Human Optimization

Mitochondria serve as the powerhouses of our cells for which a delicate balance of energy flow is needed to generate energy production. Mitochondrial function has a substantial impact on the aging process and its dysfunction can accelerate aging.

. . .

The biological definition of aging is the many processes of cellular damage accumulation in the body. These are known in the scientific literature as the Nine Hallmarks of Aging. We’ve covered the first four, or primary, hallmarks: genomic instability, telomere attrition, epigenetic alterations, and loss of proteostasis, as well as the first of the antagonistic: deregulated nutrient-sensing.

The role of the antagonistic hallmarks is to respond to and block the damage caused by the primary hallmarks. Yet, when bodily conditions become chronic and/or aggravated, they end up contributing to cellular damage and can accelerate aging. The sixth hallmark, and second of the antagonistic, is mitochondrial dysfunction. It is implicated in numerous age-related pathologies including neurodegenerative and cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, obesity and cancer.

Our source of cellular energy

You may remember from biology class that mitochondria are membrane-bound organelles, or specialized structures, within the cytoplasm our cells. Their main role is to metabolize, or break down carbohydrates and fatty acids, which creates energy-harvesting chemical reactions that result in adenosine triphosphate (ATP), often referred to as the energy currency of our cells. Mitochondria generate over 80% of our ATP through a process called cellular respiration, which requires oxygen. It does this via the oxidation of glucose.

Division, fusion and quality control

Mitochondria are highly dynamic and continually fuse and divide. Many cellular pathways allow this to happen, and these roles are critical, especially when cells encounter stress.

Mitochondrial fission, or division, is crucial to create new mitochondria for growing cells. Fission also contributes to quality control by enabling the removal of damaged mitochondria and can facilitate apoptosis (controlled cell death) during high levels of cellular stress. Mitochondrial fusion helps mitigate stress by mixing the contents of partially damaged mitochondria.

A 2017 research article in the journal, Genes, states that, “The maintenance of mitochondrial and cellular homeostasis requires a tight regulation and coordination between generation of new and removal of damaged mitochondria.”  When these mechanisms are disrupted, it affects normal development, which can lead to neurodegenerative diseases.

Mutations

Mitochondria contain their own DNA (called mtDNA), separate from the rest of the genes in the nucleus of our cells. It is for this reason that some researchers believe that mitochondria evolved from primitive bacteria that developed a symbiotic relationship with our cells over 1.45 billion years ago!

One of the causes of mitochondrial dysfunction is mutations in mtDNA, which occur mostly due to spontaneous errors during the replication process and damage repair. As we age, these mutations have been shown to increase in the human brain, heart, skeletal muscles and liver tissues.

Energy and oxygen

In electron transport chain, a cluster of proteins transfer electrons through a membrane within mitochondria, which releases energy that is used to form an electrochemical gradient that drives the creation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Without enough ATP, cells are not able to function properly, and, after a long enough period of time, may even die.

Unfortunately during the process, mitochondria also produce most of the free radicals, or as scientists like to call them: reactive oxygen species (ROS). Mitochondrial dysfunction is mediated by several processes including increased production of ROS. Until recently, some researchers believed that ROS were the main cause of aging. However, studies have shown that purposely lowering ROS did not have a negative effect on health and that in fact, increasing ROS could be helpful in signaling cellular stress. Regardless, the increased production of ROS can contribute to a loss of mitochondrial integrity and biogenesis.

SOURCE: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5748716/, Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. 

Mitochondria are capable of self-replication, but progressively become more dysfunctional with age. They have built in quality control and housekeeping, but over time, these fail. As shown in the figure above from a research article in the journal, Genes, mitochondrial fusion and fission, a defective mitophagy process, and mitochondrial damage from increased mtDNA mutations, increased free radicals and oxidative damage and reduced ATP levels all contribute to age-related disorders associated with mitochondrial dysfunction.

How to improve mitochondrial function

While the jury is still out on exactly how to improve mitochondrial function and there is some controversy over some of the recommended treatments, there is agreement on a few ways to mediate mitochondrial dysfunction as we age.

A moderate level of eustress, or beneficial stress, has been shown to promote cellular and mitochondrial health. A concept named mitohormesis has been studied, which could promote lifespan and healthspan. A 2014 research article reviewed over 500 publications and found that, “Increasing evidence indicates. . .reactive oxygen species (ROS), consisting of superoxide, hydrogen peroxide, and multiple others, do not only cause oxidative stress, but rather may function as signaling molecules that promote health by preventing or delaying a number of chronic diseases, and ultimately extend lifespan.

“While high levels of ROS are generally accepted to cause cellular damage and to promote aging, low levels of these may rather improve systemic defense mechanisms by inducing an adaptive response.” Many call this the Goldilocks Zone – not too little, not too much. You may find a theme after reading our last few blogs: Calorie restriction and physical activity are two of the most substantial ways to maintain this balance.

What else can I do?

My best-selling book, The Longevity Equation, provides a step-by-step blueprint to hack your genes, optimize your health and master the art of existence. In my book, I take an in-depth look at aging, explore what it means to extend your healthspan, and outline the pathways and factors that lead to a lifelong solution to the burdens of aging.

In collaboration with TruDiagnostic™, I have developed The Longevity Equation Epigenetic Consult. We are offering a revolutionary new way to access your health using an epigenetic test called TruAge™. This test will help tell you what your body is actually doing right now and what that means. 

TruAge™ works by using mathematical models and a powerful algorithm to measure DNA methylation-based biomarkers. Methylation is what modifies the function of the genes in the body by adding what’s called a methyl group to DNA, which is what signals genes to turn on or off. DNA methylation is the best indicator of age-related changes and is the best-studied biomarker of age. This comprehensive testing method determines your epigenetic, or biological age, and can detect the acceleration of aging before the signs of aging even begin to appear.

The Longevity Equation Epigenetic Consult is intended to give you a snapshot of your biological age, as well as the lifestyle and environmental shifts you can make right away to start adding vitality and wellness into your life. Click here to schedule your consult!

More about The Institute for Human Optimization

The Institute for Human Optimization is committed to helping you create a personalized plan for living your longest, healthiest life possible. My team and I leverage the most cutting-edge advances in genetic testing, nutritional analysis, and functional medicine to get to the root biological imbalances that cause aging.

The Institute for Human Optimization was created with the intention of pursuing a highly personalized approach to longevity medicine to help enhance healthspan. Where lifespan is the actual number of years we’re alive, healthspan is how many of those years are spent in health and wellness.

We believe that a long healthspan – not just a long lifespan – is the most important thing you can cultivate. A long healthspan means you don’t miss out on life as you get older. It means remaining independent and having the vitality to travel and see the world.  A long healthspan means that you can be there – in full body and mind – for the people who need you the most and that every day will feel like a gift.

We know that each person is truly unique. From DNA to iris, we all possess a blueprint that is genetically inherited and environmentally influenced. By gaining a deeper appreciation for the person on a molecular level and addressing the root causes driving disease, we can help promote optimized health through our unique scientific, N of 1, approach to individualized care.

The Institute for Human Optimization provides the most comprehensive, data-driven, personalized approach to wellness. It is:

·   Predictive – We use genomics and advanced biomarker testing to risk stratification and empowerment.

·   Personalized – We use data-driven health information to curate actionable change for disease mitigation and prevention.

·   Preventive – We utilize highly individualized programs tailored to your unique genomic blueprint.

·   Participatory – We empower engagement in personal choices, which allows for improved outcomes and enhanced results.

I am so excited about the possibility to support you on this cutting-edge journey to extend your lifespan AND your healthspan. Click here to schedule Your Longevity Equation Epigenetic Consult! Can’t wait to meet you!

The capacity of our bodies to sense and respond to the ebb and flow of nutrient levels is vital to sustaining life. As we age, our body shifts in how its cells respond to the number of nutrients available.

. . .

The biological definition of aging is the many processes of cellular damage accumulation in the body. These are known in the scientific literature as the Nine Hallmarks of Aging. We’ve covered the first four or primary, hallmarks already: genomic instability, telomere attrition, epigenetic alterations, and loss of proteostasis.

The next three hallmarks of aging are called antagonistic. Their role is to respond to and block the damage caused by the primary hallmarks. Yet, when bodily conditions become chronic and/or aggravated, they end up contributing to cellular damage, and thus accelerated aging.

The fifth hallmark, and first of the antagonistic, is deregulated nutrient-sensing. Our bodies contain complex regulatory mechanisms that measure nutrient scarcity or abundance. This process tells our cells whether to grow or whether to clean up and repair. This is based on the information it gets from hormone and protein signaling pathways.

