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7 Edible Anxiety Therapies: To Support COVID Stress

How are you going as we head into Level 3 of NZ lock-down?

Any old nutrition habits starting to creep in? Or perhaps you have used the time to really nail down a new way of eating, or refresh your menu?

Regardless, it is an interesting time for all of us, and we are all different, and therefore cope with things differently.

Something I have noticed coming up a few times in conversation is anxiety and for many different reasons. Some people find they have a lot of anxiety around the COVID-19 pandemic, and staying healthy, particularly as we head into Level 3 and start to go back out into society, albeit in a controlled way. Others find anxiety around the economy, and how this is hitting them financially. Also, there are those of you that have been struggling with simply being confined to one or two spaces, and how to deal with the lack of freedom they feel, or dealing with being around family a lot more than normal!

Whatever it is, anxiety is no fun for anyone, and its effects can range from psychosomatic paralysis, through to depression, to full-blown panic, anger and rage.

Since we are somewhat stuck in this situation for at least another fortnight, and then some, since we all know things are not going to simply go back to normal, it is absolutely essential that we address this issue, which affects our mental, physical and emotional health, as well as that of those around us. Now, I know anxiety well, and because of this, I have both researched and experimented with a range of things, in order to somehow allow my higher faculties to regain control, and even turn things around into a positive situation we can actually learn from.

Sound good?

Even better sounding, to me at least, is the fact that a lot of these things occur in an edible format!

So, what can we eat, and every single day, to help us calm feelings of anxiety, cope with the current situation, whatever that may be for you while achieving enough mental grounding to find the positive?

Here are my top 7 edible anxiety therapies 😊

1. High-quality protein

Ok, so this protein thing gets talked about a LOT, so much so that you may think it’s just an easy go-to for nutritionists who don’t really want to come up with something new…But the constant recommendation for high-quality protein is due to the fact that it is so super important for every single aspect of health, and thus mental health is absolutely no exception. In fact, it is so important that low protein consumption is directly related to risk for anxiety, as well as other mental and cognitive health issues.

Why is this?

High-quality protein sources (animal proteins such as dairy, eggs, meat and fish) contain an abundance of mood-enhancing minerals and vitamins, including iron, zinc, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12 and magnesium. However, the thing that protein sources give us that no other food can make up for are the amino acids, as many of these are precursors for neurotransmitters, molecules playing a major role in the signal transmission of feeling states throughout the brain and body. For example, the essential amino acid tryptophan is required for the production of serotonin, a key neurotransmitter when it comes to positive mood and coping with stress. The amino acid tyrosine is required for dopamine production, and glutamate and glycine function as neurotransmitters exactly as they are, although they perform opposite functions. Glutamate is required for excitation and action, and glycine for calming and relaxation. These must be in balance for optimal mental health.

Since protein is required for so many different functions throughout the body, and large amounts are used to build and maintain muscle mass and organ health, it is not uncommon for neurotransmitter synthesis to be less than optimal in a low quality/refined food diet. High-quality protein sources provide ALL the amino acids, at levels that support all the many roles of protein and the amino acids in the body. As mentioned in Part 1. of this two-part series, at least 1.2 g per kg body weight per day is necessary to support optimal health, and this requirement increases for active or older individuals. Soy protein also provides the amino acids at high levels but does not supply the minerals and vitamins that animal proteins do, particularly Vitamin B12.

 

Vitamin B12 has its own link to mental health, with deficiencies found in issues such as depression and dementia. If you are vegan, or a vegetarian who has a low intake of dairy and/or eggs, it is essential to supplement with Vitamin B12.

2. Collagen or glycine

Collagen is a type of protein that is high in the amino acid glycine, which, as a I mentioned above, is a neurotransmitter with roles in calming and relaxation – it is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, and has shown promise in the treatment of mental health disorders such as OCD, and is also a sleep aid. Glycine can be taken as a powdered supplement (take around 3 g or 1 tsp per dose, with up to 3 doses per day), but this amount of glycine is also provided in around 10 g of collagen, and when you take it as collagen, you are getting all the other benefits of collagen, such as joint and skin health.

It is very important to keep in mind that neither glycine nor collagen, can count towards your daily protein intake, as collagen has a protein quality of zero (it lacks the amino acid tryptophan) and glycine is only one amino acid.

3. Essential fatty acids (the ‘omega-3s’)

The essential fatty acids, or EFAs, are ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). EPA and DHA are found in animal sources, such as fatty fish (salmon and trout), and ALA is found in vegetable sources, such as linseed/flaxseed, walnuts and some algae. All are exceptionally beneficial in their own right, and show significant anti-inflammatory and/or antioxidant properties. However, EPA and DHA have benefits for the brain in particular. While the body converts ALA to EPA, and then to DHA, this is done in a very limited manner, and, rather, ALA has its own benefits in the body, including the lowering of blood sugar and improved skin health.

The brain is an organ with one of the highest compositions of lipids (fats), and the fatty acid make-up of the brain’s grey matter is around 50% polyunsaturated fatty acids, of which around 33% are Omega-3s. Although DHA has been suggested to be the primary omega-3 fatty acid in the brain, recent research has suggested that EPA shows significant promise for the treatment of mood disorders, while DHA has greater benefit for cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s. 

