Nutritional Approach to Combating COVID-19

At the moment it is fairly difficult to think about anything other than COVID-19, and I don’t know about you, but despite my best efforts, it is taking a toll on my own anxiety and stress systems.

There are so many factors to consider – our own health, the health of our loved ones, our ability to be strong when it counts… and then the nutritional and psychological implications of a 30 day isolation period. Every single factor which places stress on our nervous system has the potential to decrease how robust our immune system is, which merely adds to the stress and worry. How do we escape?

After thinking about this for some time, I have come to the conclusion that we can’t. We simply have to accept it, accept what is happening in the world and around us, make peace with it, and look at all the positives it is going to bring, because, once you start thinking about it, there are many of these.

So we can’t escape and we can’t change what is happening.

But we CAN change and affect many things around us and those are the things that we need to focus on. With this post and those that follow, we are going to start looking at what we can do, to turn this around, and take some form of control back.

First of all, something we have a whole lot of control over is what we eat – our nutrition. Even if we are stressed and anxious we can eat in a way that nourishes our immune system, which will help to alleviate some of the anxiety around our health. Almost more importantly however, we can eat in a way that helps our nervous system to cope as the events unfold, and as the nervous system and immune system are intimately linked, this way, we are killing two birds with one stone. Interestingly, and to drive this point home, many of the nutrients are the same. So yay! Easy peasy. Let’s get started.

In this first post, we will address nutrition for the immune system and in Part 2, nutrition for anxiety, stress management and resilience.

PS In no way does this stand in the place of medical advice, and if you develop COVID-19 symptoms (runny nose, cough, sore throat, fever and shortness of breath) ensure you get medical advice and/or attention ASAP.

Nutrition for Optimal Immune Health & Defense.

First, a very quick, short and sweet overview. I categorise nutrients into three major fields:

Macronutrients (protein, carbs, fat, fibre)

Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals, such as zinc)

Phytonutrients (the amazing array of bioactive compounds we get from plants eg anthocyanins, from berries, are a potent antioxidant)

We will consider each one.

  •   Macronutrients

For overall health, every single macronutrient is important, which means that, for immune health, eating a well-balanced diet is your absolute first go-to. However, protein needs to be a major point of focus during this time, as not only does it contain the building blocks for important immune molecules (such as glutathione), but in addition, when we are sick, the breakdown of our muscle proteins is increased to help us both fight disease and recover. The major way to cover both immune demands and this increased loss is by eating high-quality dietary protein. That means your animal proteins, such as eggs, meat, fish, dairy if you can tolerate it, and whey protein powder if you happen to be a smoothie fan. If you don’t eat animal protein, soy is your highest quality plant-based protein. The recommended optimal intake for protein is at least 1.2 g per kg of body weight per day, although, for highly-active individuals and the elderly, this can increase to around 1.6 g per kg of body weight per day. The best way to ensure you are achieving this is to consume high-quality protein at every meal.

Alongside protein, fibre is essential for maintaining the health of your gut bacteria, which form an intimate alliance with your immune system, and if the immune system in the gut is compromised, so is that of the entire body. However, also super important to consider is that the gut bacteria ferment the fibre to produce short-chain of fatty acids, which appear to play key roles in immune cell recruitment and function, alongside many other important functions in the body. Fibre is also delivered in combination with a bunch of phytonutrients that add to the strength of the immune system (which we will cover in a bit). The absolute best sources of fibre are your fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts, beans, legumes and whole-grains. Some people find it hard to tolerate large amounts of nuts, beans, legumes and whole-grains, and if this is you, eating fresh produce is your best bet for optimal immune health. However, keep in mind that fibre can be overdone! Too much fibre can reduce the absorption of other key nutrients…so there is no need to go overboard, just be sure to include some form of fibre with every meal.

  •   Micronutrients

One of my favourite gurus in the micronutrient health world is Chris Masterjohn (CMJ). In a recent document, he outlined the most effective micronutrients specific to combating SARS-viruses such as COVID-19. In particular, these are zinc and copper.

Zinc has been shown to directly inhibit at least three mechanisms associated with the original SARS coronavirus, indicating that it is likely to be a key micronutrient here as well. In general, zinc interferes with the ability of the virus to replicate and function inside a cell. CMJ pairs zinc with elderberry extract (which we will talk about under phytonutrients), which may be able to prevent the virus actually entering a cell in the first place, so is the first line of defence.

All forms of zinc supplementation are useful, including sprays, lozenges and tablets, and the recommended dose to fight the virus is 10-15 mg 4 times per day, spaced well apart. These can be taken with food, or on an empty stomach, but if taken with food, it is recommended to avoid nuts, beans, grains and legumes, as these may interfere with full absorption of zinc.

Of course, zinc is potentially best obtained from food, primarily from oysters. However, since oysters are not common fare for the majority of people, supplementation is your best bet.

When you purchase a supplement, check that it is not in the zinc picolinate or zinc oxide forms, as these are not well absorbed, and once the threat of the virus has diminished, keep taking around 10 to 15 mg per day, as this is one mighty nutrient for overall health.

Copper is toxic to viruses, including coronaviruses, which is why copper surfaces are effective for hygiene maintenance. Copper works synergistically with zinc, and we should aim to get around 1 mg of copper for every 10 to 15 mg of zinc. This means that if you are taking 15 mg of zinc four times per day, you will need at least 4 mg of copper per day. Many supplements provide zinc and copper together, although copper from foods is superior to copper from pills. The best food sources to provide 2 mg copper are 2 oysters, 25 g spirulina, 40 g shiitake mushrooms, 50 g sesame seeds, 50 g cocoa powder, 56 g of 90% dark chocolate and 70 g of 70% dark chocolate. I know which one my go-to is going to be! However, since you would need 2 or 3 times the amount in each of these servings, supplementation is going to be necessary with a high zinc intake.

My personal approach moving forward is going to be 15 mg zinc 4 times per day, with 4 mg of copper from a supplement, and as much dark chocolate as I want. Why wouldn’t I?

