How To Get In Shape When You’re Living with IBS

Most people believe that food is the biggest challenge to getting in shape when you’ve got a digestive issue like IBS. While there’s no question food plays a major role, it won’t be the deciding factor in your overall success. So what is? It all comes down to habit. Until you establish a daily routine that’s easy to stick to, your progress will be slow or non-existent. I know because that’s how it was for me for years.

In the last two years, I’ve seen huge improvements in my energy levels and body composition due to a combination of factors including weight training, keto, cannabis, and fasting. While weight training and cannabis reduce inflammation, keto helped me lose weight and eliminate the bloating that had caused me discomfort for years. Fasting was the final piece of the puzzle, as it enabled me to switch up my relationship with food, understand my hunger signals, and stop the overeating behaviour that was ultimately the biggest trigger for my IBS.

There’s a lot of info in that paragraph because in reality it took time to research and understand the value of each strategy, and then it took time to make it a part of my day-to-day life. It took about three years to learn how to train the right way, and about the same time to learn the value of whole food. It took me a year to work up to keto, and when I finally did it, I stayed on it too long, which hijacked my hormones, meaning my period stopped, and my anxiety went through the roof leading to a panic attack.

In short, with any fitness plan, expect setbacks along the way, and see each one as a learning curve, an opportunity to switch up what you’re doing to get better results. This is part of the process and helps you find the “right balance” for YOUR body. What’s right for me is not going to be right for you, but if, like me, you can’t eat certain foods, please know this makes getting in shape ten times more difficult. So, go easy on yourself, and rather than thinking about the results, think about what you need to do to feel good. Focus on the feeling, and the rest will follow. Here are some tips to get you on track.

REVIEW YOUR WHYS

Change is a trade-off because nine times out of ten, if you want to gain something, you’re going to have to give something up to get it. On top, the thing you have to give up is typically something you know is bad for you but goddamn it, you love it. How do you give up something you love, even when you know it’s bad for you? There’s only one way: you have to value something else more.

I quit smoking four years ago because I was so worried about gum disease. Any time I thought of smoking, the first next thought was my gums, and that mattered more. If you don’t have something that matters more, you’re never going to stick to your new behaviour so don’t even bother trying. Honestly, don’t even try. Not worth the torture.

But here’s something you can do: you can be very clear about what you’re willing or not willing to do. Change happens on a continuum, so start small. If your ultimate goal is to lose weight, ask yourself why? Try the Five Whys Exercise: for every answer, ask why five times. This exercise leads you to the real reason behind your desire. If this is the first time you’re doing this exercise, I guarantee you the answers will surprise you.

CHECK YOUR GUILT

You may think your behaviour is automatic, or a response to whatever situation you’re in today but when it comes to overeating, eating times, going to the gym, going for a walk, food shopping, mediation, watching TV, or basically anything you do, the groundwork is laid weeks, months and years in advance. Example: I used to save all my sweets over the forty days of Lent, hiding it under my bed, and eat the whole lot in one go on Easter Sunday. Is it any wonder I became an over-eater in later life?

Whether you’re willing to admit it or not, every one of your behaviours is a choice, meaning it’s not fixed, and within your control. In fact, it’s the only thing within your control. If you know that you’d like to work out every day, and don’t do it, and constantly feel guilty, ask yourself why? It could be that you’re addicted to feeling guilty, which gives you an excuse to comfort yourself with sugar donuts or ice cream or beer or whatever your guilty pleasure is.

Here’s the thing: guilt plays an essential role in the human psyche, keeping you in check, protecting you, and preventing you from making all manner of stupid decisions. But if it gets out of balance, you can get in trouble quickly. It can overtake your life to the point that you feel guilty doing anything nice for yourself, or are stuck in a cycle of doing bad things and feeling bad afterwards. Either one is shit. You don’t want to be there. How do you break it? Read on.

IDENTIFY LIMITING FACTORS

We all have stories we tell ourselves, and most of them are lies. In this video, the Bodybuilding Yogi reviews the stories people tell themselves about what they can and can’t do, creating false limitations that serve as excuses, and prevent them from pushing harder to achieve their goals. Which means it all comes down to how far you’re willing to push yourself or how much pain you’re willing to endure. He says we have two options: the pain of discipline, or the pain of regret. You get to choose which pain you want.

Some of us have tangible limitations like physical injuries or digestive issues, but again, there are ways to get around these – if you really want. I kid you not when I tell you that I spent most of my thirties in bed, sick. I got up late, ate in the afternoon, and went back to bed. It was my normal for so long, I forgot that it wasn’t normal. Luckily for me, I had a bunch of tangible limiting factors, and once I started recognising and eliminating them, things got easier. The first thing I had to quit was alcohol, as it was poisoning my body. After six months, I had enough energy to join a gym. Today, I go to the gym six days a week. It took three years to build this habit.

I still have a bunch of limiting factors: I can’t take supplements. I smoke. I have IBS, meaning there’s a long list of food I can’t eat. My budget won’t allow me to buy the full range of organic foods I’d like. I can’t afford a personal trainer. I can’t remember the last time I had a massage. Sleep is a big issue for me, as is meditation, or anything that requires me to sit still. Lifting weights is my meditation. Just like change is a trade-off, every choice has its opposite. Find your limitation. Then find its opposite. I’m promise you that’s your happy place.

FOOD JOURNALS

Most of us don’t realise how much food we eat during the day, and this is how those extra calories creep in. A food journal is a great way to keep track of what you’re eating and identify any problem areas such as processed foods, excess sugars, or fizzy drinks. You can be as creative as you want with this, and include information such as calories, fat, protein, carbs and/or sugar. How long you do it is up to you but if you commit to a month, you will learn a lot about your eating habits, both good and bad.

Step it up and create a How Food Feels Journal, an idea I got from the people over at Precision Nutrition, which is particularly beneficial to people with digestive issues. In this journal, you’ll need 3 columns for Time of Eating; Description of Meal; and How it Feels. Do you feel energised lethargic, bloated, gassy, or have brain fog? Are you exhausted? Do you have to lie down? Do you have pain? A journal like this makes it easy to see what foods do and don’t work for you, and enables you to create a working meal plan.

SET REAL GOALS

Now, I want to scare the shit out of you a little bit because I want you to understand that this is not easy. Please know that the built bodies of those women you admire so much are the result of SERIOUS WORK. Typically, a female body builder will have a personal trainer, a nutritionist, and spend up to four hours a day in training. This level of effort is not necessary for the average woman, but just to give you a clear idea of the work involved, the following is an example of the regime followed by a female athlete with around 10% body fat, again, courtesy of Precision Nutrition.

A female athlete with less than 10% body fat will:

  • Eat slowly and until satisfied at 99% of meals
  • Follow a carb cycling meal plan
  • Have a carefully prepared meal plan to meet body goals
  • Measure food specifically
  • Include exact amount of protein, veg, and fat needed at each meal
  • Eat no processed foods
  • Exercise twice daily for up to 75 minutes
  • For up to 7 of those workouts, she’ll be working flat out, sweating
  • Sleep at least 9 hours a night
  • Have a daily de-stress routine
  • No alcohol
  • No eating in restaurants
  • Dessert once every 3 months

How many of us can commit to that kind of regime? Believe me, if you can, you’re an outlier, not the norm. Athletes do this because it’s their job, but the average woman will have a job already, on top of other commitments, meaning it’s simply not possible to spend so many hours in the gym, and another few hours meal prepping. As a start point, it’s much easier to think about how much time you do have available in the day, and think about how you want to spend it. Remember, choosing activities that make you happy, as well as nutrient-dense whole food is the most beneficial thing you can do for your body.

START POINT

OK, so what do you do if you want to get in shape and have IBS?

  1. Start with food journal, and get fully acquainted with your eating habits and food choices.
  2. Determine your goals, and make them realistic. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
  3. Determine your preferred mode of exercise, and commit to a weekly schedule.
  4. Review your protein intake, and if possible, consider increasing it. If you’re not sure how to do this, eat more eggs. If you don’t eat eggs, add chia seed protein or hemp protein to your meals.
  5. Review your fat intake, and consider healthy fat sources such as walnuts, avocado, salmon, butter, and almond butter.
  6. Cut down on processed foods, and cut out all take-out food. Yes, all of it.
  7. Make sure you’re drinking at least 1.5 litres of water per day infused with electrolytes to balance hydration.
  8. Make sure you’re sleeping for at least 7 hours per night, ideally more.
  9. Eat within a 12-hour window for a period of two weeks.
  10. Find a way to de-stress and commit to daily practice.

This is a general guide, but I promise you that if you start here, you’ll be on the right track within three to six months. If you’d like a more detailed plan tailored to your body goals, or would like to discover ways to develop a better relationship with food, get in touch today for a FREE CONSULTATION. Email: thehealthyhashhead@gmail.com

#guthealth #bodygoals #getinshapewithIBS

 

 

 

Can You Get In Shape When You Have IBS?

Every few years, a new fad diet or workout appears on the market, promising to be the answers to your perfect body prayers. But if you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or any digestive issue, these diets are typically off-limits because you fall into a special category of diet needs, and don’t have the flexibility to play around with or restrict food groups. It’s likely that you’re already on a restricted diet, and can’t bear the thought of having to cut out more food. Typically, the last thing you want to do is start trying new recipes, as you know from experience the results can be disastrous.

However, unless you keep eating, and eat the right balance of food for your body, what happens is a vicious circle of weight loss, weight gain and weird body results, meaning lumps and bumps in the all the wrong places. We’ve spent so many years obsessed with low fat everything and a zillion ways to lose weight, it’s no surprise that you think the first step to body transformation is stop eating or eat less. That’s certainly what I thought when I started weight training five years ago. Since then, I’ve learned that if you want to get in shape, you have to eat.

But I have IBS, meaning I can’t follow most of the diet plans suggested on body building sites, nor can I take any supplements; even vitamins play havoc with my intestines. My stomach is too sensitive for probiotics, so they’re out, too, and don’t get me started on minerals. In short, my body does not like any energy source other than food, and it’s very specific about which types of foods it wants. I eat a high fat low carb diet, and avoid FODMAPs, not because it’s popular but because this diet matches my body shape, and doesn’t aggravate my IBS.

The key thing to understand is that you cannot make changes to your body unless you know your body, and know it well. That means knowing everything from how much sleep it needs, which foods energize it, which drain it, what activities make it happy, and what or who needs to be avoided at all costs to minimize stress. If you’re struggling with food choices, or are unhappy in your job, relationship, skin, chances are there’s a disconnect between you and your body, and until you reconnect, you’re going to have problems. What can you do to help make that reconnection? Here are some suggestions that can set you on the path to getting in shape.

