PCOS: Where to Start

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, commonly termed “PCOS,” is something I am seeing more and more in my practice.  Often times, women have no clue this is an issue until they try to become pregnant.  Since infertility is one of the negative repercussions of such condition, trouble conceiving is often the red flag.  However, many women may notice something isn’t right before that and not associate it to PCOS.  For example, common symptoms of PCOS include things like:

  • Weight loss resistance
  • Blood sugar regulation issues
  • Increased hair growth in all the wrong places
  • Depression
  • Decreased hair in all the right places
  • Irregular periods
  • Sometimes high blood pressure
  • Pelvic pains that come and go
  • Often times high LDL levels

How’s that for a good time?  Overweight, with acne and facial hair, not knowing when you’re going to get your period, and depressed.  Then you feel like you can’t even do something as basic as get pregnant.  You know how many people get pregnant and don’t even try?!  This is the PCOS story.

What do doctors traditionally do about it?

They usually prescribe birth control pills and metformin (diabetes drug).  Since PCOS is an issue of hormone regulation, the birth control is supposed to put someone on a normal cycle with “normal” hormone levels.  The thought is also that the reason this occurs is due to blood sugar issues, which is why women often improve with diabetes medications.  This sounds great until you start asking why it started in the first place.  Not only does Metformin not address the issue, but it depletes your body of B vitamins and CoQ10, so you may even have decreased energy. If your blood sugar issues started it, why wouldn’t you change the habits associated with poor blood sugar?  Instead, those continue and everything associated with those is still taking place.  Your body is making too many androgens, which is what you can thank for those hair growth patterns and acne.  Taking a pill with estrogen does not remove the inappropriate hormone production patterns.  This treatment protocol is likened to adding green food coloring to water and to make someone think it’s juiced vegetables.  You may make things APPEAR differently, but once you look (or taste) further, you notice it doesn’t taste like green juice, it doesn’t have benefits of green juice, and it may be even worse because we had to add chemicals to the water just to make it APPEAR differently. Wouldn’t it be easier, and better, if we just made some green juice?!

What SHOULD your labs look like?  What should be the goal?

  • A1C should be 5.4 or less
  • fasting glucose should be 75 or less
  • Insulin should be 6
  • Homocysteine should be 6-8

Insulin levels are often not tested because we tend to test glucose more often; however, insulin decreases something called sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG).  The point of SHBG is to bind free hormones and if it’s ability to do so is impaired, we see elevated testosterone levels.  Testosterone is one of the androgens we touched on earlier.  This is why adding estrogen via a birth control pill can sometimes make your body APPEAR improved, but we are really just creating that appearance by adding green food coloring. Inside, we still have the issue of it just being dyed water.

Why does this even matter?  Is it that big of a deal?

For women who desperately want children, YES.  That can be a huge deal.  For the rest that don’t mind the childless lifestyle, having PCOS increases your risk for heart disease, hormone driven cancer, blood pressure issues, and if you have irregular periods, you are 7 times more likely to develop diabetes.  We don’t want to go down the rabbit hole of diabetes, but think diabetic neuropathy, limbs removed, eye sight issues, and a huge stealer of quality of life.

What things can we do from a lifestyle perspective?

  • Eat balanced macros with a focus on protein and healthy fats (this will help regulate blood sugar)
  • Increase fiber intake (think around 30g/day) (this helps bind hormones and cholesterol)
  • Avoid sugar and processed foods (this impairs normal blood sugar)
  • Avoid caffeine (this can drive androgens)
  • Decrease stress (stress drives cortisol and disrupts your hormone production)
  • Clean up your beauty products (these are often endocrine disruptors meaning they damage receptor capabilities for hormones)
  • Exercise (this sensitizes cells to normal blood sugar responses)
  • Drink spearmint tea (this decreases testosterone)

That’s great Dr. Angela, but I’m in deep.  Will I need more than just lifestyle changes?

This could be the case and often is by the time someone sees me.  THIS IS NOT MEDICAL ADVICE, and each patient is different, but I want to share some things that are often common with improvement.

