Those who sincerely dive into the Lab Notes report back to our group:
FROM CHAOS TO SYNTHESIS: CROSSING THE ABYSS
Struggling with a complex chronic health issue can feel like chaos.
Mystery Pain Syndromes
Blood sugar roller-costers
Nervous system craziness
Behind these labels are things we have to say no to. I don’t trust my system to cope with food at a restaurant, so I have to say no to spending time with my friends. I don’t trust my energy levels so I have to say no to taking on more work. I don’t trust my resilience so I have to say no to that trip, that wedding, that adventure.
There’s a popular story in our culture, it goes something like this.
People are sick because they don’t pay attention to what goes into their body and they just want a pill to solve their problems. People are passive players rather than active contributors to their own health, blindly following along with whatever the mainstream has to offer.
There is some truth to this story and if we’re honest, our culture conditions us to behave this way. So if you’re now starting to wake up to all of the things around you that may be keeping you stuck, including the mainstream medical paradigm itself, then welcome. These are exciting times.
But there are other stories I see much more commonly with the people I work with. People who have seemingly tried everything. People who change their diet, follow health advice, invest in new approaches, are highly motivated and pro-active, relentlessly researching and trying new things and are still stuck in the chaos of complex chronic health issues.
If this is you, you’re not alone and it’s not your fault.
Many of us have already found the ends and limits of what Industrial Medicine can offer us for our chronic health issues and have been using natural, alternative and holistic approaches. Maybe you’ve tried acupuncture, functional medicine, supplements, herbs, meditation, and so on. Maybe some of this helps, keeps symptoms manageable.
Other things seem to work for a little while but then life happens and you’re back to square one.
I know too well how confusing healing can be. Both from navigating my own health and working with people for over 10 years, nothing in my training properly prepared me for the complexity I see and for how people can navigate their journey to health in the real-world.
Today, we have access to unlimited information about our health. We used to think that it was lack of information that blocked us from knowing the answers and getting better. Now we know this isn’t true.
We need to think differently about how we approach health. Not just differently from Industrial medicine’s symptom suppression but also from most integrative, functional and Chinese medicine approaches, which have some amazing tools but frameworks in need of updating for modern times.
We don’t need more information. We need the right information organized in the right way. We need a process to follow to reclaim our health.
We need to approach healing from complex chronic health issues like renovating a house
The biggest challenge I see for people is not knowing where to start.
You have fatigue. You have digestive issues. You have chronic pain and sleep issues. You’re anxious. You can tolerate the cold.
You need answers.
And maybe you already have some. Perhaps you’ve seen some practitioners and done some labs. So you might have already have some answers: maybe you have mold toxicity, chronic infections, SIBO, thyroid dysfunction and hormonal imbalances, and oxidative stress.
Now you have more questions. Now what do you do?
When we have complex chronic health issues, we often have multiple systems of the body that are compromised and leaning on each other. Stress makes your digestion worse. Seasonal allergies sets off your anxiety. Chronic pain makes it hard to think.
Sometimes the tendency is to try to fix everything at once . . . zinc for your immune system, melatonin for your sleep, adaptogens for your energy . . .
Without a plan, we get stuck taking shots in the dark, not knowing what if anything is working. And we get stuck having to take support just to manage our symptoms if we haven’t addressed the root causes.
We need an approach that takes into account how complex systems function, using the right Order of Operations. Just think about renovating a dilapidated house.
You have a house that’s been left unmaintained and exposed to the elements for years. You want to transform it into a warm, vibrate loving home.
Where do you begin?
You could start by replacing the floor boards. Or tackling the wiring. But with the roof still leaking and the windows all busted, any improvements you make here are just going to get damaged again.
Obviously your first move is to secure the house against the elements. Then you want to make sure the plumbing is working so that sewage doesn’t back up into the house and fry your new electrics. Then we need to look at the all important wiring.
And finally, we rebuild the interior - the walls, the floors, the cabinets and so on. Ready for us to start creating our home with our furniture, our special touches, and creating special places for us to create memories.
Every home is different. Some are bigger than others. Some need more insulation if they’re located in colder climates. Some begin with leakier roofs while others only need minor repair.
But the principles are the same. The order of operations are the same. How you move through the process, how long you need to spend on each stage, the climate that you’re exposed to, all of these things are as unique as your fingerprint.
What a broken vacuum cleaner can teach us about recovering from complex chronic health issues
When a mechanical appliance malfunctions, whether it be a computer, an appliance or my hoover, it’s inconvenient to be sure but I always appreciate the straightforwardness of the troubleshooting process when you contact tech support.
“Is it plugged in?”
“Did you try turning it off and on again?”
“Is there paper in the printer?”
“Open up this compartment, do you see anything lodged in it?”
After doing a little triage, the tech support will walk you through the same sequence of steps as they walk through everyone else. Why? Why not ask more information up front and jump to the 3rd question? How do they know what to ask?
Or in the case of my vacuum cleaner that stopped sucking last week, how was it that I was able to follow a less than 10 minute video and the guy on the recording, who didn’t know anything about me, was confident that he could help me solve my problem?
When we go through a troubleshooting process in an order that makes sense and we don’t skip any steps, as long as its the right process for your problem (the right model of hoover, or you, a modern, chronically ill human), then the vast majority of people will benefit.
Because we’ve addressed all the important things. In the right order. Each step of the process improves function and gives us valuable information, even if the results are unexpected, about what step to take next.
We tend to think we’re different than everyone else. And in some very important and special respects, you are!
But when it comes to recovering from complex chronic illness, chronic infections, chronic fatigue, autoimmunity, fibromyalgia, and other common, sticky problems of our times, you want to follow a sound process, going step by step, and in order.
The process will be the same for everyone with these issues. How you move through it, and some of the specific and details, will be as unique to you as your fingerprint.
HOW THE ICE CUBE PRINCIPLE CAN KEEP YOUR HEALTH IMPROVEMENT ON TRACK
There’s a lot of excitement when we start a new approach to improving our health. Perhaps we go on a new diet, start a new supplement, start meditating, exercising, cold showers . . .
But unfortunately as most of us have learned, without a plan, it’s hard to know what’s going to be helpful. How do we know if this new exercise program is even the right thing for you to be doing?
What adds to this confusion is that often even the right activities, the ones that are going to push the needle the most in positive direction, can have delayed effects.
The current state of our body’s is the sum total of all the things we’ve physically and mentally experienced up to this point. So even with a sound strategy, there can be a time lag between when the new habit is started and when it bears fruit.
Bamboo roots grow underground for years before shooting up many feet into the air over the course of a few weeks.
Because latent potential can take time to be unlocked “overnight” it’s important to have key sign posts along the way to let us know we’re on the right track.
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH USING WHOLE SYSTEMS THINKING
If you have a complex chronic health issue, like chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, autoimmune conditions, chronic pain, chronic lyme and other infections, mold toxicity, etc etc no doubt you’ve tried a lot of different things to improve your health.
Supplements, diets, herbs, gadgets, treatments . . . some may have helped. Others perhaps not. Some maybe help unless you stop taking them and then you’re back to square one.
What all of these things have in common are that they’re inputs into your system. We tend to focus on inputs because they’re the most obvious components of a system. They’re also what marketers teach us to focus on since that’s what they’re selling.
But if we’re going to solve complex problems, we need to use models appropriate for the task at hand. We need to think about the whole system and how the parts interact.
We also need to get better at organizing information about the outputs of a system so that we can use that information as feedback to change what we’re doing.
Once you understand how complex systems work, you start to see them everywhere. In the flow of traffic. In your local forest. In your doctor’s office or the DMV.
Having language around these ideas is immensely empowering. It gives you a lens to zoom in and zoom out to navigate a path forward accounting for reality.
ADDITION BY SUBTRACTION
What is your body missing? B vitamins? Magnesium? Calcium? Protein? Glutathione? Methyl donors?
Even intentional, high quality diets can be low in many essential nutrients due to modern farming practices. With complex chronic health conditions usually comes impaired digestion and absorption, further compounding the problem.
And if you get as far as running nutritional labs, these will light up like a Christmas tree showing you all sorts of things you’re missing, especially if you’ve had symptoms for any length of time.
But are these deficiencies really the problem? And if they are part of the problem, are they usually the best place to start?
A mentor of mine taught me: “The majority of gains are made by removing obstacles.”
Why start by removing stuff first? Well for starters, most people I’ve seen have already tried supplementing. The ones whose problems are fixed with this approach don’t come to see. 🤷♀️
But perhaps more importantly, if you do feel better for supplementing but you don’t get rid of the biofilms, microplastics, mold, chronic infections and other visitors creating an ongoing smolder in your system, you’ll be taking those supplements for ever just to feel nearly normal.
There’s a better way to approach this. Remove obstacles first. Addition by subtraction.
WHY THE TREATMENTS YOU’VE ALREADY TRIED HAVEN’T WORKED
Let’s be frank. This probably isn’t your first rodeo.
If you’ve been sick for any length of time, you’ve likely tried all sorts of things to get better. You may have been to the doctors and had tests. You may have received a diagnosis or maybe the doctor told you everything was fine.
You’ve likely done your own research. You may have tried diets, herbs, supplements, acupuncture, devices, mats . . .
But even the ones with good research behind them, even the ones that are excellent quality, the ones that seem to help everyone else, don’t seem to be able to shift things for you.
Is there something wrong with you? Maybe you’re not being diligent enough? Or maybe you’re just broken?
I’d like to offer some more likely and far less depressing scenarios. But it’s not your fault that what you tried didn’t work. You’re not broken.
WHAT A MORE ACCURATE IMMUNE SYSTEM LOOKS LIKE
There is so much confusion about the immune system. It feels to me like the more detail people understand, the more they get things confused.
Do we want to boost the immune system? Make it more active? Sure, sounds great!
But the immune system is responsible for creating inflammation . . . I thought that was causing all chronic disease. Don't we want to turn that down?
In reality, we want to support the immune system to be more accurate, specific and appropriate. We can do this using a systematic approach involving a number of beneficial health practices.
In this Lab Note, I’ll take you through my own before and after labs showing changes in what my immune system is responding to as I'm going through this process.
It's showing more activity against pathogens. And less activity against me. That's what we want
DOES A NORMAL CRP MEAN THAT IT’S UNLIKELY THAT YOU HAVE INFLAMMATION?
This question comes from one of our Guests in the group.
I love this question for a variety of reasons. In the video below, I discuss:
- what “normal” results mean on a lab test
- what systemic inflammation is
- what it means when CRP is high or low
Hopefully this helps you understand CRP and also how to think about lab values and inflammation in general.
HOW TO MAKE RED LIGHT THERAPY WORK FOR YOU
This lab note is inspired by a question from our group:
Red light therapy has huge potential as a safe, non-toxic therapy for a variety of uses. It works well with our physiology, which developed over billions of years in the context of a watery earth lit and warmed by our sun. And it has an impressive and growing literature base.
But when it comes to discussions of any therapy or tool, we need to be mindful to avoid taking shots in the dark, wondering if this next tool will be the thing that helps. When we have a simple health issue, simply using a new tool can get us out of the rut and back on top of the world.
But if we’ve bene struggling for any length of time, we’ve usually tried a lot of different things to help us get back to help. Some work, some don’t, some seem to help but then life happens and we slide back.
Like with many promising tools, the evidence for its benefit tends to be centered around certain types of health issues, people who are certain stages of healing. If we don’t know how to assess this for ourselves, then we can get stuck trying one thing after another.
When we understand where we’re at in our healing journey, then we’re empowered to know when to use the many tools that we may have at our disposal.
WHERE DOES THE THERAPEUTIC ORDER OF OPERATIONS COME FROM?
When you’re renovating a dilapidated house, you don’t pull out old rotting carpeting and put in new ones when the windows are still broken and open to the elements.
When you’re baking a cake, you don’t put the flour and eggs in the oven before scrambling the eggs and adding them to the batter.
In any complex process, order of operations matters. At the Synthesis Health Lab, we approach overcoming complex chronic health issues like pain, fatigue, brain fog, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, autoimmunity, mold toxicity, Lyme disease, EBV and other chronic issues in a certain order.
We teach you to address the immune system first, helping reduce pathogen load and strengthening our outer boundaries.
Then address healing the digestive tract, removing ongoing fermentation and increasing the integrity of the intestinal barrier and tight junctions.
Then systematically remove stored emotional stress and hormonal dysregulation.
We then support the growth and repair of new healthy tissue. If necessary, we can then boost the body.
But where exactly does this order come from?
IS IT A HEALING CRISIS? OR IS IT JUST MAKING YOU WORSE?
Sometimes when you start a new treatment, technique, therapy or device you feel worse before you feel better.
Maybe you get loose stools. Or your body flares. Your energy dips. Your eczema gets worse.
How can you tell if what you’re doing is really helping or just making you worse?
It’s helpful to have some guidelines. And it’s helpful to understand why your body is producing the symptoms that it is so you can decide whether that’s helpful based on the approach you’ve chosen.
