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Biohacking for women with Brittany Ford

If you’ve been caring for others more than yourself, it’s time to start focusing on you. Biohacking is the latest health and wellness approach to slow down the ageing process and speed up your metabolism and cell regeneration. Holistic Nutritional Consultant Brittany Ford (or Biohacking Brittany as she’s more commonly known) joins me to walk through what her favourite biohacks are, how women’s hormones influence the way we biohack, how good health starts in the gut, and some of the ‘no-go’ zones when it comes to diet.

To learn more from Brittany you can visit her website at https://biohackingbrittany.com/ or follow her on Instagram @biohackingbrittany.

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Busting the myths on cognitive biohacks

When we think of health and wellness most of us think of our bodies – our physical health but not cognitive health. The way our brains function is not something that is necessarily present in most of our fitness and health routines. Yet, cognitive function plays such an important role in our overall longevity.

Dr. Andrea Wilkinson has a PhD in Psychology, with a specialisation in Cognitive Ageing. She has been researching brain health and cognitive maintenance for over 15 years. Dr. Andrea is the founder and CEO of BrainShape.ca and host of the BrainShape Podcast –a weekly show about the latest brain health research + interviews with experts in the field of health and ageing.

She joined me recently to discuss how stress impacts our cognitive function and what we can do to improve it.

Dr Andrea Wilkinson
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Magic magnesium

Fast facts

  • Magnesium is used for more than 300 major cellular metabolic and biochemical reactions in your body – basically meaning your body needs it to function
  • It keeps your heart healthy
  • Assists in maintaining strong immunity
  • Relaxes muscles
  • Helps with stress reduction
  • Helps calm the central nervous system and aids sleeping

Deep dive

Poor levels of magnesium will make you age faster

You hit the gym last night, you’ve had a horrible night’s sleep and are still feeling exhausted. Now you’re struggling to get of bed in the morning and make your way to the shower without teetering along like an old grandma. Sound familiar?

That’s exactly how I felt when I discovered I was magnesium deficient.

Magnesium plays an important role in your overall health. Did you know that the human body has about 25 g of magnesium, with 90 per cent of total body magnesium found in your muscles and bones? Muscle recovery and repair is vital in ensuring we remain ever young. As the body debilitates from ageing it takes longer for your muscles to recover from a work out and this can trigger some serious cellular damage. Magnesium plays an important role in maintaining healthy cells to prevent age-related diseases[i].


[i] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2790427/

If we couple that with magnesium deficiency, which many of us experience, we see an acceleration in ageing as the body fights the secretion of the parathyroid hormone which prevents bones from storing sufficient calcium and impacts the mitochondria – those powerhouse cells in your body that act like a digestive system to break down nutrients. Our mitochondria assist us in maintaining energy to fuel the body’s biochemical process.




Schematic of the cellular pathways that are activated during magnesium deficiency that can promote age-related disease
Source: A connection between magnesium deficiency and aging: new insights from cellular studies
David W. Killilea1 and Jeanette A.M. Maier

Overall, magnesium deficiency ages your organs, inhibiting their ability to protect you from disease. It also impacts the body’s ability to regulate: calcium, potassium, zinc and vitamin D.

But it doesn’t stop there. Magnesium deficiency is a principal driver for cardiovascular disease[i], and also leads to osteoporosis, high blood pressure and some cancers. Who’d of thought this macromineral had so much power!

Dr Carolyn Dean, a medical doctor, naturopath and best-selling author of The Magnesium Miracle attributes magnesium deficiency to many ‘body meltdowns’. So it’s worth putting a lens on it.

Where do I get magnesium from?

A diet that includes lots of leafy greens, seeds and nuts, and unprocessed grains will give you a solid magnesium foundation source. However, if your body doesn’t absorb magnesium that well, you can try additional supplements. I prefer taking a magnesium citrate as the body absorbs it better.

Muscle recovery

Do you regularly get foot or muscle cramps? This could be a sign of magnesium deficiency. A few years ago, I was constantly being woken in the middle of the night by horrible foot and muscle cramps. After getting tested, I discovered that I was magnesium deficient. Since being on a magnesium supplement I don’t get cramps anymore, but if I stop taking magnesium those cramps come back!

Struggling to get enough Zzzzs?

I am the worst sleeper – ever! I think it’s because I’m always ‘on’. It takes forever for me to shut my mind down enough to be able to fall asleep at night. And because I’m such a light sleeper, getting back to sleep when I wake up is also a challenge. I’ve experimented with a night form of magnesium that helps to relax and calm my mind and body. I’ve found that after being on this form of magnesium I get a much better night’s sleep. Sleep deprivation is known to increase ageing. Good sleep is one of the prime biohacks you can maintain to optimise your health.

What are the risks of taking magnesium?

It’s pretty safe when you consume it orally, though you should ensure you take the recommended dosage for what you’re trying to tackle. Here’s some tips on dosages otherwise check with your health practitioner.