  • Essential Fatty Acids-consider a good fish oil, cod liver oil, or fatty acid blend
  • Antioxidants- consider taking a spectrum of antioxidants because studies show one single antioxidant does not work the same
  • Detox- sometimes increasing detoxification pathways can be helpful
  • Herbs- Inositol, Fenugreek, Cinnamon, Vitex, Black Cohosh, Nettles, Green Tea, Licorice, Spearmint
  • Saw Palmetto-240-260mg 2x’s/day-lowers testosterone
  • Progesterone- day 14-25 days of the cycle taking 20mg transdermal or 110-130 mg oral (this should be started low and slow and directed by your health care provider who is testing)
  • Berberine-200mg 2x’s/day for those who also have high LDL levels

The take away message here is that cysts on the ovaries are a sign that something is going wrong with hormones and blood sugar regulation inside.  Taking medications for these issues acts like a bandaid and doesn’t address the underlying mechanisms.  I encourage you to take lifestyle changes seriously and find a knowledgeable practitioner who will talk to you about solutions to CORRECT the issue and not jump to birth control or metformin.  This is not a life sentence, and many women address these issues naturally.



The Carb Challenge Part 4.5: Sprouted Grain English Muffin (and Quinoa)

I have some sad news: 1. I did the challenge with quinoa and forgot my glucose monitor at home, so I will not repeat it.  However, based on it’s performance during a meal, my guess is that it reached the same ballpark as banana. 2. I decided to test out a sprouted grain product that most people (including myself) would consider to be fairly healthy for most individuals….and it was almost as bad as the oats!  I scarfed those slices of Ezekiel cinnamon raisin English muffin down without any issues and 2 hours later, I forgot to test my sugars.  So, I did it 2 hours and 20 minutes later, which should mean I had 20 extra minutes to bring my blood sugar down and it was still 104.  I was secretly hoping that it would be a good reading so I could justify to myself why I could eat these delicious bread products without issue.  The reason I would never really eat them before all this carb talk was because they have wheat in them, and I try fairly hard to stay gluten-free.  So, there are 2 strikes against them now in my book.

Now that we have some sad news behind us, you want to know something funny?  I ate 2 paleo donuts the morning before to do a blood sugar test for my friend, Kristen, and THEY WERE BETTER FOR MY BLOOD SUGAR THAN EZEKIEL SPROUTED ENGLISH MUFFINS.  Now that I have done this carb challenge with a variety of foods, I want to point out something very interesting: My worst blood sugar responses were to oats and sprouted grain English muffins.  My blood sugar did fine with white rice, banana, and quinoa.  I tested meals with sweet potatoes and paleo donuts and those were fine, too.  How interesting that if I gave you that list of foods and asked which you thought would give the worst blood sugar response, you would likely say white rice because there’s no fiber, donuts for sure, and fruit because we all know fruit has sugar.  The last things to come to mind would be your heart healthy oats (which were soaked), and sprouted whole grains!  But the reality is, I should not eat these foods if I can avoid them.  For me personally, they just don’t do me any favors.  So, it’s a good thing I have plenty of other carb sources to choose from.

But Dr. A, we all know fat slows down metabolism of carbs, so you should have added fat.

I did.  I had butter with both the oats and the sprouted grain English muffin.  I did not add any fat sources to the banana, rice, or sweet potato.

Why do you think this is?

We are all individuals and we all respond differently to different food sources.  This is why individualized nutrition and medicine is important.  Often times, your body gives you signals that support this.  You may feel really hungry shortly after, or get a sugar crash, maybe brain fog, perhaps excessive weight gain or digestive issues.  Listen to your body.  If you don’t respond well to something, choose a different source of nutrients.  If you are a hardcore science person then get a meter and test!  I have a cheap one in my store tab that will give you 50 opportunities to see you sugar results.

Who should pay attention?

On some level, everyone should pay attention but those that suffer from diabetes, hormone issues, stress, digestive disorders, or sleep issues should all consider taking a closer look. Blood sugar regulation is a huge part of those issues and ignoring it is an opportunity to unlock some of the underlying causes.  Another population that should take a closer look is those with abnormal cholesterol levels.  Triglyceride levels often follow inflammation levels due to glucose metabolism.  These people are told to eat whole grains to improve their risk of heart disease; however, it may be contributing to the source of cholesterol abnormalities!

