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Where our thinking is different

by March 28, 2021

Where our thinking is different

 

There are a few things that we do differently here at Kalibra. First and foremost, we recognise that we have a lot in common in how our body works, and that is, in fact possible to make universal recommendations about health. However, we also recognise that our genetics, environment, personal tendencies, and preferences can make a big difference. 

 

In practice, to be most effective in improving our health, we can focus, each time we make a decision, on the best next action. Our goal is to help you find what that best next action is, motivate you to act on it, and guide you to habituate it. 

 

We have organised our thinking in a coherent holistic quantitative framework {Link to 6 needs blog} that is used as a compass to navigate the intricacies and subtleties of the science underlying our vision of optimal health. In this article we want to give you a taste of what we mean and where our thinking is different from the mainstream. We will look at three topics:

 

  • Insulin and aging
  • Cholesterol is good for you
  • You’re probably not eating enough (good) salt.

Focus on insulin as an aging agent  

If you’ve read the blog posts related to carbohydrates, insulin, and diabetes by our co-founder, Guillaume, (see for example We were never meant to eat simple or starchy carbohydrates, and Reversing diabetes: understanding the process), you’ll be surprised to find that this time, we are not talking about insulin as the master metabolic hormone that regulates the storage into cells of nutrients circulating in the bloodstream. Instead, what we’re focusing on today is one of the 20th century’s greatest discoveries, namely the role of insulin as the primary regulator of the rate of ageing.

Ageing is not inevitable

Conventional wisdom suggests that aging is inevitable. Well, we disagree. We, and many others, prefer to think that aging is a disease, and humanity is making progress in fighting it. But in the here and now, our best defence against aging are our daily habits and nutrition. Specifically, it involves a long genetic chain of events (link below) which centers on insulin and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1).  

 

Insulin and IGF-1 promote growth, which is vital because nutrient absorption and cellular growth and reproduction are essential for life across all living organisms. Growth in immature individuals is fundamental for health and ensuring they reach maturity; but growth in adults, in mature individuals, just means ageing, and the more insulin and IGF-1 there is, the faster the rate of cellular damage and deterioration, the more genetic mutations from errors in transcription, the more pronounced the deterioration in tissues, and obviously, the faster the rate of ageing.

This leads us to carbs

The truth is that any additional stimulation of insulin, promoted by eating simple and starchy carbs, actually deregulates the proper balance of hormones that the body is trying to maintain. This deregulation from a sugar-heavy diet in children explains the widespread health problems in our youth, most important of which is childhood obesity and the metabolic and physiological stresses this brings on. 

 

Ultimately, mother nature knows how to best regulate the concentration of insulin in the bloodstream. What we can do to help our biochemical balance is by not ingesting refined carbohydrates: it’s the last thing anyone needs for good health and long life.

 

Very simply put, the easiest but also the only natural way to slow down the rate of ageing is to eliminate insulin-stimulating carbohydrates—sugars and starches—from the diet. For most people, this will, within 16-20 hours, allow insulin levels to drop to a functional minimum. The low blood sugar level will allow the pancreas to reduce production, and thus insulin levels to drop little by little. 

 

Lowered insulin will then eventually allow the cells to start using the fat circulating in the blood, and in time, increase in efficiency, thereby dropping triglyceride levels lower and lower. And this is the path to healthy tissues and organs, and slowing down aging. 

 

You can find more about this subject and Professor Cynthia Kenyon’s work on the effect of insulin on the DAF-2 Gene here: Living healthy to 160 – insulin and the genetics of longevity

Cholesterol: it’s a good thing

Cholesterol doesn’t have an easy ride. Its varieties are called “good” and “bad” and it’s universally accepted that high total cholesterol, and/or bad cholesterol is terrible news, leading to cardiovascular disease. 

 

Using scientific research, we argue that cholesterol is nothing less than vital for life, development, growth and reproduction. It is ultimately vital for life to emerge, and for life to sustain itself. 

 

Why? Because every membrane of every single cell in your body relies on cholesterol to give it structural integrity. Because every single nerve cell in your brain and every synapse through which nerve impulses are transmitted are mostly made of cholesterol. Because every sex hormone of every woman and man is constructed from cholesterol. Basically, without cholesterol, animal life is impossible.

 

No such thing as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ cholesterol

 

Firstly, cholesterol comes in only one form: there is no such thing as good and bad cholesterol. It doesn’t make a difference if it is the cholesterol contained in the dark orange yolk of an organic egg, the cholesterol synthesised by your liver through a complicated chain of steps that we still do not completely understand, or is the cholesterol produced by the individual cells like the glial cells in the brain (or in any other tissue or organ other than the liver.) 

 

It is very telling that, unlike almost any other molecule, cholesterol is maybe the only one that probably every cell in every tissue can produce. 

 

Our point is simple, but very important: cholesterol is beyond good or bad—it is absolutely vital.

What are LDL and HDL?

What is usually referred to as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ cholesterol (the naming convention being a result of some ingenious marketing), are in fact molecules called lipoproteins. They are proteins that transport lipids in the bloodstream (hence lipo-protein), and in particular cholesterol, to and from tissues in different parts of the body. 

 

Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance that is not soluble in water and therefore cannot flow in the bloodstream that is mostly water. For this reason it needs to be transported where it is needed by some other molecules: the lipoproteins. It is indeed most unfortunate that we hear about LDL as the ‘bad’, and HDL as the ‘good’ cholesterol. This is not only false, but completely absurd.

 

LDL stands for Low Density Lipoprotein, and HDL stands for High Density Lipoprotein. The reason why this erroneous association and misguided use of these terms came about is based on the fact that one of the functions of LDL molecules is to transport cholesterol from the liver, where most of it is manufactured, to cells and tissues that need it for repair and regeneration. 

 

Since LDL helps to carry cholesterol out from the liver and into the bloodstream to tissues, in thinking that cholesterol in the blood should be minimised, then this is clearly a terrible thing. Hence LDL was dubbed the ‘bad’ cholesterol. 

 

This makes no sense to us—cholesterol is necessary for the manufacture, maintenance and repair of the membrane of every single one of the 50 trillion cells in the body. 

 

Naturally, for a molecule as important, as complex to synthesise, and therefore as precious as cholesterol, the organism has evolved a way to collect and reuse it. One of the roles of the HDL carrier molecules is to scavenge around for unneeded or surplus cholesterol and bring it back to the liver. 

 

So we know that one of the roles of LDL and HDL molecules—certainly the most obvious one—is to transport cholesterol from the liver to cells and tissues, and back to it for reuse and recycling or breakdown into other molecules. LDL and HDL work together as essential partners in the cholesterol transport system. 

HDL and LDL: beyond cholesterol transport – evidence speaks volumes

Compiling all the data we have from studies that measured lipoprotein levels in the blood and death rates, we find that the lowest mortality from all diseases occurs in people with total lipoprotein levels between 200 and 240, centred on 220 mg/dl. These are age-corrected data, so as we age levels should gradually rise. But that’s not the only thing we find from looking at this graph of compiled data: there is an inverse relationship between lipoprotein levels and mortality such that the lower the lipoprotein levels are, the higher the death rate! To those who know what HDL and LDL molecules do, this is not surprising at all. It is, in fact, perfectly sensible.

 

As much as some may believe that the main role of LDL and HDL molecules is to carry cholesterol to and from tissues for cellular maintenance and repair, some would argue that their main role is not simple transport of cholesterol, but in fact, it is to protect the organism from bacterial and viral pathogens. It is firmly established that lipoproteins bind to endotoxins to inactivate them and protect against their toxic effects, including arterial wall inflammation. 

 

The essential point to remember, however, is that the lipoproteins LDL and HDL play a very important role in our immune system by neutralising harmful toxins released from the activity of pathogenic bacteria and viruses, thus protecting us from infectious diseases and the related chronic inflammation. This is why people with higher levels of lipoproteins LDL and HDL live longer and healthier lives.

Cholesterol and the brain

Although all cell membranes rely on cholesterol for structural integrity, neurons or brain cells are highly enriched in cholesterol, which makes up more than 20% of their dry weight. The importance of this enrichment can be appreciated when we consider that our brain accounts for about 2% of our body weight, but it contains about 25% of the cholesterol in the body. This means that the concentration of cholesterol in the brain is 12.5 times higher than the average bodily concentration. Isn’t this enough to convince you of the extreme importance of cholesterol for proper brain function?

 

As elsewhere in the body, cholesterol is found in the cell membrane—for brain cells this is the myelin sheaths that insulate them. But, in addition, cholesterol is the main constituent of the synapses through which nerve impulses are transmitted from one neuron to another. And contrary to common wisdom that lipoproteins cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, and therefore brain cholesterol must be synthesised in the brain, it has been shown that if something prevents brain cells from synthesising the precious cholesterol, then they use whatever they can get from the lipoproteins circulating in the blood.

 

With all of this in mind, is it surprising that when cholesterol synthesis is partially or completely de-activated using statin drugs, some of the most common symptoms seen are memory loss, dizziness, mental fog, slowing reflexes, etc., all of which are obviously related to brain function? Is it surprising that Alzheimer’s patients tend to have lower cholesterol levels both in the blood and in the brain? Well, no. It’s not surprising at all.