What does all this mean?

Fish oil (with high concentrations of both EPA and DHA), is extremely important for brain health, ESPECIALLY if you are someone who is prone to anxiety or comes from a family with a history of neurodegenerative conditions. If you do not eat a lot of fatty fish, taking a supplement is important, even if you consume significant amounts of nuts and seeds. However, there are some tricks to selecting a good fish oil supplement, as quality will affect the actual levels of EPA and DHA in each capsule, as well as the degree of lipid oxidation, and thus rancidity.

Recommended high-quality fish oil supplements include Be Pure Three and Thorne Research Super EPA. Be Pure Three is also an NZ product and contains Vitamin E to assist in the prevention of lipid oxidation during storage.

4. Minimally processed complex carbohydrates

There is a reason we crave carbohydrates when we are feeling low, and a very good one, that has its foundations in biochemistry.

Above I mentioned that the amino acid tryptophan is essential for the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Well, in order for serotonin to actually do its job transmitting messages throughout the nervous system, it must first be released, and this release is controlled by food intake, primarily carbohydrates. To make a complex story simple, carbohydrate consumption increases serotonin release, but, while protein helps make serotonin in the first place, simply eating more protein (or fat for that matter) will not promote its release.

Complex carbohydrates, although looked down upon in some circles, are digested and absorbed at a slower rate than simple carbohydrates, and therefore promote prolonged serotonin release, rather than a simple short burst, meaning they are a much better go-to for anxiety.

Of course, the major point to note here is that healthy, whole-food, minimally processed carbohydrates are very different to their refined counterparts, so go for beans, legumes, unprocessed whole-grains and root vegetables, especially those packed full of colour.

A breakfast high in both protein and complex carbohydrates, such as porridge and Greek yoghurt, or even protein powder (my go-to), is the best way to tackle this and will set up serotonin production and release for the entire day.

What if you are following a keto diet?

You can still consume some carbohydrates, as long as they have a minimal impact on blood sugar, so pick wisely. For these diets, orange and purple kumara are extremely good options; 100 g of orange kumara, for example, contains under 20 g of net carbs.

Also, if you are following a keto diet and feeling a lot of anxiety with it, it may be a signal from your body and mind that you need more carbohydrates in the mix. Recent research has shown that dietary ketosis can still be achieved in a diet containing 15% carbohydrate as energy, which, for most people, is around 75-100 g carbohydrate per day. So listen in and be sure to follow the approach that is best for your holistic health.

5. Coconut oil or MCT oil

This little gem of an oil contains a large proportion of medium-chain fatty acids, which have been shown to possess anti-depressant properties. Of course, MCT oil is purified medium-chain triglycerides (which carry fatty acids), so will have a similar effect. The exact mechanism by which this occurs is not fully understood, however, medium-chain fatty acids are remarkably anti-inflammatory, and this property is likely to be involved.

You can add MCT oil to your coffee (start with 1 tsp only as it can cause digestive distress at high doses in some people), and coconut oil to your cooking, baking or even smoothies.

Even a coconut cream is an option for these benefits, and chilled coconut cream makes a lovely treat if you want something a bit special after dinner.

6. Spinach and other leafy and/or dark greens

Spinach (and other dark greens such as rocket, kale and broccoli), is another nutritionist old fave go-to, but that’s because it is another food absolutely packed full of nutrients. For mental health, a key vitamin in spinach and other dark greens is folate (Vitamin B9). Folate deficiency is extremely common in both depression and anxiety, as well as a number of clinically defined mental illnesses.

Folate plays a very important role in a pathway called the MTHFR pathway. This is the pathway responsible for methylation in the body, and methylation is absolutely critical for both physical and mental health. Actually, it is more correct to point out that it is a BALANCED methylation that is critical for physical and mental health – both too little and too much are a bad thing. Without going into extraneous detail (which I would LOVE to do but maybe in another blog post all of its own because that would be geeky and cool), folate is the molecule that actually allows the methylation pathway to run, which means it is an essential vitamin for us.

Why is methylation important for mental health? Well, methylation is needed to make creatine, which is great for athletes but also has a role in reducing depression. The neurotransmitter dopamine, that’s the one that makes us feel amazing or ‘on a high’, gets methylated and this methylation is associated with a reduction in rumination (those thoughts going around…and around….and around….and around…). Methylation is also important for the production of choline, which, among many other things, assists in mental focus.

 In addition to methylation, folate performs other roles that are important for optimal mental health, such as helping to conserve glycine, which you will remember above is a key inhibitory neurotransmitter and calms us down (which is SUPER for anxiety). Folate is also a star player in the prevention of anaemia, and since anaemia is a lack of red blood cells and therefore the ability to carry oxygen around the body, having enough folate means our brain will get enough oxygen, which again, is critical for optimal mental health.

 How much spinach do you need to eat per day? 300 g would give you your recommended intake, which is pretty much one of those small pre-packed bags from the supermarket.  However, remember that broccoli, rocket and kale are also high in folate, and so are leeks, so if you are eating a good serving of leafy green and/or cruciferous veggies every day, you are onto a good start. You also get a really good amount of folate from legumes such as chickpeas and liver (if you are keen to go that route! but don’t overdo the liver – keep it to once or twice per week only as it is very high in Vitamin A, which is toxic in high doses).