Summarize your numbers, would ya?

Oats:       pre# 74- post# 122
banana: pre#69- post# 84
Rice:       pre# 90- post# 99

Paleo donuts: pre #82-post#92
Ezekiel Cinnamon Raisin Sprouted English Muffin: pre#82-post#104

Now that I am done with the carb challenge, I can go back eating my normal meals.  However, it has changed what I may choose as my carb sources for workout refueling.  The results also give me a good example to share with patients about why certain foods may never be a good idea to reintroduce.  It all depends on your body!


Carb Challenge Part 3: White Rice

Catch up with what this is all about. How may your body respond differently to the same amount of net carbs, but from different sources? Would it effect your blood sugar the same? The answer is “probably not.” I set out to experiment on myself, so you guys can see a personal experience of the differences! Having said that, unless you test yourself, you won’t know if you fit the same profile as myself.

First test: 50g net carbs from Oats
Second test: 50g net carbs from banana

Third test: 50g net carbs from white rice

Why white rice?
Rice is a gluten free grain that I consume on occasion, especially with sushi. Consuming white rice vs. brown rice means there is no bran present, which means it’s not high in nutrients or fiber, but it also doesn’t need to be soaked for safe consumption. That makes it a quick, easy, and safe starch for those that handle it well. Since it wasn’t a high fiber carb source, I only had to consume 1.14cups to get 50g net carbs. This made me happy because if you read my experience with oats, eating over 2 cups was hard and unpleasant. I did prepare the rice with bone broth as opposed to water because I would normally prepare it as such.

How did I feel with white rice?

It was super easy to eat this amount of rice! I may even say easier than banana. I didn’t feel full and wanted to eat more. I didn’t feel shaky or nauseous or any other reason to call it a negative reaction. I was ready to eat again fairy shortly though, and found myself staring at the clock waiting for the 2 hours until I could take my blood sugar.

What were the results?
My 2 hour post-prandial reading was 99. If you recall, oats was 122, and banana was 84. The one major difference in my opinion was I decided to do it on a Sunday as opposed to a work day. That means that I didn’t do it quite as early in the morning, and therefore my blood sugar prior to eating it was higher than the other challenges. For oats, my blood sugar prior to eating was 74. Banana fasted blood sugar was 69. This time, I started at 90. So, to have 99 means even though it wasn’t as low as the banana, it came much closer to the fasting level prior to consuming the carbs within that 2 hour window.
Oats: pre# 74- post# 122= 48
banana: pre#69- post# 84= 15
Rice: pre# 90- post# 99= 9

So, oats have still had by far the worst response in my body, but I can’t really determine which was ‘better” between rice and banana because while the blood sugar value was better with banana, the ability to come close to my fasting number was better with rice.

What does this mean for me?

I will honestly probably start incorporating more white rice in my days that I have intense workouts. I like rice. I can use it as an amazing way to get bone broth into my diet, and I know that my body responds nicely to it.

What’s next?
I will likely do a vegetable next. Maybe a potato or sweet potato. Potatoes are probably one of my go-to carb sources, so I’ll be interested to see how they stack up to rice. The one downfall to choosing sweet potato is the volume I have to consume on that one. ;( This is also a testament to which carbs are easiest to ingest in certain quantities. If you are a sedentary person that wants to feel full but not consume too many carbs, then go with those that are less refined. However, if you are trying to build mass or recover and have the need or double or triple the amount of carbs as an average person, then choosing those easy to consume without as much volume may be much better options to comfortably fit your macros.

Carb Challenge Part 2: Banana

As a part of my inspiration to show you guys the differences that food has on your body, I decided to take the carb challenge presented in Wired to Eat.  If you want to know more about the logistics and see all the details of what happened when I did Oats, click here. For the second round, I decided to do banana.  In order to hit the 50g net carbs for banana, I didn’t have to eat nearly the amount of shear volume.  For oats, I had to eat just over 2 cups due to the fiber content.  For banana, I only had to eat 1.14 cups of banana which ended up being around 2 1/2 bananas.