The body’s balancing act

Metabolism is every biochemical reaction that goes on in your body. It converts food into the energy that sustains life, and there are specific proteins in the body that cause these reactions. When it comes to eating, your body uses a never-ending cycle that breaks down nutrients in food, rebuilds them, and then breaks them down again.

Energy is required for anabolism, or constructive metabolism, which is the process that builds new cells, maintains body tissues, and stores energy for later use. When your body is in an anabolic state, special enzymes separate the smaller molecules in your food, such as amino acids and glucose. These compounds are absorbed into the blood and carried to the cells, where they are either stored in body tissues such as the liver, muscles, and body fat or used for energy.

Energy is released during catabolism, or destructive metabolism, which is the process that generates the energy needed for all other cellular activities, including repair. When your body is in a catabolic state, it breaks down those complex molecules in order to release the energy you need for fuel. This then feeds the cycle that enables anabolism to begin again.

Building it up

We have evolved to be able to transition between anabolic and catabolic states, which has allowed us to survive and grow in environments in which nutrient availability is variable. One of the ways that our bodies do this is a signaling pathway controlled by a protein kinase, or enzyme, called mTOR.

mTOR controls cell growth, movement, and survival, as well as protein synthesis, autophagy, and transcription (how a cell copies its information when it’s ready to divide). It is adaptable and coordinates cell activity based on cues from the environment, such as nutrients, or lack thereof, and growth factors. It is ultimately responsible for the sensing of high amino acids concentrations.

Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) primarily works with growth hormones to promote development in bone and tissues. IGF-1 uses the same signaling pathway as insulin, which tells the cells that glucose is present. This is known as the “insulin and IGF-1 signaling” (IIS) pathway, which is the most conserved age-controlling pathway throughout evolution. The IIS pathway regulates metabolism, growth, tissue maintenance, and reproduction in response to nutrient abundance.

When nutrients are abundant, the mTOR and IIS pathways work in tandem to form a network that helps to keep the body in an anabolic state that promotes cell growth and building. Conversely, mTOR is inhibited when nutrients are limited, which puts the body in a catabolic state and allows for cellular clean-up and repair.

Breaking it down

You may remember from a former blog that adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK) acts like the body’s cellular housekeeper. It is what inhibits mTOR to promote catabolism. AMPK senses low energy states by detecting high AMP levels. AMP (adenosine monophosphate) is the end product of energy production.

Sirtuins are a family of proteins that regulate cellular health and they’re made by almost every cell in the body. They only function properly in the presence of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+), which is an essential cofactor in the production of energy by the mitochondria inside the cell and in energy metabolism.

Together, AMPK and sirtuins signal nutrient scarcity and catabolism. AMPK boosts NAD+, which in turn activates sirtuins. This initiates autophagy and the cellular housekeeping process begins.

You are what you do AND don’t eat

Sirtuins, mTOR, and the IIS pathway are all connected and respond to nutrient availability. One major way is via AMPK, and when it is activated, it prompts a cascade of complex interactions. Their functions fluctuate depending on the metabolic state of our body at any given time, thus their being labeled as part of the antagonistic hallmark of aging: deregulated nutrient-sensing.

Lopez-Ortiz et al concluded in their landmark paper, The Hallmarks of Aging, “Collectively, current available evidence strongly supports the idea that anabolic signaling accelerates aging, and decreased nutrient signaling extends longevity.”

Dietary restriction (DR), such as intermittent fasting or the fasting-mimicking diet, is the only intervention that has consistently been shown to increase lifespan. While we are still learning exactly why and how this is the case, the above-referenced research is showing that the sensing of nutrients plays an important part. We know that part of the reason dietary restriction works is by obstructing mTOR and the IIS pathway and activating AMPK and therefore sirtuins. 

In our blog on autophagy, we explained that intermittent fasting means becoming conscious of the times you choose to eat and increasing the time you’re not consuming calories. It is also known as time-restricted eating. Valter Longo, Director of the Longevity Research Institute, helped popularize what he calls the fasting-mimicking diet. His research showed that mice that fasted intermittently had improved life spans, reduced inflammation, increased cognitive ability, and that this mechanism could be used in humans for similar results.

Dietary restriction is an effective way to increase your lifespan and your healthspan. It has been proven, and while it takes a lifestyle adjustment, it is possible for your choices to have a direct impact on how you age.

What else can I do?

My best-selling book, The Longevity Equation, provides a step-by-step blueprint to hack your genes, optimize your health and master the art of existence. In my book, I take an in-depth look at aging, explore what it means to extend your healthspan, and outline the pathways and factors that lead to a lifelong solution to the burdens of aging.

In collaboration with TruDiagnostic™, I have developed The Longevity Equation Epigenetic Consult. We are offering a revolutionary new way to access your health using an epigenetic test called TruAge™. This test will help tell you what your body is actually doing right now and what that means. 

TruAge™ works by using mathematical models and a powerful algorithm to measure DNA methylation-based biomarkers. Methylation is what modifies the function of the genes in the body by adding what’s called a methyl group to DNA, which is what signals genes to turn on or off. DNA methylation is the best indicator of age-related changes and is the best-studied biomarker of age. This comprehensive testing method determines your epigenetic, or biological age, and can detect the acceleration of aging before the signs of aging even begin to appear.

The Longevity Equation Epigenetic Consult is intended to give you a snapshot of your biological age, as well as the lifestyle and environmental shifts you can make right away to start adding vitality and wellness into your life. Click here to schedule your consult!

More about The Institute for Human Optimization

The Institute for Human Optimization is committed to helping you create a personalized plan for living your longest, healthiest life possible. My team and I leverage the most cutting-edge advances in genetic testing, nutritional analysis, and functional medicine to get to the root biological imbalances that cause aging.

The Institute for Human Optimization was created with the intention of pursuing a highly personalized approach to longevity medicine to help enhance healthspan. Where lifespan is the actual number of years we’re alive, healthspan is how many of those years are spent in health and wellness.

We believe that a long healthspan – not just a long lifespan – is the most important thing you can cultivate. A long healthspan means you don’t miss out on life as you get older. It means remaining independent and having the vitality to travel and see the world.  A long healthspan means that you can be there – in full body and mind – for the people who need you the most and that every day will feel like a gift.

We know that each person is truly unique. From DNA to iris, we all possess a blueprint that is genetically inherited and environmentally influenced. By gaining a deeper appreciation for the person on a molecular level and addressing the root causes driving disease, we can help promote optimized health through our unique scientific, N of 1, approach to individualized care.

The Institute for Human Optimization provides the most comprehensive, data-driven, personalized approach to wellness. It is:

·   Predictive – We use genomics and advanced biomarker testing to risk stratification and empowerment.

·   Personalized – We use data-driven health information to curate actionable change for disease mitigation and prevention.

·   Preventive – We utilize highly individualized programs tailored to your unique genomic blueprint.

·   Participatory – We empower engagement in personal choices, which allows for improved outcomes and enhanced results.

I am so excited about the possibility to support you on this cutting-edge journey to extend your lifespan AND your healthspan. Click here to schedule Your Longevity Equation Epigenetic Consult! Can’t wait to meet you!

Cells need protein to grow and repair. Our bodies have safety measures in place to keep the production of proteins stable and without defects. However, sometimes these measures fail. This can lead to a cascade of errors that contribute to one of the primary causes of aging.

. . .

The biological definition of aging is the many processes of cellular damage accumulation in the body and these are known in the scientific literature as the Nine Hallmarks of Aging. The first four hallmarks are considered primary since they are believed to be actual causes of aging and have a definitively negative effect on DNA. The fourth hallmark, and the last of the primary, is loss of proteostasis.

Loss of proteostasis happens when the protein-building processes in the body go awry and the systems that eliminate damaged proteins malfunction. This leads to the accumulation of excess proteins, where they begin to cluster and cause disease, such as Alzheimer’s.

Transcribing the code

In our previous blog on genomic instability, we illustrated how our DNA contains the genetic instructions for making proteins. And our telomere attrition blog described the smaller units of DNA called nucleotide bases. In a process called transcription, when a cell is ready to copy its information, an enzyme called RNA polymerase binds to the DNA in a region known as the promotor.

In a manner similar to unzipping, RNA polymerase moves along the DNA making an exact, but opposite single strand of messenger RNA. The order of the bases is determined by the DNA code. The DNA continues to unwind ahead of the messenger RNA and rewinds behind it. The RNA polymerase enzyme helps to stabilize the molecules while the DNA is open, or unzipped.

