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A Simple Method To Trick Your Body Into Flawless Barefoot Running Form (Even If You’ve Never Run Barefoot).

barefoot-running-dare-to-go-bare

Our ancestors ran in bare feet or very thin shoes with little padding. It’s undeniable, it’s been proven over and over again in historical research, and probably the best guy on the face of the planet to give insight into this fact is Dr. Daniel Lieberman from Harvard (with whom I had the pleasure of running 8 miles barefoot through Boston a couple years ago).

In today’s article, you’re going to learn why you need to learn to run barefoot or in minimalist shoes (if you’re not already), how train your feet to withstand the rigors of barefoot running, and a simple method to trick your body into flawless barefoot running form, even if you’ve never run barefoot.


What The Research Says About Barefoot or Minimalist Shoe Running

It wasn’t until the 1970’s when conventional running shoes with thick cushioning soles became widely available.  It was thought that the cushioning effect of the padded heel would decrease loading on the legs and therefore prevent injury while at the same time increasing efficiency. But since then, there has been a big shift in thinking for many runners, and many are now removing their shoes in order to return to what they believe is a more natural gait.

Why?

Cushioned running shoes promote a rear-foot strike (RFS) running pattern in which the heel touches down first, then the foot rolls forward for toe off.   Habitually barefoot runners, on the other hand, tend to land on the forefoot or mid-foot.  These differences in stride mechanics drastically affect injuries, as well as running efficiency.

For the purposes of this article – and to make me sound much smarter than I am – when I refer to running in cushioned shoes, I will use the term “shod” (this is also a great word to impress any runners at cocktail parties). Furthermore, when I refer to barefoot running, this would also include running in shoes such as Vibrams or extremely minimalist, relatively uncushioned shoes. 

Oh yeah, one other thing: if your eyes glaze over from research and nitty-gritty science, or if reading time is tight for you, feel free to skip this section and scroll down to the next section. 

There are many mechanical differences seen during barefoot running when compared to shod running – the most obvious being foot strike position.  When shod, runners tend to land on their heel in a rear-foot strike (RFS).  Without shoes, the foot is in a much different environment and this same heel landing can be painful and damaging to the foot and leg. For this reason, barefoot runners often adopt a forefoot strike (FFS), in which the front of the foot contacts the ground first and the supporting soft tissue of the foot and lower leg absorb some of the impact force before the heel even touches down.  A mid-foot strike is also seen in many barefoot runners, in which the foot lands relatively flat on the ground.  This change in foot strike pattern is absolutely correlated with a lower impact force upon foot strike.

In the article “Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners“, Daniel Lieberman studied impact forces and stride mechanics of habitually barefoot and shod runners running in both bare feet and shoes.  The purpose was to see how the shoe directly affected impact forces and stride, and also to see how habitual shoe use changes running patterns and get an idea of how man ran before the advent of the cushioned shoe.

There were five test groups in this study:

(1) Kenyan competitive runners who grew up barefoot and recently started wearing running shoes.

(2) habitually shod American adults.

(3) American adults who grew up wearing shoes but are now habitually barefoot runners.

(4) habitually shod Kenyan children.

(5) barefoot Kenyan children. 

Foot strike kinematics were assessed using video analysis as test subjects ran at an endurance running pace (4-6 m/s) on a short track.  All the adults sampled ran at least 20 km per week.  It was found that American habitually shod runners ran exclusively with a rear foot strike while wearing shoes and nearly all (87%) ran with a rear foot strike when barefoot.

During the barefoot test, the subjects in this group, while still landing with a RFS, had less dorsiflexion (7-10%) upon ground contact (meaning their forefoot was closer to the ground).  The recently shod Kenyan competitive runners (1) had a 91% rate of FFS when running barefoot and 54% while wearing shoes, many who didn’t FFS were landing with a MFS.

The last group of adults tested was Americans, who grew up shod but switched to and are now habitually barefoot runners (3) in which 75% FFS when barefoot, but when shod 50% ran with a RFS.  They also tested Kenyan children who were habitually shod (4) and who have never worn shoes (5).  The children’s running habits were consistent with what was found for adults, mainly that the use of running shoes significantly changes the gait pattern both immediately and also habitually.

The study also analyzed strike force characteristics, comparing habitually barefoot and shod adults from the US in both shoes and bare feet.  It was shown that RFS causes a large impact force transient upon ground contact in both the shod and barefoot condition, but it was even larger when barefoot.  FFS on the other hand showed a steady force loading with no impact transient.  The barefoot FFS runners had a lower vertical force magnitude during impact, as well as a lower loading rate – which was very significant when compared with barefoot RFS runners.

In sum…wearing cushioned running shoes automatically causes you (even if you’re used to running barefoot) to engage in a high impact heel strike. 

There are a few reasons why running shoes promote this type of RFS.  First, they have a thick heel padding that orients the sole of the foot to have about 5o less dorsiflexion than the outsole of the shoe, encouraging RFS.  This means that in order to FFS while wearing a thick heeled shoe, you would have to plantar flex (point) the foot significantly. The shoe also affects foot strike, due to the cushioning properties which help absorb the impact force from running. Finally, shoes actually decrease neural sensory stimulation that promote a softer FFS.

The study above shows that habitual running patterns are influenced by footwear use, but just how these adaptations occur and their effect on injuries is unclear from the study.  However, the article “Running Related Injury Prevention through Barefoot Adaption” looks into the foot musculature and how it responds to barefoot conditions.  The authors of the article state that many people believe the high injury rates involved with running are because the foot is fragile and cannot take the strain that activities such as running puts on it without injury, and therefore that foot needs protective support.

Problem is, this theory not only goes against natural selection, but also has been proven wrong based on the lower running injury rate seen among barefoot populations.

In countries where both barefoot and shod population live, such as Haiti, high rates of lower extremity injuries are only seen in the shod population. Likewise, in countries where people go barefoot part or all of the year, such as the West Indies, and sections of Europe and Asia, there is shockingly little report or evidence of impact related lower leg injuries.

Because of this, Robbins and Hanna, authors of the article above, hypothesize that the weak arch and foot musculature seen in habitually shod feet can be strengthened given the right conditions.  The human foot has a large arch in the middle that can act as a spring which absorbs and restitutes mechanical energy.  The arch is supported by the plantar fascia and several ligaments and muscles.  The arch works almost like a bowstring, and if it is shorter in the longitudinal length of the foot, it will be higher and able to absorb more energy.  These muscles controlling the arch are not stimulated properly in shoes, but can be strengthened by barefoot activity, therefore increasing the arch height.

To test this hypothesis, Robbins and Hanna recruited recreational runners and examined the length of their medial longitudinal arch with x-ray analysis and a foot imprint during weight bearing, monthly over the four month test period. Subjects gave a detailed running history that included footwear, injuries, and previous barefoot weight bearing activities. During the experiment, subjects kept a detailed training log that recorded all barefoot weight bearing activity – including running, walking, and standing, as well as the surface it was performed on –  and they were instructed to perform as much barefoot activity as possible.

The study reported a positive change as a 1mm shortening of the medial longitudinal arch length.  It was found that of the 18 subjects in the barefoot group, 13 had a positive result, 2 had no change, and 3 had a negative result, with an average arch shortening (meaning a stronger arch) of 4.7mm.  In the control group that continued normal activity, 1 changed positively and 10 negatively with an average arch lengthening (meaning a weaker arch) of 4.9mm.  The results had no correlation with the starting height of the arch. The positive result on the arch of the barefoot group can be explained by an increase in the supporting musculature, which clearly shows that adaptive abilities of the foot to change and strengthen to accompany its environment.  Strengthening of the arch and shortening of its length could also reduce injuries like plantar fasciitis, which is common in shod populations. This is because the plantar fascia would be stretched and therefore stressed less, as some of the load would be diverted to the musculature.

It was found that the best arch change results happened with high total weight bearing activity (i.e. standing), walking outside barefoot, and running outside barefoot. It makes sense for results to show this with an increase in total load bearing activity because the muscles simply got more use.  The reason outdoor (compared to indoor) barefoot activity had a positive effect is because of the irregular surface, which would increase plantar sensory feedback.  Interestingly, the skin on the top of the arch has a much lower pain threshold than that of the heel or toe area and if this area is stimulated, the arch muscles could contract to make barefoot running (or other activity) more comfortable, while at the same time activating the foot’s shock absorbing system.

The skin on the plantar surface of the foot has one of the highest density of neuroreceptors in the body.  The receptors respond to small discrete displacements, shear forces, and vibrations, all of which are reduced by footwear, specifically running shoes.  Running shoes block the transition of sensory information to the foot which tells the runner to lower ground impact forces by flexing the arch muscles and changing stride mechanics.  This would not be a problem if the shoe reduced the injury producing ground impact forces as much as it reduced plantar sensation, but that is not the case as shown by the Lieberman, and the increased running injuries seen in the shod populations compared to barefoot.

So far, we’ve seen that research shows barefoot or minimalist shoe running causes some pretty useful adaptations in terms of foot strike pattern, “feel for the ground”, and reduced risk of lower extremity injuries.

And there’s plenty more…especially when it comes to reduced injury risk from the avoidance of cushioned shoes. study called “The effect of running shoe on lower extremity joint torque” examined the effects that shoes have on the leg joints when compared to running barefoot.  The subjects in this study were 68 young healthy adults who ran at least 15 miles per week.  Markers were placed on various spots on the subjects’ legs, and data was collect by 3 dimensional video analyses, as well as a force place on the treadmill they were asked to run on.

For shod running, there was a 54% increase in hip internal rotation torque, 36% increase in knee flexion torque (which acts on the main bending motion of the knee), and a 38% increase in knee varus torque (which is a lateral bending force at the knee). The relevance of this data is how it relates to joint degeneration and osteoarthritis risk, as well as overuse.  Osteoarthritis is joint cartilage degeneration and ossification and is correlated with long term excessive loading.  It has been shown that competitive running may increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis in the hip, therefore producing over 50% more load on the joint with each stride.  The increase in knee flexion torque would increase the load on the quadriceps, thus increasing strain on the patellar tendon and pressure on the patellofemoral joint, which can lead to overuse injuries of all these structures.  The increase in varus torque on the knee would increase the compressive force on the medial tibiofemoral compartment, which is more prone to degeneration than the lateral compartment.  Similar yet less dramatic increase in knee loading were seen when comparing women’s dress high heeled shoes when walking with barefoot walking.  Because of the higher rate of knee osteoarthritis in women and the fact that loading is much higher during running than walking, this increase in knee force could easily lead to osteoarthritis.  The increased loads were thought to be due to the elevated heel and material under the medial aspect of the foot, which changed running mechanics.  These increases in loading seen in shod running could all over time contribute to the onset of osteoarthritis.

Yep, as ironic as it may seem, wearing giant pillows around your feet actually increases your risk of things like arthritis later in life.

Along with reducing injuries, barefoot running is also thought to be a more metabolically efficient way to run, and the very recent study “Barefoot Running Reduces the Submaximal Oxygen Cost in Female Distance Runners” definitely backs this up. It has also been shown that an increase in of 100g of mass per foot increase metabolic cost by 1%.  This mass effect can be an especially big factor in racing, because if a typical 250g shoe was worn, it would add 5% to the metabolic cost, therefore slowing a runner by 5%.  This means a 4 hour marathon could see a change of around 12 minutes just from the weight of footwear.  It is clear that mass has a large effect on energy use while running, but it is theorized that the elastic properties of the arch and lower leg musculature also have an effect.

The article “Barefoot-Shod Running Differences: Shoe or Mass Effect?”  looked to determine if it was just the weight of wearing a shoe that made it less efficient, or if it was the shoe itself and the effects on stride mechanics. In this article, 12 healthy adult males with competitive running experience ran on a treadmill barefoot, in 50g, 150g, and 350g socks, as well as 150g and 350g shoes for 4 minutes at 13 km/h.  The mass on the sock was distributed in the same manner as that of the comparable weight shoe.  It was found that the bare sock (50g) produced no significant difference in running pattern compared to fully barefoot, showing that the results will not be altered by the effect of the material of the sock.  The treadmill had a force plate to measure vertical and anterior-posterior ground reaction force.  During the trials, the subjects exhaled gas was collected to determine the volume of oxygen (VO2) consumption relative to total mass, which tells how hard their body was working to maintain their running pace.

While un-shod, 9 of the 12 runners switched to a forefoot strike pattern.  It was found that VO2 consumption increased as shoe mass increased, but was not affected by the mechanical properties of the shoe.  It was also shown that total work increased in the barefoot condition.  As a result of the increased work, but no increase in VO2 consumption, it was concluded that the net mechanical efficiency of barefoot running was greater than shod running.  This agrees with the hypothesis that barefoot running, and subsequent FFS, allows the foot and leg to use their natural elastic properties to absorb and restitute mechanical energy from ground contact.

The previous study had two variables – shoe padding and foot strike – which made it difficult to interpret the results.  To account for this, the study “Metabolic cost of running barefoot versus shod: Is lighter better?”  was similar, but it controlled foot strike pattern as well as weight, so that the cushioned shoe was the only variable.  The test subjects were 12 runners with extensive barefoot experience who had a mid-foot strike not only when running barefoot, but also when shod.  The subjects all ran at least 25 km/week, with at least 8km barefoot or in minimalist footwear.  The participants ran on a treadmill with a force plate at 3.35 m/s.  Oxygen consumption (VO2) data was collected.  The shoes used only added cushioning and had no arch support.

It was found that in both shod and barefoot conditions, oxygen consumption increased by 1% per 100g added per foot.  Also, on average a 3-4% increase in VO2 consumption was found during barefoot running compared to shod running of equal weight and foot strike pattern.  This shows that factors other than shoe mass play an important role in the metabolic power used during barefoot versus shod running.  This difference can be due to shock absorbing characteristics of the shoe and a difference in stride length, which was found to be 3.3% greater during shod running.  It was estimated that the 3.3% increase in stride length would only account for less than 0.4% increase in metabolic savings. Because of this, the researchers concluded that of equal mass, the cushioning properties of the shoe account for the majority of difference in VO2 consumption.  This is because during barefoot running, all the cushioning is done by the action of the leg, which is accomplished through muscle contraction, thus expending energy.  By wearing a cushioned shoe but not changing general stride mechanics, the runner was essentially running on a softer surface while keeping the beneficial forefoot stride, which turned out to easier on the leg muscles and more efficient for the body.  The study also found that a light weight (about 130g) cushioned shoe is equally as efficient as fully barefoot running when stride is constant, which means minimalist running shoes could be a good alternative for barefoot runner while running on very hard surfaces or during a long race.

Yeah, that’s a mouthful, but basically it means that a minimalist shoe, or some other method of causing one to engage in a front foot strike, could be just as good as running barefoot when it comes to running efficiency and economy.

Overall, it’s very obvious that barefoot running seems to be beneficial in many aspects of running. The majority of benefits of barefoot running come with adopting a better running stride, which is characterized by a forefoot strike.  This reduces the load and loading rate during foot impact, which can lead to many running injuries, including plantar fasciitis, patellofemoral joint pain syndrome and osteoarthritis.  But the benefits of switching to barefoot running are not all immediate.  The muscles of the foot and lower leg become very weak from underuse when constantly shod, and it takes time for them to regain their strength, as well as for the body to change running technique.

However, once the transition is made, the stride will become more efficient with a reduced risk of injury. With regards to running efficiency, the cushioning from the shoe is beneficial, as well as the elastic properties of the forefoot strike. For best efficiency, a runner would want to become proficient with barefoot running, which will improve forefoot strike and cause a strengthened arch, and then wear a very lightweight moderately cushioned shoe for a race.

Although barefoot running has been shown to reduce injuries, injuries are also very common among new barefoot runners.  People hear about the benefits of barefoot running, then jump into barefoot or minimalist running much too quickly, without proper adaption.  As shown from the studies above, the muscles and soft tissue take months to strengthen, so increasing volume too fast is very likely to cause a problem.  Also, even though the loading is lower during barefoot running, metatarsal stress fractures are common. Because the bones in the foot don’t get the same loading pattern during shod rear-foot strike, they will take time to adapt to this new running style as well.

Finally, there are reports of injuries from barefoot and minimalist runner who do not adopt a forefoot strike.  As discussed above, rear-foot strike without a cushioned shoe causes very high force loading rates of the foot and leg, which could quickly result in injury.  In conclusion, more research still need to be done on the topic, but it seems clear that there are a multitude of benefits to barefoot running, and they should not be ignored.

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Heel Striking Isn’t Always Bad

Even though an RFS (remember, that’s a “rear foot strike) and a heel striking motion is associated with higher risk of injury, if you’re landing softly (as barefoot running trains you to do) even heel striking motion that isn’t necessarily always a bad thing.

A New York Times article from a couple months ago entitled “Why We Get Running Injuries (and How to Prevent Them)” delves into this idea in greater detail. Among other clues that the human body was meant to run minimalist, the article states that…

“…The never-injured runners, as a group, landed far more lightly than those who had been seriously hurt, the scientists found, even when the researchers controlled for running mileage, body weight and other variables. That finding refutes the widely held belief that a runner cannot land lightly on her heels.”

The article goes on to describe one of the runners studied, a woman who has run multiple marathons and never been hurt, showing some of the lowest rates of foot loading the researchers had ever seen, pounding far less than many runners who land near the front of their feet, with a beautiful running motion that was like seeing “an insect running across water”.

It’s important to note that this woman was running with a heel strike but she was running softly even with that heel strike, which she was able to do because she had trained minimalist and trained barefoot, which teaches your body how to (even if you’re not engaged in a mid to front foot strike) run with far less impact to any part of the foot that hits the ground.

In other words, once you swear off the cushioned shoes, you run more softly and with reduced risk of injury, even if a fancy high-speed video camera shows your running form doesn’t significantly change with regards to a front vs. mid vs. rear foot strike.

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How To Train Your Body To Run Barefoot

Convinced that you may want to start moving away from cushioned shoes and ready to start training to run barefoot?

In the article, “How To Start Running Barefoot“, I get into the nitty-gritty details of how both my wife and I transitioned to minimalist shoes and barefoot running. Some of the biggest takeaways from that article – aside from not simply rushing out and beginning to run oodles of miles in a brand new set of Vibrams – include the following five tips:

  1. Do Drills. As part of the short runs that you start doing barefoot, also train your body how to run with good form by including running form drills, such as playground style skipping, the toe-up drill or the lean drill. These drills will help ensure that you’re running efficiently and striking the ground properly as you learn barefoot running, and are a good idea to incorporate whether or not you’re running barefoot. Here is an overview of even more drills from my friend and Australian running guru Graeme Turner.
  2. Feel The Ground. If you’ve been wearing big, bulky, protective shoes for a long time, then your foot may have difficulty properly sensing the ground when you run barefoot. So try incorporating “feel-for-the-ground” activities like standing on one leg when you’re brushing your teeth, standing on one leg while on a balance disc or balance pillow at the gym, standing on one leg for exercises like overhead presses, or even bouncing on one leg on a mini-trampoline a few times a week.
  3. Get Flexible. One of the most common complaints among people who transition to barefoot or minimalist running is that their calf muscles and Achilles tendon feel tight or painful, and that was certainly the case when I made the transition to barefoot running. So as you make the transition to barefoot running, also work on the flexibility of the back of your legs by doing calf stretches and foam rolling for the back of your legs.
  4. Get Strong Feet. If you’re worn shoes your whole life, it’s likely that you have weak feet muscles, since one of the primary functions of a shoe is to provide your foot with extra “muscle”, or support. While some of the balance activities mentioned earlier will help to strengthen your foot, I also recommend standing on one leg and practicing rolling your entire body weight from the outside of your foot to the inside of the foot and back, until your foot is tired. When at the gym, it can also be helpful to do cable kick forwards and cable kick back exercises while standing on one foot. If your tiny foot muscles start to burn and fatigue with these movements, you’ll know you’re conditioning your foot muscles.
  5. Include Plyometrics. Your feet need to be conditioned to withstand the impact of the ground, since the cushioning of a normal shoe provides significant impact reduction benefits. Plyometrics are explosive exercises in which hop, bound or skip with one leg or two legs, and good choices for barefoot running preparation are side-to-side hops and single leg jumps onto a box.

For more details, you can click here to read that article in full.

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The Best Barefoot Running Orthotic & A Simple Method To Teach Yourself How To Have Flawless Barefoot Running Form

Lately, I’ve been using a new method to get “the best of both worlds”: meaning getting the front to mid foot strike that I automatically shift to when barefoot running, while still getting the protection afforded by actually wearing shoes, which comes in handy when I’m doing Spartan races, TrainToHunt competitions, triathlons or other events where I actually do need protection for my feet.

The method is something called a “ShoeCue”.

The Cue inserts into your shoe just like an orthotic, and it uses a textured, thermoplastic heel-plate that reconnects your feet to the ground. With vibration and texture, it “wakes up” the soles of your feet and reconnects them to your brain. Closing this neural loop allows for enhanced control and understanding of how you are connected to the world, and in real-time it improve self awareness and proprioception, whether you’re walking or running.

Here are a couple videos that show how the ShoeCue works (and yeah, that’s Brian Mackenzie in the first video, the guy I interviewed here about advanced breathing techniques):

 

Basically, the Cue restores sensory feedback to your foot, which you’ve learned is usually diminished when you wear your shoes. The soles of your feet are one of the most sensitive areas in your body, and your brain relies on the sensory perception to control everything about about the way you move. By increasing sensation to your feet with these Cues in your shoes you will:

-Be more aware of your running technique and run with a softer foot-strike.
-Have greater positional awareness while lifting and exercising.
-Walk and stand with better posture.

The nerve receptors in skin on the soles of the feet pick up sensation in three main ways:

-Indentation
-Shearing force
-Vibration

All of these mechanics your body relies on to feel the ground are blocked by a traditional shoe when compared to being barefoot, but ShoeCue is able to restore this sensation, in virtually any shoe.

So what should you expect to feel when wearing these things?

You will certainly notice the Cue, but it is in no way painful. It feels like a gentle massage on the bottom of your foot. The goal is not to create pain when you are moving poorly. The goal of the Cue is to simply increase your bodies positional awareness and subtly encourage better biomechanics over time. When you put them in your shoes, you’ll notice an immediate reduction in over-striding and heavy heel strike (which you now know are major contributors to running injury and joint wear). Every time I run in these, my stride feels softer, smoother, and more efficient. Also, as fatigue sets in on a hard run, I’m a bit more aware of any breakdown in running form and able to self correct in real-time.

And these are definitely a bit different than traditional arch support orthotics. Arch support works to lift your arch and hold it in a static position. This may be better than walking around with collapsed arches and flat feet, but it does not address the underlying strength and motor control issues, which are the root cause of the problem. By increasing sensation to your feet, ShoeCue encourages the small muscles in your feet and ankles to be active, just like when you run barefoot, and when your arch does collapse, you will feel it and be able to consciously turn on those muscles and move better.

I’ll warn you that ShoeCue encourages you to favor the ball of your foot as opposed to the heel. When this happens, you will be stressing muscles and tissues in the lower leg that have been underused, and you may experience soreness after your first few runs – so start with shorter runs, give it time, and progress slowly, but in my opinion, it’s well worth it to add these to your running, walking and standing repertoire as a very cool biohack to get you to begin running with the same flawless form you’d develop from barefoot running, but with the actual protection of shoes.

You can try these new running orthotics here, and use 10% discount code Greenfield10. I’ve got a set in all my own running shoes now, and it’s a perfect way to start running “barefoot”, without actually running barefoot.


Summary

So what do you think?

Do you run barefoot or in minimalist shoes, or do you have yet to be convinced of the benefits?

Do you have questions about “barefoot running orthotics” like the ShoeCue?

Do you think I’m completely wrong and that big, built up cushioned shoes are the way to go?

Leave your comments, thoughts and feedback below and I’ll reply! Finally, you can click here to get yourself a set of ShoeCues, and use 10% discount code “Greenfield10”.

shoecue

 

11 Crucial Health Questions & Mighty Self-Quantification Ring To Rule Them All: The Official Oura Ring Q&A.

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I’m on a constant quest to determine how elements such as air, light, electricity, water, food, movement and more affect important variables such as a performance, fat loss, recovery, digestion, brain, sleep and hormones.

So I was understandably a bit excited when I discovered the ŌURA ring at a biohacking conference in Finland. This small, stylish ring promised to use state-of-the-art miniaturized electronics to track and measure a host of parameters, including sleep, heart rate, heart rate variability (HRV), activity, body temperature, movement, respiration, and more.

I decided to find out more about this thing, so in the podcast “Could This New Ring Be The Final Frontier In Self Quantification, Biohacking, Sleep Tracking, HRV, Respiration & More?“, I interviewed the Co-Founder and CEO of ŌURA ring: Petteri Lahtela. During our discussion, we talked about:

-How the ŌURA ring identifies deep sleep, REM sleep, light sleep, and periods of wakefulness, and how accurate this data is compared to actual sleep lab measurements…

-Why the ŌURA ring is designed to allow you to completely disable the bluetooth function, and why the ring is specifically designed to not constantly transmit a signal (very important if you are concerned about electrical pollution)…

-The infrared measurement used to analyze HRV, and why it is just as accurate at measuring HRV as wearing a chest strap…

-How the Readiness Score you get from the ŌURA ring helps you identify days that are ideal for challenging yourself, and those that are better for taking it easy…

-How something called your interbeat interval and pulse waveform can be used to accurately calculate your respiration rate…

-The important data that you can collect about your body using the built-in accelerometer inside the ring…

-How the ŌURA measures temperature, and what kind of health information you can discover by monitoring your body’s temperature…

-Why the ring was designed to withstand extremes of environment and temperature, such as hot saunas, cold water, etc.

-How you can use the ring to track daily consumption (caffeine, alcohol, sugar), sleep aids you might be trying (valerian, melatonin, acupuncture) or other factors in your environment (barometric pressure, CO2, pollen count) using something called the Curious platform…

-And much more.

Anyways, you can click here to listen to that podcast

…but since releasing that episode and subsequently getting myself an ŌURA ring, spending oodles and oodles of hours testing it, putting it through ringer (yes, a pun) and pouring over the data, I’ve generated a big list of my own questions and also received plenty of questions from listeners and readers like you about how to interpret and make sense of data generated by self-quantification devices.

So in this article, I’m answering 11 of the most crucial questions I’ve received, and you’re going find out everything you need to know about parameters that drastically affect the way you look, feel and perform, but parameters you don’t see talked about much these days, things like…

…”lowest resting heart rate during sleep”…”activity readiness score”…”brain pulsations” and beyond. Even if you don’t own a self-quantification device, this article is going to be an information-rich resource for you to read, bookmark and use in your own pursuit of a perfect combination of sleep, activity and full body readiness for anything life throws at you.

Leave any additional comments below the post and I’ll ensure you get your question answered. Also mention my name in the comments section of any order for an ŌURA ring and they’ll knock $10 off after you order, whether USA or International.

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Q. What is a “Sleep Score” and what kind of things contribute to it?

A. Ranging from 0-100%, your Sleep Score is simply an overall measure of how well you slept. That’s it. A Sleep Score of 85% usually means that all contributors are in balance, and you meet the typical sleep needs of a person your age. Of course, sleep needs vary from person to person, so it’s good to evaluate and interpret your Sleep Score in relation to your feelings and performance level. If you feel refreshed in the morning and energetic throughout the day, your Sleep Score is most likely at a good level.

So what are the most important variables that affect this Sleep Score?

-Total sleep: Total sleep refers to the total amount of time you spend in light, REM and deep sleep. The amount of sleep needed varies from person to person. As a general rule, the younger you are, the more sleep you need. Most adults need 7-9 hours to perform well and stay healthy. Getting a good amount of sleep for your age will keep your Total Sleep time in balance, approximately at 80%. If you’re using the ŌURA ring to measure your sleep, you will see a full bar when your Total Sleep time reaches 9 hours.

-Efficiency: Sleep efficiency is a measurement of your sleep quality. It’s the percentage of time you actually spend asleep after going to bed. For adults, a generally accepted cut-off score for good Sleep Efficiency is 85%. It’s common for Sleep Efficiency to slightly decrease with age. For a maximum positive contribution to your Sleep Score, your Sleep Efficiency needs to be 95%. You’ll see a lowered Sleep Score if it has taken more than 20 minutes for you to fall asleep, or if you experience one long or multiple shorter wake-ups during the night.

-Disturbances: Sleep Disturbances caused by wake-ups, get-ups and restless time during your sleep can have a big impact on your sleep quality and daytime cognitive performance. Restless sleep is less restorative than uninterrupted sleep, and it’s usually the cause of daytime sleepiness. Disturbances can be caused by various different factors, such as stress, noise, partners, pets or different foods. To improve your chances of getting restful sleep, read my article on 4 ways to hack your sleep cycles.

-REM Sleep: REM (rapid eye movement) sleep plays an essential role in re-energizing your mind and your body, making it an important contributor to your sleep quality. REM is associated with dreaming, memory consolidation, learning and creativity. Making up anywhere between 5-50% of your total sleep time, the amount of REM can vary significantly between nights and individuals. On average REM counts for 20-25% (1,5h – 2h) of total sleep time for adults, and it usually decreases with age. REM is regulated by circadian rhythms, i.e. your body clock. Getting a full night’s sleep, sticking to a regular sleep schedule and avoiding caffeine, alcohol or other stimulants in the evening may increase your chances of getting more REM.