[i] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5786912/

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How susceptible are you to getting sick? Vulnerability vs Susceptibility

You love KFC. You avoid eating anything green or drinking water. Prefer to sit around the house gaming rather than going for a run. Your cholesterol is up, you’re taking meds for your high blood pressure, and every winter you get a cold despite getting the flu jab. Guess what? Those lifestyle choices you’ve been making could be the difference in how hard this bad ass COVID-19 impacts you – if or when you contract it.

I get it. You don’t like change. Comfort food makes you feel good; especially in these stressful times. And damn it, KFC tastes soooo good. But your lifestyle choices could affect how hard you get hit and, in extreme cases, whether you live or not. How will my body react to contracting the virus compared to yours?

It begs the question, how susceptible are you to disease compared to how vulnerable you are to disease? Susceptibility is how likely you are to catching it, while vulnerability is about how severely it affects you once you’re infected. With COVID-19 we are all equally susceptible to being infected because it is a novel or new virus, which means none of us have any antibodies or immunity to it. However, we are not all equally vulnerable to how severely we are impacted.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state the following are at a higher risk of severe illness if they contract COVID-19:

  • People aged 65 years and older
  • People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
  • Other high-risk conditions could include:
    • People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
    • People who have serious heart conditions
    • People who are immunocompromised including cancer treatment
    • People of any age with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] >40) or certain underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, such as those with diabetes, renal failure, or liver disease might also be at risk
  • People who are pregnant should be monitored since they are known to be at risk with severe viral illness, however, to date data on COVID-19 has not shown increased risk.

Many of the above are what medical experts call lifestyle illnesses. Heart disease, diabetes and obesity can be caused by poor nutritional choices. Lung disease can be caused from smoking. Which is why scientists and medical experts are saying that your lifestyle could make you more vulnerable to disease. This includes things like your lifestyle choices, age, socioeconomics, or your exposure to toxicants.

The Harvard Health Medical School advises that your first line of defence against disease is maintaining a harmonious and balanced immune system with a healthy lifestyle. By looking after your body and maintaining a healthy immune system you are more likely to defeat invading pathogens. Those with a compromised immune system will not be armed to fight the virus in the same way a person who has been making healthy lifestyle choices will.

Poor lifestyle choices inhibit your immune system

Key poor lifestyle choices that can compromise your immune system and limit your body’s ability to fight disease are:

  • smoking
  • fatty diets comprising mostly of takeaway foods and soft drinks
  • not exercising
  • not getting enough sleep
  • drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
  • not practising proper hygiene – eg. Washing your hands frequently
  • stress.[i]

[i] https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system

Your age makes you more vulnerable to disease

How old you are can increase your vulnerability to disease because as you age your immune response capability is reduced which can lead to more infections and cancer. ‘Respiratory infections, influenza, and particularly pneumonia are a leading cause of death in people over 65 worldwide,’ states the Harvard Medical School, hence why so many of our elderly have a higher vulnerability to COVID-19. This increase in vulnerability is thought to be linked to a decrease in T cells in the aged. T cells play a vital role in immune response and maintaining health by circulating through the body looking for infections. The cytotoxic T cell kills cells that are infected with viruses.[i] This is why CAR T-cell therapy is used to help cancer patients.


[i] https://www.immunology.org/public-information/bitesized-immunology/pathogens-and-disease/immune-responses-viruses

Source: National Cancer Institute

Key takeaway – if you fall in the specified age bracket take extra care with your health to ensure you are empowering your body with everything it needs to stay fit and healthy, knowing that you are more vulnerable. Biohacking methods like fasting, cold therapy and supplements like NMN can help slow or reverse the ageing process.


What you eat impacts your health

Your gut hosts more than 35 trillion microbes known as gut microbiota. Your body have evolved to manage this many guests in a mutually beneficial relationship called symbiosis – in which two species coexist.

Gut health is an evolving area of research for scientists with the gut commonly called the second brain because of its overall importance to complete body health. If your gut isn’t happy then your body won’t be.

Nearly 80 per cent of the body’s immune cells are found in the gut creating a strong and important link and relationship to ensure your overall health.[i] Scientists have been able to make a connection between nutrition and immunity. Poor nutrition leads to bad gut bacteria upsetting the harmony of gut health, making you more vulnerable and can lead to disease[ii].


[i] https://www.elsevier.com/books/cellular-and-molecular-immunology/abbas/978-0-323-47978-3

[ii] https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-03-gut-bacteria-essential-healthy-immune.html



Source: Science Direct – Metaproteomics of the human gut microbiota: Challenges and contributions to other OMICS
Ngom Issa Isaac Decloquement Philippe Armstrong Nicholas Didier Raoult Chabrière Eric

Key takeaway – Eat a healthy diet that includes lots of vegetables and avoids sugar. Take a good probiotic.

Reduce stress

These are stressful times – absolutely. The new stress of coping with your changing lifestyle, isolation and the prospect of getting COVID-19 amplifies the existing day-to-day stresses you already deal with. Whether it’s having to cope with a looming deadline at work, a relationship breakdown or juggling kids, home, and work at once. It’s even more important now to be aware of your stress levels and implement measures to reduce it.