DETERMINE YOUR IDEAL DIET

For people with IBS, this usually means starting with the FODMAP diet, a list of foods high in carbohydrates that are known to be inflammatory. Like most diets, the diet is controversial, with some people dismissing it, and others swearing by it. I swear by it, and recommend it as your start point if you’ve got IBS, or any digestive condition linked to inflammation of the intestines. If nothing else, the diet will get you into the habit of cutting out foods, and playing around with recipes, which is the same thing you have to do if you want to get in shape.

Warning: this process takes time. It took me almost fifteen years to find a diet that I can eat that doesn’t aggravate my anxious tummy, and it’s really only in the last year and a half that I’ve nailed it to the point where inflammation and bloating are no longer an issue. IBS is not a condition that’s curable so I still get flare-ups, but know how to manage them, which sometimes means eating, and other times means fasting. It turns out that my ideal diet includes fasting, or intentionally not eating for 12/14/16/18 or 24 hours. It’s possible to do longer fasts but I find short fasts enough to manage my symptoms.

The great thing about setting a body goal is that it shakes up the conversation between you and your body, but you have to set realistic goals for your body and fitness level. If you’re 15kgs overweight, and have spent the last five years sitting at a desk with minimal exercise (that was me) this is going to be a difficult conversation. And yes, you can lose weight by diet alone, but if your goal is to get in shape, you have to exercise. There’s a silver lining: the best way to change the conversation with your body is exercise.

And don’t think that your phantom ideal diet is all carrots and boiled fish. I started eating dark chocolate about three years ago when I learned that cocoa has anti-inflammatory benefits. These days, I eat it almost every day, and regard it as a vital source of carbs and healthy fats. Finding your ideal diet does not mean cutting out all the things you like, but it may mean shaking up your food choices so that you’re choosing items that fuel instead of fatigue you. It may also mean thinking about when you eat. Your ideal diet is a wide mix of foods, as many whole foods sources as possible, and includes lots of treats so that you never feel like you’re missing out, or are tormented by cravings.

GET REAL ABOUT YOUR DIET

Once you figure out what you can eat, then you have to factor in your body goals. If you’re going to eat McDonald’s once a week, you’re doing yourself an injustice by causing a setback in your progress. That doesn’t mean you can never eat McDonald’s; in fact, I’d recommend that you do treat yourself to fast food or take-out once in a while because that’s real, and if you’re battling with yourself every day to avoid it, you’re stressing your body and again, impeding your progress. Eat the damn thing if you want it, but eat it consciously.

Take note of every bite. Feel it reach your stomach. Gauge its reception down there. Are there gurgles? Is there gas? Do you feel satiated? Do you want more? If you want more, have it. I’m a big believer in going over the limit because you reach a point where you make yourself sick. Try it. Go to your favourite take-out place and spend a ridiculous amount of money on everything your like; eat it all in one go. You will feel gross. I promise you the temptation to eat there again will be significantly reduced for a long time. We all have our own psychological tricks to manage food; go find yours.

Remember, cutting stuff out completely with willpower alone is a fool’s gold. Find substitutes or incorporate treats into your week so that you’re not feeling deprived. But get real about the treats. If you eat a packet of biscuits or Doritos and feel awful afterwards, have a conversation with yourself about why you’re eating them, and what’s so attractive about the cycle of stuffing and berating yourself? Why are you punishing yourself? Think about your choices. Think about what you’d eat if you had better options. Watch some food shows, research recipes. Start experimenting within the category of foods you like.

FYI I make hamburgers flavoured with nutmeg and cinnamon, and add tahini or peanut butter powder to smoothies. Don’t be afraid to break rules. Follow your taste buds.

FOOD PREPARATION

The secret ingredient in every athlete’s fitness schedule is food preparation. By preparing food in advance, and having the right meals in the right portions to hand, the athlete can easily stick to a set diet no matter how restricted. Turns out, this is also a great way to manage IBS or any digestive issue. The first step of food preparation is food shopping, which sounds easy, and it is as long as you know what you’re buying. It took me ages to learn the right things to buy, and it was part of the discovery process that led to me determining my ideal diet. In total, this experimentation stage lasted about two years, so be patient.

Likewise, it will take time to get into the habit of learning to prepare your meals in advance, and making sure that each meal has a balanced mix of macros to suit your body. Getting in shape is science, a process of manipulating the chemical make-up of your body by playing with its energy source and expenditure. You have to put the right energy in, and you have to expend the energy in the right way. This is not to put you off, but to explain that the process takes dedication, and if you have a digestive issue, the challenge is tenfold. What I’m saying here is take your time, and learn to fall in love with food. That may sound counterproductive but once you’re buying whole foods and preparing 80% of your meals from scratch, you’re on the right track.

DETERMINE YOUR BODY SHAPE

There are three categories of body shape:

Ectomorph: Lean and long, and finds it difficult to build muscle

Endomorph: Big with a tendency to store body fat

Mesomorph: Muscular and well built

Depending on your body type, you’ll find it harder to lose or gain weight, and may benefit from thinking about your macros, aka proteins, carbs and fat, intake. For example, ectomorphs burn energy quickly, and can eat a lot of carbs without worrying about weight gain. On the other hand, they have a hard time gaining muscle so they made need to up their protein intake, and lower fat intake. If you’re an endomorph like me, you have a greater propensity for energy storage, meaning it’s better to reduce carb intake, and increase fat and protein intake.

According to the folks over a Precision Nutrition, eating for your body type should look something like this:

Ectomorph Woman

  • 1 palm of protein dense food at each meal
  • 1 fist of veg at each meal
  • 2 handfuls of carb dense foods at each meal
  • 0.5 thumb of fat dense food at each meal

Endomorph Woman

  • 1 palm of protein dense foods at each meal
  • 1 fist of veg at each meal
  • 0.5 handful of carb dense food at each meal
  • 2 thumbs of fat denes foods at each meal

Mesomorph Woman

  • 1 palm of protein dense food at each meal
  • 1 fist of veg at each meal
  • 1 handful of carb dense food at each meal
  • 1 thumb of fat dense food at each meal

MENTAL HEALTH

Stress will make you fat, period. On top, a 2017 study confirmed the high incidence of anxiety and depression amongst people with IBS. As someone who has been dealing with both IBS and depression for decades, I can attest to this, and would always urge anyone in need of help to seek out a therapist or some form of help. But here’s a tip I use to manage my depression: weight-training. What most people don’t know is that exercise is the best anti-anxiety and anti-depressant drug there is. The trick is to find something fun, an activity you’ll want to do again and again or even, every day. I lift weights five or six days a week, and can never wait to go back. Stay away from things that make you unhappy. Exercise does not have to be a form of punishment. Go for a walk. Go dancing. Move your body. Get out of breath. Sweat. It’ll do wonders for your mental health.

SLEEP

How much sleep are you getting? What time do you go to bed? Would it surprise you to know that if you want to lose weight and get in shape, you need to sleep for up to nine hours every night. Sleep is essential not just for good muscle recovery but also for a calm nervous system, enabling you to fully digest food, and giving the body time to distribute nutrients where needed. Remember, this is science. On top, when you don’t get enough sleep, you stimulate the hunger hormone, ghrelin, which is why you find yourself reaching for donuts or biscuits on those days when you’re tired. If you’re serious about getting in shape, get serious about your sleep.

HAVE FUN

Go one step further: make a list of things that you like, really give this list some thought, take your time, mull over it, give it a week. At the end of the week, look at your list and calculate how much time you’re giving to the things you’ve listed. If you’re not giving time to the activities and people that fire your soul, what can you do to change that? If you don’t know what you like, try something new, and make a promise to try something new every month. This task is a killer. No matter how often I promise myself to use the boxing bag at the gym, I will not do it. My boxing gloves are sitting by my door to make it easy for me to grab them, and I still don’t do it. Making new habits is HARD. That’s why you feel so good when you stick to it. Let yourself feel good. Stick to something. Start small. Little steps. Surprise yourself.

 

Go Nuts with Hemp Heart & Berry Smoothies

Hemp hearts are the seeds of the hemp plant, part of the Cannabis sativa family. They’re incredibly nutritious as well as rich in healthy fats, protein and a variety of minerals.

Technically, hemp hearts are a nut, and that’s why they have a nutty flavour. They add a creamy texture to any meal making them an ideal smoothie ingredient. I put them on everything – meat, veg, stewed apple, brownies – but especially love them in smoothies!

They contain 30% fat, and have a uniquely healthy balance of omega-3 and -6. As well as containing 25% protein, significantly more than counterparts like chia or flax seeds, they contain lots of minerals including phosphorous, potassium, sodium, magnesium, iron and sulfur.

Hemp hearts have been used in Chinese herbal medicine for more than 3,000 years but with the contemporary rise in lifestyle conditions, these little seeds are making a comeback as a stepping stone to healthier eating.

What’s in hemp hearts?

Here are just some of the nutrients found in hemp hearts:

Arginine

Arginine is an amino acid, which produces nitric oxide in the body, a gas molecule that lowers blood pressure. In a study of more than 13,000 people, increasing the level of arginine in the diet led to a reduction in C-reactive protein, one of the markers for heart disease.

Gamma-linolenic Acid (GLA)

Gamma-linolenic acid is an important omega-6 fatty acid that boosts the immune system and regulates inflammation, and is used in many alternative medicine remedies to treat everything from eczema and depression to menopause and arthritis.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is an antioxidant that’s essential for proper organ function by slowing down their aging process. It’s used in the treatment of heart conditions or any condition related to clogged arteries. It also boosts the immune system, protects, skin, hair, and eyes.

Riboflavin

Riboflavin, or Vitamin B2, is a vitamin that breaks down macronutrients to produce energy. Like all of the B vitamins it’s water-soluble, and is used by every cell in the body, maintaining healthy cells and boosting the immune system. A lack of riboflavin foods in the diet can lead to all sorts of problems including anemia, fatigue and a slow metabolism.

Hemp Heart Smoothies are the best

Hemp hearts are so versatile, it’s possible to add them to virtually any meal, but like I said, I love them in smoothies. They go with pretty much any ingredients or mix of fruit and veg, so I urge you to experiment, but if you want to start with a tried and tested recipe, here you go!