Phytonutrients

Ah, nature, in all her glorious wisdom, who provided us with more healing compounds than you can poke a stick at right there in our garden. Or the fresh produce aisle of your local supermarket. For overall health, every single herb, vegetable and fruit is beneficial, when consumed in moderation. However, different phytonutrients work in different ways and some are more (and less) beneficial for a respiratory virus like COVID-19.

Elderberry. As I mentioned above, CMJ also states that elderberry has been shown to prevent the ability of the SARS coronavirus to enter cells, and so for this reason, it is an effective supplement to add to your virus prevention list. If you already have the virus, it is unlikely to reverse its effects, so zinc and copper are your best bets for this, although taking elderberry will definitely not hurt!

The recommended dose for elderberry extract is 700-1000 mg per day. After extensive searching, and finding that many elderberry supplements are sold out, I came across this Product: which would require 4-5 servings per day to provide the recommended elderberry dose. However, it also contains Vitamin C, for which the research is equivocal – while some studies show it is highly beneficial for respiratory infections, others show it may increase the inflammatory response. Personally, I am going to buy this supplement and take it, as a preventative measure, since it is all I can find! However, if I were to contract the virus, I would likely stop and focus on zinc and copper.

Allicin. In addition to elderberry, allicin, the key bioactive ingredient in garlic, has been shown to play a significant role in fighting a viral infection. Keep in mind that you have to eat garlic raw in order to gain the maximal benefits of allicin, which may not go down too well unless you are in self-isolation, in which case go nuts! However, allicin supplements are easy to come by, and I am going to add these to my regime. While CMJ recommends 180 mcg stabilised allicin per day, the supplements I have been able to find easily are 3000 to 4000 mcg per day, so I am just going to take these as is and hope for the best.

Oils of oregano, tea-tree and eucalyptus. We can also look at some essential oil powerhouses for fighting viruses. Oil of oregano is a traditional remedy for respiratory viral infections, as well as gastrointestinal viruses and inflammatory conditions, and research in animals is supporting this traditional use. While pure oregano oil can be taken internally, it must be totally pure for consumption, so a good alternative is to put a couple of drops on the soles of the feet. Oregano can be combined with tea tree oil and eucalyptus, also shown in research studies to possess potent antiviral activity. Both tea-tree and eucalyptus can be toxic when taken internally, so topical application, or aroma diffusion, is recommended.

Is there anything I should avoid?

Yes. Most definitely. As always, limit inflammatory foods such as refined sugar, refined vegetable oils and processed meats. In addition, CMJ recommends avoiding supplementation with high levels of Vitamin A and Vitamin D, as these can increase the production of molecules in the body that may benefit viruses like coronavirus.

Wrapping up….

This is by no means an extensive list! Every single macro, micro and phytonutrient has a role to play in our overall health and therefore, our immune health, when consumed in a balanced way. However, the nutrients that have been mentioned and described here were selected as those most beneficial for immune health, in the specific context of the SARS family of coronaviruses.

At the very least, if they assist in reducing some of the anxiety that you might feel at this time, that will be a huge benefit in and of itself. Share this list with friends and family, and possibly assist older family members in obtaining some of these supplements. Everything we can do to enhance our immune health, and the health of those we care about at this time is on the table.

Keep well! And stay tuned for Part 2….

 

-Carlene Starck

COVID-19: Everything thing you need to know

Now deemed a Global Pandemic we are learning more day by day about COVID-19. With all the hysteria across the media, it has become difficult to determine what is hype and what is true. From people panic shopping and fighting over toilet paper, the world is going a little bit crazy.

In this post, we will aim to provide you with an overview of accurate up to date information. Following this post, we will discuss strategies on how to combat this issue.

Hysteria:

First of all, I need to address the panic, we all need to calm down……… There is no need to prepare for the end of the world and stock up on supplies like toilet paper and food. Well not in New Zealand at least as we produce all essential supplies (food, toilet paper etc) in New Zealand, we are not reliant on global markets. Even the supermarkets are requesting for everyone to calm down and to shop as normal, there is plenty to go around. 

From a hysteria standpoint, the timing couldn’t be worse for NZ/ southern hemisphere with the changing of seasons and drop in temperature and as we head into flu season. As a result of lack of education and understanding of COVID-19, people that are suffering from common flu are unnecessarily concerned for the worst and stressing our health system which is going to need every spare bed atm. What is the difference between common flu and COVID-19? Stay tuned as we will highlight this below so you can stay informed and rest easy.

Important: COVID-19 is treatable.

 

Stop stressing! 

Don’t forget stress is one of the leading causes of disease (something I have written extensively around) so you are not doing yourself any favours worrying about things you cannot control. Our hope in this article is by sharing the facts we can help in easing any anxiety or stress you may have. Our next post will begin to address what you can do to mitigate this and the anxiety around it.

What is it COVID-19?

Similar to SARS, research points out that the virus also originates from bats. COVID-19 causes respiratory and intestinal infections in animals and humans. 

What happens in the respiratory system and immune system in response to the virus?

  1. Your body will produce mucus in an attempt to contain or trap the virus. 
  2. The infection involves overstimulation of the body’s defences against viral infections. Cytokines, proteins secreted by certain immune cells, signal for more immune cells to enter the picture and try to engulf the virus, resulting in cell death and increased inflammation.
  3. Due to the high replication rate of the coronavirus, it often overwhelms the immune responses leading to local tissue destruction and depletion of infection-fighting cells. Cytokines also can travel via the circulatory system to other organs such as the kidneys, liver, and small intestine. Dramatic increases in cytokines are referred to as a cytokine storm and this appears to be a distinguishing feature of severe respiratory viruses vs lesser viruses like the common cold.

Not all people with the virus will experience all three stages and also in some cases, you may be a carrier of a virus but have no symptoms (meaning you can unsuspectingly pass it on).

How COVID-19  spreads

As a new disease, we are still learning how it spreads but below as of 19th of March the CDC believe these are major methods: 

 

  • Human interaction

 

    • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
    • Passed through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

 

  • Can someone spread the virus without being sick?

 

    • People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (have symptoms)
    • Potentially it is possible before people show symptoms. However, it is not thought to be the main method in which the virus spreads.