Translating the code

Once the whole gene has been read, the messenger RNA travels out of the nucleus into the cytoplasm, a gel-like substance inside the cell membrane. Protein factories called ribosomes then bind to the messenger RNA. The ribosome reads the code in blocks of three bases at a time, known as codons.

Each codon contains instructions for one of 20 different amino acids. The ribosome then produces a chain where the corresponding amino acids are strung together. The sequence and chemical reactions along the molecule allow it to fold, twist or coil into elaborate structures called polypeptides, which create protein. Each structure has specific functions within the body.

The building blocks of life

Proteins do much of the work inside the cells and are responsible for the structure, function, and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs. They can be described according to their large range of functions in the body, listed in alphabetical order:

Examples of Protein Functions

FunctionDescriptionExample
AntibodyAntibodies bind to specific foreign particles, such as viruses and bacteria, to help protect the body.Immunoglobulin G (IgG)
EnzymeEnzymes carry out almost all of the thousands of chemical reactions that take place in cells. They also assist with the formation of new molecules by reading the genetic information stored in DNA.Phenylalanine hydroxylase
MessengerMessenger proteins, such as some types of hormones, transmit signals to coordinate biological processes between different cells, tissues, and organs.Growth hormone
Structural componentThese proteins provide structure and support for cells. On a larger scale, they also allow the body to move.Actin
Transport/storageThese proteins bind and carry atoms and small molecules within cells and throughout the body.Ferritin
Courtesy of MedlinePlus from the National Library of Medicine

Proteostasis

Proteostasis, or protein homeostasis, is a balanced state in which the cellular pathways required to produce proteins works flawlessly. This state is maintained by a system that adapts to meet the requirements of the cell, known as the proteostasis network (PN).

A 2020 research review states that the PN “comprises the machineries for the biogenesis, folding, conformational maintenance, and degradation of proteins with molecular chaperones as central coordinators.” This means that from the creation of a protein to its maintenance to its deterioration and ultimate removal, the PN is intricately involved in upholding the integrity of the entire proteome.

The PN does this sophisticated work using the following elements:

·  Ribosomes – translate RNA into proteins.

·  Chaperones and folding factors – guide polypeptides into the appropriate structures.

·  Degradation components – direct lysosomes to digest and recycle unwanted proteins. They can also include ubiquitin, a medium-chain polypeptide that is involved in the synthesis of new proteins as well as the destruction of defective ones.

Loss of proteostasis

As we age, our ability to sustain the essential process of proteostasis dwindles. The complexity and importance of this cannot be overstated. Internal and external stress can cause the unfolding of proteins or the improper folding during protein synthesis.

This inevitably leads to clustering and clumping, and eventually the accumulation of damaged and harmful proteins. All of this results in proteotoxic effects, which Sandri and Robbins refer to as “the adverse effects of damaged or misfolded proteins and even organelles on the cell.”

The good news is that there are “promising examples of genetic manipulations that improve proteostasis and delay aging in mammals.”

Until then, I have an opportunity

My best-selling book, The Longevity Equation, provides a step-by-step blueprint to hack your genes, optimize your health and master the art of existence. In my book, I take an in-depth look at aging, explore what it means to extend your healthspan, and outline the pathways and factors that lead to a lifelong solution to the burdens of aging.

In collaboration with TruDiagnostic™, I have developed The Longevity Equation Epigenetic Consult. We are offering a revolutionary new way to access your health using an epigenetic test called TruAge™. This test will help tell you what your body is actually doing right now and what that means. 

TruAge™ works by using mathematical models and a powerful algorithm to measure DNA methylation-based biomarkers. Methylation is what modifies the function of the genes in the body by adding what’s called a methyl group to DNA, which is what signals genes to turn on or off. DNA methylation is the best indicator of age-related changes and is the best-studied biomarker of age. This comprehensive testing method determines your epigenetic, or biological age, and can detect the acceleration of aging before the signs of aging even begin to appear.

The Longevity Equation Epigenetic Consult is intended to give you a snapshot of your biological age, as well as the lifestyle and environmental shifts you can make right away to start adding vitality and wellness into your life. Click here to schedule your consult!

More about The Institute for Human Optimization

The Institute for Human Optimization is committed to helping you create a personalized plan for living your longest, healthiest life possible. My team and I leverage the most cutting-edge advances in genetic testing, nutritional analysis, and functional medicine to get to the root biological imbalances that cause aging.

The Institute for Human Optimization was created with the intention of pursuing a highly personalized approach to longevity medicine to help enhance healthspan. Where lifespan is the actual number of years we’re alive, healthspan is how many of those years are spent in health and wellness.

We believe that a long healthspan – not just a long lifespan – is the most important thing you can cultivate. A long healthspan means you don’t miss out on life as you get older. It means remaining independent and having the vitality to travel and see the world.  A long healthspan means that you can be there – in full body and mind – for the people who need you the most and that every day will feel like a gift.

We know that each person is truly unique. From DNA to iris, we all possess a blueprint that is genetically inherited and environmentally influenced. By gaining a deeper appreciation for the person on a molecular level and addressing the root causes driving disease, we can help promote optimized health through our unique scientific, N of 1, approach to individualized care.

The Institute for Human Optimization provides the most comprehensive, data-driven, personalized approach to wellness. It is:

·   Predictive – We use genomics and advanced biomarker testing to risk stratification and empowerment.

·   Personalized – We use data-driven health information to curate actionable change for disease mitigation and prevention.

·   Preventive – We utilize highly individualized programs tailored to your unique genomic blueprint.

·   Participatory – We empower engagement in personal choices, which allows for improved outcomes and enhanced results.

I am so excited about the possibility to support you on this cutting-edge journey to extend your lifespan AND your healthspan. Click here to schedule Your Longevity Equation Epigenetic Consult! Can’t wait to meet you!

Change is inevitable, but your choices can alter the path. Epigenetics literally means ‘above genetics.’ Epigenetics can’t change your DNA, but it has the potential to change the way your genes are expressed.

. . .

Epigenetics is one of my favorite topics. I have written about different aspects of epigenetics in two blogs in the past: How To Control Your Gene Expression and The Key to Reversing Your Biological Age. This week, we will explore the more technical side of the third hallmark of aging, epigenetic alterations, and how it contributes to the acceleration of aging.

In their landmark paper, The Hallmarks of Aging, Lopez-Ortiz et al composed three requisites and criteria that each hallmark should fulfill: “(i) it should manifest during normal aging; (ii) it’s experimental aggravation should accelerate aging; and (iii) its experimental amelioration should retard the normal aging process and, hence, increase healthy lifespan.” While each of the nine hallmarks meets these criteria in varying degrees, epigenetic alterations give us significant examples of all three.

Our DNA’s package

Before we elaborate, we must delve a little deeper into our biology lessons to get to the foundation of this hallmark of aging.

If you took a single DNA molecule and spread it out in a linear fashion, it would measure about six feet in length! In a human cell, this must be packaged into the nucleus of a cell with a diameter less than a human hair. So it goes without saying that our bodies have to do some pretty miraculous work to fit 46 of our 6-foot DNA molecules into the nucleus of every cell. And remember, we have approximately 30-40 trillion cells in our bodies!

In order to do this, the DNA must obviously be condensed. We’ve mentioned that our double-helix DNA is tightly woven around proteins. These proteins are called histones, and our cells wrap about 150 base pairs of DNA around a group of eight of these histones together – known as the histone octamer – to form what’s called the nucleosome. These resemble beads on a string, and they continuously spiral to form what’s known as the solenoid, which then supercoils further and stacks together to form a single fiber known as the chromatin. The end result is compacted DNA, histones, and a percentage of RNA, and the final condensed structure of this process results in the chromosome.

Chromatin is important because it strengthens the DNA to withstand cell division. It also allows for DNA replication, transcription (the process of making an RNA copy of a gene’s DNA sequence), DNA repair, and genetic recombination (diversity).

Our genetic on/off switch

There are many epigenetic alterations that affect our cells throughout our lifetime. The first change is what has been observed in DNA methylation patterns.

Remember that DNA is made up of nucleotide bases that form pairs of adenine (A), guanine (G), thymine (T), and cytosine (C), which in turn spell out our genetic code. One way that the body regulates how those genes are expressed is through a process called methylation. DNA can be tagged, or marked, with tiny molecules called methyl groups at some of its cytosine (C) locations. Like a switch, this literally silences that section of the gene, which can allow for normal cellular differentiation when we are developing as a fetus.