Cholesterol and hormones

What more needs to be said to emphasise the importance of cholesterol for healthy hormonal function than that all steroid hormones are made from it. Steroid hormones, as the name suggests, are steroids that act as hormones. Hormones are messenger molecules that tell cells what to do and when to do it. To carry out their function—to pass on their message—they must reach the nucleus of the cell. But to reach the well protected nucleus and bind to specific receptors in it, hormones must pass through the fatty cellular membrane. For this reason, hormones are made of fat: they are lipids. Since lipids are not water soluble, as is the case of cholesterol, hormones rely on specialised proteins to transport them in the bloodstream throughout the body.

Too much cholesterol? Get real

There is no such thing as too much cholesterol. The body produces exactly what it needs depending on the conditions, and as such, the amount in circulation is a consequence of other factors. 

 

Lipoprotein levels, reflecting the amount of cholesterol in circulation, are a function of genetics and of the state of the body. Genetic tendencies are what they are. The state of the body, as far as cholesterol is concerned, means primarily the condition of the tissues. And the condition of the tissues reflects the amount of damage they sustain in relation to the amount of repair that takes place: in other words, the rate of ageing. Since cholesterol gives cell membranes strength and integrity, it is needed to repair and rebuild cells. 

 

The more cellular reproduction, as in growing children, the more cholesterol is needed; the more damage to cells, the more cholesterol is needed. The damage sustained by tissues is mostly from glycation, free-radicals, and chronic inflammation, all of which are intimately related because blood sugar triggers both free-radical production and inflammatory processes, but much inflammation also arises from the action of toxins and infectious agents like viruses and bacteria.

Cholesterol and arterial plaque

It is true that the accumulation of plaque can lead to heart disease. It is also true that plaque is very cholesterol-rich. However, the reason why plaque is formed is due to the arterial tissue being damaged and needing to be repaired. The cholesterol-rich plaque is like a scab whose role is to allow the damaged tissue to heal. And just as a scab, once the tissue is healed, it ‘falls off’ and is brought back to the liver for recycling. And for that, the cholesterol is part of the healing agent. 

 

The damage to the tissue comes from other things, whether it is inflammatory endotoxins released from pathogenic bacteria, cigarette smoking-related chemicals, or glucose sticking haphazardly to proteins, damaging the arterial walls and forming advanced glycation end-products. Cholesterol is the bandage meant to help the tissue heal—not the cause of the problem.

 

To sum up, our view is that cholesterol is not in the least harmful, and that it is, in fact, absolutely vital to your health: vital for your hormonal system, vital for your immune system, vital for your brain, and vital for every cell in your body.

 

On that basis, incriminating LDL as causing heart disease or any other ailment is wrong in our view. Furthermore, we believe that we should maintain optimal lipoprotein levels around 220-240 mg/dl, and supply the body with ample amounts of health-promoting fats, increasing our intake of unprocessed saturated fats like coconut oil, as well as fat-soluble vitamins and cholesterol from organic eggs from free range, grass-and-insect eating hens, butter and fatty cheeses (preferably made from unpasteurized milk to maximise digestibility), and grass-fed meats if you are not vegetarian or vegan.

 

Read more about cholesterol here: But what about cholesterol?

Eat plenty of salt

For most of our lives we’ve been told to avoid salt – a few years ago it was the main villain, for its role in high blood pressure, and was to be firmly avoided. Well, not so fast. 

 

It turns out that just like cholesterol, salt is absolutely vital for proper hydration and the correct functioning of the most magical of organs, our kidneys. And, in fact, we’re pretty sure that you are probably not consuming enough good salt, especially if you’re avoiding processed fast food, which of course you should. So, let us explain. 

Why salt is critical for our health, and why too much is better than not enough

Bear with us here—the science is important. 

 

Salt, the one we put on food, is composed almost exclusively of sodium chloride (NaCl) that very easily dissolves in water into positively charged sodium (Na+) and negatively charged chloride (Cl-) ions. And there is something very special and unique about these ions: in our blood, Na+ and Cl- are present in the highest concentrations and maintained in the narrowest of ranges. 

 

This is very revealing, because it means that sodium and chloride are the most important extracellular electrolytes.

 

Our blood is made of red blood cells (45%) and white blood cells and platelets (0.7%) floating in blood plasma (54.3%). Blood plasma shuttles nutrients to cells around the body and transports wastes out. It consists of 92% water, 8% specialised mostly transporter proteins, and trace amounts of solutes (things dissolved or floating in it). And although circulating in trace amounts, the solutes—especially sodium—are vital. The concentration of solutes in blood plasma is around 300 mmol/l (don’t worry about the units). In the highest concentration of all is sodium at 140 mmol/l. In the second highest concentration of all is chloride at 100 mmol/l. The sum of these is 240 mmol/l. 

 

So, from these numbers alone, we see that blood plasma is more or less just salty water. Did you get that? Blood plasma is the key transport vehicle for our cells’ health, and it is more or less water AND salt.

Busting the hypertension myth

Hypertension is not caused by excessive salt consumption. It is caused primarily by chronic dehydration, magnesium deficiency, and calcification. It goes like this: every cell in every tissue and in every organ of our body relies on an electrical potential difference between the fluid inside the cell membrane and the fluid outside of it in order to function—produce energy and transport things in and out. This is particularly important in active “electrical” tissues such as muscles and nerves, including neurons. These tissues simply cannot work—cannot contract and relax in the case of muscle fibres, and cannot fire off electrical pulses in the case of nerve fibres and neurons—without a well-maintained and stable potential across the cellular membrane.

 

This resting potential across the membrane results from the delicate balance of the equilibrium potential and relative permeability through the cellular membrane of the three most important ions: Na+, K+ and Cl-. Of these, however, it is sodium that has the greatest effect on the kidneys. The kidneys’ primary function is to maintain blood pressure and concentration of electrolytes—each within its typically narrow range of optimal concentration—while excreting metabolic wastes.

 

The kidneys do this by efficiently reabsorbing most of the water and electrolytes from the large volume of blood that passes through them in every second throughout the day and night, getting rid of as much as possible of the metabolic wastes, and carefully adjusting the elimination of ‘excessive’ amounts of water and electrolytes. Deprive them of salt, and the system falls over. Excessive salt with enough water, however, can just be flushed out.

 

Therefore, salt is critical for proper kidney function, and thus also critical for regulating blood pressure correctly. So, the whole salt-causes-high-blood-pressure myth is a pretty serious misunderstanding of how things actually work.

Drinking water without salt actually dehydrates you

Remember that the kidneys try very hard to maintain the concentration of solutes in blood plasma—(known as plasma osmolarity). Also remember that sodium is by far the most important in regulating kidney function, and also in the highest concentration. It is nonetheless total osmolarity that the kidneys try to keep constant, and besides sodium, the other important molecule used to monitor and maintain osmolarity by the kidneys is urea—the primary metabolic waste they are trying to eliminate.

 

If we eat nothing and just drink plain water, beyond the body’s minimum water needs, every glass will dilute the blood further and, thus, cause the kidneys to try to retain more of the sodium while eliminating more of the water. We are drinking quite a lot, but as the day progresses, we are growing more thirsty. We drink more but go to the bathroom more frequently, our urine grows more diluted, and by the end of the day we find ourselves visibly dehydrated, with chapped lips and dry skin. 

 

It may seem paradoxical in that while drinking water, we are getting increasingly more dehydrated. But it is not paradoxical. It is simply the consequence of the kidneys doing their work in trying to maintain constant blood plasma concentrations of sodium (and solutes). For those of us who have fasted on plain water for at least one day, you mostly likely know exactly what we’re talking about. For those who have not, you should try it and experience this first hand for yourselves. Avoiding dehydration in this case is simple: eat salt to match water intake.

 

If, on the other hand, we do not drink, then the blood gets more and more concentrated, the concentration of sodium and other ions, urea, and everything else for that matter, rises with time, and the kidneys keep trying, harder and harder with time, to maintain the osmolarity constant by retaining as much as they possibly can of the water that is present in the blood. 

 

You might think: why not just eliminate some of the solutes to lower their excessively high concentration? But eliminating solutes can only be done through the urine, which means getting rid of water that, in this state of increasing dehydration, is far too precious, and the kidneys therefore try to retain as much of it as possible, hence concentrating the urine as much and for as long as possible to make full use of the scarce amount of water that is available for performing their functions. 

 

But here is a crucial point to understand and remember: In order to reabsorb water, the kidneys rely on a high concentration of solutes—hyperosmolarity—in the interstitial medium through which passes the tubule carrying the filtrate that will eventually be excreted as urine. This is how water can be reabsorbed from the filtrate: the higher the difference in concentration, the more efficient the reabsorption. 