 

  • Contaminated surfaces or objects

 

The virus could potentially spread through cross-contamination of surfaces or objects that have the virus on it and a person touching it and then touching the mouth, nose or possibly eyes. However, this is not thought to be the main method for the virus spreading.

 

What happens if you feel sick?

Remember that symptoms of the common cold or seasonal flu can be similar to symptoms of coronavirus, which can make it difficult to determine what might be going on. Especially with New Zealand heading towards flu season. Here is a great chart to review symptoms and determine next steps.

Determine what you are dealing with

We encourage anyone with signs of a respiratory infection or COVID-19 (fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath) to contact their primary care physician for guidance. Ideally where possible connect with your doctor online or by phone to reduce the risk of transmission. 

If you develop severe symptoms or are in the high-risk groups outlined below and develop shortness of breath, call 111 or go to the nearest emergency room after calling ahead for safe arrival instructions. 0800 358 5453

 COVID-19 risk factors:

If you are high- or medium-risk and fall within any of these risk factors below, it is recommended that you self-isolate and practice social distancing for a minimum of 14 days, even if you have no symptoms. 

 

  • Age: 

 

While the overall global mortality rate of COVID-19 is currently estimated to be around 3.4% by the WHO (as of March 3), early reports out of China and a similar pattern identified in Italy (the highest number of coronavirus deaths outside of China) show that the mortality rate increases with age. The mortality rate is highest (14.8%) for those over the age of 80. This most likely due to older individuals often suffer from at least one chronic health condition that stresses their immune system, increasing their risk. 

Children are rarely affected by the disease. 

 

  • Pre-existing conditions

Adults with preexisting conditions like heart disease and diabetes or chronic lung conditions such as asthma, emphysema, COPD have a greater risk of being affected by any virus, including COVID-19 because of decreased ability to fight off infections due to a less robust immune response. In China, coronavirus patients with heart disease had a 10 per cent mortality rate, while those with diabetes had around a 7 per cent mortality rate, far greater than the global average — which WHO estimated at 3.4% on March 3rd.

 

  • Immunocompromised adults 

Immunocompromised means the inability to normally respond to environmental exposures including viruses or bacteria due to a weakened immune system. People who are immunocompromised include those with diabetes, heart disease, hepatitis B, chronic kidney disease, autoimmune conditions, malnutrition, and cancer because those conditions do lessen one’s ability to mount an adequate immune response. 

 

  • Smoking

 

Adults who smoke on a regular basis (cigarettes, cigars, marijuana) are at an increased risk for more severe upper respiratory infections overall. Some Experts believe that this is one of the reasons that men in China died more often than women from coronavirus was because of their smoking habits. 

Social distancing: bell curve

Why should we consider social distancing? 

This is a manageable/treatable disease but if we don’t control the spread we will surpass the health systems capacity and will result in a higher mortality rate as health professionals won’t be able to keep up with demand. The primary goal is to slow the spread of disease, a concept which is being referred to as  “flattening the curve” which you will see depicted down below. Essentially it will provide us the time to manage the disease but more importantly and often forgotten it will also allow the health system the capacity to deal with other business as usual cases eg. trauma, surgeries, chronic diseases etc. If capacity is maxed out COVID-19 patients won’t be the only ones who will suffer the consequences! 

The new research also showed that 97.5% of people who are infected develop symptoms within 11.5 days. About 1% of patients, however, show symptoms after 14 days – outside the window of the CDC’s quarantine guidelines.

Cure

Once again no need to fear. The University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research director Professor David Paterson told news.com.au they have seen two drugs used to treat other conditions (Malaria and HIV) wipe out the virus in test tubes.

Prof Paterson said the medications given to some of the first positive cases of COVID-19 in Australia, had already resulted in “disappearance of the virus” and complete recovery from the infection. 

Another reason for us to flatten the curve and provide scientists like Prof Paterson the time they need to design a cure which could be distributed worldwide.

Keeping safe in the meantime

It is simple, practice good hygiene and social distancing where possible. 

  • Most importantly due to the nature of how it spreads through bodily fluid, if coughing or sneezing do so into your left elbow as many people are now greeting using right elbow touch instead of a handshake (weird I know, but best to be safe than sorry).
  • Wash hands frequently (at minimum 20 sec, see image below) and carry a hand-sanitiser with you and use frequently (if you can find one…).
  •  
  • If you use tissues, do not reuse them, throw out after use.
  • Avoid highly populated areas, where possible.
  • Aim to keep a 1.5m distance between other individuals to prevent spread.
  • Clean and disinfect everything after use.
  • Avoid travel were possible. 

Sick or medium-high risk

  • Self-isolate a minimum of 14days.
  • Wear a mask around other people. You do not need to wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and they are not able to wear a facemask). 

Future

The news is not all bad. I am one to always look on the bright side and there are plenty of learnings to take away from this outbreak. For example, it will greatly impact our lives in so many ways, some of which we probably haven’t thought about yet. I will touch on some of these in future posts, I will discuss things like the future of the workplace etc.

Next post

Stay tuned for our next post where we will discuss the science and nutrition around prevention and management of COVID-19.

THE GAME CHANGERS FILM REVIEW

Game changers is all the hype at the moment, every day I get asked my opinion on my thoughts around the documentary so I thought best to outline my thoughts with a blog post, to provide a resource for all the confusion that is being produced.

Firstly, I am a big proponent of plant-based nutrition and I believe it should be the foundation of our diet. In the film, they presented a wide argument for why this is the case. Debunking many social beliefs around plant-based diet and performance. 

I truly believe if done right, this could have been a really good documentary. However, this film can not be referred to as a documentary. A documentary presents a balanced argument which this was not! I found it extremely dogmatic and reductive, twisting science to tell a story, that plant-based is the only way to eat….

An important caveat before getting into it, I found it interesting how they used the term plant-based which I believe is just in an effort to rebrand the dogma around veganism. I can’t blame them because it has taken a bad wrap but maybe that is for a reason….  In this article, you will see I have used both variations synonymously.

Balanced Argument?

