Last weekend I was honored to be back in the hallowed lecture halls of the UCSF School of Medicine for the Evolution of Medicine Symposium, led by Dr. Akil Palanisamy. It had been 16 years since I had last attended lectures at UCSF and a rush of adrenaline shot through me as I remembered my transformative experiences there. It was at UCSF that I had embarked upon a career as a doctor (which shifted as I took time in my third year to dance in Europe...time which expanded to a 14 year dance career), spending sacred time with patients, learning their stories, understanding their deep desire to heal, searching for answers, and feeling the influence of the pharmaceutical industry and conservative viewpoints on the practice of medicine. A myriad of memories showered upon me. It was fascinating to be in the UCSF lecture hall and to reflect upon where I was then, as a student, in terms of what I believed about the role of medicine and the art of healing…and where I am now, after a career as a dancer, healing from many injuries and conditions such as arthritis and osteoporosis, and now teaching pilates and wellness. The importance of diet, lifestyle, movement, and behavior upon one's health cannot be understated. The Evolution of Medicine symposium, organized and moderated by Dr. Akil Palanisamy emphasized this.
The all star panel of presenters, including Robb Wolf, Chris Kresser, Chris Masterjohn, Michelle Tom, Stephan Guyenet, and Justin Sonnenburg not only brought extensive scientific research to the audience, but framed it within the context of tangible steps to integrate the information into a meaningful plan for healthcare practitioners.
Robb Wolf began the presentations, taking a look at medicine from an evolutionary perspective. He illustrated how the transition from Paleolithic hunter-gatherer society to Neolithic agrarian society gave rise to Western diseases (diabetes, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and autoimmune disease). This shift also marked a dramatic decrease in diversity of gut flora, and a rise in gut inflammation. The prevalence of lectins in grains has been linked to leptin resistance and decreased glucose tolerance. Gluten increases gut permeability and inflammation throughout the body, even when no symptoms of gut irritation may be present. This is expressed as an array of suboptimal health conditions, including aching joints, fatigue, brain fog, and hormone imbalance, all of which indicate inflammation in the body. If allowed to persist, this progresses to the inflammatory disease states of diabetes, CVD, obesity, autoimmune disease, and more. Loss of intestinal barrier function ("leaky gut") is inherent in the development of autoimmune disease, a condition born of the agrarian era. Take home points from Wolf: avoid gut and microbiome irritants such as refined foods, acellular carbohydrates, gluten and sugar, while increasing intake of vegetables, nuts, seeds, fermented foods, and fiber which gut bacteria thrive on.
Dr. Akil Palanisamy, author of The Paleovedic Diet, combines western medicine and the wisdom of Ayurveda into a holistic integrative practice. He took the stage to explain how the balance of one's true dosha nature, Vata, Pitta and Kapha, leads to wellness and healing from within. Imbalance in the doshas, induced by the stress of toxins, relationships, social isolation, and unhealthy diet, leads to disease. He shared some culinary pearls to maximize the nutrient value of foods; eat whole, organic, local foods, rich in a diversity of color, consume antioxidant rich skins of fruits and vegetables, organ meats and spices. These are described in detail in his book.
Michelle Tom, a UCSF pharmacist turned author and food blogger presented the art and science of the fifth sense, Umami. She described how savory, meaty taste is key to survival, illustrating how animals are hardwired to seek out protein in the wild. Inspired to turn away from Big Pharma to the chemistry of healthy food, she presents an array of seaweed, mushroom, seafood and meat dishes (with many kid friendly options) on her NomNom Paleo website.
