Located in Sterling, VA (703) 421-1200

May 2022

All You Have to Do is Nothing

I recently watched a lecture from several years ago given by Dr. Doug McGuff, who is the co-author of "Body by Science" and "The Primal Prescription." Both books are must-reads, in my opinion, for anyone that wants to learn the nuts and bolts of exercise as well as the paleolithic nutritional philosophy. Dr. McGuff is an emergency room physician and the owner of Ultimate Exercise (a studio with the same philosophy as Total Results) in Seneca, South Carolina, and is a highly sought-after speaker. In the above-mentioned lecture, Dr. McGuff spoke about the pitfalls of the current U.S. medical and insurance systems, and the picture that he painted was not a pretty one.

Dr. McGuff gave an interesting history lesson on how the system got to this point, and detailed the origins of medical insurance going back to the Great Depression (much of this was talked about in "The Primal Prescription"). The good doctor's advice is to stay out of the medical system at all costs, because it is a chaotic mess as it's currently constructed. This is unlikely to change anytime soon; in fact, it's likely to get worse. He treats an increasing number of patients that are suffering from chronic, rather than acute conditions, and he describes his emergency room as crowded and short-staffed. Frankly, it doesn't sound like somewhere I would want to be. During the question and answer period at the end of the lecture, someone from the crowd asked how Americans became so collectively unhealthy. The doctor's answer was pretty simple: all you have to do to become chronically diseased is nothing.

Physiologic headroom can be defined as the difference between the most that you can physically do and the least you can physically do. When those two points overlap, death occurs. Dr. McGuff also pointed out that, "The essence of life is fighting entropy." Entropy can be defined as, "Lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder." The sad truth is that an increasing number of Americans are suffering from chronic disease, which in turn increases everyone's medical and insurance costs. If you go to any place where a large number of people gather (stadium, amusement park, airport, or even the grocery store), you will likely see a startling number of people who are obese, look generally unhealthy, or use some form of assistance to get around. From my office front door, I see diseased people walking in and out of Quest Diagnostics every day. Many of them have canes, walkers, wheelchairs, and oxygen tanks. This is sad to see, and even more disappointing to know that it was preventable. The infirmities that these people suffer from didn't happen by accident; it is a product of one's lifestyle.

If you regularly consume processed foods and refined sugars, cook with vegetable oils, take prescription medications, smoke, drink excessively, and do nothing to improve your strength, functionality, and immune system, this can happen to you! Remember, to become diseased, all you have to do is nothing. Over 100,000 people in the U.S. die each year from taking the prescribed dosage of medication as instructed by their physician. Yes, you read that correctly: the prescribed amount. Why is there no outrage from our elected officials or the FDA, and why is there little to no accountability from the pharmaceutical companies? Dr. Jennifer Daniels, a board-certified physician, posted two videos on YouTube, titled "Murder by Medicine", that detail how this happens. They are worth watching. While we're on the subject of medicine and bureaucrats, Dr. Anthony Fauci has been considered (at least by the establishment) as "America's Medical Authority" for nearly 40 years. During that time, the rate of chronic disease in this country has skyrocketed, yet he has kept his job. During the height of the Covid insanity two years ago, did Fauci ever talk about preventative measures? No, it was largely about quarantining the healthy and waiting for FDA approval for a "vaccine." Not once did I hear Fauci talk about the importance of proper nutrition, exposure to sunlight, supplementing with Vitamin D, exercise, or anything that might boost one's immune system against Covid, which is a virus that disproportionately affected the diseased and the elderly. This just underscores the fact that you cannot sit around and wait for your government or establishment medicine to take care of you.

How do we keep this from happening to us? Educate yourself and be your own advocate. There is a wealth of information out there from numerous reputable, non-establishment sources. Modern medicine has devolved into doctors examining a patient for less than five minutes before writing a prescription. Do not blindly follow what your doctor says, simply because he or she wears a white coat! Challenge your doctor to consider alternative therapies and natural treatments. If they are not comfortable with being questioned or open to a discussion, consider finding a new doctor. Consume a diet largely consisting of single-ingredient whole foods. This will give you the most bang for your buck, and help you to meet all of your body's nutritional requirements. What you put into your body is going to have the greatest impact on your outward appearance. When you shop for groceries, stick to the perimeter of the store. The most nutritional food (meats, produce, dairy, etc.) is on the outer edge, and the junk you don't want is typically in the middle aisles. Proper supplementation will help to fill in any nutritional gaps and boost your immune system. I recommend taking the following: zinc, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, fish oil, and magnesium.

Get regular exposure to sunlight. One of the worst consequences of the draconian Covid lockdown was that people spent way too much time indoors. Allowing the sun to shine on your skin in reasonable doses helps the body to produce Vitamin D, which is essential for health. Strive to get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night, with a consistent bed and wake time each day. Limit your exposure to artificial light in the hour or so just before bed, as this can disrupt your body's production of melatonin. Stress management is also key. Practice mindfulness, meditation, or some other means of quieting down your brain in order to relieve stress and improve sleep.

Finally, exercise! One or two high-intensity Total Results workouts will do wonders for reestablishing functional independence, improving insulin sensitivity, increasing metabolic and cardiovascular conditioning, and will build a level of strength that makes everyday tasks much easier to perform. It doesn't matter where you are now; all that matters is that you have the desire and fortitude to get to where you want to go. Less than one hour a week is all that you need. Don't wait; DO IT NOW!