As for a balanced argument, the first thing we must do is look at the funding and the expert’s background. Firstly it was funded by the founders of ‘Verdiant Foods’, an organic pea protein company. Who obviously benefit from people going vegan. What about the experts? All plant-based themselves which alone creates a basis

Some examples:

  • Dr. Dean Ornish: Author of several books including, “Undo It!” Which is a guide to reverse chronic disease with a plant-based diet. In addition, he hosts retreats and offers online programs for plant-based lifestyle approaches. 
  • Dr. Aaron Spitz: Author of “The Penis Book,” which highlights the importance of a plant-based diet for optimal penile function. 
  • Dr. Robert Vogel: A cardiologist and author of “The Pritikin Edge,” which focuses heavily on plant-based eating.
  • Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn: Sells books DVDs, ad programs for reversing heart disease through a plant-based diet.                               (Maeve Hanan (2019), An Evidence-based Review of ‘The Game Changers’)

Naturally, these “experts” are all for veganism which is not necessarily a bad thing. However, I would have loved to have seen both sides of the argument to create a balanced discussion vs the pushing the vegan agenda. Great news Chris Kresser M.S., L.Ac the Co-director of the California Center for Functional Medicine, founder of Kresser Institute will be on Joe Rogan Podcast to debunk this film on the 19th of November. He will no doubt discuss many of the points I am touching on here but will also have the platform to go a lot deeper so I highly recommend tuning into the podcast if you are interested.

Telling a Story through Science

Twisting science to tell a story is nothing new with so much potential financial gain to be had. It was poor science which led us into the obesity epidemic we now face. Ancel Keys an American physiologist in 1950s dubbed obesity on fat in particularly saturated fat. He did this through his famous 7 countries study that became the basis from the food pyramid and way of eating for 55yrs …. (we are still battling this today…) When it was really a 22 countries study (see image below) which he cherry-picked two markers and removed countries that didn’t fit his linear correlation…. I have written a blog around this if you want to learn more. Sadly game-changers took a leaf out of this book and created stories firstly they referenced Ancel Keys poor research, demonising saturated fat which as mentioned has been highly scrutinised on top of this they compared the average western (processed food, hamburgers etc) against a plant-based diet. Sorry but any diet is better than the standard western diet! I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw the same effect going full carnivore (meat only) for the same period of time to these studies (Not saying this is a good thing either, just making a point). The negative impact of the standard western diet has been well documented and evidence is clear all you need to do is look at the obesity epidemic, obviously, nutrition is not the only factor but definitely one of the leading contributors.

Vitamin C

Another unbelievable moment for me was when a scientist states that plants are higher in Vitamin C and since our bodies can’t make Vitamin C we should only eat plants. I am not arguing that vitamin C comes from plants and I don’t think any other dietary approach would either (besides maybe carnivore…). But why is it we have to function in extreme measures of all or nothing (Plant vs. Meat)? Why can we not eat a balanced diet of plants and meat, we are omnivores after all…

One Diet Fits All

They state in the film that the plant-based diet is the one diet for everything …Sadly, there is no such thing as a one diet fits all we each possess so much diversity that what works for one person will not work for the next. Nutrition like most things needs to be individualised. There are some guiding principles that will apply to the majority but there are always exceptions to the rule and to ignore this is just foolish. 

Anecdotal Evidence

The film does a great job at highlighting a handful of vegan athletes. Their anecdotal stories are fascinating but again like mentioned earlier there are always outliers… I am not saying that these athletes are but with very little to work off besides anecdotal evidence, it is difficult to determine.  We must always approach anecdotal evidence with a grain of salt before we take it as the gospel. For example, when someone goes through a dietary change it often acts as what we call a keystone habit which promotes cascading of other positive habits to follow such as mindset shift, lifestyle changes (Prioritise sleep, implement stress management strategies etc), a greater focus on training and integration of new training methods etc. Besides the habit change and controllable factors are they genetic outliers? Plus just because they are seeing performance gains short term what is it doing to their overall life and healthspan? Once again I am not saying that plant-based couldn’t have achieved these results but a pinch of scepticism is always good when digesting anecdotal evidence, it is important to look at all the evidence such as what the science tells us. Let’s touch on a bit more science then 😉

Amino Acids: Meat Vs Plants

I would be remiss if I did discuss the amino acids argument. Firstly, as defined by the FDA, a complete protein contains all of the essential amino acids in adequate amounts. Incomplete proteins do not have sufficient amounts of one or more of the essential amino acids[*]. Or, they’re missing amino acids altogether.

Animal protein sources consist of all the essential amino acids and quantities our body requires. Whereas plant proteins do not contain some essential amino acids with the exception of soy. Plants are especially low in the essential amino acid leucine compared to animal-based proteins. Leucine is well known for being a trigger for muscle protein synthesis (eg. muscle growth). To attain adequate protein then you’ll have to combine plants to get a complete protein. This is fine in theory however how much beans and rice do you need to eat to make the amount of complete protein that is present in a piece of chicken? A great example of this in the film was when they stated a peanut butter sandwich has the equivalent protein as 3oz beef or three egg. I love my nut butters as much as the next person, probably more but to achieve the same protein level you would need 5 tablespoons of peanut butter, for a total of 500 calories! (Not including the bread). Regardless, of the massive calorie intake of ¼ cup of Peanut Butter, it is a bit overkill for one sandwich.

Just like everything, it is not just about quantity but quality, this is no difference for protein. Quality of amino acid is characterized by the composition and digestibility. On average, animal-based protein is digested at a 90% or higher rate, while plant protein ranges anywhere from 55% to 80%.

Why? Plant proteins less digestible because of the “anti-nutritional” factors (trypsin inhibitors, hemagglutinins, phytates, etc). The good news for vegans is that cooking techniques like soaking, boiling, steaming, and fermentation have been shown to reduce the content of these anti-nutrients. It doesn’t solve the problem but does help with protein uptake. Another great option especially if an athlete as you need more protein, you should also consider plant-based protein powders (Hemp & Pea) as these are stripped of the anti-nutrients and allow for the uptake of the protein. 