7. Herbs

Last but by no means least, are herbs.

Most people think of herbs as a way to add flavour, but these little plants are an absolute goldmine of phytonutrients, including some that can modulate brain function. In particular, a compound called rosmarinic acid has been shown to produce anti-depressant like effects, via a number of mechanisms that include upregulation of a super important molecule in the brain called BDNF, or brain-derived neurotrophic factor. You may have heard of BDNF if you have read up on the positive effects of fasting, as BDNF plays many roles in the brain (that fasting helps to activate) such as the growth and differentiation of new brain cells, and synaptic connectivity, which basically refers to how well signals are transmitted between nerve cells.

Herbs which are particularly high in rosmarinic acid are spearmint (which is your traditional garden mint), basil and sage, but oregano, thyme and rosemary also contain rosmarinic acid at lower levels.

Before you think you would need to eat a plateful of herbs to get any kind of decent benefit, simply 3 tbsp of fresh, raw spearmint will give you over 200 mg of rosmarinic acid, which is comparable to amounts used in scientific studies to produce significant health benefits.

 

Summary

If we take a good hard look at the list above, it isn’t hard to see, with the way that diets have become low in fresh whole-food produce and meats, and high in refined, processed carbohydrates and sandwich ham, why mental health has also taken a downwards turn. 

But it doesn’t have to be that way!

You can totally eat your way to feeling amazing – calm, motivated, focused and stress-free all at the same time! And you can do this healthily, and yummily, with no added sugar 😉.

 

-Dr. Carlene Starck

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

Post Concussion Syndrome Support Document: An Alternative Perspective to Tradition Treatment

“No head injury is too trivial to ignore” -Hippocrates 4th century BC

No doubt you or someone close to you has experienced a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).  In New Zealand, 36,000 people suffer TBIs each year. After suffering a serious knock to the head you quickly realise they are nothing like a physical injury. Whether you lose consciousness or not, symptoms can remain from days, weeks, months to even years, this is known as post-concussion syndrome (PCS) when the symptoms last beyond 10 days. Symptoms can include; headaches, dizziness, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, loss of concentration and memory, nausea, ringing in the ears. All of which can be extremely debilitating. I have suffered many knocks to head from my years of rugby and extreme sports and thankfully concussions with minimal symptoms but after my most recent crash, I now have a new appreciation for the true impact of TBI’s.

It has truly blown me away from the number of people silently suffering with TBI. So many people have come out of the woodworks with unbelievable stories either referring to their own experience or one of their loved ones. Sadly so many people that I know yet I had no idea they were suffering or had suffered. It is truly the silent killer being so debilitating yet nobody sees or understands the true extent of the implications. We all present similar stories, told that there is not much you can do you just need to give it time. I don’t believe this is the case! Following this eye-opening experience into this dark world with little answers it has really driven me to help those in need and offer support as best I can.

Purpose of this Article

With the prevalence of TBI, sadly there is still very little in regards to assessment and treatment protocols. My goal with this article is to provide a resource for those also struggling, I want to keep this as simple and actionable as possible distilling the protocols and strategies I have applied. 

When suffering the last thing you want to be doing is reading literature or doing any kind of thinking at all so I hope this can help in guiding suffers towards finding the right tools and treatments for them. Again with the target of keeping things simple, I have linked in the exact products I have used. The great thing about many of the strategies used they will not only benefit TBI suffers but anyone looking to enhance your brains potential. 

My Goal:

Screw back to baseline, this incident is going to become my launching pad to optimal brain health and performance, surpassing pre-injury status.

Shotgun Approach:

In true scientific fashion, you should really stick to one treatment and track progress before adding another to see it’s effectiveness but at the end of the day who really cares as long as things are improving and moving the dial in the right direction. Plus as an A-Type personality, I don’t want to sit around and wait too long. As I write this I am over 3 months post-TBI and haven’t been able to train since and as an Ironman athlete who trains a couple of times a day this has been extremely tough. Along with this, I have had to pull the pin on my final two peak races for the year Ironman Malaysia & Taupo 70.3 which have now both been and gone. 

Sadly with a head injury, there is no telling how long recovery will take (weeks, months, years or ever…) but I am doing everything I can to create the optimal environment so that my brain can heal and repair itself. It may not be in time to race this season and I will face that as it comes but in the meantime I am going to give my brain/ body every opportunity to bounce back in time. Although, I am hitting this from all angles taking an intensive approach this doesn’t mean I am overdoing it. My key focus is still rest and recovery, keeping my overachieving mindset in check so the majority of strategies are around attaining deeper states of rest and recovery.

Tools & Strategies: Where to start

In my last post, I shared my incident and my initial treatment while still overseas with limited resources, I discussed what is vital in the initial stages post-TBI so if you haven’t read this I highly recommend checking this out. 

In this post, I want to shed light on what I have been implementing since returning to NZ. I will introduce a wide range of tools and strategies, many of which are alternative treatments that are not often suggested or provided to TBI suffers. My hope is that this highlights there is a lot more you can do than the common recommendation of waiting for it out feeling helpless. 

