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Your Vagus Nerve: What Is It, and Why Should You Care?

Article written by: Stefan Chmelik

As we come to understand ever more about mental health, it is becoming clearer that vast numbers of people in the modern world are affected by stress-related anxiety of one kind or another. Over time, this can hugely impact our mental and physical health, especially during the fearful times many of us are experiencing during this global pandemic. Primal fear is natural but being able to override it, and the anxiety that goes with it, can give you some control over body and mind, instead of being driven by evolutionary survival responses that are out of date in the modern world. So, how can we develop this ability? The answer lies in your own body – to be precise, in the vagus nerve.

The Vagus Nerve and Stress Responses

You may not know it, but the activity of your vagus nerve can have a bigger effect on how you feel than the total reasoning powers of your frontal brain.”

Many of you may already know about the vagus nerve, but there’s never any harm in a recap. Your vagus nerve runs from the base of your brain down through your torso, interfacing with heart, lungs and digestive system along the way. It plays a crucial role in your autonomic nervous system (ANS), which regulates your body’s unconscious processes. You may not know it, but the activity of your vagus nerve can have a bigger effect on how you feel than the total reasoning powers of your frontal brain.

Human beings, like most animals, have evolved to react reflexively to the perception of threat. These reflexes are automatic responses that occur in the lower brain and ANS (Autonomic Nervous System – your Sympathetic and Parasympathetic nerves), flooding your body with the inflammatory hormones and chemicals it needs to fight the threat, flee from it, or even freeze (something we see a lot with shock and trauma). Reflexes do not require the involvement of your higher brain – in fact, they often inhibit those functions. This inflammation and inhibition is one of the primary biological processes that cause the feelings we experience as stress.

Unfortunately, this primitive response has become more of a hindrance than a help. In simpler times, when existential threats tended to mean you were about to actually die, mobilizing your resources to find safety made a lot of sense. In the modern world, however, pausing to evaluate risk and threat is a much more effective option in the vast majority of circumstances. Our physical responses to stressful circumstances not only limit our ability to make the best decisions, but are also harmful in the long run. Constant stress experienced over a prolonged period of time elevates stress hormone levels and blood pressure, increasing the risk of hypertension, heart attack or stroke [1].

Vagal Tone And Why It Matters

Not all vagus nerves are created equal – some people have stronger vagal activity than others. One of the primary functions of the vagus nerve is to calm the body after other parts of the ANS have hyper stimulated it in response to perceived threat – and repeated stimulation leads to chronic inflammation. Someone with stronger vagus activity is usually able to relax faster after experiencing stress than other people might. The strength of your vagus response is known as your ‘vagal tone’, and it can be determined by measuring heart rate, specifically your HRV (Heart Rate Variability).

Every time you breathe in, your heart beats faster in order to speed the flow of oxygenated blood around your body. When you breathe out, your heart rate slows back down. This variability is one of many things regulated by the vagus nerve, which is active when you breathe out but suppressed when you breathe in. The bigger your difference in heart rate variability when breathing in and out, the higher your vagal tone. It’s pretty difficult to exert conscious control over your heart rate, which is why breathing is the gateway to HRV and, in turn, vagal tone.

It is possible to control your own vagal tone and build personal resiliency, either through extended periods of hard work or the use of clever technology. Personal vagal tone improvement is a recommended treatment for some heart rate related conditions, such as supraventricular tachycardia [2]. Work with patients suffering these conditions has discovered a number of ‘vagal maneuvers’, which anyone can use to reliably increase their vagal tone for short periods. Holding the breath for 20-60 seconds, dipping the face in cold water, coughing, and tensing the stomach muscles are the most commonly recommended vagal maneuvers. Fans of the Wim Hof Method will recognize some of this.

It has also been shown that the vagus nerve can be stimulated by the vibrations of sound. Humming can be a particularly convenient way of increasing vagal tone, as you can easily hum a tune while performing other tasks. More focused humming, such as chanting ‘OM’ – with its long, sonorous vibrations – has been shown to correlate with a significant deactivation in areas of the brain associated with depression [3]. Researchers found that the vibrations from ‘OM’ chanting stimulate the vagus nerve, which then sends out neurotransmitters and electrical signals that reduce activity to key areas of the brain like the amygdala, associated with our fight/flight/freeze response. In addition, the increased oxygenation of the blood from this vibration facilitates feelings of relaxation and release in the muscles and structure of the body. The more accurately you are able to reproduce specific frequencies, the great and quicker the positive outcomes.