Hemp Heart Berry Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • Glass of Almond milk
  • Handful of Frozen berries – whatever your preference
  • Handful of Spinach
  • 1 tbsp. of Peanut Butter Powder
  • 1 tbsp. of Hemp Hearts
  • 1 tbsp. of Sesame Seeds
  • I tbsp. of Maple Syrup (optional)

Instructions:

  • Put ingredients in a blender, and blend.
  • Pour into a glass, and enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Ways to Use Mindful Eating to Treat IBS

Would you believe that research shows it’s more important to care about what you eat than what you’re actually eating? In fact, when you care about what you eat, you tend to eat better, anyway.

But what if you’re eating “right,” or right for you, working out three times a week, avoiding processed foods as much as possible, and you’re still gaining weight, feel bloated or gassy most of the time, and spend way more time in the bathroom than is humanly fair?

What if no matter what you eat, nothing feels right, and you’re sick of feeling tired, grumpy, and having a constant pain in your belly?

If this sounds familiar to you, chances are you’re one of millions who suffer with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, more commonly known as IBS.

This condition is frustrating for sufferers because doctors have such a hard time diagnosing and treating it. They tend to dole out pills that are intended to solve one problem with awful side effects; I spoke to one guy on a Facebook forum, and he hadn’t had a bowel movement in a month due to medication given to him by his GP. A month!

Doctors want to help but they’re just looking in the wrong places, and the system is not set up to accommodate a change in approach, not yet anyway. In the meantime, they suggest lifestyle changes to patients, but people don’t often know what that looks like, or how to maintain it. Plus, it’s hard to sustain change if you’re not seeing results, hating how you look in Lycra, or generally feeling like a beached whale.

Big lifestyle changes like joining a gym or quitting tobacco demand a real commitment whereas deciding to eat mindfully is easy by comparison. Rather than asking you to dump foods you like, it asks that you think about ingredients only, where food comes from, and how it’s prepared. On top, there’s some real science behind why it works.

The following are five ways to use mindful eating to treat IBS to improve your overall wellbeing as well as the quality of food in your fridge.

1. THINK ABOUT WHEN YOU EAT

Hunger is an important signal that tells your brain to get up, move around, and get some food. This is not something to take for granted. Staying put where it’s safe and warm is the natural instinct of every human on the planet. Problem is, that’s a sure road to nowhere, or death. To survive, we must get up, move around, brave the elements, find food, prepare and eat it.

However, your GI tract is a bit of a control freak, and likes to know in advance when food is coming so it can get ready. Even when we see or think about food, it triggers the body to prepare for digestion.

In preparation for digestion, the mouth begins to salivate, and the stomach releases enzymes, along with many other chemical reactions unknown to you. This means that the constant presence of food can send the workaholic digestive system into overdrive.

Today, those of us living in western cultures surrounded by street delis, fast food outlets, and billboard sized ads for everything from hamburgers to salad dressing are basically assaulted at a cellular level on a daily basis without realising it.

You can try to control the number of ads you see every day, or you can minimise their effects by taking charge of when you eat.

While most contemporary diets focus on the content of the diet i.e. food, focusing on WHEN YOU EAT has been shown to have serious health benefits. This idea is currently part of a new health and wellness trend called Intermittent Fasting. Like most new trends, it’s been around for millennia, and is actually how humans evolved to eat.

Various studies have demonstrated many benefits including improved brain health, insulin levels, cell repair, muscle growth, gene expression, weight loss, and inflammation.

As excess weight and inflammation can contribute to the severity of IBS symptoms, fasting can be a powerful way to control them; FYI speaking from personal experience, it’s the most effective way I’ve found to manage bloating, gas and inflammation.

There are different levels of fasting but at it’s most basic, fasting means leaving a 12-hour gap between your last meal in the evening, and breakfast the next day: Finish eating at 7pm, and don’t eat again till 7am. This schedule gives you a 12-hour eating window, and a 12-hour fasting window, and it’s possibly to increase the intensity and results by shortening the eating window while lengthening the fasting window.

Today, we’re surrounded by food so much it’s impossible to conceive a past where there was none. But times of famine were common until recent history (and continue in some countries), and the human body evolved to accommodate shifts in food availability enabling it to survive and function on stored fat for a long time.

The body is so smart that not only has it figured out how to survive on nothing but water, it also figure out how to use those lean times to give the internal organs a make-over. That said scientists still don’t know what the ideal length of time to fast is.

However, if the idea of fasting is completely new to you, start with a 12/12 split, see how you feel, and go from there. The longest fast I’ve done is 24 hours, which I now do regularly – it’s recommended to do a 24-hour fast once a month.

2. FOOD IS A RITUAL THAT BEGINS WITH SMELL

Smelling food, known as olfaction, is an important part of eating. Smell not only tells your ever-vigilant digestive system that food is on the way, it also helps you decide whether or not you want to eat what’s on offer.

Using scent to tell the difference between food that is or isn’t edible is another essential evolutionary tool that kept us alive for millennia, though today it’s used by brands to tempt you into eating food that will probably kill you. Taking time to smell food is an important part of your digestive process, so it’s a good habit to develop.

Retronasal olfaction is another type of smelling but this time it’s the flavours you taste as you chew and swallow your food. The creamy tang of peanut butter, zest of lime, or sweetness of honey that you taste in the back of your throat after you swallow plays an important role in letting your body know it’s satiated and full.

3. TAKE YOUR TIME AND CHEW

There are a lot of things going on in your mouth when you eat, a whole city’s worth of activity: teeth, jaw, palate, tongue, taste buds, mucous membranes, salivary glands and oral microbiome all serve a vital function every time food enters the mouth.

Teeth are uniquely adapted to our omnivore diet, a mix of cutters, choppers, and grinders, enabling us to chew food into tiny particles for swallowing. Jaw muscles are amongst the strongest in the body, and when we chew, it stimulates pleasurable neurotransmitters – one reason we enjoy eating, or chew on something when we’re anxious.

The tongue is covered with papillae, tiny bumps that help move food around the mouth and contain taste buds. Because the mucous membrane is porous, some substances can be absorbed in the mouth, such as drugs. The saliva, which is 95% water, contains enzymes and antimicrobial chemicals that stop pathogens entering the body.

While saliva gets rid of unwanted bacteria, the mouth is far from sterile. On the contrary, it’s home to anywhere between 300 and 700 species of bacteria, each one existing in its own neighbourhood, be it the gum-line or under the tongue.

Your mouth is effectively the gatekeeper of your gut, and when you take care of your mouth, you’re taking care of your whole body. When one of the mouth’s functions fails, it can have drastic effects on overall health.

For example, older people with tooth erosion may not be able to chew properly, which reduces the nutrients extracted from food. And while most of us think bad breath is a mouth problem, it’s really a sign of something more serious in the gut. Gum disease can be a sign of untreated diabetes, inflammatory conditions, or even potential cardiovascular problems.

Bottom line: do not swallow your lunch in one go, or wolf down your dinner. Take your time, chew, and give the mouth a chance to do its job. Also, science shows that keeping food in the mouth for longer improves satiety, which is why eating slowly is such an important tool for anyone who wants to lose or maintain weight.

4. WHAT’S IN YOUR FRIDGE?

Do you know what’s in your fridge? Do you know where that food actually came from? What’s in it? How much fat, sugar, salt, preservatives, emulsifiers, and additives each item contains? What’s driving your decision-making process: Calories? Convenience? Cost? Do you read labels? Do they mean anything to you?

Product labels are supposed to be there to guide us, and make the decision-making process easier. They’re also there to ensure manufacturers are accountable and transparent, which is why strict regulations apply. Having clear rules and laws ensures that product labels are standardised, accurate, honest and based on scientific evidence – in theory.

In reality, most people don’t read labels, or don’t understand them, opting instead to be seduced by the colourful pictures or tag-lines on the front of the package. Brands know this, and exploit it to the max. There are moves underway to explore different types of labelling, and put nutritional info on the front of packaging.

Brands also take advantage by using misleading or unclear words such as “light-tasting,” “part of a healthy breakfast,” and “made with real fruit,” terms that are hard to qualify, or descriptive terms that are actually trademarks.

Even calorie labelling can’t be trusted because the methods used to calculate calorie content share absolutely nothing in common with how the human body digests food. The body is not a controlled environment like a lab test; it’s a dynamic, adaptive organism that’s affected by infinite internal and external factors that determine how food is digested.

FYI This is why counting calories is such an ineffective way to control weight long-term; not to mention it makes eating torture! I counted calories for two months, and though it was hugely beneficial in identifying the ways I overeat, once I’d figured that out, I shelved it, and will never do it again. Pure torture!

The easiest way to get around this problem is to buy food that doesn’t have a label, a bunch of asparagus or a head of cabbage from a local fruit and veg; a side of beef or breast of chicken from a free-range butcher; a loaf of bread from a bakery.

If you can think about one thing, or check one piece of info on the label, check the food source. Know where your food comes from. Aim to eat food that comes from the same place you do, or as close as possible.

Yes, shopping like this takes more effort and planning but the rewards are worth it. Plus, there are hacks. For example, I buy 1 kilo of ground pork and chicken, and use it to make burgers that I freeze, and use as needed. I buy free-range eggs in bulk, and peeled almonds to make almond butter. I go to the whole food shop in the evening so I can take more time.

When you reach the day that you open your fridge, and know what the food in it is, and where it comes from, you will have an achieved a primal connection to your health.

5. SAY GOODBYE TO PROCESSED FOOD

Here’s the thing, once you become more aware of food, and what tastes better, you want the real thing. We’re so caught up in this mad rush to go organic, eat fresh, and be natural that most of us can’t tell our bananas from our bok choi.

Most of us think of processed food as Doritos and Dunkin’ Donuts, or frozen sausage rolls and ready meals. While those things are not food (from a nutrition standpoint they’re literally dead) the reality is every packaged form of food is processed in some way.

Ketchup, mayonnaise, marmalade, jam, honey, cheese, yoghurt, yoghurt drinks, juices, peanut butter, roasted nuts, chips, salt, spices, cooked meats, cold meats, meal sauces and tinned foods, and every other thing we use on a regular basis has been modified in some way that does strange things to the body.

Need more perspective? Homemade bread has three ingredients. The bread you buy in the supermarket has up to 30.

Rather than thinking about going on a diet and cutting out the food you love, think about the food you love and how you can eat a healthier version of it. For example, I love bread, so for years I made homemade bread with almond or coconut flour as a substitute to store-bought bread. It became my Sunday ritual, a quiet moment to take care of my nutrition for the week ahead.

Changes like this are not instant. Rather they’re a process that’s part of an overall shift in how you view food and what you want from it. If you care about your health, or live in constant fear of a flare up and are eating processed foods, it’s a problem because these foods are drivers for conditions including IBS, obesity, and depression.

The good news is that the problem has an easy fix: say goodbye to process foods.

