Susan Mathison, Areavoices blogger, Published January 09 2013
Positively Beautiful: Using your inner wisdom for wellness
From a young age, Asprey was obese, troubled by arthritis, allergies, Lyme disease and a host of other problems. In his early 20s, he underwent three knee surgeries, and it was then he decided he needed to do something about his health. So he followed traditional advice, reducing his calories and cutting the fat while working out for more than an hour, six days a week. But after a year and a half he still weighed the same.
Despite his health woes, fortune had smiled on him. By his mid-20s, he was a multi-millionaire following the sale of his software company. With time and money on his hands, Asprey decided to focus his attention on health and ways to improve his own. Frustrated that standard health advice didn’t seem to work for him despite following the rules, he looked at the options. Soon he was connected to world-leading health researchers, many of whom now lecture at Asprey’s Silicon Valley Health Institute, an organization he founded 19 years ago.
He asked a simple but profound question: What are the simplest things you can do to be better at everything? His strategies are not mainstream medicine, but allowed him to decrease his biological age, increase his IQ by 20 points and lose 100 pounds with relative ease. He’s been called a bio-hacker for his extreme self-experimentation, and has garnered media attention from The New York Times and “Nightline.”
His top strategies:
1. Asprey focuses on a low-glycemic diet that looks similar to what our “caveman” ancestors ate. He wants us to look deeper at macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients in the right amounts. He considers our diets to be the ultimate chemistry lab to enhance our physical and mental performance and ward off disease.
Asprey refers to a colleague who is over 300 pounds, has gout, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, who at breakfast one day, took out three bananas to eat. In shock, Asprey told the man bananas should not be on his diet as they have a negative effect on blood sugar. His colleague said he needed potassium to lower his blood pressure. Unfortunately he chose the wrong macro-nutrients in order to get a little bit of important micro-nutrients.
He does not believe in calorie-counting or measuring. Instead he suggests six to 11 servings of non-starchy vegetables, several servings of healthy fats – like avocado, coconut and olive oil – ample protein intake, and one serving of a low-sugar fruit. This is not a vegetarian plan, as he feels that animal protein is a necessary building block.
2. Next Asprey looks at anti-nutrients. Maybe it has the right kind of fat, protein and vitamins, but if it has toxins from fermentation or fungal growth, you shouldn’t eat it. Soy is a prime example of this. Soybeans have toxins in it that can slow down your thyroid function and has estrogen-like properties that can disrupt hormone balance. Coffee is also implicated for having fungal overgrowth. Also be aware of food sensitivities that you might have, especially to dairy.
3. Learn to control your fight-or-flight response. Deep breathing for just five or 10 minutes a day in the morning and before bed can help you stay calm. And if you can teach yourself to change the spacing between your heartbeats, not just to lower the number of beats per minute but to change the actual spacing, you can turn off that nasty stress response that can keep your cortisol levels in the clouds.
4. Start taking Vitamin D3, which is an anti-inflammatory, lowering your cancer and cardiovascular risk profiles. It also improves your immune system.
And sunscreen? He feels that can actually prevent your body from making vitamin D, and suggests wearing sunglasses and a big hat is by far the best way to protect yourself from the sun. Controversial topic, but certainly sunscreen can make us falsely over-confident in the sun.
5. Become a yoga enthusiast in moderation. Asprey feels that you can achieve body and mind balance by practicing yoga once a week. It’s best to practice with a teacher and not by watching a DVD. He says he couldn’t touch his toes 15 years ago, but today at the age of 40, he can put his ankle behind his head.
6. Exercise doesn’t have to take much time. Strength training generates health improvement and weight loss in the least amount of time. Asprey has seen good results with 15-20 minutes lifting heavy weights with a trainer once a week. He’s also a believer in short 15 minute sessions of high intensity bursts two to three times per week for improved cardio.
The best news of all?
When it comes to following Asprey’s advice, he says: “It’s not the sort of thing that takes five years. It’s the sort of thing that takes five weeks. You feel like a different person when you get the variables right.”
To go deeper with Asprey’s recommendations for better health and see if it might work for you, visit his website at www.bulletproofexec.com and download his Bulletproof Diet infographic. It’s a quick and easy reference to help guide your lifestyle and food choices. Share it with your doctor to see what he or she thinks.
This column was written exclusively for The Forum.
Dr. Susan Mathison founded Catalyst Medical Center in Fargo and created PositivelyBeautiful.com. Email her at email@example.com.