Experiment Your Way to a Happy, Healthy Life
If you know me at all, and maybe you have even figured it out just by reading my blogs, you know that I am always trying new things. I do not have that signature dish that I bring to family gatherings because I am constantly trying new recipes. I am always taking some kind of course to learn something new, and I am always experimenting. What works for us at one stage in our lives may stop working for us at another. If you want to stay happy and feeling great, you have to be willing to step out of that box and change things up. I have done this so often over the years and as I have aged, things that used to give me certain results stopped working. I am here to say to you, that when that happens, don’t just accept it. It is not just part of growing old. There is something else that will give you the results you are looking for at different times in your life, so DON’T BE AFRAID TO EXPERIMENT.
I am lucky that my husband is so willing to join me in my experimentation and often he comes up with his own ideas. He wanted to try a three day fast. I was hesitant but have read the many benefits of fasting, including allowing your body to clean up while giving it a break from digesting food. And, heck, maybe I would lose a couple pounds. My husband successfully made it through the 72 hours and felt pretty good. I hit the 60 hour mark and my blood sugar was so low that I was nauseas and dizzy and had to break my fast. I was hoping this was going to kick start a nice keto diet but it was not the best way to get into fat burn for me. My husband took this to the next level and since he is a marathon runner, he is always looking for ways to maintain a good energy level for a long period of exercise. After he fasted for two days, we went on a 35 mile bike ride. His hope was that his body would use fat stores for energy since he had already used up his glycogen. I did not fast this time, learning from my past experiment. Well after 20 miles he hit that infamous “wall” and I thought I was going to have to go get the car and get him. Luckily we were in an area that we could get him some food and after eating, he was able to finish the trip. So those things may have seemed like failed experiments but we both learned a lot about what out bodies need for energy. I have found that I do much better with intermittent fasting. One experiment I would encourage everyone to do is an elimination diet. This is when you remove common allergens, one at a time, from your diet. Things like dairy, gluten, eggs, sugar, and meat. Once you have done some clean eating, things are added back, eating a large amount of each for at least three days and seeing how you feel. A patient of mine just told me how his family did this for one of his children and he ended up with the greatest benefit. Taking dairy out of his diet cleared his acne that he has struggled with for 50 years and stopped the canker sores in his mouth that plagued him so often. The greatest benefit that I have felt from doing this is cutting sugar out of my diet. Before I did this for the first time, years ago, I suffered from blood sugar crashes in the afternoon, leaving me shaky and nauseous. Since cutting sugar out, I no longer have the rollercoaster blood sugar levels. When I did this experiment with my husband, even though we had no real sensitivity to anything, we both felt really good once things were eliminated and we were eating cleanly, which is what led us to a whole food plant based lifestyle. Had we not tried this experiment we would not have known how good we could feel. We tend to accept the way we feel and think of it as normal until we realize that things can be so much better. My latest experiment also has to do with blood sugar. In trying to feel good through the changes of menopause, I did some low carb eating. I also suspected that low nighttime blood sugar was part of my sleep disturbances. I started wearing a continuous glucose monitor so I could see what my blood sugar was doing in the middle of the night. This has been an extremely beneficial experiment. I can see how my blood sugar reacts to everything I eat. My goal in this is to learn what makes my blood sugar spike. We are all a little different is this respect and with my family history of diabetes, I want to avoid becoming insulin resistant and the key to doing that is a nice consistent blood sugar level with few spikes. It is known that all “white” food can cause sugar to spike- white flour, white sugar, white rice, white potatoes. And I found this to be absolutely true for me as well. But one thing I did discover is that there are things you can do to “biohack” this. When I ate some veggie sushi, my blood sugar spiked to near 200mg/dl however when I had a veggie burrito with the same white rice, it only went up to about 120 mg/dl. This is because in the burrito there were many more veggies, which provided fiber, and beans, which provided fiber and protein. In the presence of fiber and protein, your body breaks down sugars much more slowly and this was definitely shown in my blood sugar reading. I also did learn that although my blood sugar can run low at night, it remains pretty stable and was not what was disturbing my sleep- darn hormones. A continuous glucose monitor needs a prescription from your doctor. If you don’t have a diabetes diagnosis, like me, your insurance won’t pay for it. I discovered the FreeStyle Libre sensors cost me $130/month and you don’t need to buy the reader- there is a free app. Even if you do this for just a few months you can learn a lot about your body for a reasonable cost.
Another experiment I did was on my husband- he is such a good sport and the most compliant person on the planet! He was diagnosed with mild sleep apnea and was going to be prescribed a Cpap machine. He really did not want to jump into that so, I have been learning a lot about airway and breathing for my dental practice, and the importance of breathing through the nose. Since Doug had a clear nasal airway and no deviated septum, we put a pulse oximeter on his finger and taped his mouth shut. Since this gave me a little anxiety (although he was fine with it) we started by also using breath right strips to ensure an open nasal passage. In doing this we found that his blood oxygen levels ran much higher, and he slept through the night, waking up less often. I now often recommend this to my patients. Our bodies are all very different and don’t respond to things the same across the board. Even when someone is diagnosed with a “disease” you should think of it as your body being in dis- ease and realize there may be things that you can do to bring ease back into your life. A disease is not a thing, with a life of its own, separate from the person it is affecting. It may take some experimenting, but you will find things that can help you. This realization is what brought me to my new study of Functional Medicine Nutrition Therapy. It requires some digging into not only the roots of a particular problem, but the soil- which is the the new study of epigenetics and how outside influences effect our gene responses. So I encourage you all to experiment. Find what makes you feel good- do not accept any symptoms as normal or part of growing older and live your lives to the fullest, feeling great! I am so excited about being able to offer this to my clients and patients- I do love a good experiment!
Blog written by Dr. Robin Davies, DMD, CHC