As I sat down to eat the banana, I took my blood sugar: 69.  I ate the banana easily, didn’t feel overly full, and really enjoyed the flavor.  This is a huge contrast from eating the oats.  With the oats, I could barely stomach the full dose and I felt terrible all morning in terms of fullness and wanting to vomit because I was so full.  Then when I finally felt hungry again it was instant and I wanted to eat a horse!  With the banana, I didn’t feel full, I enjoyed the taste, and I didn’t feel ravenous at all.

2 hours after eating the 50g net carbs of banana, I had a blood sugar reading of 84.  When I did the oats, it was 122.  When I decreased the oats to half the carbs (about the same quantity of banana ~1 heaping cup), I still had a 2-hour post sugar reading of 94!  That means that when I ate twice the amount of carbs from bananas compared to oats, I had a MUCH BETTER blood sugar response despite it being more carbs!  From a clinician perspective, that is really interesting!  How many times do we hear that people should eat oats for health due to it’s fiber content?!  All the time!  But in reality, it may be creating havoc on your blood sugar, especially if you have diabetes!  On the other hand, if you’re a person that responds differently than myself to these same foods, then maybe the oats are a better option than bananas.  We just don’t know unless you’ve directly compared your insulin response.

On a deeper level, this really stirs the pot in the conversation about macros.  Many people these days are eating according to macros (protein, fat, and carb ratios) but not worrying about the sources of those foods.  For example, HaloTop ice cream fits many people’s macros and allows them to eat ice cream while still fitting within their diet.  I think this experiment is pointing to the idea that just because they are both carb sources of the same amount, they can have very different outcomes physiologically.

Stay tuned for the next adventure!  I will likely do rice next.  I am choosing foods that are gluten free and may be things I would consider eating in the right context.  White rice fits that category for me and can be a great quick carb source for someone doing high intensity training.  It’s nice to know if that’s the best quick carb source to turn to!

First Attempt at the Carb Challenge: Oats

If you have been noticing all my social media tidbits about a book called “Wired to Eat” and all the blood sugar readings I’ve been posting, you may be ready for this post. The author of this book, Robb Wolf, is really interested in how food affects people differently.  We all tend to agree that there are foundational principles in nutrition that make up the bulk of what most people should be eating.  However, there are always going to be caveats and exceptions to every rule.  In the functional medicine community, the health industry, and the Ancestral physicians, we have some different opinions on carbs:

How many carbs should someone eat?

What kinds of carbs?

What ratios of carbs to other macronutrients?

The answer to all these questions tends to be simple: “It depends.”  And really, more specifically, it depends on YOU.  Everyone’s body needs adequate nutrition for survival and thriving, but how we get those nutrients can look very different.  (If you are a healthcare practitioner who is familiar with Weston A. Price’s work, you know all about how different diets can be!)

I took a couple weeks to read the book, get a glucose monitor and test random times throughout the day to get a good idea of what my blood sugar is on a regular basis.

Fasting am: 73-83

Fasted am or pm after high intensity workout: 110 or 104 respectively

Fasting pm (lunch at 12, test at 5:30pm): 73

AM after a 50% carb breakfast and workout: 63

2 hour after normal meal: 83

I figured that was enough data for me to know that I am not diabetic, I run in the 70s and 80s on a normal day, and I would expect my sugars 2 hours after a meal to be close to that.  At minimum, I would expect them to read under 100 2 hours post eating.

For the carb challenge, Robb suggests eating 50g of net carbs by ingesting ONE kind.  This way, you can see what that ONE food is doing vs combinations.  The truth is, this is highly unlikely in a real scenario, but it will give more detailed and specific information.  The average non-diabetic, non-insulin resistant person should have fairly normal blood glucose levels 2 hours after eating those 50g of net carbs.  If not, then it may be worth evaluating the amount someone eats in one sitting or which types of carbs your body responds more efficiently to.

Test #1:

What? Oats with a Tbsp of grassfed butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon.  I think it’s wise to have some fat for mineral absorption and I wanted it to be fairly close to what I would normally eat it with without sacrificing macronutrient profiles.  I also needed A LITTLE flavor or I would not have been able to do it.