Many modern ailments, like heart disease and skin conditions can be linked to stress. Stress has also been linked to ageing by increasing cortisol – the stress hormone, and lengthening your telomeres – a measure of biological age.

Your socio-economic status also influences your stress levels with studies showing those with a higher income have longer telomeres.[i]

But we all cope differently to stress. The state of our mind affects the state of our health.[ii] Studies have also shown that stress has a direct link to parts of the immune system.[iii]


[i] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3575119/

[ii] https://www.apa.org/research/action/immune

[iii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4465119/




Source: Current Directions in Stress and Human Immune Function
Jennifer N. MoreyIan A. BoggeroApril B. Scott, and Suzanne C. Segerstrom

Key takeaway – here are some suggestions to help alleviate stress:

  • exercise
  • meditate
  • listen to music
  • release control
  • eat well – a nutritional plant-based diet
  • take supplements like Ashwagandha or Valerian
  • drink herbal teas like Chamomile or Green Tea which can help improve serotonin levels
  • laugh and have some fun.

I firmly believe that understanding your health status enables and empowers you to manage and improve your health, and reduce your vulnerability to disease. You can’t always stop viruses but you may be able to improve how your body fights a virus. Think of your body as a high-performance car, without the right fuel and maintenance it won’t function as well. I sincerely hope this information helps you in some way. Stay safe everyone!

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What you need to know about COVID-19

There’s been a lot of confusion about the impacts of COVID-19. How it will impact our health, who is most at risk, and indeed whether the media is simply sensationalising the reality. I put my wellness journalist hat on and did some digging to bring you the latest facts gathered from a broad range of international sources including the World Health Organisation (WHO) and some of the world’s leading medical experts.

COVID-19 fast facts (as of 18 March 2020)
  • Queensland researchers are starting a clinical trial of a potential treatment for COVID-19 – using two existing drugs
  • The drugs have proved highly effective when used against the virus in test tubes
  • Around 33% to 75% of us will catch COVID-19 unless a vaccine is developed – Source Dr David A Sinclair
  • There have been no new cases reported in Wuhan since the first outbreak 
  • More than 200,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported to WHO
  • More than 8000 people have lost their lives to COVID-19
  • More than 80,000 people have recovered from the virus
  • More than 80% of all cases are from two regions – the Western Pacific and Europe
  • 166 countries, areas, or territories have COVID-19 cases
  • WHO is recommending that confirmed ‘mild’ cases should be isolated in health facilities
  • As of 6.30 am 19 March there are 565 confirmed cases in Australia. That’s 111 new cases since yesterday morning.
  • Of the 565 confirmed cases in Australia, 46 have recovered and 6 have died from COVID-19.
  • There are more than 7000 confirmed cases in the U.S with a total of 97 deaths
Global COVID-19 cases
Source: World Health Organisation
How is the COVID-19 transmitted?

The exact way it’s transmitted is yet to be determined, but because it’s a respiratory virus WHO advises it is likely being transmitted via respiratory droplets from a contaminated person who coughs or sneezes, or through something contaminated by the virus like a surface area or food. 

Who’s most at risk?
  • Those who have recently been to China, Iran, Italy or Korea
  • Those who have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19
  • Those with a compromised immunity system
  • Elderly people
  • Indigenous people
  • People with a chronic medical condition
  • People in a group residential setting
  • People in detention facilities
How does it impact me?

It depends which country you live in. Many countries including most of Europe, Asia, New Zealand, Australia, U.S and Canada, and South Africa have closed their borders to non-essential travel. If you are coming home after being overseas you need to self-isolate for 14 days.

Other countries like the U.S, Italy, Spain and France have imposed self-isolation on all their citizens, restricting people’s movements and closing schools, gyms, nightclubs and other venues.

In Australia, the government is resisting imposing a complete ban on people movement instead urging businesses to allow workers to work from home where possible and trusting those infected to self-isolate.

What are the COVID-19 symptoms?

The Australian Government’s Health Department released the below image detailing the symptoms:

Source: Australian Health Department

However, in the first few days you won’t know if you have it. Your symptoms may be confused with a cold. The below image sourced from Dr Peter Attia provides some clarity in symptoms.

Can I do anything to help prevent getting COVID-19?
  • Cough or sneeze into your arm or tissue, and bin the tissue
  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water
  • If you’re sick call the doctor
  • Social distancing – stay 1.5 metres away from anyone
  • Self-isolate

Can I improve my immunity system to prevent disease?

It depends who you listen to and which type of medical advice you adhere to. I believe in functional medicine and focusing on keeping my body as healthy as possible to help prevent disease.  I stick to a strong regimen of supplements, healthy plant-based diet, exercise and meditation – the key pillars for longevity – to help prevent/combat illness. Some of the key supplements I use are:

  • Liposomal Vitamin C  – A powerful antioxidant which helps to protect against free radicals. I prefer this form of Vitamin C as it’s highly absorbent and much more effective than normal vitamin C.
  • Vitamin D – helps boost the immune system especially if you’re not getting this essential vitamin naturally. It can help to fight bacteria, and viral infections.
  • Magnesium –  another immunity booster playing a key role in immune response. It is also great for supporting muscles and bones, and a sleep aid.
Summary

So that’s the latest. As I’ve said before, our biochemistry is as individual as a fingerprint so what works for me may not work for you, so please ensure you consult your preferred health practitioner before making any changes to your diet. I like to be armed with information which helps me make decisions about my own health, so I hope this has helped you in some small way. If you have any comments, thoughts about the above or any tips you’re currently implementing, I’d love to hear them. Leave your comments below. 