Managing Stress Through The Ages

In the past, humans across the world developed a variety of ways to reliably reproduce feelings of awe, wonder and peacefulness. From music to meditation, ritualized exercise to the use of mind-altering substances, a number of activities practiced in many different spiritual contexts can be understood in part as mechanisms for stress management. The broad trend of the past few hundred years has been towards the erosion of community and the fading of many of these traditions. Although there has been some movement against this trend in recent times with the growth of interest in practices such as mindfulness and yoga, in the 21st century we are living through a stress epidemic [4]. And at the current moment of enforced isolation we are more disconnected than ever from our social safeguards against stress.

It has been well established that regular relaxation and meditation are the most effective ways to self-manage stress. Meditation of many kinds have become very widely adopted, as many as 40% of adults in the US meditate regularly [5], and this has been linked to reduction in depression and anxiety, improvement in attention and also in sleep [6]. However, meditation practice is not the right solution for everyone. For some people, developing their practice to the point where they can enjoy tangible health benefits would mean a time commitment that they are simply unable to make. The always-on culture of the digitally enhanced workplace makes it difficult to leave stress behind at the office door, and it eats around the edges of the downtime of an already time-poor generation. Some employers have started running meditation programs for their people, but those who don’t benefit from such a luxury, or who find it difficult regardless of time, need a different solution.

Modern Problems, Modern Solutions

 In 1997, researchers developed a Vagal Nerve Stimulation (VNS) therapy to treat epileptic seizures by implanting a neurostimulator in the patient’s chest. Over the years, many of these patients reported other benefits, including mood. In 2005, the FDA approved the use of VNS implants as a treatment for depression as well as epilepsy.

Following the success of this technique, there have been a number of attempts made to develop less non-invasive VNS medical devices. Some follow the epilepsy treatments by using electrical stimulation. GammaCoreTM, a small device designed for personal use in the treatment of migraine and available by prescription in a number of countries, has been the most successful of these [7]. Devices like these are extremely valuable therapeutic innovations, and the discomfort of using electrical stimulation can outweigh the pain caused by the condition itself.

Other approaches have drawn on pioneering research into the effects of sound on the vagus nerve. A number of studies have shown that binaural sound played through headphones can affect brain activity, positively altering mood and improving performance at some tasks [8][9]. These discoveries, in combination with the research that confirms the beneficial effects on vagal tone of centuries-old humming and chanting practices, have revealed some exciting new possibilities for VNS.

I’ve spent most of my career in medicine obsessed with the idea of finding ‘the single thing’ that will work equally for all people, that has the potential to target the inflammation and stress-based issues most people are made ill by today. From this research and my own extensive clinical experience with thousands of patients, it’s clear that your level of personal resiliency is the key to staying well and leading a long and happy life and that the best way to measure and increase resilience is through Vagal Nerve Tone.

But it became more and more apparent to me over the last decade that the traditional methods, such as breathing exercises, meditation and being in nature, were becoming less effective or unavailable to most people. As I am also a huge technology fan, I realized my mission was to create a technology that made vagal training available for anyone. So, in 2015 I created and Patented the Sensate technology.

Sensate is a world-first wearable device from BioSelf Technology, which uses the potential of sub-audible sound to stimulate the vagus nerve and reduce the physical symptoms of stress [10]. Sensate uses novel infrasonic technology which I have used in my Harley Street clinic for the past seven years, with extraordinary results. Placed on the chest, the portable Sensate device produces engineered tones that are felt rather than heard, enabling users to experience digital music as whole-body 3D vibrotactile sound. As well as being deeply relaxing in itself, this conditions the vagus nerve, increasing vagal tone and providing many of the same benefits as extended meditation practice bypassing the need for endless practice while also enabling people that find meditation impossible to experience the benefits.

