of biomolecules such as DNA, proteins, and lipids through oxidation. Hydrogen peroxide is made when superoxide anions break apart and are known as the primary toxic molecule of ROS. Hydrogen peroxide can also damage DNA, proteins, and lipids by oxidizing them. The hydroxyl radical is formed when hydrogen peroxide reacts with the superoxide ion, producing highly reactive OH-radicals that break down cell membranes and tissues in the body.

The release of these free radicals increases when there is damage to mitochondria in our cells, which is crucial for producing energy. Mitochondria (the part of our cells that turns food into energy) has to work harder during oxidative stress and requires large amounts of antioxidants.[ii]

HOW DOES OXIDATIVE STRESS AFFECT OUR BODY?

Because oxidative stress involves the production of free radicals, it can damage many types of molecules in our cells such as lipids (fats) and DNA. This is important because cell membranes and DNA are largely made up of lipids and contain genetic information that tells our body how to function. A study found that when there is an imbalance between ROS and antioxidants, it can cause oxidative damage to lipids in our cells. This is important because lipids are the fatty molecules that form cell membranes and protect our cells from foreign objects. When lipid peroxidation occurs, free radicals attack the lipids in cell membranes damaging them. When the cell membrane becomes damaged, it increases permeability which allows molecules to leak into the cell causing further damage to proteins and other important molecules. Free radicals can also directly cause oxidative stress through DNA damage. [iii]This occurs when free radicals combine with oxygen in essential parts of our DNA such as the mitochondrial genome, which is crucial for producing energy within cells. The combination of these oxidative damages creates a domino effect throughout our body cells. Damage to DNA results in the inability of cells to divide properly, which leads to uncontrolled cell growth. This can cause tumors and cancerous tumor cells to form all over our bodies. Damages caused by oxidative stress on lipids (fats) is important because fats are part of the lipid bilayer that forms the outer membrane of every living cell. When the lipid bilayer is damaged by ROS it leads to improper functioning in cells throughout our body.

When our body is under oxidative stress, there’s an accumulation of free radicals in our cells which results in damages to molecules like lipids (fats) and DNA. This can cause many problems in different parts of the body including:

– Increased atherosclerosis, is where plaque build-ups form in arteries causing them to harden.

– Increased risk for developing cancer and tumors because of DNA damage caused by ROS.

– Damages to cell membranes that lead to improper functioning in cells throughout our body.

COMMON SOURCES OF OXIDATIVE STRESS

Oxidative stress can be caused by many factors including environmental pollutants such as cigarette smoke, ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the Sun, and chronic infections like hepatitis. There are several other common sources of oxidative stress including:

– Smoking tobacco

– Eating high-calorie meals that contain a lot of fat, which can lead to obesity and increase the risk for cardiovascular disease.

– Consuming caffeine or alcohol in excess, because these substances inhibit enzymes that produce antioxidants in our body.

– Consuming a poor diet which may lack the necessary vitamins and minerals needed to make antioxidants in our body.

– Living a sedentary lifestyle, because can lead to weight gain that results in cardiovascular disease.

– Exposure to pollutants, which can come from the workplace or even the local environment.

One of the biggest sources of oxidative stress is exposure to sunlight. [iv]UV radiation that comes from sunlight has many harmful effects on our body including skin cancer because it promotes free radical formation in our bodies. When we are exposed to UV radiation it causes oxidation reactions in the skin, which damage proteins like collagen. Collagen is what gives our skin its strength and elasticity. When it becomes damaged, these effects lead to wrinkles and sagging in our skin.

Oxidative stress is a term that refers to the deterioration of our cells and tissues due to an imbalance between the production of free radicals and antioxidants. But what does this have to do with longevity?  Studies show that people who experience high levels of oxidative stress during their lifetimes may be at greater risk for developing dementia or other age-related diseases later on in life. There are many ways in which we can help reduce oxidative stress, such as with antioxidant rich foods. What are some easy ways you have increased your antioxidant intake lately? Share with us in the comments below or follow us on next week’s blog for more information related to oxidative stress and longevity.


[i] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5551541/#:~:text=Oxidative%20stress%20is%20a%20phenomenon,to%20detoxify%20these%20reactive%20products.

[ii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4145906/#:~:text=Oxidative%20stress%20is%20characterized%20by,homeostasis%20and%20mitochondrial%20defense%20systems.

[iii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC484183/

[iv] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29124687/#:~:text=The%20generation%20of%20reactive%20oxygen,mechanisms%2C%20oxidative%20stress%20can%20develop.

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