Here are a few links to help you get access to more facts about COVID-19.

https://www.who.int

19https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/what-you-need-to-know-about-coronavirus-covid-19

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

Stay safe everyone!

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Crying over cryotherapy

This week I faced one of my biggest fears. I had cryotherapy. I hate the cold. Let’s get that out up front. Give me a beautiful sunny beach any day over a snowy ski field. But I’ve been watching male biohackers, Ben Greenfield and Wim Hof, sink themselves into icy waters advocating the biohacking benefits of cold showers or jumping into sub zero lakes without any teeth chattering in sight, and I figured if the boys can do it, so can I!

Self-reflection note – am I crazy!? Though, I did say when I turned 50 I would live my next 50 years as audaciously as possible, so I guess crazy fits with that. Right?

I figured I needed to psych myself up and prepare myself mentally. You know…dip the toe in first to test the waters. Two weeks out I began having hot/cold showers in the mornings and nights. 

Week 1.  Every time I flicked the tap to cold I gasped for air, my heart raced and I’d feel faint. I embraced Wim’s breathing technique to get me through. The sight of me standing in a cold shower, pumping my arms back and forth may have perplexed my husband somewhat but it wouldn’t be the first time.

Week 2. It was easier. Now, when I turned the cold water on I didn’t gasp anymore. My heart didn’t race as much. I even wished the water was colder! Embracing the alternate temperature shower helped me to see the benefits of cold therapy. The cold water definitely helped my back pain. When the cold water rushed over me I felt my body thanking me. It was a kind of release of tension. I was ready for the cryotherapy chamber.

Full body cryotherapy

I was shitting myself. I sat in my car and recorded the below vlog.

I went inside and was taken in to a room where the chamber awaited me in all its white dominance. I was handed some classy terry towelling shorts, tank top, a pair of socks, gloves, a head band, and asked to change.

Ready to enter the chamber

The therapist explained that the chamber temperature would drop down to – 130°C which would bring my body temperature down to around -30°C. I thought I was going to cry. Where I live in Queensland, Australia, the coldest I’ve ever experienced is 6°C. Right. I’ve got this, I said to myself, while envisaging fainting in the chamber after 30 seconds.

I came close. I entered the chamber surrounded by a white mist. My favourite classical number, Adagio for strings was playing in the background. As soon as the chamber door closed I felt as if I couldn’t breathe. I gasped for air, my throat was clamping shut. My heart boomed against my chest and into my ears. I thought I was going to have to bail. 

Inside the chamber

My survival mechanisms were kicking in. “30 seconds,” said the therapist. I peered up at the digital clock. Should I bang on the door? No, I thought. Go inwards. Focus. Breathe. 

By this stage endorphins were being released, my blood was starting to rapidly circulate throughout my body. My capilIaries were expanding up to four times their normal size, enabling my white blood cells to access and heal my injuries faster. I started to feel calmer. Air flowed into my lungs. My heart rate dropped. I didn’t even really feel cold.

“One minute.” I can do this. I turned around. Moved my arms. Breathed. “2 minutes.” 

At 2 minutes 30 seconds the cold started to bite. I could feel it in my joints. My bones started to ache. “3 minutes.” The door opened and I stepped out…relieved but euphoric. I’d done it! 

Here’s how I felt afterwards.

Other than euphoria, I didn’t really feel any immediate benefits. But I could feel my body reacting as I drove home. By the time I got home, 20 minutes later, I noticed I felt more energetic after feeling quite flat when I woke up that morning. My back pain was gone. Would I do it again? Yep. This was obviously just one treatment. I want to see what a long term treatment plan will do.

Mind over matter. That’s all it took for me to break one of my biggest fears. Cheers to that. Next up will be facial cryotherapy. Tune in next week!

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When 50 isn’t old

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.

It’s been a year of new beginnings and revelations for me. Some positive, and others confronting. Like turning 50. I thought I was okay with getting older. Okay in that, you know it’s just another number and I’m feeling pretty good, so I don’t need to worry. Until I did. 

I think I was distracted from facing this milestone birthday, and allowing myself to sit with the transition to understand what it means to me – by another event. A new beginning. A new marriage. Yep, our wedding took place two weeks after I turned 50. We had been together for ten years. It was a wonderful wedding. Held high in the Queensland hinterlands at beautiful Maleny where the energy is magical and the views match.

Our wedding day

We went to Italy and Greece for our honeymoon, and it was while walking around these ancient civilisations that my body started to speak to me. Or rather moan at me. It was fleeting at first. A niggle here. A creak there. Damn those never-ending steps in Positano!

Italy
Italy!