HOW TO LEVERAGE LAB TESTING WHEN NAVIGATING YOUR WAY BACK TO HEALTH
When you have a complex chronic health issue, it can feel overwhelming, if not impossible, to navigate your way through the infinite see of health advice.
When we turn our attention to lab testing, the confusion can increase exponentially. I mean, Industrial Medicine doctors already ran labs on you, right? Maybe they found something or maybe they told you “everything is normal.” You mean there are even more tests that they didn’t run?
Here at the Synthesis Health Lab, once of the most valuable skills you can learn is how to interpret your body’s communication and understand how to discern patterns that help you know what practices, botanicals and exercises to do. These skills alone can tremendously change the trajectory of your health.
Does data from lab testing tell us exactly what we need to do to get well? If only life were that simple . . .
So which labs should you run? Do you even need to run labs? Can you get better without the data? If you’re confused about what’s going on with our health, is more information better?
In this lab note, I’m going to share my thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of lab testing and I’ll show you how to leverage these powerful tools in your own health creation journey.
ALL RESEARCH IS STORYTELLING
There's an adage about writing well: you need to know the rules to break the rules.
And the most impactful writing breaks the rules, often.
When it comes to understanding how to find, read, understand and summarize medical research, the same principle applies. You need to know the rules to break the rules.
Because I'm going to let you on a very big secret. Understanding this is genuinely a matter of life and death. It's also a matter of your sanity, your health, your happiness and your freedom. It profoundly impacts your ability to make sense of the world and to lead others towards the source of their own health, their own power.
All research is story-telling.
I want you to allow yourself to relax and open so that this sentence can resonate with you like a tuning fork.
All research is story-telling.
This is more notable in medical research, where the outcomes of the protagonists create the largest pay-offs of almost any industry in the world.
I'm allowed to say this with certainty and authority because I know the rules very, very well. I also know the story-boarding process, how the characters are played, the extras chosen, how the scenes are laid out and scripted. I know who the Patrons are. Most of this information is published freely.
What kind of storytelling? Storytelling takes many forms: oral traditions pass on epics and sagas. And of course there are plays, shows, movies, novels, poetry . . .
When people analyse these stories, literary critics, if you will, they all agree that Industry funded research is something a kin to reality T.V. You watch the Osbornes or the Bachelor and you are viewing something objectively real and totally fake and created in someone’s head at the same time.
But perhaps a better way to understand Industry-funded medical research is something akin to wrestling, a form of scripted entertainment presented as a legitimate competition:
“Wrestling shows, like those of other professional wrestling promotions, are not legitimate competitions but rather entertainment-based performance theater, with storylines that are driven, scripted, and partially choreographed matches; however, matches frequently include moves that can put performers at risk of injury, and even death, if not performed properly . . . Wrestling is not always false, but it is usually scripted. The lines have been practiced. The matchups have already been decided. The wrestlers are not attempting to injure one other, but rather to amuse the adoring crowds that pack arenas across the world on a regular basis.”
Here, the adoring crowds are consumers of the products being tested head to head in the “choreographed matches”, lured by endless broadcasts about "the winner's" superiority on all major American TV networks.
Writing a good screen play is of course important but equally so is casting (do the researchers have crowd appeal, PhDs, MDs, associated with a famous institution) and finding cooperative extras (subjects). But of course any who stick out or distract from the main plot can be cut in post-production.
Some medical research (a minority, studies find) can be considered non-fiction. But even non-fiction has a perspective, an angle, a place from which it stands and views things to tell its stories about the world.
Part of medical research's story is that other kinds of stories aren't real. It tells a story that its version is non-fiction and that subjective experience, poetry, drama and romance are less real. But of course all stories have authors. One important rule of writing in this genre is to use the passive voice. Just as no one wants to see the director standing in the wing shouting “enter scene left!!”, or the narrator shatter the spell by breaking the fourth wall, the manuscript must be written as if no one wrote it at all. But it's the authors that are telling this story and then denying their authorship.
"This research is objective truth, handed on down! I simply scribbled furiously as the truth revealed itself, whispered into my ear from an invisible mouth." This manuscript was funded by Pfizer.
So does this mean that we should turn our backs on research, ignore it completely, only focus on what we can see with our own two eyes?
There's nothing wrong with storytelling. It's what gives life meaning. It's an endeavor as old as human culture.
If you want to find these stories so that you can better understand your life, your health, how nature works, then here are some tips:
Be clear on the question that you want to answer.
If you're looking to read about Truth with a capital T then read the great source books of human civilization such as the Nei Jing, the Tao Te Ching, The Upanishads, the Holy Bible, the Quran, the Kabbalah, Meditations, etc. You will not find it in Pubmed.
You can also experience Truth directly through your own bodily experience and direct observation.
Be clear on the story you want to tell.
That's always been my greatest source of strength in this area. Understanding that all medical research is story-telling allows you to tell better stories about it.
Because here’s another (totally unsecret) secret: the medical industry has known that all medical research is storytelling for a loooooong time, well documented from the 19th century. For example Arthur Sackler, who was inducted into the Medical Advertising Hall of Fame 1997 (the existence of such an institution cements my thesis), used his “medical journal” The Medical Tribune to sell tranquilizers like Librium and Valium as a treatment for college students under stress. His company went on to market Oxycontin and cause the opioid epidemic, which has killed over 700,000 people to date, mainly through “stories” of pure fiction about safety and efficacy that came directly from the Purdue marketing department and didn’t even require the Theatre of published research.
The biggest problem of the integrative medicine community is to try to actively not understand this, sticking its fingers in its ears and continuing with the childish posture that peer-reviewed research is the objectively written down revelations of Nature or Truth, an ordeal and right of passage that we have to successfully overcome if we want to sit at the Big Kids table. We continue this delusion at everyone’s peril. If you know what story you want to tell, then you can collect the materials to write it well, without seeming to break any of the rules.
I say without "seeming" to break any of the rules because the First Rule is to protect against having a bias. But this isn't possible. So the alternative is to pretend you don't have a bias or to own your bias.
I actually spoke at an Acupuncture Research Conference where I said this and the head of the National Institutes of Health Department for Complementary Medicine Research told me during the Q&A that I didn't mean to say that I was "biased", that I was using the wrong word . . . I assured her that this was the correct word. And that we all have biases, including researchers. Including her. It didn't go down well.
Owning your bias is counter to her religion of "Scientism" where we're not allowed to have a bias as researchers. It's considered to be Evil. This is the original sin that researchers can't wash off since to have a limited perspective is to have a bias and to have a limited perspective is to be human. Your bias exists before your research question is formulated. It's the glasses that you see through that you don't even know that you're wearing.
All attempts to minimize bias (blinding, randomization, etc) still come from a particular worldview. What's the largest determinant of the results of a study? Is it objective reality? Superiority of one drug or procedure over another?
No. It's the research question. Of course.
When researchers receive funding, their experiments are driven by the power of someone else's bias. The funders are crystal clear on what their biases are, the stories they are paying the researchers to tell.
So use Google Scholar, be clear on your research question, be clear on the story you want to tell, learn the basic rules of "grammar" (the evidence hierarchy, study design, Power calculations and P-values etc) and tread lightly. Set a timer. Have fun. The ones who seem most evangelical about the Objective Truth of the Church of Science are the ones with the most funding. ‘In “The Science” We Trust!’
Navigating these waters is not always easy. But doing it well you can lead yourself and others to something truer and more beautiful. You can give yourself permission to fully trust yourself. Many people who are not indoctrinated in Scientism simply turn their back on it. And this is a very sane and appealing option.
I've chosen to turn towards it so that I can use the authority of Science to lead you to restore your authority to its rightful place: you own body, mind and soul. You are an ecosystem of 67 trillion cells, half of which aren’t even human. You are the Cosmos, God in Human form.
ACTION VS MOTION: HOW TO STOP PRETENDING THAT PROCRASTINATION IS PROGRESS
When tackling a complex problem, it’s natural to want to learn more about the problem you’re trying to solve. This is especially true when it comes to understanding and trying to overcome complex chronic health issues.
But it’s very easy to think that as we’re learning about something, that we’re making progress towards our goals when we’re not. Sitting down and reading isn’t the same as moving forwards.
We can listen to another podcast, sign up for another course, actually watch the course, ask for reading recommendations. All of these actions sound diligent, rational, helpful. And they can be, when they’re in the right relationship to actual forward motion. But none of these steps directly lead to progress.
Planning a road trip isn’t the same as actually driving the car towards your destination.
Speaking with a trainer isn’t the same as doing push ups.
Reading a book about autoimmunity isn’t the same as making changes in your behavior.
Learning about ADHD isn’t the same as following a process to improve your attention.
We need to understand the differences between Action, Motion, and Progress so that we’re clear on what we’re doing at any given time and intentionally choose behaviors that will lead to solving problems and transforming into the person we want to become.
For those of you who are practitioners, there can be an extra pitfall baked in: it can seem like learning how to treat a condition is the same as healing your own. It’s not. It’s another layer removed. The Action vs Motion vs Progress tally is actually progress on a different outcome than the one you’re trying to move towards.
The process for treating others with autoimmune conditions, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, ADHD, mold, Lyme, chronic pain, digestive issues or anything else in your practice is completely different than the process for overcoming it yourself. It doesn’t even have any steps in common. Some information may overlap. The process and motions are different.
When my burn out / post-concussive syndrome / ADHD / PTSD symptoms were at their absolute worse, what was I doing? Attempting a certification in Functional Neurology. Tell me you can see how sad and funny that is.
Do you think trying to learn how the nucleus accumbens interacts with the anterior cingulate gyrus was directly reducing the raging inflammation in my brain? Of course not! 🤣
Learning how to help others overcome an issue can actually be a way to distract or dissociate from healing your own issue. If I were pregnant and incredibly anxious about giving birth, I could decide to become a Certified Birth Doula and tell myself that I’m going to be the most prepared woman for having a child ever. But this could be a complete and total distraction from actually preparing to give birth to my own child.
Your experience of successfully overcoming your health issue will be extremely valuable as you lead others through their own process. But these are actually different journeys and different skills. Thinking that their journey is your journey (”I’m climbing up this mountain anyways, I might as well bring some folks with me!”) may be keeping you stuck for years. And it’s not helping those who need your help, either.
Because you’re actually climbing different mountains. The same is true if you’re focused on helping your child, partner or friend rather than focusing on your own healing.
But all journeys have commonalties, which is why we can use the same process for successfully undertaking lots of different journeys.
If you’ve been dealing with chronic health issues for any period of time and you’ve already seen multiple practitioners, read multiple books, even received certifications, it’s unlikely that what you need is more information. You’re almost certainly better informed than 99% of Industrial Medicine doctors on how to treat the issue.
You need to start making forward progress. Information is useful but does nothing on its own. Having a map and a compass does nothing if you’re not putting one foot in front of the other towards your goal.
Taking forward steps on an individualized, flexible plan based on reality, with a clear progression of stages and milestones is how you heal from complex chronic health issues.
HARNESS THE POWER OF 1% MARGINAL GAINS
When you’ve been dealing with health issues for a while, you’re desperate to find something that works. You research endlessly to find the device, the supplement, the diet that will move the needle.
And often, these things seem to “work” for “other people.” Someone who has your diagnosis swears by a certain gizmo, or magnesium, or chiropractic and so on.
This way of thinking can keep you chasing treatments and adding to a growing list of support tools without anyone thing being THE thing that gets you better.
We need to approach health cultivation like we would achieving excellence in any area. In his book “Atomic Habits”, James Clear tells the story of how the British Cycling team went from being so bad that a top bike manufacturer refused to sell them bikes, to one of the top performing cycling teams in the history of the sport in 6 years.
Instead of simply focusing on the obvious, the coach who took over the team relentlessly looked for small improvements to make in often unexpected and overlooked areas. The aggregation of these tiny improvements added up to dominance in the sport and unparalleled performance.
James Clear refers to these 1% marginal gains in the context of good habits. Just like compound interest will grow your savings exponentially over time, good habit may not seem to do much in the short-term but in the long-term can completely change the trajectory of your health and your life.
When it comes to health creation, in addition to changing habits, I would add that we can also make these gains through one-off or infrequent “upgrades.” Installing black out blinds in your bed room is really a one-time deal, you don’t really have to think about them when you close them for the night. Replacing non-stick cook ware with less toxic materials is similarly a “one and done” project for the most part and these also contribute immensely to the aggregation of marginal gains.
One helpful side-effect of thinking this way means that we can correct the tunnel vision most of get when trying to get better. We may keep doubling down on a certain area, like diet or supplements, because we received a benefit when we first made a change. But looking for improvements to make in unexpected places, we diversify our health practice portfolio, which I’ve found is often very helpful.
USING THE 80:20 RULE TO HARNESS SHORT-TERM WINS AND LONG-TERM GROWTH
I’ve noticed that once people decide to overcome chronic health challenges, they usually take one of two approaches.