-Deep Sleep: Deep Sleep is the most restorative and rejuvenating sleep stage, enabling muscle growth and repair. When you’re in deep sleep, your blood pressure drops, heart and breathing rates are regular, arm and leg muscles are relaxed and you’re very difficult to awaken. Varying significantly between nights and individuals, Deep Sleep can make up anywhere between 0-35% of your total sleep time. On average adults spend 15-20% of their total sleep time in Deep Sleep, the percentage usually decreasing with age. Regular physical activity, avoiding heavy meals and alcohol before bed and long naps and caffeine in the afternoon can improve your chances of getting more Deep Sleep.

-Sleep Latency: Sleep Latency is the time it takes for you to fall asleep. Ideally falling asleep shouldn’t take more than 15-20 minutes. Falling asleep immediately (in less than 5 minutes) could be a sign that you’re not getting enough sleep for your needs. If you have trouble falling asleep, try getting out of bed and doing something relaxing, ideally in low light conditions, until you feel sleepy again.

-Sleep Timing: Your Sleep Timing is an important contributor to your sleep quality and daytime performance. Most of your body’s essential processes such as your body temperature, hormone release and hunger run in 24-hour cycles called circadian rhythms. Sleeping during the night and staying awake and active during the day can help keep these internal rhythms in balance, and helps you perform better throughout the day. For example, the ŌURA ring algorithm considers your Sleep Timing to be optimal and aligned with the sun when the midpoint of your sleep falls between midnight and 3 am, allowing some variability for morning and evening types. A timing significantly earlier or later can lower your Sleep Score.

And then there’s my personal favorite: the lowest resting heart rate during the night. More on that below…

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Q. Why should I know when my lowest resting heart rate occurs during the night?

A. As you probably already know, your Resting Heart Rate (RHR) is the number of times your heart beats per minute when you’re at rest. It’s a good measurement of your sleep quality, recovery and overall health. But ŌURA measures your heart rate throughout the night and displays the lowest 10-minute average it has detected. Normal RHR during the night for adults can range anywhere from 40-100 BPM (mine is 35, but I’m an endurance freak, and if you’re a swimmer, cyclist, runner, triathlete, etc. then this may be the case for you too). The best way to determine your normal level is by looking at your own data history.

This lowest RHR during the night is affected by various factors, such as physical activity, nutrition, body position, and environment. A low RHR is often associated with good fitness and overall health. An exceptionally high or low RHR is usually a sign of increased need for recovery, and here’s the important thing: if your lowest resting heart rate occurs during the night at a later time than usual, that can be a sign of an increased need for recovery or that you are sleeping at too high a temperature in your room.

Good to know, eh?

Your RHR can be elevated after a late night workout, a heavy meal in the evening, or when your body temperature is higher than your average. For women, the menstrual cycle can cause a small increase in RHR during the second half of the cycle (ovulatory and luteal phases).

It’s also normal for your RHR to be higher than usual when recovering from an intense training day. As you increase your training volumes and your fitness improves, your RHR and your lowest RHR during the night should start to decline over time.

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Q. What kind of things should I think about tracking in terms of what affects my sleep in a good or bad way?

A. Exercise is a good first place to start. Data suggests not only that exercising during the day will help you fall asleep more quickly and plunge you into deeper sleep for a longer period of time, but also that exercising causes your body to produce growth hormones, which help it to repair and revitalize itself. Many people report that based on sleep tracking results they sleep better with regular exercise and that they feel more alert and rejuvenated the following day.

 

Diet is of course another key variable to track. Check out this excellent article to see the findings of sleep studies in relation to diet. For example, one study states:

“The midpoint of sleep is significantly associated with dietary intake of certain nutrients and foods and other dietary behaviors in young Japanese women. This finding may contribute to consider the relationships between chronotype and dietary intakes and behaviors.” 

This is especially true for those who are sensitive to gluten (like I am) or some other foods without knowing it will have big effect on sleep and restorativeness of sleep. Also soft drinks and other drinks sweetened with fructose and/or artificial sweeteners extensively affect liver function and therefore disturb sleep, especially between 1am and 3am.

Then there is caffeine, alcohol and other stimulants and depressants. The “half-life” of a compound, which is the level at which the effect of these type of stimulants or depressants is somewhat reduced tends to vary widely based on genetics, metabolism, etc.. Many of them prevent you from either falling asleep or having good quality sleep. For example, alcohol induces sympathetic activity of autonomic nervous system, increases resting heart rate, delays the reaching of the lowest resting heart rate, increases body temperature, blood pressure, insulin levels, dehydrates the body and for any of those reason awakens you some time in the middle of the night. In general, many stimulants taken too near to sleep time practically limit the restorativeness of sleep and cause sleep debt (deprivation). It can actually take several nights of sleep and balancing daily behavior to recover both mentally and physically from one poorly slept night.

As you track these kind of variables in relation to your sleep quality, try the following:

-First, stick to a regular bedtime and wake-up time before starting other hacking experiments – this needs to be preferably a week or longer and the the time when you reach the lowest resting heart rate (RHR) during the night should not change too much.

-If the lowest RHR happens late in the night or more in the morning then you have not recovered well from either having too intensive activity late in the evening or you have had too full meal late in the evening or taken stimulants or spent too much time too late on blue light (screen time), for example. All of these mess up the sleep pattern and sleep becomes lighter.

-Pay attention to wake-sleep cycle and circadian alignment (reflected in skin temperature being clearly higher during the night than the day – which can also be checked from the ŌURA report)

-Pay attention to not only the amount of deep sleep but overall sleep architecture and sleep score that ŌURA gives you, since the overall picture is more important. Also, the balance of activity, timing and intensity in relation to sleep timing is very important. If the timing of lowest RHR varies continuously then there is something in your lifestyle, diet or rhythms that challenges your sleep.

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Q. What is Sleep Timing?

A. Your Sleep Timing is an incredibly important contributor to your sleep quality and daytime performance. Most of your body’s essential processes such as your body temperature, hormone release and hunger run in 24-hour cycles called circadian rhythms. Sleeping during the night and staying awake and active during the day can help keep these internal rhythms in balance, and helps you perform better throughout the day.

The ŌURA ring considers your Sleep Timing to be optimal and aligned with the sun when the midpoint of your sleep falls between midnight and 3 am, allowing some variability for morning and evening types. A timing significantly earlier or later can lower your Sleep Score.

So what kind of things can affect Sleep Timing (AKA circadian rhythms)? 

One big factor is “social jetlag”. Millions of people today force their bodies to adjust to artificial sleep schedules, negatively affecting both their sleep and their health. Sleep jetlag is actually a new term for this, as you can see from the anecdote below taken from this study:

“Humans show large differences in the preferred timing of their sleep and activity. This so‐called “chronotype” is largely regulated by the circadian clock. Both genetic variations in clock genes and environmental influences contribute to the distribution of chronotypes in a given population, ranging from extreme early types to extreme late types with the majority falling between these extremes. Social (e.g., school and work) schedules interfere considerably with individual sleep preferences in the majority of the population. Late chronotypes show the largest differences in sleep timing between work and free days leading to a considerable sleep debt on work days, for which they compensate on free days. The discrepancy between work and free days, between social and biological time, can be described as ‘social jetlag.’”

Sleeping and waking time also has effect on circadian rhythm. For example, your drive for sleep increases as a function of time elapsed since your awakening. A normal, regular sleep-wake time works as regulator for circadian drive for alertness, balancing and improving your sleep quality. Circadian drive for alertness peaks at the end of circadian day and reaches its peak at the end of circadian night, and this means that in an ideal situation, you should go to bed and wake up at similar times each night and day.

Meal time is another huge cue for your circadian rhythm. Clocks in your peripheral tissues are actually governed by feeding cycles. Thus, diurnal feeding imposes diurnal rhythms upon all these tissues in your body (Mohawk et al., 2012. Central and peripheral circadian clocks in mammals, Annu. Rev. Neurosci. 35 (2012) 445e462.). That study shows that chronic advances in light-dark cycles imitate jet lag and shift work, increase body weight and alter the expression of metabolic genes, whereas time-defined feeding prevents obesity without affecting caloric intake.

Yes, these results suggest that the major factor involved in obesity induced by jet-lag or shift work is fluctuating meal timing and not a shift in light-dark cycles1

Typical methods used to measure circadian rhythm are melatonin levels and core body temperature. According to several studies the skin temperature is actually an accurate marker of the circadian rhythm. [Corbalan-Tutau et al., 2011; Ortiz-Tudela et al., 2010; Sarabia et al., 2009], and your sleep midpoint is good parameter for measuring your circadian rhythm too.

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Q. How much time in each sleep phase should I get?

A. Let’s start with the first: REM sleep…

REM sleep is a unique phase of mammalian sleep characterized by random movement of the eyes, low muscle tone throughout the body, and the propensity of a sleeper to have vivid or lucid dreams. This phase is also known as paradoxical sleep (PS) and sometimes “desynchronized sleep” because of its physiological similarities to a waking state, including rapid, low-voltage desynchronized brain waves – basically a combination of alpha brain waves and beta brain waves.

During a typical night of sleep, you usually experience about four or five periods of REM sleep, which are quite short at the beginning of the night and longer toward the end. The first REM episode typically occurs about 70 minutes after falling asleep. Cycles of about 90 minutes each follow, with each cycle including a larger proportion of REM sleep. REM sleep typically occupies 20-25% of total sleep in adult humans, or about 90–120 minutes of a night’s sleep.

Here’s the important thing to look for when evaluating the “sleep percentage” your sleep-tracking device of choice gives you: REM sleep typically occupies 20-25% of total sleep in adult humans, or about 90–120 minutes of a night’s sleep. That’s the number you should be shooting for.

Next comes non-REM (NREM) sleep, which is best defined as any sleep not recognizable as REM sleep. NREM consists of three separate stages: stage 1, stage 2 and stage 3, also known as N1, N2 and N3 – with N1+N2 typically being classified as light sleep, and N3 being classified as deep sleep.

Stage 1 (NREM1 or N1) is the stage between wakefulness and sleep, sometimes referred to as “drowsy” sleep, in which your muscles are still quite active and your eyes roll around slowly, and may open and close from time to time. In more scientific terms, stage 1 is the period of transition from relatively unsynchronized beta and gamma brain waves (with a frequency of 12-30 Hz and 25-100 Hz), which is the normal range for the awake state, to more synchronized but slower alpha waves with a frequency of 8-13 Hz, and then to theta waves with a frequency of 4-7 Hz.

During N1 sleep, your breathing gradually becomes more regular and your heart rate begins to slow. Dreaming is relatively rare during this stage, but sudden twitches or jerks (sudden short micro-awakenings) are quite common, and these are simply the last gasps of waking control before sleep fully takes over. During this short period of very light, easily disrupted sleep, which usually lasts less than 10 minutes, you can be aware of sounds and conversations, but you feel unwilling to respond to them.

Typically, this stage should represent only about 5% of your total sleep time.

Stage 2 (NREM2 or N2) is the stage of sleep in which muscle activity decreases still further and conscious awareness of the outside world begins to fade completely. Brain waves during stage 2 are mainly in the theta wave range (just like N1 sleep), but N2 sleep is also characterized by two distinguishing characteristics: sleep spindles (short bursts of brain activity in the region of 12-14 Hz, lasting maybe half a second each, also known as “sigma” waves) and K-complexes (short negative high voltage peaks, followed by a slower positive complex, and then a final negative peak, with each complex lasting 1-2 minutes). Together, these two waves  protect sleep and suppress response to outside stimuli, as well aid in sleep-based memory consolidation and information processing.

Because you pass through this stage several times during the night, more time is spent in stage 2 sleep than in any other single stage, and N2 should typically constitutes about 45%-50% of total sleep time. If you add up N1 (ideally 5%) and N2 (ideally 45-50%), that is what something like the ŌURA will quantify as total light sleep, so now you know that total light sleep should be around 50-55% on a sleep quantification reading.

Finally, stage 3 (NREM3 or N3) occurs, and this known as deep or delta or slow-wave sleep (SWS), characterized by delta brain waves with a frequency of around 0.5-4 Hz. During this stage, you are even less responsive to the outside environment, essentially cut off from the world and unaware of any sounds or other stimuli. Neuronal activity, brain temperature, breathing rate, heart rate and blood pressure are all at their lowest levels during stage 3 sleep. Dreaming is more common during this stage than in the other non-REM sleep stages, and this is also the stage during which “parasomnias” such as night terrors, sleep-walking, sleep-talking and bedwetting occur. Information processing and memory consolidation also take place during this stage.

Interestingtly, it is much more difficult to wake a person during stage 3 sleep, and if awakened at this stage, you will often feel very groggy. It can take up to 30 minutes before they attain normal mental performance (known as sleep inertia). Hence the advent of many new alarm clocks and self-quantification devices that sync to your phone or cause a vibration or alarm to occur during the point in the morning when you are not in this stage of sleep (I think that’s a quite handy feature).

This stage 3 sleep (AKA “deep sleep”) should ideally represent around 15%-20% of  your total sleep time.

OK, so let’s review what kind of percentages you should be looking for when analyzing your sleep data:

-Awake time should be 1-5%

-REM sleep should be 20-25%

-Light sleep should be 50-55%

-Deep sleep should be 15-20%

As you learn in my podcast with sleep expert Nick Littlehales, you should ideally go through four to five of these sleep cycles from REM to NREM during any 24 hour period, or about 35 sleep cycles every week.

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Q. What if my sleep tracking device shows I get really low levels of deep sleep?

A. Surprisingly, your sleep can be good even if you don’t get very much N3 (=deep) sleep. Even in brain wave signals, deep sleep can be deeper or lighter in one person over the course of the night, and between people. In the sleep lab, depending on the low frequency brain wave signals at certain cut-point sleep is determined as N2 (light) instead of N3 (deep). By the way, the term “light sleep” (as N2 has been called historically together with N1) is actually not the best word to describe N2, because stage 2 N-REM sleep is actually the very “base” sleep stage and restorative as well.

There is certainly some inter-individual variability in how breathing and HRV characteristics and the exact number of motions allowed for the point where N3 starts and N2 ends. Now, assuming somebody makes behavioral adjustments and wishes to see if they start getting more deep sleep, can they be sure that something like the ŌURA ring will show the changes? The answer is yes, because the ŌURA will react to changes when more N3 starts to accumulate. There is some quantification challenge if sleep only deepens a little (doesn’t reach the criteria set for deep).

It seems that many people who see they are getting low levels of deep sleep tend to start doing some extensive hacking for getting more deep sleep but many times the most powerful hacks are actually very simple. For example, you can see some interesting stats by plotting bedtime start times against amount of deep sleep as well as the stability of your bedtime starts over past few days against your deep sleep. This indicates that the regular bedtimes and wake up times help keeping the circadian alignment and help the body learn the rhythm over the time. That leads to more stable sleep patterns and eventually to adequate amounts of deep and REM sleep as well. Your body tends to keep the rhythms and if they vary a lot, the sleep becomes lighter.

Then there’s Heart Rate Variability (HRV), and how that relates to various sleep stages. I asked ŌURA if they planned on releasing much data regarding HRV during the night, and here was their reply:

“We will soon have great data about HRV in different sleep stages, which is reflecting the overall restorativeness better than morning HRV (http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/91/7/1918). Morning HRV mostly reflects the overall restorativeness of sleep and state of recovery but in the context of sleep stages it correlates more with the amount of REM. The HRV characteristics varies a lot in relation to sleep stages and therefore also measuring HRV “randomly” overnight does not provide much meaning….”

Which brings me to another point: I am constantly in touch with the folks at ŌURA, giving them feedback about the ring, the need for even more HRV functionality and “geeked out info” for nerds like me who want to tear into every shred of data, more napping sleep cycle info, etc. It’s actually quite cool to see the app continue to evolve based on my own personal feedback.

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Q. What are sleep pulsations, and why are they important with regards to sleep and recovery?

A. Recently scientists have developed a means to to monitor the actual pulsation of the blood vessels in the brain. These pulsations are how your brain “cleanses” itself while you sleep. Researchers have developed a specific MRI in which the brain is photographed 10 times per second, from which it is possible to see any disruptions in the cleansing system.

They detected three types of physiological mechanisms affecting cerebral cerebrospinal fluid pulsations: cardiac, respiratory, and very low frequency pulsations. Since glymphatic system failure may precede protein accumulations in diseases such as Alzheimer’s dementia, this methodological advance offers a novel approach to image brain fluid dynamics that potentially can enable early detection and intervention in neurodegenerative diseases. The changes may appear years before the first symptoms of a memory and behavioural diseases and it may be possible in future to prevent diseases or treat them before any long-lasting effects on the brain.

The ŌURA ring accurately detects the characteristics in body signals that associate with different sleep stages, like the regularity of breathing, restfulness, characteristic patterns in blood volume pulse wave, pulse amplitude variation, resting heart rate and variation of the heart rate. Additionally ŌURA measures and provides long term trends of multiple body signals and parameters that indicate how your body responds to your daily life choices, rhythms and activities, among others. So, in addition to holistic view on sleep ŌURA provides a view on autonomic nervous system balance. ŌURA can be used 24/7 continuously and therefore enables longitudinal access to such sleep related insights in the context of normal daily life. This has not been possible before in this level of comfort and accuracy as a longitudinal view.

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Q. What is a “Readiness Score”?

A. Ranging from 0-100%, the Readiness Score given by the ŌURA helps you identify the days that are ideal for challenging yourself, and those that are better for taking it easy. The Readiness Score is affected by a variety of “Readiness Contributors”, which help you to evaluate how well your recent and cumulative sleep, activity and recovery are in balance.

A Readiness Score above 85% indicates that you’re well recovered. A score below 70% usually means that an essential Readiness Contributor, such as your body temperature or previous night’s sleep, falls outside your normal range, or clearly differs from recommended, science-based values.

So what are the most important variables that affect readiness?

-Previous Night’s Sleep: How you slept last night can have a significant impact on your readiness to perform during the day. Getting enough good quality sleep is necessary for physical recovery, memory and learning, all part of your readiness to perform. For a maximum positive contribution to your Readiness Score, your Sleep Score needs to be above 88%, and at the high end of your normal range.

-Sleep Balance: Sleep Balance shows if the sleep you’ve been getting over the past two weeks is in balance with your needs. Sleep Balance is based on a long-term view on your sleep patterns. It’s measured by comparing your total sleep time from the past two weeks to your long-term sleep history and the amount of sleep recommended for your age. Typically adults need 7-9 hours of sleep to stay healthy, alert, and to perform at their best both mentally and physically. Insufficient sleep can eventually lead to sleep debt. Paying back sleep debt and rebuilding sleep balance takes several nights of good sleep.

-Previous Day: our level of physical activity yesterday is one of the key contributors to your Readiness Score. When Previous Day is in balance and the contributor bar is at 100%, you’ll know you’ve balanced your need for activity and rest, and substituted a nice amount of inactive time with low activity. An exceptionally high amount of inactivity or activity leads to a drop in your Readiness Score. If your readiness is low due to intense training and increased Activity Burn, taking time to recover can pay off as improved fitness.

-Activity Balance: Activity Balance measures how your activity level over the past days is affecting your readiness to perform. A full bar indicates that you’ve been active, but kept from training at your maximum capacity. This has boosted your recovery and helped build up your energy levels. While easier days can have a positive effect on your readiness level, challenging your body every now and then by increasing your training volumes helps maintain and develop your physical capacity in the long run.

-Body Temperature: ŌURA tracks the variations of your body temperature by measuring your skin temperature each night. Body temperature is a well-regulated vital parameter. When you sleep, ŌURA compares your skin temperature to similar measures from your earlier nights to estimate your normal range. A full contributor bar indicates that your estimated Body Temperature is within normal variation. You’ll see a lowered Readiness Score when your Body Temperature is outside your normal range.

-Resting Heart Rate: Resting Heart Rate (RHR) is the number of times your heart beats per minute when you’re at rest. It’s a reliable measurement of your recovery status, and an important contributor to your readiness. ŌURA evaluates the optimal level for your RHR by studying your data after active days and recovery days for a couple of weeks. Once it knows your normal range, your Readiness Score will start to become more accurate. ŌURA interprets a RHR slightly below your average as a sign of good readiness, whereas an exceptionally high or low RHR is a sign of increased need for recovery. An intense training day, a late night workout, elevated body temperature, or a heavy meal just before bed can keep your RHR elevated during the night, often resulting to a lowered Readiness Score.

-Recovery Index: Recovery Index measures how long it takes for your Resting Heart Rate (RHR) to stabilize and to reach its lowest point during the night. A sign of very good recovery is that your RHR reaches its lowest point during the first half of the night, at least 6 hours before you wake up. Alcohol, a heavy meal before bed or late exercise speed up your metabolism and keep your RHR elevated, delaying your recovery and increasing your sleep needs.

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Q. What is an “Activity Score”?

A. Ranging from 0-100%, your Activity Score is an overall measure of how active you’ve been today, and over the past seven days. The Activity Score is affected by Activity Contributors. Before ŌURA starts collecting your personal activity data, the score is set by default at 75%. An Activity Score above 85% indicates that you’re getting health and fitness benefits associated with increased physical activity.

For higher scores you need to reach your daily Activity Targets regularly, do medium and high intensity level training (Medium+) 3-5 times weekly, avoid long periods of inactivity and have 1-2 easy or recovery days weekly.

So what affects the Activity Score?

-Activity Burn. Activity Burn shows the kilocalories you’ve burned by daily movement and exercise. Activity Burn is an estimate of your net calorie burn. This means that it doesn’t include your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), i.e. the calories your body would burn while resting. Activity Burn shows the additional calories burned by walking, training or doing other activities (the portion that exceeds 1.5 MET level). Tracking your Activity Burn can help you to balance out your current activity level and your calorie intake, which is key to good recovery and maintaining a healthy weight.

By the way, if you have no clue what a MET is, then read this for the nitty gritty details, but basically MET (or Metabolic Equivalent) is a common measure used to express the energy expenditure and intensity of different physical activities. If the MET value of a specific activity is 4, it means that you’re burning 4 times as many calories as you would burn while resting. The time engaged in different activities can be expressed as MET minutes. For example:

-30 min x 5 METs = 150 MET min
-30 min x 7 METs = 210 MET min

OK, let’s keep going…

-Activity Frequency. Moving around and avoiding long periods of inactivity helps you stay healthy, and keeps your metabolism active throughout the day. ŌURA measures the time you’ve spent sitting, standing or otherwise inactive during the past 24 hours. Inactive time doesn’t include resting or sleep. Having 5-7 hours or less of inactive time per day has a positive effect on your Activity Score. ŌURA actually tracks the time you spend sitting, standing or otherwise passive, and guides you to break up long periods of inactivity. The number of continuous one-hour periods is displayed above the sitting icon in the Activity view. An hour of inactivity will only have a small effect on the contributor, but staying still for several hours will start to lower your Activity Score.

-Daily Targets: Each day ŌURA gives you daily Activity Target based on your age, gender and readiness level. Your daily activity is measured from 4 am to 4 am. Whether it’s everyday activities or intense training, all daily movement measured during this 24-hour period moves you closer to your daily target. Meet Daily Targets will be at 100% when you’ve met your target on 6-7 days. Falling short of your target on 3 or more days starts to lower your Activity Score.

-Training Frequency: Training frequency measures how often you’ve gotten Medium+ activity over the past 7 days. Optimal Training Frequency is key to maintaining and developing your cardiovascular fitness. ŌURA recommends getting at least 100 MET minutes of medium+ activity a day. This is equivalent to 20 minutes of jogging or 30 minutes of brisk walking. Yep, that’s not much. As you can read about here, I personally go way above and beyond that and target 15,000 steps per day, and the ŌURA algorithm is constantly being updated to allow for fancy “exceptions” to the activity score based on super active people like me.

-Training Volume: Training Volume measures the amount of Medium+ Activity you’ve gotten over the past 7 days. Like Training Frequency, Training Volume is an essential aspect of maintaining and improving your fitness level. For your Training Volume to have a maximum positive contribution to your Activity Score, you need to get 2000 MET minutes of Medium+ Activity per week (2000-3000 kcal, depending on your body weight). When your activity level goes below 750 MET minutes a week (750-1500 kcal), your Activity Score will start to decline.

-Recovery Time. As you probably know, having a sufficient amount of easier days in your training program boosts your performance and helps speed up your recovery. No matter how much you train, the actual fitness progress takes place during Recovery Time, when your muscles have time to repair and grow. For ŌURA, an easy day means keeping the amount of medium intensity level activity below 200 MET minutes (200-300 kcal/day depending on body weight), and high intensity activity below 100 MET minutes (100-150 kcal/day depending on body weight). In practice this can mean doing lots of low intensity activities, getting healthy amounts of medium intensity activity (e.g. 30-60 min), but only a small amount of high intensity activity (e.g. below 10 min).

The ŌURA ring gives you a minimum daily Activity Target based on your age, gender and daily readiness. When your Readiness Score is above 90%, your Activity Target is usually high. Days like these are usually optimal for taking your training to the next level and developing your physical performance. On days when your readiness drops below 70%, your Activity Target is lowered, and avoiding or reducing intensive training might be in order.

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Q. Can I do weight training workouts and water workouts while wearing the ring?

A. Yes. For example, I do a huge number of pull-ups, swings, deadlifts, cleans, presses, etc. while wearing my ring, and for about the first 30 days of this, my inner pinky and inner middle finger went through the normal period of developing callouses on my finger skin from the ring rubbing. Now, just like any calloused area, there are zero skin issues on the finger.

The ring is also completely resistant and functional up to 50m deep in the water.

When you first order the ŌURA, you receive a sizing kit that ensures you get a ring that fits your finger perfectly. However, for situations such as Spartan races or triathlons that involve slippery mud, cold water, etc., I remove the ring so that I don’t lose it.

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Q. Is there a quick “cheat sheet” on these terms I can use for a reference?