It puzzled me. Why was my body not coping with simply walking around these beautiful ancient villages? I had always been an active person. Horse riding since I was a teenager and working out four to five times a week doing weight and HIIT classes, along with yoga sessions to recover. I prided myself on staying fit and healthy. Yet my body suddenly couldn’t handle walking up and down the steps that former Gods graced?

When my left knee started to buckle every time I went down steps, I knew something was not right. I was getting Nanna knees! I refused to accept there was an issue. I felt this should be the prime time of my life. I had a new husband whom I adored. We were exploring the world together and there was so much more that I wanted to do. I was not ready to be old! NO damn it. I refuse to be old!

Horseback riding
One of my favourite places to be – on horseback

It wasn’t until we returned home and I received our wedding photos that it started to sink in. Isn’t it funny how the image you have of yourself is not reflected back at you in photos? When I saw myself in those photos I had a meltdown. A full blown out, heart sobbing, whaling like I’d lost a loved one onslaught mid-life crisis. Where had those crow’s feet come from? And the wrinkles around my mouth? Not to mention the jowls! Oh the jowls! ‘Not jowls!’ I cried to my husband.

I’m not sure whether it was post-holiday blues, menopause, a mid-life crisis or all of the above but I hit black alley. That mother of a depressed place that drags you down the  side of a building and gives you a good beating. Life just didn’t seem all that great anymore. I’d already lived half my life, and I might only have another ten or twenty years left, so that meant I’d already lived the majority of my life. How did that even happen? Where did those years go? Being 50 wasn’t great – it sucked. My life had been stolen. I panicked. I wanted more. More life. More love. More sex. More travelling. More exercise. More wine. More books. More time with family and friends. More time to sit in awe at the beauty of this planet. No. 50 would not define me. It would not be my end.

It would be my new beginning.

I pulled myself out of my miasma and focused on feeling better. Feeling young again. And educating myself on how my body was ageing and what I could do to stall it or possibly even revert it. It was timely that Dr David Sinclair’s book Lifespan came into my life. It gave me hope.

The first thing I tackled was my Nanna knees. A trip to the physiotherapist and some X-rays later revealed osteo arthritis in my knees – yep Nanna knees. The physio wasn’t exactly a beacon of shining suggestions to resolve my buckleitis, so I started researching.

Here’s what I found:

  • osteoarthritis is a breakdown of the cartilage in the joints
  • as it gets worse you’ll start to see inflammation and swelling
  • there’s no cure but you can manage it
  • there are some prescription medications you can take but I prefer natural options
  • I started taking curcumin. A polyphony of turmeric, curcumin has long been used in Asian countries for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties.(Source: US National Library of Medicine)

Inflammation has been identified in the development of many chronic diseases and conditions. These include Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, cancer, allergy, asthma and diabetes. 

Since being on curcumin my knees have reverted to their youthful prime, where they can once again climb steps, do HIIT classes and ride horses.

Getting old doesn’t mean our bodies have to degenerate. With the right food, supplements and exercise we can continue to live life well. Life doesn’t stop at 50 it’s just getting started!

Ten reasons why sleeping keeps you young

For all you sleeping beauties out there you can finally stop feeling guilty when you have that midday siesta with research showing sleep keeps you young and is beneficial to your overall health.

If you’re looking for one biohack to implement today and start your biohacking journey then getting a good night’s sleep is it.

Easy right?

Well not so for many of us – myself included!

Who would have thought that laying your head down on a soft, fluffy, feather pillow and drifting gently off in to lala land could be so hard?

I think I must be the worst sleeping beauty on the planet. Getting a good night’s sleep is something I have struggled with for years. I put this down to training myself to be on high alert when I was a young mum and terrified that I might not hear my babies cry in the night. That pattern of behaviour is now ingrained causing me to wake up at the slightest noise.

I have tried and tested many sleeping hacks to improve my ability to get that essential rest, and it’s worth pursuing with more and more research linking sleep deprivation to serious illnesses.

Here are ten reasons why you should sleep more:

  1. Anti ageing – yes, that’s right ladies and gents –  forget the botox – sleeping is the new youth drug. Ever wondered why you look like crap when you’ve had a bad night’s sleep? The body uses sleep as its primary way to heal and generate new cells to replace the ones that have been damaged. Sleeping leaves you looking rested and youthful, inside and out.
  2. Improves cognitive functionSleep deprivation is linked to dementia and Alzheimers. In one study it was found that losing just one night’s sleep can lead to “an increase in beta-amyloid, a protein in the brain associated with impaired brain function and Alzheimer’s disease”. No wonder I feel dopey after a bad night’s sleep! Having a good night’s sleep ensures you’re at your peak cognitively. Find out more on how to improve your cognitive function in my podcast Busting myths on cognitive biohacks.
  3. Assists in muscle recovery following a workout – ever done a HIIT class and felt absolutely smashed? Many of us focus on getting the exercise done, but our focus on recovery is typically not so great. Sleep is essential to aiding muscle recovery. One study showed that sleep deprivation reduces protein synthesis decreasing the body’s ability to heal impacted muscles.
  4. Reduces obesity – wondering why you can’t lose those extra kilos even though you’re exercising and eating well? It might be linked to poor sleeping habits. Scientists are focusing more on the link between sleep deprivation and obesity with a study showing 55% of those assessed were more likely to develop obesity. It’s time to sleep away the kilos!
  5. Improves your physical performance – ever woken up feeling sluggish and just struggled to get going? Yep, it’s lack of sleep. Sleep fuels your body, generating energy and improves physical performance. And the older you get the more important it is to sleep well. Nearly 3000 women took part in a sleep deprivation assessment which found that poor sleep inhibited their basic physical capabilities like walking and grip strength. #staystrong
  6. Reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke – regardless of your age or your weight, sleep deprivation can cause heart disease and stroke. While the reason for this is still under investigation, initial findings show sleep deprivation can trigger increases in glucose levels and blood pressure leading to heart disease or stroke.
  7. Reduces your risk of diabetes – short sleep duration has been shown to impact your blood sugar levels and increase your risk to diabetes in as a little as a week.
  8. Helps to prevent depression – not getting enough sleep leaves you feeling crappy generally, but did you know it can also increase your likelihood of depression? Depression is the most common psychiatric disorder linked to insomnia. So get the Z’s in and beat the blues!
  9. Beats inflammation – sleep loss has been strongly connected to increased inflammation in the body.  When your body is inflamed, it causes cellular damage leading to diseases of the bowel, digestive track, and ageing.
  10. Protects your blood brain barrier – extreme biohacker Ben Greenfield has long spruiked the benefits of protecting the blood brain barrier, a layer between the brain and the body that protects against toxins and regulates inflammatory ctyokines to the brain. Sleep is just one of the ways you can protect your blood brain barrier leading to a reduction in neurotransmitter problems like brain fog, anxiety and insomnia.

Why does my gut keep bloating?

That’s the question I kept asking myself five years ago. It wasn’t just the bloating. There were other symptoms too. Flatulence, reflux, and severe migraines. Nothing that anyone wants to experience long term – those migraines were horrible!

My tummy had always been flat (except for the three times I was pregnant), so when it started to look like I was six months pregnant and it sounded like I had an alien growing in there I knew I needed to do something about it.

What did I do?

Step one – get tested

I had my bloods tested with a naturopath, which identified that I had an imbalance in my microbiome (good gut bacteria versus bad gut bacteria). I also had a high rate of candida in my gut – damn those chocolate Easter bunnies – which was contributing to my microbiome dysbiosis.

Hippocrates – the source of all cleverness – claimed that all health issues start from the gut. Today we understand that he wasn’t far off. Research has shown that many chronic diseases begin in the gut, including:

End result? I was diagnosed with Leaky Gut. It sounds yuk, doesn’t it? But it’s no laughing matter. Leaky gut is caused by damage to the lining of the gut. Think of a knuckle sandwich, then pull your fingers apart slightly. Those gaps between your fingers, or in this case the gut lining, allows bad bacteria to enter the blood stream and cause inflammation in the body. This inflammation triggered my hypertension and severe migraines.

It was time for a serious overhaul!

Step two – cleanse time

The only way I was going to get better was to start being kinder to myself in a my body is my temple kinda way. I started a six months’ cleanse – yep you heard right – six months! I needed to eliminate all inflammatory foods to allow my gut to heal itself.

I stopped eating/drinking
  • Fruit – (fructose is a type of sugar which breeds candida)
  • Wine (oh no!)
  • Chocolate (double oh no!!)
  • Sugar
  • Dairy
  • Wheat
  • Starchy vegetables – potatoes, sweet potato, carrots etc.
  • Processed foods
  • Fried foods
  • Soft drinks
I started eating/drinking
  • Lots of nutrient rich leafy greens
  • Berries (these were allowed)
  • Lean meats (before I turned vego)
  • Fermented foods – sauerkraut, pickles etc.
  • Anti-inflammatory herbs like ginger, rosemary and turmeric
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Herbal teas (I always drink these as I rarely drink coffee)

Step 3 – Supplements

Once I got my diet sorted, I added supplements to help the healing process. The ones that worked for me were:

  • A good probiotic – promotes healthy gut bacteria
  • Glutamine powder – helps to heal the gut lining
  • Fish oil – anti-inflammatory
  • Gutright – supports gut health

Result

Doing the six months’ cleanse was tough but sooooo worth it! I did not have a migraine for two years after I completed the cleanse and when I did I knew it was time to take another look at any naughty nasties that had snuck their way back into my diet. My bloating, flatulence and reflux also stopped. I now hardly ever have a bloated tummy and I feel more energetic than I ever did.

Key points

  • Bloating in the gut is your body’s way of telling you things are not normal down there. Listen to it and do something about it!
  • Poor gut health leads to a whole heap of other diseases. If you don’t get your gut checked you could end up with IBS, hypertension, or even cancer.
  • What you eat is your number one contributing factor to poor gut health. You’re in control of what you put in your mouth. When you reach for the soft drink and fries, go for the salad and water instead.