Why?  Oats are gluten free, and on occasion, I would eat oats.  I do prefer they are prepared correctly, and made that part of the plan.  I only want to test foods that I would actually eat. I soaked steel-cut oats overnight in water and apple cider vinegar and cooked them in the morning.

How much? It takes about 2 cups of cooked oats to give you 50g net carbs.

How was it? Terrible. It took me 25 minutes to get those 2 cups down the hatch and I was sure the last bite was going to push me over the edge.  Due to the sheer volume, I felt overly full and uncomfortable until around 10:30am (2 1/2 hours after eating them).  By 11am, I was so hungry I could’ve eaten a cow.

Blood sugar before eating it? 73

Blood sugar 2 hours after eating it? 122

Take away for me? Since it was so hard to consume that amount, my guess is that oats are a food that would be difficult for me to overeat in the carb department.  Since the fiber content is so high, you have to eat a lot more volume to reach those 50g.  Also, I would never eat 2 cups again (not just because it was too much) because I wouldn’t be happy with that blood sugar response to a meal. I also just didn’t enjoy how I felt.  I went from overly full to overly ravenous way too quickly once the switch began.

Things I will consider:  This was my first test, so I plan to do more and have data to compare.  Will my readings be similar to 50g net carbs regardless of the source? If I find that my readings on 50g are similar regardless of fruit, veggie, or grain, I will not likely vilify oats; I would be more apt to vilify the quantity of carbs in one sitting for me.  Will they be better than oats?  If I find that a fruit gives me better 2 hour readings despite being the same 50g of carbs, then I will likely make the decision that my body doesn’t handle oats as nicely as other things.  If I want to be really anal, I will go back and halve the carb load to 25g (1 cup) and see what my reading is to verify if it was in fact the oats or just the dose.

Follow along as I test more sources of carbs and I encourage you to play with your own results to find what works for YOU!


Is All the Sacrifice Worth It? A Lesson from a Patient Who Died

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” I saw this quote somewhere a couple weeks ago and thought “that’s pretty profound.” My mind kept coming back to it, because I obviously can’t control my thoughts. I started to ask myself some questions:
How does someone live like they will die tomorrow? They would probably get rid of all responsibility and eat whatever, do whatever, take major risks, spend all their money, etc. But what happens if they don’t die tomorrow? Then they are screwed! So, is it possible to live like you were to die tomorrow and still have life be great tomorrow if you do wake up?

That led me to my story about a patient. I will call him Bob. Bob was a diabetic and came to me because he wanted off of his medication. Bob did amazing in my program, got off his meds, reversed his diabetes (type II), and couldn’t have been happier. In order to do this, Bob had to change some things that had become habitual in his life and maybe partake in certain indulgences a little less often.

The following year I get an update on Bob. He died. Not due to his health, but in a car accident. When considering the quote above, I asked myself “I wonder if he still would have done my program if he had known he would die the next year?” After all, he did give up some convenience, some indulgence, and some comfortable habits to improve his health, but he likely would have still survived past that year without changing a thing. I’ll never know the answer to that question.

This is often an argument I hear in regards to healthy habits. What if I die tomorrow? We will all die of something. I ask “What if you don’t?” Are you willing to sacrifice your ability to live a good quality of life later for the excessive amount of pleasure today?
I could ask this same question about money. If you spend it all this year because you never know about the next, what happens when next year comes and there’s no money?! But what if next year doesn’t come and you saved every dime and didn’t enjoy things as much as you could?!

It’s balance. You want some indulgence, some excitement, some pleasure, but not at the loss of your ability to experience that over a lifetime. You also don’t want to limit pleasure in hopes you will live forever. Because the truth is, you really just don’t know when your last day will be.

When I work with patients, it’s always been about creating an unwritten balance. Not in the way of “if I eat a salad, then I can have this donut” because that’s not the point. It’s about creating balance within a LIFESTYLE that allows you to enjoy today AND tomorrow. When people end up on my doorstep, many times it’s because they have recently realized that tomorrow will and did come, and they didn’t live yesterday in a way that will make a pleasant quality of life in the future. I want people to indulge, to experience pleasure, to create excitement in their senses, but I also want them here doing the same thing tomorrow, next week, next year, and for their lifetime. Unfortunately, there is no known way that one can live like they will die tomorrow and not have a rude awakening in the morning. So, seize your moments and enjoy life as if it is short but remember how much sweeter life will be if you can do these things for a lifetime and not just one day.