Your Vagus, Your Health

VNS therapies of various kinds have been shown to have beneficial effects for patients suffering from a wide variety of problems and symptoms, including:

  • Adrenal or chronic fatigue
  • Anxiety/panic disorder and OCD
  • Asthma and Breathing Pattern Disorder (BPD)
  • Chronic Prostatitis and Pelvic Pain Syndrome (CP/CPPS)
  • Depression
  • Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS)
  • Epileptic seizures
  • Fibromyalgia (unexplained body pain)
  • Food intolerances/allergies and chemical sensitivities
  • Irregular heartbeat conditions
  • Irritable Bowel/Bladder Syndrome (IBS)
  • Migraines and tension headaches
  • Insomnia, sleep disturbance and sleep apnea

Whether you suffer from any of these conditions or just feel overwhelmed by the stress of modern life, learning to increase vagal nerve tone could be the solution. If implants or prescription devices are not appropriate or available, try practicing some simple vagal maneuvers, like those described above. If these have positive results, then Sensate should offer deeper and longer-lasting treatment. In a time when so many of us are living through stressful uncertainty, looking after your vagus nerve has never been a more important part of effective self-care.

Stefan Chmelik is the founder of The New Medicine Group, the UK’s leading integrated healthcare clinic in Harley Street, London. Identifying that more people than ever are suffering from stress-related health issues, as a medical practitioner of 30 years, Stefan founded BioSelf Technology to develop pioneering, clinically validated, wearable technology, that offers a solution to the growing stress pandemic.

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Finding Your Zen In a Highly Stimulated World

WooosaaahBetween work, family, relationships, and health, life can feel pretty stressful and complicated at times. That’s why it’s incredibly important to find safe and sustainable methods of aiding stress, exhaustion, and/or aches. 

Research shows that meditation — the practice of staying present and mindful, even if only for a few minutes each day – can have neurological benefits for the brain and human health, such as inducing a sense of calm. More specifically, meditation reduces activity in the brain’s “Me Center” — the place responsible for mind-wandering. This thought-to-thought behavior is often associated with feeling less happy and worrying about the past or future. Dialing down the rumination that is happening in the brain can help an individual overcome things like fear and worry. 

Studies have also found that meditation causes an increase in cortical thickness throughout key areas of the brain, which positively affects learning and memory, and helps regulate emotionsIt can also cause a decrease of the brain cell volume in the amygdala, which is responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress.  When we meditate, we have more control over our emotions and have a better grip on our decision-making. This allows us to experience a greater sense of calm, clarity, and focus in our lives.

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Introducing: Float Therapy

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Float therapyalso known as sensation deprivation” or “floating”, is one form of meditation that has seen exponential growth within the last few years and is one of the fastest growing niche industries in the country. It has also proven to be an effective tool for minimizing pain, reducing symptoms of anxietydepression and insomnialowering blood pressure, and more. This is made possible by reducing how much sensory input the brain and nervous system receive. You can think of float therapy like a timeout from the world’s stressors; a form of relaxation that offers rest, focus, recovery, reprieve, and exploration.

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How It Works

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A sensory deprivation tank is a dark, soundproof tank that is filled with a foot or less of warm saltwater. This is what helps you float calmlwithout needing to tread water. Float therapy tanks are designed to cut off all sensory inputs, including sight, smell, sound, and touch. That means: 

  • No lights 
  • No sounds (i.e. music) 
  • No notifications from your phone 
  • No guided meditations 

Floating sessions typically last between 60-90 minutes. This time is used for: 

  • Meditation, thought processing 
  • Relaxation
  • Athletic and muscle recovery 
  • Pain relief 
  • PTSD therapy 

At the very minimum, it’s an escape from the over-stimulating world that we live in… No sound means no constant alerts and messages. No brightly lit screens. No sense of gravity means relaxation for the postural muscles.  

Floating is a personal experience and you should treat it as your own journey. During your first few floats, you might find yourself losing track of time and falling asleep – total relaxation and the comfort it comes with will do that. It is recommended that you have a meditation plan, or a work or life topic that you’d like to focus on when you enter the tankJournaling afterward is although a welcomed exercise to help capture your thoughts and realizations. 