The main goals of mindful eating are to reduce processed foods in the diet and be conscious of where food comes from – this is not easy. Despite my best efforts, I recently discovered a supermarket meat I like is more processed than frozen pizza. I like it for its convenience as well as taste but I’m going to have to learn how to make my own version of it. Chances are, I’ll make it even better, and I’ll make it mindfully.

 

 

What If Doctors Are Right & IBS is “All In Your Head”?

The link between gut and mental health is controversial for many IBS sufferers because so many have been dismissed by doctors who say the condition is “all in your head.” While this diagnosis feels vague at best and derogatory at worst, the reality is, there’s truth to it.

As a woman, now in my 40s, who’s been dealing with IBS all my life, I’ve learned a thing or two about digestive issues along the way. The connection between mental and gut health is one of the most important things I’ve learned, as well as the importance of eating locally produced whole foods.

Before I learned about nutrition, I thought whole foods were for health nuts; now I know they’re a health hack.

IBS Demands 24/7 Self-Care

Of course, IBS has real symptoms that cause pain throughout the abdominal area, symptoms that intensify after eating, making it clear there’s a link. But what if eating is only half the problem, or 30%? What if the reason symptoms continue no matter what you eat is because until you correct other aspects of your life, you’ll always be sick.

That was the case for me, for 15 years, or more. I’d been having symptoms for years but didn’t have the right information to make the connection between my awful diet, mood disorders and stress levels. Looking back, I made life-changing decisions in the grips of agonizing flare-ups, decisions that affect my life to this day.

Back then, I had no concept of self-care; I worked hard, played hard, and treated my body like an inconvenient passenger.

At the time I was making three key mistakes:

  • I wasn’t considering the quality of food I was eating
  • I wasn’t considering my mood, sleep cycles and overall wellbeing
  • I had no concept of food as fuel or nourishment

Typically, I’d find something I could eat, and live on it for months, until finally, it too made me sick and I’d have to find a new thing to switch to; this went on for years.

Making the decision to cut alcohol from my diet was a moment of change for me. That was in 2014, and once I gave it up, I realised it had been poisoning me for years. Then I joined a gym, and with time, working out enabled me to start a new conversation with my body.

Because fitness and nutrition go hand-in-hand, I began to explore new ways to eat, trying out different diets including Paleo, vegetarian, carnivore, and Keto. Over the course of four years, I made my way through every diet on the hunt for one I could sustain. Nothing stuck.

What I finally learned was that until I made a conscious effort to eat in a holistic or mindful way, I’d always have problems.

What do I mean by a mindful way of eating?

Developing a diet or meal plan that is easy for me to maintain based on whole foods, with the right macro balance to fuel my body and satisfy my mental cravings, ensuring I feel full and don’t overeat or use food to manage stress.

Do You Use Food to Manage Stress?

When I’m stressed out, my body shuts down.

That means one of two things can happen:

  1. I stop eating, as my appetite is gone, replaced with a fireball of anxiety in the pit of my stomach.
  2. I have no appetite but in a reckless bid to ease the fireball of anxiety in the pit of stomach, I pile in food I don’t want and can’t stop eating even though I feel sick.

Sound familiar?

Leaning how to eat properly isn’t just about eating whole foods, it’s about understanding the rhythms of your body, what it wants and when it wants it, as well as making sure what you’re giving it is the healthiest, and tastiest option for you. You have to eat food you like, food that makes you happy, food you want to prepare.

It also means learning when to eat, and how to make hunger your friend.

To achieve this, it’s really important to develop a conversation with your body that’s proactive instead of reactive. What does that look like?

It means that when you get stressed out, instead of immediately looking to food to soothe the issue, sit with the discomfort and consider where it’s coming from? What is the problem? Why is it stressful? Is there a course of action that can be taken? Is the situation hopeless? Is it best to walk away?

It also means pausing for a moment and asking, do I really need a third donut? Believe me, as someone who can eat a packet of HobNobs in one sitting I know how tough it can be to just PAUSE. But it’s like anything, a habit. I pause, and consider, am I really hungry? Why am I eating this? If I have a good reason, I eat.

No matter how bleak any given situation, you always have a choice: You choose how you’re going to react. You choose to buy those donuts and eat them all in one go.

If I find myself craving snacks in a stressful moment, it’s typically because I don’t want to deal with whatever shitty decision I have to make right now. I’m procrastinating and in search of distractions, any distraction.

If my tummy is screaming at me, that’s the distraction I tend to, though it’s not the course of action that’s going get me results or fix the situation. It’s a balm.

The same is true when I stop eating. I’m punishing myself, enduring hunger as a way to avoid relaxing and settling into whatever task I need to do in order to solve a problem.

In both situations I’m using food as entertainment or as a stopgap to avoid dealing with the real issue.

Do You Use Food to Manage Boredom?

We all use food as entertainment.

Not only is it sold to us that way, breaking bread with family and friends, is a tradition as old as the dinosaurs.

Food is so important it defines our culture, heritage and lifestyle choices precisely because it’s the most accessible form of entertainment … as well as the most endorsed anxiety drug.

On a recent train journey, I watched in horror as a group of adults at a table a few rows down from me ate breakfast, and later lunch. The morning meal was mini-chocolate croissants, plastic buns from a plastic bag.

The man sitting in my line of vision was middle-aged, balding with a trimmed beard and 40-inch waistline. He looked healthy, smiled often, and swallowed two of those mini-breads in four bites.

Lunch was wrapped in tinfoil, a baguette, more dough, stuffed with processed meat, and washed down with Coca-Cola.

As he ate, he joked with his friends, passed food to his wife at the table across the aisle, and looked like he was enjoying every morsel, blissfully unaware that what he was eating was as useful as a cardboard suitcase.

Some people are lucky and can digest these kinds of processed foods but will typically develop symptoms later in life, be it cancer or diabetes.

People with IBS are allergic to processed foods and must avoid them.

As I watched that man eat, what disturbed me most was how automatic the process was, how little thought went into it, how they were eating simply because it was time, or to pass the time.

Plus, someone – probably his wife – had gone to the trouble to make those sandwiches and wrap them in tinfoil. Would it be so hard to make a salad instead, or use fresh bread, or switch out the processed meat for cooked meat?

What is Mindful Eating?

Let’s get one thing clear: I love chocolate and eat a lot of it.

Mindful eating is not about living on steamed chicken and boiled cabbage, the opposite.

I have a sweet tooth and know that if I don’t eat a diverse diet with lots of flavour I’ll compensate by heading to the bakery to buy jam donuts for lunch.

Instead, I find mindful ways to incorporate chocolate and sugar, along with food I like, and can eat, into my daily meal plan.

That means I use pure cocoa and coconut sugar, maple syrup or local honey, purchased from local whole food shops, to make homemade brownies and cookies. I buy peanut powder to make Chinese sauces, and often make sweet marinades for dinner, experimenting with coconut oil, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, lemon and honey.

One of the good things about IBS is that it has forced me to learn about food, what I like, and what my body needs. I used to detest cooking, now it’s therapy, quiet time to nourish me, to mother myself. We all need a bit of mothering. It’s such a simple pleasure: to know how to cook the food you like in the way you like it.

I research the brands I’m buying, and don’t buy anything without first reading the label to see what’s in it. I do this because I have to avoid foods that might trigger my IBS, but this is a good habit for everybody.

When I’m reading the label I’m looking for a few things such as sugar content, preservatives, additives, fat and carb content, and country source. For example, if I’m looking at nuts from Argentina, chances are they’ve been on the move for a long time and are packed with preservatives, meaning I avoid them. Mindful eating is common sense, too. My priority is to find food that’s as local and fresh as possible.

To help with my mindful meal planning, I have a system: I freeze portions and take it out the night before for easy preparation the next day. I either make something like homemade burgers and freeze them, or I buy salmon, and freeze individual slices to be used as needed.

I have a selection of veg in the fridge, limited to what I can eat, which I rotate for variety and flavour. I’m limited to a small selection of fruit, too, mostly berries, but also eat bananas and apples, on occasion. I make stewed apple with cinnamon, topped with Greek yoghurt and tahini. Yum! It’s amazing how creative you can be when you have to be.

Try this smoothie: Almond milk, peanut butter powder, spinach leaves, frozen berries, banana, chia seeds and hemp hearts. Boom! Tastes like heaven and packed with nutrients.

Mindful means making the right choices for you, understanding why they’re the right choices for you, and setting up your day-to-day life so that it’s easy to make the right choice.

It becomes more than habit or automatic, it becomes conscious, a conscious choice to heal. Every day.

Why is Mindful Eating Important?

What the hell has all this got to do with mental health? Bear with me.

Have you heard of the Gut Brain Axis?

In short, it’s the communication network that connects the gut to the brain, controlling all sorts of things from hormone balance and mood to inflammatory responses and brain function.

The vagus nerve is one of the biggest nerves in the network, and delivers messages both ways. Studies have shown that people with IBS have reduced function of the vagus nerve.

Neurotransmitters, like serotonin, are produced in the gut by the trillions of microbes living in your intestines AKA the gut microbiome, and have a direct impact on emotions such as happiness and anxiety.

The microbes produce gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), the neurotransmitter that controls feelings of fear and anxiety. New understanding of the gut microbiome has shown that for every message going from the brain to the gut there are nine messages going back to the brain, and it’s the microbes that are generating those messages.

The microbes also metabolize bile acids and amino acids, essential for healthy brain function, and play a key role in the strength of the immune system, keeping inflammation in check, and preventing chronic conditions like severe depression, dementia, and schizophrenia.

Long story short: the microbes are your friends. Learn how to feed them.

Health Starts with Listening

Go to any IBS forum and find hundreds of sufferers complaining that no matter what they try, nothing helps, and symptoms persist, or worsen. They’re taking a long list of pills, and trying to adhere to diets they don’t understand. Most of them also complain of issues with anxiety and depression, and many say they feel worthless or hopeless.

The problem is it’s not enough to eliminate food from the diet and expect symptoms to disappear. That’s not how it works.

Although, there’s no question that cutting processed vegetable oils, cheeses and meats from my diet was beneficial, it wasn’t enough to boost my serotonin levels or reverse the inflammation in my body.

To find true relief from my IBS symptoms, I needed a combination of nutrition, fitness, meditation, cannabis, and fasting, or what I like to call the high road to gut health.

It wasn’t enough to go to the gym, I also needed to eat the right food, and learn when to eat. Likewise, it wasn’t enough to meditate I also needed to prioritise what was most important to me, and set my day up to ensure I had time for those things.