*geeky side note: When teaching physiology, we would always go over a concept of sensory adaptation, and we have all experienced it. You walk into a smelly room and in 5 minutes, you don’t notice is nearly as much, if at all. Or you order a piece of cheesecake for dessert and you take a bite and go to heaven. By the time you reach bite 4 or 5, you are actually not that excited about it and are just eating it because it’s there. The culinary world knows the magic happens on the first couple bites. That’s why they create small plates and dessert shooters. They want you to leave with the pleasure and desire for MORE, but it actually decreases your pleasure when you do have more! Sensory adaptation is the ultimate temptress, the tease, the thing that everybody loves to experience. Biology ultimately tells us that this heightened pleasure is NOT prolonged. However, it can be experienced over and over if there is enough gap in between. In the long run, this creates a lifetime of pleasure instead of continued behavior that never quite reaches the dopamine surge of the first bite. Food for thought.

Sleep: How It Impacts Your Life, Your Looks, and Your Health!

For as long as I can remember, I have been a good sleeper.  I would be that friend at sleepovers that would sleep so long that my friends would go to church and come back and I’d still be in bed!  For a long time, my parents wouldn’t call me before noon because otherwise there was a wrath to follow.  I’m happy to say that I still love sleep, but I am up before noon. ;)  Last weekend, I sat in on a presentation by a former Navy Seal named Dr. Parsley and listened to all the things he was doing in his clinic to keep patients healthy, beautiful, and free from hormone imbalance.  You want to know what his secret is?  SLEEP!

We tend to see sleep as a luxury in the US because you can sleep when you’re dead, right?  However, many cultures value sleep, build naps into their schedule of working, and see it for what it is: a requirement for normal hormone function.  Losing hours of sleep mimics the aging process in so many ways.  Not only does it make you look older, it makes you hang on to excess weight, become cranky, and slows down your nervous system’s ability to adapt.  REM sleep specifically is when your brain converts short term memory into long term memory and without REM, you may feel as though you need to be told the same thing over and over again or read the same page in your book over and over again.  This decrease in memory and cognitive function isn’t just for the elderly, its for anyone at any age that isn’t getting enough zzz’s.

Lack of sleep also decreases your thyroid function by about 30 %.  When you have decreased thyroid function, you also have lowered cognitive capability and tend to lose your ability to react to stressful situations without being overly emotional.  Can we say “middle age sob-fest?!”  If I see anything in practice becoming a huge concern, it’s hypothyroidism.  There are thyroid receptors on every single cell in your body.  If you’re not making enough, you could experience things like anxiety, constipation, cold intolerance, skin issues, and a complete lack of energy.  I won’t go off on a tangent, but the normal ranges for TSH these days are NOT normal.  If this sounds like you, have someone take a closer look with you….please.

For all of you out there trying to fight the aging process, decreased sleep decreases your collagen, elastin, and keratin production in your skin which results in wrinkles, dull skin, and brittle hair.  UGH.  Who knew that you could bypass all those appointments with the dermatologist by just getting more sleep!?  Have you ever wondered what actually makes people look their age?  Think about it.  How do you know someone is 20 vs 28?  20 vs 35?  puppy vs dog?  It’s hard to pinpoint how you KNOW someone is around a certain age when it’s not due to grey hair or wrinkles, but we usually know approximately what age someone is.  It’s actually because of fat pad distribution.  You have fat pads above and below your eyes which open them up and a fat pad behind the eye that pushes your eye forward.  As that fat decreases, your eyes sink in ever so slightly and you continue to age.  Many people get BOTOX to look younger, but according to Dr. Parsley, it makes your muscles atrophy and you ultimately end up looking older because as your fat pads redistribute and muscles harden, you get something he calls “skeleton face.”