The first is to look for a “magical bullet.” With this approach, we usually ask “what works for . . . CFS, fibro, Hashimoto’s, post-Viral malaise, etc?” The question is looking for a single solution for the problem, or maybe these days a small protocol. “Probiotics, vitamin D and zinc! That’s the answer to your question.”
Our culture trains us to look for magic bullets. The concept actually comes from the pharmaceutical industry. It’s the idea that we could find a drug that would cure a disease like cancer, for example, and wouldn’t have any negative effect what so ever on any other part of the system.
No magic bullet has ever been discovered. This is likely because the very concept is at odd with how complex systems actually work.
Baked into this idea is that something New & Shiny might just be the thing! Maybe there was no supplement to fix CFS but this new supplement might be it!
As you’ve learned, the new supplement or gadget isn’t the answer. But this doesn’t stop us hunting. We think if we just look harder or ask smarter people or maybe something new comes out then this will be it.
By now you know this approach doesn’t work.
The other common approach is the Scattergun Approach. It’s not going to be ONE thing that fixes this problem. But I’ll just try all these things since they all appear to be helpful. Let’s throw it all at the wall and see what sticks.
Because if I have parasites and leaky gut and low vitamin D and poor methylation and poor nutrient absorption and candida and mold . . . then the reason why I’m not better yet is because I need to solve ALL of these problems at once.
But if you do start to feel better, how do you know what helped? Do you need to take it all forever? Or for 6 months until you retest? And if you don’t feel better, what do you do next?
We can use 1% marginal gains to systematically improve our internal and external environment. This is an advanced way of thinking and is very powerful.
But we can expect these benefits to come from the compounding effects of our efforts. And compound interest takes time to accrue. You ain’t gonna get rich over night.
So do we have to wait years to feel better?
What if we looked for quick wins AND long term improvement? What if we had our cake and ate it too?
I recommend an approach that identifies the 20% of things that you could be doing right now to move the needle towards feeling better while also systematically improving the 80% marginal gains that will pay off in the future.
6. WHY YOU SELF SABOTAGE
Most of the time you’re “really good.” You the “right” things, you take care of yourself. You take care of others.
But sometimes you do the thing that YOU KNOW makes your symptoms flare. You know what, fuck it, I’m gonna have the bread.
Or maybe you can’t get yourself to do things you know would help you get better because you’re too busy taking care of everyone else . . .
And what’s with your “inner critic”? (Or your “inner asshole” as I like to call it 😂) The inner monologue that constantly lists and reminds you of your faults and weaknesses?
And what if you really are a bad person? And what if everyone finds out? (rest assured, this isn’t true!!! But many of us have parts of ourselves that believe this.)
And if the Ego is all a construction and if our true happiness lies in the eternal now, then why is it so damn hard to experience that?
Let’s take a look at a map of how your mind is organized. Helpful no? And see if we can make sense of where all this inner conflict is coming from and how we can start to work with, instead of against, ourselves very better health and more happiness.
HOW TO TELL IF SPIRITUAL BYPASSING IS KEEPING YOU STUCK IN CHRONIC ILLNESS
If you have been dealing with a complex chronic health challenge for any length of time and have valiantly struggled to muster up some gratitude for your blessings (with variable success) then read on.
First, what is spiritual bypassing? The term was originally coined in the 1980s by a psychotherapist named John Welwood and is defined as a "tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks.”
Personally, I almost exclusively see this term used as an insult, like the grown up version of calling some one a “doo doo head.”
But from where I’m sitting, avoiding pain and suffering is a pretty normal and ubiquitous human tendency and this is just one way of many that people do this.
I also believe that close to 100% of the time, people aren’t exactly consciously aware that they’re doing this. And I believe that in our current culture at this current moment in time, it’s hard to find anyone at a certain level of human development that hasn’t done this.
Finally, I’m pretty cynical about most psychological approaches on offer. The vast majority don’t stem from any accurate understanding of human psychological development, the mind or the brain. Most people with legitimate human suffering aren’t given great ways to safely and productively deal release the pain and emotions of psychological trauma. So it may not be such a dumb idea to try to use spiritual ideas to as an analgesic until we can actually find an effective way to heal past trauma.
But, at the same time, it’s worth looking at what spiritual bypassing is and how we can tell if we’re doing it because I think that while often well-intentioned, it can contribute to us remaining stuck in the land of chronic illness.
Imagine that you’re brain’s on fire and you’re trying to fix this by meditating and cultivating gratitude.
Just to make a small distinction, if you are suffering from chronic illness and you are able to feel and cultivate genuine feelings of gratitude, please of course keep doing this!
If you’re not, then this lab note may help you to see why.
Many practices, while potentially transformative, can be ineffective or even harmful if done at the wrong time. Having a better understanding of this common tendency and a map of where to focus our efforts on the psychological side of the equation as we move through the stages can be incredibly valuable.
MAKE HEALING A JOURNEY, NOT JUST SOMETHING YOU READ ABOUT.
For some of us, our attempts to overcome chronic health challenges can lead us to learn some fascinating things. We may enjoy listening to podcasts, reading books, doing courses. Some folks choose to even go into the healthcare profession to share what they’ve learned and to continue gathering knowledge.
Lifelong learning and curiosity are wonderful and positive attributes. They have even been shown to promote health!
However, our Information Bias, the idea that we need to keep gathering more information even if we have enough to act, can easily sneak in.
This plays out in the questions we ask. If we want to take action on a plan, then we ask about things we need to do. We may still need to gather more information, but this is in aid of our plan, our progress, our process. Not considered progress on its own.
It’s the difference between asking about how to train for a marathon vs asking for book recommendations about running. You can study running without ever running. But you can’t train for a marathon without running.
Of course, reading a book or taking a course can make us feel like we’re making progress. We get the feeling of achievement - having gone through 3 days of learning a module with a certificate of achievement at the end.
But is our health any better? Are we any closer to our real goal?
Do you have things you could be doing based on your existing knowledge that you’re putting off?
The other problem that feeds into this tendency to keep taking courses is the way that Functional Medicine is organized. Functional Medicine is in many ways a superior lens for helping people than Industrial Medicine. But it has major blind spots that feed into the need to keep learning more, new information, rather than refining and improving on what is already known. Acting, Listening for System Feedback, then Iterating.
The body systems of Functional Medicine don’t map up in a clear organizational structure, with clear relationships. Because the systems aren’t real systems. They don’t exist in reality.
This means that if you study the Detox System, you’ll treat everyone like they’ve just stepped out of 1980’s Chernobyl.
If you take the Immune Module, you’ll treat everyone as if they have a chronic infection.
If you take the Digestive Track, everyone’s problem will be leaky gut.
But everyone with complex chronic health challenges usually has issues with at least a few of these systems. So when the Detox Protocol doesn’t work, you decide that there’s something wrong with you, that you couldn’t follow the plan or you go onto the next system.
The suggestion is to study all the modules - tens of thousands of dollars and days of sitting in front of a screen. You then look at where you have the most symptoms - Digestion? Detox? Inflammation? And start with that plan.
Of course this is learning how to treat other people, you still haven’t started on your own plan.
But what if you have a history of chronic infection and then developed a mercury toxicity? What if you have leaky gut and mitochondrial issues? Which lens or diet or plan should you start with?
We need to think about this in a more helpful way. We need to anticipate up front that you’ll need to go through a process that addresses all of these systems.
HOW TO HARNESS THE 80 - 20 RULE IN REDUCING YOUR TOXIC BURDEN
There’s no doubt about it: living on Earth today exposes you to all kinds of evolutionarily novel chemicals never before seen. Both the quantity in tons produced and the quantity in terms of sheer variety is colossal.
Unfortunately, it’s down to you and me to take radical responsibility of our health and understand the sources of these exposures and how to reduce them. If you’ve been dealing with chronic health issues for any length of time, you likely have some stored in your body as well. When we become chronically inflamed, due to biofilms and chronic infections, our detoxification becomes compromised.
In fact, candida and other pathogens can actually use toxins like microplastics as scaffolding when creating their biofilms, clever litter buggers.
With potentially thousands of chemicals forming part of our environment, how do we go about testing for these? And do we even need to?
We want to avoid the twin traps of only focusing on the generalities of detox, by drinking lots of green smoothies (which is not a good idea, perhaps for another post) and lots of “detox” supporting supplements or zooming in too closely, and focusing only on the microscopic, forgetting about powerful levers we have available to us for getting rid of nasties, that don’t require a lab test.
When we think about our environmental toxin exposure IN GENERAL, we want to think about an evolutionary timeline. And the simplest way to reduce our exposure is to avoid using newly approved chemicals and focus on older materials.
We we think about our INDIVIDUAL exposure then we want to focus the time horizon on our lifetime and also our current environment. These two lenses will help us figure out what we might be carrying around and help us make healthy changes to our environment.
We want to combine the best of the general and the specific.
HOW YOUR FATIGUE IS ACTUALLY TRYING TO HELP YOU
It’s hard to portray exactly how tired you feel. In fact, tired doesn’t really cover it.
You may still manage to put one foot in front of the other. And you may even appear to others as being “fine” while you force march.
But the plug has been pulled. Your energy has been drained. Maybe you struggle to sleep on top of this, adding insult to zapped injury. Or maybe you sleep loads but the sleep doesn’t touch the sides.
It feels like your gas tank is empty.
And yet more likely and far more common, is that an emergency switch keeps getting triggered to keep you from moving. To keep you from circulating whatever your immune system has let in - a virus, bacteria, pathogen, spirochete, manmade toxins . . .
You see, fatigue is actually a survival strategy.
At it’s extreme, it can take the form of “Dauer” or “hibernation” - something that resembles suspended animation. You may still be able to work, to get through your day, even as what you do in a day becomes less and less. But metabolically, your body is employing an ancient survival strategy to keep you as still as possible until the environment is deemed safe.
. . . which is why all the supplements, adaptogens, and boosting things you’ve tried haven’t helped and maybe even made you feel worse.
But with the right strategy, addressing your body’s systems in the right order, you can put the fire out, and start clearing out the biofilms, infections, environmental toxins and debris that keeps your body flipping the switch when you over do it.
Often the energy comes back just by going through this process of clearing out what shouldn’t be there.
If you were hiking up a mountain carrying a backpack full of rocks and you started to get tired, would you drink a Red Bull? Or would you put down the back pack?
If a boulder had rolled onto your leg and you couldn’t get up, would you try drinking more coffee? Take an iron supplement? Or would you remove the boulder?
By going through the 4 Stage Process, you can work with your body instead of fighting it, learn your unique triggers, and reduce the inflammatory load that’s triggering your emergency off switch, removing the blockages to healthy energy.
HOW TO KNOW WHEN YOU’RE READY TO PROGRESS TO THE NEXT STAGE
When we’re healing from a complex chronic health issue where a number of our body’s foundational systems are compromised, progress can take time and is usually not linear. We can have two steps forward followed by one step back. We may temporarily have worsening symptoms as part of a successful treatment on our road to recovery.
So how do we know when to progress from one stage to the next? Many programs advise to do each of their stages for a month. In some ways, this is an improvement on the Scattergun approaches that chuck a mountain of supplements and treatments at you at the same time, hoping that something will help.
But at the same time, you can get stuck being forced into a Procrustean Bed, since it’s unlikely that a “month on each stage for everyone” is helpful for most people. What if you need less time in Stage 1 and longer in Stage 2?
More importantly, how would you know? Taking a strategic approach to getting well means not just working in stages but having clear graduation signs that let you know when to advance and what to look for to tell you if you’re ready once you’ve progressed.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR THOUGHTS USING WHOLE SYSTEMS THINKING: A MASSIVE GAME-CHANGER
Understanding how systems behave can completely transform our ability to problem-solve and act in the word. No where is this truer when it comes to understanding how to improve our own health.
Food, for example, is an input. Energy and Poop are outputs. If the food isn’t good quality, then inflammation and brain fog could be outputs as well.
But where do thoughts fit in? Are they inputs too?
Any input into a system is an output of another system. Likewise, when outputs are used as inputs in other systems intentionally, we see less waste and less unintentional consequences.
Chicken poop becomes fertilizer for the grass that feeds the cows . . .
So, thoughts can be understood as inputs or as outputs and shifting this frame changes everything in terms of how we interact with our system and what options are available to use in terms improving our health, our mood, our beliefs and our quality of life.
By understanding the differences between thoughts as inputs and thoughts as outputs whole worlds open up to us. We can understand when and how to use affirmations to speed up our progress.
Or why Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) sometimes helps but a lot of times backfires. And how to use trance states to allow thoughts as inputs to be fertilize new beliefs more effectively.
By understanding thoughts as outputs we can solve the problem of persistent, unwanted, negative, ruminative thoughts at their source - in the non-verbal brainstem.
Understanding where your thoughts come from and how they work as inputs and outputs is a total game-changer.
HOW TO UNTANGLE THE IMMUNE SYSTEM FROM THE GUT
This is a great question and something that I was confused about for a very long time. My confusion mainly came from my all my functional medicine training.