 

If there is plenty of excess salt—sodium and chloride ions—then these solutes are what the kidneys prefer to use to drive up and maintain the hyperosmolarity of the interstitial medium, and urea can be excreted freely. If, however, there is a scarcity of sodium and chloride ions, then the kidneys will do everything to reabsorb as much of the precious ions that are in circulation to maintain adequate concentrations of these in the bloodstream, and at the slightest sign of water shortage and dehydration—to ensure the hyperosmolarity of the interstitial medium for maximum water reabsorption—the kidneys will begin to recycle urea, excreting progressively less of it as dehydration increases.

 

The thirst march – how it works in your body

 

Most of you will have experienced a long day walking around, during which you did not drink for several hours. You might have also noticed that you probably didn’t go to the bathroom either, which you may have found unusual compared to the frequency with which you usually need to when you’re at home or at work. You will have noticed that your mouth was drier and drier as the hours passed, but also that you felt more and more tired, heavy-footed and without energy.  

 

Eventually it struck you just how thirsty you were, or you were finally able to find water to drink, and drank to your heart’s content. As you drank, you might have felt a surge of energy within as little as a minute or two or even immediately following the first few sips. Soon after, you finally did go to the bathroom, and noticed how incredibly dark and strong smelling your urine was. Now you understand what was happening in your kidneys, why you didn’t go pee for these long hours, why your urine was so dark and smelled so strong. However, the reason why you felt your energy dwindle as the hours passed, and then return when you drank is still unclear.

 

Water in the blood regulates its volume. And volume in a closed system determines internal pressure. Our circulatory system is a closed system in the sense that there are no holes where blood either goes in or comes out. Yet at the same time it is not a closed system because water enters and leaves the system: entering the bloodstream through the wall of the intestines, and leaving through the kidneys and out into the urine. 

 

All physiological functions depend intimately on blood pressure, whether it goes high as we face a fear or is as low as it can be during our most soothing and restful sleep deep into the night. And what is the primary regulator of blood pressure? The kidneys.

 

So, now you know why your energy faded as the hours passed or, more precisely, as the body got progressively more dehydrated. In a nutshell:

 

As water content decreases, blood volume decreases. As the volume decreases, blood pressure drops. And as blood pressure drops, energy levels go down.

 

Precisely how much salt should I be taking?

 

At Kalibra, we recommend 3-4 litres of water per day, with a total of 1-2 teaspoons of salt. This will ensure proper hydration of tissues by preventing excessive dilution of blood sodium levels, and maximum urea excretion. 

 

Excess sodium, chloride and any other electrolyte will be readily excreted in the urine. However, if we were to drink less than the bare minimum of 2 litres per day, we should not take any salt (or food for that matter!)

 

If we drink more than 2 litres, we should match each additional litre of water with 1 teaspoon of salt, taking into account the salt contained in the food we eat. It is always better physiologically to drink more than to drink less. And remember that we hydrate most effectively on an empty stomach by drinking 30 minutes before meals.(Replace link).

Ready to get Kalibrated?

Why we need to start with blood testing

by March 15, 2021

At Kalibra, we believe in objective data and hard science as the basis for intentional health. And without a doubt, the starting point for a conversation about that has to be with the current state and functioning of the main systems of our body – because it is a combination of many systems that have to effectively work together for peak performance. It’s why we start our assessment process there. 

Simple blood tests are the best storytellers: they help us understand if we have a disease or optimal metabolism, if our kidneys and liver are healthy, and if our hormones are at the right levels. In order to be proactive about our health, we have to be clear on what we aim to achieve and create specific measures for the progress towards that goal. With the right data, we can determine our baselines and create a specific plan for fixing any imbalances, before they deteriorate or impede our quality of life.

We acknowledge that blood testing is not quite as instantaneous or pain-free as other forms of self-tracking, but it is by far the best studied and perhaps most reliable, science-based dataset about ourselves. As we make changes to our lifestyle, fitness and diet, it gives us an objective marker of the results they are delivering. 

What is bloodwork, exactly?

Lab tests, bloodwork, biomarkers or blood tests all mean one thing – taking out a sample of your blood and then analyzing it professionally in a lab. A blood sample can be extracted either via the vein using a needle or via a fingerpick, and hopefully one day via non-invasive measures, though the technology isn’t there quite yet. 

The extracted blood samples are run through biochemical analysis to look at different biomarkers, before being compared to common reference ranges (to assess normal/abnormal) The data can then be used to evaluate underlying bodily functions – even down to one’s mineral levels. 

One problem we are trying to address is how blood testing is often too technical and jargon-filled for people to make useful sense of. This is partly a problem of the unconsidered presentation of results, and also an artifact of medical knowledge being the preserve of medical professionals. The reality today is that you’re far more likely to have a doctor confuse you, rather than explain in an intuitive, helpful and engaging manner. For whatever reason that remains the case, we’re on a mission to disrupt this practice and change it for the better. 

The truth is that understanding your lab results isn’t actually that complicated. Here’s how it works: your blood test results are first compared to a simple reference range, and what is important for you to know initially is whether the result falls within the range of normal. And if not, what does that indicate and what steps can be taken to address it. 

Why is regular blood testing important?

It can feel like blood tests are only there for when a problem exists. However, keeping tabs on what is going on inside your body is your core advantage in preventing problems down the line, and early detection of any issues gives you the best opportunity to course correct. 

We’ve put together what we consider the key reasons anyone should consider regular blood tests: 

1. Objective and reliable baseline for health and wellbeing

By understanding your individual health data, you have the best idea of what you actually need to focus on. It enables you to meaningfully improve your health, rather than following for the latest fad. 

2. Get an early warning for metabolic disease

Diabetes, obesity or insulin resistance (sometimes termed diabesity) is one of the major health problems facing us today. Within our blood, certain biomarkers exist to provide an early-warning system for these issues, which give us the best head-start in managing them.

3. Fixing small imbalances before they snowball

While blood tests often are used when looking at diseases, the benefit of regular blood tests is in noticing the small abnormalities, and their rate of change. That is a very valuable tool for preventing disease as early as possible.  

4. Understanding the functional organs that purify your body: 

Your liver and kidneys are the window to your body. The liver is your detoxification system. Build up and abnormal levels of protein, albumin, globulin, or other markers could indicate imperfect detoxification of your body – a substantial health risk. 

Your kidneys help regulate things such as blood pressure, acidity levels, mineral concentration and water composition of the blood. The health and function of your kidneys can be seen by evaluating your blood and checking blood urea nitrogen (BUN) as well as uric acid, creatinine, and others. Maintaining good renal function and noticing poor drug interactions are key benefits of regular assessment.

5. Hormones – for health, mental clarity and emotional balance

There are several important hormones in our body such as testosterone, Progesterone, DHEA-S, and Estradiol.  For example, research has indicated a relationship between lower levels of bioavailable free testosterone and depression in men, as well as correlations with diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s. Getting a baseline of your levels and directional changes overtime is a key tool in our arsenal to improve the ageing process.  

6. Maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system via homocysteine testing

Research has shown that elevated homocysteine (an amino acid) levels in your blood indicate a higher risk factor for coronary artery disease and stroke, as well as increased depression and increase in bone fractures. Keeping an eye on homocysteine is the first line of defence against cardiovascular disease. 

7. Inflammation management  and C-reactive protein

Our bodies need a certain amount of stress in order to grow and optimise, and they manage this process through inflammation. Its function is to remove an injury or damage in the body and its cells. In the short-term inflammation is a normal process, but long-term, elevated levels of inflammation can indicate problems like atherosclerosis, heart disease, arthritis, autoimmune conditions and even cancer. 

Blood tests looking at C-reactive protein (CRP), a sensitive marker of systemic inflammation, have become increasingly popular. Various studies have shown how CRP can be used as a predictor of coronary heart disease and other diseases of the cardiovascular system. For athletes, especially endurance athletes, C-reactive protein (CRP) has emerged as a test to check on systematic overtraining.

What are the benefits for me? 

  1. Preventive care 

Prevention is better than cure, and early detection is the key variable that improves our chances of avoiding or mitigating a serious health issue. Many hearts, liver, kidney conditions and health risks can be diagnosed using blood testing. 

2. Interpretation for weight, energy or mood fluctuations

As we make changes to our lifestyles, or our bodies undergo sudden change, we are often dealing with an incomplete picture of why things are happening the way they are. Thyroid, liver and kidney issues could be an underlying reason, and there is no way to know unless you test. 

3. Macro and micro nutrients, and nutritional requirements

Proper nourishment is an essential part of maintaining good health, but we are often unable to tell what’s good for us or just popular trend-marketing. A nutritional deficiency can lead to issues like fatigue, headaches, insomnia, body odor, muscle cramps, and constipation. Addressing nutritional deficiencies head on is a great strategy for optimising performance and health. 

4. Sex Hormones

Your lab results keep a record of testosterone and estrogen levels in the body. If you experience low libido levels, erectile dysfunction, infertility issues, or disinterest in sexual activities, the reason could be a drop in the levels of your sex hormones which can be addressed with supplementation and other methods. 

5. Confidence that it’s not more than flu. 

Many ongoing serious infections start in your body with flu-like symptoms and can go untreated for years. Blood tests give us much-needed reassurance.  

6. Personalising and customisation of your regimen. 

Your body is unique, so your health program should be fully customized to your individual needs. By undergoing regular blood tests, you can get the exact numbers that will help you plan your  diet, training regime, supplementation and rest protocols. 