Reframe

With something as debilitating as a TBI it is easy to play the victim card but in doing so you are only crippling your recovery. Your recovery starts here! Shift your perspective from tragedy to opportunity, we are a makeup of how we perceive the world. There is no such thing as a positive or a negative situation, that can only be created from our own personal perception of a given situation. 

For example, it would be easy for me to take the crash negatively as I dedicated so much time, money and effort towards this one race, plus the aftermath to follow of still 3 months no training and missing my A race Ironman Malaysia and a few other smaller races. However, instead, I flipped it as a big believer that everything happens for a reason, this is where I realised first of all this was to teach me to slow down (Previously: Running Taylored Health & Performance, 3x Startup businesses, Studying Masters and Full-time Ironman training) and that I had the perfect foundation with academic background and now a TBI suffer to first help myself but in doing so learn what works and then use my story to help other people suffering from this silent killer.

Attaining this mindset is easier said than done and like any skill takes time to cultivate but is quite possibly the most important skill in the recovery of any injury! I am thankful to have a life coach as a mum so this was ingrained into me early on so lucky this is a great skill of mine. If this is a new skill it will take the time you want to ensure you have a support team to remind and keep you honest in cultivating this mindset. But if done right, I see time and time again in my practice those who frame things in a positive light always bounce back substantially quicker.

Floatation Therapy

I have been asked many times what is the one treatment that I believe is having the most impact. I have found that nothing comes close to floatation therapy especially initially but also ongoing as it puts you into a state of sensory deprivation which provides the perfect environment for your brain to rest and recover due to removal of stimuli (sound, feel, sight). Plus with the high concentration of magnesium in the water (something I discussed in my previous post around initial TBI Treatment) magnesium is not only important for inflammation but will also help you with sleep which is often a struggle with TBI suffers. If you would like to learn more around Floatation Therapy I wrote a dedicated post, please 

Application:

Palming/ Mindfulness

For those that can’t access or afford regular floats, don’t worry you can do your best to replicate at home with a blacked-out room and placing your palms over your eyes, this will remove all eye stimulation and provide them a chance to rest. 

Coupling this with some mindful meditation (discussed in the previous post) will enhance the benefits as you will also impact your parasympathetic nervous system (downregulation system) which will calm your system down and as a result aid in reducing inflammation and heart rate which can be the trigger to worsening symptoms.

Breathwork

Another practice I have been really doubling down on recently is my breathwork practice. I have been doing breathwork for a while now but again with the extra time and the healing power of our breath I put a greater focus on this. 

Lung injury often occurs shortly after brain damage, therefore, anything that helps in regaining or enhancing lung function will be beneficial. Besides this though breathwork is powerful in its ability to tap into the autonomic nervous system (responsible for the control of the bodily functions not consciously directed). The breath is the only autonomic nervous system function under your control. It allows you to either stimulate (Sympathetic nervous system) or down-regulate (Parasympathetic Nervous System). Obviously in the case of recovery and trying to regain control of an overstimulated system we are after the latter. 

Application:

  • A regular morning and evening practice and I also utilised it whenever overstimulated most the time alongside mediation

Sleep

Although floating has been most effective nothing is more important than sleep when it comes to brain recovery. It doesn’t matter what else you are doing if you are not getting the good quality sleep you are crippling your recovery. This is a bit of a double-edged sword as TBI often impacts the ability to sleep especially achieve Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep which is a critical restorative stage of sleep vital to promote recovery. With any injury, sleep should become primary focus but this is even more important for any brain injury because it was recently discovered that as we sleep our brain has a clearing and repairing system (Glymphatic System). Following a TBI your brain will see an influx in beta-amyloid and tau protein these are what will cause the long term impact if not removed because these two are also the key mechanism associated with Alzheimer’s and Dementia. This is why following a TBI your chance of also suffering Alzheimer’s and Dementia skyrockets. This is one reason why TBI recovery is so vital. Therefore, the number one goal in TBI rehab should be to allow the body to do what it does best and flush out these via the glymphatic system while sleeping because if not sleeping the system is unable to work at the same capacity

A recent study shows that deep non-REM sleep, is where both the brain and cardiopulmonary activity slow down, is the perfect sleep stage for the glymphatic system to function properly.  This may be the reason why REM is often harder to achieve post-TBI as you body is naturally requesting more deep sleep to clear and repair the brain, this is just my insertion this is a very new area of science that will need to be validated. 

Application:

Now that I have presented the argument around why sleep is important post-TBI, how do you take charge of your sleep?

  • Prioritise: Nothing is more important
  • Sleep Consistency: Lock in a consistent time aim for a minimum of 8hrs (your brain needs more sleep than normal to repair itself)
  • Prime your sleep: Morning and Evening Routine that primes your circadian rhythm
  • Sleep Sanctuary: Develop a relaxing sleep environment
  • Track: I use: Oura Ring
  • Remove Stimulants:
    • Technology: No 1hr before bed and limit as much as possible elsewhere
    • Bluelight: After Sunset
    • Caffeine & Alcohol: Limit as much as possible, especially close to bedtime

Highly recommend a previous post of mine to explore further:

“The most Restorative Sleep you will ever have”

Cold Immersion

Ice bath at a breath workshop

This is another novel method of treatment although still in the early days of research most of which use a brain cooling device to impact deeper parts of the brain. However, I see it as low hanging fruit in my eyes that can not hurt and is something I have personally found extremely helpful. I have found cold exposure both the whole body and especially directly onto the injury site extremely beneficial. 