Justin Sonnenberg, author of The Good Gut, described the relationship of gut microbiota to all of health. For every one human cell, each of us has ten bacterial cells within us. We have a zoo of microbes inside ourselves and to achieve optimal health, we must carefully cultivate a healthy microbiome. Each of us is a true ecosystem of human and microbial cells. The bacteria living in our gut influence our immune function, metabolism, vitamin biosynthesis, hormone production, and more. Imbalance in the microbiome leads to impairment in these systems, and inflammation throughout the body. In one study, the transfer of microbes from lean donors to obese recipients (with no lifestyle or dietary interventions) led to enhanced insulin sensitivity and weight loss in the recipients. Sonnenburg explained how innovative techniques, such as fecal transfers, introduce healthy strains of bacteria to diseased populations and have dramatic therapeutic impact.
The common theme amongst presenters was clear: The most powerful drug is our diet. Eating a plant based diet, rich in a variety of fiber, including fermented foods, nuts and seeds, promotes a diversity of healthy gut flora. Exposure to dirt, pets and time spent in nature also enhance microbiome diversity. Detrimental to gut flora are low fiber diets, use of antibiotics and sanitizers, C-sections and lack of breast-feeding for infants. While probiotics can be beneficial, they provide only transient strains of bacteria to the gut. To cultivate healthy, balanced, resident flora, a diet rich in fresh, varied, fibrous plants is necessary.
Stephan Guyenet presented the idea that hard wired economic preferences lead humans to overeat. He outlined how obesity has skyrocketed in the past century, with readily available convenience/fast foods. To combat obesity, he proposes a public health movement to impose a tax on convenience/fast foods, thereby raising their cost and diminishing their perceived value.
Chris Masterjohn, PhD, outlined the body’s delicate balance of Vitamin D in the forms of calcidiol and calcitriol, with serum calcium. He proposes that parathyroid hormone, rather than vitamin D levels, may provide a more accurate picture of the dynamic state of bone health at any one point in time.
The event concluded with a panel discussion addressing questions from the audience. Most impressive was the team approach embraced by all; ego was checked outside the hall, and the presenters interacted with a desire to learn from one another, and, from the audience. What a refreshing approach to medicine; collaborative brainstorming, with respect for the experience and insight of all. Having been a student at UCSF, I observed this approach to be completely in league with the team based learning I had experienced here. While many medical symposiums can convey a dizzying array of facts and figures, leaving the audience impressed but stunned as to what to do with them all, this team presented all facts within a holistic, empowering framework, leaving us ready to take active steps for ourselves, and our community. Transformative results are possible with simple shifts directed at the core of our health, the microbiome.
Vigorous rounds of deep inhalations and exhalations filled the small Storey Fitness Studio last weekend, the sound of driving chanting music and voices of coaches Chris Tai Melodista & Jared Tavasolian powerfully encouraging us onward, despite our fatigue. Though I was merely breathing, the volume and pace of my breaths led me to feel that I was sprinting for my life. After multiple rounds of this intense work, we plunged into a bath of ice water, testing our ability to withstand extremes thorugh our mental focus. I was learning the Wim Hof Method.
Wim Hof, a Dutch "daredevil", has been called The Iceman due to his ability to withstand extreme cold. Through his training in extreme temperatures and intense breathwork, he has upregulated his immune function, blood oxygen content, and resiliency to stress. More about his work, and the science behind it, can be found at; http://www.icemanwimhof.com/innerfire.
My personal case study of one, resulted in a deep sense of calm, relief of pain and inflammation, heightened mental acuity, joy and mental presence. The day was fatiguing, but left me revived and in a high performance state for the week. When I practice the Wim Hof style of breathing during my High Intensity Interval Training, I feel my legs moving easily beneath me and I achieve higher speeds with seemingly less work. While I am a novice at this, I do feel its benefit and am grateful for the intensive focus Jared and Chris provided. The workshop inspired me to infuse the work into my daily life and teachings. Joseph Pilates was a strong believer in the power of the breath to achieve high mental and physical states. He called it the, "Internal Shower", and began his matwork with the vigorous breathing of The Hundred exercise. While we are all aware of the essential quality of breath to our lives, we tend to live within a small, contained amount of it. A study of the Wim Hof method amplified my breathwork practice and I am eagerly bringing this forward to my students.