Information provided on this site or its social channels is not a substitute for direct, individual medical treatment or advice. It is the responsibility of you and your healthcare providers to make all decisions regarding your health. Ever Young Wellness recommends you consult your health care practitioner before making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.

What the heck is a biohack?

Data hackers get their kicks out of hacking into computers and breaking codes to get the information they need. Bio-hacking is kind of the same. Your body has a unique code – a bio blueprint that you can hack at a cellular and genetic level to achieve a healthier, longer, youthful life maintained for longer than normal. Essentially, it’s taking control of your biology and trying different biohack techniques, like diet or lifestyle changes, to improve your health and wellness.

So how do you biohack?

Understanding how your body functions is the first step. No two bodies are the same and what works well for me, may not work well for you in the same way. Your blood pressure may be higher than mine, I might have a different diet to you, and then for us women there are hormonal considerations. These, and more, have an influence on how you biohack. There are many scientific ways to biohack your body, including using new technology like infrared light and cryotherapy, but there are some super easy biohacks you can implement right now from the safety of your home.

Let’s break down the types of biohacks that you can explore.

SLEEP

Sleep is the number one most important biohack you can use to improve your health. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve had a bad night’s sleep and woken the next morning feeling fatigued, groggy and suffering from major brain fog.  It’s no joke when medical experts say sleep deprivation can be just as dangerous to your health as high levels of alcohol consumption.

A good night’s sleep allows the neurons in your brain to regenerate from the stress they’ve been under during the day. Poor sleep can be so detrimental that you can lose brain cells. 

Biohack target – aim to get 8-9 hours of sleep a night.

Top tips:

  • Wear a sleep mask – helps to block out any light signalling your body to shut down and go to sleep
  • Don’t watch TV or look at any screen monitors two hours before going to sleep – any form of light can trigger your body to shut down the melatonin that it naturally produces when going to sleep
  • Don’t eat two hours before going to sleep – food is fuel for your body, so when you eat, your telling your body that it needs to work off that fuel, but if you’re sleeping your body will store it away as fat instead. 
  • Use an earthing mat. We spend so much time indoors in front of screens that we are reducing the benefits of being outside and grounding or ‘earthing’ ourselves. You can slo do this simply by walking barefoot on the grass, but I also like to sleep with an earthing mat. I have found my sleep is less broken, deeper and longer than what it has ever been since I started using an earthing mat.

Fasting

I’ve spoken about the benefits of fasting before on my Instagram page @everyoungwellness. This is another super easy way to biohack your body from home. When you fast, it triggers something called autophagy (self eating) – basically telling your body to start burning away the fat which then leads to weight loss. Fasting triggers the cells in your body to regenerate through autophagy by getting rid of old damaged cells and replacing them with new ones. This generates healing in the body and helps to fight off disease. If you’re disease free, you live longer and voila! You are now triggering anti-ageing.

Biohack target:  choose a type of fasting that you can regularly do.

Top tips:

  • There are a number of ways to fast like intermittent fasting, a 3 day fast, or a 5 day fast.
  • I find intermittent fasting the easiest. 
  • Stop eating at 8pm at night and don’t eat again until after 12pm the next day. That’s 16 hours of fasting. This will push your body into ketosis and start to burn those stubborn fatty areas!

Exercise

Cellular regeneration is triggered by the body’s reaction to stress. When we place our bodies under stress either through exercise or exposure to cold, our cells march out to heal the areas of stress the body has been exposed to. Many biohack researchers, like Dr David Sinclair, Ben Greenfield, and Ben Angel espouse the benefits that exercise plays in maintaining longevity. 

Biohack target: aim to do some form of exercise three to four times a week.

Top tip:

  • High intensity classes (HIIT) are great for ramping up your cellular regeneration.    

Cold thermogenesis

You might not have a cryotherapy chamber at home that you can use but you can certainly implement cold thermogenesis (or cold therapy) at home.

Cold therapy advocates like Wim Hoff have tested this biohack for many years and even been tested by scientists to ascertain how it is has benefited their bodies, supported their immune system and promoted anti-ageing. Otherwise known as the Iceman, Wim has been able to build his resistance to cold so much that he was able to climb Mount Everest shirtless and build his Brown Andipose Tissue (BAT). What the hell is BAT I hear you ask? BAT is iron rich body fat that we are all born with which increasingly reduces as you age. It plays an important role in reducing insulin and obesity. People who are lean tend to have more brown fat while people who are obese tend to have more white fat. Wim’s BAT levels at 61 are equivalent to that of a 20-year-old.

Cold therapy also helps to reduce inflammation in the body – that’s why so many elite athletes have ice baths after a game. I’ve definitely found it helps with my inflammation after a workout. stubborn fat. 

Biohack target: Take a cold shower twice a day, alternate between hot and cold for 30 sec intervals. Aim to gradually decrease the hot 30 second intervals and increase the cold intervals until you can stay under a cold shower for 3 minutes.

Top tips:

  • Ice baths are another great way to implement cold therapy at home. In the ice bath pictured I added six bags of ice.
  • Hate the cold? Don’t worry you’re not alone. There was a time when I would have said you’re absolutely crazy if you think I’m going to get into an ice bath! I found Wim Hoff’s breathing method really helped me prepare my body before the ice bath. 