As we age, methylation can be thought of as a way for DNA to adapt to the never-ending changes in our environment – for better or for worse. The methyl groups need to be in the right place at the right time. It is when the methylation patterns become disrupted that things start to go awry. For example, some cancer cells are known for methylating areas of the DNA that are usually protected, and vice versa, which ultimately leads to abnormal suppression of activity in our DNA and thus, our gene expression.

Our genetic volume control

Another change that has been observed as an epigenetic alteration is modification of histones.

Remember the histone proteins and chromatin formation we mentioned earlier? Histones are not only one of the primary components of the chromatin but are also integral in the regulation of gene expression. They can alter how tightly or loosely the DNA is wound around them – the looser they are, the more the genes expressed; the tighter they are, the less genes expressed – similar to how a knob would control volume. Abnormal modifications of histones have been correlated with various diseases, including cancer, autoimmune disorders, inflammation and neurological conditions.

Our structural integrity

A third change that is characteristic of epigenetic alteration is chromatin remodeling. The chromatin’s tight coiling structure condenses and protects our DNA. It also prevents DNA from being transcribed continuously. However, in order for genes to be accessed and expressed, they must ‘open’ in a process known as chromatin remodeling. This is crucial for proper cell functioning.

In aging cells, enzymes that are involved in the DNA methylation and histone modification processes start to fade. This results in loss of integrity within the chromatin. Since the strength of the chromatin is necessary for DNA replication and repair, it becomes apparent that deterioration of this important structure can adversely affect the aging process. When the chromatin remodeling process starts to decline, epigenetic abnormalities accumulate, which can result in diseases such as cancer.

Food is medicine

In my best-selling book, The Longevity Equation, I indicate, “Research shows that epigenetic alterations can be slowed down by including plenty of bioactive compounds in your diet. You can do this by consuming healthy fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and oils.”

There is also research that these bioactive compounds alter DNA methylation and histone modifications and have the ability to favorably alter gene expression and prevent tumorigenesis. Foods particularly effective include turmeric, soybean, green tea, grapes, and cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower. The authors state, “The emerging field of nutritional genomics targets nutrient-related genetic and epigenetic changes for prevention and therapy of various diseases including cancer.”

Find out your epigenetic age

The Longevity Equation provides a step-by-step blueprint to hack your genes, optimize your health and master the art of existence. In my book, I take an in-depth look at aging, explore what it means to extend your healthspan, and outline the pathways and factors that lead to a lifelong solution to the burdens of aging.

In collaboration with TruDiagnostic™, I have developed The Longevity Equation Epigenetic Consult. We are offering a revolutionary new way to access your health using an epigenetic test called TruAge™. This test will help tell you what your body is actually doing right now and what that means. 

TruAge™ works by using mathematical models and a powerful algorithm to measure DNA methylation-based biomarkers. Methylation is what modifies the function of the genes in the body by adding what’s called a methyl group to DNA, which is what signals genes to turn on or off. DNA methylation is the best indicator of age-related changes and is the best-studied biomarker of age. This comprehensive testing method determines your epigenetic, or biological age, and can detect the acceleration of aging before the signs of aging even begin to appear.

The Longevity Equation Epigenetic Consult is intended to give you a snapshot of your biological age, as well as the lifestyle and environmental shifts you can make right away to start adding vitality and wellness into your life. Click here to schedule your consult!

More about The Institute for Human Optimization

The Institute for Human Optimization is committed to helping you create a personalized plan for living your longest, healthiest life possible. My team and I leverage the most cutting-edge advances in genetic testing, nutritional analysis, and functional medicine to get to the root biological imbalances that cause aging.

The Institute for Human Optimization was created with the intention of pursuing a highly personalized approach to longevity medicine to help enhance healthspan. Where lifespan is the actual number of years we’re alive, healthspan is how many of those years are spent in health and wellness.

We believe that a long healthspan – not just a long lifespan – is the most important thing you can cultivate. A long healthspan means you don’t miss out on life as you get older. It means remaining independent and having the vitality to travel and see the world.  A long healthspan means that you can be there – in full body and mind – for the people who need you the most and that every day will feel like a gift.

We know that each person is truly unique. From DNA to iris, we all possess a blueprint that is genetically inherited and environmentally influenced. By gaining a deeper appreciation for the person on a molecular level and addressing the root causes driving disease, we can help promote optimized health through our unique scientific, N of 1, approach to individualized care.

The Institute for Human Optimization provides the most comprehensive, data-driven, personalized approach to wellness. It is:

·   Predictive – We use genomics and advanced biomarker testing to risk stratification and empowerment.

·   Personalized – We use data-driven health information to curate actionable change for disease mitigation and prevention.

·   Preventive – We utilize highly individualized programs tailored to your unique genomic blueprint.

·   Participatory – We empower engagement in personal choices, which allows for improved outcomes and enhanced results.

I am so excited about the possibility to support you on this cutting-edge journey to extend your lifespan AND your healthspan. Click here to schedule Your Longevity Equation Epigenetic Consult! Can’t wait to meet you!

We have a sophisticated and specialized part of our DNA that protects all of the genetic information in our cells. Let’s take a look at how the break-down of these important complexes contributes to the acceleration of aging.

.  .  .

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Age is the number one independent risk factor for all chronic diseases. The biological definition of aging is the many processes of cellular damage accumulation in the body and these are known in the scientific literature as the Nine Hallmarks of Aging. I’ve also talked about how the first four hallmarks are considered primary since they are believed to be actual causes of aging and have a definitively negative effect on DNA.

We talked about the first hallmark of aging, genomic instability, in our last blog. This week, we will look at the second hallmark of aging: telomere attrition. In order to understand what this particular process of aging means, we must again revisit high school biology.

The rungs on the twisted ladder

Our DNA is made up of smaller units called nucleotide bases. There are 4 bases: adenine (A), guanine (G), thymine (T), and cytosine (C). Each of these bases forms a pair that shows the iconic visual of rungs on a twisted ladder. Adenine forms a base pair with thymine, and cytosine forms a pair with guanine. These base pairs spell out a letter code that allows the DNA to function in different ways in our bodies.

Remember that our DNA carries our genetic blueprint or instructions in the form of genes. Our DNA is tightly woven around protein to structure our chromosomes, which are found in the nucleus, or control center, of our cells.

Now picture the rungs of base pairs on that twisted ladder – there are millions of them. The middle section of rungs is made up of long stretches of our genes. The last few thousand rungs on ends of that twisted DNA ladder are called telomeres. They are repetitive, short sequences of non-coding nucleotide bases, bound by a special protein called shelterin. They protect the ends of our DNA, and thus our genetic information, in the same way, that the aglets, or plastic tips, on our shoelaces keep them from fraying.

This is extremely important as we age and our cells divide to produce new cells to replace those that are old and worn-out. Telomeres allow our cells to divide, and thus our DNA to replicate, without harming our genetic information. They do this by preventing the ends of chromosomes from fusing together, which would cause considerable genomic instability.

Telomeres do this with the help of the aforementioned protein called shelterin, which masks the ends of the chromosomes and suppresses the signaling process in the body that cleans up damaged DNA. The enzyme telomerase also helps to replenish the repetitive telomere sequences during each cell cycle.

Good things don’t last forever

This amazing protective mechanism in the body sadly does not last forever. In my book, The Longevity Equation, I point out that, “Our natural DNA replication mechanisms do not duplicate all of the telomeres when each cell divides, so each chromosome has fewer telomeres. Once the telomeres run out, you hit what’s called a cell growth arrest. This means you are limited to how much new tissue you can regenerate as you age.” Some say that telomeres are the molecular clock that stops cell division.

Each time a cell divides, 25-200 bases are lost from the ends of the telomeres on each chromosome. As telomeres start to fray and become shorter, they start to resemble broken DNA and become more likely to be targeted by a process called DNA damage response (DDR), which ultimately leads to cell death. Shorter telomeres are associated with most diseases of aging in humans.

Maintenance requirements

Telomerase is an enzyme that adds DNA to the ends of chromosomes, which helps maintain chromosomal length. However, it is only found in low concentrations in somatic cells (any cells other than the reproductive cells) but in high concentrations of stem cells and germ cells (egg and sperm). For this reason, as we age, our telomeres reduce in normal function. Unfortunately, telomerase is also found in high levels in cancer cells, which enables these cells to divide indefinitely.

What all of this means is that we need to have enough telomerase activity to keep our cells healthy and prevent them from degrading prematurely, but not so much that it contributes to the growth of cancer cells. So in a word: moderation.