And, while it's not a plunge into an ice bath, my daily dive into the cold ocean is a definite endorphin boost. Try adding deep breaths and a 30 second cold shower to your daily routine, and let me know your results.
Here's to upregulating your health,
This month I was fortuante to host a workshop with dancer, movement teacher, and health/wellness coach, Niedra Gabriel. Having studied and taught around the world, Niedra brought a summary of her current thoughts on detox, hydration and remineralization to our group in Malibu. Following Niedra's presentation and explanation of the scientific principles behind the techniques, all attendees were alive with questions and hungry for more. A weekend workshop is in development.
Niedra described how to work with different types of water for different results. Purified distilled water is the most pure clean water available and will have a cleansing or rinsing effect on the body. It will dissolve waste and inorganic elements out of our tissues, so drinking distilled water for cleansing effects is very therapeutic.
Water bubbling up from the earth is rich in dense minerals, however, subsequent transport, filtration, distillation, and storage processes lead to essentially "dead' water, deplete of minerals. Minerals such as magnesium, sodium, chloride, and many others, are essential to life; cell signaling/communication depends upon the electrical (ionic) charges of minerals in solution. Bone and tissue health depend upon the correct composition of minerals in the blood and fluid systems. Hormone regulation, muscle activation, nervous system function, and essentially all life processes, depend on a delicate balance of minerals in the body.
One simple way to add minerals back into filtered/distilled water is with Celtic sea salt (choose the dark grey kind) or Himalayan salt. A pinch of either in a liter of water can help remineralize your body and lead to enhanced uptake of water into your cells. Without it, you may be losing much of the water you drink, leaving you essentially dehydrated. Niedra likes this source of ionic magnesium and trace minerals (it is believed 80% of the population is deficient in magnesium). Many forms of magnesium are of too large a particle size to be absorbed effectively by the cells; therefore this ionic source, or a transdermal spray are recommended.
One of my favorite hydration habits is drinking two glasses of warm water with fresh squeezed lemon on waking. The body has been working hard to process and detoxify all night long, and a lemon water "internal shower" is a refreshing, energizing way to start the day.
Niedra showed us other hydration ideas, including a beautiful blue green algae water (I will start mine tonight), and shared many ideas about detox including saunas, skin brushing, gu sha, and a vodka skin cleanser (yes, vodka!).
Many thanks to Niedra for her generous sharing of her lifelong studies and wisdom. Stay tuned for information on upcoming weekend workshops. Enjoy the hydration and revitalization.
More information about Niedra's work and events can be found at;
Upgrade your Potential your Vitality and your Joy of Life
Using simple yet profound home protocols.
Would you like to
Detoxify and rebuild?
Increase your flexibility.?
Reduce inflammation and pain?
Increase your energy and vitality,?
Rejuvenate your face? your skin?
The protocols covered in this talk/workshop will enhance the above and more -
I will be hosting this workshop with health and movement dynamo, Niedra Gabriel (30 years in the health and fitness industry).
Niedra is back on the mainland after three weeks of intensive study, detoxification and healing with leading toxicologist, Dr. Cassar in Hawaii.
Niedra will be giving a workshop in Malibu to share her latest simple yet profound techniques.
Join us Wednesday February 17, 6:30 - 8:30pm for an evening of up regulating / up spiraling.
To rsvp , call Niedra Gabriel 805 535 8968 .
Address will be disclosed upon registration.
FB : Niedra Gabriel coach
Do you want to feel vibrant, heal painful joints, think with clarity, and have enduring energy?
Bone broth can kickstart your process.
Upon hearing Dr. KellyAnn Petrucci's interview with Dave Asprey on my Bulletproof podcast station, I am compelled to write an entry, once again, encouraging all to consider adding bone broth to their diet. My own experience has been illustrative of the tranformative power this brew.