Coldwater immersion is nothing new to me I start each day with a cold shower or cold dip due to its physiological effects: 

  • Increase in Mitochondria health (Free energy ;))
  • Increase in weight loss/ management 
  • Reduction in inflammation
  • Improved lymphatic system
  • Improved immune system
  • Improved circulation
  • Mental toughness
  • Temperature regulation

Daily cold plunge while over in the mount

With this knowledge and experience around the impact of cold water immersion, I naturally started playing around with it as it has been pivotal in speeding up previous injuries. Anything that helps with the increase in circulation, decreases in inflammation and promotes mitochondria biogenesis (creation of mitochondria= more energy!) is going to be beneficial to an injury. Since then I have looked further into the research as mentioned early days with TBI specific treatments. However, there seems to be a clear correlation between brain temperature and recovery. Especially in the initial stages which I obviously didn’t address and most likely exacerbated my TBI with completing the remainder of my Half Ironman in hot humid 38degree conditions following my bike crash. In the research they are using specific brain cooling devices that a NASA spacesuit spinoff head-neck cooling technology is engineered to optimize conductive heat exchange with the brain, thereby reducing the physical temperature. Obviously I have not had access to anything like this but everyone has access to cold water so why not try cold water you won’t just be charged with more energy but you may find it helps your overall symptoms.

Application:

  • Daily cold showers: Full body and especially injury site and Ice Baths or winter lake and ocean swims (where possible)

    Work Retreat in Queenstown taking others through the process

Screen Time

Initially and throughout recovery, one of the worst things you can do is stare at a screen which is challenging in this day and age because when you not doing anything that is the first thing you do is pick up a screen and watch something or aimlessly scroll through social media. This was particularly hard for me while still overseas as I was travelling by myself I had to use screens to get around not to mention the unneeded stress of getting around. Regardless, early on you want to provide your brain with the best opportunity to rest so you want to stay clear from screens a much as possible. However, like anything sometimes you can’t avoid them if this is the case the next section is for you.

Application:

  • Avoid as much as possible. Turn down brightness and put on night mode or install a blue-blocking app to reduce stimulation (F.Lux or Iris)

Glasses

Rocking my blue blockers in my Qantas business class PJ’s on my home from Singapore

One of the most simple yet effective things I have implemented has been the application of glasses whether they be sunglass or blue-blocking glasses. I have found them both effective in allowing my eyes to rest. First of all, make sure you have some great polarized sunglasses, cheap glasses will actually make things worse! Take the celebrity look for a spin and wear them inside and outside as it will aid in reducing stimulation to the eyes and as a result your brain. 

As you progress or not keen on looking like a celebrity any more blue-blocking glasses are great for the times you can’t avoid screens or just need to reduce stimulation. You can now get these in clear lenses so you don’t have to stick with the horrific orange lenses anymore but worth getting a pair for when you are at home and things are bad because in my experience the clear lenses are great but the orange are definitely more effective. Added bonus put your blue-blocking glasses on at sunset to aid with you winding down for sleep, Learn more about this hack here

Application:

Get yourself some good quality polarized sunglasses and blue-blocking glasses. When it comes to sunglasses you have endless options but with blue blockers, there is a lot of cheap rip-offs on the market but I can recommend Ra Optics or Felix Gray

Near-infrared light

Although some light is damaging others are healing! I also stopped into Recharge Cryo for clinical-grade light therapy or photobiomodulation therapy (PBM). this is a passive non-invasive treatment which lasts approximately 15min where you lie under a lamp which emits deep penetrating and soothing light which is targeted deep into the skin cells to help heighten their internal functions, increase blood flow and help induce faster healing through the stimulation of ATP (the energy to your cells),

Application: 

  • 15min sessions more always better, I have struggled to find the time to get across town but would like to do 2x/week

Nutrition

Once home, I remained on a similar protocol to while I was in Singapore but now home I could access everything I needed to enhance the recovery. Lucky I had the majority of everything I was after already waiting in my cupboard back at home. 

Initially, I tried to remain as ketogenic as possible with my diet due to the positive impact of being in ketosis as it is the ideal environment for brain repair and performance (same reason I was taking keytone supplements). Although normally easy for me to do, this time it wasn’t! I found my brain was craving carbohydrates and calories and those that follow me know I am all about listening to the body. Instead of stressing my system and restricting carbohydrate I instead did my best to achieve ketosis through diet and time-restricted eating (14-18hrs) without stressing the system any more but when body was craving calories and/ or carbs I would give it what it was asking for. The last thing you want to do when recovering is to starve yourself and be in a calorie deficit as your body won’t be able to recover optimally. However, it is a fine line between boredom eating and actually cravings which has definitely been a struggle for me as I never had so much spare time….

Keytone Supplements:

Once home, I consulted a friend who is an expert in this space Cliff Harvey and he suggested to keep beta-hydroxybutyrate levels (keytones) high throughout the day to provide the required fuel to the brain. But instead of eating keto he suggested taking supplements to upregulate and aid my damaged brain.