Plus, I needed pain relief for those days when I ate the wrong thing, and got hit with a flare-up; on those days, I turn to cannabis. Studies show that cannabis has anti-inflammatory effects in patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, so it makes sense that it helps with IBS, too.

Whether I’m planning a workout, choosing food at the supermarket, making lunch, writing a blog post, or taking the dog for a walk, I’m conscious of how the activity fits into my overall health plan.

Finding ways to track progress, and reward myself for sticking to my goals are also important on the high road to gut health.

The link between gut and mental health is so profound, it has inspired a new medical field known as psychobiotics, predicted to be the future treatment for mood disorders and mental health conditions like PTSD, depression, and dementia.

In an interview with The Guardian, Jane A. Foster, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences at McMaster University, Ontario, explained how diet is not the only factor that shapes the microbiome but also genetic makeup as well as environmental factors such as stress, age, and gender.

Giulia Enders, author of international bestseller Gut, points out that health improves when we “eat the foods that our bacteria prefer.” Both experts agree that a varied diet along with exercise and stress management skills, are integral to gut health and a balanced microbiome.

Mindful eating is the beginning of healing from IBS, but it’s mindful living that’s the real key. When your gut health improves, so too does your mood and your zest for life. If you want to know the truth, listen to your gut, because that’s where the voices in your head are coming from, and it’s the microbes talking to you.

Shhh. Get quiet. Listen. What are they telling you to do?

 

#IBSawarenessmonth #cannabisheals #microbiome

From Pot Patient to Successful Pot Stock Trader

Madicyn Marinaro never planned to be a pot patient. She was a good kid into getting good grades and going to college. At 16, she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, and was admitted to hospital for a bowel resection that went so horribly wrong she almost died. She ended up spending six months in hospital, and if her mother hadn’t encouraged her to try pot she might never have left.

Today, she takes cannabis in a variety of forms to help her body heal from more than six surgeries, and has launched a career as a cannabis influencer who advises on the emerging pot stock market. She uses her insight as a pot patient to dish out advice in a pull-no-punches style that’s uniquely “Medicyn,” her online handle. This is her story.

HHH: Hey Madicyn, thanks for talking with me today. Your medical history is fairly unbelievable. Can you explain why you first became a pot patient?

MM: Actually, my mom’s been smoking for 40 years but I didn’t know that growing up. I was diagnosed at 16 with Crohn’s disease. At 17, I needed an emergency bowel resection, and the surgeon botched the surgery. I ended up with sepsis, peritonitis, flat-lining, and almost dying. I spent six months in the hospital, and needed two additional emergency surgeries. I had an ostomy bag.

The whole thing was devastating and traumatic. On top, I was getting pain meds, 1mg every six minutes through an IV, so I was also hooked on opiates. At the time, I couldn’t stop throwing up, so I needed everything IV. That was also the reason I couldn’t be discharged from the hospital.

My mom came in one day, and she was like, just try this, and handed me a joint. I wasn’t into the idea because I was anti-pot, and into DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), a total straight edge kid, you know. But I tried it, and for the first time in months I was able to eat things and keep it down. Then I was able to get out of the hospital. After that, I noticed I wasn’t having issues with my Crohn’s and the symptoms, nausea and stomach pain, were subsiding.

For ten years, my Crohn’s has stayed in remission without any conventional treatment like REMICADE® because I eat a steady diet of cannabis in many forms, both raw leaf, caps and edibles. I ingest as much cannabis as I can because it has great anti-inflammatory properties and Crohn’s is basically inflammation of the digestive tract.

HHH: What was that first conversation like between you and your mom? How did she introduce the idea of pot?

MM: My mom’s life was completely devastated by my illness. She stopped going to work so she could stay with me at the hospital. Then she lost her job. After six months, we were at our wit’s end because the doctors stopped paying attention to us, and we felt hopeless. So she said to me, please just try this. There was nothing else left to do. We felt abused and mistreated at the hospital, and all we wanted was to get home. My mom never told me about her pot use because she didn’t want it to affect my high school grades. So, even though she was a user, she was cautious. But after months in the hospital, the risk versus reward shifted, and she just wanted me home.

HHH: It must have been such a relief to finally find something that could help you. What was that like?

MM: To be honest, I was so out of it on opiates back then I don’t really remember. But the last surgery I had, which was a hysterectomy, I ate an edible straight after it because the pain was intense. That’s the first time I’ve had cannabis so quickly after surgery, and let me tell you, that was the quickest recovery. It took my pain away within an hour. It was incredible. Back when I was 17 I don’t remember much because I was heavily addicted to pain meds. When I got out of the hospital, I was on Fentanyl patches, Oxycontin, Xanax, you name it, they gave it to me; I was on everything.

HHH: Why was a hysterectomy necessary?

MM: After my first surgery I told the doctor I was in extreme pain, I mean, it was like there was acid burning inside my body. He brushed me off saying all I wanted was more pain meds. I kept getting sicker and sicker, my stomach blew up, and my condition got worse until eventually I flat-lined.

Because I got sepsis and peritonitis, a lot of scar tissue has built up over the years. While the cannabis can fix my Crohn’s, it can’t do much about the scar tissue from infection, which eventually spread to my uterus. In fact, when I got out of surgery at 17, they told me it would be difficult for me to ever have kids, so on top of everything else, I had to deal with that.

Then I started getting really bad cramps and clotting during my periods, and that went on for years. Finally, about three years ago, we decided I’m never going to be able to have kids anyway, might as well as remove the problem. I’ve had six surgeries in total to fix the damage of the first surgery, and the hysterectomy was the last one. It was the one that I used cannabis before and after, and have gotten the most benefit from, too. It’s made life so much simpler, but the only problem is figuring out my HRT (hormone replacement treatment).

That’s a small issue after 15 years of battling to get healthy. I was basically butchered by a surgeon who never took responsibility for his actions. We hired a lawyer and tried to get some compensation but the system is set up to protect the hospitals so there’s no point in even trying to sue them. I lost the chance to have a family while they were paid millions of dollars for providing a botched service; it’s sickening.

HHH: How did you get off the opiates?

MM: I got so sick of taking them. The constant round of medications totally disrupted my life. I couldn’t hang out with friends, couldn’t do any kind of normal stuff. In the end, I used pot and ecstasy, and spent two weeks withdrawing off a cocktail of narcotics after almost a year of heavy doses. The combination of cannabis and ecstasy worked really well to help me withdraw, and cannabis has been my medicine ever since.

HHH: Did your mom help you to withdraw?

MM: She didn’t know about it. To be honest, I went a bit crazy when I got out of the hospital after all that trauma, and I was acting out, staying at my friend’s house, partying. But while friends were doing coke, I stuck with E, and thought, okay, I’m going to try this, let’s see if it works, and it did. The E totally took the edge of the opiate withdrawal, and now when I see studies on using MDMA to treat PTSD, I think it makes sense, and my brain was telling me, this is what you need to get through this.

HHH: That’s a prime example of how little we really understand about drugs, isn’t it?

MM: Exactly. That’s why I’m a firm believer in decriminalisation, and why we have to change the conversation on addiction. Like, I really needed that break from reality at that point in my healing, and if I didn’t have it, I might have gone insane. Some people do after trauma, and for some people, controlled drug assistance can really help. Without going too far, obviously – there has to be a middle ground. But you know, at one point, I just got sick of being a victim, and decided I have a choice, and I can turn a bad thing into a good thing. That’s when things started to change for me.

HHH: When did you have the change in attitude?

MM: About two years ago. After my hysterectomy, my hormones were such a mess I was thinking about suicide. I’ve never been suicidal, so I went to my shrink because I was aware enough to recognise this wasn’t my normal thinking pattern, and I needed to reach out for help. That’s another example of what a crazy health rollercoaster it’s been this last decade. But for the last couple of years, I’m more aware that I only get one life and it’s up to me to make sure I make the most of that. I don’t want to sit around and waste it.

HHH: Do you think cannabis plays a role in your new attitude?

MM: Edibles changed everything for me. I wish I’d known about them five, no, ten years ago. I don’t like to smoke that much but I do it because it means I can eat and I don’t throw up. With edibles, I’m much more comfortable, and know myself well enough to enjoy the high. When you’ve experienced a trauma, cannabis can be quite intense because you don’t want to access those thoughts. That’s why people have to be careful with it, and why education is so important.

When I first started using cannabis, I didn’t like how it made me think about everything. I didn’t want to think about anything. But I finally got to a place where I’m okay with wherever my mind wants to go. Whereas opiates make you numb, cannabis activates your brain. You get pain relief but you also get much more in touch with everything that’s happening to you. You learn who you are. When you’re comfortable with that, and understand its benefits; that’s when cannabis can really help.

HHH: At what point did you get into pot stocks?

MM: In 2012 I needed a new pot dealer, and decided to check out Silk Road. In order to buy on Silk Road, I needed bitcoin so I bought some. I didn’t even understand what I was buying, and in the end, I never ordered the pot because it felt too dangerous. A few years later, when bitcoin blew up, I cashed out, and used that money to invest in cannabis stocks. I previously worked in social media marketing, and wanted a way to expand my platform; cannabis was the obvious answer.

I started to post about investing in pot stocks because it’s something I’m passionate about, and that’s when I started to build my following. I’m interested in bigger problems like the growing homeless population amongst vets in California, and that fact that Americans take 80 per cent of the world’s total pharmaceutical consumption, yet we’re only 5 per cent of the world population. Plus, 80 per cent of Americans are living pay-check to pay-check. That’s a real problem.

HHH: So your interest in cannabis is leading you into other social issues?

MM: That’s the way of cannabis because we’ve been fighting for so long to use this plant it’s become our natural instinct to fight for issues we feel are unfair. I see that with a lot of cannabis influencers, and that’s why I think we can be such a powerful and important voice in the future. We have a unique set of experiences that people will be able to relate to because a lot of us have struggled to get where we are. That’s something most people can identify with.

HHH: Is that part of what inspires you to advise people on investing?

MM: I was on welfare, broke, have had an eviction notice on my door, and know what it’s like to struggle. I want to show people that anyone can get on their phone and start making money on cannabis, and it’s legal. I believe cannabis can heal this world mentally, physically and financially because it gives money back to the farmers so it’s a real redistribution of wealth that people in crypto talked about but didn’t understand.

Americans have always been farmers; it’s China that’s the tech giant. As we approach the next recession, this time due to the tech crash, I think it’s going to become obvious that moving back to our farming roots will save us. I want people to see me and think: Whoa, she saved herself from addiction, she got off welfare; if she can do it I can do it, too. I think it’s so important that we take care control of our finances and our health, and cannabis offers a way. That’s what makes it so powerful.