A. Yep, here you go:

Term Description Automatically detected by OURA
Sleep Sleep helps to recover from accumulated mental and physical load. It is an active and dynamic state characterized by changes in brain activity and physiological function including breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, autonomic nervous system and body temperature. YES
Sleep Stages Sleep is divided into rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM sleep types. NREM sleep is composed of three different stages ranging from very light to deep. Oura detects both NREM –  light and deep –  and REM sleep, as well as awakenings during the sleep. YES,

very light (N1) and light sleep (N2) are combined

Sleep Architecture Normal sleep architecture follows a cyclic pattern of sleep stages. A sleep cycle proceeds from lightest to deeper stages of NREM to the REM sleep and repeats itself about every 90 minutes. Sleep patterns can be affected by factors like age, the amount of recent sleep or wakefulness, the time of sleep, behaviors prior to sleep such as exercise, stress, jet lag, as well as environmental conditions such as temperature and light, and various chemicals. YES
Light Sleep During light sleep person becomes disengaged from surroundings, eyes moves slowly or stop moving, muscles relax with occasional twitches, heart rate and breathing rate are lowered, and body temperature drops. During light sleep person is easily awakened by noises and other disturbances. About 50-60% of the sleep time is spent in the light sleep stage. YES
Deep Sleep Deep sleep is the deepest and most restorative sleeps stage. Blood pressure drops, heart and respiratory rates are low and regular, muscles are relaxed, energy is restored and essential hormones are released enabling tissue growth and repair. During deep sleep person is very difficult to awaken. Deep sleep is necessary for feeling well rested and energetic during the next day. Longest periods of deep sleep occur during the first half of the night. About 15-20% of sleep time is spent in deep sleep, and the amount declines with age. YES
REM Sleep REM sleep is associated with dreaming. A short period of REM may occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep, and longer periods of REM typically occur during the second half of the night. During REM, eyes move rapidly, breathing becomes rapid, shallow and irregular, heart rate and blood pressure increase and arm and leg muscles are temporarily paralysed. Typically 20-25% of the sleep is spent in REM sleep, and the amount slightly decreases with age. YES
Time in Bed Time in bed starts when “the head hits the pillow” and ends at rise-up including awakening periods before falling asleep and during the sleep. YES
Total Sleep Time Sleep duration, or total sleep time, is the amount of time spent in light, deep and REM sleep stages during the night. YES
Sleep Efficiency Sleep efficiency is the ratio between sleep duration and time in bed. Sleep efficiency over 85% can be regarded as normal, while a number below 70% can be considered to be very low. Difficulties in initiating or maintaining sleep diminish sleep efficiency. YES
Sleep Onset Delay Sleep onset delay, or sleep latency, is the amount of time that elapses between the time the person’s head hits the pillow and the time person eventually falls asleep. Normal sleep onset delay is around 15 minutes. Very short sleep onset delay can be indirect indicator of sleep deprivation, while extended sleep onset delay is indicating difficulties of initiating sleep. YES
Wake after Sleep Onset (WASO) WASO means time spent awake in bed after sleep has started, and before final awakening. It can be used to indicate the difficulties in maintaining sleep. The amount of awakenings increases the likelihood of feeling tired during the day,  even though the tolerance for sleep disruptions varies. Sleep fragmentation seems to increases with age. YES
Sleep Debt Feeling drowsy during a day is a sign of not having enough sleep. If sleep is too short, the body doesn’t have time to complete all of the processes needed for muscle repair, memory consolidation and the release of the essential hormones. Sleep deprivation compromises cognitive, mental and physical performance. The sleep deprivation accumulated over several nights creates sleep debt. It may require several good nights to pay back sleep debt. For chronically sleep deprived it can take months to get back into the normal sleep pattern. Sleep debt that has been accumulated over extended periods of time may have irreversible negative consequences. YES
Sleep Score Sleep Score is the parameter that shows your sleep quality at a glance. Oura Sleep score takes into account the positive and negative contributors for sleep quality such as total sleep time, REM and deep sleep duration, sleep onset delay and awakenings. Maximum Oura sleep score is 100% while 85% represents a level supposed to be adequate for normal daily performance. Individual tolerance to lower sleep scores may vary, but in general, lower sleep scores can be linked with impaired mental and cognitive performance and daytime sleepiness. YES
Readiness Score Oura Readiness Score indicates the ability to perform in daily life.  Most essential parameters contributing to the Readiness Score are preceding sleep and physical activity, accumulated sleep debt, nocturnal heart rate and body temperature.    YES
Chronotype Chronotype refers to person´s typical time of sleep and ability to perform at different times of day. Morning type person wakes up early and is most active in the morning, whereas evening type person has later bed and wake-up times and  is most energetic during afternoon and evening. Oura will utilize your daily rhythms and sleep related parameters in order to automatically learn about your chronotype characteristics. YES
Circadian Rhythm Several essential physiological and behavioral processes such as sleep-wake cycle, body temperature and hormone secretion follow circadian rhythms. An endogenous timing system generate and maintain circadian rhythms and is synchronized to solar rhythm mainly by external light stimuli. In addition, eating, sleeping, social behavior and physical activity synchronize the endogenous circadian rhythm. Misalignment between circadian  and solar rhythms results in adverse consequences in many aspects of human health, including mental and physical performance, sleep, cardiovascular system, metabolic homeostasis and immune system. The target of Oura is to optimally align the endogenous and solar rhythms. YES
Sleep Wake Cycle The sleep-wake cycle is regulated by an interaction and balance between two separate biological mechanisms in the body, homeostatic and circadian process. Homeostatic drive for sleep increases as a function of amount of time elapsed since last sleep episode and declines during sleep. The accumulation of sleep-inducing substances such as adenosine generates a pressure for sleep. The circadian drive for sleep peaks at the end of the biological night and reaches the lowest level at the end of the biological day. Adequate alignment between the homeostatic and circadian processes is crucial in obtaining optimal sleep and performance. Sleep-wake processes are influenced by the genes and several external factors such as medication, naps, mental and physiological strain and daily schedules. YES

I’d also highly recommend you listen to “Could This New Ring Be The Final Frontier In Self Quantification, Biohacking, Sleep Tracking, HRV, Respiration & More?“, if you want to learn more about the hardware in the ring, why it doesn’t produce any electrical pollution, why it’s drastically different than any other self-quantification device on the face of the planet and much more.

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Summary

What do you think?

Do you already track or plan on tracking your sleep, readiness and activity?

Do you have questions about sleep cycles, activity readiness, or anything else I discussed in this article? Leave your comments and questions below, and I’ll reply. In the meantime, if you want to begin the process of self-quantification for yourself, you can…

Click here to get an ŌURA ring and if you mention my name in the comments section of any order they’ll knock $10 off instantly after you order, whether USA or International..

Click here to get the NatureBeat app I use to track my morning heart rate variability (HRV) in conjunction with the ŌURA

Thanks for reading and happy tracking!

26 Little-Known Health-Hacking Lessons Learned From 8 Books I Read This Week.

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I speed read.

As I discuss in the podcast episode “Unlocking The Superpowers Of Speed Reading, Memory Enhancement, Learning Skills Faster & More With Jim Kwik.“, I’ve naturally “sped-read” since I was a little kid, and I typically read 4-8 books each week.

Here’s my system: I begin by glancing at the table-of-contents to get an idea of what the book contains. Then, I flip through the book very quickly to see what the layout of the book is like. How much of it is references or appendices at the end? Where are the special sections, diagrams, graphs, photos or in-laid content that might take extra time or be critical or interesting sections? How much of it is simply “fluff”?

Then I begin reading, page-by-page. I don’t track down-and-up or side-to-side with a finger or pen. I just…read.

And I find anything especially notable or groundbreaking in the book, I underline that section (or, if a Kindle, highlight that section), then fold over that page so I can go back later and read my underlined sections.

Finally, when I’m all finished, I photograph the underlined sections with my phone and upload those to Evernote so I have the most important notes digitally stored forever. That’s it. Anyways, this week I attended a private health summit and had the opportunity to read eight new health books published in 2016.

In today’s article, I’m going to give you my biggest takeaways and lessons learned from those eight books. When it comes to optimizing your body and brain, I think you’ll find some handy gems. Enjoy.


Kale and Coffee: A Renegade’s Guide to Health, Happiness, and Longevity by Kevin Gianni

IMG_7867 Quick Summary of Kale and Coffee:

“Four years ago, when I was something of a YouTube health celebrity, I was on top of the world [and] . . . the diet pyramid. I ate the cleanest, most nutritious diet on the planet (or so I thought). A raw-food vegan diet . . . not only pure in its contents but also pure in its intention. With this type of diet, you eat straight from the earth, only as nature intended. I ate kale salad, raw nut butters, goji berries, raw chocolate, and dehydrated flax crackers. I drank green smoothies, green juice, wheatgrass, and hemp milk. I even tried a fruitarian diet . . . I thought about food from the moment I woke up until the second I fell asleep . . . I was an addict in search of the purest dope: raw, vegan, organic food . . . I was headed down a path of self-destruction. So it’s not surprising that, like any hardcore addict, I eventually hit rock bottom.”

So begins the saga of health blogger Kevin Gianni and his wife, Annmarie, as they travel the world to learn as much as they can about health and nutrition. Along the way they meet unlikely people in unlikely places as Kevin seeks an answer to his burning question: What—and how much—should we eat?

Gianni’s lighthearted debunking of the hype and nonsense surrounding much of the health and nutrition world today should be encouraging to anyone who’s ever tried a fad diet and failed. Kale and Coffee is packed with research—delivered in Gianni’s warm and humorous voice—but the aim throughout is to empower you to create the diet and lifestyle best suited to you alone.

Kale and Coffee offers practical tips for wellness, from testing your body—and pantry—for toxic metals to selecting the healthiest coffee, wines, and green drinks to consume. 

Biggest Lessons I Learned From Kale and Coffee:

-Many long-lived, ancestral, healthy populations don’t eat blueberry and kale superfoods. Take the Q’ero tribe in the Peruvian Andes. Their diet is pretty simple: potatoes, corn, alpaca meat, trout and coca leaves. The Nicoyans in Costa Rica, another longevity prone population, eat a staple diet of bean, corn and squash. That’s pretty much it. Think about that before you blow a whole paycheck at Whole Foods.

-“Holy basil” supplementation popped up in this book and several others I read as an excellent short-term stress solution. I plan to try it. My friend Roger Drummer, an adaptogenic herb specialist, recommended to me this Gaia herb stuff.

-Y0ur gut only heals from inflammation and stress when you’re not eating. Period. This mantra was repeated in several other books as well. So I stand by my recommendation that you should engage in a 12-16 hour intermittent fast (also known as an 8-12 hour “compressed feeding window”) as many days of the year as possible, and on a couple days of the month, you should go for 24 hours without eating. During these times, water, minerals, a multi-vitamin and amino acids are fine.


No Grain, No Pain by Dr. Peter Osborne

IMG_7872Quick Summary of No Grain, No Pain:

“In the tradition of Wheat Belly and Grain Brain; No Grain, No Pain demonstrates the proven link between a gluten-heavy diet and chronic pain and discomfort—and offers a groundbreaking, 30-day, grain-free diet plan to help you heal yourself from the inside out.

More than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain according to an Institute of Medicine report released in 2011. For many, chronic pain is part of an autoimmune disease, but all too often doctors turn to the same solution: painkilling drugs.

But all of this medication simply isn’t helping, and as Dr. Peter Osborne, the leading authority on gluten sensitivity and food allergies has found, the real solution often lies in what you eat. In No Grain, No Pain, Dr. Osborne shows how grains wreak havoc on the body by causing tissue inflammation, creating vitamin and/or mineral deficiencies, and triggering an autoimmune response that causes the body to attack itself. But he also offers practical steps to find relief. Using his drug-free, easy-to-implement plan, you will be able to eliminate all sources of gluten and gluten-like substances, experience significant improvement in fifteen days, and eliminate pain within thirty days.

No Grain, No Pain is the first book to identify diet—specifically, grain—as a leading cause of chronic suffering, and provides you with the knowledge you need to improve your health. Based on extensive research and examples culled from thousands of his satisfied patients, Dr. Osborne recommends changing your diet to achieve the relief that millions of Americans have been seeking once and for all, leading to a healthier, happier life.”

Biggest Lessons I Learned From No Pain, No Grain:

-There are over four hundred different forms of gluten, forty of which can be more damaging to the gut than the form of gluten for which most doctors commonly test. There is no lab test for all these forms of gluten. Grains also contain something called amylase trypsin inhibitors (ATI’s), which can inhibit your pancreas from producing digestive enzymes. Many of these glutens and enzyme inhibitors can be pre-digested or de-activated by fermenting, soaking and sprouting grains but most people don’t do that.

-Corn and rice and oats (popular on gluten-free diets), as well as vegetable oils, all contain gluten and can produce numerous intestinal and health problems for the gluten sensitive. Since a gluten-free diet that relies on gluten-free packaged foods contains plenty of this corn and rice, many people switch to a gluten-free diet and unfortunately, the inflammation that gluten can cause never actually goes away. Instead, they should be eating “natural” non-packaged foods like sweet potatoes, yams, beets, greens, parsnips, carrots, soaked and sprouted seeds and nuts, etc. – not packaged gluten-free foods.

-Stevia, if it’s the “Truvia” brand, contains corn, and thus gluten.

-If you’re healing your gut, you should have a sixteen-hour food-free zone for every 24 hour cycle.

-Milk “looks” like gluten to your immune system, so if you’re gluten sensitive your immune system may react to it. Soy can often do the same thing.

-There are some *excellent* tips in this boook on sandwich substitutes. Check this out:

IMG_7914

-Bad water can aggravate the gut, and for removing metals and other chemical compounds, the author is a fan of KDF (kinetic degradation fluxion), a copper-zinc alloy that is often found in whole house reverse osmosis filtration systems. So for filtering the water in your entire home, look for a KDF filter that includes RO (Reverse Osmosis) like this. 


The Urban Monk

Quick Summary of The Urban Monk:

“We all struggle to discover satisfaction and contentment in the modern world and yet the more technology we use, the more things seem to get worse. What are we all missing? What will it take for us to find our centers? Pedram Shojai shares how the calmness of Zen masters is attainable in today’s fast-paced world, and with practice, you too can stop time, refuel, and focus on the things that really matter.

The Urban Monk, a New York Times bestseller, reveals the secrets to finding an open heart, sharp mind, and grounded sense of well-being, even in the most demanding circumstances. Shojai’s no-nonsense life mastery program brings together clear tools and exercises that can elevate your existence. Learn to honor your body with nutrition and shake free from addictions to toxic substances and experiences. Let your body and mind unwind each day with evening meditations, loosening exercises, and resting rituals that will keep any stress or unfinished business out of the bedroom, helping you sleep better so that your body can rejuvenate.

The Urban Monk is filled with priceless practices that you can use in your daily life, right here and now. It is designed to be your companion in this crazy world we live in. Get it dirty, mark it up, and take it around with you on your journey to becoming an Urban Monk. There’s no need to move or drastically change your current life. You can find peace within, and The Urban Monk will teach you how to calm the chaos in your head.”

Biggest Lessons I Learned From The Urban Monk:

Xiao Yao San is a Chinese herb complex that, in tea or pill form, apparently works wonders for calming stress.

-Check out this handy chart that shows how your organs and energy systems work during the day:

IMG_7915

-Pedram is a huge fan of something called the “Prague School” as a fitness and movement modality. I plan on researching this more and potentially getting these Prague folks on a podcast because it looks intriguing.


Smart Fat

Quick Summary of Smart Fat:

“The innovative guide that reveals how eating more fat—the smart kind—is the key to health, longevity, and permanent weight loss.

For years experts have told us that eating fat is bad. But by banning fat from our diets, we’ve deprived ourselves of considerable health benefits—and have actually sabotaged our own efforts to lose weight.

Though they originally came from vastly different schools of thought about diet and weight loss, renowned nutritionist Jonny Bowden and well-respected physician Steven Masley independently came to the same conclusion about why so many people continually fail to shed pounds and get healthy. It all comes back to a distinction far more important than calories vs. carbs or paleo vs. plant-based: smart fat vs. dumb fat.

In Smart Fat, they explain the amazing properties of healthy fat, including its ability to balance hormones for increased energy and appetite control, and its incredible anti-inflammatory benefits. The solution for slimming down—and keeping the pounds off for life—is to “smart-fat” your meals, incorporating smart fats with fiber, protein, and most importantly, flavor. Bowden and Masley identify smart fats, explain what not to eat, and provide a thirty-day meal plan and fifty recipes based on the magic formula of fat, fiber, protein, and flavor.

Biggest Lessons I Learned From Smart Fat:

-If you’re looking at the quality of your supplement, there are some very important considerations to check for on the ingredient label. Look at this: IMG_7916

-Coconut oil will raise your LDL cholesterol levels, but actually shifts the distribution of your LDL particles so that your have more LDLa (harmless, fluffy) particles and fewer LDLb (small, dense, harmful) particles.


The Bone Broth Diet

Quick Summary of The Bone Broth Diet:

“In her new book, Dr. Kellyann couples delicious bone broth with powerful fat-burning foods and a groundbreaking “mini-fasting” plan that empowers you to achieve spectacular weight loss and more youthful-looking skin in just 21 days.

With more than 100 recipes—as well as state-of-the-art fitness and lifestyle tips—this book is the ideal tool for taking off your extra pounds and staying slim, sexy, and healthy forever.”

Biggest Lessons I Learned From The Bone Broth Diet:

-I’m skeptical, but Dr. Kellyann swears for a multi-day fast in which you mostly have bone broth. Here’s what it looks like: IMG_7917

-You must add vinegar to bone broth as it helps to dissolve the bones so that you get the maximum amount of nutrients from them.

-For beef broth, roasting the bones at 350F in the oven for 45-60 minutes before throwing them into bone broth can also maximize nutrients that wind up in the broth.


The Sound Of Healing

Quick Summary of The Sound Of Healing:

“Wholetones: The Sound of Healing is 174 pages of life changing personal revelation… a virtual key to unlock your hidden potential.

This book is the perfect companion to accompany the music as it demystifies the science behind the frequencies and explains how to get the most out of your listening experience.

There is even a chapter that shows musicians how to recalibrate their instruments to play in the 7 healing frequencies. And of course, plenty of historical information concerning the healing tones I believe were given to King David by God Himself! Truly an inspirational journey into the spiritual realm of healing and much, much more…”

Biggest Lessons I Learned From The Sound Of Healing:

-I thought this book was going to be way too “woo-woo”, but it actually turned out to be incredibly fascinating, especially when it comes to the science of sound frequencies and how they affect the human body. I plan on getting the author on a podcast soon to discuss this stuff in greater depth, and I also plan on listening to his WholeTones CD’s to see how they affect my body in certain situations.

-Most modern instruments A notes are tuned to 440Hz. This is actually a frequency that can disrupt cellular activity and cause cortisol release and stress within the human body. Instead, the instrument’s A note should be tuned up to 444Hz. You actually need a digital tuner to pull off this type of retuning. The author recommends a Korg-CA-30 digital tuner for this. I plan on personally retuning my ukelele and guitar. -Different frequencies affect the body in different ways. For example, 396Hz affects kidney function, 417Hz affects your digestive system, 528Hz affects hormonal balance and the endocrine system, 741Hz soothes an upset stomach, etc. Author Michael Tyrrell produces special analog CD’s that have mixes of these different frequencies.

-Most music and audio we listen to these days is digital, but a digital signal is a discontinuous wave that causes us to “miss out” on many of the healing frequencies and positive properties of music. Instead, listening to music via analog sound waves such as vinyl records and cassette tapes is superior for sound healing. So break out those old-school vinyl records, baby. I plan on experimenting with that this year at some point and will keep you posted.


The Hormone Reset Diet

Quick Summary of The Hormone Reset Diet:

“The Harvard-educated physician and New York Times bestselling author of The Hormone Cure shows you how to grow new receptors for your seven metabolic hormones, making you lose weight and feel great fast!

When it comes to weight loss, most people don’t think about hormones. But when you develop resistance to your seven major metabolic hormones—cortisol, thyroid, testosterone, growth hormone, leptin, insulin, and estrogen—your body adjusts by increasingly raising your hormone levels and ultimately slowing down your metabolism. And a slower metabolism leads to weight gain and difficulty losing weight. The solution, Dr. Sara Gottfried contends, is to reset the efficiency of your hormones by repairing and growing new hormone receptors.”

Biggest Lessons I Learned From The Hormone Reset Diet:

-I’ve had Dr. Sara on my podcast before. Worth a listen: “The Cost Of Being A Bad Ass – How To Cure Your Hormones

-For hydrating during the day, she drinks “hydrosols”, which means she combines sparkling or still water with small amounts of plant extracts and essentials oils like lavender, mint and rose.

-A  Paleo diet is different for women than it is for men. In women, excess meat consumption can result in quite a bit of weight gain and “estrogen dominance”, which is less likely to occur in men. Dr. Sara actually recommends a “meatless reset” or period of a few weeks eating primarily vegan, non-meat, low-dairy foods for women who need to reset their hormones or lower estrogen levels.


Change Your Brain, Change Your Life

Quick Summary of Change Your Brain, Change Your Life:

“In this completely revised and updated edition of the breakthrough bestseller, you’ll see scientific evidence that your anxiety, depression, anger, obsessiveness, or impulsiveness could be related to how specific structures in your brain work. You’re not stuck with the brain you’re born with.

Renowned neuropsychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen includes cutting-edge research and the latest surprising, effective “brain prescriptions” that can help heal your brain and change your life:

To quell anxiety and panic: Use simple breathing techniques to immediately calm inner turmoil

To fight depression: Learn how to kill ANTs (automatic negative thoughts)

To curb anger: Follow the Amen anti-anger diet and learn the nutrients that calm rage

To conquer impulsiveness and learn to focus: Develop total focus with the One-Page Miracle

To stop obsessive worrying: Follow the “get unstuck” writing exercise and learn other problem-solving exercises.”

Biggest Lessons I Learned From Change Your Brain, Change Your Life:

-Cinnamon is a natural aphrodisiac, especially in essential oil form. Warning to my wife: I plan on testing this out soon.

-There are many meditations in the book, but one is something I already do as part of my custom yoga routine. You chant the sounds “saa”, “taa”, “naa”, “maa” while doing repetitive finger movements with each hand. It’s actually incredibly calming. Here’s what it looks like:

IMG_7918

-Even if you can’t get the fancy SPECT scan Dr. Amen discusses in the book, you can assess your brain using a free, computerized neuro-psychological assessment on the website “MyBrainFitLife.com”. -Different activities affect different areas of your brain, so you can’t just do, say, Sudoku or just do crossword puzzles. You need variety. Check this out: IMG_7919


Summary

What do you think? Do you plan on reading any of these books? If so, which ones? Have you already read them and have your own thoughts to add?

Do you like these type of book notes and do you want me to write more of these type of posts for you?

Leave your thoughts below and I promise to read and reply!

You’ll Be Blown Away By How Easy It Is To Keep Your Skin Young With These 12 Natural Compounds.

Mastermind Talks 2014 in Toronto, Ontario.

©2014 Mark Adams
www.MarkAdamsPhoto.com

In last week’s article, I told you how to detox your home…so now, let’s continue to your skin shall we?

I’ll unabashedly admit it.

Despite getting plenty of compliments on my ability to pull off a youthful, Zoolander-esque Blue Steel model pose (as pictured above), I have officially quit my daily habit of smearing extra virgin olive oil on my skin.

Huh? Olive oil?

OK, allow me to back things up a bit. For several years now, I’ve been simply smearing extra virgin olive oil on my face as a daily skin tonic and moisturizer. Not only that, but (as I’ve mentioned on a few podcasts before) when I’m traveling and staying a hotel, I’ll actually call down to the restaurant and have them hand-deliver olive oil to my room. If they ask “why”, I tell them I’m allergic to the lotion in the room, and then proceed to smear my face and neck in the stuff.

The hotel staff probably thinks I’m some strange, olive-oil fetished creep, and the rest of the folks around me simply think I smell like a giant, walking pizza.

But in this article you’re going to discover why I have recently quit slathering olive oil on my skin, the other compounds that I now completely avoid getting anywhere near my skin, and twelve natural ingredients proven to remove wrinkles, shrink cellulite, nourish connective tissue, heal scars, kill bad bacteria, rejuvenate damaged skin, give you a smooth, glowing complexion and much, much more.

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The Dirty Dozen Of Cosmetics

Ever heard of the “dirty dozen of cosmetics”?

That’s right…just like there’s a dirty dozen for produce, there are a plethora of ingredients in beauty products that aren’t exactly beautiful. In the US, research has shown that a significant portion of the over 82,000 ingredients used in personal care products are industrial chemicals, including carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins, and hormone disruptors – including plasticizers, degreasers, and surfactants.

And I’m constantly shocked at the number of health-conscious folks who are unknowingly slapping, slathering, rubbing, spraying, spritzing and massaging these chemicals onto the skin, which readily soak up these chemicals. You’d probably be surprised too if you flung open your bathroom cupboard and learned what was really inside that skin tonic, shampoo or soap you bought at your local health foods store.

For more detailed information on the dirty dozen of cosmetics, you can check out this helpful Cosmetic Dirty Dozen background report, but in the meantime, I recommend you head to your bathroom cupboard, inspect the labels of your personal care products and toss out anything that contains the following twelve ingredients:

1. BHA or BHT: Used mainly in moisturizers and makeup as preservatives. Suspected endocrine disruptors and may cause cancer.

2. Coal tar dyes: Indicated by the word “p-phenylenediamine”, colors listed as “CI” followed by a five digit number, or colors such as “FD&C Blue No. 1” or “Blue 1”. These have potential to cause cancer and may be contaminated with heavy metals toxic to the brain.

3. DEA, MEA or TEA-related ingredients: Used in creamy and foaming products, such as moisturizers and shampoos, these can react to form nitrosamines, which may cause cancer. 

4. Dibutyl phthalate: Used as a plasticizer in some nail care products. Suspected endocrine disrupter and reproductive toxicant. 

5. Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives: Look for DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine and quarternium-15. Used in a variety of cosmetics. Slowly release small amounts of formaldehyde, which causes cancer. 

6. Parabens: Used in a variety of cosmetics as preservatives. Suspected endocrine disrupters and may interfere with male reproductive functions. 

7. Parfum (a.k.a. fragrance): Any mixture of fragrance ingredients used in a variety of cosmetics – even in products advertised as “unscented.” Some fragrance ingredients can trigger allergies and asthma. Some linked to cancer and neurotoxicity. 

8. PEG compounds: Used in many cosmetic cream bases. Can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which may cause cancer. Also look for propylene glycol and other ingredients with the letters “eth” (e.g., polyethylene glycol).

9. Petrolatum: Used in some hair products for shine and as a moisture barrier in some lip balms, lip sticks and moisturizers. This is a petroleum product that can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which may cause cancer.

10. Siloxanes: Look for ingredients ending in “-siloxane” or “-methicone.” Used in a variety of cosmetics to soften, smooth and moisten. Suspected endocrine disrupter and reproductive toxicant (cyclotetrasiloxane). 

11. Sodium laureth sulfate: Used in foaming cosmetics, such as shampoos, cleansers and bubble bath. Can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which may cause cancer. Look also for related chemical sodium lauryl sulfate and other ingredients with the letters “eth” (e.g., sodium laureth sulfate). 

12. Triclosan: Used in antibacterial cosmetics, such as toothpastes, cleansers and antiperspirants. Suspected endocrine disrupter and may contribute to antibiotic resistance in bacteria. 

Whew!

When I first heard about the dirty dozen, I was tempted to simply shrug and just make sure I continued to do things like use natural deodorant, keep avoiding fluoride in my toothpaste, and continue to avoid using sunscreen unless absolutely necessary.

But last year, I read new research – specifically, the first peer-reviewed assessment of a large number of hormone disruptors and dangerous chemicals in a variety of household products (20). The research is quite shocking, because it reveals consumer products commonly labeled “green”, “non-toxic” and “healthy” are actually laden with dangerous chemicals. And these are products that health-conscious consumers commonly buy, bring into our homes, and proceed to soak in, rub into our hair, smother into our armpits and teeth and slather on our skin.

So I’ve personally switched to following a basic rule that may seem silly at first glance, but that seems pretty safe to me:

If you can’t eat it without getting seriously sick, don’t use it as a personal care product.

That’s right – your skin is a mouth, and slathering chemicals on it is pretty dang close to the equivalent of swallowing the stuff.

Your skin is a mouth?

Yes, that’s not woo-woo, alternative health quack speak. Do keep reading.

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How Your Skin Absorbs Toxins

Skin absorption, also known as “dermal absorption” is a known route by which substances can enter your body and blood through your skin. Along with inhalation, ingestion and injection, dermal absorption is not only a route of exposure for toxic substances, but can also be a route of administration for medication.

To be absorbed through your skin, a chemical must pass through the a few layers: particularly your epidermis, glands, or hair follicles. But since sweat glands and hair follicles make up only about 0.1 to 1.0 percent of the total skin surface, only small amounts of chemicals enter the body rapidly through the glands or hair follicles, and most of the absorption happens through what you probably know as your skin: your epidermis.

Now, take heart: it’s not as though you’re some weak, defenseless, blob of goo and bones covered by a tiny, thin layer of cellophane-like material. Instead, chemicals must pass through seven different cell layers of your epidermis before finally entering the dermis, where they can then enter your bloodstream or lymph fluid and proceed circulate to other areas of the body, like your liver, brain, etc.

Toxins and toxicants move through this seven-layer dip your skin via a process known as “passive diffusion”, and your stratum corneum, which is the outermost layer of your epidermis, is the rate-limiting barrier in absorption of any agent. So, how quickly something passes through this thicker outer layer of your skin determines the overall absorption.

skinlayers

So why am I show-and-telling you all this? Well, your stratum corneum is primarily composed of lipophilic cholesterol, cholesterol esters and ceramides. These are all basically types of fats. This means that although nearly all molecules penetrate your skin to some  degree, lipid-soluble (AKA fat-soluble) chemicals make it through this outer skin layer and into the circulation faster.

And unfortunately, most beauty products and skin cosmetics are chock-full of fat-soluble compounds that your stratus corneum readily soaks up…that’s right: just like a mouth.

What kind of fat-soluble compounds am I talking about here? Just take a look at this screenshot of a list of dangerous ingredients in the “average” skin care and skin moisturizing product (you know, the one at the health food store that advertises itself as chocolate-mango bliss for your skin:

skincarelabel

The fact is, because the majority of the skin cosmetic ingredients listed above can easily pass through your stratus corneum, and then proceed through the rest of your skin, along with your passing through your sweat glands and hair follicles, it winds up in your bloodstream and then moves on to your precious organs.

Just think about nicotine and birth control patches. Many people administer potent and effective doses of these agents through the skin to the bloodstream, enabling them to forgo a daily oral pill in lieu of a patch that

Many people administer potent and effective doses of these agents through the skin to the bloodstream, enabling them to forgo a daily oral pill in lieu of a patch that weans one off smoking or prevents pregnancy.

Sadly, via respiration, oral consumption and, yes, skin absorption, many of these chemicals are winding up in babies. In 2005, the Environmental Working Group published a combination of two studies that found toxic chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies born in the U.S.They screened for more than 400 chemicals, and an astounding 287 toxins were detected within the umbilical cord blood of these newborns. Of these 287 chemicals, 217 were neurotoxins, and 208 were known to damage growth development or cause birth defects. These toxins included mercury, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polybrominated and polychlorinated dibenzodioxins and furans (PBCD/F and PBDD/F), perflorinated chemicals (PFCs), organochlorine pesticides like DDT and chlordane, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), polychlorinated napthalenes (PCNs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and many others.

These study results have been largely ignored by the media, and conveniently shoved under the radar by the commercial cosmetics industry. And so, for a few years now, I have simply been smearing olive oil on my skin.

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Why I Used To Smear My Face With Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Olive oil?