If our cells are exposed to stress or injury – such as hormonal stress, inflammatory stress, and oxidative stress – they will be forced to divide more frequently, and consequently, our telomeres will shorten more quickly. The end result: accelerated aging.

Some easy ways we can maintain our telomere length, and possibly extend them:

·  Regular, moderate exercise

·  Stress reduction

·  Healthy diet

·  Weight loss

·  Smoking cessation

Let us provide you with guidance

Since telomeres are essential in cellular functioning, they continue to be actively researched as a therapeutic intervention in nearly every known disease state. They are considered a biomarker of aging, and thus we have the ability to test and measure telomeres directly. However, because of their direct and significant role in genomic instability, we suggest another way of looking at the current state of your DNA.

My best-selling book, The Longevity Equation, provides a step-by-step blueprint to hack your genes, optimize your health and master the art of existence. In my book, I take an in-depth look at aging, explore what it means to extend your healthspan, and outline the pathways and factors that lead to a lifelong solution to the burdens of aging.

In collaboration with TruDiagnostic™, I have developed The Longevity Equation Epigenetic Consult. We are offering a revolutionary new way to access your health using an epigenetic test called TruAge™. This test will help tell you what your body is actually doing right now and what that means. 

TruAge™ works by using mathematical models and a powerful algorithm to measure DNA methylation-based biomarkers. Methylation is what modifies the function of the genes in the body by adding what’s called a methyl group to DNA, which is what signals genes to turn on or off. DNA methylation is the best indicator of age-related changes and is the best-studied biomarker of age. This comprehensive testing method determines your epigenetic, or biological age, and can detect the acceleration of aging before the signs of aging even begin to appear.

The Longevity Equation Epigenetic Consult is intended to give you a snapshot of your biological age, as well as the lifestyle and environmental shifts you can make right away to start adding vitality and wellness into your life. Click here to schedule your consult!

More about The Institute for Human Optimization

The Institute for Human Optimization is committed to helping you create a personalized plan for living your longest, healthiest life possible. My team and I leverage the most cutting-edge advances in genetic testing, nutritional analysis, and functional medicine to get to the root biological imbalances that cause aging.

The Institute for Human Optimization was created with the intention of pursuing a highly personalized approach to longevity medicine to help enhance healthspan. Where lifespan is the actual number of years we’re alive, healthspan is how many of those years are spent in health and wellness.

We believe that a long healthspan – not just a long lifespan – is the most important thing you can cultivate. A long healthspan means you don’t miss out on life as you get older. It means remaining independent and having the vitality to travel and see the world.  A long healthspan means that you can be there – in full body and mind – for the people who need you the most and that every day will feel like a gift.

We know that each person is truly unique. From DNA to iris, we all possess a blueprint that is genetically inherited and environmentally influenced. By gaining a deeper appreciation for the person on a molecular level and addressing the root causes driving disease, we can help promote optimized health through our unique scientific, N of 1, approach to individualized care.

The Institute for Human Optimization provides the most comprehensive, data-driven, personalized approach to wellness. It is:

·   Predictive – We use genomics and advanced biomarker testing to risk stratification and empowerment.

·   Personalized – We use data-driven health information to curate actionable change for disease mitigation and prevention.

·   Preventive – We utilize highly individualized programs tailored to your unique genomic blueprint.

·   Participatory – We empower engagement in personal choices, which allows for improved outcomes and enhanced results.

I am so excited about the possibility to support you on this cutting-edge journey to extend your lifespan AND your healthspan. Click here to schedule Your Longevity Equation Epigenetic Consult! Can’t wait to meet you!

We accumulate genetic damage throughout our lives. Let’s begin to understand how this happens, how our bodies are programmed to respond and repair the damage, and what to do when that goes awry.

. . .

Age is the number one independent risk factor for all chronic diseases. As stated in a previous blog, aging is the many processes of cellular damage accumulation in the body and these are known in the scientific literature as the Nine Hallmarks of Aging.

The first four hallmarks – genomic instability, telomere attrition, epigenetic alterations, and loss of proteostasis – are considered primary, since they are believed to be actual causes of aging and have a definite negative effect on DNA. They could be what firstly initiates cellular damage, which then leads to accumulation and progressive loss of function.

The next three hallmarks – deregulated nutrient-sensing, mitochondrial dysfunction, and cellular senescence – are called antagonistic, as they ultimately respond to the damage caused by the primary hallmarks. However, they are initially designed to have protective factors. It is only when bodily conditions become chronic and/or aggravated that they contribute to cellular damage.

The last two hallmarks – stem cell exhaustion and altered intercellular communication – are thought to be integrative hallmarks because they “directly affect tissue homeostasis and function.” These come into play once the accumulated damage caused by the primary and antagonistic hallmarks can no longer be stabilized. Once this happens, functional decline is inevitable.

Defining the genome

In this blog, we will look at the first hallmark, genomic instability. It is a root cause of aging, thus the reason it is categorized as one of the primary hallmarks of aging. But first, let’s go back to high school biology and take a look at what comprises the genome.

We’re all familiar with the visual of the double-helix structure that is DNA – the complete set of instructions that we are all born with. This very long DNA molecule is made up of smaller units called nucleotide bases – of which we have 3 billion! They vary ever-so-slightly in each of us, which makes us all unique!

Combinations of these DNA bases form our 20,000 to 25,000 genes, which contain all of the information needed to produce one or more proteins. Some genes determine our physical characteristics, and some can influence our susceptibility to certain conditions and illnesses.

Our DNA is tightly woven around proteins to make structures known as chromosomes. We inherit 23 pairs from our mother and father, and they are stored in the nucleus of our cells. Some DNA is also stored in the mitochondria, which is like a power generator for the cells. Collectively, this is known as our genome. There is one copy of our genome in nearly every cell of our body, and every one of those cells knows what their jobs are.

Damage control

Our cells are obsessive about keeping our DNA safe. However, the integrity and stability of our DNA can be exposed to damage by many sources on a daily basis. This happens endogenously via DNA replication errors, chemical processes that impair DNA, and oxidative stress due to unstable molecules called reactive oxygen species (ROS). The damage also happens exogenously via overexposure to ultraviolet light from the sun and x-rays, smoking, and excessive alcohol use, among other sources. All of these assaults lead to an unstable environment for the genome.

Our body’s response to DNA damage has evolved. Our cells have intricate and sophisticated systems, such as DNA repair and cell cycle checkpoints, that can reduce the harmful effects of DNA damage. Unfortunately, this repair process is not perfect, and once the damage starts to accumulate, the nucleotide bases of the DNA start to mutate. And if not caught by this repair process, the mutations are passed on and replicated to daughter cells, which leads to conditions such as cancer.

The good news is that even studies as recently as 2020 are illustrating the connection between genomic instability and aging. While they confirm and elaborate on what researchers have been finding for years, what is promising is that they show us that there is hope. By searching for underlying causes, we’re learning more about DNA repair as we age and how that might translate into future treatment.

Until then, I have an opportunity

My best-selling book, The Longevity Equation, provides a step-by-step blueprint to hack your genes, optimize your health and master the art of existence. In my book, I take an in-depth look at aging, explore what it means to extend your healthspan, and outline the pathways and factors that lead to a lifelong solution to the burdens of aging.

In collaboration with TruDiagnostic™, I have developed The Longevity Equation Epigenetic Consult. We are offering a revolutionary new way to access your health using an epigenetic test called TruAge™. This test will help tell you what your body is actually doing right now and what that means. 

TruAge™ works by using mathematical models and a powerful algorithm to measure DNA methylation-based biomarkers. Methylation is what modifies the function of the genes in the body by adding what’s called a methyl group to DNA, which is what signals genes to turn on or off. DNA methylation is the best indicator of age-related changes and is the best-studied biomarker of age. This comprehensive testing method determines your epigenetic, or biological age, and can detect the acceleration of aging before the signs of aging even begin to appear.

The Longevity Equation Epigenetic Consult is intended to give you a snapshot of your biological age, as well as the lifestyle and environmental shifts you can make right away to start adding vitality and wellness into your life. Click here to schedule your consult!

More about The Institute for Human Optimization

The Institute for Human Optimization is committed to helping you create a personalized plan for living your longest, healthiest life possible. My team and I leverage the most cutting-edge advances in genetic testing, nutritional analysis, and functional medicine to get to the root biological imbalances that cause aging.

The Institute for Human Optimization was created with the intention of pursuing a highly personalized approach to longevity medicine to help enhance healthspan. Where lifespan is the actual number of years we’re alive, healthspan is how many of those years are spent in health and wellness.