Summary; With Plant proteins offering less digestibility vegans will often have to consume more calories to attain the same quantity of protein, like the peanut butter sandwich mentioned above.

Blood Testing 

The blood tests following meal really spiked my interest so naturally, I looked into what it all meant, was the “cloudy serum” a bad thing?

The cloudy effect seen in the blood is called postprandial lipemia. It is physiologically normal to see a rise in triglyceride-rich lipoproteins in the blood post-consumption of dietary fat and if a concern which it shouldn’t be for most, it is simply mitigated by movement and fasted windows. If we tested all these athletes fasted, their serum would all look identical. 

So really just a quick and easy way to fear-monger and scare you to confine to their story.

 

Cholesterol, Blood Pressure, BMI

How about the firefighters who lowered their cholesterol, blood pressure, BMI, etc from going vegan. Do you truly believe they had to go full plant-based, for these effects? No, because at the end of the day you will be healthier with a well-balanced diet with some meat consumption as long as it of high-quality source and not processed.

Vegan Paradigm

This is not related to the movie as such but I think an important consideration to include because no doubt some people will try the plant-based diet. In fact, many I know have already begun as a result. 

When on a new diet especially a restricting diet you will often see profound benefits early on, it is what I like to call the vegan paradigm. You change your diet and full of motivation you kick all the ‘bad foods’ and receive a massive influx of new nutrients which your body thanks you for as it is not used to getting them so you feel amazing as a result. Plus due to the limited nature of the diet, you naturally stay clear of all the junk food you used to eat so, of course, you see great results. This is the foundation of most diets but especially important for the vegan diet because if not a well thought out and structured, you will begin to lose key micronutrients B12, Omega 3, Iron etc that just can’t be attained in adequate quantities through the vegan diet. Yup, I said it, to do a vegan diet successfully you most likely need to supplement to get adequate nutrients that can’t be attained through you diet which to me begs the question, is this the way we are designed to eat? However, back to vegan paradigm, early on in the diet our bodies are great and compensating for this but over time this takes its toll and roughly 1-3yrs down the track of being vegan they begin to see a significant decline in their health and because they felt so great early on they don’t correlate it with the vegan diet, it must be something else? So often get more strict on the diet and really begin to spiral down.

Game Changers Take Home Message

Finally, thankfully they took a step back with their take-home message which was not to go full vegan but aim to reduce meat intake which I can absolutely get behind. Not that meat is bad but if you have a few meat-free meals of meat-free day (meat-free Mondays is a common approach) you will be forced into increasing the diversity of your diet which is a great thing for attaining more nutrients in your diet and improving your overall health.

My Summary of the Film

Although extremely dogmatic and reductive, it championed vegetables which is not a bad thing! We should all eat more vegetables and great diversity of vegetables. What really frustrated me is the way they approach it, saying it is the only way to eat and then backing their story with poor science and anecdotal evidence, not a balanced argument at all. One thing that really infuriates me around films like this, is they push the extremist narrative we must be all or nothing (Meat vs Vegetables) when instead we should eat both we are omnivores after all. I am all about championing the vegetables a reducing overall meat intake but there is no need to be so extreme. There are exceptions to this of course as discussed but let’s bring some common sense back into the nutrition game!

When Everything Changes in Seconds: Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) + Initial Recovery

One decision, one slip in judgment and everything can change in seconds….

I want to use this post to discuss my accident along with the initial protocol I implemented as a result. My goal is to show those that have suffered you are not alone and for those who may suffer in the future hopefully offer some hope and guidance that there is a lot you can do to help. However, it is important to not get caught up stressing around doing everything but to do what you can because at the end of the day the most important thing is to be stress-free and rest and remember we are all different

Why Bintan 70.3 Ironman?

At the beginning of this year, I set two pretty ambitious goals, targeting World Championship qualification in both Half and full distance Ironman, something I previously never perceived as possible.

In my pursuit to attain an early qualification for 2020 Taupo 70.3 World Championships, I flew over to Bintan, Indonesia to race a Half Ironman. Everything was going perfectly to plan with a solid swim and on target for an awesome bike on a very challenging technical & hilly course, I was racing my perfect race, feeling great with everything going to plan, in fact, if I kept tracking as I was I would have won my Age Group (I needed a podium to guarantee my qualification spot) and also came in the top 5 overall. However, this was not meant to be as at the 75km mark of the bike everything went blank….

I couldn’t tell you what happened first hand because I have no recollection but from what I was told, I came flying around the corner towards two speed bumps, the first I bunny hopped and then hit the second of the two with my front wheel off-centre (according to my Garmin Computer at 42kms) sending me flying over my handlebars headfirst into a curb, with my right side taking most the impact/ road rash but I must have rolled as well because I was cut up on my left as well. I am not sure how long I was out for but I don’t recall anything from my time at the crash site but apparently, I was repeatedly asking the same questions over and over “what happened??” “Is my bike ok??” Once told I would ask the same question straight away again. Not surprisingly the volunteer that was helping me knew I was not in a good place so he called in the doctor to assess me, you would think at this point my race was over but the doctor said if I want to keep going I can and those who know me I am extremely stubborn and a sucker for a challenge so there was no choice in my head (not that it was working anyway) I assume, this is when I jumped straight back on my bike and went on autopilot. This is the part that really scares me because I still have no memory of any of this, I am not sure why the doctor let me go, maybe it was because I was being difficult wanting to jump back on my bike and not listening (I wouldn’t be surprised, I put a lot into the prep of this race) but he should have never given me the option in the state I was in, he should have pulled me from the race. The volunteer that helped me at the time of the accident found me after the race and filled me on all of this he couldn’t believe the doctor let me back on the bike, he also could believe I had finished the whole race.