Understanding how closely interlinked the immune system and the gut is makes certain things so much clearer than the Industrial Medicine approach. We can understand how autoimmunity & food sensitivities develop, how leaky gut can lead to arthritis, cardiovascular disease and even degenerative brain disorders.
Which is why I was scratching my head when I could help so many patients fix their guts, and they would feel somewhat better to be sure by treating chronic intestinal infections and cutting out inflammatory foods and foods they were sensitive to, but eventually we'd hit a bit of a block in progress.
I became really good at helping people get rid of intestinal parasites and h pylori. But in all the training I did and all the skills I learned, this didn't have too much of an effect on improving low white blood cell counts or helping chronic viral infections go and stay into remission.
I guess I could have done additional training on how to treat EBV and HHV-6.
But what do you do if you have chronic systemic viral infections AND dysbiosis AND intestinal parasites AND Lyme?
Because in reality a lot of these things hang out together. But functional medicine approaches seem to present a reality where you only have one thing at a time. Or they assume it doesn't matter where you start. Just focus on what you learned in the most recent seminar.
But the order does matter.
Because it only make sense to take about "the immune system" when you're focused on blood chemistry. Blood chemistry is fascinating and gives us precise and sophisticated windows into the functioning of our bodies and what might be in there.
We dip a cup into the rivers flowing through us and analyze what's inside.
But the health approaches that utilize and develop blood chemistry don't realize something kind of important: these rivers run in a 3 dimensional body, which contains an up and a down, an inside and an outside.
And there isn't "an immune" system at all. There's a multi-layered, multi-dimensional latticed network of strategies that you use to keep unwanted guests out and to expel them once they get in. And if you can't expel them, then you contain them and keep them out of circulation but also away from the things we try to use to kill them.
The bugs participate in this too. They hang out in biofilms, just waiting for you to get run down or lose focus then they come again.
Imagine keeping your home secure in a high crime area. You don't *just* have a front door that locks. You also secure the windows. Maybe you have an alarm system with CCTV and when it gets tripped a team of ex-military arrive. And you have a front gate that locks. Or barbed wire on a wall surrounding your property. Or guard dogs. If you have anything rare or super valuable, maybe you have safe. And a basement that locks. If you're playing big, maybe you have a panic room.
It doesn't make sense to talk about "the security" as if it were one thing. It's a series of strategies: deterrents, identification (don't want the alarm to go off when your kid comes home or the dogs to get released on the UPS guy) and then containment if everything else fails.
We can focus on the gut immunity. The gut is that tube that runs down the middle of us and keeps things like undigested food and gram-negative bacteria out of general blood circulation. When that shit gets through the barrier the dogs get released and start tearing up the furniture and peeing everywhere.
But, hello! You have a front gate and a front door and a bunch of windows that you've left *wide open*. Every time you clean up the dog poop and the knocked over furniture, more criminals are just pouring in off the street through the front door.
Because we don't have one immune system. And we need to secure the outer barriers first. Keep more stuff from coming in.
Of course, this isn't a strict "either this or that" approach. We function as a complex system. This is a way of organizing your self-care and what you take so that you know what to do and in which order to get well. You know what to focus on at any given time. In Stage 1, while we're securing the outer perimeter we're also beginning on the gut stuff as well, it's just less of a key focus.
What if you haven't left your front door wide open and the problem is just inside? Great, but we check that first. Otherwise we're guessing and hoping we get lucky. And meanwhile allow more unwanted guests to come in while we're busy dealing with what's already inside.
Once we remember that we are at least 4 dimensional - we exist in 3 physical dimensions with a time component in the 4th dimension, then untangling the order of operations for how to bring the body back into balance when multiple systems are breached becomes a lot clearer.
IF YOUR THYROID IS UNDER-ACTIVE, SHOULDN’T YOU JUST START THERE?
With complex chronic illness, one of the biggest challenges is knowing where to begin.
We may be aware of lots of different problems: sluggish thyroid, unhappy liver, ramped up immune system, tired adrenals, dodgy gut . . .
We may understand that most, if not all of these issues, are connected in a web of interconnections.
So where should we begin? Should we start with the gut? The brain? Our hormones? Infections?
Each of these answers tempts us, putting forth some sound reasoning.
A common approach is to want to start with the thyroid. Thyroid dysfunction is incredibly common. And when you’ve suffered with a smorgasbord of amorphous symptoms, discovering that you’re thyroid is slow (or fast, for that matter) can seem at first like the missing piece. It can explain so much and becomes a welcome scapegoat.
But what if your body is making your thyroid under-active intentionally? I’m not saying it feels good, or it’s pleasant, or that it doesn’t come with potentially serious issues like an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and a strong association with arrhythmias.
But you see when the body is dealing with immune insults from chronic infections, smoldering biofilms, environmental toxins and dietary antigens, it may get to a point where the best strategy is to turn the thermostat down to prevent further damage, especially when our anti-oxidant capacity is tapped.
Makes sense, right?
Quite a conundrum. Sorting out the thyroid could possibly ease the arrhythmias. But would likely piss off the liver, potentially triggering new symptoms like headaches, rashes or hormone fluctuations.
And if the eosinophils get tipped any higher, you could potentially end up with full blown atopic illness, not to mention a possible worsening of the arrhythmias.
If I move my pawn to C5, I could take the bishop but then my opponent would probably take my queen.
When playing chess, there’s no clear order of operations. Mainly moves and counter-moves. In a complex system like the human body, though, it’s more like tugging on the string of an interconnected web, not knowing quite what the effect will be or how to evaluate it.
But if we can zoom out and use a more strategic approach, we can start by supporting the immune system to be more accurate and effective. This includes supporting the liver by clearing out sources of inflammation and helping it repair. This first step alone could have profound benefits for the thyroid.
We go through a step by step process, in order. Like trouble-shooting a Hoover. Like remodeling a house . . .
HOW TO HARNESS THE POWER OF OPTIMAL DEFAULTS
When you try to change a habit or behavior for the better, it can often feel like an uphill battle.
You want to eat vegetables rather than cakes.
You want to meditate rather than watch Netflix.
You want to go for a walk rather than check your phone.
When you initially make the decision to change, you start of strong. Unwavering. Enthusiastic, even! But as the day wears on and then the days wear on, will power fades and the old defaults slip in.
But you may be able to remember times, maybe when you were travelling or visiting someone, that without trying you had more health promoting behaviors. You moved more. You did more. You used screens less. You felt alive.
Why does this happen and how can we harness these principles for our own benefit?
How can you design your environment to make the desired behavior the default?
THE CONTAINER MODEL AND HOW TO MAKE SPACE FOR YOUR HEART-LED SELF
Many of us want to feel more heart-led and at home in our bodies.
We want to feel less conflicted, less critical of ourselves and others, less stressed.
If our Self, our Buddha Nature, is the natural seat of our consciousness, then why can it be so hard to find peace in the here and now? Why don’t we feel heart-led and centered automatically?
The Container Model shows us what can be taking up room in our psyche at any given time and the importance of creating space for so that our Self naturally appears. Like the sun, the Self is always there, even if obscured by the current weather patterns.
USING EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY TO OPTIMIZE FOR MULTIPLE VARIABLES: CONNECTING WHILE PROTECTING YOUR FEET
Humans are a lot like trees. Our legs, feet and lower body are like roots. Our arms like branches. Our torso is like a trunk. Our head is like the crown.
Even if we don’t know much about trees, there are a few simple things that are obvious for keeping them healthy. We know the roots need to be firmly grounded in healthy soil, connected to earth and that the soil needs to have moisture and not be too cold, more than seasonally appropriate.
We are the same.
Keeping our feet warm is crucial for supporting the immune system. When our feet sense cold, they retract and protect, stunting blood flow and sends a signal to the rest of our body that we’re in a hostile environment.
At the same time, it’s important that we connect to Earth.
Connecting to the Earth allows us to have an outlet for free radicals that we generate when burning fuel for energy. It’s not that different from having a grounding prong on an appliance to prevent static build up.
As always, we want to understand the evolutionary context in which we evolved, the environment that we are optimized for, and then reverse engineer our environment to make it as similar as possible while allowing us to function in our life.
Of course, our daily routines may need to change somewhat, since usually our current one is adapted to us being ill. We can do better than that.
But we can balance trade offs so that we can thrive when we make simple tweaks to our routines, rhythms and environment.
YOU’VE JUST DISCOVERED YOU HAVE MOLD: HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU PANIC?
Ahhhh, mold illness. Simultaneously so under-appreciated and under-recognized and yet often so overblown.
So what is mold, why does it exist, and why does it hate us so much? Just kidding, it doesn’t hate us. Its job is to recycle dead and dying organic matter. And if you’re dead or dying, then it will try to recycle you. It’s nothing personal.
The short and skinny is that it is important to minimize your exposure to mold, something that humans have been aware of since we started leaving with greater exposure to it since the dawn of agriculture. Like many things, that important understanding has been largely lost in modern societies with our derision of all things “traditional” and our reverence for all things “newly discovered.”
However, if you discover mold overgrowth in your environment, I think we can triage this a bit and figure out who needs to panic and who has the luxury of a bit more time . . .
If someone has been smoking for decades, there isn’t that big of a difference if they quit today or in a few months.
Unless smoking is causing the person asthma attacks. Then the person should stop yesterday.
When understanding mold exposure and its potential to cause illness for us, we need to break this down to better understand what we’re looking at.
- How much are you exposed to and for how long?
- How good are you at excreting mycotoxins?
- How is your immune system responding?
- What else do you have going on?
CAN YOU NOT BE THIRSTY AND BE DEHYDRATED AT THE SAME TIME?
Usually, we know we’re dehydrated because we’re thirsty. We get a signal in our brain that says: “Gee, I’d really love a drink!”
So it’s understandable to think that if we’re not getting that signal, that we’re good in the fluid department. We’ve got plenty, thank you very much. Although in practice, we’re usually not thinking about it at all. We’re living our lives and doing our things, without getting interrupted or prompted by the drive to drink.
But what if this system isn’t working well? I can tell you that for modern people, having problems with thirst signaling (either never being thirsty or being thirsty all the time) is incredibly common.
If our cells are leaky or if our lymph isn’t flowing or if our kidneys are overwhelmed then we may very well get the signal from our body that we have plenty of fluid, thank you very much. But the problem is with the type of fluid (gunky and stagnant fluid vs clean, clear spring water) and where this fluid is - is it in the cells or outside of the cells? Is it in the blood and lymph vessels or outside?
There’s another issue around the communication of thirst itself. When we’re stressed, infected or exposed to environmental toxins, one of the first things the body does as part of its wonderfully orchestrated response to return to healthy function is change how it prioritizes communication.
When we’re healthy, communication in the body general comes from a central location and is propagated outwards. This is a bit like a conductor signalling to an orchestra how & when to play.
But what if the violinist breaks a string? Then they need to temporarily ignore the conductor so they can focus on fixing the string. That makes sense right? They need to focus on themselves and ignore the song that the rest of the orchestra is playing until the string is sorted.
And if enough of the instruments get broken, it might be a good idea for the conductor to stop waving his baton around all together, at least until the musicians can sort themselves out.
That’s exactly what happens in the body. The sensation of thirst comes from the central conductor but if we’re chronically inflamed, stressed, and full of biofilms and environmental toxins, the stressed cells and tissues are focused on local tissue repair and the central signals get turned down. This is meant to be temporary but can be chronic.
So this can lead to us being thirsty without a desire to drink.
Conversely, chronic stress at times leads to someone being thirsty all the time. Sometimes this is because the water isn’t successfully getting inside the cells, it’s like it’s passing right through without hydrating the body.
Or the person is stuck in a different phase of the healing response where instead of thirst being turned down, it’s stuck being turned on in effort to increase our blood volume so that we’re more likely to survive a tiger attack.
IS IT SAFE TO TAKE FISH OILS AND BLOOD THINNERS? AND IS IT A GOOD IDEA TO TAKE FISH OILS IN THE FIRST PLACE?
It can be tricky when you want to take positive steps for your health but you’re unsure of how these will interact with prescribed medication.
This is especially true if you’re taking prescribed blood thinners. They interact with everything!
But does that mean that everything you want to do or take is dangerous?
Here’s the thing: blood clotting is a complex process with lots of different biochemicals mutually regulating, turning up and down other processes. It’s a whole can of worms.
And pretty much every change you make will effect it. Changing your regular bed time, your diet, your exercise levels, and of course supplements and herbs will all mess with this system in unpredictable ways.
So, with this in mind, you could see this as an indication that it’s dangerous to make healthy changes to improve your health.
But there’s another option. When people are prescribed blood thinners, their clotting is monitored with a test called an INR, which can help dial in the appropriate dose. So, working with your doctor, you could gradually adjust your lifestyle in healthy ways and then make sure your INR is monitored so that your prescription is also adjusted accordingly.