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Revolutionizing How People Experience the Benefits of Floating from Their Homes 

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It’s worth noting that a single float therapy isn’t cheap, a single session can cost $60 or more. If you floated just once per week, that’s over three-thousand dollars per year that you’d have to budget for float spa visits. If you’ve never actually tried floating before, then we do recommend budgeting for at least 3 sessions to really get a sense of what works for you, and how you feel afterwards. If you want to continue floating thereafter, then we highly recommend considering an at-home float therapy solution that you can keep for decades to come.

 Zen Float Co. (Zen for short) is one of the leading at-home float therapy providers. Compared to other at-home solutions, they offer affordability and comfort that goes unmatched. While most float tanks are in the $10K-30K mark, Zen’s latest and greatest float tank only costs $5K and comes with a handful of features that make it more efficient than standard tanks, such as: 

  • A fully inflatable and portable design made from drop-stitch technology (similar to inflatable stand up paddle boards and kayak) 
  • Greater insulation due to all the layering, making it 40% more efficient (which saves you money on monthly costs) 
  • 2 radiant heating pads, a digital temperature controller, and a high-powered UV filtration system to keep your water heated and cleaned and all times 

Zen can also ship their tanks worldwide wide – a huge plus, especially because float therapy is already very popular outside of the United States. 

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When to Float

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Like any journey, the timing is up to you. Some people prefer to float after a long, stressful day at work to help them relax and process. Others prefer to float in the morning so they can strategize their day and the challenges they want to take on. Athletes may opt to float right before a big game or event to visualize their performance, some float after to use the muscle relaxation for recovery, and some do both. The holiday season is also a great time to float because this is when many people tend to be juggling different stressors – finances, family, holidays themselves, etc. Sensory deprivation can be especially helpful during this time regarding stress management, mood, and being present. The good news is that you don’t have to wait for the New Year to start a healthy habit; you can finish your year off strong and get one step ahead of everyone who waited!

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The Most Important Takeaways From #mbgrevitalize 2019

This past weekend, mindbodygreen held its 6th annual #mbgrevitalize event, and we were there to capture the magic!  This year’s theme was Longevity, Consciousness, and Community – in which hundreds of wellness leaders gathered in Dove Mountain, Arizona, to discuss what it really means to be conscious, to form meaningful connections, and to inspire lasting change in our communities.

Some of this weekend’s conversations were admittedly tough, but undeniably enlightening. And it’s doing the difficult work that helps us be and create the change we wish to see in the world.  Continue reading to learn some of the biggest takeaways from this year’s #mgbrevitalize.

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For the first time since World War I, life expectancy in the United States has declined for 3 years in a row.

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On average, life expectancy across the globe has been steadily increasing over the past several decades; however, reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that life expectancy in the United States has actually dropped for three consecutive years. This has largely been in part because of the country’s ongoing drug crisis and climbing suicide rates. This is notably the first time that researchers have seen this disturbing result in the U.S. since the 1915-1918 timeframe, during which World War I and a flu pandemic took place.

Here are the CDC’s most recent reports highlighting life expectancy and mortality rates in America:

Mortality in the United States, 2017

Drug Overdose Deaths in the United States, 1999–2017

Suicide Mortality in the United States, 1999–2017

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People feel lonely because of social constructs and conditioning.

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Loneliness is a universal yet relatively complex human emotion. It is typically associated with anxious feelings due to lack of connection or communication with others, and it has been shown to lead to poorer physical and mental health over time (NCBI).

So, what causes us to feel lonely?

The first time that most people experience loneliness is when their parents leave them alone as infants.  As they age, they may experience temporary loneliness in different contexts, such as going through a divorce, losing someone important in their life, or being outcasted from a social circle. The cause and severity of loneliness really varies from one person to another, as there could be social, mental, emotional, and/or physical factors at play.

Deepak Chopra, co-founder of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, and a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, argues that people feel lonely because of social constructionism – the theory that much of what we perceive as reality depends on shared assumptions (ThoughtCo).  Examples of social constructs include things like the concept of currency, which people have collectively given importance and value, as well as the self/self-identity (gender, age, sexual orientation, race, social class), which can affect one’s self-esteem.

