Only 9 things are required for the human body to function…

September 22, 2019

And they are:

  • Protein
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fat
  • Fiber
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Exercise
  • Adequate rest
  • Water 

Of the nine, however, the last two may be the most important BY A LONG SHOT. 

For today’s blog, however, I’m just going to focus on the value of adequate rest starting with the cautionary (true) tale of my friend Linda Jones whose stressful life, especially her career as a high-powered CPA, led to a horrible sleep disorder which then led to a condition known as Global Cerebral Atrophy (in other words her brain was shrinking and she was therefore dying in braincell-sized increments.)*

Now not all of us who have sleep disorders will develop Global Cerebral Atrophy (THANK GOD…for the last couple of years even I have struggled with maintaining that deep level of sleep required to feel fully rested upon waking and it’s really impacted my health!) But according to all the most prominent doctors in the Functional Medicine world today sleep deprivation is certainly the leading cause of all of the following:

  • All forms of cognitive dysfunction from simple chronic AM grogginess all the way to the other end of the spectrum including Alzheimer’s, various forms of dementia, and even my good buddy Linda’s diagnosis
  • Obesity in general but especially abdominal fat which can often be the Great Satan when it comes to ANY aspect of your health but most frequently leads to diabetes and various cardiovascular conditions (RUH ROH…keep reading!) 
  • Various cardiovascular conditions including A-Fib, high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke 

That’s a pretty nasty list, right?

And I bet all of you are getting the big picture here: chronic sleep deprivation not only takes YEARS off your life but can easily kill you with literally no warning! Yet just a couple of years ago The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) polled about 450,000 people and reported that 34.8% were getting considerably less than seven hours of sleep each night even though the average person requires 7-9 hours in order to be fully rested.

I think it’s safe to say that culturally this country VASTLY undervalues the importance of rest so if you’ve ever walked into a room and then completely forgotten why you did, like most folks these days you’re probably just sleep deprived (but it’s also possibly true that something far more serious is at least beginning to brew.)

And have you ever really stopped to think about Alzheimer’s in particular? (Because that’s a particularly scary subject!) Did you know that of the top 15 most common causes of death in this country, Alzheimer’s is literally THE ONLY ONE for which there is no effective drug therapy?  We don't even have an approved treatment protocol for subjective cognitive impairment or mild cognitive impairment (two conditions that often precede Alzheimer's disease and which typically develop into full-blown Alzheimer's.) If current studies and forecasts hold true, of the 325 million Americans alive today Alzheimer’s will actually TAKE THE LIVES of 45 million. And IMHO the most heartbreaking facet of this condition is the way the disease literally steals the lives of both victims and their caregivers sometimes decades before it causes the victim’s physical death.

Am I scaring you yet? But wait, it gets worse.

Although we're not even close to a pharmaceutical cure, in the last few years we have identified a gene variant called ApoE4 and people who’ve inherited this variant from one parent have a 30% increased risk of developing the disease while people carrying two copies (ie they’ve inherited the variant from both parents) have a 50-90% higher risk (compared to only a 9% risk of developing the disease for people who don’t carry this particular allele.) But here’s the real kicker: the vast majority of ApoE4 carriers don't have a clue their DNA is about to throw them under the bus until after the onset of symptoms causes them to undergo genetic testing and by then the disease is already progressing.

Personally this entire subject TERRIFIES me…my maternal grandmother suffered from some type of cognitive impairment (at the time we didn’t have all these snazzy diagnoses) and it was absolutely heartbreaking to watch her slow decline. I also trained a client for many years with Lewy Body Disease (which is most easily described as sort of a subset of Parkinson’s) who eventually died primarily from the ensuing dementia…I still keep in touch with his widow Elaine and she often says that the ESSENTIAL Miles (her husband & my client) died about 10 years before his body figured out he was gone. And one of my best friends just lost her mother after suffering from dementia for TWENTY YEARS.

If Alzheimer’s specifically, or even just cognitive function in general is a subject that concerns you, then you should definitely check out what’s been touted for several years now as the gold standard re causes of and best treatments for this horrible AND COMMON disease: Dr Dale Bredesen’s The End of Alzheimer's: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline (BTW it’s listed along with TONS of other books, DVD’s, apps, kitchen gadgets, and even food on my Things I Like page…have you ever been there? If not, why don’t you take a moment? Trust me, you’ll thank me later ☺)

In all of this grim talk, however, there is some good news: according to Dr Bredesen, Alzheimer’s, as well as all kinds of cognitive impairment, can be prevented (EVEN IF YOU’RE AN APOE4 DOUBLE VARIANT CARRIER!!!) And he can back up that statement with decades of research plus reams of peer-reviewed studies published in all the leading medical journals.

But at least those of you who follow me faithfully shouldn’t have been surprised by that last bold statement…haven’t you heard me say about 100 times before that lifestyle always trumps genetics? And I’m sure you’ve all also heard me talking about the work of Dr Michael Greger, especially his book How Not to Die, in which he states that ALL FIFTEEN of the leading causes of death in this county (including Alzheimer’s) can be prevented and in many cases even reversed with healthy lifestyle interventions, right?

So now I bet most of you are either feeling completely incredulous or extremely curious…no matter which camp you’re in, however, I have an important event coming up re protecting and maintaining brain health you won’t want to miss.