Yep, and here’s why:

Olive oil contains three major antioxidants: vitamin E, polyphenols, and phytosterols. These antioxidants can help protect the skin from premature skin aging. Vitamin E partly accounts for the anti-aging benefits of olive oil, because it helps restore skin smoothness and protects against ultraviolet light. Hydroxytyrosol, a rather rare compound found in olive oil, also prevents free radical damage to the skin, particularly sunlight damage.

Olive oil doesn’t clog the pores, doesn’t give the annoying sheen on the skin that something like coconut oil (another natural moisturizer and skin protectant) does, and the color in a good extra virgin olive oil can actually add tone and glow to the skin.

But yet, I don’t use olive oil anymore. I quit.

There are several reasons why.

First, I’ve been studying the skin microbiome quite a bit lately, and, as a matter of fact, just a couple months ago sent my stool, skin and mouth microbiome samples off to the Human Microbiome Project to get analyzed.

The long and short of it is this:

The skin is the human body’s largest organ, and is colonized by a diverse milieu of microorganisms. This colonization is driven by the ecology of the skin surface, which is highly variable, and dependent on, among other things, geographic location, health of the “host” (you!) exogenous environmental factors (e.g. whichever skin product you happen to be using).

This skin microbiota actually functions in “educating” your immune system, passing information from the environment and into your body, allowing you to better thrive in whichever geographical location you happen to be in and allowing you to build a healthy and robust immune system. Yep – your skin microbiome actually changes as you travel. Fascinating, eh?

skinmicrobiome

In research, the human microbiome, including the virus, bacterium, fungus and mites pictured above, paired with the skin has even been referred to as a “super-organism”. Of course, none of the positive, immune-boosting, complexion-enhancing effects of a healthy skin microbiome will happen if you are:

A) constantly bathing yourself in antibacterial soaps and cosmetic toxins;

or perhaps less well-known;

B) not “feeding” your skin with compounds that allow your good skin bacteria to flourish.

Unfortunately, olive oil – while rich in skin antioxidants – doesn’t really feed the skin microbiome.

There’s also very little evidence that olive oil can help produce youthful collagen and elastin, remove wrinkles, shrink cellulite, nourish connective tissue, heal scars, kill bad bacteria, or rejuvenate damaged skin. One of the reasons you age and get wrinkles is because your body’s cellular defense systems deteriorate over time, and the free radicals that are produced as part of your normal metabolic processes can overwhelm your skin’s own natural antioxidant defenses. Olive oil can help a little bit with this, but isn’t really a complete panacea.

So, especially as I age, I’ve been searching for a better solution.

I’ve been looking for other natural oils and ingredients that provide not only antioxidants and “glow”, but also have an anti-aging, wrinkle-reducing, cellulite-shrinking, scar-removing and, of course, microbiome-feeding effect.

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The Best Twelve Ingredients To Get Rid Of Wrinkles & Keep Your Skin Young

But some ingredients can actually help replenish and support your skin’s antioxidant defenses, help your skin cells return to optimal function by helping produce new youthful collagen and elastin, which are the key building blocks of healthy skin, feed your skin’s microbiome and more.

So for the past year – my wife Jessa (who has extremely sensitive skin and can only handle the most hypo-allergenic of substances on her skin), my aunt Cynthia Greenfield (a former attorney and the formulator of the Wild Mediterranean Oil of Oregano I use), and I (a formerly olive-oil obsessesed giant walking pizza) – have been searching and sourcing the four corners of the planet for the best, most organic, most hypo-allergenic ingredients that have been actually proven and tested to remove wrinkles, shrink cellulite, nourish connective tissue, heal scars, kill bad bacteria, rejuvenate damaged skin, give you a smooth, glowing complexion, feed your skin microbiome and much, much more.

We have been receiving strange bottles of oils, tonics and tinctures in the mail from all over the face of the planet, and over the course of our year-long quest, we’ve narrowed our choice down to twelve natural skin-care compounds (and you’ll be blown away by how easy it is to keep your skin young with these).

So (drumroll please), in no particular order of importance, here are the ingredients we’ve identified as the top tonics to smother on our skin each day:

1. Organic Aloe Vera

This stuff absorbs into human skin up to four times faster than water and provides a natural barrier that shields the cells from toxins. Naturally rich in vitamins A, C, D, E, and B12, Aloe Vera has soothing and cooling properties that relieve redness, irritation and itchiness, while nourishing your skin and tissues. Anti-inflammatory and antibacterial, it works to speed the healing of cuts, bruises and sunburns, as well as minimize scarring. More research here.

2. Organic Jojoba Oil

Very similar to the composition of human sebum, making it extremely compatible with your skin. Rich in vitamin E and antioxidant properties, leaves skin smooth, supple and balanced. As a “humectant”, it also draws water to the skin’s surface, creating a protective barrier that seals in moisture. More research here.

3. Organic Amla

Also referred as Indian Gooseberry, amla (which grows just 50 feet from my front door here in the forest in Washington state!) is an antioxidant that contains the richest and highest natural source of vitamin C, with antibacterial and astringent properties that help prevent infection and promote the healing of skin. It is referred to in ancient text as the best medicine to prevent aging and also as a rasayana (a promoter of health, longevity and great complexion). Amla contains a high concentration of minerals, amino acids and high density of tannins and polyophenols and flavonoids, as well as strong immune boosting properties. Promotes glow on the skin and delays wrinkles. More research here.

4. Organic Triphala

Translating as ‘three fruit’, triphala contains the herbs Amalaki, Bibhitaki and Haritaki and is one of the best natural sources of vitamin C. Highly anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral, it helps in the production of collagen, keeps skin supple and thick and enhances the skin’s natural resistance to free radical damage and photo-sensitivity. In Ayurvedic medicine, triphala works to balances all three Doshas, is highly rejuvenating, and based on high molecular weight polyphenols (which many of these other ingredients also contain), helps to activate skin microbiome bacteria. More research here.

5. Organic Lavender

Has antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and analgesic properties. Extremely healing and valuable in the treatment of many skin disorders and injuries, disinfects scalp and skin and enhances blood circulation. Also has cognitive-boosting properties and was used by medieval knights and ladies as a precious fragrance. More research (and an excellent article on lavender) here.

6. Organic Wild Oregano Oil

Most of the health benefits of oregano oil can be attributed to the presence of carvacrol and thymol compounds, as they have the ability to kill harmful microbes in the body, while allowing good, natural bacteria to thrive and flourish. These powerful phenols have anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-parasitic, and anti-fungal properties, all without killing the good bacteria on your skin. Good podcast and research here.

7. Organic Geranium

Invigorates complexion, improves elasticity and has a tremendous balancing effect on every skin type. A natural astringent, it promotes proper blood flow, helps minimize scar tissue and rapidly heals wounds. Contains strong antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. On an aroma-therapeutic level, it promotes stability and balance. More research here.

8. Organic Palmarosa

A tropical grass that is antiseptic, antiviral and antibacterial and hydrating. Helps stimulate cell reproduction, moisturize skin and speed healing. More research here.

9. Organic Turmeric

Considered one of the greatest skin healers, turmeric is antibacterial, antiviral, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and antiallergenic. Rich in antioxidants, it effectively protects the skin cells from damage, rejuvenates cellular tissue, helps reduce pigmentation and provides smooth and glowing skin. More research here.

10. Organic Juniper Berry

Well known for its stimulating and cleansing properties, juniper helps treat a variety of ailments, from skin irritations to arthritis. With high levels of astringent and antiseptic properties, it is great in treating cellulite by stimulating the skin’s connective tissue and encouraging circulation to help fat cells dissolve and make skin firmer. Also helps prevent tissue degeneration, calms redness and inflammation and excellent for treating aches and pains. More research here.

11. Organic Lemon

With natural nutrients and a rich content of vitamin C, lemon is detoxifying, astringent, antiseptic, disinfectant, anti-infection, antifungal, carminative and stimulating. Lemon increases the luster of dull skin, aids in purification and rejuvenates the skin. Its antiseptic properties treat blemishes and various skin disorders. It’s also an effective hair tonic (and yes, you can put lemon oil in your hair for a bit of added shine and shimmer!). More research here.

12. Organic Patchouli

An excellent skin tonic used to promote and stimulate new cell growth, prevent the formation of scar tissue and help to calm inflamed skin. Also regulates combination and oily skin conditions and helps rejuvenate chapped, cracked, mature or sensitive skin types. Patchouli is astringent and anti-septic, and when used in balanced, sane amounts it does not, contrary to popular belief, actually make you smell like a hairy hippie. More research here.

So that’s it: aloe, jojoba, amla, triphala, lavender, oregano, geranium, palmarosa, turmeric, juniper berry, lemon and patchouli.

You figure out a way to combine all these in proper ratios, package them, get them all on your skin in one fell swoop, and you’ve got yourself one potent, anti-aging skin serum.

 

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The New Anti-Aging Skin Serum

The problem is, none of the ingredients above and that before now these never existed in one spot.

You’d have to get a bit of this on Amazon, a bit of that at your local health food store, some of another on a random oils website, figure out a way to package it all in your home, and then keep your fingers crossed that the final product is actually not just organic, but non-GMO, sustainably sourced, all-natural, toxin-free and, if you’re super sensitive like my wife Jessa, hypo-allergenic, meaning free of traces of things like gluten and soy.

Until now.

Through meticulous research and a passion to develop healthy, high-quality natural body care products, I’m proud to introduce the new Greenfield Anti-Aging Serum, an innovative beauty product for men and women that is guilt-free, organic, nourishing, and leaves your skin young and glowing.

anti-aging-serum

The new serum is vegan, non-GMO, sustainable, gluten-free, soy-free, all-natural, toxin-free and contains each and every one of the ingredients above, mixed in a perfect ratio and meticulously tested by the team at GreenfieldFitnessSystems.

The result is an easy-to-use skin treatment that contains incredibly effective anti-wrinkle components which reduce the appearance of crow’s feet, fine lines, wrinkles, scars, stretch marks, brown spots, and skin discoloration. It also reduces the thinning of skin that occurs with aging. Within just a few weeks of daily use, you’ll find that your skin becomes denser and more firm, and your age spots fade. And if you don’t yet have skin “issues”, then this serum will guarantee that you keep them at bay.

Because it is a completely natural and hypo-allergenic formula, the Greenfield anti-aging serum can be used on all skin types, including hypersensitive skin. You can use it to completely replace your moisturizer, or you can use it alongside your other skincare products for extra effect. It also combines perfectly with sunscreens and any other moisturizers for all-day skin repair and protection.

We made a decision to package it in durable, dark glass (not plastic!), and this protects the precious ingredients from sunlight, heat and oxidation. There are absolutely no toxic preservatives, endocrine disruptors or chemicals in the formulation, and in designing the ingredients, we’ve followed closely my personal rule that I wouldn’t put anything onto my body or skin that I couldn’t actually eat.

And of course, it even feeds your skin microbiome and heals damaged hair.

I’ll admit: it was tough to actually get all this stuff in it’s certified organic form, but we managed to pull it off, and the Greenfield Anti-Aging Serum contains, in balanced ratios that we personally tested over and over again to achieve the right balance for skin absorption, completely organic aloe, jojoba, amla, triphala, lavender, oregano, geranium, palmarosa, turmeric, juniper berry, lemon and patchouli.

My wife and I now swear by this stuff. Every person we’ve given a bottle to has been completely blown away by the fragrance (which works perfectly for men and women), the ease-of-use, and the youthful look and feel their skin gets within just a couple applications.

As a matter of fact, aside from the twin boys I helped make eight years ago, this skin serum is probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever created. Can you tell I’m excited?

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Summary

So yeah, it’s true. Your skin is a mouth.

It’s also a living microbiome.

To be a complete skin, it also needs more than simply, say, olive oil or coconut oil.

And your skin definitely doesn’t need the dozens of chemicals you find in the average skin cosmetic, even the cosmetic you get at your local health food store.

But I’ll vouch for and give you a 100% guarantee that, when combined and used daily, every ingredient you just discovered and that I’ve packed into the new anti-aging serum will actually work when it comes to giving you the anti-aging, wrinkle-reducing, cellulite-shrinking, scar-removing and microbiome-feeding effect your skin deserves.

That’s why every morning and evening, I now simply give a bottle of Greenfield Anti-Aging Serum a good shake, and then apply a small amount (2-3 pumps) to my face. Every week, to keep my lovely locks nourished, I put 10 pumps into my hair. Since it smells so nice and works so fast, I can simply waltz out of my bathroom with no other products on my skin or hair whatsoever (and I’m definitely no longer calling down to the hotel restaurant for olive oil to smear on my face).

Here’s the deal: you can get this new anti-aging skin serum now, but we’re only starting with a limited number of bottles available, and they’re probably going to disappear fast…

…especially since every single bottle comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

You can click here to get the new Greenfield Anti-Aging Serum now.  Enjoy. I’m super proud of this new formulation and guarantee you’re going to love this stuff.

Questions, comments or feedback? Leave them below! Me, my wife Jessa, my aunt Cynthia will jump in and answer any questions you have on this new anti-aging skin serum, and remember, you can click here and get the new Greenfield Anti-Aging Serum now (includes a 30-day money back guarantee(. 

anti-aging-serum

Q&A

The following is a list of answers to questions received since first publishing this post…
 
Q: Are there any other or non-active ingredients in this? Any natural preservatives, etc.? 

The only ingredients are those on the label. Zero preservatives, zero additives, zero fillers.

Q. How do you keep the Vitamin C and other antioxidants in this serum from degrading?

The serum is packaged in a glass amber bottle, which limits oxidation. You can also keep your serum in a cool, dark place or in the refrigerator to slow oxidation even further.

Q. I cannot tolerate the strong smell of patchouli oil. How strong does this serum smell?

Patchouli is listed as the last ingredient, as it is the least plentiful ingredient in the serum. There is definitely not a strong patchouli scent in the serum.

Q. Is this something to use all over or primarily the face? 

Due to the presence of and potent nature of essential oils, 2-3 pumps actually go a long way, and is enough for the entire face and neck, although the serum can be used anywhere on the body, including the hair, on cuts/scraps/bruises, dry skin on arms and legs, etc.

Q. Serums are often used in addition to a “toner” and “moisturizer”. Should I use this on it’s own, or with other product?

Most use it all on it’s own, but some people like to add a natural moisturizer such as coconut oil afterwards. Try on it’s own first though.

Q. How long should I expect a bottle to last with normal use?

With normal use, your serum will last 30-45 days.

Q. What would be the best thing to use to cleanse your skin before applying the serum? 

Frequent use of soap can be harsh on the face, and you can simply cleanse with warm water, or the occasional use of a good, clean soap such as Dr. Bronners.

Q. When should this serum be applied? AM/PM? After I cleanse my face?

We recommend you use once a day, ideally in the morning if you want the added benefit of the pleasant scent on your skin during the day.

Q. You mention the ingredients listed in a perfect ratio for the anti-aging serum. Does this mean all parts are in equal amounts? If not, is it possible to have the exact number or ratio of each ingredient?

Here’s the deal: we can’t give out the nitty-gritty details on the exact ratios because, frankly, it’s proprietary and we’d be shooting ourselves in the foot! But we guarantee that we did a ton of experimentation with getting the ratios just right, and you’re going to love the final result.

Q. Does this serum work as well as something like Retin-A for anti-aging and acne/eczema prevention?

The serum is far safer, far more natural and completely absent of hormonal disruptors and dangerous ingredients like many of the Retin-A or other acne/eczema products.

How to Protect Your Body from the Ten Hidden Killers in Your Home (Fully Updated Version).

detoxhome

Home is where your heart is.

And if you’re anything like me, your home is also one place – aside from gyms, roads and parks – where you probably spend a significant amount of time sweating and sculpting your body. But wouldn’t it be a real pity if you were turning your body into a chemical wasteland in the process?

The fact is, you can’t do much about the diesel exhaust getting piped out the backside of the trucks that drive besides the roads you run or bicycle on, the chemical-laden disinfectants that gets sprayed on the treadmills and, sadly enough as I write about in my article on Four Scary Facts About Gyms, even the exercise equipment at the gym, or the pesticides and herbicides that litter the grass at a public park.

However, in the same way that you have complete control of what kind of foods and chemicals you put into your body, you do have control over how healthy – or unhealthy – your home is. You also have control over how well equipped your body is to handle potentially toxic environments, such as gyms, roads and parks. And in today’s article, fully updated and adapted from the original chapter I wrote in my book Beyond Training, you’re going to learn exactly how…

As usual, leave your questions, comments and feedback below this article – and also let me know if there’s anything you’d like to see addressed that I may have left out!

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household chemicalsWhy You Need To Protect Your Body

How much consideration have you given to the toxins, pollutants, chemicals, heavy metals and hidden killers that aren’t inside your body, but are outside your body?

In other words…

When you’re cranking out push-ups in your living room, have you ever thought about what kind of carpet you’re shoving your nose into?

When you’re doing the cold thermogenesis showers (or the 21 Day Cold Shower Challenge I’m organizing), have you ever considered what compounds your skin might be soaking up from the water?

And as you’re sitting here right now reading this article, do you know how many spectrums of electromagnetic frequencies are bombarding and radiating your body from smartphones, e-readers, and computers?

The fact is, the average home contains 500-1,000 chemicals, ten times more electrical pollution than 40 years ago and an untold number of mold, mites, fungi, spores, pollen and other “bioaerosols”. Most of this stuff you are completely unable to see, smell or taste, but just because you can’t sense it doesn’t mean it won’t leave you struggling with brain fog, an afternoon headache, a crappy night’s sleep, or a horrible workout.

So let’s learn what you can do about it.

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moldcorn1) Mold and Mycotoxins

Mycotoxins are toxic compounds produced by various species of mold.  Among a variety of other health issues, they can cause asthma and breathing issues, cancer, cardiovascular disease, altered kidney and liver function, disrupted sleep, stunted muscle recovery, miscarriage, and a bad case of “fuzzy brain”(27). At my “Become Superhuman” event several years ago, a guy named Dave Asprey stepped onto stage and revealed a host of mycotoxins and molds in foods that are commonly perceived to be healthy, citing the website Mycotoxins.com as a fantastic tool for discovering whether or not a food you commonly eat may be tainted with dead organic matter that is deleteriously affecting your health and performance.

In a nutshell, unless you completely trust the source, I’d seriously reconsider blue cheese and other “moldy” foods in your diet. Here’s a few biggies: sour cream, buttermilk and sour milk; cured, pickled and smoked meats and fish; prepackaged meats, like lunch meats, salami, smoked fish and some sardines; commercial, store-bought pickles, olives, capers, salad dressing or ketchup; vinegar and soy sauce; the average hotel room coffee and yes, even leftovers that have been in your refrigerator for several days. I’m not saying you can live your life with complete abstinence from these food groups, but you should go out of your way to avoid them whenever possible.

But mycotoxins aren’t just found in food.  By getting a test such an ERMI (Environmental Relative Moldiness Index) from a licensed contractor (I don’t recommend this as a DIY project), you may find that your house has toxic mold which produces bacteria which can often be more deadly than that you find in food.

Within 24-48 hours of development of moisture in an area of your house, mold can form, chomp down and multiply on just about any part of your home which mold considers to be a food source, including dust, wood, paint, paper, cotton or oil, and modern building materials like drywall.

To avoid mold formation and exposure, I recommend you:

-Keep house dust to a minimum. Mop all surfaces at least once a week. Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter (listen to this to get the one I use) for your carpets. HEPA-filter vacuums capture the widest range of particles and and potential allergens. Also consider installing a Hepa air filter in your home and office (I use AllerAir)

-Use a dehumidifier to keep the humidity in mold-prone rooms such as basement bathrooms low.

-Operate an oscillating fan in the bathroom after showering and fix or caulk any leaks as soon as possible.

-Regularly clean surfaces where mold usually grows – around showers and tubs and beneath sinks. 

-Be conscious of toxins in carpeting, especially in products made from synthetic materials. Use natural fiber wool & cotton rugs. If you really want to take things to the next level, replace your wall-to-wall carpeting with hardwood floors, all natural linoleum or ceramic tiles, using nontoxic glues, adhesives, stains or sealers for installation.

-Seal or replace particleboard walls, floors or cabinets, which often contain formaldehyde, which emits unhealthy fumes. Avoid any synthetic, strong-smelling plywood, fiberglass, fiberboard and paneling.

So let’s say you want to know if you actually have been exposed to mold?

In the US, you can get tests from a company called “EHAP Labs“, and similar tests exist internationally. Or you can simply pay attention to symptoms. If you move into a new house or apartment or you don’t change anything in your diet but you suddenly begin to experience allergy-like symptoms such as asthma and congestion, frequent sickness, headaches, joint pain, brain fog and other issues, you should suspect mold (18).

You can also get tested for mold allergies to everything from candida to penicillin using a skin prick test, which uses watered-down extracts of mold allergens to check your reactions. A little drop of the allergen-containing liquid is applied to the skin of your arm or back and is then pushed into your skin with a little puncture or scratch. If a bump develops on any of the spots, it indicates a likely allergy to that substance.

One simple test you can order at home from a company such as DirectLabs is a blood mold profile. For this test, blood and sends it to the lab where it’s exposed to various mold allergens. Then the blood is checked for the presence of the antibody immunoglobulin E, which is what your immune system produces in an allergic reaction. If it’s there, you could be allergic to the mold you’re being tested for. Below are sample results of what a blood mold profile test looks like:

moldIf you do get exposed, suspect you have a mold issue, or take a blood mold test and discover high levels of mold allergens in your bloodstream, I’d recommend you go back to detox article and follow the detox instructions there (two especially potent supplements in the case of mold exposure are liposomal glutathione and oil of oregano), but to really get to the best resources on symptoms, treatment and remediation, I’d visit the website SurvivingMold.com.

Finally, if the laundry list of potentially mold-containing foods makes you take a big gulp and get extremely nervous or stressed about your diet, I’d recommend you do something as simple as a “Coca pulse test” after you eat a suspect meal that is a frequent staple in your diet. I discuss this test in detail in a podcast on heart rate variability testing, but it basically involves using a phone app such as the NatureBeat to track your foods, and record an increased heart rate of 5 or more beats in response to a food you’ve consumed which may be damaging to your nervous system. A positive Coca pulse test can indicate an allergy, or it can also indicate a potential mycotoxin on the food you’ve consumed. In plain terms, it indicates whether your body goes into “fight-and-flight mode” after eating – which would not be a good sign!

Need more resources? Two good books for discovering how to “de-mold” your house are My House Is Killing Me! and The Mold Survival Guide.

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2) EMF

There’s a reason I unplug my wireless router at night before I go to bed or whenever I’m doing a home workout anywhere near my office, never bring my cell phone near my ear, don’t use or touch a microwave and even avoid heading out on long bike rides or runs with my phone in anything except airplane mode. 

The United State alone is wired with half a million miles of high voltage power lines, and for wireless communication we depend on over a half million microwave links. We also have tens of millions of broadcasting transmitters flood our airwaves, use over 35 million electromagnetic devices (increasing at an exponential rate) and plant ourselves in front of hundreds of millions of video and television screens.

ku-xlargeEMF (electromagnetic frequency) radiation is the by-product of this explosion of electronic technology, and is basically a form of environmental pollution from this radiation emitted by millions of domestic appliances, military installations, industrial machines, computers, broadcast and communications transmitters and all other electrically powered devices (28). This radiation can cause headaches, vision problems, anxiety, irritability, depression, nausea, fatigue, disturbed sleep, poor physical performance and loss of libido.

Even worse, all metallic objects, including electrical circuits, telephone wiring, water and gas pipes, and even the metal objects we carry on our bodies such as keys, watches, and  jewelry can act as antennae which collect and magnify these energy waves, creating a compounding effect that significantly alters the natural balance of our body’s biochemical energy patterns.

When you’re constantly bombarded in this manner by by EMF waves, it can not only distort your internal cellular communications, but it can also “entrain” your body.  Entrainment, also known as sympathetic resonance, is the tendency of an object to vibrate at the same frequency as an external stimulus. It’s why earthing and grounding discussed in the recovery and stress-fighting chapters works so well. But although the frequencies used in earthing or grounding take advantage of the natural frequency of the planet earth, when you become entrained to any disruptive external frequency – such as the frequency emitted by your wireless router – you can lose the integrity of your intrinsic frequencies (e.g. the natural vibration of your cells), which can degrade physical and mental performance and create huge potential for some serious downstream health issues (15).

I’ll admit that a direct cause:effect relationship between electromagnetic radiation and illness has been difficult to prove, but the number of supportive studies continues to increase. To jumpstart your grasp of the seriousness of this issue, and to get the nitty-gritty details on protecting your home and body against the ravages of EMF, I recommend you read the book  ”Zapped: Why Your Cell Phone Shouldn’t Be Your Alarm Clock and 1,268 Ways to Outsmart the Hazards of Electronic Pollution” and the book ”Disconnect: Truth About Cell Phone Radiation“.

In the meantime, here’s a quick, practical guide to jump-start your EMF radiation protection.

-Watch my video on 7 ways to get rid of electrical pollution in your office.

-Unplug your wireless router or switch it off wireless mode when you’re not using it.

-Limit artificial light radiation by installing low blue light bulbs in your home (I use the sleepy time bulbs by the company “Lighting Science“), putting a blue light blocker screen on your computer and using blue-light blocking glasses such as Swannies.

-Use dirty electricity filters in main rooms of house. I personally use and recommend Greenwave filters.

-Use an airtube headset on phone (I recommend the “airtubes” by Aircom) and/or only use the speaker setting when talking on your phone.

-Keep your cell phone or laptop several inches away from your skin whenever possible, and put your cell phone on airplane mode if you need to put it in your pocket or near your head while sleeping or exercising.

-If you need to place an electronic device in your lap, use an EMF blocking pad such as a Harapad to block radiation.

-Avoid using your cell phone when the signal is weak (this amplifies EMF) and use an anti-EMF case for your smartphone.

If you do everything listed above, you’ll be well on your way to a very high amount of EMF protection, but if you really want to geek out on EMF protection or do a thorough test of EMF levels in your home, then visit the website LessEMF.com, where you’ll find a ton of additional equipment for EMF-proofing your home. Another excellent resource is EMFCenter.com, where you can actually hire a consultant to help you “de-radiate” your home (I interview Dr. Michael Neuert from EMFCenter in my Biohack A Health Home book).

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3) Water

In my particular hometown (Spokane, Washington) they don’t fluoridate the water, and boy, am I ever glad. 

Flouride is certainly a crucial compound…in pesticides.  That’s right: sodium fluoride is a registered insecticide and rodenticide that is used in rat and roach poisons. It is a toxic waste byproduct derived straight from the manufacture of phosphate fertilizers and from the aluminum refining industry, which means it also has a lot of lead as well as other toxic substances in it. But it’s cheaper to simply dump fluoride into our water supply than to pay toxic waste disposal fees (1). Unfortunately, this can cause cancer, hip fracture, dental fluorosis, stained teeth, neurological impairment, lower IQ in children, and learning disorders.

Sure, fluoride certainly has a good anti-decay effect when you  apply it directly to the tooth itself – but you don’t have to swallow the stuff, and frankly when it comes to tooth decay, there is little to no difference between  countries with fluoridated water and  countries with unfluoridated water.  If you really want to dig into the issue with fluoride, listen to this podcast I recorded with Paul Connett, author of the eye-opening book “The Fluoride Deception“, or read book “The Case Against Fluoride“.

fluoridebagOf course, fluoride isn’t the only issue. Since 2004, testing by water utilities has consistently found thousands of pollutants in the tap water we drink on a daily basis. More than half of the chemicals detected are not subject to health or safety regulations and can legally be present in any amount. Unfortunately, at least in America, the federal government has not set a single new drinking water standard since 2001 – and water utilities spend 19 times more on water treatment chemicals every year than the federal government invests in protecting lakes and rivers from water pollution in the first place (2).

So what can you do to ensure you’re protecting yourself from fluoride and other chemicals in your drinking water, shower water, bathing water and cooking water?

When it comes to filtering your water, there are a couple good options.

Water Filter Option #1: Install a reverse osmosis system for the drinking water in your home.  Make sure it has one or more charcoal filters in the system as that will help remove other unwanted substances like chlorine. Unfortunately, when you use a reverse osmosis system, the good minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium are filtered out along with the bad minerals like fluoride. Demineralized water is also more acidic. So to make your water healthy with good minerals once again, and to increase alkalinity, you can re-mineralize the water with or take a daily shot of a trace liquid minerals supplement.  You can also purchase reverse osmosis water filters that come with a built in remineralizer.

Water Filter Option #2: Use a whole house structured water system. You learned earlier about vibrational frequencies and how they can either be good for your body or bad for your body. A structured water system literally changes the frequency of the water, and allows it to envelop toxins and pollutants that will be able to pass through your body without harming you, while at the same time retaining the mineral quality of the water. I’ll admit that when it comes to structured water systems, the science is less sound and slightly more out-on-a-limb, but I personally have used the Greenfield Naturals water system for two years, have had urinary porphyrin tests and Spectracell analysis for metals, chemicals and other toxins and have been shown to be perfectly clean. Full disclosure: my father Gary Greenfield actually owns Greenfield Naturals, a domestic and international distributor of structured water filters, and sells these systems to large agricultural enterprises to improve the health of their livestock. He also offers any of my clients a 15% discount code “friendofben” at http://www.GreenfieldNaturals.com.