 

This interview was edited and condensed. 

To hear Madicyn’s take on the trends shaping cannabis online, as well as her investor tips, find her on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

 

 

Exploring the Pros and Cons of Working Out High

Elizabeth Frasier is a marathon runner, personal trainer, keto nutritionist, cannaathlete and creator of The Health Cannabist, a blog dedicated to cannabis health and fitness. She’s been using cannabis for more than 30 years, and in this interview, she discusses the healing properties of cannabis, the Entourage Effect, how use CBD to quit smoking, why she vapes, and the pros and cons of working out high.

HHH: Hey Elizabeth, thanks for taking the time to chat today, especially in light of your recent accident.

THC: Oh, it was nothing serious, I just cut through my finger with a saw blade and had to get it stitched back together. But I’m much better now, mostly thanks to the cannabis medicine I’ve been using. I’m currently taking an MCT oil tincture with THCA in it (Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, the de-active acid form of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the psychoactive agent in cannabis). Even though I’ve been working with cannabis and using it for years, seeing is really believing. My whole finger was purple with bruising and tripled in size, and as soon as I put the oil on, that went away. I don’t have any pain because I cut the nerves, so the oil has also been good in helping me to get some feeling and mobility back.

HHH: Have you been taking any other forms of cannabis to help the healing?

THC: I’ve been taking CBD (cannabidiol) for some time now, but since the accident I’ve been taking it more consistently because it really helps with inflammation. I just take five to seven drops and find that amount is effective. The CBD oil I take is mixed with THC at a 20:1 ratio, so a tiny amount of THC, but enough to make the CBD more effective.

HHH: You’re talking about the Entourage Effect?

THC: Right. The CBD I take is made from whole flower rather than isolate, and the strain, AC/DC, is bred for that ratio. I find it has a calming effect, and really relieves anxiety. Actually, the first time I experienced the healing powers of CBD was around a year ago when I had surgery to fix problematic sinuses and a deviated septum. I don’t like to take medications so after surgery I decided to use the opportunity to test out CBD, and it was amazing. Any time I felt pressure building up in my face, I’d take a few drops and it would instantly ease it. So then I started checking out more high CBD strains at the dispensary and that’s when I really started to fall in love with them.

Like I said, I find they really help ease my anxiety, and that’s a consistent result with the various types of CBD strains I’m trying. Bear in mind, I’m coming from a THC background, insofar as, for years, I thought the higher the THC the better. Now, I realise it has nothing to do with the amount of THC on its own but rather all the compounds working together. I’ve tried lots of different CBD isolates from a variety of lab-tested brands but none of them worked for me. That said I have clients who use them and swear by them – that’s down to the individual efficacy of cannabis. But here’s the thing, when we say the Entourage Effect, we’re referring to something that is a lot of different things and we don’t understand them all, yet. That Entourage Effect is different every single time and it’s different for every single person because so many factors determine it: the health, age, weight, lifestyle and cannabis experience of the person taking it.

“Different strains are going to affect you differently, and this is important when you’re talking about using cannabis for training because these things combined have a dramatic effect on your body.”

HHH: But, as a rule, you take whole flower?

THC: For me, whole flower is the best option because that way you’re guaranteed a rich terpene profile, and studies show different terpene profiles modulate the effect of a given flower. Whether you’re looking for an uplifting or relaxing effect, it’s the terpene profile that’s going to determine the result, and you’re only going to get that consuming whole flower cannabis. In very generalised terms, THC is great for pain and CBD is great for inflammation but when you start combining compounds those in gradients, you can create all sorts of effects based on the terpenes that are present. So, a person could take a THC for pain relief but if it’s whole flower and has other cannabinoids in it, it’s also going to have an energising, relaxing, or anti-anxiety effect depending on the flower.

HHH: What’s your preferred way to consume cannabis?

THC: 99 per cent of the time, I vape. I grew up with asthma so the feeling of smoke in my lungs is not the most pleasant. Though like most people, I did smoke when I was younger. But as I got older, I shied away from anything that has a negative effect on the body, and now, I prefer to vape because it’s a cleaner smoke. I’m a big fan of the PAX vapes, and Da Vinci does a great micro vape, too. For me, vaping is the most convenient way to smoke, and also great for microdosing during the day. It’s also the most reliable and easiest to control. I don’t have a bong because I broke every one I had, and every glass pipe, too. And I can’t roll a joint to save my life. I bet you can though, right?

HHH: Well, I’m in Europe, and smoking joints rolled with tobacco is the way we smoke here, so yes, out of necessity I nailed that skill fairly on. But here’s a thing, I want to quit tobacco and hear that vaping with CBD really helps. Have you heard about that?

THC: Yes, and I’ll tell you exactly how it works. We know that when you have an addiction of any sort, it activates the same receptors in the brain. Over time, what happens is that those receptors down regulate, meaning you need more and more of the substance you’re taking to satisfy them. In very basic terms, CBD has the ability to up regulate those receptors, and return them to homeostasis, their optimal point for normal function, meaning that once you start taking CBD your brain is no longer addicted. Once the craving is removed, it’s just a matter of breaking a habit. But it’s far easier to break a habit when there’s no physical craving involved.

HHH: I’ve been looking for a good vape oil online, and I’m finding it hard to source one with the right mg content and for the right price. How do you source yours?

THC: I get my oil at my local dispensary so that makes things considerably easier for me but this is a question I hear from my clients all the time because let’s face it, it’s a wild wild west out there. My first tip, in this regard, is to always email the company and ask for a third party independent lab test. If they’re not willing to provide it, I’m not interested. That’s my first step. I’m not interested in lab results that are posted online either because I know from experience that a lot of them are copies stolen from bigger companies. There’s a lot of that going on.

Where the flower comes from is important, and whether or not it’s made from hemp also matters because of hemp’s ability to suck toxins from the ground as a bio-accumulator. Cannabis and hemp are basically the same plant except that hemp doesn’t have a THC content higher than 0.3 per cent (in Europe the limit is 0.2 per cent) and you need a lot more hemp to get enough CBD for extraction. You also have to consider how it was grown, what pesticides might be present in the plant, how the oil was extracted, and if there are traces of solvents.

When I go to my dispensary, I know exactly where and how the flower is grown, and how the tincture is produced. Sometimes, the ratio is off but that’s because it’s a plant, not a machine. You can’t program it. This is the challenge with cannabis. It’s not possible to have a mass production of every single strain so when you go to the dispensary, they’re not always going to have the exact thing you’re looking for – but it will be close, and in a few months from now, your favourite strain comes back in when the new batch is ready.

That’s the nature of the business. What’s also great about my dispensary is that they hire scientists and botanists, which means they have the know-how to be super accurate, and replicate these medicines again, and again. They concentrate on creating formulas to treat specific requests.

HHH: Isn’t that the future of cannabis? A person can go into a dispensary looking to treat a certain ache, or because they’re feeling a bit down, and be able to get a bud that treats their specific condition?

THC: That’s the way things are going because not everyone wants to consume the same form of cannabis in the same way. Some people want to smoke, some want to vape, others want oils, or creams, or patches. Some want to take it but can’t because of issues at work, or maybe they have to hide the smell. In those cases, maybe CBD or edibles are a better option. My dispensary has just come out with a line of suppositories and in the small round of testing they’ve done, they’re seeing amazing results in terms of pain relief. Again, it’s all down to individual efficacy and personal preferences.

“Cannabis has the ability to heal and improve people’s lives in ways I’ve never seen.”

HHH: Talk to me about how you integrate cannabis into your work with your fitness clients?

THC: To be honest, it’s slow because there’s still quite a bit of stigma around cannabis and that’s why I’m getting a lot more questions about CBD. Typically, I only mention cannabis to a client when they’ve been through everything else and they’re still having problems. That’s when I might make a gentle suggestion, because usually by that point, they’re open to trying anything that will help.

However, in the last few months, there’s been a shift and people are starting to ask me about it, which is a big change. But overall, there’s still a lot of stigma out there – all because of this one molecule that’s got a bad name and yet, it’s not half as dangerous as the litany of pharmaceutical drugs out there. It doesn’t matter what you take, it has an affect your body, but at least cannabis is working to bring your body back to homeostasis, and this is what I try to teach my clients.

HHH: What would say are the pros and cons of working out high?

THC: Well, I started combining cannabis and training when I was about 17 or 18, back when I was running track for school. At the time, it never occurred to me that the two shouldn’t be combined, but also I wasn’t a big smoker. Even back then, I was microdosing, although I didn’t know it at the time. I’d never smoke so much that I’d be sitting paranoid in the corner. I have anxiety and would often get anxious before an event, so I’d take a hit to help me perform, and I did that for years. When I was in college, I told someone I’d been doing this, and couldn’t believe their reaction, a big argument erupted. That’s when I realised maybe I should be more careful, so I’d stop for a while but my performance would suffer. You can’t win them all, but for me, cannabis works.

It comes down to dosing, too. If you hit bowl after bowl, of course it’s going to affect you differently. When I run marathons, I’m in my own head for a long time, and cannabis helps me manage that, and sharpens my mental clarity. But that’s not all it’s doing. There’s inflammation going on, as well as aches and pains flaring up, and it’s helping me to manage those things, too. Your body makes anandamide (runner’s high) when you exercise, so why not take that to the next level and consume cannabis, which boosts the chemicals your own body makes.

I know plenty of athletes who have been using cannabis for years recreationally, not realising it also has all these healing benefits on the body for inflammation and recovery. If you’re in pain, and you can’t sleep, why wouldn’t you want to smoke a joint, or vape, instead of taking a handful of pills every night.

HHH: The thing is, it works great for some people, and not at all for others, so ultimately, it comes down to personal choice, doesn’t it?

THC: It does, and it also depends on the baseline of the person you’re dealing with. For example, if I have a client who’s never worked out before, I’m not going to make them do an hour of high intensity cross-fit training. Likewise, if you’re dealing with a person who has never tried cannabis before, I’m going to go slow, and find out exactly why it is they’re thinking of using it, and what result they’re looking for. That’s going to help orientate us, and make the right choice for them.

But when it comes to working out high, you have to have experience of both in order to get it right. Just because you’ve smoked joints for years, that doesn’t mean you know how you’re going to perform if you eat an edible and go to the gym. Plus, different strains are going to affect you differently, and this is important when you’re talking about using cannabis for training because these things combined have a dramatic effect on your body. It might sound a bit nit picky but if you can control these things, why not?

HHH: Is that why you started The Health Cannabist?