With no one stopping me there was no way I wasn’t getting back on my bike. Dazed and confused it wasn’t until after the race I looked back to my Garmin Computer for answers and they truly shocked me! Turns out I spent 17mins at the crash site…… No clue how much of that I was unconscious or what was going on and then back onto the bike on autopilot with 15kms left of the 90km bike course. Still with no memory of this, I wonder what was going through my mind because this was quite possibly the stupidest thing I could have ever done, not just because I was back on the bike but the speeds I was going with an extremely beaten up mind, body and bike (Bike had $3700 worth of damage….). My Garmin once again highlighted my stupidity although overall last 15km was slower than it would have been it showed multiple times where I exceeded 60km/hr and if you know anything about concussions the absolute worst thing you can do is have another in close concession… Even within up to 3 weeks. Thankfully I survived this very silly decision.

In to transition and onto the 21km run, this is where I somewhat came to. Dazed and confused and with no memory of losing 17min at the crash site or my slow last 15km, I did my best to keep my mind on what I came here for a podium finish to qualify. Again not a smart move in hot humid 35-38 degree conditions and with a whole host of injuries and road rash that I never took the time to assess my situation. It didn’t take long until I turned my Garmin off the speed setting because I wasn’t even close to my target pace and I just focused on getting to finish as fast as possible. This was not easy as I had also pulled my right calf in the crash so I felt each and every step.

Long story short, I got through the hottest run of my life (thank god for all the sponges) and pretty much collapsed across the line and mumbled the words “medical, I need medical” I was in an absolute state, I could no longer stand and had to be helped and lost all control of my body (even my bladder….) even sitting wasn’t possible. I spent the next 3-4hrs or so getting checked and monitored in the medical tent trying to figure out the extent of everything.

Everything seemed to come somewhat better and was I able to hold a conversation but it wasn’t until I got back to my accommodation (maybe due to all the movement?) things really hit me and went downhill. Travelling alone this can be scary but thankfully I was surrounded by a really nice Italian man, who had also raced and some really helpful resort staff. Although none of their English was great I managed to get my message across (google translate was our best friend). I got them to monitor me every couple of hours and then made the decision if I was not better by 9 pm I would go to the hospital. Reluctant as being on isolated island I can’t imagine they had assessment tools like MRI that I would need to assess a brain bleed etc. Thankfully by 9 pm I felt slightly better and decided to stay and rest.

I used my high pain threshold to my advantage and endured the pain and passed on any medication offered (I got some pretty confused/weird looks saying no). Why would I refuse? TBI on their own result in extreme gut damage so I didn’t want to cause further damage by adding them to the mix. Plus I would rather be conscious/mindful of the pain to ensure I can truly assess my symptoms and ensure I am not doing anything to aggravate them.  I am not saying you have to say no to drugs if needed, this is just my personal choice as I like to be in tune with what my system is telling me not masking it. If you do choose to take drugs you do need to be careful especially if there is any chance of a brain bleed as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) will increase the bleeding so try your best to stay clear and stick to traditional painkillers eg paracetamol.

I was lucky I didn’t have to leave until the day after the race and my Italian friend broke down and packed my bike for me because there is no way I could even fathom doing that. I spent the rest of my time taking things very slowly which wasn’t too hard as I couldn’t walk after pulling my calf and running a half marathon on it, you could say it was not too happy so walking was very slow with a massive limp. The upside I was thankful to be in paradise, so just chilled and got straight onto my rehabilitation.

Initial treatment

This is the part where I want to share what I did initially to support my TBI and hopefully can help as a resource for others struggling or know someone struggling.

Obviously, on an Island, I had very limited access to support or interventions but luckily I always travel with supplements for optimal health and performance which in this case I was lucky as some of them are also the first line of call for brain health and repair.

Below is a list of the things I implement with dosages and why they were applied, to provide you with a greater understanding. You may note some of these are a little higher than recommended doses so please check with medical professional first. Obviously I had to work with what I had in an isolated location, in the future I will endeavour to provide a detailed protocol of what I would do in an ideal world but for now, here is what I implemented:

Sleep/ Rest:

Why: When it comes to TBI nothing comes close to rest so that became my primary focus. I have an Oura Ring which is one of the leading personal sleep trackers so this was great for me to monitor and assess my sleep. Although sleep is the best thing for a TBI, poor sleep is also often associated in particular REM sleep can be affected. I designed my day around maximise my sleep. Priming the circadian rhythm with early morning

Dose: I aimed for more sleep than normal targeting 9-10hrs. However, I did not always get that

Daily Routines:
Morning:

  • Meditate: to relax the mind
  • Sun Exposure (no sunglasses with as much skin as exposed as possible)
  • Grounding (bare feet),
  • Movement (or should I say limping…)

Day:

  • Napping: As required but no later than 3 pm as I didn’t want to impact my sleep during the night

Evening: Focused on winding down early

  • Early Dinner
  • Blue-blocking Glasses (which were also godsent when over stimulated throughout the day)
  • Meditate: to relax the mind

Meditation:

As mentioned above

Why: Not only is mediation powerful for cultivating a positive perspective but it is great for unloading the exhausted mind. I ensured I had a solid foundation of daily meditation (morning and night) and whenever I overloaded the system and felt symptoms worsening I would take a step back and meditate and straight away fell a release in the pressure within my head.

Dose: 10-20min Morning and night and when needed throughout the day

Exogenous Keytone Salts
Brand: Pruvit

Why: Quite possibly the most important thing I could take early on. Keytones are known to be the most efficient clean fuel for the brain and they can provide up to 70% of the brains energy. Even more importantly a TBI resembles Alzheimer’s disease (AD) as they both present with a reduced ability to utilise glucose for energy. With the reduced capacity to utilise glucose (carbohydrate) for energy, ketones are even more vital in supplying the brain fuel.

Dose: 1 Max Packet per day (half in the morning and the other half in the afternoon)
To increase ketones in the body across the day

DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid)
Brand: BePure Three

A high strength DHA/EPA Omega 3 Fish oil with Vitamin D and natural vitamins A and E.
Why: DHA is recognized as an essential nutrient for the proper development and function of the brain. In a number of TBI animal trials have shown an improvement in cognitive function, reduction in nerve swelling, stabilisation of cellular energy production and increase nerve repair with the supplementation of DHA & Omega3.