Chopra insists that reality doesn’t exist; we are all having an individual human-specific experience. For us humans, subjective experiences occur in the form of sensations, images, feelings and thoughts (Deepak Chopra). While we were sitting in the audience listening to Chopra share his wisdom on the mainstage at #mbgrevitalize, we could feel his calm demeanor and see his gentle smile as he spoke. Unlike us humans, Painted Lady Butterflies have 30,000 lenses in each eye; if one of these butterflies were looking at Chopra on stage, they would see a kaleidoscope of moving shapes but would not have the same emotional connection or experience that the people in the audience had. If you put this into the context of a romantic relationship, subjective experiences often contribute to why couples may see a situation or event in their relationship differently.

The mind is an embodied and relational process that regulates the flow and energy of relationships.

Mental Illness is defined as thinking locally and acting as a separate self.

Chopra says that when we are babies, we are filled with curiosity and wonder. But as we age, and we become conditioned by social constructs, we begin to build a separate self—one that can fill us with anxiety, pressure and fear. But this separate self is not who you truly are.

This is the foundation for a science of consciousness, as consciousness is total freedom from conditioning and constructs. By having more awareness of your loneliness when it comes, you can acknowledge it and let it go.

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Mind-altering substances may have a place in the wellness space, but it’s still out for debate.

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Hallucinogens (drugs that profoundly distort a person’s perceptions of reality) have been studied in the U.S. for their potential healing benefits since the discovery of LSD in the 1940s. However, research has mostly stagnated since psychedelics were outlawed in the late 1960s. (APA)  Given the current state of drug use in America, there is a lot of controversy over whether or not mind-altering substances can actually be harnessed for good.

According to Cristina L. Magalhaes, PhD, and co-chair of a symposium on psychedelics and psychotherapy, “Combined with psychotherapy, some psychedelic drugs like MDMA, psilocybin and ayahuasca may improve symptoms of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. More research and discussion are needed to understand the possible benefits of these drugs, and psychologists can help navigate the clinical, ethical and cultural issues related to their use.”

The “Mind-Altering Substances and Wellness” session at this year’s #mbgreviatlize discussed what role psychedelic drugs should play in wellness. The panel included Holistic Psychiatrist, Ellen Vora, M.D., Physician, Molly Aloof, M.D., Whole30 Co-Founder and CEO, Melissa Hartwig Urban, and Wellness Advocate, Rich Roll.  It’s worth nothing that both Urban and Roll have had their own downfalls at the hand of drugs and alcohol, which ultimately served as the catalysts for each of their health journeys. They have successfully used their experiences to find their purpose in life: to help others live healthier and sober.

From a psychological perspective, there are both potential pros and cons when it comes to the use of hallucinogens for healing. Some people may experience breakthroughs while using these drugs that allow them to get un-stuck, overcome depression, and/or come to powerful realizations.  On the flip side, all it takes is one bad trip (frightening hallucinations or delusions that can lead to accidents) to put a person in serious danger.  If someone is predisposed to mental health issues, they are more likely to experience bad trips.

Keeping the current drug-use problem in mind, many people are getting hallucinogenic drugs off of the street because of the ease of accessibility.  It’s nearly impossible to know the quality of these drugs and where they originally came from.  “These [hallucinogenic] drugs are essentially medicines, and they need to be approached with the same gravity as pharmaceuticals,” said Vora.  If you are thinking of experimenting with mind-altering substances like LSD, PCP, or ketamine, it is vital that you consult with a doctor.  Remember: this is your brain that we are talking about, and you only get one. So, you need to be mindful of the possible side effects of hallucinogens, and how they can affect your life after using them. These drugs are not meant to be taken in isolation; it’s recommended that you have someone you trust by your side so that they can monitor you and keep you safe while you’re using the drugs.

From an economic standpoint, there’s high interest in commercializing drugs – especially if they are considered illegal and in high demand. Fun fact: In today’s pharmaceutical market, it often takes more than a decade and an estimated $2.6 billion to bring a new drug to market (Booz Allen). So, between now and the time that hallucinogens are officially launched to the public, more research needs to be done on how different types of halogens affect the brain, overall health, and decision making.  We also need a better understanding of how different dosages can impact people that have varying biomarkers (e.g. PTSD, bipolar disorder, depression, etc).

The bottom line: there is so standard or single solution when it comes to using psychedelic drugs for healing. There is room for experimentation, but it needs to be done in controlled, safe settings so that researchers can continue to evaluate what dosages are appropriate for whom, and under what circumstances. Regulation that puts peoples’ health first, above simply making profit, will be of utmost importance. It will take conscious leadership of medical practitioners, as well as state and local governments to help make this happen.