I felt like it was finally time for me to “come out green” and bring awareness to the medicinal benefits of consuming cannabis. I guess it felt like a calling to share the years of observation, research, and experience, of cannabis’s positive effects. You have Big Pharma doing a great job at spreading the word that cannabis is evil coupled with decades of “reefer madness” propaganda. I came to realise most people don’t seem aware of the advantages cannabis has to offer over a catalog of toxic pills, supplements, and even surgical interventions. Cannabis has the ability to heal and improve people’s lives in ways I’ve never seen. Further, beyond its medicinal value, therein lies cannabis’s power as a biohacker (performance enhancer). From the gym to the office, cannabis improves focus, productivity, and performance. I’m excited to share how to integrate cannabis as part of a health and wellness regime.

 

 

 

Five Ways Fasting Improves My IBS Symptoms

In episode 3 of The Human Longevity Project, creator Jason Prall examines the negative impacts of overeating. Dr. Jason Fung, the fat loss specialist, points out that weight management not only comes down to what you eat but also when you eat. Yet, it’s a question that’s been totally overlooked – until now. Intermittent Fasting is one of the fastest growing trends in health, wellness and nutrition, and its benefits are based on some solid science.

The Science of Fasting

The human body was not designed to eat three meals a day or have easy access to food on a daily basis. Up until recent history, people were selective about what they ate because available food was limited to what was in their garden, and there was no such thing as snacks. Food preparation was complex, and time-consuming. As one of the contributors featured on The Human Longevity Project explains, women used to get up at three in the morning to prepare bread for the household.

In countries like Morocco, this is still the practice today. However, in most western countries, we simply go to the store, buy bread, and eat it till it’s gone, then we go buy more. While bread has been demonised in recent years due its gluten content, it’s often not the bread that’s the problem but its commercial ingredients (homemade bread has 4 ingredients whereas supermarket-bought bread has around 35) and the amount of it we eat due to its easy availability.

Continuous feeding has a negative effect on the body because it “reduces our metabolic rate and our ability to switch between burning sugar as our primary fuel and burning fat or ketones,” according to the functional nutritionist Dr. David Jockers. The result is a loss in metabolic flexibility and a slowing of the metabolism. What fasting does is give your body a break from the digestive process, a chance to clean itself up, or, “take the garbage out,” as Ben Greenfield, the performance coach, says.

Look back over human history, and it’s clear that periods of feast and famine are a common feature of life so much so it’s fair to say that humans evolved hungry. As a result, we have in-built mechanisms for survival in times of famine, and as Michael McEvoy, founder of Metabolic Healing, explains, fasting induces a state of stress on the body, forcing “the body to figure out alternate ways of making fuel,” which studies have shown to spark neuro-protective and cell protective mechanisms.

What is Autophagy?

It’s little wonder that so many people suffer with digestive issues because one of the most toxic things we do on a daily basis is eat. As microbiologist Kiran Krishnan explains, when you eat, the stomach produces acid to kill off bacteria, causing problems for people with food sensitivities or leaky gut. “The mitochondria in your body that cannot live for 18 hours without food are going to die [when you fast for 24 hours],” says the biohacker Dave Asprey, which leads to the creation of new cells, a process called autophagy.

In 2016, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Yoshinori Ohsumi for his discoveries in autophagy. But what is it? The word is derived from the Greek auto meaning self and phagein meaning to eat, making a literal translation “to eat one’s self.” It’s basically the body’s mechanism for getting rid of all the old material, protein and cell waste, it no longer needs. It’s a regulatory process for recycling cells.

This process of cell death is also known by the term apoptosis, and it’s essential for good health. All cells are programmed to die when their use has run out, and when this happens, it makes way for new healthier cells. When we fast, we clear out old cells but not only that, fasting has been shown to stimulate growth hormone secretion, which means new cells can grow, and upgrade faulty body parts. When old cells are not cleaned up, it can lead to diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer.

How Fasting Improves my IBS Symptoms

It’s amazing how few studies have been done on the effects of fasting on IBS considering its benefits are in line with the condition’s symptoms. The studies that have been done demonstrate positive results, and are compelling reasons for further study. It’s my belief that fasting will become a standard treatment for IBS in the near future. Here are five ways fasting improves my IBS symptoms:

1. Manage IBS

Hi, my name is Tasha, and I’m an overeater. I’ve been an overeater all my life. My mum used to call me the “dustbin” because I’d finish my own dinner and everyone else’s, and at night, I’d sneak into the kitchen and snack on cereal. As a teenager, I’d eat all day long and wonder why I was fat. Thankfully, I was an active kid, which meant a fast metabolism protected me for a while, till I reached the age of 25, and the battle with my IBS really began.

At the age of 31, I was hospitalised for two weeks with intense abdominal pain but doctors found nothing wrong. That launched a 15-year investigation into food, what I could and couldn’t eat. Over the years, I’ve eliminated all sorts of food to control my symptoms, but nothing treats inflammation as effectively as fasting. I manage my IBS with a combination of tools including fitness, keto, CBD oil, and cannabis but now that I’ve discovered fasting, I know I’ll do it for the rest of my life. The benefits are that good.

2. Manage anxiety

IBS is a gastro issue that has a major effect on a person’s relationship with food – how can it not? I used to sneak into the kitchen at night to eat that cereal because I didn’t want anyone to know I was eating it, classic addictive behaviour, shirking responsibility for my actions, hiding it from both myself and the people around me. I was using food as entertainment to distract myself from my problems, as well as my anxieties about life and my shortcomings.

To this day, the times I’m most like to unconsciously open the fridge is when I’m faced with a challenging task. My automatic response is to reach for a cookie, to procrastinate, and delay the inevitability of solving the problem. What fasting has shown me is that I provide the solution, not the food. This has had the effect of giving me more confidence in my ability to solve problems, and therefore less likely to reach for food when I’m presented with a challenge. It hasn’t cured me of my anxiety, but it’s certainly helped me see its sources more clearly.

3. Weight Management

Fasting changes your relationship with food because it increases your appreciation of it, while at the same time, dramatically decreasing the amount of food you need in your day-to-day life. Since starting the keto diet, my weight continued to fluctuate, and when I started to measure my macros, I found that on certain days my fat intake was through the roof. I had allowed myself to consume insane amounts of fat on the premise that it was part of the diet, and therefore sanctioned. I was wrong.

What I was really doing was pummelling my body with unneeded food, zapping my energy and sabotaging my weight management. The whole point of doing a keto diet is to enable your body to become fat adapted, or to switch to fat instead of glucose as its fuel source. Achieving this means cutting out sugar and cutting carbs down to around 30 grams per day.

At first, the switch can be difficult but if you’re someone with IBS who reacts to carbs like bread and pasta, it’s easy to cut those things out. However, if you eat too much fat, you’ll feel bloated, the same heavy feeling that IBS causes, and be lethargic. Eating healthy fats is good for the body and brain – but in moderation. The best way to learn moderation is through fasting.

In the first month that I introduced fasting into my life, I lost 3 kilos and reduced my calorific intake from 1650 a day to less than 1200 with zero effort. When I break my fast, I’m very careful about what I eat, as my stomach is sensitive, and it’s really important not to overeat. Learning how to break fast the right way is another invaluable lesson in food restraint. I typically break my fast with fat, and eat a meal two hours later.

4. Boost mental clarity

The first day I did a 24-hour fast, I occupied myself by doing a whole bunch of admin I’d been ignoring for weeks. At the end of that day, I couldn’t believe how much work I’d done, and how charged I felt. With each fast, my mind sharpens, enabling me to plan and multi-task in ways I haven’t done in years. Now, I like to fast because I know that’s when I’ll get things done.

5. New Relationship with Food

If you’re someone who has been dieting and/or working out for years, hoping to reform your body and never getting the results you want, fasting is the answer. Through fasting, you can reduce your appetite significantly, and when you find a fasting routine that works for you, you can easily keep that weight off. I fast once a week from 6 p.m. on Saturday to 6 p.m. on Sunday because that works for me. Sometimes I’ll also fast during the week, or do a fasted workout, for additional benefits.

The discipline of sticking to my fast time, and the results of fasting on my body has also boosted my confidence. Not only do I see the results in the mirror, I feel like I have control over what I do and don’t eat for the first time in my life. I’m no longer a slave to snacks as I now know how little food I can survive on, and if it’s not meal time, it’s highly unlikely I need whatever it is I’m craving. However, if I do have cravings, I keep special foods for the purpose, foods like almond butter and macadamia nuts though I do measure how much I eat; a snack might be a tablespoon of almond butter or 10 grams of macadamia nuts.

Final Thoughts on Fasting

The goal of any weight management programme is to find a diet that’s healthy and easy enough to sustain. However, until you fully comprehend how much energy your body needs in order to get through the day, it’s impossible to know in a tangible way what constitutes too much food. Think back to the most active time in your life, and the shape or efficiency of your body at that time – that’s the optimum weight for you and where your body is striving to be. Fasting is the way to get there. It will also change your relationship with food and treat your IBS symptoms.

 

 

Why Your Gut Health Depends on Your Microbiome

According to Dr. Mark Hyman, director of Cleveland Clinic for Functional Medicine, we are in the era of the microbiome though the science is still in its infancy. He is one of the many doctors featured on The Human Longevity Project who believe that if we want to preserve our long-term health, the most important thing we need to learn to do is protect our microbiome.

What is the Microbiome?

The microbiome is the total populations of microbiota that exist in a human body, a population so large microbes outnumber human cells ten to one. They live all over the body, gathering in every organ from the eyes, brain and liver to the kidneys, mouth and skin but the largest population, about 80 per cent, about 30 trillion microbes live in the gut, particularly in the large intestine. The microbiome was not generally recognized until the 1990s, which is why doctors are only beginning to understand its implications for health now.

As microbiologist Kiran Krishnan explains, there is 150 times more bacterial DNA in our bodies than human DNA, which means 99 per cent of things we do on a daily basis are controlled by the microbiome. What doctors are beginning to understand is that it’s impossible to have good health without a healthy microbiome because microbes are so integral to our ecology that they influence how we think, feel, and function on every level.

They are also beneficial colonisers that protect against autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and a host of gastro conditions. The microbiome is introduced to the human body during birth as the baby passes through the mother’s vaginal canal, and the diversity of flora is established in the first few years of life, setting up the health of the individual for the rest of life.

Dr. Hyman explains that the populations of microbiota in the body are dynamic meaning the slightest change in environment sparks a chain reaction that can have positive or negative outcomes for health. Everything in your environment affects the balance in your microbiome, what you eat, how you sleep, the stress you’re under, what cleaning products and cosmetics you use, whether or not you like your partner, home and/or job; if it affects you, it affects your microbiome, and the microbioata respond accordingly.