But there’s another question here, the one that wasn’t asked. Why take fish oils in the first place?
Fish oils are recommended by pretty much anyone in the wellness space as something healthy for pretty much anyone with any problem to take.
But I’m not entirely convinced that taking them as standard is part of a healthy lifestyle.
Sure, they turn down a lot of types of inflammation.
But they don’t address what’s causing the inflammation in the first place.
More importantly, we need to remember that inflammation is a process of communication. And a lot of people don’t have enough inflammation.
So could fish oils make some people’s health worse? I wonder . . .
This is another example of the beauty of having a process. By focusing on process over a tool we have a framework for selecting the right things at the right time, a way of assessing if they’re helping and we know when to stop using, which is as important as knowing what to do in the first place.
IS [THIS] THE MISSING KEY TO YOUR HEALTH? A LOOK AT PROTEOMORPHOGENS
If you’ve had a complex, chronic illness or troublesome symptoms for any length of time you have some options. You could just go with the path of least resistance - Industrial medicine doctors, tests, drugs, procedures. In this model, there’s nothing that you can really do heal but we can try to knock the knees out of the symptoms.
But that’s not you. You want to heal! And what’s more, you like to look into things and understand potential solutions from different angles. Which means that you probably come across new theories supporting new products, some of which sound really good.
We’ve talked about the problem with Silver Bullets; the supplement, food, diet, or device that is The Answer and going to solve Your Problems. Sometimes, these do solve problems. We call these problems “simple” problems.
But if you have a complex health problem, then you know that as appealing as these shiny objects seem, they don’t live up to the hype.
Today, we’re going to talk about a special kind of Silver Bullet, one that I call a “Missing Key.” Silver Bullets can be widely available, like drinking more water or grounding. But a Missing Key is far more special.
Missing Keys usually:
- are based on theories that are not well-known
- are proprietary
- often have some validity in their explanations, even if they don’t stack up as a whole
- often can be applied to a very wide-variety of symptoms and illness
Here, we’re going to look at something called Proteomorphogens (TM) sold exclusively by Standard Process.
According to the sources I found (all of which are connected to Standard Process), Proteomorphagens are components of chromosomes that determine cellular patterning. They are promoted for a number of uses, including as a way to reduce autoimmunity by providing glandular extracts as decoys to distract the immune system from attacking our tissues as well as a treatment for cancer.
Are Protomorphagens (TM) the Missing Key to untangling autoimmunity?
In this Lab Note we look at:
- the importance of whole systems thinking when approaching complex health issues
- “Protomorphagens” as DNA and RNA fragments
- What morphagens are how they help healthy development
- The Cell Danger Response and How Tissues Heal
- How we can think about glandular extracts and eating organ meat as part of a 4 Stage approach to healing
HOW YOUR DYSBIOTIC MICROBES ARE CONTROLLING YOUR BRAIN AND WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT
About half of our 70 trillion cells are microbial - bacteria, viruses and fungi. And they’ve had billions of years longer than us to figure out how to survive.
One set of strategies they use to stay warm, fed and safe is quite ingenious: they live in our gut and then can directly control our brain to get us to feed them their favorite foods. Seriously.
We’re like meat puppets that bring them an all you can eat buffet.
So what happens when you embark on a strategy to successfully break down biofilms and kick out those mofo’s? They fight back. Oh yeah.
They can create intense cravings and even control your spinal nerves to get you to walk over to the fridge and put their food of choice in your mouth. Seriously.
How da fudge can they do that? They’re tiny, and you’re huge!
They do it using something called Quorum Sensing. They can basically sense how strong their numbers are and once the time is right, they switch on group behavior.
So are you powerless? How the heck are you meant to exert agency when dysbiotic and overgrowth bacteria and candida are literally activating your nerves and controlling your brain?
Here’s where we can take a cue from the story of Odysseus and how he safely navigated the Call of the Sirens. Upon being warned that the Sirens song was so beautiful that every sailor who heard it was so enchanted that every ship and crew crashed upon the rocks and perished, he took matters into his own hands.
He instructed all of crew to put wax in their ears so that they couldn’t hear the song. Odysseus, however, never one to give up a free concert, decided to enjoy the song but had his crew tie him to the mast of this ship so that he couldn’t do anything dumb.
So, was Odysseus powerless against the call of the sirens? No, because he knew he would be powerless.
And so must we be similarly proactive against the call of all the sirens that our dying dysbiotic colonies will make to get you to feed them.
First: list all the things you know are feeding them. They’re “your” favorite foods that you know make you feel worse.
Second: get ‘em out of your space. If they’re not there it does take more prolonged, conscious effort to eat the donut than getting an Uber Eats or driving to the store.
Third: do you have any social support that can tie you to your ships mast?
Yes, microbial control of your brain is a real thing. But a thing that you can overcome through cultivating a healthy, balanced microbiota. And when you successfully start attacking pathogenic microbial colonies it’s very common for there to be cravings. So stick with it and show them who’s in control.
This is a great explanation of quorum sensing, virulence and symbiosis. These guys are talking to each other all the time . . .
HOW TO MAKE SENSE OF INCONSISTENCIES AROUND THERAPEUTIC DIETS: A LOOK AT LOW STARCH DIETS
There are so many therapeutic diets out there. Many have overlaps and they all have inconsistencies.
Because they're choosing what to include and what to exclude based on the filters that they choose. And you can only make lists of foods to Include and Exclude using so many filters at a time.
Here at the lab, we can use these different dietary approaches like a Swiss Army knife, understanding how they work and selecting them for a particular purpose. And then as you heal, transitioning to include more variety, and more options.
Many people find that eventually they can even eat regular, crap food on occasion and not feel terrible afterward.
The reason why the Whole 30 appears to be inconsistent when it comes to starch is because it is. This is because it is not using starch as a lens for selecting which foods to exclude; it's using grains, amongst other things.
So potatoes (not a grain) are allowed and rice (a grain) is out. For some people, this is a valid distinction. For others, like for those whom starch feeds inflammatory pathogens, the distinction is arbitrary.
But if memory serves, there's more to the story. I've been using the Whole 30 in my practice for about a decade and I think that they actually used to have potatoes on the No list.
But then people complained. They argued that potatoes could be healthy & helpful, that the exclusion was too rigid. That it could be a good source of nutrients and not necessarily counter-productive for gut healing. So it was moved from the naughty to the nice list.
But here's where some distinctions are helpful. Potatoes are one of those foods that have wild variations in how it effects individuals. Part of this is to do with the fact that how a food effects us has more to do with our current microbiome composition than the food itself.
The other is that there's a huge genetic variation in the number of copies of things like salivary amylase that people have (from 2 to 16). In short, if you evolved to eat starch, then it can potentially feed a healthy microbiome. And if you didn't, it's unlikely to.
But we really don't want to get stuck in the weeds here. We want to keep our focus on dietary patterns for ecological restoration more than individual food items and not sweat broccoli stems. And I don't believe you need a genetic analysis to figure out what to eat. Especially as part of an experimental exclusion on a 2-4 week timeline to terraform your gut microbiome.
The recommendation for the Whole 30 is for people who are new to the area of human nutrition in general and exclusion diets in particular. Especially folks with blood sugar issues but not necessarily autoimmune issues. For this group, the Whole 30 has been transformative for health and also for raising awareness of what you're actually eating.
If you've been on a restrictive diet for 20 years, this is likely to be a lateral move at best.
We know that people with many autoimmune issues, like psoriasis, inflammatory arthritis, colitis and ankylosing spondylosis, tend to also have pathogenic levels of Klebsiella in their guts, which is a good enough reason to try a low-starch diet if you haven’t before and see how it goes.
When it comes to all things Low Starch, if you want to get into the details so you can better understand some whys (and it may potentially be helpful, as long as you don't use it as a form of procrastination or allow yourself to get overwhelmed), the Keystone Approach is a very helpful, up to date take on the Low Starch diet.
The author has put together recommendations 3 food lists for 3 levels of low-starchiness, which may be helpful to look at so you can see and compare the recommendations around carrots, broccoli stems, potatoes etc.
But here, my sincere advice here is to 80:20 it. Do not become an expert in the minutiae of this. Her book is excellent and well researched but also with a lot of blindspots due to coming at it from a Western nutrition lens.
What you're already achieving here going through the process outlined in this program is more sophisticated than what she outlines in her book.
And remember that the goal is not to become an expert in a Low Starch Diet. The goal is to become healthy enough to not need to follow one anymore.
As you are not relying on nutrition as your principle lever, you have more of a margin of error of fuzziness around broccoli florets vs broccoli stems.
So if you think that your head might spin comparing and choosing Keystone levels vs GAPS vs AIP vs whatever, then you may find that Carni just cuts out the noise and achieves the goal of not feeding overgrown bugs including Klebsiella while you perform your ecological restoration. It's the simplest option and simplicity may be the trump card here.
Or you could follow the Carnivore approach and then add some foods from the low-starch list for variety. When you understand how to read your microbiome and how to use diet as a way to shift it in healthy ways, you don't need to follow one plan so prescriptively.
You can skim over and compare the lists from Keystone or other low starch approaches to get a sense of the lay of the land - but do not ask which one is right! Nobody fucking knows, trust me. Just look for overlaps and trends and then make a plan for 2 weeks and execute on it.
You may even give yourself a start date now and decide ahead of time how much time you're going to allocate to research and figure out what to eat. Set it as a challenge to come up with the plan within a certain amount of research time. Here, you will quickly hit diminishing returns if you spend too much time thinking about it before executing on something reasonable and then seeing how you respond.
“SHOULD I TAKE TAMOXIFEN?” INDIVIDUALIZING APPROACHES AND A LOOK AT DIFFERENT MODELS OF CANCER
Ah, the dreaded C word. The nasty crab. We declare war on it. Top cancer charities create campaigns around telling it it to go F*ck itself. But do we really understand what it is?
Well, it depends on the framework you’re using. Industrial medicine has a fairly limited understanding of how cancer fits into general physiology. Trillions of dollars have been spent looking at genetic and molecular models since the US Government “declared war” on cancer in the 1970s, with mixed results.
Here, we look at a number of different models. We look at the Cell Danger Response, which is the 3 steps that all injured cells go through in order to heal. Cancer occurs when cells gets stuck in 2nd step, the cell cycle responsible for replacing damaged tissue.
What’s missing from the Cell Danger Response is an in depth understanding of how the body is organized in 3 dimensions. Classical Chinese Medicine can fill in some important gaps there 👍
From the understanding of humans as liquid crystals (not unlike your LCD TV, which stands for “liquid crystal display”) we might look at cancer as a resonance problem, which opens up different possibilities of how we can correct and prevent the issue.
Having multiple models give you flexibility and power, allowing you multiple ways to view the same problem, creating new and varied possible solutions.
Using the scientific literature to decide whether to take Tamoxifen, an estrogen receptor antagonist, can be a bit of a minefield. Different reviews say different things about who benefits, based on age, menopause status at time of diagnosis, cancer sub-type, and race. And because your body uses estrogen for normal repair and immune functions, there are trade-offs in terms of decreasing cancer recurrence risk while increasing risk of other issues such as stroke, pulmonary embolism and endometrial cancer, in addition to other effects of treatment.
I also discuss the role that the mRNA Covid vaccine could potentially play in a subsequent cancer diagnosis. We know that people obviously got cancer before 2021, so not all new diagnoses will be connected. But the relationship between mRNA vaccination and cancer is largely unknown but potentially linked in certain cases.
Whether or not this exposure plays a contributing role, Stage 1 of the 4 step model helps the body clear many persistent triggers of the Cell Danger Response.
A couple of super interesting looks at using sound waves to selectively kill cancer cells.
“The future is already here - It’s just not evenly distributed.”William Gibson
HOW TO MAP YOUR SELF-SABOTAGE AND UNCOVER MASSIVE BLINDSPOTS SO YOU CAN STOP KEEPING YOURSELF SICK
Sometimes when we have a problem, such a health issue, we’re stuck because we don’t know what to do to get ourself better.
Maybe we don’t really know what we should be eating. Or we don’t know if acupuncture would be helpful or cold baths are trick? Should we be meditating? And if so, how do we do it?
These are called “technical challenges.” A technical challenge can be solved by getting good information and learning how to do something.
But there’s another kind of challenge. Let’s say you have a problem - autoimmunity, chronic fatigue, high cholesterol, mood swings, poor focus - and you know what to do. You’re on a plan. You know where to focus. And you know, if you did certain things, you would feel better and be healthier.
But you don’t do those things.
You eat the sugar. You allow yourself to run out of herbs that help you. You stay up late even though you know going to bed on time would make your symptoms go away. You feel emotionally strung out but you keep taking on more and more work or social obligations.
What the heck, man?
This type of problem, where you know what to do but you don’t do it, is called an “adaptive challenge.” It requires, not more information, not another diet book or YouTube rabbit hole trip, but that you evolve your level of consciousness to become aware of your beliefs that are driving the behavior.