[ultimate_heading]Research shows that there are 9 key factors that affect one’s ability to heal from cancer.[/ultimate_heading]

There have been thousands of documented cases of “incurable diseases”, in which people have fully recovered from their diagnosis and reclaimed their lives.  Most of these case studies have revolved around people that have stage 4 cancer, but there have also been documented cases of healing from heart failure, autoimmune diseases, and HIV.

Were these people just lucky? Or did they play some kind of active role in their own recovery?

Kelly A. Turner, PhD, studies people who have experienced what she calls “radical remissions.” She’s written a book about them, and is currently working on a docuseries. What Kelly discovered is that the people who have achieved radical remissions don’t just sit in misery or wait for a miracle to cure them. During their healing process, they proactively made nine distinct conscious changes in their lives – only two of which are considered physical while the remaining seven are classified as emotional changes.

Here are the 9 key factors that Turner has identified as aiding forces behind radical remissions:

  1. Radically changing your diet.
  2. Taking control of your health.
  3. Following your intuition.
  4. Using herbs and supplements.
  5. Releasing suppressed emotions.
  6. Increasing positive emotions.
  7. Embracing social support.
  8. Deepening your spiritual connection.
  9. Having strong reasons for living.

Though there are no promises that following these tips will absolutely cure cancers or other illnesses, there is very interesting research that indicates cancer treatments may have better outcomes if they take a more holistic approach rather than just relying on surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation.

While recovery is important, prevention is also key to living a life of longevity.  Did you know: people on average go into a stressful state as much as 50 times a day?  This causes us to miss out on dopamine (an important brain chemical that influences your mood and feelings), and increases our cortisol levels. Often called the “stress hormone,” cortisol triggers the natural “flight or fight” response that has kept humans alive for thousands of years. The danger of having high levels of cortisol too often is that it means you are constantly in high-stress mode. If your body experiences chronic stress, then it will begin to break down over time (Premier Health).

“Chi” is a Chinese word meaning “life force energy”.  Some alternative medical practitioners believe that having low chi means that you’re too low on your life force, and that you’re more susceptible to being affected by illness and disease.  Turner says that having a strong sense of purpose in life can help draw more chi into the body. This may also help you prevent your body from becoming more susceptible to disease.

[ultimate_heading]To live a long life, you should be like a gorilla that eats in Italy.[/ultimate_heading]

Ok, not literally, but eating lots and lots of plants is really good for you, and nutrition is directly related to longevity. Here are the top myths about longevity that you should be aware of:

Myth: The Mediterranean Diet is 100% healthy for you.

Fact:  More research needs to be done, but here’s what we know. This particular diet is based on the habits of people from Italy, Greece, and Spain. This part of the world is considered a blue zone area — blue zones are regions of the world where people appear to live much longer than average.  It includes the consumption of things like legumes, fish, fruit, vegetables, and olive oil. It’s that last ingredient that researchers think may be the key health-promoting part of the diet.

Steven Gundry, M.D. argues that the Mediterranean Diet is pretty healthy for most people to adopt, except that it includes foods that have lectins.  Lectins are a type of plant protein that can be found in almost all foods, but the foods that are believed to be highest in lectins include whole grains and legumes, and nightshade vegetables, like tomatoes, peppers and potatoes (Genuine Health). The problem is that our bodies have not adapted to the lectins found in these foods. They can be difficult to digest, toxic even (if not cooked properly), which negatively affects the microbiome and puts you at greater risk of disease.  Gundry says that you should focus on consuming plants that don’t have these lectins, as well as foods with high omegas, and olive oil. Lots and lots of olive oil! (People in Italy, Greece and Spain regularly consume an average of 1 liter of olive oil per week (12-14 tablespoons per day).

Myth: Animal protein is essential for strength and longevity.

Fact: Simply put, gorillas and horses disprove this. They only eat plants, and they are both strong and HUGE!

Myth: Growth hormones produce youthfulness and vitality.

Fact: Being smaller in size may actually help promote vitality, not being bigger. Gundry points out that most of the people who live in the Blue Zones are far shorter than average height. Women are also typically shorter than men. Research shows that they have lower rates of coronary heart disease than men and on average live about seven years longer (MindBodyGreen).