Application:

Once home as per cliff suggestion for the initial 3 weeks:

  • MCT oil 3xday (breakfast, lunch, dinner) to aid with slow production of keytones 
  • 1-2x Exogenous keytone supplement (Pruvit) broken out across the day, to achieve deeper states of ketosis to prolong impact. 

I continued this for 5weeks and thanks to Ryan Stag another TBI suffer found Melrose MCT oil combined with DHA (Fish oil) which as mentioned in the previous post is extremely powerful in brain rehab so I began using this as my go-to MCT for this period.

Lions Mane (Mushroom):

You may not have heard about this one but it is something I have a deep knowledge of as I am currently doing my Masters around this amazing mushroom! Due to the high concentration of the Beta-Glucans in this fungus Lion’s mane is known for its neuroprotective and growth potential while reducing reactive oxygen species (ROS) and bringing down the inflammation. Naturally the best thing for me right now! Also another recommendation from Cliff 

Application:

Coenzyme Q10

A naturally occurring antioxidant in the human body and if you recall I discussed the power of antioxidants in my last post. Following TBI Coenzyme Q10 has presented a positive effect on animals and their brian recovery, as it reduces neurodegeneration

(the death of brain cells) and increasing blood supply to the brain. Another supplement that won’t cause any more harm and with potential benefit I absolutely think it is worth taking

Application:

  • 2x BePure10 twice/ day (Morning and afternoon)

I choose to take a reasonable high but if not viable something is always better than nothing!

Exercise:

Throughout this process, I continued to keep active as best I could, which was very light probably better described as a movement not exercise. Lots of walking and stationary bike, however, focusing on staying symptom-free. The rule of thumb post-concussion syndrome rehab is to work at 80% of symptom threshold. This is best achieved by working out with a heart rate strap and working out until you reach symptoms. Once achieved symptoms calculate 80% of heart rate and aim to keep future workouts under this threshold eg. symptoms spike at Heart Rate of 100 beats/min, 80 beats/min is your new threshold. However, this can be challenging and requires regular testing as you recover because the goalposts will keep moving.

I have also used this as an opportunity to focus on areas that often get neglected and focused on more restorative movement practices such as Yin Yoga, and imbalance correction work. Too often when in the mix of intense training it can be hard to find the time and initially I had nothing but time…. However, due to the mental fatigue, I can’t say it always happened but did my best. I have also been putting a greater focus on getting out into nature for my movement due to the therapeutic standpoint as nature promotes so many positive health benefits. 

Application:

  • Don’t exceed 80% HR of symptom threshold. Use additional time to focus on the restorative types of training we often neglect eg imbalance correction and yoga etc 

Professional help

I know all advice up until now is a result of being frustrated by the current limitations of the system but by no means have I gone this alone. Regardless I highly recommend everyone wraps themselves around with practitioners to aid you on your journey. Also, in no way is this an attack on practitioners knowledge or services many of them were amazing! However, the practitioners are fighting an uphill battle especially in concussion treatment as it is a quickly growing body of research (American football is the key driver behind this) and due to the system they work within it often takes time to filter through to practice as it needs to be accepted as the scientific consensus prior to them being able to utilise as a practitioner, this sadly takes time. If they suggest something away from the consensus it is their head on the chopping board so it is in their best interest to stick to the tried and true. I believe it is the model not the practitioner’s fault, they have the patients best interests in heart, just fighting a limited model.

Below I have outlined the reasons behind each practitioner I saw to help guide my recovery:

  • Doctors: 

Saw both initially at the race venue, then at the hospital, to get properly checked out before flying home (ensure no brain bleed as it could be fatal if I flew home.) and GP once home as ACC requested it, too be honest I am not sure why. The doctor had minimal knowledge of concussions and I had just been and seen the sports doctor who specialises in cases like this.

 

  • Osteopath: 

This was extremely important early on in assisting with whiplash, physical injuries plus some osteos can perform cranial work which is minimal movements which is great in aid with releasing tension and taking the pressure off my head. However, Osteopaths can not diagnose post-concussion syndrome so if you think this is the case, you want your practitioner to refer you to someone like a sports doctor.

 

  • Chiropractor:

I also saw a Chiropractor to get some additional support. Personally I never really go to a Chiropractor so this was interesting I found myself and awesome practitioner who approached it from a variety of angles which I believe would be extremely helpful but sadly due to time constraints haven’t made it back yet but will be short to explore this further.

 

  • Sports Doctor 

This is where I obtained my official diagnosis of post-concussion syndrome and actually highlighted the extent of my situation with testing also providing baseline data to see how I my recovery tracks. For anyone suffering I would highly recommend getting here as early as possible, I personally didn’t get there until 1.5months post-crash. Early is important as they can create a claim with ACC and help guide you towards services that will help such as a concussion clinic.

 

  • Occupational Therapist (Concussion Clinic):

The sports doctor sent me to a concussion clinic to wrap some support around my recovery. The first session was with the OT who explored the impact of my injury and help design a plan accordingly. She referred me to the neuro/vestibular physio and neurologist for further testing and treatment and been there to aid me with any questions.