Benefits of a plant-based diet

I’ve long tried to become a vegetarian but until about six months ago I hadn’t succeeded. In the past, my children were still living at home and the boys are meat eaters, so any suggestion for us to all turn ‘green’ was met with cries of horror. I did persist for a period of time but found that cooking two meals, full-time work and study, became onerous and given I’d been a meat eater all my life, the smell of a lamb chop cooking on the grill was just too difficult to resist!

I guess at the time I didn’t really have a sufficient driving catalyst to maintain my resolve, nor the knowledge to help me reinforce that it was the right decision for me. While the idea of being a vegetarian met my romantic notions of helping to reduce my impact on the planet and nourish my body, at the time I wasn’t really aware of the health benefits that came with a plant-based diet. Oh, I knew it would be healthier…but not how much healthier. There are significant health benefits.

My family has a history of heart disease, so I was particularly interested to learn that plant-based diets reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and reduce your mortality rate. But research shows that it is also linked to lower rates of type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

I have suffered from back and neck pain for many years thanks to a few horse riding and car accidents. Couple that with my recent diagnosis of osteoarthritis, I knew it was time to change. In the past I have tackled my pain in a variety of ways including:

  • osteo therapy
  • massage therapy
  • chiropractic treatment
  • acupuncture
  • cortizone injections (when I ended up in hospital, something I really didn’t enjoy!)
  • yoga
  • resistance exercise

While the above treatments helped to relieve the pain to a certain extent, they didn’t tackle the source of the problem. My body was inflamed and despite it telling me it needed more than just the above treatments, I continued to focus on ‘band aiding’ the problem rather than trying to listen to my body and dig deeper to find out what was causing the pain. This became my catalyst to change. The Harvard Medical School advocate a plant-based diet to help fight inflammation in the body. Harvard Health Publishing provide the below easy checklist to help identify the right foods to support reduced inflammation and better health.

I’ve been plant-based for about six months now and I have experienced some significant changes in my body including:

  • Reduced inflammation and pain –  Inflammation is the body’s natural way of targeting injury. Cells are directed to the injury to heal it, but without additional support like a plant-based diet – eliminating foods that contribute to inflammation i.e sugar, alcohol, fried foods etc. the inflammation will increase causing prolonged pain. At its worse, long-term inflammation will trigger a cellular reaction which damages healthy tissue and joints. This is what was happening to me. My spine and joints remained inflamed and the cellular response contributed to my slow recovery. Since being on a plant-based diet, coupled with additional supplements like curcumin, my body healed and is now recovering faster after my workouts.
  • Bloating is gone! My flat tummy is back and I’m loving it! Anti-inflammatory food also helps to fight gut bacteria. Berries and leafy greens should be your go to as they are high in antioxidants and polyphenols – mother nature’s way of healing you through protective plant compounds that tackle inflammation.
  • Weight loss – not something I was targeting but I feel I’m leaner, or maybe it’s just that my bloating has disappeared. Though, a recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that a healthful plant-based diet can have beneficial changes on our andiposity biomarker concentration. Body andiposity index (BAI) is another way of measuring body fat similar to the body mass index (BMI).
  • My skin is clearer and glowing more.
  • I have more energy and am less moody – loving this! Particularly given the hours I’ve been pulling lately. Plant-based diets are known to alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety, and fatigue.
  • Reduced brain fog – still some work to do here but it’s getting better. Inflammation impacts the blood flow to the brain damaging tissue and triggering cognitive decline. Studies have found this is one of the contributing factors to Alzheimer’s.  I’m going to have a play with some nootropics soon so watch out for a blog on that.

An additional benefit of being on a plant-based diet, in particular plant-based protein is longevity. A study published by JAMA Internal Medicine of 70,000 Japanese men and women aged between 45 to 74 found that those who ate plant-based protein had a lower death rate than those who ate meat-based protein.

It’s not a one size fits all. Our biochemistry is unique to each of us, like our fingerprints. This should always be considered when making any changes to a diet. Understanding where you may be nutritionally or mineral deficient will contribute to developing the type of diet that’s right for you. A new term that’s being embraced is flexitarian. Tapping in and listening to what your body needs on any given day and nourishing yourself well.

There are some days where I feel my body only wants plant-based food, and I honour this. On other days, my body feels like it needs some fish or some organic chicken. There are also some great meat alternatives on the market which can help reduce your meat cravings while you transition to a plant-based diet. Women are highly intuitive and usually understand our bodies’ well – when we stop to listen. I believe that by listening to what our bodies’ need we can intuitively stay well. Couple this with additional supplement support and the long-term health benefits of eating well start to pay off.

If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of a plant-based diet, grab a carrot stick and check out some of the links I’ve provided below.

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-right-plant-based-diet-for-you

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29576250

https://www.bmj.com/content/366/bmj.l5397.long

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27886704

My favourite plant-based recipes

Jamie Oliver’s Vegetable Tagine
The Healthy Chef’s Garden Vegetable Soup