Dose: 2 capsules Morning and Evening

Probiotic
Brand: BePure

Why: Probiotics offer a health benefit to brain function and promote the diversity of gut microbiota.
TBI has shown to greatly impact the gut-brain axis. The communication pathway that has lead to the gut being known as the second brain. TBI results in increased colon permeability, leaving individuals 12 times more likely to die from blood poisoning which is often caused by bacteria, and 2.5 times more likely to die of a digestive system problem, compared with those without such injury. However, a good probiotic can mitigate these effects and help in assisting the healing of the gut.

Dose: 2 capsules Morning and Evening

Antioxidant:
Brand: Viberi Powder

Why: Following a TBI there is a significant increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS). It is the ROS which causes the cascading of events and the primary stress to the brain following a TBI. Antioxidants are important early on as they can fight the increase ROS, reducing the load on the brain allowing it to heal.

Dose: 1 sachet/day (However sadly ran out over there so split them over a few days)

Magnesium
Brand: Bepure

Why: Depletion of magnesium is observed in the animal brain and in human blood after TBI. Magnesium is critical in restoring brain plasticity and for improving cognitive function. Researchers showed that with magnesium supplementation they could reverse brain ageing by as much as nine to 14 years. Anything that helps the health of the brain long term can be assumed is helping in the short term acute situation like a TBI. Not only this but magnesium is great in regulating inflammation along with assisting in sleep which can be challenging when suffering from a TBI

Dose: 2 capsules Morning and Evening

Diet: Fasting + Whole Food Antioxidant-Rich Diet

Why: Fasting: Purpose of fasting is to naturally increase levels of ketones in the body, reduce inflammation and along with providing the gut a period to heal and repair following the onslaught of racing and the TBI. However, important to note I was not strict, I did not want to place any unneeded additional stress on my system so when hungry I would eat.

Outside of the fasting, I tried to limit carbohydrates as much as possible and a trend towards a more keto approach. Although this turned out to be challenging to do due to limited food choices over in Asia. Interestingly, I did find myself craving carbohydrates more, I am not sure if this was due to having more than normal or if my body was requiring them so I would listen to the body and not restrict when craving carbohydrates.

Aside from the fasting and minimising carbohydrate where possible I aimed to eat a diverse wholefood rich diet. With a special focus on getting in vibrant colourful foods as vibrant colours are closely associated with nutrients and antioxidant properties. Also in a new country presented a great opportunity to try new foods and develop a bit more of a diverse microbiome.

Does: Length of Fasting is dependant on your ability and adaptation to do so. The key thing to keep in mind is you need to listen to the body. I can happily do 16-18hrs but this is never a target! I just listen to what the body was telling me and adjust accordingly.

Activity:

Walking: Broken and chronically exhausted I couldn’t do much but walk/limp so I took it easy and stayed well within my limits and walked as much as possible and gradually increase easy day.

Why: Movement is phenomenal for recovery as long as you stay within limits as it increases blood flow, Neurotransmitters, (the chemicals in your brain that transmit messages between neurons) and activates neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to rewire and repair itself after brain injury)

Dose: Every morning and as much as my mind/body would allow throughout the without aggravating symptoms. Gradually increasing each day as my body/mind allowed. For me mornings where best by the afternoon-evening I was exhausted and just rested

Two days post Crash: Bintan to Singapore

 

Then Tuesday rolled around and it was time to leave and catch the ferry back to Singapore and straight to the airport to fly home. Still waiting to hear back from my travel insurance I slowly and painfully got myself to the airport. While waiting to check-in, they finally got back to me and told me to get straight in a taxi to the hospital to be cleared before catching my flight home. At the time, however, this just seemed like too much! I just wanted to get home even as much as I was dreading the flight. However, after talking to my mum, as I was in no state to make a decision she made me realise they were right, you only get one brain and I have worked hard on mine so just not worth the risk. I thought I would only have to stay one night but the insurance company still wouldn’t let me fly so I ended up staying for another 4days in Singapore going back and forth from the hospital for assessments, scans and then for my road rash which became infected. In this time I persisted with my protocol as listed above the best I could.

When it comes to assessment for concussion there is not much they can do in the way of identifying the extent of damage, all an MRI can do is look for a brain bleed which would be a worst-case scenario. Thankfully I was cleared to fly home which by this time I had exhausted my supply of supplements so I was keen to get home to get back on to them to regenerate my brain.

Home:

Finally back home with access to all the resources I need and touched base with a couple of friends of mine a special mention to Cliff Harvey who was really helpful to bounce some ideas and get his thoughts and advice. Especially with a foggy mind, this was extremely helpful as reading literature wasn’t really possible at this time. I then distilled what I knew and what Cliff and others had suggested into a protocol. In my next post, I will discuss what I have implemented in the month or so since coming home.

Hit the Reset Button: Tricks & Tips for the Holiday Season

The silly season is among us! With the extra time, it is the perfect opportunity to take the time to focus on your health and wellbeing.

Let’s not sweat the small stuff, indulge a little and relax – you all have earned it! Enjoy.

The holiday period also presents as a great opportunity capitalises on extra free time to develop key positive habits that can help set you up for an awesome 2019. In this post, you will find our top tips to focus on this holiday period to help reset yourself for a big 2019.

 

1. Hack your Sleep:

The holidays present a great to focus on establishing the habits and getting the restorative sleep you desire.

Top Sleep Hack:

  1. Design your own Sleep Sanctuary
  2. Ditch Technology
  3. Black it Out
  4. Airflow
  5. Plants
  6. Quality Mattress & Pillow
  7. Most of all, develop a routine and keep it consistent!

Learn More

2. Remove Toxins & Stimulants

The holiday season is a great opportunity to clear out all the unneeded toxins and stimulants from your life.

  • Plastic

Reduce your use of plastics as much as possible. The plastic leaches chemicals like pcb’s dioxins which are xeno-estrogenic and mimic estrogen in your body. This creates an estrogen dominance which develops an insulin resistance, making it extremely difficult to regulate and reduce fat.