In this video, I guide you through a process to become aware of your unconscious drivers to your behaviors that keep you sick and stuck. I encourage you to get out a pen and paper and follow along. I’ll also write out the steps here so you can use them for reference.
1) What do you want to do better? That if you did it, it would solve your problem and help you reach your goal? Some examples are:
- Go to bed earlier
- Prioritize and be consistent with my self care
- Stop addictive behaviors
You can make a list of goals but I encourage you to choose one to work on that holds the most charge for you and would mean the most to you.
2) What do you do or not do that’s the opposite of this goal?
- You want to lose weight but you eat sugar and you don’t meal plan
- You want to make more time for self-care but you never say no to your kids or ask for help or leave work on time
- You want to go to bed earlier but you stay up late Doom scrolling or watching Netflix
Make a list of as many things as you can that are the opposite of the thing you want to do better
3) The Worry Box: what are you worried or afraid would happen if you didn’t do the actions in step 2? Or you did do the things you don’t do?
4) Looking at your worries, what are you committed to?
- If I’m worried that if I don’t have my phone on me, that I won’t reachable in case someone close to me needs me → I’m committed to being reachable
- If I’m worried that if I lose weight, I’ll get unwanted attention from men → I’m committed to avoiding unwanted attention from men
- If I’m worried that if I say no to my kid, they’ll think I don’t care about them → I’m committed to making sure that my kid feel cared for
Once we become aware of our commitments, we can see why we do the things we do that work against our goals.
5) Looking at our commitments, what do they tell us about our core beliefs?
- I’m committed to being reachable → If I’m not reachable, something very bad will happen and it’ll be my fault
- I’m committed to avoiding unwanted attention from men → I will get badly hurt if men find me attractive
- I’m committed to making sure that my kids feel cared for → If I say no or put my needs before my kids, I’ll damage our relationship
It can be helpful to visualize the process in a table like this.
2) What I’m doing or not doing to sabotage it
3) Worries and fears if I don’t do the things in step 2
4) My commitments
5) My beliefs
Once you have a Self Sabotage Map that’s compelling and makes you think: “holy shit!” then you’re ready for the next phase: designing and performing experiments to test your beliefs.
This process can take a couple months to execute but when done successfully you will have become aware of and evolved out of the beliefs that keep doing things that keep yourself sick and stuck.
WHAT CAUSES CHRONIC VERTIGO AND HOW CAN I RECOVER?
There’s so much that our body does that we don’t appreciate until it goes wrong. Ahhhh, the human condition.
The ability of the brain to sense our motion through space, and just as importantly, to know when we are not moving, is definitely high up on that list.
Feeling like you are moving when you are not can be completely debilitating.
But what causes vertigo? Why does it become chronic? And can the 4 stage model be helpful for this type of problem?
In our inner ears, we have a set of fluid filled loops and cavities that work a bit like a spirit level, letting us know where we are in space.
But the difference is, it’s actually letting us know more about acceleration or movement rather than position, a bit like this dashboard hula girl.
So how might things go wrong? We could have a problem with the fluid in those compartments, and gunk build up, or inflammation can effect the nerve. Or likewise, we have a lot of sensory inputs coming into the brainstem and traveling up to the brain to let us know our status.
If we have a high viral load, candida infection, stress, or probably other factors outside of our awareness, the system can get overloaded and other circuits can get tripped.
Like with other symptoms and diagnoses, if we are talking about a chronic issue that’s been around for a while, we are talking about multiple causes. Why? Because if there were a single cause, you would have figured it out by now and you wouldn’t be here looking for answers and strategies.
When dealing with multiple causes of dysfunction in a complex system, we need to support the body and address these issues in order. Like a combination lock, we need to do the right things in the right sequence and then the body is very good at taking care of the rest. So whether it’s vertigo or fatigue or IBS or autoimmunity, the potential causes we’re dealing with are the same and the order that the body wants to be helped is the same.
WHY DOES MY SWEAT SMELL LIKE CAT PEE?
Cancer-sniffing dogs. Death-sniffing cats. Clearly, there is a treasure-trove of information available in our scent that most of us are unaware of.
Currently, research into decoding the odors in our sweat is massively growing. The volatile organic compounds in our sweat reveal a unique metabolic signature that can give a wealth of information about health status, microbiome colonization and how this interacts with genetics.
Of course, for thousands of years, people recognized that the way someone smells can give all kinds of practical insight into their health and used this understanding to guide medical strategies.
Here, we’re going to take a look at ammonia and what a putrid smell in our sweat can tell us about our health. While there are a few metabolic signatures that we can smell in the sweat, ammonia is a common one and worth understanding as an output to guide your process when it comes up.
CAN YOUR GENETIC RESULTS EXPLAIN YOUR SYMPTOMS?
In April 2003, the Human Genome project was completed with the first full sequencing of human DNA. Started in 1990 and costing over $3 billion dollars to complete, it was thought that this project would spell the end of human illness . . .
Yes, think about it. Researchers thought that they would have the “blueprint” of human physiology and once they could read it, boom! Bye bye, disease!
Obviously, that’s not how things played out. There may have been one or two faulty assumptions and misunderstandings of how complex living systems actually behave.
However, the cost of genetic testing has come down considerably since that time and with it, there’s an explosion of interest in testing genetics in order to reveal vulnerabilities and leverage points.
My perspective is that outside of the case of truly genetic disease, the healthcare industry, including functional and integrative folk, over-estimate the relationship between a particular variation of a gene, known as a SNP (pronounced like “snip”), and how you feel, look and behave.
That said, if we’re pragmatic and keep the big picture in mind, we can use this information strategically and at times it can be very helpful.
In this Note, we speak specifically about genetics relating to something called methylation. Because we use methylation to regulate and perform so many biological processes, genetic weaknesses in this area can translate to symptoms and illness and there’s probably more research and clinical interest in this area of epigenetics, or how we convert our environment and experience into physiology, than most.
WHY DO MY LYME AND LONG-HAUL SYMPTOMS COME BACK WHEN I STOP TAKING IVERMECTIN?
Ivermectin is a powerful & relatively safe anti-parasitic drug particularly good at killing worms, mites, ticks. It’s been used for decades to prevent blindness in death, particularly in poor, tropical parts of the world.
Because of it’s long-history of use, broad-spectrum activity and excellent safety profile, it’s been used to treat all kinds of things.
What research suggests is that while it may have anti-viral and anti-bacterial effects, these tend to be at concentrations higher than what can safely be achieved in humans.
However, Ivermectin has another trick up its sleeve.
When cells are stressed or infected, they leak ATP, our body’s main energy currency. This serves two purposes: the ATP is used to kill pathogens (a bit like repurposing a daily object into a weapon in a pinch) and it serves to signal to the surrounding area that the cell has a problem.
As cells heal, the amount of ATP outside of the cell steadily goes down until they’re healthy again. But, cells can get stuck being leaky and when this happens, eventually the brain will trigger an “energy conservation mode”, which is essentially what Chronic Fatigue and post-viral illness is.
Soooooo, how does this relate to Ivermectin? Well, it turns out that Ivermectin can bind to the receptor on the cell that’s leaking ATP and essentially make it more sensitive so it can stop doing that now, thank you very much.
This explains why you might feel so much better taking Ivermectin, because it can resolve the CDR. But also why you still need to use an anti-microbial approach that addresses the infections here in order to stay well.
HOW LYME & CHRONIC INFECTIONS EFFECT HUNGER
“Feed a cold. Starve a fever.” The fact that infections can cause swings in our appetite is embedded in the common knowledge and shared wisdom of mainstream culture.
But why does that happen? What does eating have to do with fighting off a virus, bacteria, spirochete, worm or any other critter that’s trying to take up residence?
Most normal body functions are intimately connected with the immune system and our hunger system is no exception. The same physiology that we use on a typical, relaxed day can be repurposed for defense at any time. It’s an ingenious system honed over millions of years of evolution.
It turns out that we’re better at fighting off certain critters when we’ve eaten while for other types of infections, it’s better that we haven’t eaten anything. There’s also individual variability in terms of how you will respond - your body might choose a different strategy than your neighbor to combat the same critter.
A lot of different hormones are involved in adjusting appetite. But when an infection causes ravenous hunger that seems connected to blood sugar regulation, then almost certainly a hormone called ghrelin is involved.
Ghrelin is made in the stomach and signals the hypothalamus in the brain that we’re ready for chow time. It tends to rise before the times we typically eat so it can be adjusted based on our eating patterns.
When we’re sick, the body may choose to raise ghrelin as part of its pathogen fighting strategy. You can see in the diagram below that ghrlein increases Th2 lymphocytes while decreasing Th1 lymphocytes. Th1 responses are best for killing small parasites inside of cells. Th2 responses are more optimized for handling bigger critters that live outside of cells, such as borrelia and friends.
So while we can use strategies to reduce hunger and increase our feelings of fullness after eating, it’s important to go after the infection itself.
HOW TO KNOW WHEN TO PROGRESS TO STAGE 2 WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE MANY STAGE 1 SYMPTOMS
You understand that when renovating an old house, you need to fix the roof and repair broken windows, before getting new furniture and putting in new carpets. Makes sense.
In the same light, when recovering from chronic illness, we need to make sure that our immune defenses are just letting any old thing into our body before we move on to other systems, such as digestion, hormones, or blood flow.
But what if you don’t have many immune symptoms to begin with? How can you tell when you’re ready to move on to the next stage?
Well, in the case of the house, we’d know that the roof was repaired when it rained a lot and there was no leak!
Likewise, we can look for a number of things to assess how well the immune system is doing.
- Do you have wandering pains?
- Do you sweat daily?
- Do you sweat copiously, inappropriately or at night?
- Do you have a stiff neck and shoulders?
- Do you have to bare down to poop?
- Are you sick all the time?
- Are you run down but never ever seem to get sick?
While not 100% perfect, these are some general ways we can tell if the immune system is doing well.
Baring down to poop can also indicate a problem with this system.
Nothing much coming up? Good! Then it’s likely that you don’t need to spend very much time in Stage 1.
What if you didn’t have any of these symptoms going on but doing Stage 1 helped you feel better? Then you probably did have some Stage 1 stuff contributing to your pattern and now you’ve removed some load from your system.
If fixing the roof helps reduce problems inside the house, then the roof probably needed a repair, even if it wasn’t obvious. The devil’s in the details.
In this way, the repair actually becomes part of the diagnosis. We call this “diagnosis by treatment.”
We can also get information about how the immune system is doing by looking at our blood chemistry. And sometimes, the story from the blood chemistry is a bit different than when we look at our terrain, our signs and symptoms.
Let’s go back to the roof. We don’t see any signs of a leaking roof. But, what’s this? A puddle in the attic! Must be the roof.
But it could be from a leaking pipe inside the house. Or it could be from an old water bottle that you didn’t realize was up there.
A puddle in the attic is often, but not always, caused by a leaking roof.
Wonky white blood cells aren’t always caused by an infection or a problem stemming from the immune system. It could be a problem coming from the digestive system. Or from environmental toxins from a past exposure. Or from a past concussion . . .
This is why it’s important to triangulate our observations. Just like if we were assessing a house. Or an ecosystem.
And to assess and treat in order.
If you don’t have much going on in Stage 1, then you’ll probably be able to move through more quickly than someone who has a lot going on there. Just like if your roof is in good shape, you won’t have to spend as much time and money fixing it.
HOW TO ADJUST YOUR WATER INTAKE BASED ON YOUR CURRENT HEALTH
Your body is a collection of ecosystems, with various climates, temperatures, and species co-existing.
And here on planet Earth, if you want to understand what’s going on with an ecosystem, then you need to understand the availability and flow of water through that terrain. Your body is no exception.
We can think about hydration and flow of water - including blood, lymph, sweat, urine, and fluids bathing your cells and joints - in a number of ways.
Globally, you may simply want to know if your body has enough fluid. Is it topped? Or is it dry? This is a good place to start.
But within the body, what we really want to know is where is this water? Is it where it should be? Is it in the blood vessels? Or is it stuck in the digestive tract? Or it going right through you?
Has it gotten stuck in the lymph, making you feel all swampy and creating an environment for the growth of pathogens and biofilms?
We actually can get an indication of our fluid status by looking at our tongue: when the tongue is fat, it may mean that the heart and lungs aren’t able to push it around adequately, so it’s pooling and become swampy.
Or mold is breaking down cells and making everything leaky.
In fact, here at the Synthesis Health Lab, you may have noticed that I’m fond of using the metaphor of renovating a house when discussing how to restore your health. This is an excellent metaphor here as building design in many ways is about safely designing and maintaining structures in regards to the access to and containment of water.
We want running water. We want it to be reliable and clean. We don’t want leaks in our pipes. And we don’t want water from outside, due to rain and snow, getting in.
We want it there in specific places, with controllable pressure and excellent quality. We want to control humidity. We need to have good drainage to prevent flooding.
This is exactly like your body. Understanding it in this way can help you tease out how to approach your strategy when it comes to hydration.