If whichever filter you choose is not a whole house filtration system, but simply an “under-the-kitchen-counter” unit or a simple drinking water filter like a Britta, then I highly recommend you also install a KDF showerhead/bathhead filter in your bath and shower. A single 20-minute shower will expose you to a greater absorption of chlorine, fluoride, and any other chemicals that are in your water than 5 days’ worth of your drinking water!

Finally, if you have been exposed to fluoride and unfiltered water for long periods of time and have been using fluoride filled toothpaste and other fluoride-filled personal care products, then pay attention to what you’ll learn in the next section on chlorine so that you can help your body recover, undo the damage, and rebuild itself. Dr. David Getoff also has an excellent presentation on fluoride detoxification.

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eye-irritation4) Chlorine

Of course, some of us don’t just drink chlorine in our water – we also soak it up through our skin during workouts while we also breathe in chloramines, the nasty byproducts that form when chlorine reacts with organic matter such as dead skin cells.

I don’t know about you, but I personally swim 2-4 times per week, and during the fall and winter, it’s not in the river or lake near my house, but instead in a chlorinated pool.

How much chlorine are you personally exposed to? If you’re a swimmer or triathlete or someone who hits the pool or hot tub at your gym often, then it’s probably quite a bit. If you’re not a swimmer, you’re still getting significant chlorination from simply showering or bathing in your city’s water if you’re not using the filtration methods I just described.

In the podcast “How To Reduce The Risk From Swimming in Chlorinated Pools and Drinking Chlorinated Water”, I interviewed the same Dr. David Getoff mentioned earlier. During the interview, which I’d highly recommend you listen to for good details, Dr. Getoff explains the cell wall damage and internal soft tissue damage that chlorine creates, along with the auto-immune and allergy issues that are commonly aggravated by breathing and soaking in chlorinated water (19).

The recommendations generated during the show to mitigate the damages of chlorine are (especially for days that you’re in a chlorinated pool or hot tub) to get the following into your body:

1) 2-5 daily grams of Vitamin C (for more on that listen to this audio Vitamin C Lecture Part 1 and Vitamin C Lecture Part 2)

2) 2000-4000IU of Vitamin D/Vitamin K blend

3) 10-20iu of a natural source of Vitamin E such as d-alpha-tocopherol (I recommend SuperEssentials fish oil for this)

4) a serving of a full spectrum antioxidant such as Life Shotz.

Unfortunately, most soaps and shampoos that are designed to strip chlorine from your skin and hair are laden with many of the endocrine disruptors and dangerous personal care product chemicals you’ll learn about later in this chapter. There is one product called SwimSpray, which is a natural, Vitamin-C based spray that will remove chlorine odor, but it’s not going to stop chlorine from getting absorbed into your body. So the best thing you can do is equip yourself internally to handle the ravages of chlorine. If you need to test your antioxidant levels to see how well-equipped your body is to fight chlorine damage, I recommend a Metametrix ION Panel at DirectLabs.

Finally, if you have the luxury of a home pool, then treat it with a healthy alternative to chlorine, such as a combination of natural pool minerals combined with structured water.

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5) Household Cleaning Chemicals

From toilet bowl cleaners to laundry detergent, synthetic, chemical-based cleaners are an enormous source of health issues and and environmental pollution (8). For example:

-Tide laundry detergent has high levels of 1,4-Dioxane, a carcinogenic contaminant…

-Most fabric softeners are filled with synthetic fragrances that cause acute effects such as respiratory irritation, headaches and auto-immune reactions…

-All-purpose cleaners contain the sudsing agents diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA). When these substances come into contact with nitrites in the environment or your body and mouth, they react to form nitrosamines carcinogens…

In contrast, take a look at the photo below. You’ll see three basic ingredients: lemons, baking soda and white vinegar. From disinfectants to window cleaners, in our house, these three ingredients form the crux of our household cleaning supplies.

There are many inexpensive, easy-to-use natural alternatives which can safely be used in place of commercial household products. Here’s list of common, natural and  safe products which can be used alone or in combination for a variety of household cleaning applications.

-Baking Soda – cleans and deodorizes.

-Soap – unscented natural soap in liquid form, flakes, powders or bars is biodegradable and will clean just about anything. We get most of our soap-making goods from Mountain Rose Herbs

Lemon – a natural acid that is effective against most household bacteria.

Borax – Despite it’s “scary” name, Borax is simply sodium borate. It cleans, deodorizes, disinfects, softens water, cleans wallpaper, and is good for cleaning painted walls and floors.

Washing Soda – also known as “SAL Soda”, this is sodium carbonate decahydrate, a natural mineral. It cuts grease, removes stains, softens water, cleans wall, tiles, sinks and tubs. 

White Vinegar – cuts grease, removes mildew, odors, some stains and removes wax build-up.

Cornstarch – can be used to clean windows, polish furniture, shampoo carpets and rugs.

Essential oils – where do I start? There are dozens of options but we stick to three when we need to kill bacteria or clean our bodies or our kitchen counters: oregano, thieves and lemon. You can read up on them here. 

So how can you use the natural ingredients above? Here are a few examples (and you can find many more thorough instructions for anything you’d ever need at EarthEasy.com, which is an organic living website owned by a friend of mine):

-Disinfectant: Mix 2 teaspoons borax, 4 tablespoons vinegar and 3 cups hot water. 

-Carpet Stains: Carpet stains: Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray directly on stain, let sit for several minutes, and clean with a brush or sponge using warm soapy water.

-Laundry Detergent: Mix 1 cup Ivory soap, with 1/2 cup washing soda and 1/2 cup borax. 

Of course, if you don’t have time, you don’t have to create your own cleaning supplies. A growing number of commercial non-toxic home cleaning products are also available. From kitty litter to diapers (those are technically a cleaning supply, right?), I introduce some commonly found storebought resources in my blog post “How Safe Is Your House From Being A Chemical Wasteland?“, including:

 –Healthy Pet Foods Here’s the Scoop! Natural Unscented Clay Clumping Litter

Bon Ami Polishing Cleanser, No Chlorine, Perfume or Dye

Seventh Generation Free and Clear Dishwashing Detergent

Seventh Generation Free and Clear Natural Dish Liquid

Seventh Generation Chlorine-Free Diapers

There are many other safe products you can find on websites such as OrganicConsumers.org. My wife and I have several webinars inside the BenGreenfieldFitness Inner Circle which teach you how to make your own cleaning products, but the information you’ve just learned will give you a very good start.

pushup-carpetNo discussion of cleaning chemicals would be complete without warning you about carpets, furniture, mattresses flooring, and other surfaces. When any of these items (especially carpet or area rugs) give off that new carpet smell, that means they’re off-gassing.

Off-gassing is the evaporation of chemicals from any material (23). Furniture, plastics, vinyl products, paint, new cars, clothing, cosmetics, water bottles, carpet, and mattresses do it. Off-gassing materials emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and small particulate substances throughout the entire life of the material – and carpet is a major offender.

Synthetic carpets are made from nylon fibers with a polypropylene backing. Of the chemicals released from carpet, most notable are styrene and 4-phenylcyclohexane (4-PC), both of which come from the latex backing used on 95% of all carpets. So that “new carpet” smell is the odor of 4-PC, which is an eye and respiratory-tract irritant that can seriously mess up your central nervous system. If that’s not bad enough, the adhesive used to attached the carpet to the floor typically contains benzene and toluene, some of the most harmful VOCs (29).

Ideally, a new carpet should be aired before installation, but if that’s not possible, keep any carpeted room extremely well ventilated. Besides headaches, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, and asthmatic reactions, here’s how he tells if carpet is giving off gas:

1. Take a clean, fragrance-free paper towel and fold it in half twice.

2. Place it on a section on the carpet and cover it with aluminum foil secured with tape.

3. After 24 hours, fold the towel inside the foil quickly.

4. Then go outside and unwrap it just enough to take a whiff.

5. If it stinks, your carpet is giving off gas.

You should also avoid stain-guarded clothing, furniture and carpets and be conscious of toxins in carpeting and other flooring, especially anything made from synthetic materials. Use natural fiber wool & cotton carpets, rugs, mattresses and furniture when possible, and if you really want to take massive action, replace your wall-to-wall carpeting with hardwood floors, all natural linoleum or ceramic tiles – using nontoxic glues, adhesives, stains or sealers for installation.

Click here for a full podcast I recorded on how your vacuum churns out toxins, what kind of carpet to use and how to clean your carpet the right way.

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6) Plastics

I go out of my way to avoid plastic by investing in items such as Pyrex BPA-free glass containers and glass canning jars. I also only use PCB-free water bottles when cycling or hydrating during a workout (I prefer the Specialized Purist) and avoid heating, microwaving or even letting sit in a hot car any type of plastic that I’ll potentially be eating food or drinking from, especially foods that contain oils or fats, which tend to be excellent “carriers” for many of the chemicals in plastic.

The chart below shows how plastics, even many society consider to be “safe plastics”, are not really that safe at all:

Plastic-coding-graphics-completed-PNG-1

In this post-industrial era, I understand it can be nearly impossible to completely eliminate plastic from your life. So I recommend you simply limit your exposure to the worse offenders, which are typically plastic numbers “3”, “6” and “7”, and follow these simple rules. 

1) Limit use of plastic bottles. Bottled water is not extremely harmful in small amounts, but BPA exposure can be an issue with frequent or prolonged use. BPA, or Bisphenol A, is linked to cancer and phtalates, both of which can cause hormonal and neural damage. One report from the CDC found BPA in 92.6% of adults (4), but the good news is that another study found that when you remove BPA containing items from your diet for just three days, you can reduce your BPA levels by around 66%. Use glass bottles, BPA-free bottles, or glass jars to transport and drink your water (21).

2) Be aware of other common sources of BPA. Besides plastic bottles, canned food and shopping receipts are also significant sources of BPA. You should also avoid plastic food packaging and plastic containers when you can – and never heat foods near these items.  Choose baby bottles made from glass or BPA-free plastic. If you have children, avoid vinyl pacifiers for your baby and especially stay away from children’s toys marked with a “3” or “PVC.”

3) Replace your plastic shower curtains. Use natural cotton or nylon curtains such as Bean Products Pure Cotton Shower Curtain or Excell Home Fashions Ultimate Nylon Shower Curtain or Liner.

4) You should avoid non stick pans, pots, bakeware and utensils, since the Teflon coating contains perfluorinated chemicals (PFC’s) very similar to the chemicals leached from plastic. Whatever you cook on, you wind up eating. We primarily use cast iron cookware

5) Rather than dry cleaning, use wet cleaning if that’s an option near your home. Tell your dry cleaner not to use the plastic wrap or remove it as soon as possible, since the plastic traps the dry cleaning chemicals on clothes and in your closet. Let your dry cleaning air out (preferably outside) before you put it away. 

Once you become aware of the dangers of plastics, you’ll begin to notice them all over your home. But through awareness and gradual removal, it can be simple to get most of them out of your life. Once again – if you have been exposed for a long time, educate yourself on detoxification.

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dirty-dozen

7) Pesticides & Herbicides

I admit: I don’t eat organic, 100% pesticide-free all the time.

Sometimes I mess up and end up with one of the “Dirty Dozen” pesticide-laden produce items (see right, or visit EWG.org for a constantly updated list). Usually it’s when I’m at a backyard barbecue or a friend’s home for dinner and that spinach salad or handful of cherries just looks so good.

In a situation like this, I simply pop some activated charcoal capsules and take liposomal glutathione when I get home.

But the majority of the time, I buy organic produce, and when I don’t, I use a simple vinegar-cleansing trick I’ll tell you about shortly.

Many people seem to feel just fine when they eat pesticide-laden produce. This is because unlike highly noticeable issues such as mold and carpet, you won’t necessarily feel like crap immediately after pesticide exposure. In fact, the biggest danger from pesticides is not from the immediate effects, but the harm that comes long after exposure or from repeated, low-dose exposure.

Recent data collected by the EPA reports that in the U.S. alone, approximately 5 billion pounds of active pesticide ingredients are applied to our foods annually. That’s a tremendous amount of poisons entering our bodies, and sure enough, a 2002 University of Washington study found that 109 out of 110 urban and suburban children had pesticides in their urine samples.

As you would probably guess, food grown on certified organic farms contains significantly less pesticide residue than food grown with synthetic pesticides. That may seem obvious, but the evidence for this fact has only been available since 2002, when research proved that children fed organic food have lower residues of certain pesticides in their bodies than children fed conventionally grown food.

So buy certified organic produce. And if you really want to make an educated decision and fill your body with the most nourishing and least damaging produce, I recommend you go buy the book Rich Food, Poor Food

In this grocery shopping guide, Mira and Jayson Calton have an excellent list of the “Fab 14” and the “Terrible 20” – which are simple resources to show which produce items tend to be most laden with not only harmful pesticides, but also GMOs, chemical fertilizers, various synthetic substances, sewage and irradiation.

I’d highly recommend you buy their book to get into the nitty-gritty details, or to get a handy wallet guide like the one below, which allows you to reduce your pesticide exposure by 80% and avoid GMO produce 100% of the time.

caltonnutrition

And for that simple vinegar trick I mentioned for non-organic produce? Any basic white vinegar will do, and you already plan on having that around for a natural cleaning supply, right? Simply mix a solution of 10 percent vinegar to 90 percent water as a bath in your kitchen sink, and then briefly place your non-organic vegetables or fruit in the solution, swish them around, and rinse thoroughly in plain water. 

Of course, you also need to watch out for the pesticides and herbicides hanging around in your yard. After all, the average suburban lawn soaks up 10 times as much chemical pesticide per acre than conventional farmland, with over 70 million tons of fertilizers and pesticides are applied to residential lawns and gardens annually!

I’ll admit, I’m not a huge fan of lawns. At our previous house, we actually dug up nearly our entire 1.2 acre yard and just replaced it with one big muddy, dirty vegetable garden. But if you do want that classy expanse of green grass, the only way to reduce dependence on chemical lawn fertilizers is to develop a healthy lawn that is naturally resistant to weeds, insects and disease. You can do this by:

1. Improving the soil.

You can get a lawn pH tester for a few bucks on Amazon. When you test, it should read between 6.5 and 7.0, which is slightly acidic. Soil that is too acidic will need a sprinkling of lime and soil that is not acidic enough will need a sprinkling of sulfur

2. Choosing a local grass.

Grasses vary in the type of climate they prefer, the amount of water and nutrients required, shade tolerance and the degree of wear they can withstand. Ask your local garden center to recommend grass which is best adapted to your area.

3. Mowing often, but not too short.

Giving your lawn a “marine cut” is not the best idea because surface roots become exposed, the soil dries out faster and surface aeration is reduced. As a general rule, don’t cut off more than one-third of the grass at any one time and shoot for about 2.5-3.5 inches. In most growing conditions, this means a weekly mow (yes, I hire a guy off Craigslist to mow, as I hate mowing). When your lawn is finished growing for the season, cut it a bit shorter, to about 2 inches. This will minimize the risk of mold buildup during winter.

4. Watering deeply, but not too often

Regular watering encourages your lawn to develop deep root systems which make the lawn hardier and more drought-resistant. But you need to let the lawn dry out before re-watering. Most healthy lawns require only 1 inch of water per week, which is about 15-20 minutes worth of sprinkling once per day, such as the early morning, when less water will be lost to evaporation.

Finally, when you do fertilize use a natural lawn fertilizer. I recommend the Ringer brand, which is basically a mix of certified organic minerals. An excellent resource for more chemical-free yard recommendations is The Organic Lawn Care Manual: A Natural, Low-Maintenance System for a Beautiful, Safe Lawn.

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metals8) Metals

I step into a my basement infrared sauna at least once a week, and usually far more often than that, because saunas have been shown to be an excellent way to release metals through the skin, and because I know that the mere fact that I get exposed to everything from brake dust on the road to metals in airports and airplanes to the occasional sushi binge, I get my fair share of metals.

In the podcast episode “How Hidden Sources Of Heavy Metals Are Destroying Your Health, And What You Can Do About It.“, I talk to Dr. David Minkoff about how metal exposure can cause chronic fatigue, poor mood, disrupted sleep, headaches, low immune system,  low hormones, and brain fog.

The biggest culprit for metal exposure is modern dentistry. Even though about 50 percent of dentists in the U.S are now mercury-free, only an estimated 10% of dentists fully understand the health risks associated with dental amalgam – which is toxic mercury, despite what the misleading term “silver filling” might lead you to believe (13).

If you decide you want to pull metal out of your mouth, then you should know that via the process of removing and replacing amalgam “silver” fillings, you can risk acute toxicity from the mercury released during the removal process, and this can cause some serious damage to organs such as your liver and kidney.

Because of this, and other metals that float near and get absorbed into your mouth when you’re at the dentist, my family and I only use a holistic dentist. These type of dentists believe that your teeth are an integral part of your body and overall health and do things such as use a cold-water spray to minimize mercury vapors, put a dental dam in your mouth so you don’t swallow or inhale any toxins, use a high-volume evacuator near the tooth at all times to evacuate the mercury vapor, wash out your mouth out immediately after any fillings have been removed, and use powerful room air purifiers.

The following organizations can help you to find a holistic dentist:

For more education on this topic, read this article at Mercola.com

Unfortunately, you can get heavy  metal exposure in all sorts of sources that go way beyond metal in your mouth. These sources include:

-Smog…

-Car keys…

-Chinese toys…

-Second hand cigarette smoke…

-Pesticides and herbicides…

-Protein powders and dietary supplements…

-”Pristine” water (like my local Lake Coeur D’ Alene) that in fact has high amounts of mining runoff…

-Food stored in metal containers…

-Big fish like tuna and dolphin…

-Nuclear run-off from Japan…

The list goes on and on. You can get tested for heavy metals through a company like DirectLabs, but if you’ve been exposed to any of the above, you can assume you’d benefit from pulling metals out of your body.

Binding heavy metals and “pulling” them out of your body is called chelation, and many substances will bind heavy metals and remove them from your body (12). The metals generally exit your body via your stool, urine, hair, breath, and sweat. Some forms of chelation are accomplished with drugs such as DMPS, but the web site www.DMPSBackfire.com shows you some of the serious problems that can be caused by conventional chelating drugs.

Chelators bind by way of ionic bonds, which are the attractions between the plus charge of a heavy metal and the minus charge of the chelating molecule. Because of this, chelation has ability to extract precious minerals from your body, so if you want to get heavy metals out of your body, I do not recommend chelation drugs or natural chelation. Instead, I recommend you use natural compounds that can gently draw heavy metals out of your body.

Metal FreeFor optimum heavy metal protection, Dr. Minkoff  recommends using 6mg of iodine per daymagnesium in supplemental form (around 400-600mg/day, or until you get loose stool), and a algae supplement such as chlorella. But these don’t pull the metals out of your body.

For actually getting metals out of your body, I highly recommend Metal Free Heavy Metal Detoxification Formula, which is a sublingual spray composed of a unique short protein chain, called a peptide.  Peptides are very small and easily absorbed. The way they interact with a heavy metal is to wrap around it in a way that the heavy metal is not free to interfere with or block normal cellular processes (14). This interaction is called “cage binding”. So rather than chelating precious minerals from your body, the spray actually forms a surrounding cage around mercury, arsenic, lead, aluminum, uranium or cadmium. Your body then removes the metal by excreting it in your stool and out of your body.

Metal Free  is something I personally use for about 30 days out of each year to ensure that I’m regularly removing metal build-up from my body. 

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9) Radiation

From the Fukushima disaster in Japan to the average airport security line to radioactive compounds ingested during medical screens, we’re constantly bombarded by radiation – and it’s an unfortunate fact that a nuclear disaster which occurs thousands of miles away can have implications for you as you sit sipping iced tea in your own backyard.

One problem with radiation is that certain glands and tissues with high amounts of iodine receptors, including your thyroid, prostate, and breast tissue, are extremely sensitive to oxidation and cell damage from radiation, especially when these tissues are low in the nutrient iodine (24). When radioactive iodine (found in most forms of radiation, including all the stuff that gets blown into the atmosphere after a disaster such as Fukushima) gets into areas of your body which have numerous iodine receptors, if these receptors are lacking iodine, then the radioactive iodine latches on and begins ionizing, oxidizing, and harming these tissues. As you can imagine, if the receptors have had adequate dietary exposure to iodine then they are already filled with iodine and do not readily grab the radioactive version of iodine.

japan radiation

The other issue with radiation, as I alluded to above, is that it is highly capable of causing oxidation – in a similar manner that eating high levels of heated vegetable oils or sugars can cause free radical damage – but to a much greater extent.

And here is the basic fact: contrary to popular belief, you simply cannot stop ionizing radiation from entering or actually passing through your body by taking some special nutritional supplement or drug.

This is because radiation exposure is the equivalent of a bunch of tiny bullets passing through your tissues, so complete protection from radiation would basically involve you digging into an underground bunker and getting  lead or concrete walls between you and the source of the radiation. Good luck with that.

So rather than running from the radiation, I recommend you simply speed your body’s ability to repair damaged tissues and organs, and equip yourself with high amounts of the proper nutrients to counteract the effects of ionizing, oxidizing radiation.

As I discuss in the podcast episode “Natural Ways To Protect Yourself From Radiation“, different forms of anti-oxidants are going to protect you in different ways, so you can’t simply take something like high-dose vitamin C or high-dose iodine and call it good. In that particular podcast episode, I answer a question from a Japanese caller who was concerned about radiation exposure from Fukushima, and I recommended the following steps to counteract the effects of radiation (you’ll notice that many overlap with my recommendations for a healthy detox).

Daily radiation protection (things you should be doing for general health anyways):

-Oral magnesium in supplemental form (around 400-600mg/day, or until you get loose stool). You can read more here about how magnesium offers strong protective effects against small daily doses of radiation.

-Algae. I eat a handful of organic algae every day and I talk about why in this article. Eat 20-30 bits in the morning and evening, or put into daily smoothie.  Also, liberally include sea vegetables in your diet.

Full spectrum antioxidant such Lifeshotz. All ingredients of Lifeshotz are derived from wild plants, which are some of the most “stressed” biological compounds on the of the planet. When you consume the extract of those wild plants, they pass their natural anti-oxidant properties on to you.

-Additional anti-oxidants from a high quality omega 3, Vitamin D and Vitamin A containing supplement. I recommend  SuperEssentials fish oil combined with a good multivitamin.

If acute radiation exposure occurs or you’re traveling frequently:

-The Metal Free Heavy Metal Detoxification Formula discussed earlier.

-6mg of nascent iodine per day in a glass of water.

-1-2 servings edible clay per day. Clay can actually draw out stored radioactive compounds from your body, and yes, it literally tastes like eating dirt. I recommend this Edible Earth stuff.

Finally, to learn more about naturally protecting yourself from radiation and the huge problem with radiation exposure in our modern era, I highly recommend you read Dr. Mark Sircus’s book “Nuclear Toxicity Syndrome”.

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10. Personal Care Products

Ever heard of the “dirty dozen of cosmetics”?

That’s right…just like there’s a dirty dozen for produce, there are a plethora of ingredients in beauty products that aren’t exactly beautiful. In the US, research has shown that a significant portion of the 82,000 ingredients used in personal care products are industrial chemicals, including carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins, and hormone disruptors – including plasticizers, degreasers, and surfactants (10). And many folks are unknowingly slapping, slathering, rubbing, spraying, spritzing and massaging these chemicals onto their skin and hair – both of which readily soak up these chemicals.

For more detailed information on the dirty dozen of cosmetics, you can check out this helpful Cosmetic Dirty Dozen background report, but in the meantime, I recommend you head to your bathroom cupboard, inspect the labels of your personal care products and toss out anything that contains the following twelve ingredients:

1. BHA or BHT: Used mainly in moisturizers and makeup as preservatives. Suspected endocrine disruptors and may cause cancer.

2. Coal tar dyes: Indicated by the word “p-phenylenediamine”, colors listed as “CI” followed by a five digit number, or colors such as “FD&C Blue No. 1” or “Blue 1”. These have potential to cause cancer and may be contaminated with heavy metals toxic to the brain.

3. DEA, MEA or TEA-related ingredients: Used in creamy and foaming products, such as moisturizers and shampoos, these can react to form nitrosamines, which may cause cancer. 

4. Dibutyl phthalate: Used as a plasticizer in some nail care products. Suspected endocrine disrupter and reproductive toxicant. 

5. Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives: Look for DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine and quarternium-15. Used in a variety of cosmetics. Slowly release small amounts of formaldehyde, which causes cancer. 

6. Parabens: Used in a variety of cosmetics as preservatives. Suspected endocrine disrupters and may interfere with male reproductive functions. 

7. Parfum (a.k.a. fragrance): Any mixture of fragrance ingredients used in a variety of cosmetics – even in products advertised as “unscented.” Some fragrance ingredients can trigger allergies and asthma. Some linked to cancer and neurotoxicity. 

8. PEG compounds: Used in many cosmetic cream bases. Can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which may cause cancer. Also look for propylene glycol and other ingredients with the letters “eth” (e.g., polyethylene glycol).

9. Petrolatum: Used in some hair products for shine and as a moisture barrier in some lip balms, lip sticks and moisturizers. This is a petroleum product that can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which may cause cancer.

10. Siloxanes: Look for ingredients ending in “-siloxane” or “-methicone.” Used in a variety of cosmetics to soften, smooth and moisten. Suspected endocrine disrupter and reproductive toxicant (cyclotetrasiloxane). 

11. Sodium laureth sulfate: Used in foaming cosmetics, such as shampoos, cleansers and bubble bath. Can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which may cause cancer. Look also for related chemical sodium lauryl sulfate and other ingredients with the letters “eth” (e.g., sodium laureth sulfate). 

12. Triclosan: Used in antibacterial cosmetics, such as toothpastes, cleansers and antiperspirants. Suspected endocrine disrupter and may contribute to antibiotic resistance in bacteria. 

Whew!

When I first heard about the dirty dozen, I was tempted to simply shrug and just make sure I continued to do things like use natural deodorant, keep avoiding fluoride in my toothpaste, and continue to avoid using sunscreen unless absolutely necessary.

But last year, I read new research – specifically, the first peer-reviewed assessment of a large number of hormone disruptors and dangerous chemicals in a variety of household products (20).

The research is quite shocking, because it reveals consumer products commonly labeled “green”, “non-toxic” and “healthy” are actually laden with dangerous chemicals. And these are products that health-conscious consumers commonly buy and bring into our homes, our kitchens, our bathrooms, our beds, and our bodies – including air fresheners, dryer sheets, shampoo, bar soap, floor cleaner, sunscreen and toothpaste.

So I’ve personally switched to following a basic rule that may seem silly at first glance, but that seems pretty safe to me:

If you can’t eat it without getting seriously sick, don’t use it as a personal care product.

That’s right – your skin is a mouth, and slathering chemicals on it is pretty dang close to the equivalent of swallowing the stuff. Sure, you might get a slight tummy ache if you literally do eat some of the natural products below, but they’re not going to kill you or give you cancer like some of the items that may be in your cupboard right now.

Based on this rule, I’m going to tell you exactly what I use on my own skin next week, because I’ve been doing a ton of research on this lately…but in the meantime, for the rest of your body parts, like your hair and your teeth:

-Hair Styling: Nature’s Blessing Hair Pomade – ingredients are Nettle,Rosemary,Sage,Peppermint, Thyme, Alfalfa, Pure Virgin Olive Oil, Pure Coconut Oil, Sage Oil, Rosemary Oil, Bergamont Oil, Chlorophyll (from nettle and spinach), and Pure Mineral Jelly. Other good hair products for shampooing and styling include Acure Organics and Yarok Hair

-Soap: Dr. Bronners Magic Soaps Unscented Baby-Mild Pure Castile Soap – ingredients are Water, Saponified Organic Coconut, Organic Palm and Organic Olive Oil, Organic Hemp Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Citric Acid, and Vitamin E. Many of the same skin care product manufacturers I mentioned earlier also make soap.

-Toothpaste: Dental Herb Company Tooth and Gum Paste – ingredients are Oil of Red Thyme, Cinnamon Bark, Eucalyptus, Lavender, Peppermint, Echinachea, Gotu Kola and Green Tea Extract. I haven’t found anything that holds a candle to this stuff, although I do occasionally use activated charcoal tooth powder for whitening.

-Shaving gel: Dr. Bronner’s Magic Shaving Gel – ingredients are Organic Sucrose, Organic White Grape Juice, Organic Coconut Oil, Potassium Hydroxide, Organic Olive Oil* Organic Shikakai Powder, Organic Hemp Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Organic Corn Starch, Organic Lemongrass Oil, Organic Lemon Oil, Organic Lime Oil, Citric Acid, Tocopherol. Other good options are Pacific Natural Shaving Cream or natural shea butter bars.

-Sunscreen: Badger Balm – ingredients are Zinc Oxide, Organic Sunflower Oil, Organic Extra Virgin Olive oil, Organic Beeswax, Organic Jojoba, Organic Shea Butter, Organic Cocoa Butter, natural Vitamin E and essential oils. Other good sunscreens are Raw Elements Eco FormulaKabana Skincare and Mexitan.