 

  • Physiotherapist (Concussion Clinic): 

Specifically, neuro/vestibular physio who specialises in cases like mine. This involved a lot of additional specific testing such as visual, balance, autonomic nervous system (treadmill test). Through this testing, we identified I had ‘Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo’ (BPPV) 

  • Benign – it is not life-threatening
  • Paroxysmal – it comes in sudden, brief spells
  • Positional – it gets triggered by certain head positions or movements
  • Vertigo – a false sense of rotational movement

BPPV is a mechanical problem in the inner ear that prompts vertigo as your brain is getting sent confusing messages from the inner ear which is often associated with head injuries. The identification of this was a pivotal moment for me as it is a quick treatment of head movements known as the ‘Epley Maneuver’ which corrects this problem. I instantly noticed an improvement in my eye-tracking. Previously my left eye had severe nystagmus “An involuntary eye movement which may cause the eye to rapidly move from side to side, up and down or in a circle, and may slightly blur vision.”- Mayo Clinic. This was cleared immediately after the manoeuvre, taking a lot of stress off my system. Quick note; I have now had the Epley Maneuver twice as when I came back the symptoms had returned. Keep in mind it may take more than one Epley Maneuver.

 

  • Neurologist (Concussion Clinic):

To ensure everything was on track and nothing was being missed I also had a meeting with Neurologist to discuss everything. This involved some further testing and was great from a peace of mind standpoint. I personally enjoyed this session as they have deep mechanistically understanding of what is going on so I could talk at a deeper level to get his perspectives on my recovery strategies etc. Plus I could discuss recovery timelines which were longer than I would have liked.

Thinking outside the box:

 

The next few are not a classical treatment but again I am interested in hitting it from all angles. 

  • Clinical Pharmacist & Mineral Therapist: 

This was fascinating as she discovered I had a potassium deficiency which is common post head injury due to biochemical response. She put me on a specific supplement to aid with this which I believe has been beneficial.

 

  • Auditory/ Visual Therapy: 

As someone who also has dyslexia, this was something I was already looking into and following the crash, it was clearly the right time to explore this. I have only done the testing so far but WOW! It provides powerful data to work with which really highlight my current deficiencies. The only difficulty is with no pre-crash baselines we have to try and determine between what is my dyslexia or a result on my brain injury. A chicken or egg problem but at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter what caused me to read at a grade 3 age etc (scary right!) I now know the mechanism I now need to train.

What are the specialist telling me now? 

(100+ days post-crash) 

Although I am not back to where I would like to be, the rate of my recovery is continually surprising the specialists. As I write this I saw the neurologist earlier this week and he was impressed about where I am but reminded me I still have a long way to go and said it will be at least another 3months until I am able to race again…. That was a tough pill to swallow! As this means I am only halfway… I will keep this in the back of my mind, however bringing back to my first tip it is all about perspective so I now see this 3-month window as a challenge. What does this mean for me? Keeping myself in check and gradually building over time because anytime I overdo this will just set me back and I don’t have the time for any setbacks. If i don’t beat the 3 months that is fine I will accept that when it comes but in the meantime I keeping things positive. 

Summary

This is only a snapshot of something I have been doing in all honesty but without getting too long in the tooth I wanted to provide what I have so far found the most impactful in my recovery. I hope that in this article you find something that can either help yourself or a loved one. Please if struggle feel free to get in contact as I understand the pain and I am here to help!

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!

Science Behind Ketone Supplements

Part Two: For those like me who enjoy the science

After discussing the application and benefits of exogenous ketones in my last post, I want to dive into some science behind them and highlight the differences between various types to arm you with the knowledge to make the right decision.

What Are Ketones?

Natural, Clean Energy

Ketones are our fourth fuel substrate, they are clean-burning as they reduce the production of potentially harmful Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) inside cells. Plus they also clean up ROS produced from other metabolic processes.

Ketones have been shown to be preferable fuel for the brain over glucose as they aid in brain development. When ketones are present they preserve glucose for pentose phosphate pathway which results in ribose for DNA syntheses and NADPH for lipid biosynthesis

Before we touch on ketone supplements you must first understand the mechanism that defines the state of ketosis. Simply put, when your body is in a state of ketosis, ketone bodies are present in a higher concentration than normal (0.5+ mmol/L). I have discussed this further in the previous post

Three Ketone Bodies:

  • Acetate (Acetone): Is the least abundant, produced in much smaller amounts, and is usually exhaled through the lungs rather than being used as fuel.
  • Acetoacetate (AcAc): Is part of the metabolic pathway whereby humans make and use ketones, but it tends to be found in the blood at lower levels than BHB.
  • Beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) Is the most prevalent of the ketones. Due to far higher concentrations and existing outside the cell, compared to Acetone and Acetoacetate it is widely used to measure ketone levels.

Two Forms of BHB:                                                                

  • D-β-hydroxybutyrate: The right-handed version. 

“D” comes from the Latin dexter.

  • L-β-hydroxybutyrate: The left-handed version, lab-made ketones.                    

“L” comes from the Latin laevus.

D-BHB vs. L-BHB: Which is better?

There is currently a lot of controversy around which form is safest and best to use as a supplement form. One side argues the D-BHB is superior in enhancing mitochondrial function, whereas other evidence suggests a mixture of D & L is handled better and more beneficial for neurological diseases and cancer. L-BHB is thought to be a signaling molecule to reduce inflammation and has been shown to also convert a portion to D-BHB. Additionally, the production of D-β-hydroxybutyrate (right-handed) is a more expensive supplement to produce.