We believe that a long healthspan – not just a long lifespan – is the most important thing you can cultivate. A long healthspan means you don’t miss out on life as you get older. It means remaining independent and having the vitality to travel and see the world.  A long healthspan means that you can be there – in full body and mind – for the people who need you the most and that every day will feel like a gift.

We know that each person is truly unique. From DNA to iris, we all possess a blueprint that is genetically inherited and environmentally influenced. By gaining a deeper appreciation for the person on a molecular level and addressing the root causes driving disease, we can help promote optimized health through our unique scientific, N of 1, approach to individualized care.

The Institute for Human Optimization provides the most comprehensive, data-driven, personalized approach to wellness. It is:

·   Predictive – We use genomics and advanced biomarker testing to risk stratification and empowerment.

·   Personalized – We use data-driven health information to curate actionable change for disease mitigation and prevention.

·   Preventive – We utilize highly individualized programs tailored to your unique genomic blueprint.

·   Participatory – We empower engagement in personal choices, which allows for improved outcomes and enhanced results.

I am so excited about the possibility to support you on this cutting-edge journey to extend your lifespan AND your healthspan. Click here to schedule Your Longevity Equation Epigenetic Consult! Can’t wait to meet you!

Aging is a leading risk factor for multiple chronic diseases and disorders. Therefore, finding a way to slow the biological aging process is essential. Assessing your epigenetics helps us do just that. 

.  .  .

Are you ready to slow down your body’s rate of aging?

I’d like to let you know about an exciting and leading-edge opportunity to harness your vitality and optimize your wellness potential.

Consider what aging means to you. Do you associate it with aching pains, wrinkled skin, and cognitive decline? Or does it make you think of boundless energy, flexibility and crystal clear memory?

I assert that the latter is possible! Your DNA is not your destiny, health is more than just the absence of disease…and most profound – aging is reversible! There is an exciting and innovative approach to harness your vitality and optimize your wellness potential.

My best-selling book, The Longevity Equation, provides a step-by-step blueprint to hack your genes, optimize your health and master the art of existence. In my book, I take an in-depth look at aging, explore what it means to extend your healthspan, and outline the pathways and factors that lead to a lifelong solution to the burdens of aging.

First, a little background

Fundamentally, aging is a cellular process. On a biological level, it can be thought of as the accumulation of cellular damage over time, which leads to impaired cellular function. This is a complex process and nine hallmarks have been established that contribute to aging as we know it. These range from genomic instability to mitochondrial dysfunction to stem cell exhaustion, all of which lead to accelerated aging and all the symptoms that go with it! I elaborate on these hallmarks in a previous blog.

Age is the number one independent risk factor for all chronic diseases. The reason for this has long puzzled researchers. However, the past decade or so has led to significant discoveries that are getting closer to providing answers. Dr. Jeffrey Bland, frequently referred to as the Father of Functional Medicine, suggests in a 2018 column in the journal, Integrative Medicine, that not only are we understanding more about the association between age and chronic disease, but that age is a modifiable risk factor of disease!

This is truly an extraordinary breakthrough!

Remember I said your DNA is not your destiny? Your genes only determine about 20-30% of human disease. They can be turned on and they can be turned off. Isn’t that fascinating? DNA provides the instructions for how your cells function biologically in your body, but epigenetics, or gene expression, determines the rest! This happens naturally to your eye and hair color as you’re developing as a fetus, and more strikingly, through your lifestyle and environment as you grow.

Your diet, physical activity, smoking, exposure to toxins, microbiome health, stress levels, hormones, inflammation – each of these factors will play a role in how your genes are expressed throughout your lifetime, and in turn, your overall health. Your lifestyle choices are the real factors that determine your longevity.

Why is this important? Because it means that YOU are in control, not your genes! YOU have the power to make life-changing, age-reversing choices that can and will prolong your lifespan and your healthspan! This will impact what we call your biological age, which is a measurement of age that is based on statistical research that can predict how healthy you are. Isn’t that exciting?

Here’s my game-changing opportunity

In collaboration with TruDiagnostic™, I have developed The Longevity Equation Epigenetic Consult. We are offering a revolutionary new way to access your health using an epigenetic test called TruAge™. This test will help tell you what your body is actually doing right now and what that means. 

TruAge™ works by using mathematical models and a powerful algorithm to measure DNA methylation-based biomarkers. Methylation is what modifies the function of the genes in the body by adding what’s called a methyl group to DNA, which is what signals genes to turn on or off. DNA methylation is the best indicator of age-related changes and is the best-studied biomarker of age. This comprehensive testing method determines your epigenetic, or biological age, and can detect the acceleration of aging before the signs of aging even begin to appear.

Remember, aging can be reversed. The Longevity Equation Epigenetic Consult is intended to give you a snapshot of your biological age, as well as the lifestyle and environmental shifts you can make right away to start adding vitality and wellness into your life. Click here to schedule your consult!

More about The Institute for Human Optimization

The Institute for Human Optimization is committed to helping you create a personalized plan for living your longest, healthiest life possible. My team and I leverage the most cutting-edge advances in genetic testing, nutritional analysis, and functional medicine to get to the root biological imbalances that cause aging.

The Institute for Human Optimization was created with the intention of pursuing a highly personalized approach to longevity medicine to help enhance healthspan. Where lifespan is the actual number of years we’re alive, healthspan is how many of those years are spent in health and wellness.

We believe that a long healthspan – not just a long lifespan – is the most important thing you can cultivate. A long healthspan means you don’t miss out on life as you get older. It means remaining independent and having the vitality to travel and see the world.  A long healthspan means that you can be there – in full body and mind – for the people who need you the most and that every day will feel like a gift.

We know that each person is truly unique. From DNA to iris, we all possess a blueprint that is genetically inherited and environmentally influenced. By gaining a deeper appreciation for the person on a molecular level and addressing the root causes driving disease, we can help promote optimized health through our unique scientific, N of 1, approach to individualized care.

The Institute for Human Optimization provides the most comprehensive, data-driven, personalized approach to wellness. It is:

·   Predictive – We use genomics and advanced biomarker testing to risk stratification and empowerment.

·   Personalized – We use data-driven health information to curate actionable change for disease mitigation and prevention.

·   Preventive – We utilize highly individualized programs tailored to your unique genomic blueprint.

·   Participatory – We empower engagement in personal choices, which allows for improved outcomes and enhanced results.

I am so excited about the possibility to support you on this cutting-edge journey to extend your lifespan AND your healthspan. Click here to schedule Your Longevity Equation Epigenetic Consult! Can’t wait to meet you!

______________________________________________________________________

Ever wonder what causes ‘gut feelings’ and ‘butterflies’ in your stomach? Or why your stomach gets upset when you’re worried or fearful? There is an elaborate and intriguing system in our bodies that connects and communicates without any effort on our part!

.  .  .

Our microscopic friends

In an earlier blog, we pointed out that your unique microbiome is so important that it is considered a hidden organ by some researchers. It started as soon as you were born, if not before, and is continually influenced by your diet, your experiences, what you’ve been exposed to and where you live. We also illustrated how vital it is to keep your microbiome healthy, and what can happen when this community of microorganisms gets tipped out of balance.

We depend on these complex social networks of microorganisms to help break down nutrients and produce important vitamins and enzymes in our digestive system, which in turn strengthens our immune system. And although it might seem strange, it has been shown that our microbiome is intricately linked to our central nervous system (CNS) through neural, hormonal, metabolic, and immunological signaling pathways.

Another brain?

Just as fascinating is that hidden in the walls of our digestive systems is our enteric nervous system (ENS), referred to as the ‘second brain,’ due to its ability to operate independently of the central nervous system. While researchers are still learning exactly how the ENS works and the full extent of its functions, we do know that the ENS plays a significant role in disease and mental health.

The main role of the ENS is to control digestion from start to finish. But because of its ability to also communicate with our brain through the central nervous system and autonomic nervous system (ANS), researchers are now finding that people with gastrointestinal symptoms may experience mood changes as a result. We outlined the ANS and its two branches, the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, in our last blog on stress.

Our communication channel

Our microbiome, central nervous system, autonomic nervous system, enteric nervous system, immunological and neuroendocrine systems all interact to comprise what’s called our gut-brain axis. An essential role of this multidirectional interaction is to help the body maintain metabolic homeostasis.

Signals are sent back and forth between the gut and the CNS, which causes the hypothalamus and brain stem to regulate how your body consumes and uses energy. In addition, since roughly 70% of our immune system is in our gut, the gut-brain axis also allows our brain to monitor the interactions taking place between our immune cells and our microbes, hormones, and neuronal cells in our gut so it can respond to changes if needed.