Finally, the behavioural angle

At Kalibra, we look at the behavioural aspect of objective data as a key part of how we can be intentional about health. First and foremost, knowing that something needs attention is a great motivator to make changes to our lifestyles. 

However, regular bloodwork is important for a second reason – kalibrating our objective data vs our subjective perceptions. We regularly misremember things and have an overly optimistic view of our own habits. Indeed, we often see regular slip-ups as one-offs, before erasing them from our memories.

Consider this: we swear we don’t eat carbs and sugar, but still have elevated glucose and H1C. That could be because of bad habits, or it could be the sign of a more serious condition. 

The only way to be absolutely sure is to have a scientifically objective benchmark on our body’s current condition. That is how we can make positive adjustments, or mitigate the mind games we play with ourselves. But that’s the subject of another post. (LINK)

The 6 health needs for our total wellbeing

by February 27, 2021

Health is wealth, and almost all of us would agree that we put our health first – always and without fail. However, even for those who follow through on this commitment, what underpins it is a relatively unstructured and mass trend-led process. 

At Kalibra, we want to help people put intent behind their health. And that starts with knowing our individual body and condition, because whilst much of internal machinery is shared, we all have enough that sets us apart from others – and to make a meaningful difference requires a “personalised” approach. 

And this is where things get difficult, because it’s hard to know what’s important to begin with, and even harder to know what’s most important to us. In the absence of an intuitive or subjective way to compare the various metrics or to understand their value, we collectively default to well-trodden universal shortcuts, such as 3 liters of water a day, 8 hours of sleep, 30 minutes of vigorous exercise, for instance. 

And whilst that advice sets us in a good direction, for each of us there is a very personal 80/20 set of 3-5 actions that will have the most impact, especially if done over the long-term. 

This post explains how Kalibra goes about identifying these actions and structuring them into a framework that makes it intuitive and easy to habituate them. We call it the 6 Circles of Health: Rest, Nourish, Move, Connect, Reflect and Grow. 

Below, we briefly explain why each of these is important. 
Rest

Stress + Rest = Growth. Whether you want to grow your body or mind or get better at a specific skill, you need to push to the outer limits of your current ability, before following the hard work with the appropriate recovery and reflection. And the latter is where most of us fall short, cheered on by the social media’s celebration of all out effort, 24/7. The reality is that rest is the alpha and omega of wellbeing, and despite all our efforts, we just cannot sleep faster. Similarly to the several misconceptions about how we lose body fat, sleep is now seen as something to “hack”. That, unfortunately, is not possible because the circadian rhythm has been wired into our bodies over thousands of years. 

In the present environment, this is probably the key challenge for all of us. Sleep times are getting shorter, quality of sleep is reducing, and there are more demands on us cognitively as life patterns are being interrupted. However, nothing is more catastrophic to our longevity and wellbeing than not resting properly. At Kalibra, understanding how we improve and maximise rest is front and center.

Move

It is self-evident that we need to keep moving, but it’s key to emphasise the importance of resistance training for health and longevity. Most of us focus mainly on cardio, neglecting the fact that muscle mass decreases with age, regardless of gender. So, kalibrate where you are vs where you should be, and act accordingly. There are many ways to build and maintain muscle that don’t require being a gym-machine. 

Nourish 

You can’t outrun a bad diet, the saying goes, and we agree. While sleep may be the most important, nourishment is often the most challenging. When considering building the appropriate nutritional plan, Kalibra sees 2 points as vital:

While we are taking in more calories, we are very often severely micronutrient deficient. A third of the world population is iodine deficient, and in many geographies, upwards of 80% of the population is vitamin D deficient. There is no way to know this without a blood test, and the compound effect of these deficiencies is significant. 
Carbohydrate restriction, proper protein/fat intake and hydration are the usual areas of focus, and those are usually flagged in the lab reports referred to in point 1. So, start with insulin, glycated hemoglobin and triglycerides to understand where you are as a key baseline check. 
Connect. 

How we connect with others is absolutely key for our happiness and healthspan . A seminal Harvard study shows that close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives. Those ties protect people from dissatisfactions in life, help to delay mental and physical decline, and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes.

In essence, most of us need at least 3-5 strong connections (think of it as people you can confide in, or call in case of a personal or medical emergency), and those connections need to be consciously nourished. With loneliness being front and center as a mental health issue, having a framework for making sure our relationships are maintained is key. 

Furthermore, the strength of your connections is often in direct conflict with our digital lifestyle. Perhaps the most detrimental consequence of digital technology is the illusion of connection. We think we can connect meaningfully over a tweet or two. However, we’ve learned that nothing can replace in-person community and believing they can will come at a cost to our health. So we must invest in our connections, regularly, and intentionally. 

Reflect.

In addition to how we connect with others, how we connect with ourselves is key. Spending time alone, sitting and breathing allows you to (in the words of Tim Ferriss) step out of the washing machine and look inside it. And, therefore, see what may need a second, or third, wash.

This is the foundation of being less reactive and more detached from the noise of daily life. How well do you know yourself? Do you spend time alone? Can you spend time alone? Do you like it? Do you avoid it? Why? Who are you when you are alone with yourself and with nobody else around? How important are you to yourself? 

It’s essential to take the time to reconnect with yourself, to establish this as a priority, to develop and nurture that connection. Only through this exploration will you be able to know how you are, moment to moment, and maybe eventually even know who you are, truly, beyond the social references that you use to define yourself against.

Grow. 

Growth describes the relationship between yourself and your future self, i.e. your purpose and trajectory, as well as the systems and mental models for its support. 

Having an articulated life plan (however imprecise), goals, values and a growth method all contribute to wellbeing immensely. Having a why is a key tool in your resilience and coping arsenal, and needs to be cultivated on an ongoing basis.

How can we choose the direction we want to take if we don’t take the time to look at it, reflect on it regularly and make a note of it. A value framework for life allows us to assess where we are, decide where we want to go, and make a plan on how to get there. This, in turn, reduces future anxiety and strengthens our resilience. 

This is true for the few important things we need to get done today, it is true for the major projects we want to accomplish this year, and it is true for the place we want to get to in 5, 10, 15 years from now. And of course these will change, but the point is to think about, plan, map out your evolution, your own growth from your current to your future self, and make it happen. We finish, appropriately, with a Nietzsche quote: “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how”. This is what we look at when we talk about growth.

So, what should I do?

At Kalibra we see the 6 Circles of Health as the most robust framework for understanding and meaningfully improving your personal operating system. 

Fasting for renewal and rejuvenation

by April 5, 2020

Fasting stimulates autophagy, mitophagy, stem cell production, detoxification, mitochondrial biogenesis, neurogenesis, and neuroplasticity. Fasting also down-regulates muscle catabolism and up-regulates growth hormones to preserve muscle tissue. Because all of these are crucial for health and youthfulness, but tend to decrease rapidly with age, regular fasting is by far the most effective way to naturally slow down ageing and prolong health.

Autophagy means self-eating but refers to the breaking down and removal of damaged tissues, cells, and cellular component to reuse the molecules of which they are made to build new, healthy cells and tissues.

Mitophagy is the same but for mitochondria. Those damaged and dysfunctional are broken down into their constituents to be made available for rebuilding new ones, which is called mitochondrial biogenesis. Fasting is the most effective way to stimulate autophagy and mitophagy primarily through activation of a special enzyme, Adenosine Monophosphate-activated Protein Kinase, or AMPK for short. Fasting also increases production of nerve growth factor that stimulates the growth of new brain cells, no matter how old you are.

Stem cells have as their main purpose to repair tissues. Stem cell activity is highest in embryos and babies, and steadily decreases with age. Stem cell regeneration is strongly stimulated by fasting, but it’s uniquely related to the burning of fat for fuel, and not to the fasting itself. We know this because genetically switching off fat-burning in fasting mice stops stem cell production.

Detoxification takes place through the release of toxins from tissues. Biological survival mechanisms have evolved to sequester into fat cells chemicals and heavy metals from the bloodstream, and isolate them from damaging more sensitive and biologically active tissues and organs in the rest of the body. When fat cells split open to release the energy stored in the fatty acids they stockpile, these toxins are released into circulation for elimination.

Neurogenesis refers to the making of new neurons (brain cells), and neuroplasticity refers to the creation of new synaptic connections and nerve flux pathways in the neural network of the brain. This is without a doubt one of the most remarkable benefits of fasting.

brain-bright

(Image credits here)

All of these biological mechanisms have deep evolutionary roots. We know this because they are common to the most complex (and thus most recent), and to much simpler (and thus much older) organisms. It is most likely in these deep evolutionary roots that the remarkable healing power of fasting comes from.

Autophagy, mitophagy, stem cells, and ketones

Fasting stimulates the breakdown of dysfunctional proteins and cellular components, the preservation of active muscle tissue, and the rebuilding of new proteins and cells upon refeeding. (Read here an excellent article by Dr Jason Fung on the up-regulation of muscle preservation during fasting.) The acute stress of vigorous exercise, especially of strenuous resistance training, stimulates autophagy in much the same way as fasting does. Both stimulate mitochondrial biogenesis. Does this sound inconsequential to you? It really isn’t.