Cologne: Zen for Men Cypress Yuzu Spray Cologne by Enchanted Meadow – there are other good scents out there, but all Enchanted Meadow products are derived from safe ingredients and essential oils such as Vitamin E, Sweet Almond, Avocado, Jojoba & other Essential Oils, plus extracts of Aloe Vera, Rosemary & Chamomile. This way, you don’t always smell like a coconut, olive-oil slathered hippie. Or you can use my trick: all I use for cologne is lavender essential oil, just like the mideival knights used to do. If it’s good enough for a knight, it’s good enough for me.

natural_products
A few of my “safe enough to eat” products.

Of course, I realize that the personal needs of you ladies may go beyond the simple few items in my own bathroom cabinet. So I bugged my wife to throw in a few additional personal care product choices for you that are 100% natural and organic. Munch away.

Makeup: 100% PureBiteBeauty and  Josie Maran – these companies use healthy food-based or plant-derived ingredients, like Manuka honey and mango seed oil.

Nail Polish: Scotch Naturals. This is a 100 non-toxic nail polish.

Fragrance: Lavanila or Pacifica Perfume – similar to the men’s cologne I use, the bases are all healthy essential oils.

Go ahead and compare any of the items above to ingredients of personal care products that might currently be lying around your house. Notice a difference? I promise plenty more about this topic in next week’s article, along with exactly what I use for skin wrinkles, anti-aging, skin glow, etc.

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Summary

Perhaps your head is spinning with all your newfound knowledge about the dizzying array steps you can take to maximize your health and your performance. But don’t let that stress you out. Start with the small steps. Little things like:

-Replacing your regular water bottles with PCB-free bottles…

-Gradually shifting to more natural personal care products…

-Starting to become aware of when you’re exposing your body to EMF, and minimizing exposure when you can…

-Listening to your body and simply becoming aware of synthetic smelling or synthetic tasting items….

-Equipping your body with what it needs internally to fight external stressors…

Ultimately, you should think about how you can live in as simple and ancestral a manner while still taking advantage of post-industrial comforts such as computers, teeth whitening and swimming pools. You’re now well-equipped with the knowledge to make the right decisions.

Leave your questions, comments and feedback (or your own tips) below, and stay tuned next week for exactly what you should slather on your skin, and the new anti-aging strategies and serums I use for my own skin.

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References

1. Aigueperse, Jean; Mollard, Paul; Devilliers, Didier; Chemla, Marius; Faron, Robert; Romano, Renée; Cuer, Jean Pierre (2005), “Fluorine Compounds, Inorganic”, Ullmann’s Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry, Weinheim: Wiley-VCH, p. 307

2. Basic information about fluoride in drinking water. (2013, July 23). Retrieved from http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/fluoride.cfm

3. Bryson, C. (2004). The fluoride deception. (1st ed.). New York: Seven Stories Press.

4. Calafat AM, Ye X, Wong LY, Reidy JA, Needham LL. Exposure of the U.S. Population to Bisphenol A and 4-tertiary-Octylphenol: 2003–2004. Environ Health Perspect 2008 Jan;116(1):39-44.

5. Calton, M. (2013). Rich food poor food: The ultimate grocery purchasing system (gps. (1st ed.). Malibu, CA: Primal Blueprint Publishing.

6. Connet, P., Beck, J., & Micklem, H. (2010). The case against fluoride: How hazardous waste ended up in our drinking water and the bad science and powerful politics that keep it there. (1st ed.). White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing Company.

7. Davis, D. (2010). Disconnect: The truth about cell phone radiation, what the industry is doing to hide it, and how to protect your family. (1st ed.). New York: Penguin Group.

8. Environmental chemical publications. (2013, February 11). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/biomonitoring_articles.html

9. Environmental Working Group. (2007-2013). Retrieved from http://www.ewg.org/guides/categories/8-Kitchen?gclid=COOQq7bY9bgCFYie4AodggYAvg

10. Environmental Working Group. (n.d.). Skin deep. Retrieved from http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/

11. Gittleman, A. (2011). Zapped: Why your cell phone shouldn’t be your alarm clock and 1,268 ways to outsmart the hazards of electronic pollution. (1st ed.). New York: HarperCollins.

12. Greenwood, Norman N.; Earnshaw, Alan (1997). Chemistry of the Elements (2nd ed.). Butterworth–Heinemann.

13. Hoffman, J. (2011). Dental amalgams and heavy metal toxicity. Retrieved from http://jordanhoffmanacupuncture.com/articles/mercury.htm

14. Kang, H. (2012). Developing an antibody-binding protein cage as a molecular recognition drug modular nanoplatform. Biomaterials, 33(21), 5423-30.

15. Khalil, A. (2013). Assessment of oxidant/antioxidant status in saliva of cell phone users. Electromagn Bio Med, June(13)

16. May, J. (2001). My house is killing me. (1st ed.). Baltimore Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press.

17. May, J. (2004). The mold survival guide. (1st ed.). Baltimore Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press.

18. Pestka JJ, Yike I, Dearborn DG, Ward MD, Harkema JR (2008). “Stachybotrys chartarum, trichothecene mycotoxins, and damp building-related illness: new insights into a public health enigma”. Toxicol. Sci. 104 (1): 4–26.

19. Public Health Statement: Bromoform & Dibromochloromethane. ATSDR. 2011

20. Robin E. Dodson, Marcia Nishioka, Laurel J. Standley, Laura J. Perovich, Julia Green Brody, Ruthann A. Rudel. Endocrine Disruptors and Asthma-Associated Chemicals in Consumer Products. Environ Health Perspect. 2012 July; 120(7): 935–943. Published online 2012 March 8.

21. Rudel, R. (2011). Food packaging and bisphenol a and bis(2-ethyhexyl) phthalate exposure: Findings from a dietary intervention. Environ Health Perspect, 119(7), 914-20.

22. Sircus, M. (2011, June 3). Magnesium offers strong radiation protection. Retrieved from http://www.naturalnews.com/032596_magnesium_radiation.html

23. Strong, John (1938). Procedures in Experimental Physics. Bradley, IL: Lindsay Publications., Chapter 3

24. Suman, S. (2013). Therapeutic and space radiation exposure of mouse brain causes impaired dna repair response and premature senescence by chronic oxidant production. Aging (Albany, NY), August(6)

25. Suzuki, D. (2010, October). The “dirty dozen” ingredients investigated in the davidsuzuki foundation survey of chemicals in cosmetics. Retrieved from http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/downloads/Dirty-dozen-backgrounder.pdf

26. Tukey, P. The organic lawn care manual: A natural, low-maintenance system for a beautiful, safe lawn. New York: Storey Publishing.

27. Turner NW, Subrahmanyam S, Piletsky SA (2009). “Analytical methods for determination of mycotoxins: a review”. Anal. Chim. Acta 632 (2): 168–80
28. U. A. Bakshi, A. P. Godse (2009). Basic Electronics Engineering. Technical Publications. pp. 8–10.

29. Wolkoff, P., Wilkins, C. K., Clausen, P. A., & Nielsen, G. D. (2006). Organic compounds in office environments — sensory irritation, odor, measurements and the role of reactive chemistry. Indoor Air, 16(1), 7-19.

How To Fall Asleep Faster, Stay Asleep, Nap Efficiently, Beat Migraines & More.

lares

Click here for the full written transcript of this podcast episode.

Several weeks ago, I published an article entitled “A Tiny, 1/2 Ounce Piece Of Game-Changing Sleep Technology (And How To Use PEMF For Sleep)“. In that article, I introduced a brand new device called the SomniResonance® DeltaSleeper (affectionally known as the “SR1”) that am now placing on my collarbone each night before I go to sleep and also using if I wake up in the night, and even using for naps and on airplanes.

The results have been nothing less than astounding.

My sleep “efficiency”, as measured by the Oura sleep tracking device, has jumped from 81% up to 97%.

I have gone from an average of 52 minutes of wake time during a night of sleep down to 28 minutes.

My deep sleep has risen from 33 minutes per night to 2 hours and 22 minutes.

My sleep latency (how long it takes to fall asleep) has gone from an average of 16 minutes down to a super-fast 7 minutes.

My heart rate during a night of sleep has dropped from 39 beats per minute down to 36 beats per minute.

The list goes on and on. I plan on a comprehensive article in the future that shows all of these sleep hacking results and delves more deeply into sleep quantification…

…but in the meantime, Michael Lares – the investor, diver, outdoor enthusiast and friend who introduced me to the SR1 – is my guest on today’s podcast, and in this episode, you’re going to discover:

-How the SR1 works…

-How to use the SR1 for migraines and headaches…

-The difference between the SR1 and other PEMF devices (like the EarthPulse)…

-Where you should place the SR1 during sleep…

-Whether you can use the SR1 multiple times during the night…

-Whether the SR1 is safe for children…

-How it works for adrenal fatigue and anxiety…

-Which meds should or should not be combined with the SR1…

-Which countries the SR1 is legal in…

-How to try an SR1 without any risk…

-And much more!

Resources from this episode:

The DeltaSleeper (use 5% discount code “Greenfit10″ – works in both USA and Canada)

The Oura Sleep tracking ring

The Earthpulse PEMF device

A Navy SEAL Physician Reveals How Hard-Charging, High-Achievers Can Fall Asleep Fast

The Man Behind The Advanced Sleep Hacking Tactics Used By The World’s Most Elite Athletes

This podcast is brought to you by:

Marc Pro – The leading electro-stimulation devices on the market and Ben’s recovery tool of choice. Use code BEN for 5% off the Marc Pro or Marc Pro Plus system.

Aloha.com – Go to Aloha.com/Ben and get a free trial of their delicious, whole-food, plant-based protein powder.

Linwoods Health Foods – Use code GREENFIELD20 to receive 20% off Linwoods’ healthy blends of cold-ground seeds, nuts and berries.

Do you have questions, comments or feedback about the DeltaSleeper SR1 device? Leave your thoughts below and either Michael or I will reply, and you want to try the SR1 for yourself, simply click here and use 5% discount code “Greenfit10” (works in both USA and Canada).

Two important updates on the DeltaSleeper SR1 PEMF sleep-enhancing device:

  1. Due to extremely high demand for the DeltaSleeper, the adhesives used to place it on collarbone (or other areas of your body) are on backorder until early June. But fret not, we have found an alternative adhesive that is very budget-friendly and works just as well. You can cut these in 3 or 4 pieces and really stretch your adhesive budget. 
  2. As of 4-22-16, the DeltaSleeper is now shipping to the following countries: Canada, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, Switzerland and New Zealand. Please inquire with [email protected] regarding import of the SR1 sleep device and mention Ben Greenfield to get your discount.

Sprint Triathlons, Sausage Making, Morning Routine, Fantasy Fiction & Lavender: The Top 5 Posts Of The Week From The BenGreenfieldFitness Facebook Page

runningtriathlonbengreenfield

If you’re reading this, you’re no doubt aware that I publish two podcasts a week here at BenGreenfieldFitness.com (a Q&A and a special guest interview), along with a big article each week, and occasionally a bonus “Premium” podcast (there’s one coming tomorrow!).

But I also produce a ton of additional helpful content in the realm of fitness, nutrition, anti-aging, biohacking and beyond…and today, I’m giving you the top five posts of this past week from the BenGreenfieldFitness Facebook page, which you can follow by clicking here.

If you like this type of stuff, you may also dig my fancy photos, contests and giveaways on Instagram, the daily research I publish on Twitter, and yes, even my recent foray into the wonderful world of Snapchat.

Without further ado, here’s the latest on sprint triathlons, sausage making, morning routines, fantasy fiction, and lavender. Enjoy, and feel free to leave your questions, comments and feedback below the post!

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Axis deer meat is widely considered to be the tastiest game meat on the planet, and today the boys and I made fantastic breakfast sausages and hamburger meat from the axis deer I hunted last month.

Posted by Ben Greenfield Fitness on Sunday, March 13, 2016

Check it out!

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Posted by Ben Greenfield Fitness on Saturday, March 12, 2016

FOLLOW ME ON SNAPCHAT:: To get completely unique content directly from me! Did you see my morning routine yesterday? Let…

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Posted by Ben Greenfield Fitness on Friday, March 11, 2016

The latest chapter in my fiction book “The Forest” has been published! Check it out: bengreenfieldfitness.com/theforest

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Posted by Ben Greenfield Fitness on Monday, March 7, 2016

Did you know that medieval knights used to use lavender essential oil as a fragrance? Guess who else does? Me. Highly,…

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Posted by Ben Greenfield Fitness on Saturday, March 5, 2016

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Dig this stuff? Feel free to leave your questions, comments and feedback below the post!

The Potent Ergogenic Effects of Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy to Enhance Athletic Performance

paul becker

Last week, I introduced you to a little device you put on your collarbone to help you with sleep. The device uses something called “PEMF”.

But I’ve actually been digging into PEMF for quite some time.

As a matter of fact, it was three years ago that an inventor named Paul Becker joined me for a podcast entitled “How Something Called Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy Can Make You Sleep Like A Baby (And Do Much More Than That)“. In it, Paul talks about a special “PEMF” device called “The EarthPulse“.

I also mention my own use of this little doughnut-shaped magnetic device for enhancing sleep in the sleep-hacking chapters of my book Beyond Training and also in the recent article 5 Biohacks To Beat Insomia, Sleep Better On Airplanes, And Shut Down Stress.

Earth-Pulse-Sleep-On-Command

Today Paul’s back.

But he’s not here to fill us in on how PEMF can make us sleep better.

Instead, we’re going to talk about the legal performance enhancing effects of PEMF, and exactly how to use something like The EarthPulse for way more than sleep.

During this episode, you’ll discover:

-How electrical stimulation can be used to kill bacteria and viruses…

-How to triple your mitochondrial density while you are sleeping…

-Why earthing, grounding and sleeping outside on the earth is much different than use of a PEMF device…

-Why the PEMF emitted by a device is different than what is emitted from a cell phone…

-The correct way to use PEMF to increase rate of tissue repair…

-How PEMF affects the nervous system and HRV…

-And much more…

Resources from this episode:

Athletic Performance Enhancement results with EarthPulse

100lb Bench Press increase

Information on specific harmonics in Earthpulse

Sensitivity to electrical stimulation of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 and MAGIC-5 cells

Bob Beck protocol for cancer

David Hood (1989) 10 Hz triples 2 key enzymes responsible for oxygen metabolism

NASA / Goodwin (2003) 4x Tissue Regeneration and Epigenetic Effects of 10 Hz PEMF

James Tong (2007) 10 Hz Triples Nerve Synapse Energy & Doubles Mitochondrial Density

Click here to learn more about the EarthPulse PEMF machine, read more of the research or to get one for yourself now.

Do you have questions, comments or feedback for Paul or me? Leave your thoughts below, and click here to learn more about the EarthPulse PEMF machine, or to get one for yourself now (use coupon code “bgfitness” to save 15% anytime between February 27 and March 31, 2016).

How A Manual Treadmill Can Teach You To Run, And How To Use One Properly (Even At A Desk).

jeff vernon itunes

Last year, I posted an article entitled “How To Turn Your Desk Into A Calorie Decimating Workstation“, and created the video “How Should You Stand At A Standing Desk?” 

In both those resources, and on many podcasts (including this one on “How To Burn More Fat At Work), I’ve talked about and featured a special kind of treadmill called a “TrueForm” treadmill.

See, when I set about to modify my standing workstation into a treadmill desk, I ran into a two big problems, namely…

1. Treadmills Have Motors.

Treadmills with motors – the kind you’d normally need for running, and the kind typically used at treadmill workstations – are not only big and bulky, but produce enormous amounts of electromagnetic fields (EMF) and “dirty electricity”, which has been linked to brain fog, altered cellular metabolism, cancer risk, and much more.

In addition, a treadmill belt that runs on a motor allows you to walk and run while leaning slightly backwards and engaging in a full-on heel strike, which alters your running and walking gait, destroys your biomechanics and can actually turn you into a worse runner or a sloppy walker.

2. Manual Treadmills Are Too Slow For Running.

So a non-motorized treadmill (also known as a manual treadmill) is a good solution compared to a motorized treadmill. But the problem is that most manual treadmills only reach a maximum speed of 3.5-4.0 miles per hour, and this means that you can never use a manual treadmill for running. Since I wanted to intersperse short fitness and metabolism boosting sprints into my walking workday, (e.g. stopping every hour to do a brief 2 minute sprint, or doing a bit of jogging in between consults and phone calls) this means I’d have to buy and find space for two separate treadmills – one for walking and one for running!

So over several months, I searched high and low for a treadmill that is A) a manual treadmill without a motor; B) compact enough to fit under my standing desk; and C) didn’t produce electrical pollution and D) could operate at both casual walking paces, light jogs and high running speeds.

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The solution that I eventually found is something called a “TrueForm treadmill” made by Samsara Fitness. The unique looking TrueForm has several extremely unique characteristics that set it apart from any treadmill on the face of the planet, and is unlike any treadmill you’ve ever tried.

First, there is no motor and there are no buttons. The treadmill is entirely manual and is powered by you, which means that you are not only exposing yourself to zero electrical pollution and saving 100% on electrical costs, but also moving far more naturally due to the non-motorized belt design.

When you walk on a TrueForm treadmill, you burn more calories, get better balance (especially if you don’t use the rails) and build stronger leg and core muscles, since you’re doing the work instead of a treadmill motor. And the faster you move, the faster the treadmill goes, just like when you walk, jog or sprint outside.

But it gets even better, because the TrueForm treadmill is the first and only treadmill to actually teach you the skill of running. This is because the only way to really get the belt moving is to lean slightly forward, strike with your mid to front-forefoot, and maintain a high cadence, which means your body learns to run exactly like the most elite runners on the face of the planet run. This honestly took me a little bit of getting used to, because I’m used to being able to “lean back” and be lazy on a treadmill, and frankly, this treadmill instead forces you to move with pristine form.

Finally, the rails are removable. And although TrueForm is legally required to send you the treadmill with the rails attached, you can take them off for the ultimate balance-enhancing experience as you walk, jog and run.

best treadmill desk

 

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So that’s great and all, but can this thing really teach you how to run with proper biomechanics? On today’s audio podcast, I get Jeff Vernon the owner of SamsaraFitness on the show and we address this question and much more.

You’ll discover:

-How the Trueform actually works, and why it is shaped the way it is…

-How to use a manual treadmill properly…

-Specific drills you can do on a manual treadmill to enhance your running form…

-What a standard running treadmill won’t work on a stand-up desk…

-The difference between the different Trueform models (the low-rider, the enduro and the performance)…

-Why the Trueform is different than other manual treadmills, and why it’s “built like a tank”…

-And much more!

Do you have questions, comments or feedback for Jeff or me? Leave your thoughts below and one of us will reply! And click here to use code BEN for a 10% discount on your Trueform.

30 Ways To Reboot Your Body.

30 Ways To Reboot Your Body

Good news.

Just in time for the New Year, I’ve put the finishing touches on a brand new book called “30 Ways To Reboot Your Body: A Complete User Manual To Getting The Most Out Of The Human Body”.

It’s a short read (just 70 pages, you can probably get through it in 2-3 hours), it’s just 99 cents until midnight tonight, and within it, you’ll discover secrets like:

– The single, most potent exercise move that you can use the rest of your life…

– Three amazingly tasty meals that deliver your body every nutrient known to humankind…

– The four tests you must get if you want to know everything about your body…

– A little-known sleep hack that make you fall back asleep in minutes…

– Three easy steps to taking a nap anytime, anywhere in the world…

– And much more…

In other words, this book isn’t just about simply rebooting your body. It’s about rebooting your body, then elevating your body and mind to a completely new level of physical and mental performance, then icing the cake with every scientifically proven tip, trick and biohack I know.

So you can consider this your complete user manual to getting the most out of the human body.

The human body is capable of feeling good, all the time, and achieving amazing feats of physical and mental performance…if you operate it with the proper user manual. It’s time to learn how.

Ready for the journey?

Let’s do this. Today, only until midnight, the book is just 99 cents when you click here.

Enjoy!

Ben Greenfield

P.S. 99 cents is a pretty slamming deal for the collection of knowledge in this book, so click here to leave a review if you like my new book. Fair enough?

P.P.S. You may have heard that last week I released a “done-for-you” mindbodygreen 7-Day Full Body Reboot course. I can guarantee that this simple, short and comprehensive book is a perfect companion to that course. 

Everything You Need To Know About How To Use Amino Acids For Muscle Gain, Appetite Control, Injury Repair, Ketosis And More

Bg Aminos

It seems these days that the building blocks of proteins, affectionately known as “amino acids”, are viewed as tiny little gold nuggets that bestow superhuman powers upon anyone lucky enough to stumble upon them in a sports gel, capsule, fizzy drink or cocktail.

After all, these little guys are starting to get put by nutrition supplement manufacturers into just about everything: from your engineered pre-workout snack, to your during workout beverage, to your post-workout smoothie mix.

But why are amino acids so prevalent now as the “darling” of the supplement industry?

And more importantly, do amino acids actually work any better or differently than, say, protein powder or eggs or a steak?

And of course, when it comes to your hard-earned dollars and which supplements you “prioritize”, do amino acids really help you exercise or function…or are nutrition supplement companies pulling a fast one on you?

You’re about to find out, and have a bit of educational fun in the process. If you want to transform yourself into a real amino acid ninja, then a perfect audio companion to this article is the podcast I released a couple days entitled: Amino Acids, BCAA’s, EAA’s, Ketosis, Bonking & More With 41 Time Ironman Triathlete Dr. David Minkoff.

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Update:

Since first publishing this article, I’ve received a lot of question on dosing, so here is a quick update to this article from Dr. Minkoff (I think the part about how pro cyclists use this stuff is pretty intriguing):

For most people who do not have gigantic bodies, 10 grams of amino acids 3 times a day would be maximum the body could use. If more are taken they will just be metabolized into sugar or stored as fat. Taking more than 10 grams of amino acids at a time can also will do the same thing. Lance Armstrong, George Hincapie and Viatcheslav Eckimov did this regimen during the tour and were anabolic during the tour. That was something they were never able to achieve without this formula. They didn’t have body breakdown and were actually more fit at the end than the beginning. It allowed their bodies to accommodate to the stress and get stronger.

Update #2:

I have included a full list of research on amino acid utilization at the end of this article.

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How Amino Acids Work

Let’s start by taking a trip down memory lane.

When I took my freshman level biology class at University of Idaho, my professor described muscle like a big Lego castle (or Lego pirate ship, depending on your tastes), and then describied amino acids as all the little Lego parts that made up the giant Lego structure (your muscle).

Convenient explanation? Yes. Complete explanation? Not exactly.

See, the role of amino acids goes way beyond being Lego-like building blocks. Amino acids are essential for the synthesis of proteins, enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, metabolic pathways, mental stabilization, and just about every function that takes place within your body.

So, using the “Legos-are-amino-acids” example, a more appropriate analogy would be that you dump all the Legos out of the box and they self-assemble in a magic pirate ship, then float into the air and fly around the room shooting miniature cannon balls at pesky flies, fixing holes in the drywall of your house, and then tucking you into bed for a refreshing night of deep sleep.

In other words, the function of amino acids goes far beyond being simple “building blocks”.

In the nutrition supplement industry (when I use that word, it seems to denote big fat guys in black suits sitting around an oak conference table, but in reality, most of these folks are skinny athletes in white shoes and geeky shorts), amino acid supplements fall into two basic categories: Essential Amino Acids (EAA’s) and Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s).

And there’s plenty of confusion about the difference between EAA’s and BCAA’s.

So let’s start with the first category: the EAA’s (and by the way, using the acronym like I do will make you seem super smart if you hang around any bros at the gym).

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Essential Amino Acids

Essential amino acids, as the name implies, are essential because they can’t simply be made by your body like all the other amino acids can. Instead, you have to get EAA’s from your diet or other exogenous sources.

Have you ever heard of Private Tim Hall, AKA Pvt. Tim Hall? If you’re a biology or chemistry geek, you probably have, because his name is the mnemonic commonly used to remember these essential amino acids, which are, drumroll please:

Phenylanine, Valine, Threonine, Tryptophan, Isoleucine, Methionine, Histidine, Arginine,Leucine and Lysine.

Get it? PVT Tim Hall?

Thanks Tim, we’ll send you a check if we ever win money in Biology Trivial Pursuit.

Anyways, let’s take a look at why the heck Pvt. Tim might do us good during exercise, starting with P.

P: Phenylalanine is traditionally marketed for it’s analgesic (pain-killing) and antidepressant effect, and is a precursor to the synthesis of norepinephrine and dopamine, two “feel-good” brain chemicals. This could be good because elevated brain levels of norepinephrine and dopamine may actually lower your “RPE” or Rating of Perceived Exertion During Exercise, which means you could be happier when you’re suffering hallway through a killer workout session, an Ironman bike ride, an obstacle race, or any voluminous or intense event.

V: Valine, along with Isoleucine and Leucine, is a real player, because it is BOTH an Essential Amino Acid and a Branched Chain Amino Acid. Valine is an essential amino acid. It can help to prevent muscle proteins from breaking down during exercise. This means that if you take Valine during exercise, you could recover faster because you’d have less muscle damage. More details on that below, when we delve into BCAA’s.

T: Threonine research is a bit scant. I personally couldn’t find much at all that explained why threonine could assist with exercise performance, but would hazard a guess that it is included in essential amino acid supplements because it is just that: essential. And many of the studies done on EAA’s just basically use all of them, rather than isolating one, like Threonine. For example (and this is a bit interesting for people who are masochistic enough to like working out starved) there is a significant muscle-preserving effect of a essential amino acids when ingested during training in a fasted state, and this includes decreased indicators of muscle damage and inflammation. This basically means that if you popped some essential amino acids, even if you didn’t eat anything, you wouldn’t “cannibalize” as much lean muscle during a fasted workout session.

OK, sorry, I got sidetracked there.

T: Tryptophan is an interesting one. It is a precursor for serotonin, a brain neurotransmitter that can suppress pain, and if you’re taking some before bed at night, even induce a bit of sleepiness. The main reason to take tryptophan would be to increase tolerance to pain during hard workouts, games or races. But studies to this point go back and forth on whether or not that actually improves performance.

I: Isoleucine, another BCAA that has some of the same advantages of Valine. Again…more on BCAA’s coming in a sec.

M: Methionine helps your body process and eliminate fat. It contains sulfur, a substance that is required for the production of the body’s most abundant natural antioxidant, glutathione. Your body also needs plenty of methionine to produce two other sulfur-containing amino acids, cysteine and taurine, which help the body eliminate toxins, build strong, healthy tissues, and promote cardiovascular health. Methionine is a “lipotropic”, which means it helps your liver process fats, prevents accumulation of fat in the liver and ensures normal liver function, which is essential for the elimination of toxins from your body. Methionine also supports liver function by regulating glutathione supplies – glutathione is needed to help neutralize toxins in the liver.

H: Histidine, as the name implies, is a precursor to histamine, and actually has some antioxidant properties and plays a key role in carnosine synthesis. What’s that mean, exactly? Here’s a clarification: histamine could help you fight off the cell damaging free radicals you produce during exercise, and carnosine helps you get rid of muscle burn more quickly, and helps turn lactic acid back into useable muscle fuel. Interestingly, though histidine is often listed as “essential” histidine is not technically essential, because when you take an EAA supplement, the levels of histidine in your blood will rise within one hour. But Tim and biology professors worldwide might be pissed if we abbreviate Tim Hall to Tim All, so we’ll roll with the mnemonic for now.

A: Next is arginine, and if you’re reading this and you’re an old man who has relied on a little blue pill called Viagra to have a happier time in the sac, you can thank arginine. Arginine helps with nitric oxide synthesis, and nitric oxide is a vasodilator that increases blood flow and could help with exercise capacity (in the case of the blue pill, for one specific body part). Most of the studies on arginine show that it also helps folks with cardiovascular disease improve exercise capacity.

L: Leucine is yet another BCAA.. Yes, as I keep promising, we will get to BCAA’s very soon.

L: Lysine is something my Mom used to take to help cold sores that she got from eating citrusy foods. That’s basically because it helps heal mouth tissue. But more importantly for exercising individuals, lysine may actual assist with growth-hormone release, which could vastly improve muscle repair and recovery, although if you take lysine in it’s isolated form, the amount you’d have to take to increase growth hormone release would cause gastrointestinal distress, or as I like to it, sad poopies. But combined with all the other essential amino acids, there may be a growth hormone response in smaller doses, and there is some clinical evidence that essential amino acid supplementation could stimulate growth hormone releasing factors.

OK, that almost wraps it up for good ol’ Private Tim Hall.

The only thing I didn’t mention is that the EAA’s have a bit of an insulin and cortisol increasing effect, which confuses some people as to why EAA’s would be good. But before you draw back in shock and go flush all your essential amino acids down the toilet because you heard insulin and cortisol make you fat, remember that both insulin and cortisol are crucial (in smaller amounts) for the “anabolic process”, or the growth, repair and recovery of lean muscle tissue.