As if beauty, cognitive function, and thyroid production wasn’t enough, lack of sleep also decreases your testosterone production and insulin sensitivity by about 30%!  Tons of people are flocking to get testosterone replacement to stay youthful and lean; it is HUGE for what your body looks like.  Lowered testosterone also contributes to sex drive in both men and women!  Decreased sleep results in lack of sex drive, getting pudgy, and developing signs of diabetes!  Man, if only we just valued sleep, we could avoid being dumb, fat, ugly, and slow, and possibly diabetic!  Let me put sprinkles on the cake here and say that if you are an athlete, REM sleep is when your body rebuilds by producing anabolic hormones. So, yes, even the young, lean, athletes require sleep.

EVERYONE NEEDS SLEEP!  Aim for 8 hours a night and anything less is building a sleep debt. If you have trouble sleeping regardless of all your attempts, you may have something bigger going on and should consider testing; your health relies on it. We can’t escape aging but we can age well, age gracefully, and be a badass at any age!

You are Not Eating for 1;You are Eating for 1.5 trillion!

As most of you are aware, I was in Austin this past weekend to listen to doctors, researchers, and holistic practitioners shed light on their areas of expertise.  This year’s conference focused on the microbiome.  What is the microbiome?  Well, in short, it is all the organisms that live within us and result in our health, or lack there of.  I often say that we are nothing more than walking houses for the bacteria that have taken up residence.  I’ve been saying this since I learned that we have 10 times the amount of bacteria in our body then we do cells!  That means that we are not eating for 1 (or 2 for you preggers out there), we are eating for about 1.5 trillion!  That’s right.  Every time you put something in your mouth or environment, you are either helping beneficial bacteria to survive and thrive or you are opening the door for opportunistic bacteria to wreak havoc.   Based on the abundance of their existence, 99% of the DNA material being expressed is not even yours.  Take a moment and let that sink in.  You are nothing more than a hotel.  How clean your hallways are, how good your vibes are, how efficiently your operation runs is all dependent on your staff: the bacteria.

In cell physiology, I teach students about organelles.  Organelles are all the things living within the cell membrane that help accomplish cellular tasks.  Organelles are things like lysosomes, rough and smooth endoplasmic reticulum, vesicles, and mitochondria.  If I just lost you, hang on for a sec.  Mitochondria are considered the powerhouse of the cell because of their ability to produce ATP, aka the cell’s energy.  What a great member of a cell’s staff, right?!  Well, you may be shocked to know that thanks to a woman scientist by the name of Lynn Margulis, we now know that mitochondria actually used to exist as its own free-floating bacteria.  Yup.  They existed on their own and decided to take up shop inside of us instead! ( Side note: the longer I study science, the more women pop up as huge contributors to our understanding of things.  I hope my teachings inspire more young women to ask questions, seek answers, and make more major contributions to the world.  It will be my most important legacy.)

If we know that bacteria existed on Earth prior to humans, and we serve as their home, and our health is a reflection of their health, what we can do to make sure they are healthy?  Asking this question will only allow us to open doors that will create a better quality of life and a better health status for us as humans.  Metaphorically speaking, making sure our bacteria are happy will majorly improve our hotel vibes.  Just sayin’.  There is NOT a single disease or disorder that doesn’t have some impact from bacterial function.  We all think of digestive disorders when we think about gut bacteria, but we should also start recognizing things like autism, diabetes, anxiety, MS, diabetes, obesity, and depression are also directly related.  Stool tests can be a great tool to see what bacteria you’ve got going on and how they are doing.  1g of poop contains 100 million terabytes of information, and if you know computers, you know that’s a crazy amount of information for such a small quantity of poop.  You clean up baby diapers with more than 10x’s that amount of poop; let’s be honest!

The take home message here is that you are only as healthy as the bacteria living within you.  You create an environment for that bacteria based on your diet, exposure to toxins, medications taken, and lifestyle choices.  This environment that YOU created is either helping you or hindering you.  Working with a doctor that recognizes this significance may be the key to unlocking underlying issues that may be keeping you unhealthy.  If you have frequent infections, take antibiotics or heartburn medications, or suffer from an autoimmune disease, diabetes, or psychological issues, I encourage you to read, become informed, and makes changes to create a healthy internal environment.