First, the accumulation of damaged cells and cellular debris can be equated to senescence. And senescence can be equated to death. Or rather, the accumulation of death in the body. Death, in this sense, is not really binary, it’s not like one moment we are alive, and the next we’re dead. It’s much more like we accumulate, over time, dead and dysfunctional cells, dead and dysfunctional mitochondria, dead and dysfunctional organelles. Little by little they accumulate, but there’s a threshold. There’s a point beyond which no more death can be accumulated inside the body. And when that threshold is reached, life can no longer be sustained. This is when we die. We call this ageing. The slowing down of things, the loss of energy, the loss of vitality, the loss of strength and flexibility, and the loss of mental acuity and intelligence. But it is, in reality, nothing other than the gradual loss of life through the gradual accumulation of death.

Second, mitochondria are the source of all the energy that is produced and made available to the body. The mitochondria in the cells produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the energy currency for all cellular operations and transactions. And no matter how you look at it, every last little bit of energy that is needed to do anything at all comes from these mitochondria in the cells throughout the body. A tiny drop or increase in energy production in the mitochondria would result in a massive effect on your strength, speed, endurance, resilience, but also concentration and sharpness of mind. Why?

Because there are around 30 trillion cells, and most have between 1000 and 2500 mitochondria each. That makes tens of thousands of trillions of mitochondria. The average cell uses 10 billion units of ATP per day, which means an average adult needs about 3 x 10^25 units of ATP per day. Now you can imagine what happens if the ATP production per mitochondria drops or increases by a tiny fraction, say of just a thousandth of a percent. Because there are so many mitochondria, the magnitude of the effect would be enormous.

Do you remember the “blues and greens” that Jeremy Renner and the other agents carried in little aluminum cases around their necks in the Hollywood film The Bourne Legacy? Remember how much they enhanced both physical and mental performance? This is what these little pills’ main purpose was: to increase mitochondrial energy production efficiency.

We don’t usually think about it in this way, but we should. Doing so, we would understand how important it is to support the body in cleansing and clearing out damaged tissues and cellular components so that they don’t accumulate. And we would also understand how important it is to support the body in rebuilding new, healthy cells and mitochondria to maintain optimal function for as long as possible.

Stem cells everywhere in the body appear to love fat-burning. Because fasting triggers fat-burning in basically every cell of the body, it also triggers an explosion in stem cells activity. It is this explosion of stem cell activity that powerfully stimulates tissue repair and regeneration throughout the body’s tissues.

Ketones are produced in the liver by transforming free fatty acids into beta hydroxy butyrate and acetoacetate through beta-oxidation. Ketones are the preferred fuel for the brain and heart, because burning ketones to generate energy (ATP) produces much fewer reactive oxygen species (free radicals), and thereby significantly reduces oxidative damage to the muscle cells in the heart and the neurons in the brain. Isn’t that so amazing?

The relationship between nutritional ketosis and fasting is simple: the brain is one of if not the most crucial organ because it regulates and coordinates almost everything that happens in the body; the metabolic activity of the brain can be fuelled by glucose or ketones; as blood glucose concentration drops and thus becomes less abundant, ketone production in the liver increases to ensure an adequate supply of fuel to the brain. Glucose levels naturally drop within a few hours, even after a carbohydrate-rich meal, due to the action of insulin. Fasting lowers and maintains low blood glucose levels over significantly longer periods of time. Therefore, in general, the longer the fast, the more ketones are produced, and the more are in circulation in the bloodstream.

Burning ketones for fuel stimulates the production, within cells, of antioxidants like superoxide dismutase (that transforms the superoxide radical into molecular oxygen and hydrogen peroxide), and catalase (that breaks down peroxide). Both the superoxide radical and the hydrogen peroxide molecule can cause many types of cellular damage if not neutralised or broken down as early as possible. So, the more ketones available, the more cellular superoxide dismutase produced, and the less cellular damage from free radical damage sustained. Isn’t this amazing?

Ketones also stimulate the production of adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) and NAD coenzyme that recharge antioxidants like glutathione, ubiquinol, and vitamin C to a functional state. Major functions of NADPH include recharging antioxidants; providing electrons for the synthesis of fatty acid steroids, proteins, and DNA; and acting as the substrate for NADPH oxidase (NOX) which plays a key role in immune function. 

MCT oil and caprylic acid, both derived from coconut oil, are directly and easily converted to fuel and ketones by the liver to fuel brain and heart, and that will therefore bring your lucidity and clarity of mind and thinking. For this reason, they are excellent supplements to take in the morning and during the first part of the day, but should be avoided in the evening because they can lead to hyper-alertness and interfere with a restful sleep. MCT oil shouldn’t be used in case of liver disease.

Nutritional ketosis improves insulin sensitivity, stimulates fat loss, improves mental clarity, reduces risk of cancer, and increases longevity. It reduces cellular damage and inflammation through much lower free-radical and inflammatory cytokine production.  And it also increases cellular and tissue repair by stepping up autophagy, mitophagy, and stem cell activation. All of these benefits are consequences, direct and indirect, of sustained low glucose and low insulin levels, and of the derivation of cellular energy from fats and ketones rather than from glucose. In short, nutritional ketosis is amazingly—actually almost supernaturally—good for you.

Toxins and Detoxification

We are all exposed to many toxic chemicals. No matter where we live, and no matter what we do: mold toxins; heavy metals like Hg, As, Pb, Cd from air, water, and food; arsenic (As) from pressure-treated wood, electronics, herbicides; lead (Pb) from gasoline, water pipes, paints; cadmium (Cd) from fertilizers; copper (Cu) as a by-product of many industrial processes that builds up in soil and water; pesticides and herbicides like glyphosate; PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) produced from the combustion of fossil fuels; BPA (bisphenol A) and phtalates used to make plastics; dioxins and dioxin-like (PCBs) from industrial chemical processes; heterocyclic amines from grilling at high heat; hexane, a neurotoxic chemical used to extract more oil from nuts and seeds (including coconut). The list goes on and on.

These are in the soil, in the food, in the water, and in the air. They are also in the soaps, shampoos, creams, makeup, and the countless number of chemical cleaning agents manufactured and sold the world over that we use in our homes. Obviously, the more of them you avoid direct exposure to the better. Consuming toxin-free food as much as possible, and using the simplest and most natural household and personal care products is an essential first step. But if embryos, as protected as one could ever be deep in a mother’s wombs and behind several layers of protective membranes and mechanisms, are known to accumulate toxins, then what about us?

Most of these chemical toxins are fat-soluble. The biochemical processes that have evolved to transport and isolate environmental toxins, whatever they may be, into fat cells is a remarkable survival mechanism that has without a doubt played an important part in allowing living organisms to evolve over the past 3.5 billion years into increasingly more complex plants and animals. However, the Industrial Revolution led to an explosion of human-made chemicals into the environment the pace of which has never ceased to increase.

Did you know that strawberries contain a fibre called fisetin that help remove and eliminate senescent cells from the body, which is essential for prolonging health? But did you know that they are also some of the most chemically contaminated foods together with spinach, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes, bell peppers? Among the least contaminated are avocados, sweet corn, pineapple, cabbage, onions, sweat peas, papaya, asparagus, mangos, eggplant, honeydew, kiwi, cantaloupe, cauliflower, and broccoli.

In the past four decades only, more than 85 thousand different chemicals have been released into the environment. And the amount has only increased with time. One of, if not the most dangerous is Monsanto’s infamously well-known glyphosate because it is the most heavily used broad-spectrum herbicide of all time: from 1974 to 2016, soils, waters, plants, and animals have absorbed 1.8 million tons in the US alone, and 9.4 million tons worldwide.

Since 1974 in the U.S., over 1.6 billion kilograms of glyphosate active ingredient have been applied, or 19 % of estimated global use of glyphosate (8.6 billion kilograms). Globally, glyphosate use has risen almost 15-fold since so-called “Roundup Ready,” genetically engineered glyphosate-tolerant crops were introduced in 1996. Two-thirds of the total volume of glyphosate applied in the U.S. from 1974 to 2014 has been sprayed in just the last 10 years. The corresponding share globally is 72 %. In 2014, farmers sprayed enough glyphosate to apply ~1.0 kg/ha (0.8 pound/ acre) on every hectare of U.S.-cultivated cropland and nearly 0.53 kg/ha (0.47 pounds/acre) on all cropland worldwide. (Environmental Sciences Europe, 2016, 28:3)

Our fat cells are the body’s chemical storage facility. The more of them there are, the more chemicals can be stored. The less body fat there is, the less chemicals are stored. And if your storage unit is full, then no matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to add another piece of furniture. This is also true for the body’s chemical storage capacity.  This is both good and bad, but for different reasons.

More storage allows the organism to survive and function even in the face of significant chemical contamination. But the more chemicals are stored in the body’s fatty tissues, the more the organism as a whole becomes contaminated, and the less able it becomes to function optimally. A large dose of chemical exposure, say from a chemical leak, would require a large fat storage capacity in order to prevent overwhelming the rest of the body’s organs and systems. In such circumstances, someone with more body fat would be better off than someone with less.