So the amount of these hormones you get in essential amino acids is far different than the stress and insulin and cortisol response you get from, say, doing burpees with your mother-in-law while eating a pint of ice cream smothered in whiskey while working on an all-nighter project for work.

You can get more instructions and details on timing, dosages and effects of EAA’s here.

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Branched Chain Amino Acids

Next come BCAA’s, the slightly less well-endowed (albeit much cheaper) cousin of EAA’s.

BCAA’s are quite interesting because they are metabolized in your muscle, rather than in the liver. This means that BCAA’s, without any requirement for much digestion or “processing” at all, can be relied on as an actual energy source during exercise, and could therefore prevent premature muscle breakdown. There was actually one compelling study done by a guy named Ohtani that showed exercising individuals who got BCAA’s had better exercise efficiency and exercise capacity compared to a group that didn’t get BCAA’s.

Other studies have found that BCAA’s could increase a variety of factors that are really useful for anyone who cares about their physical performance…like red blood cell count, hemoglobin, hematocrit and serum albumin. They can also lower fasting blood glucose and decrease creatine phophokinase, which means less inflammation, better red blood cell formation, and better formation of storage carbohydrate.

But that ain’t all.

BCAA supplementation after exercise has been shown to cause faster recovery of muscle strength, and even more interestingly, the ability to slow down muscle breakdown even during intense training and “overreaching” (getting very close to overtraining). Just Google the branched chain amino acid studies by Sugita and Kraemer for more on that (yes, shocker, this is a blog post, and not a peer reviewed scientific journal report with full citations, because if it was the latter, you’d be asleep by now – so if you’re a science nazi, then go get busy on Google scholar).

OK, so continuing onto with the many cool things that BCAA’s can do…

When you supplement with BCAA’s, they can decrease the blood indicators of muscle tissue damage after long periods of exercise, thus indicating reduced muscle damage. They also help maintain higher blood levels of amino acids, which, if you recall from the EAA explanation above, can make you feel happier even when you’re suffering hard during exercise. So as you may have guessed, low blood levels of BCAA’s are correlated with increased fatigue and reduced physical performance.

Heck, they even use BCAA’s in medicine. BCAA’s could help people recover from liver disease, could assist with improvements in patients with lateral sclerosis, and could help recovery in patients who have gone through trauma, extreme physical stress (can you say “triathlon”, “Crossfit WOD”, “obstacle race” or “airline travel”?), kidney failure, and burns.

But here is what I think could be the two most interesting things about BCAA’s, especially for fat loss:

1. In his book, “SuperHealth: The Last Diet You’ll Ever Need”, my friend KC Craichy swears by them for significantly decreasing your appetite when taken 30-60 minutes prior to exercise.

2. When taken prior to a fasted exercise session, BCAA’s could increase fat oxidation (and yes, I’ll actually cite a study for this one, it was “Branched-chain amino acids supplementation enhances exercise capacity and lipid oxidation during endurance exercise after muscle glycogen depletion.“, by Gualano, et al)

3. My friend Dominic D’ Agostino, ketosis researcher at University of Florida, swears by BCAA’s for maintaining high-intensity performance while in ketosis, a strategy he recently outlined in this recent ketosis podcast with Tim Ferris.

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How To Use EAA’s and BCAA’s

So if you’ve stayed with me so far, here’s the take-away message about amino acids:

“If all EAA’s are present, your appetite is satiated, muscle repair and recovery can start before you’re even done with your workout, and when you need a fast, nearly instantly absorbable form of protein or you’re mentally stretched toward the end of a tough workout, game or race, high blood levels of amino acids can allow the body and brain to continue to both repair and to work hard instead of getting cannibalized and shutting down.”

Based on all this, do I take BCAA’s and EAA’s?

You bet I do.

And I swear by them for enhancing mental focus during a workout, keeping me from cannibalizing muscle (especially during fasted morning workout sessions), and decreasing post-workout muscle soreness.

When racing triathlons or obstacle races or other long competitive events, I pop 5-10 grams of amino acids per hour, and after hard workouts, I’ll pop another 5-10 grams of amino acids, often with a glass of wine (wine, although a tasty post-workout treat to finish off a hard evening workout, sadly does not contain any actual protein, darn it).

I also use these aminos when I can’t get my hands on quality protein, such as when I don’t have time to make a real meal after a workout, or on a plane flight when the “fish” that gets shoved in front of you in the airline meal appears to be a rubber doggie toy laced with chemicals, or during a week or a day when I’m limiting meat consumption (shocker for bacon enthusiasts: I actually do occasionally limit meat consumption as a longevity-enhancing technique).

Now here’s what I didn’t tell you yet, and something that is going to save you a ton of trouble when it comes to how many “bottles” of different supplements you use: any essential amino acid blend also contains all the BCAA’s. So if you use an EAA formulation that is in the proper ratios, you get every single benefit you just read about in this article, without having to buy both EAA’s and BCAA’s.

That’s why I don’t use BCAA’s. Not only are they only giving me less than half of the amino acid needs, but they also aren’t necessary in a protocol that already includes EAA’s. I only use EAAs.

So which amino acids do I personally take?

I can tell you that I do not take the popular brands that have artificial sweeteners like sucralose or added sugars like maltodextrin.

I also do not take any amino acids that don’t come in the necessary ratios, because I do not want to completely waste my money, a concept my guest Dr. David Minkoff delves into in this podcast episode.

I rarely use powders simply because they’re harder for me to travel with and more time-consuming to mix.

Instead, I use an essential amino acids blend called “NatureAminos“, which comes in a convenient, portable tablet form. Each capsule contains exactly one gram of EAA’s (easy for calculating your dosages) and contains every single amino acid you’ve just read about in the exact ratios necessary for achieving lean muscle maintenance, immune system health, injury healing, staving off central nervous system fatigue during exercise, controlling food cravings, and every other benefit you’ve just got done reading about.

So why are NatureAminos any different than other protein sources?

It all comes down to quality. The chart below illustrates the Amino Acid Utilization (AAU™) that NatureAminos offers, which is dramatically greater than dietary protein sources.

Dietary-Protein-Sources

  • At the low end of the spectrum are branched chain amino acids – only 1% of their content is utilized by the body, with 99% resulting in waste that your body must then process and eliminate.
  • Next are whey and soy proteins – only 18% or less of their content is utilized by the body with 83% leaving as waste.
  • Food like meat, fish and poultry fare just a bit better, with 32% being absorbed and 68% being wasted.
  • Eggs are the winners in the food category with 48% being utilized and 52% converted to waste.

Now…

…compare those numbers to NatureAminos – a massive 99% is put to work by the body, with only 1% leaving as waste. Not only that, but NatureAminos is absorbed by the body within 23 minutes. And there is only 0.4 of a calorie per tablet.

So this means that unlike, say, whey protein powder or meat or eggs or nuts, which can take hours to digest and absorb, NatureAminos is fully digested within 23 minutes from its ingestion.

In addition, Dr. David Minkoff, who helped develop the NatureAminos blend, tested the top selling amino acid blends on the market, including BCAA’s. The net utilization of these blends, which is the percentage of them actually used by the body to make protein, only ranged from 0% (yes, 0%) to 20%. This seems pretty lousy when you compare to the NatureAminos utilization of 99%. Even spirulina was tested, and I’ve talked about spirulina before as a much hallowed protein preference of vegans and vegetarians worldwide. But of 24 different spirulina products tested, the utilization ranged from a low of 0% utilized to a maximum of 6%. So spirulina may grow whales, but it is not necessarily a good protein source when compared to NatureAminos for humans.

On an airplane? I pop 10 with a can of club soda to crush food cravings and keep me from digging around in my bag for chocolate.

Post-workout? I take 5-10 immediately, which is much easier than mixing a protein shake (and zero calories for those of you wanting recovery without the calories).

Injured or sick? I’ll take up to 30 in a single day to give my body extra protein without creating digestive strain or inflammation.

You can click here to try a bottle of NatureAminos now, and you can use code BGAMINO10 to save 10% on your first order. They’re in tablet form, they’re 100% natural, and they’re very easy to use (this page contains full instructions).

Enjoy, and leave your questions, comments or feedback about amino acids below.

NatureAminos-orig

More Research:

The following is a list of research on both Biobuild and Master Amino Pattern (MAP), which were both used as the original formulations on which NatureAminos were built.

BioBuild-Desert-Crossing
Biobuild-Sports-Study
BioBuilde-AIT-Weight-Loss
Biobuilde-Explore-3-Published
BioBuilde-NNU-study
BioBuilde_Explore2published
BioBuildeExplore1published

Master Amino Pattern (MAP) Weight Loss Paper  – Word Document format

10 Of The Best, Low-Cost Amazon Purchases I Made This Month (Healthy Amazon Gift Card Ideas)

BenChristmas

I’m gonna keep this quick, dirty and highly practical.

I know you probably received (like me) one, or two, or eight billion Amazon gift cards for Christmas.

So I went into my Amazon orders, dug into the history of my most recent orders, and without further ado, am giving you 10 of the best low-cost Amazon purchases I made this month. Consider these to be a few of my top healthy Amazon gift card ideas.

Let’s do this…

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1. Frontier Ceylon Cinnamon Organic Ground Powder. $17.99

Frontier Ceylon

This is the kind of cinnamon (unlike the popular cassia cinnamon) that has actually been shown to lower blood sugar.

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2. Trojan Naturalamb Condom Lubricated Natural Skin.  $14.67

naturalamb

Protected sex will never be the same. Seriously. You must try, fellas. And ladies.

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3. Certified Vegan, Raw, Kosher, Organic Nori Sheets.  $17.39

nori sheets

Most nori has heavy metals. Not this stuff. I wrap salads, meats, and half the meals I eat in nori. I’m weird like that and now you can be too.

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4. Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do. $21.83

blue mind

Best book I read this month. Period. The title says it all.

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5.  Bob’s Red Mill Flaked Coconut Unsweetened. $17.94

flaked coconut

This is a good, low-carb way to add “texture” to smoothies, shakes, snacks, etc.

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6.  B-Fresh Spearmint Gum. $12.89

b fresh spearmint gum

Guilt-free gum.   No artificial sweeteners or crap, and it actually maintains its taste, unlike other brands.

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7.  Dark Chocolate Stevia Drops. $7.59

now foods stevia

I use this stuff in everything from low-carb coconut milk ice cream to iced coffee. Bon appetit.

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8.  X-Stand for MacBook and PC Laptop.  $21.99

xstand

Laptops are notorious for being hard on your upper back, shoulders, elbows and wrist. Posture destroyers. This cool little thing tilts your laptop to make it more user friendly.

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9.  HandStands Deluxe Laptop Wrist Rest.  $6.49

handstand

Ditto. See above for reasoning.

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10. Sleep Master Sleep Mask. $25.90. 

sleepmastersleepmask

Best. Sound blocking. Light eliminating. Wrap-around. Sleep. Mask. Ever. No sleep mask will ever compare.

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OK, Merry Christmas. Now go spend your gift cards, then get back to your families, cookies, a glass of eggnog, and some holiday cheer. And feel free to add your own gift card ideas below.

The Ultimate Guide To Using Light To Biohack Your Circadian Rhythms, Sleep Better & Beat Jet Lag Forever.

valkee2
If you would have happened to have sat next to me on an airplane recently, or observed me at my breakfast table, or caught me on a cloudless, gray day…

…you would have found me wearing a set of light-emitting earbuds that look just like a small set of headphones.

As a way to reduce jet lag, shift my circadian rhythm forwards or backwards for sleep enhancement, and increase my mood in the absence of sun, I’ve been experimenting with biohacking my circadian rhythm using a tiny stream of light to directly target the photoreceptors in my brain through both my ears.

In this post, you’re going to learn exactly how you can utilize this technique yourself using a device called a “HumanCharger“. Enjoy.

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What Is Light, Exactly?

OK, you may think you know what light is, but to really understand the rest of this article and to get the most out of your light biohacking experience, let’s make sure you have a nerdy, propellor-hat understanding of light, shall we?

Light is electromagnetic radiation that specifically falls within a certain part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The word “light” usually refers to visible light, meaning light that is visible to your eye and is responsible for your sense of sight. Visible light is specifically defined as light that has a wavelength in the range of 400 nanometers (nm), which falls just between infrared light (which is light with longer wavelengths) and ultraviolet light (which is light with shorter wavelengths).

So for the purposes of this article, when I say “light”, I’m referring to visible light. If you feel grumpy that you don’t get to learn about infrared light today, then fear not. I have a monster post coming soon that fills you in on that topic.

The main source of light on earth is, you guessed it, the sun. Sunlight provides the energy that green plants use to create starches, which then release energy into the living things that digest those starches. This process of photosynthesis provides just about all the energy used by life on earth.

Another important source of light for humans is fire, which includes everything from ancient campfires to modern kerosene lamps. Of course, with the development of electric lights and power, electric lighting has pretty much replaced most firelight.

Some species of animals generate their own light, called bioluminescence. For example, fireflies use light to locate mates, and vampire squids use light to hide themselves from prey.

The specific properties of light are generally measured in terms of intensity, propagation, direction, frequency or wavelength, and polarization. The speed of light, measured in a vacuum, is 299,792,458 meters per second, and is one of the fundamental constants of nature. Visible light, as with all types of electromagnetic radiation (EMR), is experimentally found to always move at this speed in vacuum.

Hope you remember all that. There may be a test later. 

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Another Thing You Need To Know: The Circadian Rhythm

Just as crucial as your understanding of light is going to be your understanding of the circadian rhythm. 

Circadian rhythms are physiologic and behavioral cycles with a recurring periodicity of approximately 24 hours, generated by an endogenous biological pacemaker called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which is located in the anterior hypothalamus in brain. These circadian rhythms control a huge variety of biological processes, such as sleep- wake cycle, body temperature, feeding, hormone secretion, glucose homeostasis, and cell-cycle regulation.

The timing of these physiologic rhythms can become altered, leading to changes in the phase relationship of rhythms to each other, which can cause internal desynchronization. Sometimes this desynchronization manifests as jet lag, sometimes as insomnia, sometimes as waking up extremely freaking early even though all you really want to do is just sleep in a little bit. As you may have experienced at some point in your life, a loss of coordination of these rhythms can have negative consequences on your productivity, your appetite, your happiness, you social interactions, your workouts, your focus, your immune system and many other physiologic and behavioral functions.

So ultimately, the less desynchronized your circadian rhythms are, the better your life. This is mostly related to a big disruption in the production of monoamines and hormones that affect your sleep-wake cycle and wellbeing, such as melatonin, serotonin, dopamine, noradrenalin, leptin, ghrelin, etc.

Via a process called “circadian entrainment”, circadian rhythms are synchronized with the earth’s rotation by daily adjustments in the timing of the SCN (remember, that’s the part of your brain I mentioned earlier), and the circadian rhythms generally follow the exposure to stimuli that signal the time of day. These stimuli are known as zeitgebers (German for ‘‘time-givers’’), and while zeitgebers can include everything from the time of day that you exercise, to when you eat breakfast…

…light is the most important and potent stimulus for circadian entrainment.

The magnitude and direction of any changes in circadian rhythms directly depends on when within the circadian rhythm that a light pulse is presented to either your eyes, or your skin, or anywhere else on your body that light photoreceptors are located. You can actually plot phase changes in circadian rhythm according to the time of light stimulus presentation, and this plot provides what sleep scientists call a “phase response curve”.

For example, exposure to light in the morning and exposure to darkness at night results in a phase response curve that can shift your circadian rhythm backwards and make you sleepy at a more appropriate time in the evening, while exposure to light in the evening or non-exposure to light in the morning can slightly shift your circadian rhythm forwards and cause you to stay awake longer and possibly sleep in longer in the morning, although sleeping in longer in the morning usually requires more of an absence of morning light than a presence of evening light.

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What Happens When Your Circadian Rhythm Gets Messed Up

Circadian rhythm sleep disorders (CRSDs) is the term given to patterns of sleep-wake rhythm disturbances. CRSDs result from a misalignment between the timing of the circadian rhythm and the external environment (e.g. jet lag, shift work, watching loud and bright TV at night, etc.) or a dysfunction of the circadian clock and its afferent and efferent pathways (e.g. delayed sleep-phase, advanced sleep-phase, non-24-hour, and irregular sleep-wake rhythm disorders, such as might occur with obstructive sleep apnea, parasites, nighttime hypoglycemia, etc.).

The most common symptoms of these disorders are difficulties with sleep onset or sleep maintenance, and excessive sleepiness that is commonly associated with impaired social and occupational functioning.

Effective treatment for most CRSDs requires a multimodal approach to accelerate circadian realignment with exposure to appropriate amounts of light at specific times of day, avoidance of bright light at inappropriate times, adherence to scheduled sleep and wake times and some of the other strategies Dr. Joe Zelk discusses in this article and this podcast.

If you want more nitty gritty details, you can download Circadian Rhythm Abnormalities (.pdf download). I also talk quite a bit about circadian rhythms in the article “5 Biohacks To Beat Insomnia, Sleep Better On Airplanes & Shut Down Stress”.

OK, let’s sum up where we are at this point:

You now understand now that light is the single strongest signal that keeps your biological clock synchronized.

You understand that if you don’t get enough light during the day or you get it at the wrong time of the day, e.g. during shift-work or travel induced jet lag, your biological clock can go out of sync, and the production of neurotransmitters and hormones that affect your sleep-wake cycle and wellbeing.

And you understand that this can have a negative effect on how you feel and function during the day and how you sleep during the night.

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You’ve Got Light Receptors All Over Your Brain

The information your body gets about existence or absence of light is received via light-sensitive receptor proteins in the eye’s retina. These proteins are called opsins. Opsins convert the photonic energy of light into electrical potential in neurons, and project signals from light to the brain’s biological clock, as well as to other brain areas. This then increases neurotransmitter signalling and influences hormone production.

But here’s what most people don’t know: light-sensitive receptors are not only found in the retina, but also in many locations in the brain, such as the cerebrum and the hypothalamus. I came across this in an independent, up-to-date inventory of human proteins, including the light sensitive proteins in brain tissue that is maintained by the international Human Protein Atlas project, managed by Uppsala University of Sweden, and funded by the Knut & Alice Wallenberg foundation.

In several recent studies, light sensitive receptors have been found in many locations in the human and animal brain, receptors that are shockingly  completely separate from the retina. For example in one study, human post-mortem brain and peripheral tissue was analysed for the presence of two of the most relevant opsins, melanopsin and encephalopsin, that are sensitive to visible light. Results showed the presence of these opsins at 18 different sites of the human brain and peripheral tissue, indicating light-sensitivity in the brain itself.

In another study, 50 healthy people were randomly divided into two groups, one of which one received 12 minutes of gentle light exposure in their ears via earbuds very much like headphones, and another group that received no light (e.g. lightless earbuds). During the light exposure in the ear, a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan of each group’s brain activity was conducted.

The intriguing results showed a significantly increased activation of the visual and sensory-motor areas of the brain in the group that had received light in their ears, compared to zero activation in the placebo control group. This means that there is a photosensitivity of the brain that is completely independent from the eyes. Based on this result, the idea emerged that a disorder like Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is already treated with bright light therapy like desktop blue light boxes, could just as easily be treated by directing small and portable amounts of light directly to the brain, through the ears.

This all makes sense, since SAD is primarily caused by seasonal lack of exposure to sufficient light. It is characterized by all the usual symptoms of depression, and also an increased need for sleep, annoying fatigue, craving for carbohydrates and weight gain, especially during darker winter months or times of gray, sunless rain.

The earliest bright light headset clinical studies investigated whether transcranial light via the ear could reduce depression symptoms in people suffering from SAD. In the first of these pilot studies, 13 SAD patients were subjected to a daily dose of 8-12 minutes of transcranial bright light therapy into their ears for four weeks. Their depression and anxiety symptoms were measured using standard questionnaires like the 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, the Beck Depression Inventory, and the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale, both prior to the 4 week trial and afterwards.

When researchers compared the depression and anxiety score before treatment and after the fourth week, the results showed a significant reduction in reported symptoms on all three measures. These findings suggest that transcranial bright light therapy could be an alternative to traditional light therapy.

Then, in a second, larger four week trial, 89 patients suffering from SAD were randomly assigned to one of three treatment groups and received either a low, medium, or high dose of daily bright light in their ear for a total of 12 minutes each morning. Depressive symptoms and cognitive performance were again assessed using standard psychiatric instruments at the beginning, during, and at the end of the trial. Results showed a significant reduction of depression symptoms in 74-79% of the patients in all three treatment groups as well as a significant improvement of cognitive performance compared to baseline. The result was comparable with any traditional bright light lamp and blue light boxing studies conducted over the past two decades, and suggest that light shone into the ear can alleviate depression symptoms in SAD patients, and can also increase cognitive performance.

And that’s all without you having to stare at a giant blue light box emitting light placed in your bedroom or on your desk, which is the standard treatment for SAD, and even something I’ve personally recommended in the past as a way to align your circadian rhythm, such as in my Red Light and Blue Light Biohacking Tips podcast.

So it turns out that your ear canal is actually a very convenient passageway for light to reach photosensitive brain areas. This is because the light only needs to travel a short distance to reach for instance the light sensitive receptors in cerebrum. Light can literally passes through the translucent eardrum and the thin bone structures in your ear, and then immediately activate relevant neural networks of your brain.

That’s right: your freaking ear can sense light. 

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Enter The Human Charger

A company called “Valkee“, based out of Finland, spearheaded much of the research you just read about on the ear’s ability to detect light, and they’ve specifically investigated how light shining directly into your ears can do things like treat jet lag and SAD, assist with morning wakefulness, and shift circadian rhythms forwards or backwards.

Motivated to fight through the long, dark winters of their home in northern Finland, scientist Juuso Nissila and engineer Antti Aunio launched Valkee in 2007. In 2010, they developed a bright light headset-based medical device designed specifically to prevent and treat SAD. This is the same in-ear device used in the studies cited above.

Although the Valkee ear light device was initially developed for the treatment of SAD, the logical next step in the development of this technology for medical uses was to show that it could improve your wellbeing, increase cognitive performance, decrease anxiety, or be used to biohack circadian rhythms and address jet lag, rather than just treating SAD.

So Juuso and Antti designed a study to investigate whether an in-ear light headset could reduce moderate anxiety symptoms, even in the absence of SAD. Anxiety is associated with SAD, and other studies on SAD have already given insight into potential benefits of transcranial light for treating anxiety. So Valkee ran a small-scale, randomized, sham-controlled, double-blind trial on acute treatment of anxiety with 28 participants randomized into two groups.

In November 2013, the results were presented in The International Forum on Mood and Anxiety Disorders in Monaco, and showed that when comparing pre and post light exposure, anxiety symptoms were significantly reduced in the ear light treatment group, with zero significant change in anxiety symptoms in the placebo group. This study was the world’s first fully double-blind, placebo-controlled study with any bright light device, including bright light lamps or blue light boxes (these kind of devices obviously can’t be tested without the participant knowing whether the light is on or off).

But human well-being is not only about treating disorders, or about the absence of disease, right?

It also includes physical and cognitive performance, and the ability to perform at optimal levels even when you’re already feeling fine. So Juuso and Antti decided to investigate whether transcranial bright light treatment would be able to improve aspects of cognitive performance such as psychomotor speed in elite pro ice hockey players.

In this study, a series of psychomotor speed tests, including mean reaction time and motor time (using audio and visual signals) were administered to the Finnish National Ice Hockey League team before and after 24 days of transcranial bright light or sham treatment. The treatments were given during seasonal darkness in the Oulu region of Finland, when the strain on the players was also very high (10 matches during 24 days).

A daily 12 minute dose of bright light or sham treatment was given every morning between 8am and 12pm to the hockey players, at home with the Valkee transcranial (in-ear) bright light device. Not surprisingly, Juuso and Antti found that psychomotor speed, particularly motor time with a visual warning signal, significantly improved after the series of 12 minute long bright light treatment in the eras of professional ice-hockey players during the competition season in the dark time of the year.

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What Can Light In Your Ears Do For Jet Lag?

But let’s say you’re not a professional hockey player, and you also don’t struggle with depression or seasonal affective disorder.

I’m guessing you’re still going to be a bit intrigued by the sleep and jet lag component of using in-ear light.

As you probably know, rapid travel in an airplane over several time zones usually results in something that scientists call “passing de-synchronization”, but that we normal folks call “jet lag”. It arises due to a sudden significant difference between environmental time and the biological clock of the traveller.

Symptoms of jet lag include sleep disturbances, drowsiness during the day, reduced alertness, poor overall performance, cognitive deficits, fatigue, irritation, anxiety, depression, and gastrointestinal dysfunction. The severity of jet lag symptoms depends on the number of time zones crossed, the direction of travel, the time of day of the flight, and possibly even the time of year, as well as individual parameters such as age, chronotype, and physical health. Jet lag symptoms tend to dissipate as your internal biological clock gradually shifts toward the time of your new time zone.

But this adaptation takes time – on average one full hour of time zone difference per day spent in the new time zone. So this means if you fly across three time zones it takes you a full three days to fully adapt. And if you fly across the Atlantic or Pacific, it could be 7-10 days for you to fully adapt.

There are only a few random studies that have explored light as a countermeasure to treat the symptoms of jet lag. These studies have shown a modest circadian rhythm entraining effect and increased sleep effectiveness, but show absolutely no effect on regaining performance or a decrease in actual jet lag symptoms.

So Valkee set about organzing a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind jet lag field study of 55 trans-Atlantic travelers, specifically to investigate whether intermittent light exposure from a headset’s ear buds could significantly alleviate jet lag.

Study participants were randomly divided into a light treatment group and a placebo group. The participants travelled by plane from Finland to North America and back, and to allow their internal clock to adjust to North American time. spent at least one week on the ground in North America before their flight back.

During the treatment period immediately after returning to Finland, participants received bright light or placebo headset treatment four times a day at pre-determined times. Jet lag symptoms were measured using several well-established metrics likethe  Karolinska Sleepiness Scale, Horne-Östberg Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire, Visual Analogue Scale, State Trait Anxiety Inventory and the Profile of Mood State score (who names these things?). These are the same scales used in all seven light-based jet lag field studies that have been published in the last 15 years.

So what happened?

In the bright light treatment group, the jet lag symptoms decreased significantly faster than in the placebo group. None of the 55 subjects in the present study reported any adverse effects as a result of the light treatment. As a matter of fact, the bright light group participants’ recovery back to their baseline condition, measured before the flight, took on average only half as long compared with the placebo group.

This is the first ever randomized, placebo-controlled and double-blinded light therapy study on alleviation of jet lag symptoms, and the results indicate that transcranial bright light given through ear canals decreases symptoms of jet lag.

valkee5

The results of the new study were published in the April 2015 issue of Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance. The peer-reviewed monthly journal published by the Aerospace Medical Association (AsMA) is the most used and cited journal in its field and distributed to more than 80 nations.

Based on the study results and other required qualifications, in April of 2015 Valkee’s in-ear light device, quite appropriately called “The HumanCharger“, was granted the EU medical device CE-certification under Council Directive 92/43/EEC, expanding the Company’s existing EU medical device certification for treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

The device (pictured below, right) is a tiny, pocked-sized headset about the size of a small .mp3 player, with accompanying earbuds that are exactly the size of regular audio earbuds, but that produce a beam of light rather than producing sound.

valkee1Think about it this way: there are only three proven treatments for jet-lag that have been systematically explored under laboratory and field conditions:

1) exposure to bright light;

2) melatonin supplements;

3) pharmacological agents – that is, medication.

Of all these three options, only bright light exposure has none of the side effects or risks known to be associated with the use of melatonin or pharmacological agents used to treat and avoid jet lag symptoms.

Since April, Valkee has continued pioneering research to reduce jet lag, enhance sleep, and help people feel better, with a goal to enhance cognitive performance while decreasing the need for anti-depressants or other medicines. 

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My Experience With The HumanCharger

In May, I got my hands on my own HumanCharger (Valkee sent me a trial unit). Although the model also comes in silver, mine is a sleek little black device, about 1/4 the size of my cell phone and 1/2 as thick. 

The last time I messed around much with biohacking light was when I wrote an article on blue-light blocking called “The Ultimate Visual Biohack – How To Create Your Own Set Of Custom Vision, Performance & Sleep Enhancing Glasses.

But ear light exposure has been a whole new experience for me.

Here’s how it works:

1) You put the earbuds in your ears.

2) You push the one, single button in the middle of the device.

3) The lights automatically turn on, shine for a total of 12 minutes, then turn off.

That’s it.

I don’t feel a thing in terms of actual warmth or sensation, although I immediately feel a slight surge of alertness when I turn on the device and during the entire 12 minutes that the protocol is running. This is the same sensation I feel if I step outside into the sun, or suddenly switch on a light in a dark bedroom. It is kind of a weird feeling, since you never really think of the inside of your ears as being able to “see” light.

So how have I been using my HumanCharger?

First, exactly according to the instructions from Valkee, for the 1-3 days before I travel from East to West across multiple time zones, I do 12 minutes of the light protocol when it’s morning where I’m going. So if I want to be wakeful at, say, 7am in the West, I’ll use the light at 10am in the East.