Our multi-tasking wonder nerve

A special and significant part of our parasympathetic nervous system, and ultimately our gut-brain axis, is the vagus nerve. On page 165 in my book, The Longevity Equation, I mention that “The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve in the body. It runs through the brain stem, esophagus, lungs, heart, digestive tract, and all the way down to the colon.” 

When we are not stressed, the vagus nerve serves as a communication superhighway, sending sensory information from the peripheral system to the brain so it can monitor function, and transmitting motor signals from the brain to the rest of the body.

The vagus nerve has immunomodulatory properties and therefore it “plays important roles in the relationship between the gut, the brain, and inflammation.” It stimulates muscles in the heart, almost like a natural pacemaker, where it helps to lower resting heart rate. In the gut, the vagus nerve can even let our brains know the status of our microbiome!

A healthy vagus nerve helps us to access parts of the brain responsible for creativity, higher cognition, and complex decision making. As you can see, this nerve has a critical place in our bodies, affecting our thoughts, many internal organs, and our gastrointestinal system. Some say it is the key to our well-being.

Why is all of this important?

The function of the vagus nerve can be impaired by anxiety, poor lifestyle, smoking, alcohol and overworking, as well as lack of proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep – basically whenever the body is in a state of stress.

Simply put, stress inhibits the vagus nerve and stimulates the sympathetic nervous system to initiate the ‘fight or flight’ response. Since the vagus nerve plays a role in reducing inflammation, stress can conversely cause inflammation. Therefore, repeated and increased exposure to stress can counteract the parasympathetic system’s ability to help the body recover and contributes to allostatic load, which is the wear and tear of stress on your body and brain. In the end, this could hinder the overall protective effect that the vagus nerve has on the body.

This has particular effects in the gut where an inhibited vagus nerve has harmful effects on our microbiota and contributes to gastrointestinal disorders such as leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease. This disrupts our metabolic homeostasis and has a cascade of effects on the body. Consequently, it is imperative to do what we can to maintain a healthy and functioning vagus nerve.

Restoring the gut-brain axis

Bringing this full circle, there is an abundance of ways that we can create and bring balance to our all-important gut-brain axis, one of the most significant communication pathways in our bodies. We can monitor our vagal tone, supplement with high quality prebiotics and probiotics, meditate, practice deep breathing, and exercise.

Ways to strengthen vagal tone:

·   Gargling vigorously with water after you brush your teeth every morning can strengthen your vagus nerve. This will help improve movement in your digestive tract and can help with constipation and a sluggish bowel.

·   Chanting, humming and singing out loud help to activate the vagus nerve. Next time you’re in your car, sing as loud as you can!

·   Deep breathing helps to lower blood pressure and heart rate. Inhale for the count of five, and exhale for a count of five for one minute. This then sends a signal to the brain to stimulate vagal activation and put us in a rest and digest state, rather than fight or flight.

·   Tongue depressors stimulate a gag reflex and strengthen the vagus nerve similar to gargling. You can also use your toothbrush and brush your tongue far enough to produce a gag reflex.

·   For the busy person, there’s one simple way to stimulate the vagus nerve, and it takes just 5 seconds to do. If you find yourself feeling sleepy, stressed, or lacking focus, you can use this to retune your nervous system. Here’s how it works: take a long deep breath, filling your lungs completely with air, and then let it out slowly. It’s that simple. Try it for yourself.

How can The Institute for Human Optimization assist me?

We believe that each person is truly unique. From DNA to iris, we all possess a blueprint that is genetically inherited and environmentally influenced. By gaining a deeper appreciation for the person on a molecular level and addressing the root causes driving disease, we can help promote optimized health through our unique scientific, N of 1, approach to individualized care.

At The Institute for Human Optimization, my team and I leverage the most cutting-edge advances in genetic testing, nutritional, and functional medicine to help our patients treat the root biological imbalances that cause aging. I believe that a long healthspan – not just a long lifespan – is the most important thing you can cultivate. A long healthspan means you don’t miss out on life as you get older. It means remaining independent and having the vitality to travel and see the world.  A long healthspan means that you can be there – in full body and mind – for the people who need you the most and that every day will feel like a gift.

The Institute for Human Optimization provides the most comprehensive, data-driven, personalized approach to wellness. It is:

·   Predictive – We use genomics and advanced biomarker testing to risk stratification and empowerment.

·   Personalized – We use data-driven health information to curate actionable change for disease mitigation and prevention.

·   Preventive – We utilize highly individualized programs tailored to your unique genomic blueprint.

·   Participatory – We empower engagement in personal choices, which allows for improved outcomes and enhanced results.

Let’s work together to keep that communication open!

Stress is an everyday word that we can all relate to. Understanding what happens in our bodies when we encounter a stressful situation is the first step towards creating harmony and stability in our lives.

.   .   .

In a previous blog, we used our friend, Jack, to illustrate how the body responds to stress. We discuss the mechanisms behind the central stress response system, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, how it regulates the cascade of hormones that the body uses to navigate a stressful situation, and the impact that process has on the body.

Interconnected to this hormonal response process lies the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which comprises two opposite, yet complementary branches called the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The ANS is part of the peripheral nervous system that regulates the function of your internal organs, cardiac muscle fibers, and glands, without conscious control.

The yin and yang of stress

The autonomic nervous system also plays an essential role in helping to maintain homeostasis, or internal stability and balance, in the body, where it is constantly fine-tuning bodily functions based on the signals it receives from the central nervous system. How it does this depends on which branch of the ANS is activated at any given moment. Both branches affect the same organs, but they create contrasting effects on them.

The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is what triggers the well-known ‘fight or flight’ reaction in the body, or what is also known as the E division: exercise, excitement, emergency, embarrassment. What’s very interesting about this is that the nerve fibers of the SNS are located between your thoracic and lumbar vertebrae and lie very close to your spinal column. The name comes from the Greek words ‘feeling together’. This location means that the synapses, or communication, between nerves necessary to initiate a bodily reaction to stress can happen more quickly and affect many organs at once.

The parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) is responsible for the ‘rest and digest’ response in the body, or what’s also called the D division: digestion, defecation, diuresis (urination). These nerve fibers are located above and below the SNS nerves, in the base of the brain and the sacrum, above your tailbone. ‘Para’ in Greek means ‘beside,’ so this system is aptly named for being ‘beside the sympathetic.’ The PSNS normalizes bodily functions when it has the time and energy to do so, thus its nerve fibers are further away from the spinal column, sometimes even in the organs themselves.

The all-important messenger

One of the 12 cranial nerves that serve motor and sensory functions is called the vagus nerve. On page 165 in my book, The Longevity Equation, I mention that “The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve in the body. It runs through the brain stem, esophagus, lungs, heart, digestive tract, and all the way down to the colon.” Although referred to singularly, it is a pair of nerves that emerge from the left and right side of the brain stem. It’s no surprise then that its name originates from the Latin for ‘wandering.’

The vagus nerve works hand in hand with the parasympathetic nervous system during the ‘rest and digest’ response in the body. When we are not stressed, the vagus nerve serves as a communication superhighway, sending sensory information from the peripheral system to the brain so it can monitor function, and transmitting motor signals from the brain to the rest of the body, such as:

·   Keeping the larynx open for breathing

·   Feeding oxygen into the lungs and diaphragm

·   Slowing and regulating the heartbeat

·   Stimulating the secretion of saliva, release of bile, and peristalsis (contraction) of the bowels

·   Contracting the bladder

·   Sending messages to the brain to produce/release oxytocin (feel-good/bonding hormone)

·   Reducing anxiety and depression

·   Reducing inflammation

·   Increasing immunity and longevity

The tipping point

Our stress response is important no matter what is going on in our lives. We all know it is useful when we are in danger or need a boost to get us through a workout. Hormones are released, our heart rate speeds up, our respiratory rate increases and our liver produces more glucose to give us energy. Our bodies are experts at keeping us on high alert when we need it.

However, this alert is designed to be occasional and temporary. What happens when stress becomes chronic and our bodies become overwhelmed by the constant state of vigilance? The accumulation of hormones and chemical messengers increases something called your allostatic load, or the wear and tear of stress on your body and brain. On page 73 of The Longevity Equation, I indicate that “An allostatic state is when your body is trying to deal with the fallout of stressors to try to reach a state of homeostasis. Over time, a heavy allostatic load will cause serious disruptions in the body.”