But for most of us, this kind of acute exposure from a chemical accident in our near vicinity is not much of a concern. Moreover, you shouldn’t imagine that because chemical toxins are stockpiled in fat cells to minimise exposure in other tissues that they have no effect. Does burying radioactive waste makes it innocuous? It makes it a lot less dangerous and damaging, that’s for sure. But only in the short term, and to some extent, because the radioactive wastes leak out into the soil and the ground water.

The same is true for the chemicals stored in our fat cells. The storing of them protects us from the major toxic effects of direct and large scale exposures, but there is some leaking of these toxins out into the system, especially over time, and as our storage tanks get full. In general, therefore, this is what we should be concerned about: the low-grade chronic exposure and its long-term effects. And the less fat storage, the less chronic exposure there will be.

Fasting regularly and smartly, is the best way to both clear out the storage tanks, and  shrink the overall storage capacity for chemical toxins, thus minimising the amount of leaking taking place on a day-to-day basis. So, here’s what we need to know about this:

The more access to fat stores for fuel, the more toxins are mobilised and released from the tissues. This is what we stimulate in the most efficient manner when we fast, because the body needs to sustain all of its cellular processes by burning fat for fuel. But fat loss releases toxins in bloodstream. And this is good because toxins are mobilised.  Detoxification, however, must be supported in order for the toxins to be excreted. Otherwise they are released into circulation and can be very damaging. It is for this reason that water fasting is in general not a great idea: it releases too many toxins too quickly, and offers no mechanisms for bindings and eliminating them.

Once toxins are liberated, they must be bound to something in order to be eliminated. To be liberated, toxins are first made water soluble by the addition of a hydroxy (OH) radical. This is essential for elimination, but it makes the toxin more reactive. In a second stage, the now water-soluble but reactive toxin, is conjugated by the addition of a methyl, sulfur, or acetyl group, or else of an amino acid like glycine or glutathionine, in order to be made less reactive. After this, it is transported out of the cell to be eliminated through urine, sweat, or stools.

The detoxification process is supported by facilitating urination (drinking more); facilitating passive sweating (sauna, near-IR is best); eating cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, and kale); and supplementing with toxin binders (activated charcoal, chlorella, chitosan, psyllium husks, and citrus pectin). Actually, fat regain following fat loss, something which is very common, is almost certainly a protective mechanism to sequester the toxins that were released but not eliminated. And sweating has to be passive, because exercise suppresses detoxification: the system can be either in fight-or-flight or in rest-and-repair mode; exercise is associated with the former.  

Effective detoxification depends on healthy intestinal function. A compromised gut lining allows toxins from the foods or process of digestion to enter the bloodstream. This leads to chronic inflammation and a chronically triggered immune system that eventually results in autoimmune conditions. Fasting reduces gut permeability by enhancing integrity of gut lining: it induces a metabolic switch to fat-burning in the intestinal stem cells that significantly enhances their function, and promotes the healing of the junction between gut lining cells, as well as gut flora diversity.

Resistant starches are good because they feed the gut bacteria, and do not break down into glucose. They are found in under-ripe bananas, papayas, and mangos. Most notable is that if rice is cooked with coconut oil, allowed to cool for 12 hours, and reheated, it will increase in resistant starch by a factor of 10! This reduces calories that would be absorbed from the starch going to glucose by 60%! This simple preparation of the rice turns it from a damaging high-sugar food to avoid, into a beneficial prebiotic. Quite amazing, isn’t it?

How to fast: first steps

Now, before going any further, you should not fast if you are underweight or malnourished; pregnant or breastfeeding; or if you have excessively high uric acid levels. Fasting while underweight or malnourished will exacerbate the negative consequences of the malnourishment. Fasting while pregnant or breastfeeding will release toxins that could potentially be highly detrimental to the baby. And because fasting naturally increase uric acid levels due to the process of cellular cleaning, it could, if starting from an already excessively high concentration, be damaging to the organism. Otherwise, fasting will in general be very beneficial.

First, because fasting strongly influences the regulation of the circadian rhythm, and because one of the most important functions of sleep is to clean out the brain from the byproducts and wastes of its metabolic activity during the waking hours, we should never eat during the night, and always allow at the very least three but preferably four to five hours from our last bite to the time we go to bed. This is necessary to set the conditions for a deep, restorative sleep that keeps our brain in good shape. This is true independently of everything else. So, you can start doing this right away without even having to do any prolonged fasting.

Second, in order to avoid a negative impact on your mental and physical performance during the fast, the body should be adapted to using fat for fuel before you start fasting. You will feel shitty otherwise. I have written two articles that relate to this: Keto-adaptation for optimal physical performance and The crux of intermittent fasting. You should read both. It’s important to understand the biochemical and physiological foundations of why we do things in a particular way. Otherwise, we will lack the intellectual understanding on which depends our ability to make informed choices, but also the resolve to see them through.

Third, in order to have a smooth transition to longer fasting periods, you need to increase your fasting window gradually: to gradually increase the time between your last bite in the evening, and your first bite the next day. Let’s say your sleeping schedule is near optimal, sleeping from 22:00-23:00 to 7:00-8:00. Let’s also assume that you make sure you leave 4 hours before going to bed so that you have your last bite of food around 18:00. Everyone should fast for at least 12 hours. That’s the minimum to aim for, and it requires very little effort.

It would be much better to fast for at least 14 hours, in which case you would wait until 9:00 before having any food. A 16-hour fast would bring you to 11:00 for a late breakfast or early lunch. An 18-hour fast would have you eating lunch at 13:00. And a 20-hour fast means you would be having your first meal around 15:00. Take as long as you need to gradually go from the minimum of 12 hours to at least 16, 18, or even 20 hours.

When you can do this, you will know for sure that your metabolism is well fat-adapted, that your liver is producing ketones efficiently to nourish your brain during fasting periods, that the coarsest detoxification has to a great extent taken place during those weeks or months you have been adapting to longer fasting periods, and that you are now ready to extend your fasts to 24 or 36 hours once in a while, or as much as a couple of times a week. It is far more beneficial on the long term to fast for shorter periods of time every day, then it is to fast for a longer time less frequently. Because each time we fast and then refeed, we activate and benefit from the health-promoting and youth-enhancing mechanisms of the body.

Eating protein activates the mTOR (mammalian or mechanistic target of rapamycin) pathway, which is a powerful catabolic (tissue breakdown) that raises blood sugar levels. Hence, in general, we should keep protein intake to the optimal minimum for our needs. That’s something like this:

  • Young: 1g/kg of lean body mass per day
  • Older: 1.2g/kg of lean mass per day
  • Athletes: 1.5g/kg of lean mass per day

It’s important to remember that beyond the minimum optimal amount, protein intake should be adapted to level of activity: more activity means more protein, and less activity means less protein. Once you are well fat-adapted—after about 8 weeks on a very low carbohydrate diet—you should make a point of having a high fruit and/or starch day once a week. This will ensure that you maintain metabolic flexibility and a perky insulin response. Long term nutritional ketosis can lead to a sluggish insulin response, higher-than-optimal glucose levels and thus glycation, and otherwise unwanted biochemical and hormonal adaptations, which will prevent fat-loss and promote muscle breakdown. Variety stimulates metabolic flexibility.

But make sure it’s clear to you what this means: it means staying in nutritional ketosis for at least 5 days per week. And having a high-carb day means having between 100 and 150 g of sugar/starch from fruit, sweet potatoes, or rice. You should also make that high-carb day a low-fat day. In addition, digestion quality must remain your top priority. This means having your fruit or starches on their own as much as possible, and avoiding combining them with a lot of protein, which will compromise the digestion of both.

How to fast: specifics of keto-fasting

Very importantly, clearance of damaged cells and cellular debris or damaged organelles takes place during fasting, but rebuilding of organelles, cells, and tissues, most notably liver rejuvenation, occurs during refeeding.

Ketofasting following Dr Joseph Mercola’s method is partial fasting lasting ideally around 24 to 36 hours and up to 48 hours. It starts after the last meal of the day, extending over the course of the day following that, either ending with a meal 24 hours later; extending through a second night and ending at the start of the next day for the 36 hour fast; or extending 48 hours to latter part of the day. We saw why water-fasting is not something most of us should be doing in this day and age, and why it’s important to support the detoxification process while fasting. This requires some inputs: it requires protein (amino acids), mitochondrial support, and toxin binders.

The notion of breaking a fast is often taken as binary: we are either fasting or we are not. To some extent this is true. But in many ways it is not. It depends a lot on what it is that we ingest. The essential point is that the benefits of fasting come from maintaining very low blood sugar levels, remaining in nutritional ketosis, and therefore keeping the body in a cleanse-detoxify-repair mode.