Then, when I’m in the West, I simply blast the light in my ears for 12 minutes either when I wake up or while I’m sitting drinking coffee and checking my emails.

So far, with this technique, I’ve used the HumanCharger for three separate trips and experienced absolutely zero jet lag on any of the trips. My only regret leading up to writing this article is that I have not yet had a chance to use the HumanCharger for an international flight, but I have a whole slew of international travels coming up this fall during which I plan on using it to avoid all the grogginess, food cravings, and decrease in cognitive performance that happens when crossing a significant number of time zones.

Next, I’ve had two races for which I’ve had to wake up 1-2 hours before my normal waking time. In both instances, I’ve instantly eliminated the normal grogginess from getting up earlier than usual by simply using the HumanCharger as soon as I wake up in the morning.

Next, on two separate occasions, I’ve taken out the HumanCharger on a sunless day and used it just after lunch, when afternoon sleepiness and mild amounts of seasonal affective disorder would normally set in. Both times, it’s completely eliminated the need for a nap, and although it could certainly be a placebo effect, seems to lift my mood, focus and cognitive performance as well.

I’ve also had several times since getting my HumanCharger that I’ve gotten into a pattern of waking up at about 5:30AM, when I’d rather sleep until 6:30AM. Each time, I’ve pulled myself out of that pattern by getting up at 5:30AM, avoiding any sun exposure, then at 6:30AM (the time I’d rather be waking up), putting myself through the HumanCharger protocol. So in this way, I can shift my circadian rhythm forwards, or backwards.

Finally, although I haven’t yet had the opportunity to use it for this purpose, the HumanCharger could be used when you’ve traveled to, say, the West. Let’s say you have a party, a dinner, a social event, a conference, a speech, a meeting, etc. at 7pm, which for you, if you come from the East, would be, say, 10pm. You could use the Human Charger beforehand for a quick blast of energy as an alternative to caffeine or some other stimulant. However, I’ve actually avoided using it in a situation like this, since I don’t really want to shift my circadian rhythm too far forward in the evening. I just like my sleep too much.

Oh yeah, one other thing…there’s an app too.

In case my description and instructions were too vague, the HumanCharger App basically tells you the exact best times for your 12 minutes bursts of ear light, based on your origin and destination time zone, including the option for getting these instructions via push notifications. It integrates with travel sites like TripIt, so you don’t need to enter again the details of any of your trips. This means the app can grab your flights from TripIt and tell you exactly when to use your charger. It also has a nifty time zone difference visualizer on it. You can get the app here.

I’ve also negotiated a 10% discount code for you for The HumanCharger. The code is “BENG10HC”, it’s fully operational on all Amazon sites anywhere in the world, and it will be valid until December 31, 2015.

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Summary

Suffer from anxiety or seasonal affective disorder?

Travel frequently and struggle with jeg lag?

Confused trying to figure out how to shift your circadian rhythm forward or backward?

Need a non-pharmaceutical, non-medicinal, non-supplement alternative to caffeine or energy drinks?

I recommend you try treating your ears with light for 12 minutes using The HumanCharger. The instructions that come with it are easy to understand, and it’s light, portable, travels anywhere, and is far less awkward at coffeeshops than lugging around a giant blue light box to slam on the table in front of you. Basically, it just looks like you’re listening to music or a podcast.

Enjoy, and leave your questions, comments and feedback below.

Who Wants A Box Jam-Packed With Handpicked Goodies From Ben To Arrive On Your Doorstep Every Quarter?

quarterly ben greenfield

Big news.

I’m launching a box with Quarterly.

What is Quarterly?

Quarterly allows you to sign-up to get curated boxes from people you follow online, such as authors, style experts, musicians, etc. You choose your favorite cultural icons, they curate unique boxes, and then you receive handpicked stuff from them each quarter. It’s actually a really cool idea, and something I wished I’d have discovered a long time ago!

So here’s the deal: Quarterly approached me about sending you and a select group of my other followers a customized Quarterly box. But I need your help to prove that people other than just my Mom are actually interested in getting a regularly scheduled package jam-packed with cutting-edge goodies from me.

After all, every day I pour through research and spends massive amounts of time in the trenches figuring out what works and what doesn’t in the realm of performance, fat loss, recovery, digestion, brain, sleep and hormone optimization – and this seems like a very cool way for me to share that stuff in physical form with you, sent straight to your doorstep. Think supplements, unique fitness gear, functional foods, sleep hacking tools, mind enhancing games, etc. You know…all those weird things that make being healthy, defying aging and getting to peak performance both educational and fun.

So if you think this is a cool idea, then click here

When you do, you will go to a page that let’s you support my Quarterly by raising your hand and also spreading the word with your friends and family (and there’s even a video of me wearing funny toe socks). Then, once there is enough interest, you’ll be the first to know when my box is available.

That’s all you have to do to make this happen (and to be the first person to find out when my Quarterly launches). Just click away, and then sit back and wait to see what kind of cool things I can get together to ship to you each quarter! Leave any questions below.

5 Must-Read Books For 5 Important Areas Of Your Life.

books

I’m writing this to you while I’m on a flight from LAX to Seattle.

See, while coming back from a series of Spartan races in Southern California (for which I’m working on a very interesting “before-after” blood testing experiment), I found out my tiny hometown airport in Spokane, Washington was immersed in freezing fog, which resulted in over 24 hours of flight delays for me, and some very spotty internet connections or writing opportunities.

But rather than skipping a post altogether, I still wanted to get you some helpful content in my usual Monday ramblings, and what better than to give you some fantastic book recommendations? Between audiobooks, my Kindle Fire and physical books, I typically read 2-5 books each week and without further ado, here are five that I consider to be “must-reads” for 5 important areas of your life: fitness, diet, money, happiness and business.

Let’s jump right in, shall we?

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1. Fitness: 8 Weeks to SEALFIT: A Navy SEAL’s Guide to Unconventional Training for Physical and Mental Toughness

I’ve been through some pretty harrowing crucibles with Mark Divine’s SEALFIT organization (just read about my hellish “Kokoro” experience to see what I mean). SEALFIT is a style of training developed by retired Navy SEAL Commander Mark Divine for the unique and specialized needs of professionals seeking to reach their fullest potential. But this book’s physical and mental training isn’t just for the armed forces. Instead, I recommend that anyone who wants to get to extreme levels of brain and body toughness try the 8 week program in the book.

The workouts are massive and intimidating and they take 2-3 hours a pop. When I did this program, I split them into morning and evening routines to break up the time load, but they are still going to take up a great deal of your hours and your focus as you go through the program. You’re going to find yourself eating dinner at night while looking ahead and shuddering about the next day’s workout, which might involve 90 minutes of hardcore weightlifting, followed by a 1 mile running time trial and then a hike in the hills with a 50 pound weighted pack.

But if you want to carve yourself into a true warrior, and you’re willing to take 8 weeks of your life to do it, this book is a must-read, as long as you’re not just reading it for the pretty pictures, but also doing it.

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2. Diet: The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life

Yeah, yeah, yeah – I know that there are some nutritional nazis out there screaming that this book by Tim Ferriss leaves out all the important considerations of gut integrity, digestibility, nutrient density and true blah-blah geekery of diet science.

But I don’t care.

See, some people just need to learn to freaking cook before they start to examine whether the legume they’re eating have been properly soaked, fermented or sprouted. And that’s why I like 4 Hour Chef: it not only teaches you how to cook a handful of meals that you could pretty much rely on for the rest of your life to feed yourself or to impress friends at a dinner party, but it also leaves you feeling not afraid to learn pretty much anything else – from memorizing a deck of cards to hunting, skinning and butchering a deer.

Plus, this book is just fun to read, with colorful pictures, plenty of mind-bending activities, and things you never would have thought to do: like pulverizing steamed broccoli in a food processor, tossing in some cubed avocado, laying the entire mix over a bed of white rice, and then topping the tantalizing green layers with a broiled eel. That’s a 15 minute meal that fooled my kids into thinking I was some kind a culinary god.

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3. Money: Killing Sacred Cows: Overcoming the Financial Myths That Are Destroying Your Prosperity

The first time I read this book in 2009, it absolutely rocked my world. For most of my life, I had been under the impression that a well-balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds, a solid 401K, and shopping for the best prices on insurance were smart and savvy financial decisions. I was a total eTrade guy who was slowly building a portfolio and retirement fund online, and got most of my financial advice from the Wall Street Journal and Money magazine.

But sadly, our culture is riddled with destructive myths about money and prosperity, and in Killing Sacred Cows, Garrett Gunderson exposes the fallacies and misguided traditions in the world of personal finance, and gives a pretty revolutionary perspective on how to set up your finances in a way that minimizes your taxes and maximizes your ability to protect what you’ve worked so hard to earn.

Since reading the book, I’ve done things like set-up a family trust, insured myself to the absolute maximum, started investing in my own business and other passion projects rather than the stock market, and completely gotten rid of my retirement plan.

It’s nice knowing that if I die tomorrow, my family is completely taken care of, and it’s also nice to know that I’m building my own legacy, and not leaving it in the hands of a fickle stock market. I recommend you give this one a read and kill a few of your own sacred cows.

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4. Happiness: The Five Minute Journal: A Happier You in 5 Minutes a Day

Until I stumbled across The Five Minute Journal, I was never a journal guy, and threw away most of the diaries and journals people gave me. But now I journal almost every day, and it’s simple because this book just walks me through the process of journaling by asking me a few easy questions, like “What are 3 things you’re grateful for this morning?” or “How could you have made today better?”.

Science has proven that being grateful and shifting your focus to the positive can dramatically improve your happiness. But the key is consistency, and with a positive quote every day and a daily structure that helps you focus on what’s good, The Five Minute Journal gives you just that.

This journal basically combines all the practical elements that can make the difference in your life, and spares you the hours and weeks of moving through dense academic jargon. It’s all here. And it’s been made easy. As a matter of fact, I hack my morning productivity by doing my journaling for 5 minutes every morning while I’m testing my heart rate variability and nervous system strength.

If you’re the kind of person who always wanted to write a journal, but life, excuses and checking your email, Twitter and Facebook every morning took precedence, then this one is for you. Kind of like the 8 Weeks To SEALFIT book, don’t just read this book – do it.

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5. Business: The BookStrapper Guide to Marketing Your Book

I’ll admit that this is kind of a weird one to throw into the mix, but I just finished reading this Bookstrapper Guide on my Kindle and it’s unique approach is fresh on my mind, so I couldn’t leave it out.

Here’s the deal: I’ve always loved to write, and if I’m sitting next to a stranger on an airplane and they ask what I do, I usually just tell them “I’m a health author” (vs. telling them I’m a consultant who uses a combination of biohacking, science and ancestral living to empower people to achieve peak levels of physical and mental performance and live life at as fast a pace as possible without destroying their bodies).

Writing gets me incredibly excited, and books about the writing process, the publishing industry and how to be a better author get me excited too. If that describes you, then by all means, keep reading. If not, stop now and go read one of the other books I recommended.

Anyways, the Bookstrapper Guide is to the writing world what Killing Sacred Cows is to the money world. It shatters book marketing paradigms and both clarifies and shows you how to take the confusing process of publishing into your own hands. It’s the book I wish I had read when I first started down the road to becoming an author, because it would have saved me a lot of time, a lot of heartache, and a lot of living on thin shreds of minuscule royalties from books I published through the traditional marketplace.

If you’ve always wanted to write a book, but you also need to pay the bills, this book is for you. You’ll learn how to take charge of your own marketing and sell thousands and thousands of books without having to navigate the traditional, slow-as-molasses publishing industry. Plus, it’s written by Tucker Max and Ryan Holiday, two intriguing guys to follow.

Incidentally, if you clicked on the book link above, you may have noticed that it’s a free download of this book. That’s because it’s not for sale anymore. Tucker had another side project take off (namely, a done-for-you book publishing service), and he shut everything else down to work on that. So free book for you, I guess.

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The overhead announcement just came. My flight is landing. So I gotta wrap up with this quick review:

Want to become a beast? Get 8 Weeks to SEALFIT.

Learn to cook anything? The 4-Hour Chef.

Crack the code on wealth? Killing Sacred Cows.

Get happier, instantly? The Five Minute Journal.

Write your own book and make money doing it? The BookStrapper Guide to Marketing Your Book.

One last thing before ending: I’m curious to know which three to five books you’ve read recently that you would recommend. Leave your comments below, along with any other questions on things like how I select books, speed-reading, where I get my books or anything else!

I Just Went Crazy (The Most Primal Workout Ever).

Obstacle Dominator

Oh yeah, baby.

Obstacle racing gives you the ultimate primal feeling of getting down, getting dirty and living life at a slightly dangerous level.

Getting a few scrapes, bruises, cuts, and lots of dirt.

And enjoying the hell out of every last minute of it.

Today, I’m giving you a very short video and a very cool special announcement. Let’s first lighten things up with that video – which includes a handy tire-flipping tip…

…and now, on to the press release, which happens to mention yours truly.

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Ben Greenfield, a coach, speaker, and New York Times Bestselling author, has teamed up with top Spartan athlete Hunter McIntyre to launch the “Obstacle Dominator” training program – a downloadable training plan for obstacle racing that includes workout programs for all distances and abilities, diets and recipes, how-to guides for creating and completing obstacles, and insider interviews with the top athletes in the sport of obstacle racing.

From Spartan races to Tough Mudder, Dirty Dash, Tough Guy, Mud Run, Warrior Dash, obstacle racing is a rapidly growing sport in which a competitor, traveling on foot, must overcome various physical challenges that are in the form of obstacles. Obstacles include climbing over walls, carrying heavy objects, traversing bodies of water, crawling under barbed wire, and jumping through fire. Races vary in both distance and challenge level, combining trail running, road running, and cross country running.

“Obstacle racing an amazing experience that is taking the world by storm,” says Greenfield, “but it’s also a brutal sport that can cause injuries, burnout, or just a very unpleasant day unless you prepare with the right kind of training, workouts, recovery, pacing, gear, and nutrition. Whether people are wanting to dominate their next obstacle race, or just learn the sport of obstacle racing, Hunter and I teach you everything you need to know in an easy and fun format.”

In the Obstacle Dominator package, Hunter and Ben reveal all their tips for optimizing the obstacle training and racing experience, covering everything from increasing endurance, strength, speed and dexterity, dealing with common injuries, eating before, during and after workouts and races, the best workouts for obstacle racing, making your own obstacles and much more.

The Obstacle Dominator package includes:

-A training manual with six different workout plans for all levels and race distances, including Spartan Sprints, Spartan Supers, Spartan Beasts, and a “minimalist” plan.

-Step-by-step videos that walk the user through proper technique for each obstacle.

-12 audio interviews with top pro athletes about their exercise and diets, along with an insider interview with Spartan CEO Joe DeSena.

-A “How To Create Your Own Obstacle Course” guide, complete with easy-to-follow instructions for making everything from spears to walls.

-Full audio transcripts of Ben and Hunter’s popular “Obstacle Dominator” podcast.

-A 12 week nutrition plan for obstacle training and racing, with detailed recipes.

-An unconventional guide to obstacle training that includes the optional use of kettlebells, sandbags, medicine balls, maces and battle ropes.

-Exclusive discounts to the most popular races.

“This is bar none the most comprehensive obstacle training and racing guide you’re going to find anywhere,” Hunter says, “We didn’t pull any punches. It’s been an exhausting year putting all this information together for the obstacle racing world, but now we’ve got pretty much the last solution you’ll ever need to go do an obstacle race, and to get really good at them too.”

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If you’ve ever wondered how to train for an obstacle race, what obstacle racing feels like, or you’re bored with clean, pristine, ho-hum or ineffective workouts, this done-for-you, zero-guesswork bundle is for you.

It’s 77 bucks for the first week of 2015 (after that the price goes up to 97). Even if you never plan on doing an obstacle race, this thing will get you ripped, make you tough as nails, and ensure that you’re never bored with your workouts again.

Leave any questions below, (and stay tuned to the YouTube Obstacle Dominator channel for even more hilarious videos).

A Little Known Nutrient That Can Heal Your Gut And Blast Your Immunity Through The Roof.

NatureColostrum

It was way back in 2009 that I first discovered goat’s milk.

I had just finished interviewing Joe Stout – a food scientist at a small local goat farm called “Mt. Capra”. During our podcast (which you can listen to here), Joe filled me on some very interesting properties of goat’s milk that make it much, much different than cow’s milk, including…

…the difference in allergic reactions between goat’s milk and cow’s milk, and why the difference exists…

….what happens to cow’s milk during homogenization that makes it especially dangerous for athletes and people worried about cancer…

…why the body absorbs goat’s milk protein at a much, much faster rate than cow’s milk protein…

…how cow’s milk can cause lactose intolerance, and why this rarely happens with goat’s milk…

…and why goat’s milk “matches up” to the human body better than cow’s milk.

Over at Mark’s Daily Apple  just last week, this was recently confirmed, in an article that says:

“Lots of people seem to fare better with goat milk than cow milk, and several studies support these anecdotes:

-Goat milk is both anti-allergenic and anti-inflammatory, regulating the intestinal immune response at the cellular level.

-Goat milk possesses immunomodulatory effects and even helps the body release nitric oxide, a vasodilator that improves vascular function.

-Goat milk glycans (carbohydrates that support the healthy gut bacteria and can help the immune system) are more similar to human milk glycans than cow milk glycans; goat milk also contains novel glycans with further health benefits.”

Anyways, after that original podcast with Joe, I asked him what to do if I wanted to get all the beneficial properties of goat’s milk (and as I later discovered) much more, without actually drinking milk every day, because frankly, I’m just not a milk-guzzling kind of guy.

Joe’s response changed my life, and you’re about to discover why.

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What Is Colostrum?

Joe told me, “Simple. Colostrum.”

At this point, colostrum was kind of woo-woo for me. My wife grew up on a sheep farm so I knew colostrum had something to do with sheep’s milk, but wasn’t really sure what it really, truly was.

Joe explained to me that colostrum is produced by not just goats and sheep, but by all mammals (including humans) in the first few days after giving birth. Also known as “first milk”, it is produced in the mammary glands of females just prior to giving birth, and serves as a concentrated source of proteins, growth factors, and antibodies that are essential for early development of newborns.

Its properties have been revered for thousands of years across many cultures: in ancient Chinese medicine it was regarded as a potent health tonic, and for the Maasai people of Kenya and Tanzania it has long been regarded as a crucial part of a warrior’s diet. In Britain, dairy farmers refer to colostrum as beestings, and they used any surplus colostrum to make an extra-creamy, and very healthy, pudding.

So you can literally think of colostrum as a powerhouse of nutritional ammunition designed to get a newborn through the critical first few days of life.

Now let’s move on to a slightly more scientific definition of colostrum for you nerds out there, straight from the underbellies of the Wiki definition of colostrum:

“Newborns have very immature digestive systems, and colostrum delivers its nutrients in a very concentrated low-volume form. It has a mild laxative effect, encouraging the passing of the baby’s first stool, which is called meconium. This clears excess bilirubin, a waste-product of dead red blood cells, which is produced in large quantities at birth due to blood volume reduction, from the infant’s body and helps prevent jaundice. Colostrum is known to contain immune cells (as lymphocytes)[4] and many antibodies such as IgA, IgG, and IgM. These are the major components of the adaptive immune system. Inter alia IgA is absorbed through the intestinal epithelium, travels through the blood, and is secreted onto other Type 1 mucosal surfaces[citation needed]. Other immune components of colostrum include the major components of the innate immune system, such as lactoferrin,[5] lysozyme,[6] lactoperoxidase,[7] complement,[8] and proline-rich polypeptides (PRP).[9] A number of cytokines (small messenger peptides that control the functioning of the immune system) are found in colostrum as well,[10] including interleukins,[10] tumor necrosis factor,[11] chemokines,[12] and others. Colostrum also contains a number of growth factors, such as insulin-like growth factors I (IGF-1),[13] and II,[14] transforming growth factors alpha,[15] beta 1 and beta 2,[16][17] fibroblast growth factors,[18] epidermal growth factor,[19] granulocyte-macrophage-stimulating growth factor,[20] platelet-derived growth factor,[20] vascular endothelial growth factor,[21] and colony-stimulating factor-1.[22]

Colostrum is very rich in proteins, vitamin A, and sodium chloride, but contains lower amounts of carbohydrates, lipids, and potassium than mature milk. The most pertinent bioactive components in colostrum are growth factors and antimicrobial factors. The antibodies in colostrum provide passive immunity, while growth factors stimulate the development of the gut. They are passed to the neonate and provide the first protection against pathogens.”

Whew. I know that was a propellor-hat friendly mouthful, so let’s dig into the more practical aspects of how you can use colostrum if you happen to be one of my readers that is not a newborn or 2 day old mammal.

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Colostrum As An Alternative To Antibiotics

The immunoglobulins in colostrum have specific immune system activity against many common human pathogens such as Escherichia coli, Cryptosporidium parvum, Shigella flexneri, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, and rotavirus (yes, that nasty diarrhea disease).

Interestingly, prior to the development of antibiotics, colostrum was the primary source of immunoglobulins used to fight infections. When Albert Sabin made his first oral vaccine against polio, the immunoglobulin he used actually came from colostrum. When antibiotics began to appear, interest in colostrum waned, but, now that antibiotic-resistant strains of pathogens have developed, interest is once again returning to natural alternatives to antibiotics like colostrum.

I personally don’t take colostrum year-round (later in this article I’ll tell you why I don’t take colostrum all the time), but prior to travel or during cold and flu season I “load” with colostrum for several weeks.

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Colostrum For Immunity

Perhaps you have heard of “Proline-Rich Polypeptides” or PRP. These things have been making the news all over scholarly medical research articles lately due to their huge potential for boosting the immune system. So in addition to the infection-fighting immunoglobulins you’ve already learned about, these PRP’s offer a second level of protection.

PRP’s are tiny immune signaling peptides that have been discovered in colostrum (and also in other sources, such as blood plasma). Also known as “Colostrinin”, “CLN”, and “transfer factor”, they function as signal transducing molecules that have the unique effect of making microadjustments to your immune system, turning your immunity up when the body comes under attack from pathogens or other disease agents, and damping your immune system down when the danger is eliminated or neutralized. This is called cell-mediated immunity, and is basically a process of keeping your immune system finely tuned.

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Colostrum For Enhancing The Effectiveness of Probiotics

Because colostrum helps to heal leaky gut and make the tight junctions in your gut less permeable to foreign invaders, without colostrum, probiotics will not be as effective long term because they will pass through your GI tract and not “stick around” in your gut the way they are supposed to. In this way, clostrum is like soil for the seeds of probiotics. It gives friendly bacteria a place to grow by keeping leaky junctions in your gut more “closed”. This has to do with a protein called Zonulin.

In his recent Digestion Session Summit, Sean Croxton interviewed Dr. Datis Kharrazian and in the transcript of the interview, Dr. Kharrazian explained it this way:

what is zonulin

So basically, colostrum keeps zonulin protein from opening up your intestinal cells and keeps leaky gut from developing. Hence, your probiotics become more effective.

In addition, since colostrum also contains a large concentration of immune system factors like white blood cells (leukocytes) and antibodies, the combination of probiotics and colostrum together boost your immune system tremendously.

In addition, if you are trying to re-colonize your GI tract (raise the levels of friendly bacteria in your gut) then you should also combine colostrum with probiotics. When you have a healthy population of friendly bacteria combined with colostrum for the probiotics to cultivate, a more hostile environment is created for harmful microorganisms and there is less space for digestion disruptors to proliferate. So colostrum combined with probiotics is a very powerful one-two gut-healing combo for gas, bloasting, diarrhea, constipation.

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Colostrum For Athletic Performance

For me, athletic performance enhancement and the prevention of gas, nausea, cramps or diarrhea during hard workouts and races was a big reason to begin using colostrum, and I particularly achieve this by “loading” with 8 colostrum capsules per day for 2 weeks before hard races – especially races in hot conditions, such as Ironman Hawaii.

A gastroenterologist professor named Raymond Playford, of Plymouth University, has done some very interesting research on the gut benefits of colostrum for athletes, and has published one study entitled: “The nutriceutical, bovine colostrum, truncates the increase in gut permeability caused by heavy exercise in athletes.

When we are in intense periods of training, us athletes and exercise enthusiasts (you know who you are) often develop gut problems, also known as  “runners’ trots”. If you’ve ever had to pull over on the side of the road during a run with your head between your knees because of gastric distress, or you’ve ever had to interrupt a set in the weight room to quickly duck into the locker room, then you know what I mean.

In the video below, Dr. Playford explains how this is caused by a combination of stress and the simultaneous raising of your body’s core temperature by about two degrees, which increases the permeability of your gut wall, allows toxins into the bloodstream that wouldn’t normally be there, and is the primary reason you get gut distress during stressful exercise, especially stressful exercise in the heat. This is because heat raises the permeability of your gut wall even more.

In this video, Dr. Playfored also talks about his fascinating research on colostrum, its role in protecting this gut leakage that happens during strenuous exercise, and the fact that if you take colostrum for two weeks prior to exercise, the change in gut leakiness is almost completely prevented.

This all makes sense, since colostrum contains growth factors designed to strengthen the gut lining, which is crucial for a newborn mammal, who has a very permeable gut that needs to toughen up fast (and this is why babies or children raised on soy milk – or anyone who has ever been on a bout of gut disrupting antibiotics – should undoubtedly be considering colostrum).

Of course, it’s not just gut problems that colostrum helps to address in athletes. Other studies show that athletes who take it are as much as 20% less likely to get infections of the upper respiratory tract, for reasons you’ve already learned.fs

In this article from the Guardian, Playford expounds on the other benefits that active people can derive from colostrum, “It could be really useful to people who have to do physical exercise in hot conditions, such as soldiers in Afghanistan,” he says. “They are susceptible to heatstroke because of all the gear they have to wear and carry, and taking colostrum could reduce that very serious risk. Another group who could benefit are older people with arthritis who develop serious gut problems because of the strong painkillers they use, and those with ulcerative colitis. These patients are at risk of damage to their gut lining and the colostrum helps it to heal and reduces its permeability.”

As a final boost for athletes, colostrum also has antioxidant components, such as lactoferrin, which assists with iron absorption, bone density and has been shown to have anti-microbial characteristics and hemopexin, which scavenges the heme released or lost by the turnover of heme proteins such as hemoglobin and thus protects the body from the oxidative damage that free heme can cause. This is especially important for endurance athletes, who have high hemoglobin use and red blood cell turnover.

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Colostrum For Growth Hormone (And A Strict Warning!)

Finally colostrum also contains Insulin Like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1). Low IGF-1 levels are not only associated with dementia in the elderly, but people with eating disorders also have low levels of IGF-1 due to malnutrition, as do obese individuals.

The growth-promoting effects most people associate with growth hormone are actually caused by IGF-1, which has characteristics of both growth hormone and growth factor since it stimulates the growth, proliferation, and survival of cells such as gut tissue cells and muscle tissue cells. This is why both IGF-1 and growth hormone are often promoted for muscle building, anabolism, recovery and anti-aging.

IGF-1 also acts as a neurotrophic factor in the brain, which means that it contributes to neurogenesis (growth of new brain cells) and survival of existing neurons (known as a neuroprotective effect).

Now here’s the important part: overexpression of growth hormone by 100 to 1,000-fold in mice causes a 50% shorter lifespan, mainly due to kidney and liver dysfunction. In addition, since IGF-1 and growth hormone are “pro-growth”, excessive long-term use could eventually cause some pretty rapid cell division – which is also known as…cancer.

Author Tim Ferriss calls this a trade-off or a “faustian bargain” between longevity and performance, and you can learn more about it in this excellent WellnessFX article by Dr. Rhonda Patrick entitled “The IGF-1 Trade-Off: Performance vs. Longevity”.

So for the same reason I don’t guzzle a gallon milk a day, eat grass-fed steak for breakfast, lunch and dinner, or take massive doses of whey protein after a workout, I don’t “overuse” colostrum. I simply load with colostrum for 2 weeks prior to big workouts and races, take it when I know I’ve been exposed to the cold or flu, and then also take it (as 4 capsules in the morning and 4 capsules in the evening) during most of the winter (about November through February) when I know my immune system is more likely to become compromised.

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Summary

Of course, as I alluded to at the beginning of this post, if you’re going to use colostrum as an alternative to antibiotics, as a boost for your immune system, as a way to make your gut feel bulletproof during exercise, to enhance the effectiveness of probiotics, or as a method for increasing growth hormone and iron absorption, then I highly recommend that you use the most biocompatible form of colostrum you can get.

You guessed it: you should get your colostrum from goats.

Because of this, I’ve just put the finishing touches on designing NatureColostrum, which is human gut-friendly goat’s colostrum harvested from organic, pastured goats straight from Joe’s farm, just a few hours from my house. You can click here to grab it now.

This is literally the most biocompatible colostrum on the face of the planet, and is of course from grass-fed, free-range goats that graze on pesticide-free and chemical-free pasture 365 days a year. No pesticides, no antibiotics and no hormones are used. Ever.

Enjoy your discovery of this little known compound, and leave your questions, comments or feedback below!