Remove Plastic:

  • Ditch the plastic drink bottles: Replace with a metal bottle
  • Rethink Tupperware: The last thing you want to do is put hot food into a plastic container (or worse – to reheat it!). Replace with glass or bamboo.
  • Plastic Straws: Replace with metal or bamboo

 

Coffee is the greatest source of Polyphenols (Antioxidants) in the western diet! It is also well known that us Kiwis love our coffee per capita consumption ranks among the top 20 in the world, according to the statistics portal, Statista.com.

Can there be too much of a good thing? If you have become reliant on it and can’t survive a day without it. It is time for a detox! With no deadlines or time constraints with work, this is the perfect time for a detox! Remove caffeine from your life for 2 weeks to allow your body to reset.

Removing the stimulant for two weeks is extremely powerful as when reintroduced, you will once again notice the stimulant effects again, that have most likely been stunted due to overuse.

Quick note: If you currently exceed 3 coffees a day I wouldn’t suggest going cold turkey unless you are that way inclined. Gradually cut down!

Learn More

 

Light is a nutrient that plays a significant role in signalling your mitochondria (cellular powerhouses) to do things and when to do them. Different light frequencies trigger different signals in your cells. Blue light which mostly comes from LED lights places the body under a significant amount of stress.

Newer artificial light bulbs lack many of the sun’s frequencies that our bodies and brains need. Artificial lights, have eliminated most of the infrared, red, and violet light found in natural sunlight, and are amplifying the blue light beyond anything we have evolved to handle. Most LEDs and compact fluorescents emit about 5 times the blue light we’re used to.

Where to start:

Reduce blue light or what is now known as Junk light. Download a blue-light filter app like F.LUX for digital devices (Mobile & laptop) and switch all the lights in your house to halogen and incandescent. They aren’t perfect, but they’re better. Your white LEDs might be saving your power bill but they are sapping your personal energy levels!

Learn More

3. Hydrate

Too often we forget the simple things like hydration. Yet, hydration levels are one of the most important things to regulate.  Water contributes to the maintenance of normal physical functioning, cognitive functioning and thermoregulation. Our body is made up of 60% water, so it is important that you achieve optimal water levels as it is essential for feeling good with optimal health and energy. With 1% of dehydration affects performance by up to 10%!

How much water should I drink?

0.033 litres per kg of body weight, which roughly equates to the following amounts:

  • 60 kg = 2 litres
  • 75 kg = 2.5 litres
  • 90 kg= 3 litres

Hydration Tips:

  • Carry a metal drink bottle with you everywhere.
  • Download Hydration app, to remind you to drink

 

4. Mindfulness

Slow Down: Too often while on holiday I see people stuck in the busy mode unable to slow down. On a mission racing around from place to place and not taking the time to relax and enjoy the present moment. It is easy to get stuck in old patterns but we need to be able to detach ourselves from these habits. I have caught myself in this very situation myself many times. This where it is great to include a mindfulness practice.

Mindfulness Definition: A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.

Mindfulness is all about detaching yourself from the past and the future and focusing on the present moment, as it is only the present moment that you can impact. The holiday period presents as a great opportunity to increase or introduce a mindfulness practice.

Where to start?

  • Download an amazing app like Headspace, that will help guide your mindfulness practice. The great thing about Headspace is its flexible nature, that allows you to design a practice around your needs such a length of session and specific focus points.
  • Walk slowly, sounds simple but can be especially tough for busy people to do.
  • Sit down and enjoy scenery eg. beach, park.

Learn More

5. Look after your Gut!

Our gut is now known as our second brain so it makes sense to look after it! Did you no 90% of your serotonin (feel-good hormone) is created in your gut. That means poor gut health can lead to depression.

A great way to start your day is with a lemon juice/apple cider vinegar to help stimulate digestion through stomach acid and bile production.

  • 1 tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar (it has to be raw, unfiltered, with the mother)
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • Pinch of Pink Himalayan Salt (antioxidant/electrolyte)
  • 1 Cup of warm water (Make it as a tea)

Aim to drink 30mins prior to breakfast for best results.

Why not throw in some bitter and fermented foods to aid digestive support this summer too.

Popular recommendations include: 


 

Bitter:

  • Turmeric, (turmeric lattes)
  • Cacao
  • Ginger
  • Good quality Organic sourced dark chocolate
  • Leafy greens like Spinach and Kale.

 

 

Fermented:

  • Kombucha
  • Kefir
  • Natto
  • Sauerkraut
  • Pickles

 

 

6. Gratitude

The benefits of practising gratitude are nearly endless. By taking the time to notice and reflect on what you are thankful for, you experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems.

A great way to cultivate this practice is a Gratitude Journaling. Journaling works as it slowly changes the way we perceive situations by adjusting what we focus on. Shifting our focus away from the negatives and onto the positives. Journaling can be as simple as writing 3 things you are grateful each day.

7. Fear Setting

With the new year brings new year’s resolutions. University of Scranton research suggests that just 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals. Let’s not fall into this trap! This year instead of new year’s resolutions replace them with ‘Fear Setting’ (An exercise recently popularized by Tim Ferriss)

Fear setting is all about embracing your fears! A simple process in which you write down and quantify your fears. What is the worst-case scenario? (often it is not as bad as you think). Once identified work back from that scenario, how can you mitigate these consequences and then how could you recover from this scenario. You will be surprised how powerful this technique can be.

Follow these 3 steps to fear-setting:

Do an 80/20 analysis:

  • “Which 20% of sources are causing 80% of my problems and unhappiness?”
  • “Which 20% of sources are resulting in 80% of my desired outcomes and happiness?”
  • “Which 20% of sources are consuming 80% of my time?”

Write a to-do and not-to-do list:

  • “Why haven’t I done my most important to-do?”
  • “Why haven’t I stopped doing my most important not-to-do?”

Define your fears clearly (Once identified ask yourself this series of questions):

  • What is the worst-case scenario if I did what I’m considering?
  • What are all the things I could do to minimize that from happening?
  • If the worst-case scenario happened, what steps could I take to minimise repair the damage

Learn More

Most of All:

Have an amazing break, take the time to relax, unwind and get some quality time outdoors in the sun! Merry Christmas & Happy New Year from the Taylored team