The Microbiome and Gut Health

Gut bacteria, or the microbiota that live in the large intestine, is the body’s largest immune system because it teaches the body what’s okay, what’s not, and what kind of response is needed. As Dr. Grace Liu, founder of the Gut Institute, explains, the gut microbiota “hover above the sterile zone of mucus to help the absorption of food,” and it’s during this absorption process that the microbiota decide what’s friend or foe. For this reason she calls them, “our superheroes.”

Krishnan, the microbiologist, points out that for a long time researchers couldn’t figure out how this process worked, or what mechanism microbes used to identify good from bad pathogens, and when to release an immune response. That was until toll-like receptors were discovered, and shown to maintain homeostasis in the gut, as well as determining the quality of intestinal immunity.

When the microbiota in the gut are not happy, they will damage the lining of the intestinal membrane allowing unwanted elements to leak into the blood stream, a condition known as leaky gut. Once that happens, it activates the immune system and its inflammatory response, which if left untended can create a chronic inflammatory state that affects everything.

As well as the digestive process, and immune system, the gut microbiota also affect the brain. Peptides, neurotransmitters and other molecules produced in the stomach directly impact brain function and it works both ways, as the brain can also send messages to the gut and impact its functions.

According to functional medicine practitioner Dr. Tom O’Bryan, “For every message going from the brain to the gut, there are nine going back to the brain from the gut,” and those messages are coming from the microbiota.

On top, the gut is the only organ that can function independent of the brain because it has its own ecology and metabolic system. Researchers now understand that the bacteria in the gut have more influence on the brain that any other organ because of the neurotransmitters, peptides and hormones they have the capacity to create. For example, the brain can signal to the stomach that more dopamine or testosterone is required, and the microbes in the gut can produce it.

O’Bryan explains that’s why there are such strong links between gut problems and mood disorders like anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bi-polar and even Parkinson’s; all these conditions begin in the gut because the gut microbiota have much more influence on the body’s messaging system than the body’s own genome.

Gut bacteria

The Microbiome Protects You From Disease

Lorenzo Drago PhD is professor of clinical microbiology at the University of Milan where his team discovered the deep communication system between microbiota and human cells by studying the skin where they found microbes in all layers of the skin including the dermis, glands and immune cells. They identified them as part of the “core microbiota” that control the body’s defense mechanisms.

What that means is that microbes form a barrier between the environment and the body and if the microbes aren’t happy, the body is at risk to infection at cellular level. In effect, the communication between the microbiota and human cells is the basis for human health. It’s now believed that imbalances in these mechanisms first present as skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.

Over the last century, modern medicine has introduced a bunch of antibiotics that not only kill bad pathogens but good ones, too. In fact, the more industrialised, modified, sanitised, sterilised, and commodified the world becomes the more epidemics of chronic disease grow. On top, microbes are extremely adaptable.

The more antibiotics and chemicals are introduced, the more microbes can mutate to evolve past them, and create superbugs. In every household, there are a diverse array of cosmetics, toiletries and cleaning agents full of chemicals that affect the ecology of the microbiome. Even showering can cause imbalances in microbiota because some people might be allergic to the chlorine in the water.

We need a healthy balance of bacteria on the skin because without them it opens the door to infection, which can turn into acne, psoriasis, eczema or dry skin. More important, the health of the microbes in the skin play a key role in the communication pathways between the immune cells in other organs, which means that upsets in the skin travel to other organs and can cause infections there, too.

Balancing The Microbiome and Gut Health

Dr. Patrick Gentempo, a health technology innovator, explains that there is less than 2 per cent of microbes we know about that are harmful to humans, which means 98 per cent of them are beneficial. Instead of trying to kill of the bad ones, which results in even stronger bugs, it would seem the best way to control the 2 per cent is to leave the job up to the 98 per cent who have being doing it for a millennia way more effectively that modern medicine.

Brand new research proves the existence of ancient codes in microbe DNA. Dr. Michael Ash, researcher and clinical educator, explains how the mitochondria’s ability to extract nutrients from food is in fact a complex communication system that was set up millions of years ago as part of our human evolutionary process.

When we eat food, the bacteria present in the soil where that food was grown is communicating with the bacteria in our gut. That process ensures the body’s mitochondria are replicable, repairable and functional, and can survive. This dynamic relationship is a very new area of research but what researchers know is that the quality of dialogue is determined by the source of nutrients i.e. the quality of the food.

Our bodies need locally produced, whole foods to receive the right messages to pass onto our cells so that microbial genes can respond in healthy and balanced ways. These different microbial ecologies are in constant communication with each other and the environment in ways we don’t yet understand. As Dr. Mark Hyman says, food isn’t just nutrition, “it’s information.”

Basically, what the doctors in The Human Longevity Project are saying is that human beings are a walking talking ecology that’s designed to be in a continuous dialogue with its environmental ecologies and that our job as the host body is create the right conditions for a happy conversation. According to them, the answer lies in finding the same harmony between our external and internal ecologies that our ancestors had. What they’re saying is that in order for us to heal, we need to go back to our roots.

Check out The Human Longevity Project series here.

 

How To Survive Your First Stoned Yoga Class

Full disclosure: I can’t stand yoga. All that bending and stretching and exhaling, who’s got the time? I like to get in the gym, sweat hard and get out. Yoga is all about patience, a trait dangerously lacking in my personality. This afternoon I’m going to my first yoga class in ten years, and my main concern is to make sure I’m stoned af.

To ensure this, I smoke my first joint around midday and eat a brownie at lunch. By 5pm my mind is on a direct path to Jupiter, and my eyes, oh well, time to whip out the eye drops and white those balls. Some mascara wouldn’t go astray either. In the past I did countless yoga classes and fidgeted my way through every one of them, especially the ones with chanting. Please don’t let this be a slow class, I pray, before leaving the house, then roll a jay, and horse a few drags on the way out the door just to be safe.

A Roomful of Pleasant Surprise

On my way to class, a ten-minute walk away, all I can think about is the strong scent of mould my yoga matt exudes while hoping the room isn’t so small that other people notice its ripe stench. Actually, the room is the first of many pleasant surprises, large and airy, with lots of natural light, white walls, wood floor, and an old school tune playing on the stereo that I like and haven’t heard in ages. Thanks to my heightened senses and the room’s good acoustics, I instantly feel welcomed, and bop along to the familiar beat, as I place my matt on the floor and sit down.

The second surprise is the teacher; I’ve known him for years, not well, but did a class with him many moons ago. He’s famous for his smile, a broad beam, all teeth and lips. Wearing a sleeveless tee and shorts that show off his muscled legs, he sits at the top of the room on a matt, cross-legged, smiling like a man who knows something no one else does.

As I look around at my fellow classmates, an unassuming group of six, four women (including me), two men, between the ages of 35 and 50, all different body shapes and levels of fitness, I can’t help wonder if the class will be too easy. Because I skipped the gym today, my ego’s on the prowl, pushing me to feel the burn though the whole point of yoga is to give my body a rest. I sway to the music to still my restless thoughts while my classmates sit perfectly still in yoga positions. The song ends. Smiley takes charge.

Why Do Yoga?

“Why do yoga?” he asks, as if reading my mind, then scans the group, blinding each one of us with a flash of teeth, inviting us to speak. We are quiet. “To stretch my muscles,” I think but before I can speak up, a lady to my left says the same thing. Smiley smiles, and takes the reins, talking about “focus,” and how hard it is to achieve, how it’s actually the hardest thing about yoga, or life. He’s definitely reading my mind. He goes on to talk about the breath, how we can use it to warm up the body, or calm the body down, if we’re willing to connect with it in an intentional way.

He says he doesn’t plan classes because he has no way of knowing what the needs of the room will be in advance, but that we’d do some breathing exercises, chanting, salutations and relaxation. Oh no, not chanting! He turns on the music, more old school tunes that make feel young, and the class starts in earnest, working with breath, warming up the neck and shoulders, and vocal chords with some oms. As soon as I hear my voice join the chant, my vibration shifts, and I’m fully in the room. Smiley has my attention. I’m focused.

Why Do Stoned Yoga?

What follows is nothing short of a miracle because I stay in flow for the remainder of class, focused on Smiley’s voice, and following the movements as he instructs. The class isn’t physically challenging, just some basic moves and stretching, but it’s exactly what my taut muscles need. I’m surprised by my agility, and as we work through the movements, I’m feeling my muscles stretch and tension release from the all the right places. I can’t tell if Smiley instinctively knew what I needed, or if I simply needed any yoga class, but by the end of class, my body feels aligned and my mind is at peace.

This state of calm or bliss is the sensation that both yoga and cannabis are famous for, and there’s a good reason the two are connected. The connection is anandamide a neurotransmitter produced by the brain that binds to THC receptors. Discovered in 1992, some call it the “bliss molecule” and it’s named after the Sanskrit word for joy, “ananda.” It’s basically the body’s own anti-depressant, and studies link levels of anandamide to feelings of happiness or depression.

There are few things you can do to boost levels of anandamide including running, dancing, smoking weed or yoga. The link between cannabis or bhang as it’s known in India goes all the way back to Shiva, who loved it so much, he was known as “Lord Bhang.” According to some yogis, use of cannabis or herb is written into yoga lore, known as the Yoga Sutras, which were complied around 400CE. Stoned yoga is currently enjoying a revival with classes and retreats popping up all over legal markets. One woman, Dee Dussault, has become a western guru of stoned yoga, or ganja yoga.

Yoga is Better Stoned

There are a few ways being stoned improved my yoga practice. In no particular order, they include:

  • I felt connected to the practice in a new way.
  • The music carried me through the movements.
  • I connected with my voice and body in a way I could never have done if not high.
  • I was able to relax into the class, release tension and find my flow.
  • Miraculously, I was able to focus.

At the end of the class, Smiley hands out blankets and we take a moment to reflect and give thanks. This is where he loses me again as my thoughts drift to my weekly timetable. However, he pulls me back again when we do a final set of oms and afterwards, he flashes us one of those smiles, this time full of gratitude. Turns out, it’s his first class at this gym too. He’s standing in for the regular teacher, will be giving the class for the next few weeks, and hopes to see us again.

“How many of you lost focus during class?” Smiley asks, raising his hand first, and all of us quickly follow suit. He smiles knowingly. I had a plan to take a photo before leaving the class but I’m so blissed out, I completely forget. A few hours later, my shoulders ache telling me it was a good workout after all. Don’t think I can handle more than one class a week, but yes, Smiley, I’ll be back.

UPDATE: 18 months later … I never went back.