My part-time boss, Dr Tamara Blossic and I are teaming up for the last time this year to co-facilitate MISSING PIECES: Maintaining Brain Health. This lively discussion will be packed with tips on all the best ways to protect, maintain, or even improve brain function including:

  • Diet & whole foods
  • Supplements & nutraceuticals
  • Brain & physical exercise
  • Meditation & relaxation techniques

Dr Blossic and I are both thoroughly versed in all the latest research (and of course we’ll also be touching on the importance of regular deep sleep tooremember that if you, like most people, habitually burn the candle at both ends you’re basically asking for it!!!) All you’ll need is a pen, a notepad, and an open mind…pardon the pun folks but signing up for this workshop is a SERIOUS no-brainer! So click here for more info on Hockessin Chiropractic Centre’s unique new workshop then call 302-239-8550 to register NO LATER THAN OCTOBER 8TH (SPACE IS LIMITED!)

In the meantime though, I thought you might appreciate a few tips courtesy of me, Dr Blossic, and the Institute of Functional Medicine (founded by Dr Mark Hyman and several other world-famous Mayo Clinic physicians and where Dr Blossic earned her certification as a Functional Medicine practitioner…a distinction she shares with just a few medical professionals in Delaware!)

Plan your sleep and prep your bedroom:

  • Schedule your sleep (just like anything else that’s important to you!) Designate AT LEAST 8 hours of your day to be in the bed…over time your body will begin to expect a good night’s rest.
  • Go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day (as often as possible)…this will help train your biological clock.
  • Avoid naps altogether (especially in the afternoon or evening.)
  • Avoid large meals or spicy foods before bed. 
  • In fact, eat your last meal or snack no closer to bedtime than 3 hours prior…remember food is fuel!
  • FOR SOME PEOPLE drinking more than 4-8 ounces of fluid before going to bed will will create the need to need to urinate overnight (do you fall into this category?)

Improve the air quality in your bedroom (this just goes without saying especially if you have nasal congestion or are prone to snoring!):

If your nose tends to block at night easy fixes include: 

  • Inhaling a few long deep breathes of lavender essential oil (you can even use a diffuser in the room),
  • or using a saline spray before bed. 
  • Breathe-Rite strips can also be especially helpful.

Address any sleep-disruptive environmental issues by making sure your sleeping area is: 

  • the correct temperature range (neither too hot nor too cold),
  • dark and quiet enough, 
  • and not filled up with electric fields (it’s a good idea to have your head at least 5 feet away from all electrical outlets, clock radios, stereos, computers, and of course phones…they’re basically little computers, right?) FYI: water beds and electric blankets can be especially unconducive to sleep. 

Minimize or avoid stimulants and stimulating activities:

  • Avoid chocolate, sugar, and alcohol within 3 hours of bedtime.
  • Avoid stimulating beverages or foods after 12 to 2PM latest (depending on how sensitive you are) including caffeinated sodas and teas (except herbal), plus especially drinks and desserts made with coffee and/or chocolate.
  • Avoid Sudafed and other decongestant cold medicines at night. Other medications may have stimulating effects as well…consult your pharmacist and doctor to determine whether any of them might be contributing to sleep issues (but DO NOT go cold turkey without permission!)
  • Complete any type of exercise (especially aerobic) before 6 pm (or at least 3 hours prior to bedtime.)

Consider psychological factors (including negative self-talk) which may be causing sleep-related tension and anxiety.

Avoid anxiety-provoking activities close to bedtime like:

  • Paying bills.
  • Watching the news.
  • Checking your financial reports or the stock market.
  • Reading stimulating, exciting materials (especially in bed.)
  • ARGUING WITH LOVED ONES (That old wives’ tale about the dangers of going to sleep angry, like most old wives’ tales, is at least based in truth…I bet we can all agree that trying to fall and stay asleep when you feel as if you have a serious axe to grind really does mess with your head, doesn’t it? Try scheduling difficult conversations at least 3 hours prior to bedtime or at least try to schedule some action plan or a time to revisit the “discussion” before turning off the lights.)
  • Remember it’s easy to develop a lot of negative self-judgments about the fact that you’re unable to sleep (AGAIN?!) It’s even easier to blame others for your poor sleep (like a snoring partner or a small child who needs help overnight.) But getting angry with yourself or others certainly never helps one fall or stay soundly asleep, right?

And last but certainly not least, ONLY AFTER CONSULTING WITH YOUR DOCTOR (who will probably want to run a few tests), try supplements like magnesium and melatonin.


*And no worries…to look at Linda now you’d never know what DEEP health concerns were on her plate just a few years ago. These days she’s actually doing GREAT primarily because of her devotion to/consistent practice of T’ai Chi Chih (and I’m sure none of you are surprised since I talk about the benefits of that AMAZING moving mindfulness practice literally all the time!) And yes, an overview of T’ai Chi Chih and the ease with which most people can integrate it into their healthy lifestyle will definitely be part of the Missing Pieces curriculum, along with lots more info about various relaxation techniques and “brain exercise.” Linda is a constant source of inspiration both for me and my work and I’m so very grateful that she’s also become a dear friend. You can friend her on Facebook by clicking here…I bet she’ll change your perspective on lots of things!

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