I continue with, “Keep in mind that though most stressors impose no real immediate danger, your body treats them as if they are serious life-or-death situations and prepares to fight or run away. This means that every time you encounter stress. . .your body prepares to deal with a dangerous situation. In turn, the stress hormones overpower the body and increase your allostatic load.”

Shifting the scales

There are little things we can do every day to counter the overwhelm and accumulation in our nervous systems. Here are a few suggestions:

·   Call a friend: Research shows that social support can help to mediate many factors that contribute to mental health and can help us develop coping strategies.

·   Get outside: a 2010 multi-study analysis showed, “Every green environment improved both self-esteem and mood; the presence of water generated greater effects.”

·   Listen to music: A large scale review at McGill University found that music reduces stress and even improves the immune system!

·   Read our blog on mindfulness for even more insight!

How can The Institute for Human Optimization assist me?

We believe that each person is truly unique. From DNA to iris, we all possess a blueprint that is genetically inherited and environmentally influenced. By gaining a deeper appreciation for the person on a molecular level and addressing the root causes driving disease, we can help promote optimized health through our unique scientific, N of 1, approach to individualized care.

At The Institute for Human Optimization, my team and I leverage the most cutting-edge advances in genetic testing, nutritional, and functional medicine to help our patients treat the root biological imbalances that cause aging. I believe that a long healthspan – not just a long lifespan – is the most important thing you can cultivate. A long healthspan means you don’t miss out on life as you get older. It means remaining independent and having the vitality to travel and see the world.  A long healthspan means that you can be there – in full body and mind – for the people who need you the most and that every day will feel like a gift.

The Institute for Human Optimization provides the most comprehensive, data-driven, personalized approach to wellness. It is:

·   Predictive – We use genomics and advanced biomarker testing to risk stratification and empowerment.

·   Personalized – We use data-driven health information to curate actionable change for disease mitigation and prevention.

·   Preventive – We utilize highly individualized programs tailored to your unique genomic blueprint.

·   Participatory – We empower engagement in personal choices, which allows for improved outcomes and enhanced results.

Let’s work together to find that balance!

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Your purpose and beliefs are a powerful source of motivation. By developing awareness and discovering what’s important in your life, it becomes easier to implement change and create wellness in our lives.

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“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

At The Institute for Human Optimization, a key part of our personalized approach to wellness is participation. This means that we empower and encourage you not only in your journey towards health but in connecting the dots of your life story. This gives you the opportunity to discover the areas in your life that you would like to focus on, improve or change.

The meaning behind our purpose

Research has shown that what we focus on, we get more of. Wherever we place attention, our brains will strengthen the signals of those neuronal connections, and special cells will prune away those we use less. We elaborate on this in part 3 of our Aging Brain Series. This is significant because being present to what’s important to us is how we begin to make changes in our lives.

Simon Sinek is an author, inspirational speaker, and self-described ‘unshakable optimist’ whose TED Talk, How great leaders inspire action, has over 50 million views. He is known for his concept of The Golden Circle, which illustrates the importance and significance of communicating from the inside-out – from our ’Why.’ Our Why is our purpose…our reason for being…what we believe…what inspires us.

This notion has roots in science. Our limbic system, or emotional brain, is considered the source of our language…the emotion behind our words…our ‘gut’ feelings. It’s where motivation and behavior come from. This is the part of the brain that Sinek says our Why comes from and that only roughly 16% of us operate from that ‘inside-out’ space on a regular basis.

Our neocortex, the most evolved part of our brain, gives us conscious thought, higher reasoning, and the language necessary to communicate and socialize. It is the way we bring our Why – our purpose, beliefs and inspiration – into the world. It allows us to figure out how to do it and what we need to make it happen.

Slowing down

So how do we get present when the world is swirling around us? The first step is making a conscious effort to slow down and pay a little more attention to what is happening and what we are thinking. Cultivating awareness is easier for some more than others.

In my book, The Longevity Equation, I offer a couple of methods to explore:

·   Mindfulness meditation: Mindfulness is your ability to be entirely present and aware of where you are and what you’re doing—without being overly reactive to the things happening around you or becoming overwhelmed. Over time, practicing mindfulness meditation not only increases your awareness when you’re sitting alone quietly but also while doing every-day tasks. It can bring clarity to your life and increase the “feel-good” chemicals in the brain, like serotonin. (Bajnath, p. 155)

·   Breathing: Alternate nostril breathing is an extremely simple yoga breath control practice. This technique is beneficial for reducing stress, relaxing the body, and promoting overall vitality. The best part is it only takes minutes to do. Research shows that this simple technique can help lower your blood pressure levels, improve respiratory function, support your nervous system, reduce anxiety, and relax the body and mind. Alternate nostril breathing is a fantastic way to kickstart your day with a boost of vitality. Here’s how it works:

o   Step 1: Sit comfortably on the ground with your legs crossed or in a chair

o   Step 2: Take your pointer and middle fingers and place them on your forehead right between your eyebrows

o   Step 3: Place your thumb gently on your right nostril to form a seal and breath in through your left nostril

o   Step 4: With your thumb still covering your right nostril, breath out through your left nostril

o   Step 5: Now switch your thumb to your left nostril and inhale through your right nostril

o   Step 6: Finally, exhale through your right nostril

o   Repeat steps 3-6 for 5-10 minutes. (Bajnath, pp. 118-119)

More gifts in being present

In addition to the emotional benefits, mindfulness has a physical effects on the body as well!

It was reported in The Annals of Family Medicine in 2012 that meditation can have preventive effects on your immune system. Researchers showed that mindfulness meditation is about as effective as exercise in reducing acute respiratory illness.

In 2011, researchers revealed that after only four days of mindfulness meditation training, participants reduced the unpleasantness of pain by 57% and reduced the pain-intensity by 40%. They also suggested that meditation has the capacity to “modulate brain regions associated with constructing the pain experience.” In other words, it could actually alter the way we perceive pain!

Massachusetts General Hospital found that in only 8 weeks, mindfulness meditation training can change the structure of the brain! They state that, “The results suggest that participation in [Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction] is associated with changes in gray matter concentration in brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective-taking.”

This is where we connect

It’s clear that mindful awareness has the potential to powerfully impact our lives. In fact, it is in this space that important life decisions are made. If you’ve realized that you would like to ensure that you live a long healthy life, The Institute for Human Optimization is here for you.

Why us?

The Institute for Human Optimization, Precision Medical Research Group was created with the intention of pursuing a highly personalized approach to longevity medicine to help enhance healthspan. Where lifespan is the actual number of years we’re alive, healthspan is how many of those years are spent in health and wellness.

We acknowledge that cellular aging is a natural event that occurs in all living organisms and is defined by several different principal mechanisms and hallmarks. As we get older we lose the ability to repair ourselves and molecular damage accumulates overtime. This biological process is characterized by a progressive loss of physiological integrity, leading to impaired function and loss of life.

How are we different?

By targeting age-related diseases, we believe that The Institute for Human Optimization can treat these diseases while promoting enhanced health outcomes, which thereby lessens the emotional and societal burden that comes with an aging population.

The current health care system does not address this fundamental issue and only uses polypharmacy for chronic disease management while ignoring the warning signals of underlying imbalance in an organized human system. Getting to the root cause is at the core of what we do.

How can The Institute for Human Optimization assist me?

We believe that each person is truly unique. From DNA to iris, we all possess a blueprint that is genetically inherited and environmentally influenced. By gaining a deeper appreciation for the person on a molecular level and addressing the root causes driving disease, we can help promote optimized health through our unique scientific, N of 1, approach to individualized care.

At The Institute for Human Optimization, my team and I leverage the most cutting-edge advances in genetic testing, nutritional, and functional medicine to help our patients treat the root biological imbalances that cause aging. We believe that a long healthspan – not just a long lifespan – is the most important thing you can cultivate. A long healthspan means you don’t miss out on life as you get older. It means remaining independent and having the vitality to travel and see the world.  A long healthspan means that you can be there – in full body and mind – for the people who need you the most and that every day will feel like a gift.

The Institute for Human Optimization provides the most comprehensive, data-driven, personalized approach to wellness. It is:

·   Predictive – We use genomics and advanced biomarker testing to risk stratification and empowerment.

·   Personalized – We use data-driven health information to curate actionable change for disease mitigation and prevention.

·   Preventive – We utilize highly individualized programs tailored to your unique genomic blueprint.

·   Participatory – We empower engagement in personal choices, which allows for improved outcomes and enhanced results.

Let’s work together to discover your Why!