Following my professional dance career, I found myself in a state of overwork and physical breakdown. I would wake in the mornings with brain fog, depression, pain that felt like knives driving into my hips, and instability so grave I was not sure I had to calculate how to walk across the room. I felt like a jellyfish with no stable internal structure. My fascia had broken down. At the age of thirty-nine, my highly demanding physical schedule, and inadequate nourishment (I was eating plenty…but not the fats, cholesterol, and protein that I needed) had led my body to say, "no more". With the guidance of my mentor, Lenny Parracino, I learned about the healing power of bone broth and collagen, healthy fats, and a diet steeped in the principles of Dr. Cate Shanahan's, Deep Nutrition.
By incorporating bone broth into my daily diet, along with more healthy fats and grass fed protein, over a period of months I began to emerge from my broken state, and within a year I was transformed. I was elated to feel my body return to a state of agile strength and elasticity. My mood rebounded to my normal positive, highly motivated self. Clarity of mental focus and highly diminished pain added to my joy.
This miraculous transformation is one I am driven to share and hope it may inspire others to heal themselves. Our cells are hungry for proper nourishment. By eliminating toxins and returning to a diet based on whole foods, held sacred by our ancestors for their healing properties, we can reboot our health from within. An incredibly powerful healing resource for the gut (gastrointestinal integrity is foundational to all health), brain/nervous system, bones, joints and soft tissues, bone broth is a simple, delicious food that I cannot recommend highly enough. Enjoy the transformation you can create within yourself.
An excerpt from an article by Kelly McGonigal, PhD, Idea Fitness Journal, Sept 18, 2015, highlights how we can change our brain function and structure through movement:
"Exercise has shown tremendous promise as a neuroprotective intervention (Fleshner et al. 2011; Head, Singh & Bugg, 2012; McEwen 2012). Research has identified several ways that exercise protects the brain from stress—and even reverses the effects of chronic stress on the brain (Stranahan & Mattson 2012; Rothman & Mattson 2012). Exercise increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which maintains brain health, supports brain growth and combats the negative effects of stress. Exercise seems to enhance BDNF specifically in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, the two regions most susceptible to stress-related damage. Exercise also triggers the brain’s self-repair processes, which may help reverse any stress-related neurotoxicity. Finally, exercise activates the brain’s stress-calming system, releasing a neurotransmitter called GABA, which helps restore balance in the autonomic nervous system. When we exercise regularly, we naturally engage all of these neuroprotective processes. Over time, exercise can create a “stress-resistant” brain that is less sensitive to threat and recovers more quickly from stress (Fleshner et al. 2011)."
As the holiday spirit comes upon us, stressors of all sorts manifest, and with them come surges of cortisol and adrenaline. Highly valuable in fight of flight situations (powering the body to attack or flee from danger), these stress hormones can cause damage to the body when not physically utilized. The answer; MOVE! A 10 minute walk outdoors, stretch session, run, swim, or other physical activity will burn up excess stress hormones, upregulate metabolism (to balance your intake of holiday treats), and restore a sense of personal power, focus and calm. Give yourself the gift of at least 10 minutes of focused movement every day, and notice the rewards you see and feel.
As I was packing boxes this week, on the move once again, I tuned in to one of my favorite podcast stations, the Optimizer. I was inspired by idea that "disciplined practice leads to optimal experiences and the flow state". When we lead our lives with disciplined focus, we guide ourselves to do the work necessary to achieve our goals, feel the flow state, and the exhilaration of moving forward. No one can do this for us. And the reward is invaluable. This month, reward yourself for expressions of your disciplined practice, in whatever field you are passionate about. Some of my favorite inspiring and informative podcasts in human performance and health include; Optimize, Primal Blueprint, Katy Says, BulletProof Radio, and Revolution Health Radio. The podcast app makes it easy to tune in to these stations and learn while on the move! And to enhance your disciplined practice, join me for NEW evening group REFORMER CLASSES at Malibu Fitness. Contact me for details. To your health!