“I get a second wind at 11pm. Am I just a night owl?”
"My other problem is that I am a night person. I just pop awake around 11pm and want to do stuff until about 1am. I’m working on this, it’s not easy. Are their just some naturally nighttime people? I’ve heard that it’s an adaption for us as social creatures to have some individuals who are up at night to protect the tribe while the others are sleeping, any validity to this hypothesis?"
My current understanding is yes, there are some naturally nighttime people who are adapted to protect the tribe.
They're called adolescents.
Teenagers have a shifted circadian rhythm which encourages them to stay up later and sleep later in the morning.
The rest of us are optimized to follow natural light and dark cycles. Not doing so is associated with every chronic health disease ever named.
Are there night owls? And morning larks? Genetic differences? My current take is that these nuances are over emphasized in relation to the evolutionarily novel hand grenade of artificial lighting, which is a mere 120 years old compared to our billions of years of evolution.
"But I'm a natural nighttime person."
One interesting study took a group of people with no particular health issues and followed them for a week, looking at their sleep patterns and melatonin levels. They then took them camping for a week where they were only exposed to natural light.
Their sleep shifted 1 hour earlier. Their melatonin peak shifted 2 hours earlier.
"But I'm a natural nighttime person."
Well, do you have a well regulated nervous system? If not, then it's tricky to tease out whether this is your "nature" or an adaptation to ongoing health challenges.
Or another way to ask, do you have a chronic illness? Of any kind? Energy issues? Digestive issues? Autoimmunity? Then I'm unconvinced that you are a "natural nighttime person" and that this is the daily pattern in which you thrive.
But my current opinion on the subject isn't what matters. What matters is your results. Go through the process.
Hypothesis: I am a natural night time person and staying up to 1 am is just how I'm built! This is what suits me best and supports my most vibrant functioning.
And I currently have chronic health problems.
Ok, let's test this. Shift your sleep time forward to more closely align with natural light and dark cycles. I would recommend that anyone serious about optimizing their health aim to be asleep by 10pm at the latest. Do this for a month.
See what happens.
Do your symptoms get worse because you've gone against your "natural pattern"?
Is there no change because sleep and all the vital repair and immune functions are irrelevant to your health?
Or, perhaps, do your repair functions improve and you feel more alert in the morning because your melatonin isn't still elevated and you haven't burned through all of today's cortisol last night . . .
Change your variables -> record the output. Find out for yourself.
If you need help working with your psychology to action this, that's a different matter.
Once we change going to bed on time from a technical challenge ("Is it ideal for my health to stay up until 1am? I'm not sure!") to an adaptive challenge ("I know going to bed on time is vital for my health. But a part of me enjoys this time and helps me meet other needs besides recovering my health") then we change the approach to managing this issue.
Indeed, we become open to the idea that the very questioning of whether going to bed on time is even something you should be aiming for ("Maybe I'm special and don't need to go to bed at a decent time . . .") may be coming from this part who enjoys staying up late . . .
That's why we focus so much on psychology here. We must be vigilant for when we get in our own way and train this out of ourselves. Because we usually are the main blocks to our own healing. If we can learn to spot this and work with this gracefully, everything changes.
IS SMOKING POT SELF-SABOTAGE? OR JUST HAVING A BIT OF FUN?
The vast majority of people that I work with spend a lot of time, energy and focus on their health. Of course, some people either haven’t had the time, resources or awareness to be proactive. But most do not continue to struggle with complex chronic health issues for lack of effort, intelligence or knowledge.
You restrict your diet, take supplements, get treatments, maybe even do training to learn techniques to improve your health on a deeper level.
And of course, it goes without saying, that you want to feel better. You want your health to improve. Of course. You are highly motivated to do what it takes to get better.
And yet . . . there are things that you could be doing that you know would help, whether it’s related to diet, exercise, being consistent with taking botanicals or things that you’re doing that you try not to do - gorge on baked goods, stay up late, drink more than a helpful amount on the weekends . . .
I mean, you do all the other things - meditation, qi gong, avoid gluten. So is it really so bad that you do the thing that you know sets you back?
Are any of these things really self-sabatoge? Or is it just a matter of letting your hair down once in a while?
Wanting to have a “little bit of excitement” in your life is a normal, healthy human need. And god knows there’s nothing exciting about having a chronic illness, especially while trying to adult.
And there are ways this can show up as self-sabotage IF we fail to recognize it and work with it. Because you’re the only one keeping score and you’re the one that ultimately knows if you feel the way you want to or not.
If you’re doing 9 healthy habits but the one bad habit you haven’t let go of is keeping you from the life you really want to have, then that’s the deal. That’s what happening. If you want high fives for the 9 healthy habits, that’s fine. But you’re not feeling nearly as good as you could be.
Wouldn’t it be better to let go of what’s holding you back so you could get better for real?
Let’s take a closer look at what self-sabotage is and to keep it from derailing our progress towards our goals.
HOW TO AVOID COMMON PITFALLS IN BLOOD CHEMISTRY INTERPRETATION
You’ve been struggling with your health for god knows how long so you go to the doctor and have them run a blood test, or perhaps you run one yourself. The numbers on the report, whatever they show, will surely offer a reassuring sense of certainty amidst the confusion and overwhelm of shifting subjective symptoms and undulating moods.
Even if we don’t know exactly what they’re telling us, at least there’s something tangible, objective, certain we can point to to indicate our current status.
This is really the allure that brings us to blood chemistry: our fundamental need for certainty as a way to quell the uncomfortable feelings and anxiety of “not knowing” that comes from noticing and observing.
But this “certainty” is a false promise. Blood chemistry interpretation is based on layers of misunderstanding of what these values mean.
At the level of Industrial medicine, the reference ranges are based on invalid applications of statistics, archaic misunderstandings and politics. I know that’s bleak, but that’s really what it comes down to.
Functional medicine and Integrative medicine has tried to improve on this - these areas of study tend to look at more markers and use altered reference ranges.
But aside from the problem of lack of standardization (10 practitioners will tell you 10 different things about what your results mean), it also comes from the misunderstanding that your chemistry causes you to have a certain level of health rather than your chemistry is a certain way because of your current levels of health.
There are of course examples we can point to where microscopic things cause problems: arsenic poisoning will “cause” you to be get sick if not dead, no doubt. Bottom up causation, something microscopic causing an effect at the human level certainly exists. It’s just the exception.
But I’ve run and analyzed hundreds of panels. I constantly meditate on the relationship between these numbers and the person I see in front of me. Outside of extreme cases of acute poisoning, serious illness, or genetic abnormalities, our blood chemistry shows us a reflection of how we feel, not a cause of how we feel.
It’s not to say that metabolic blood panels don’t have any value. They’re a tool and when used well can help support our progress. They can help us rule out serious problems and can help us track progress.
But we need to keep some things in mind:
- When you decide to run a lab test, make sure you have a specific question in mind that you’re trying to answer. More information is not better!
- Interpretation, interpretation, interpretation. An improperly interpreted blood panel is worse than no panel.
- Metabolic panels are unlikely to provide information to get us unstuck or help us with a plateau. For this, we need to follow a process. Test, assess, feedback, iterate.
WHEN YOU’RE DOING “ALL THE LIFESTYLE STUFF” AND IT’S NOT WORKING FOR YOU
Modern times have done a number on human health. Industrial diet. Not enough sleep. Not enough exercise. Not enough fresh air. Not enough connection.
All of the top causes of disease and death don’t exist in pre-Industrial communities. They’re created by the Industrial lifestyle.
But what happens if you’re “already doing everything” in terms of optimizing your lifestyle and you’re still unwell? You eat really clean. You exercise. You sleep. And yet, you still have symptoms.
Usually a few things are going on: you’re doing certain things so you don’t need to do the thing. Or you’ve got your diet dialled in but you’re avoiding another area, like sleep or work life balance or rest.
We can usually tie this back to our old friend self-sabotage, who recognizes that our current situation is meeting certain needs, even if it’s keeping us sick.
Let’s look at some of the things that may be going on here and how to approach them with honesty and compassion.
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR EYESIGHT AND DITCH YOUR GLASSES
There’s a pervasive myth in our culture about the inevitable loss of function that accompanies the passage of time. I recognize a small part of this as being potentially accurate.
However the vast majority is not due to “aging” but rather the compounding effects of environmental mismatch over time.
A lot of what we call “aging” didn’t effect people living in more appropriate environments.
This includes most eyesight deterioration, the majority of which is a modern disease.
But you can make a strategy to prevent and reverse this when you’re aware of the most common causes.
The most common (and addressable) causes of “age-related” vision loss are:
- Metabolic dysfunction: chronically elevated blood sugar and chronic inflammation
- Chronic immobilization of the eye muscle from staring at a fixed length (like at a screen)
- Poor blood perfusion due to sedentary lifestyle
- Poor oxygenation from habitually wearing contact lenses
- Head-forward posture and chronic neck muscle tension
- Too much toxic light and not enough natural light exposure
- Untreated concussions
- Undischarged trauma
Each person will have a different portfolio when it comes to the relevance of these causes. And each of these causes opens up an avenue into the improvement of eyesight.
Once you see it, then you can improve it. 😉🤓
HOW TO SUPPORT YOUR SYSTEM IF YOU NEED TO TAKE ANTIBIOTICS
The best way to prevent damage from antibiotics is to avoid them entirely. So first, let’s have a look at how to decide whether or not take them at all.
Today, it’s very common practice to take antibiotics for any kind of infection (including viral!). Obviously, this isn’t a good idea.
But, say, you have a chronic sinus infection or a recurring UTI or you’re going in for dental work. Should you take them in that case? And if you do, then will taking a probiotics undo the harm?
Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s that simple. Science has barely begun to scratch the surface on what’s even in the microbiome and what a healthy one looks like.
What we do know is that a healthy microbiome, which is a requirement to be a healthy human, is a diverse microbiome. And that antibiotics permanently reduce diversity.
So we want to think of ourselves as stewards of our internal landscape. There are certainly times when antibiotics are lifesaving or can prevent organ damage.
But, if we remember that each time we take them we are suffering permanent ecosystem loss, a bit like species extinction on earth, then the threshold for what warrants the use of antibiotics changes.
Of course the other side of the equation, the alternatives to antibiotics, becomes equally important. The fact is with the proper approaches, techniques and tools, taking antibiotics becomes completely unnecessary in most cases.
But sometimes it’s unavoidable and so here I provide some recommendations for how to support your system if you do decide to take them.
“AM I DAMAGED GOODS?” UNDERSTANDING EALRY LIFE STRESS IN CREATING HEALTH
There’s an increasing understand that stressors early in life can negatively impact development and health when we’re older.
- taking antibiotics when we’re young and how this can impact development
- lack of safety or other stressors, either acutely or ongoing
- cesarian birth
- even generatonal trauma
Becoming aware of these factors is positive. First, it can help us to make better decisions and not continue to repeat errors out of ignorance. We make different decisions for our families and communities.
It can also better help us understand our own health narrative. Are we just unlucky? Why do I have this issues and my neighbor who doesn’t take care of himself seems fine? Understanding early life experiences in our current health decades later is helpful.
But when we understand these connections, we may start to wonder: “but what can I do about it? It’s not like I can change . . . (insert thing in the past here)” - cesarian section. Rounds of antibiotics. Situations and events that left me traumatized and dysregulated.
But here’s the thing. These early events may have contributed to current health challenges and they may have reduced your “potential health maximum.”
BUT, the gap between your current health and your potential health is still vast. Immense. Ginormous.
I encourage you to both understand the implications of early life stressors AND focus on what’s in your control now. The vast majority of people haven’t scratched the surface of what’s possible for them.
WHY AM I HAVING CRAZY LOW BLOOD SUGAR CRASHES? AND WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?
We hear a lot about problems related to high blood sugar: diabetes, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, even cancer. And to be sure, this is a very prevalent problem in industrial societies.
But what about low blood sugar? Well, low blood sugar is incredibly common in chronic illness - especially with things like chronic infections, autoimmunity and leaky gut. But it gets picked up and addressed way less by industrial medicine.
Our body likes to keep blood sugar cycling in a nice narrow range between 82-88 mg/dL or 4.55-4.88 mmol/L. Sure, it’ll go up after we eat a meal with carbs but it should come down nicely and cycle in that range. Industrial medicine has a much wider range but any lower or higher than this is associated with illness.
We lower our blood sugar using insulin, a hormone that helps get glucose out of the blood stream and inside of cells.
So what causes low blood sugar? We have quite a few systems in place to keep our blood sugar high enough; glucagon, growth hormone, cortisol and, when all else fails, adrenaline, are all hormones we use to make sure blood sugar doesn’t dip too low.
When it comes to low blood sugar that’s tied to digestive problems, a little known hormone called GLP-1 is often at play. GLP-1 is secreted in the small intestine when we eat and basically asks the stomach to slow down its emptying so that the small intestine can process what it has.