Myth: It’s important to consume iron as you age.

Fact: Iron is an essential metal for the body, but excessive iron consumption is dangerous for mitochondrial function and causes organ dysfunction through the production of reactive oxygen species (NCBI).

Myth: Milk does the body good.

Fact: Milk has huge amounts of insulin growth factor in it, which mother cows give to their babies to help them grow. Humans are the only species that consumes other animals’ milk, and humans on average are much bigger than they were decades ago. But humans are not baby cows!

[ultimate_heading]Aging can’t be stopped, but the process can be slowed.[/ultimate_heading]

For the average person, genes account for 25% of longevity, and environment accounts for 75%.  As we age, we experience more “wear and tear”. Examples of wear and tear include, but are not limited to: exposure to and consumption of toxins, injuries, and sun exposure – all of which lead to instability of the genome (the genetic material present in a cell or organism) and DNA damage.  The problem is that our body’s repair mechanisms slow down over time.

Anti-aging facts you should be aware of:

  • The insulin-signaling pathways are responsible for blood sugar regulation, which is at the core of anti-aging.
  • Autophagy is like your body’s garbage disposal, it allows the cells in your body to cleanse themselves by removing unnecessary or dysfunctional components.
  • There are pathways that stimulate growth and other pathways that stimulate autophagy.
  • As you age, there should be a shift in habits from growth to preservation. In other words, it might be more important to focus on your diet as you get older, whereas working out the way you used to could be excessive strain on your body that adds more wear and tear.
  • NAD+ is crucial for cellular repair and mitochondrial maintenance.
  • According to Frank Lipman, “There isn’t really a magic bullet for anti-aging, but if there were one, it would be sleep.”

When it comes to preserving the body, remember this: our daily habits have the opportunity to have extraordinary effects on our health and longevity.

 

“Get more sleep, eat less, and love more.” – Robert Roundtree

[ultimate_heading]Humanity is evolving.[/ultimate_heading]

A pessimistic view of the world narrowly focuses on the problems that exist, but despite what the news may say, the world isn’t all bad.  In fact, history shows that humans have taken great strides to improve social and economic conditions over the past couple of centuries, as well as access to greater technology, people, and experiences. For reference, check out this timeline of U.S. history:

  • 200 years ago (early 1800s), 90% of people lived on $2/day.
  • In 1865, slavery was abolished.
  • Nearly 100 years ago (1920), women could finally vote.
  • In 1964, Jim Crow Laws were abolished.
  • In 1983, the internet was invented. The World Wide Web was later developed in 1990. This meant that people now had access to information from all over the globe.
  • Smartphones were created in 1992, which resulted an entirely new and fast way to help people stay connected.
  • Since the early 2000’s, many businesses with a shared-economy model (such as Uber and Airbnb) have empowered more people to travel and share experiences with others on their own terms.

Here’s the now. Though there have been times of war and corruption, history shows that humankind has collectively been moving toward greater connection. There is undoubtedly a greater sense of what is morally right and wrong, and what defines conscious leadership.

According to John Mackey, Cofounder and CEO of Whole Foods Market, and coauthor of Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business, conscious leaders:

  • Are passionate
  • Are service oriented
  • Are authentic
  • Have integrity
  • Hold themselves accountable
  • Have a high level of emotional intelligence
  • Inspire people
  • Mobilize energy
  • Cultivate self-awareness
  • Encourage growth in others and build confidence

Business is about people working together to create value for others.  In order to be a conscious leader, one must create a shared purpose (Whole Food Market’s is to nourish people on the planet), and always strive to find the win-win-win solution in any given business situation.

“Can you build a business based on love?” – John Mackey

Business clichés are notably often centered around sports, battle, or the ego – all of which reinforce the idea of focusing on the competition and contracting oneself instead of leading with an open heart and consciousness. When we lead with fear, we are at greater risk of destroying opportunities, relationships, sales, product launches, and employee morale.  That’s why it is essential to eliminate fear in business – in order to minimize the risk of short-circuiting love. The many faces of love include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Gratitude
  • Care
  • Compassion
  • Appreciation
  • Forgiveness