Hence, there is a big difference between ingesting a teaspoon of coconut oil or a teaspoon of honey: both provide some calories, but the former supplies only fatty acids that actually promote nutritional ketosis, while the later supplies only simple carbohydrates that will immediately raise blood sugar levels and suppress ketosis, albeit temporarily, and more or less, depending on several other factors defining the body’s metabolic state and efficiency. So, in this regard, it’s better to think of fasting as grey rather than strictly black and white. Naturally, it’s really not an issue to have cucumber and celery with salt, for example.

Protein intake, needed to support the detoxifications processes, should be about half of your daily requirement, for example, 45 g instead of 90 g for 60 kg of lean body mass exercising 3-4 per week. During fasting, protein should not be branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) nor animal protein rich in BCAAs, because they activate the mTOR pathway that inhibits autophagy. The rest of the calories should be from fat to reach 300-600 kcal from coconut oil, MCT oil, or caprylic acid. Even small amounts of 85% chocolate for which each 10 g square provides 5.3 g of fat, 0.8 g of protein, and 1.5 g of sugar, amounting to 62 kCal of which 48 are from fat, 3.2 from protein, and 6 kCal are from sugar. These are all considered supplemental levels.

In fact, because the purpose of eating protein is to supply amino acids in support of basic functions and detoxification, it is most effective to replace protein intake by an amino acid supplement. And because converstion of protein to amino acids is at most 1/3 efficient, meaning that the highest quality animal protein (e.g., beef) will yield at most 1/3 of its amino acid contents once digested, we can replace 45 g of protein by 15 g of amino acids. Splitting this intake into 4 doses of 4 g each makes for a good rhythm of taking these every couple of hours over 8 hours or so. And they can be taken together with the chlorella and spirulina supplements as well as the phospholipids.

Even though exercising suppresses hunger due to the increase of stress hormones, unfortunately, it also suppresses detoxification. For this reason, you shouldn’t do strenuous exercise on fasting days. Focus on rest and repair.

Supplements to support autophagy and toxin elimination include:

  • Ubiquinol 100-150 mg twice to support mitochondrial energy production, regulate gene expression of processes related to inflammation, growth, and cellular detoxification.
  • Phosphatidylcholine and broad spectrum phospholipid to support rebuilding and thereby eliminating chemicals from cell membranes, especially in the brain.
  • Probiotics (not dairy-based) to help rebuild/balance gut flora if digestion is suboptimal. Keep in mind that the natural flora of the gut is adapted and adapts according to food and drink intake, as well as to the daily rhythms.
  • Bitters to support the liver in cleansing and elimination (e.g., Dr Shade’s Liver Sauce by Quicksilver Scientific; Swedish Bitters by Flora or by Maria Treben; herbs like Gentian, Dandelion, Goldenrod, Myrrh.)
  • Binders to support elimination of toxins, all to be taken on an empty stomach to not interfere for nutrient absorption in the gut:
    • Psyllium husks (1 tbs 1-2 times/day) stirred into a large glass of water—binds to stuff in gut to eliminate in stools;
    • Charcoal capsules (3 caps 1-2 times/day)—binds and removes pathogenic bacteria, Pb, Hg, and excess Fe;
    • Chitosan (2-3 g)—binds and removes heavy metals and radionucleotides;
    • Modified citrus pectin (5 g 1-3 times/day)—binds and removes dead/weak cells;
    • Chlorella—binds and removes Hg, but also provides a balanced plant protein.

Refeeding is as important as fasting, because this is when the rebuilding takes place. It is very important to remember that. Unless you are overweight and carrying around a lot of energy reserves in the form of extra body fat, intermittent fasting is not a matter of replacing three meals with only one. You need to provide the body with all the energy, macro and micro nutrients it needs to thrive. This remains true under all circumstances. Therefore, you need to make sure to not fall into the trap of eating 1/3 of what you normally would, and grow thinner and  thinner with time. That is not the point, and is obviously not sustainable in the long term. You need to provide the bodymind all the nutrition and calories it needs. The key is that this is true on average: If you don’t eat for extended periods of time, you naturally need to eat more when you do.

Concluding remarks

As time goes on and as our technological means of detailed investigations at the cellular level improve, we discover more and more amazing health-enhancing mechanisms through which fasting acts on the organism to make it stronger, more resilient, more functional, and more youthful.

But beyond all the super cool details about the mechanisms by which fasting works its magic on our body and brain, the essential message here is that fasting is really good for us. It’s in fact so good that it’s amazing. And considering that it can stimulate the growth of new mitochondria and even new brain cells, we could even say that it’s miraculously good for us.

Having understood that it is the combination of the fasting period and the refeeding that follows which makes the magic happen, the natural question is how can we maximise this. And the answer is quite simple: we fast and refeed frequently. We fast long enough to activate the health-enhancing cleansing, detoxification, and preservation mechanisms and pathways, and refeed with the most nutrient dense and nutritious foods to maximise the efficiency and effectiveness of the rebuilding and renewal mechanisms and processes.

Once well keto-adapted, and after a period of gradual adaptation to longer fasts, it becomes very easy, and even natural, to fast daily from 18:00 to 12:00 or even 14:00. It even becomes easy and natural to eat two small meals or a single large meal just once a day. In this way, we can get the benefits of fasting and refeeding every single day. Of course, longer fasts of 2, 3, or 4 days will go deeper in stimulating the cleansing, preservation, and repair potential of the fast. But the longer the fast, the more difficult it grows to maintain, and the less frequently it can be done because the rebuilding in between fasts must also be longer. After all, our daily requirements for calories and nutrients is what it is, and although we can easily postpone providing the organism what it needs to function optimally for some time, everything it needs must eventually nevertheless be provided.

This is therefore what I do. A daily fast of about 16 to 20, and usually 18 hours. Once or twice a week a full day’s fast with a single large meal, but typically one small meal around 14 and one larger one around 17 or 18. A comprehensive daily supplement programme; bitters over extended periods a couple of times a year; binders like psyllium husks semi regularly according to need based on quality of bowel movements, and smell of underarm sweat; maximum hydration and alkalisation of body fluids during the fast; and most fundamentally, maximum nutrition at refeeding. Maximum nutrition and nutrient density from plant foods, and maximum nutrition and nutrient density from animal foods. And the final note I’d like to leave you with is this:

The process of ageing is the process of dying. And this process of ageing and dying is a very slow and gradual process of accumulating dead and dysfunctional cells, mitochondria, organelles, and tissues. As these accumulate, we age and die. The faster they accumulate, the faster we age and die. The more we have accumulated, the closer we are to the end, to the threshold beyond which the organism cannot sustain its activity. Fasting—and this is the single most essential benefit of fasting—is by far the most effective way to slow down, minimise, prevent this continuous accumulation of death, and instead promote and stimulate cleansing, renewal, and rejuvenation within this organism that we call our bodymind.

I hope all of what we saw here together will help you enhance your health, and improve the quality of your life.

This article is inspired by and primarily based on KetoFast by Dr. Joseph Mercola.

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Is it possible to make universal recommendations about health?

by January 6, 2020

Focus these days tends to be on individuality. Especially in this age of genetic testing. The fact is, however, that ahead of individual differences, we are all human. Not only that, but as far as we know today, with the latest studies of mitochondrial gene evolution and transmission, we are all descendants of the same group of homo sapiens from the south western coast of Africa. Hence the question: can we make universal recommendations?

Imagine we could examine every human being on the planet, and assess organ function. For example, examine function of the kidneys, liver, pancreas, gall bladder, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. Would we find differences in how these are working from one person to another? Of course we would! That’s obvious. But does that have to do with inherent individual differences, or does it have to do with acquired differences that have developed over time for a range of different reasons? What if we were to ask this question instead: is there a difference, from one person to another, in how these organs are meant to work, a difference in how these organs should be working?

If that were the question, we would most certainly agree, together with probably all anatomists and physiologists, that all of these organs, and the rest of the internal organs of our organism, are meant to work in the same way. That all these organs, no matter in which person they happen to be, and no matter how they are currently working, are nevertheless meant to work in precisely the same way to perform precisely the same functions. And this not only in humans, but also in most animals with whom we share these fundamental anatomical and physiological characteristics. This naturally points not to individual differences but to inherent similarities as the fundamentally essential.

It is however quite easy to understand why there is so much emphasis on individuality. Aren’t we all unique and different? Aren’t we all so special in this uniqueness? Don’t we all have to learn to listen to our inner voice and pursue what we need to feel fulfilled in our own unique way? And how cool it is to be able to know our genetic profile, our own, completely unique, personal, and individual genetic profile? How special does it make us feel to know that there isn’t a single other person that has the same genetic profile as us?

What if everyone was brought to believe that each type of cancer is different, not superficially but fundamentally, and that in addition, each type is expressed differently in each individual because of the different interactions with their unique genetic makeup? That it is necessary to treat each individual cancer and each individual person with a drug that is genetically tailored just for them in their particular situation? What if we were brought to believe that this was the case for most illnesses and chronic diseases: that what is needed are specific drugs for specific conditions that are genetically tailored to each person? What endless possibilities! What awesome growth potential! What amazing investment opportunities! And what astronomical potential for returns on investments!