It also plays a big role in lowering blood sugar, by increasing insulin, insulin sensitivity and lowering glucagon.
So if GLP-1 lowers blood sugar when we eat, what increases GLP-1? A few things are:
- fast transit time. The stomach, maybe when it’s inflamed, is sending food to the small intestine too quickly so that it puts out more GLP-1 to ask it to slow down.
- IL-6, which is a potent inflammatory cytokine that we make when we have an infection or injury.
- And leaky gut - lipopolysaccharides (LPS) are bacterial markers that trigger GLP-1 when they leave the gut and go into our body.
Like with most complex, chronic issues, there are multiple causes. Rather than take shots in the dark, trying one thing then the next or a scatter gun approach, what can be extremely helpful is a systematic approach, where you address your systems step by step, and in order.
YOU HACK IT, YOU BREAK IT. THE PROBLEM WITH OPTIMIZING BLOOD SUGAR AND WHAT TO DO INSTEAD.
With knowledge comes power.
Continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) are tiny disks that you embed on your arm that give you realtime information about your blood sugar levels through your phone.
By having realtime information, we shorten the learning curve by seeing our outputs (blood glucose in this case) in real time so that we can adjust our inputs to change it. It’s revolutionary.
However, we need to be mindful about what those inputs are and, more importantly, how they align to our larger natural patterns.
An example of a short term cycle would be how we control our blood sugar. When it goes up, insulin brings it down. When it goes down, glucagon or cortisol or adrenaline or a Twinky (hopefully not 😂) brings it up.
These changes can happen over the course of minutes.
An example of a longer cycle would daily patterns like feeding and fasting, exercising and resting, light and dark.
If we focus too much on controlling blood sugar, we can achieve this at the expense of harmony with the other cycles.
For example, when we eat, blood flows to our digestive organs and away from our muscles so that we can digest our food. This is a natural rhythm. But if we try to hack our high blood sugar with exercise, we may achieve this but at the expense of healthy digestion.
So ideally, we use blood sugar as feedback while doing regular practices that will improve our short term and our long term health. We then can note if this results in healthy changes or if we need to make further adjustments to our program.
Change inputs → Improve processes → Note outputs → Feedback to Inputs. Repeat.
We also want to be systematic when changing our inputs. If we change our diet, our exercise and our sleep, and then we get an output such as headaches, we don’t really know what’s caused it.
But we always want to give our body a beat to adjust to any changes we make before drawing conclusions.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO TRACK IN ORDER TO IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH
When we have health problems and annoying symptoms, it’s understandable that we focus there. That this is what has our attention.
And yet, if you’re going to recover your health, you don’t just need a plan. You need to know your numbers.
But what you should track?
In this Lab Note, we go through the different types of metrics, where you need to put the majority of your focus and the number one thing you need to do consistently in order to make progress on improving your health.
MAKING PEACE WITH POISONS AND PATHOGENS
We are exposed to an increasing number of novel chemicals and pollutants in our environment. We also have a shifting microbial landscape to navigate, with Lyme, novel Lab engineered viruses, superbugs and more.
As we become aware of how these factors can impact our health - both contributing to current illnesses and impacting our healthspan, it’s understandable that we might not only start to feel like the world is scary but also that we’re unclean. We’re infected. We’re polluted. And we want to get it out.
But I would offer that there may be more empowering and strategic ways to navigate these issues. Aiming for “zero” levels of pathogens like Lyme, EBV or fungus or “zero” levels of environmental toxins I believe is a mistake. And you’d probably die trying.
Rather, we can use our understanding of systems thinking and the 4 Stage Process to navigate our journey back to robust health. This should include improving our environment as much as we can and taking steps to clear accumulated biofilms and toxins in our system.
But we also want to be robust and able to handle a less-than-pristine reality and to live our life, with the inherent risks that this entails.
WHAT CAUSES POTS, MCAS AND EDS TO HAPPEN TOGETHER AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT
The incidence of complex chronic illness is increasing. This is due to a variety of factors, including food quality, stress and lack of social support, and growing environmental toxins introduced into the environment.
As more and more people succumb, we can see certain patterns emerge in terms of how chronic stress on the system can effect people.
One common triad of symptoms includes:
- Dysautonomias - like getting a racing heart and dizziness when you stand
- Hypermobile joints and connective tissue problems like those associated with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS)
- Food and environmental hypersensitivites including hives, swelling and anaphylaxis when exposed to a variety of environmental stressors - these symptoms are often labeled as Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS)
So what’s going on and why do we commonly see these three sets of symptoms happening together?
All of these symptoms arise as part of a chronic stress response designed to keep us safe from attack. In this video, we’ll go through what these three syndromes are and how we can understand what’s happening by looking at the Cell Danger Response and the nervous system, particularly the role of the vagus nerve in helping to promote inflammation for healing (by down regulating) and how it connects all of our cells back up to our heart and brain.
We’ll also look at how we can use the Four Stage Process to systematically address triggers of this response and repair our systems from the ground up.
OVERCOMING PERFECTIONISM AND WHEN TO MOVE ON TO THE NEXT STAGE
It can be challenging to find the balance between executing well to move towards our goals and going with the flow. This is often a moving target and a lifelong practice.
Perfectionism most often arrises through certain mental models and inner dynamics. Understanding these can in itself help them to loosen.
Wrestling with our perfectionist tendencies can feed into confusion about when we’re ready to move on to the next stage. How perfectly do we need to complete the current stage before transitioning to the next?
When deciding whether we’re ready to transition it’s helpful to keep a few things in mind:
- We want to base it on where we’re at in terms of our symptoms and patterns
- We want to make sure we’re executing well on the current stage before moving on
- When transitioning, we want to cross-fade (adding in new inputs before discontinuing previous ones), keep inputs clean and track our variables
- Know that you can always move back if your results aren’t what you expected
- There are no points for moving through the stages more quickly. Moving more slowly can often mean faster progress
WHAT TO DO IF YOU DON’T NOTICE WHEN STUFF IS MAKING YOU SICK?
There’s a lot of stuff out there that can make us sick. And an increasing proportion of us are becoming highly sensitive to our environments - mold, fragrances, various ingredients, whether artificial or natural, EMFs - these can all bombard the senses of those whose filters are not in place, making it challenging to function.
But there’s another group of people who often get missed and may have low awareness themselves: the highly insensitive, low reactors. Those who do have reactions to various foods, chemicals, toxins or exposures and don’t even notice it.
Is that even possible?
Well, the human body has been honed over hundreds of thousands of years on the foundation of billions of years of evolution to survive and thrive in a diverse array of situations.
In the event of severely scarce resources or life threat, we have the ability to enter a mode where we don’t really feel our body much at all. And this state can persist for years, even decades.
See, in a situation that we perceive as life threatening, it can be helpful to go into a “collapse.” Perhaps the predator will lose interest or if we do get eaten, at least we won’t have to feel it!
If this energy conservation mode is triggered by chronic infection, it may be that the body wants to ration energy resources by going into hibernation.
But then that leaves you with low bodily awareness of how your environment is effecting you.
So what can you do about this?
The first thing is to become aware of this is your pattern. This alone is a game changer because you’ll quickly see why the majority of well-meaning advice out there isn’t helpful for you as it isn’t reflective of your current state or resources.
It’s from a paradigm that says either you get sick when eat something, which means you have food sensitivities, or you when you eat something you feel fine, so clearly it’s not having an effect on you. It’s completely unaware of another significant group - those with low body awareness who may be having reactions to things and not perceiving them.
This means we need to rely on other information to triangulate and navigate, until our body awareness improves. This may mean using your tongue more as a guide. Or that investing in lab testing is more important for you. Or even that wearable technology like the Oura ring or a continuous glucose monitor may be invaluable until your body awareness increases.
PREVENTING EGO BACKLASH AND HOW TO GET BACK ON THE HORSE
When we decide we're going to focus on our health and make changes for large transformations, it is very easy to fall into the trap of more is better. More intensity, more clinicians, more advice, more inputs.
But if we're not careful, this can backfire.
First, with multiple changes to inputs, we're not able to interpret our feedback. If we're feeling better, the same or worse, we don't know why. What's working, what's not.
We're back to scattergun approaches and shots in the dark.
But this intensity can also lead to another problem: ego backlash.
If we strive too hard towards our health goals, if we're too strict and doing too many things, parts may start to protest: "I'm not doing this anymore. You can't make me."
These same parts likely would be amenable to you getting better, more freedom, if they feel like they have given consent and are on board with the whole thing. And if they understand what the plan is.
And if they can tell you if things are too much gently.
When we start multiple approaches at once, we dilute our attention and focus. It's like the difference between a regular flash light and a laser with the same amount of wattage. The intensity of the laser can go on for miles. The flash light can maybe help you read a book you’re holding.
In my experience, this can only really be learned by experience. So if this is what's happened here, then it may be like when you make pancakes, it's not uncommon to burn the first one.
This is not to say that it's ill-advised to see multiple practitioners. We just want to be mindful that if we try to make too many changes at once, it can backfire.
The program is designed in a particular sequence with a combination of Quick Wins and Deep Dives. The Quick Wins, the basic inputs for each stage, are the 20% of effort that can get you 80% of your result. They don't require you to have good energy or massive amounts of discipline.
They do require a clear decision to move forward. And the main thing that interrupts this is self-sabotage (parts that don't want to move forward). Here, we're seeing a particular version of this, which may in part be tied to doing too many things at once.
Sometimes you can find out if this is the case through self-inquiry.
What each person can tolerate, the bandwidth each person has, is different. This may simply be feedback from your system that what you were doing was too much.
A renewed commitment and repair of trust with fed up parts will likely be helpful here, while you navigate to see what level of change your body and mind can manage sustainably at once. It's a marathon, not a sprint.
Start off simple with fewer inputs and practices. You can always add to it as your bandwidth increases.
HOW TO USE THE VIOLIN STRING PRINCIPLE 🎻
A mentor of mine told me: all advice is good advice sometimes. The key is knowing when the advice is applicable for you.
There is so much advice about attitude and how to approach going through a transformational process. But the thing is: what is going to be helpful for you depends on where you currently are.
If you tend to approach your health with all guns blazing, strictly following an austere diet, waking up early to exercise, meditating like clockwork . . . you may benefit from taking your foot off the gas.
On the other hand, if you tend to lack motivation, you struggle to stay consistent, you make excuses to “cheat” because “you’ve been good”, then you may benefit from a bit more focus.
We need to be firm enough but not over-gripping.
A few years ago, I heard the story of the violin virtuoso in relation to how we might show up to meditation. If the string is too taught, it breaks. If it’s too relaxed, it doesn’t play. In either case, no matter how talented the violinist is, in either scenario he can’t play beautiful music unless the strings are firm with some give, just right.
And of course, as the violinist plays, the strings give more and need to be retuned. So there's a cyclical nature to this quality.
In meditation, this might look like being rigid and trying too hard (thus defeating the purpose) on the one hand. Or being slouched, not really training your attention and perhaps falling asleep.
It’s helpful to ask yourself, in general, which of these categories do you fall into? Are you too tight? Too lax? Cycling in between?
It takes practice, iteration, and feedback to know yourself and learn how to motivate yourself just enough to keep make good decisions in the short term that’ll keep you moving toward a future that you want to live in without becoming a slave driver and risking ego backlash.
And no matter which category you fall into, everyone benefits from understanding healing cycles. And alternative periods of focus on health with period of relaxation, when the cycle completes.
AIMS & GRADUATION SIGNS OF THE 4 STAGE PROCESS
On any journey, particularly a longer one with expected bends & turns, it’s important to have a map and a way of orienting to your own progress.
A way of knowing if you’re on track, how far you’ve come, with landmarks, places of interests, milestones clearly marked out.
Of course, the map isn’t the terrain and everyone’s journey will be unique. Each person starts from a different place and takes a different route.
And yet there are commonalities. Let’s take a look at common aims and graduation signs for each stage.
CAN YOU SELF-TEST FOR RETAINED PRIMITIVE REFLEXES?
Retained primitive reflexes are never a normal finding. They can occur if there’s been a brain injury or significant neuro-degeneration, known as “frontal release.” What that means is that the frontal lobes that should be inhibiting these reflexes in the brainstem are not functioning well and so have released them back into action.
But what if the frontal lobes never developed fully in the first place?
Then the reflexes might still be there.
You should be curious as to whether you have retained primitive reflexes if you’ve had certain issues since childhood. Delayed milestones or weird crawling are dead giveaways, but aren’t always the case. You may have had attention, cognitive or mood issues. You may have had immune or gut issues.
You may have been diagnosed with ADHD or autism, autoimmunity or any psychiatric disorder.
In this Lab Note, we discuss the different types of assessment of primitive reflexes and some of the differences between testing at home vs having a professional assessment.
IS AVOIDING GRAINS BAD FOR YOUR MICROBIOME?
Is avoiding grains bad for the microbiome? Is a damp coat from pearl barley due to die off or more damp?
Let’s take a look . . .