When measuring it may appear that D-BHB promotes higher blood ketone levels. However, that is because most commercial ketone measuring devices only measure D-BHB, not L-BHB.

To the best of my knowledge, there has not been a comprehensive study to truly determine if D-βHB is more beneficial than DL regarding general use applications, or value to the consumer from a financial perspective.

History of Ketones

Ketones are nothing new, it is just our understanding that has changed. beginning, in 1865 scientist discovered a molecule called acetoacetate in the urine of diabetic patients. Acetoacetate is a ketone or also known as a ketone body. Through discovering acetoacetate ultimately led them to identify BHB.

In identifying them, they began seeing BHB in high concentrations in uncontrolled diabetics (Ketoacidosis), thus leading scientist to label ketones as bad. However, as our understanding has grown this was shown to be short-sighted and to predominantly be a factor for uncontrolled diabetics patients.

Ketoacidosis is Not Ketosis

I know it sounds similar but they are the same.

Ketoacidosis or Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) is a complication of type 1 diabetes mellitus. Associated with a dangerously high combination of ketones (much higher than ketosis) and blood sugars which makes your blood too acidic. As limited insulin is available for the cells to adequately uptake the sugar (glucose) in the blood to use for energy. Ultimately this can alter the normal functioning of internal organs like your liver and kidneys. It is a critical condition that requires prompt treatment as it is a life-threatening condition and often occurs quickly within as little as 24hrs.

DKA Ketone levels can increase up to 20-25 mM, which decreases blood pH, whereas a state of ketosis is determined as 0.5-3mM. With an upper threshold of 7-8 mM (e.g. during very-low-calorie Keto Diet and use of exogenous ketone supplements).

DKA is a predominantly a factor for type 1 diabetes but individuals with type 2 diabetes who have little or no insulin production, need to be careful as it can occur if not controlled.

Ketone Supplements:

  • Ketone salts: This is the form found in most ketone supplements available on the market. Ketone salts are a compound consisting of a mineral ion, such as sodium (Na+), potassium (K+), and BHB. Ketone salts are high in electrolytes; so they can aid replenishing electrolytes lost in urine while on the ketogenic diet.
  • Ketone esters: Ketone esters are primarily used in research and are not currently available to consumers. This form consists of pure beta-hydroxybutyrate or Acetoacetate without other additives.
  • MCT Oils: Medium chain triglycerides (MCT) doesn’t contain BHB but has been shown to moderately raise BHB levels. MCT’s require a greater amount of processing than other exogenous ketones thus taking longer to get into ketosis. Along with this, MCT’s are a more calorie dense which could be counterproductive for those needing to watch their caloric intake.

What Ketone Supplements do I use?

I personally utilise a mix of MCT Oils and Ketone Salts. I have used them for close to two years now and couldn’t imagine life without them especially the Pruvit (ketone salts).

My goal is performance and un-tapping my potential, I can’t settle for suboptimal, I want to always be performing at my best. Therefore, I use these supplements in many varying capacities from training and racing (triathlon), speeding up my recovery, to increase my mental capacity and clarity (ps. I am functioning on ketones as I write the majority of my blog posts 😉 ). Aside from performance end I also utilise Pruvit for longevity and to keep hunger at bay and extend my fasts so perfect for travel or when on the go with no good food insight or time, this gets me through these dangerous moments and keeps me functioning at a high level without hunger pains or cravings.

MCT Oils (Bulletproof or Melrose): I use this mostly when I need a little bit of mental and energy boost, but mostly to keep my hunger at bay. Plus sometimes to blunt the effects of those carbohydrate treats for me this normally means MCT Oil on my fruit salad. 

Ketone Salts (Pruvit): MCT is great but nothing compares with Ketone Salts, this would have to the biggest performance enhancing supplement I have ever taken, it is my rocket fuel!

Mixing Things Up:

I have traditionally taken each supplement separately until recently when I came across research stating the benefits associated with a combination of both Ketone salts (BHB) and MCT’s. This combo has been shown to further elevate the BHB response in the blood. Plus as it has a delayed gastric absorption it extends and sustains a higher elevation of blood ketone level over a longer period. The combination is looking extremely promising as it appears to be better than either ketone salts or MCT’s alone. Even better, it has been reported that it may remove the adverse gastrointestinal emptying effects of MCT oil that is often associate when MCT is taken on its own. However, further research is required to identify ratios and best application

Recently I have been playing around with my own ratios and I have introduced MCT oils into my staple long ride fuel of ketone salts and so far it has been great but I will keep you all posted with how I get on.

Why Pruvit?

Pruvit or Keto OS, which stands for “Ketone Operating System,” They were the first to patent to ketone technology, meaning they are most widely researched and used. Pruvit, is now one of the quickest growth nutrition based companies and has posted 400% year-to-year growth since its inception and is showing no signs of slowing down as it has recently moved into Canada, Asia, and Australia.

 

“I Need to Try Ketones for Myself!”

Flick us at Taylored a message and we can get you set you up with a trial.

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Subject: Ketone Trial