Contrast this with a position holding that cancer is a metabolic disease, and that no matter what kind it is, fundamentally cancer is always caused by a mitochondrial dysfunction that leads to excessive fermentation of glucose for fueling accelerated reproduction and a cellular activity that has become undifferentiated, and that therefore, all cancers can be prevented and even reversed by effectively starving the cancer cells of fuel by maintaining very low glucose and very low insulin levels in the bloodstream to ensure that healthy cells derive their energy from fatty acids and ketones, while the weakened and dysfunctional cancer cells starve and die. What growth potential? What investment opportunities? What returns on investments?

Contrast this with a position holding that all chronic diseases are also rooted in metabolic dysfunctions, and arise, simply and naturally, in a rather predictable manner, from things like chronic dehydration, chronic dysfunctions in digestion, absorption, and elimination, chronic nutritional deficiencies, biochemical imbalances, accumulation of metabolic acids and wastes, and result from all the consequences brought on by these dysfunctions and imbalances over years and decades that grow in severity in time until we are really quite sick, but all of them very simply prevented and treated with proper self care, hydration, and nutrition. Again we can ask, what growth potential, what investment opportunities, what returns on investments?

Whatever your personal inclination about any of this, it’s definitely something to keep in mind when evaluating statements concerning the general applicability versus the individual tailoring of treatments for ailments and approaches to health.

My position is simple:

  • as living organisms and complex animals, all humans are basically the same in anatomy and physiology;
  • there are obvious differences from one person to another that must be taken into account when considering each person individually; but
  • on the whole similarities are many and fundamental, while differences are fewer and generally superficial.

This is not to say that differences can be dismissed or even overlooked. Of course not. There are important differences in the expression of fundamental genes like the MTHRF gene that regulates methylation in the body, and which hence directly affects the body’s biochemistry and state of health. Similarly, there are important differences in response to sunlight and vitamin D metabolism from one person to another, even people from the same general gene pool. But these are nevertheless superficial compared to the totally fundamental considerations of how cells, organs, systems, and hormones work.

With all of this in mind, let’s come to the main point: what recommendations I would make with confidence to any adult not suffering from a major disorder, younger or older, weaker or stronger, more fragile or more robust, knowing that these recommendations would in no way be harmful, and would instead be helpful to improve health. They are presented in order of importance.

  1. Drink plenty of water and eat plenty of unrefined salt with meals. This is essential for proper hydration on which every cell relies, and proper kidney function on which the organism as a whole relies.
  2. Get at least 8 hours of quality sleep per night, on a regular schedule, somewhere between 21:00 and 8:00 the next day. Nothing is more important for health than sleep, and there is no way in which we can make up for a lack of it.
  3. Practice intermittent fasting. Nothing offers a more effective way to cleanse, repair, heal, and optimise cells, tissues, organs and metabolic function than fasting.
  4. Eat only nutrient dense whole foods. Ideally organic and pasture raised, focusing on high quality animal protein and fats, and micronutrient dense plant foods, avoiding all processed carbohydrates, lectins from grains and nightshades, and any foods to which you may be intolerant (e.g., dairy, eggs, nuts, etc).
  5. Take vitamins A, D3, and K2. These are fundamentally important fat-soluble vitamins, essential for healthy gene expression, calcium metabolism, healthy bones and teeth, and healthy arteries and soft tissues throughout the body.
  6. Take baking soda. Start the day with half to three quarters of a teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in a large glass of water on a completely empty stomach. This is the easiest way to supply the most important alkaline compound used by the body, and offset the acid load and potential accumulation in tissues of metabolic acids.
  7. Take iodine. This is essential for healthy thyroid, mammary, and glandular function in general. But iodine is needed in every cell, and basically everyone is iodine deficient. Unless you live by the sea and eat fish and seafood regularly, you need extra iodine (either in pills or by eating sea vegetables).
  8. Take magnesium. This mineral is also needed by all cells, but especially muscle cells that need and use up magnesium in order to relax, and our soils are globally deficient in it. Thus, naturally, so are we. Contraction of muscle requires calcium, which is quite abundant in our diet; relaxation requires magnesium, which is, on the contrary, rather scare in our food supply.
  9. Practice resistance training. Focus on large compound exercises like the deadlift, squat, benchpress, and standing overhead press. There is no way more effective to maintain a strong and healthy balanced musculature, nervous system, skeletal structure, and hormonal system than whole body exertion through complex lifts with sufficient resistance.
  10. Find purpose and fulfillment in your life. This is fundamental. Without a sense of purpose we feel useless, unneeded, unwanted. Without a sense of fulfillment from what we do, we feel hollow, empty, worthless. It is therefore essential to find and to actively seek to maintain a strong sense of purpose, and a feeling of fulfillment in life. Do not take this lightly. Look into it and find it.

Here you have it: ten simple recommendations for a healthy life. And, from the perspective presented here, ten universal recommendations for any adult without a major disorder requiring specific considerations, which are sure to not cause harm, and instead sure to bring about improvements and benefits to metabolic, hormonal, muscular, skeletal, and physiological functions of the organism as a whole. Therefore, in conclusion, I would say that yes, it is possible to make universal recommendations about health.

 

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Stop the bleeding and heal the tissues

by December 14, 2019

This is a healing programme for someone who has had chronic haemorrhoids and bleeding for a long time. Following an operation that was supposed to resolve the problem, the situation worsened, the bleeding increased, and consequently, they now have haematologic issues. The situation could quickly become critical.

Good morning,

In all likelihood, the cause of all the blood-related problems is the colon dysfunction, hemorrhoids, and most importantly the bleeding from the anus. This needs to be corrected before things get much worse. The basic strategy is to minimise bowel movements until the colon and anus have healed, and maximise the speed of healing and nutrient density specific to blood building. 

Eat no fibres

To allow the colon and anus to heal, we need to stop stressing their tissues, which means less bowel movements. This will be done by eating only animal foods and zero plant fibres. In your case, this means animal flesh, fat, and organ meat only (no eggs or dairy products). No matter what anybody you may talk to thinks about it, this is a perfectly healthy way to eat that eliminates all low density nutrient food sources, and is in fact used very successfully to treat and heal serious autoimmune conditions that do not respond to other kinds of treatments. It provides an extremely nutritious diet because all animal foods are concentrated sources of proteins and protein-bound nutrients, fats and fat-soluble nutrients, that are all easy to absorb and digest because the gut is free of intervening fibres that slow down or prevent absorption, and contain none of the natural toxins found in all plants to a greater or lesser extent. You can read many testimonials, some truly amazing, on Zero Carb Zen.

It is important to keep in mind that while protein is used for tissue building and repair, it is fat that is used for cellular energy production. Hence, you need to have plenty of fat and salt with your meals. You should have always have liberal amounts of the highest quality grass fed butter, extra virgin organic coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, and unrefined sea salt.

Build blood with liver and chlorophyll

There is nothing more effective at building blood than liver from the animal food world and chlorophyll from the plant food world. So, you will have both. Liver should be grass fed veal liver, as it is one of the most nutritious. But other animal livers including chicken are also good. It is very interesting to note that chlorophyll is really like plant blood because it has the same structure as haemoglobin with the only difference being that its central component is Mg instead of Fe for haemoglobin.

I think that in order to accelerate healing, you should have liver every day, but in small amounts, like 50 g. The chlorophyll you will have with water. You can either have it more concentrated (in a single glass of water) and have it 2-3 times per day, or you can have it more diluted and have it over longer periods. The taste might be any issue, so you can see what works best for you. Also, you need to be cautious to not take too much as this will cause loose stools. You need to increase your intake gradually. Naturally, all zero-to-very-low sugar green juices are also excellent to have as much as you want. You should always add a little olive oil to your green juices to increase absorption of nutrients.

Supplements: Chlorophyll

Accelerate healing with amino acids and proteolytic enzymes

To maximize the speed of healing you will take amino acids that, as a supplement, are almost 100% absorbed without any inefficiencies related to compromised digestion. The first place they will be used it for tissue repair. Proteolytic enzyme are the specialised proteins that actually perform the breakdown of damaged tissue, as well as the repair and rebuilding of tissues throughout the body.

They should both always be taken on an empty stomach and at least one hour before eating anything. They can be taken several times a day, so I suggest 3-4 times, taking 3-5 amino acid tablets and 3 proteolytic enzyme capsules each time, first thing in the morning, one hour before the midday meal, one hour before the evening meal, and before bed. Vitamin A is also essential for tissue repair, but liver is one of the richest sources of it, so you don’t need to take extra.

Supplements: Amino acids and proteolytic enzymes

Moisturise skin with oil

The last thing is to help the tissue of the anus from the outside by putting some olive oil with a small amount of essential oils of lavender and geranium. The proportion is 3 drops of each essential oil for 30 ml of oil. Dip your finger only once in the small oil container, and moisturise the skin around the anus. Do this a few times per day, and always before and after a bowel movement.

Following these recommendations, you should see improvements very soon, but as is always the case, healing time is proportional to the time over which disease and damage has persisted. So, be consistent and patient.

 

Thank you to all our patrons, and in particular to Eric Peters, Toni, and Bostjan Erzen, for their continued support. Become a proud sponsor of healthfully.net and join our patrons today!

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