Posted May 26, 2022 by Matthew Romans

"The Brain's Way of Healing" - A Book Review

Norman Doidge, M.D., is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst at the Toronto Institute of Psychoanalysis. He has written over 170 articles, many of which are academic papers on neuroplasticity, so he has extensive knowledge and experience on the subject. Dr. Doidge first wrote "The Brain That Changes Itself" in 2007 (which, in the interest of full disclosure, I have not read), and he followed that up with "The Brain's Way of Healing" in 2015. This book takes up the mantle where the previous book left off, and the central concept is that of the aforementioned neuroplasticity, which is "the ability of neural networks in the brain to change through growth and reorganization." Neuroplasticity is a relatively new theory in the study of how the brain works, and for many years scientists believed that the brain's abilities were static, particularly in the case of traumatic brain injury and genetic disorders. While this field is still evolving, there is a significant amount of scientific and anecdotal evidence presented in this book that supports Dr. Doidge's (and many other scientists') theories, and gives hope to people suffering from numerous brain difficulties.

I think it is important to briefly discuss what Dr. Doidge calls "the stages of neuroplastic healing." The first stage is neurostimulation. In this stage dormant circuits in the injured brain are revived, so that homeostasis can be achieved. Next is neuromodulation. This is where the balance between neural excitation and inhibition is restored, and the noisy brain is quieted. The brain cannot heal if it is stuck in a hyper-anxious state. The third stage is neurorelaxation, and here is where toxic buildups and waste products can be discharged from the brain through the cerebral spinal fluid. It also leads to more restful sleep. Finally, neurodifferentiation and learning occur. The brain is now rested and the circuits can regulate themselves.

The first chapter of the book discusses the nature of chronic pain and contrasts it with acute pain. Dr. Doidge talks with Michael Moskowitz, M.D., who is a psychiatrist-turned-pain-specialist who has had his own experiences dealing with chronic pain (he once suffered a broken femur). The author sums up the difference between acute and chronic pain by saying, "Acute pain is a sensation we feel, an 'input' that comes into the brain from the bottom up, from our sense receptors. But chronic pain is more complex and more a top-down process." Dr. Moskowitz believes that a person suffers from chronic pain because the cause of the acute pain has never truly been remedied, which causes damage to the central nervous system. He is convinced that, "The body's alarm system is stuck in the 'on' position." Our brain has "maps" for pain that get damaged and continuously send false alarms; we think that the problem is in our body, when it's really in our brain. Dr. Moskowitz has his patients work to rewire and repair those maps by simply performing those activities that are painful, as a way of counter stimulating the brain and weakening the pain circuits. He also uses visualization techniques in order to stimulate neurons and activate portions of the brain that have been underutilized. Slowly but surely, the majority of his patients have seen their chronic pain decrease and even disappear. This is a far more effective and safer strategy than using opioid drugs to simply treat the symptoms. As Dr. Moskowitz says, "I don't believe in pain management anymore. I believe in trying to cure persistent pain."

Dr. Doidge profiles a South African man named John Pepper, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in the mid 1990's, although he had first started showing symptoms in the late 1960s. Medications that he was given to treat the symptoms of the disease had started to wear off after about five years, and his abilities had slowly started to diminish. The cognitive and physical decline in Parkinson's patients is often self-fulfilling. As their abilities recede, there can be less incentive to try and use what they have, which often sends them spiraling further downhill. As the author says, "...Our brains are more likely to waste away from underuse than to wear away from overuse." The same is likely true for our physical capabilities. Pepper decided to start a regular walking program, beginning slowly and covering short distances (with days in between for recovery) before working his way up to greater intensity and mileage. Because the effects of Parkinson's had done damage to his basal ganglia (the brain's subcortical nuclei that control motor learning and executive functions), Pepper had to do this very consciously and deliberately, in order to avoid injury and maximize the benefit. This regimen has worked wonders for him, arresting his Parkinson's symptoms and giving him a freedom of life that many sufferers of the disease could only hope to attain. In order to stimulate his brain, he also does crossword puzzles, plays chess, and learns French. He finds that when he decreases his activity his symptoms increase, so he stays as consistent as possible. Movement has been shown to be an effective treatment for other degenerative diseases, such as Huntington's and Alzheimer's. As Dr. Doidge puts it, "Perhaps the worst thing a patient can do, on getting the diagnosis, is to decrease their activity."

Light therapy and music therapy are emerging treatments that are discussed in detail. Low-level lasers help the body to harness its own energy, improve circulation, trigger the development of collagen tissue (which makes bone, tendons, ligaments, and even skin), and promote healing in a variety of conditions, such as fibromyalgia, joint injuries, traumatic brain injury, and some psychiatric disorders. Better still, there are no side effects. The positive effects of low-intensity lasers have been known to scientists since 1965, yet sadly, the FDA did not approve its use in the United States until 2002. Just think of how many lives could have been improved in that time frame! Music therapy has also been shown to be an effective treatment for children with dyslexia and autism. Dr. Doidge details the work of Alfred Tomatis and Paul Madaule, who have made great strides in the arena of music therapy. According to the author, this therapy works because, "The music in sound therapy turns on and enhances the connection between brain areas that process positive reward (which gives us a feeling of pleasure when we accomplish something) and the insula, a cortical area of the brain that is involved in paying attention." He adds that, "Since neurons fire in unison to music, music is a way to change the rhythms of the brain." Music therapy has been shown to improve the cognitive and social abilities of children with Down's Syndrome as well.

Exercise and lifestyle are also mentioned in the book, which was refreshing to see. Dr. Doidge lists five factors that will promote the general health of neurons. These include exercise (which is, "...the most powerful contributor to decreased risk of both general cognitive decline and dementia."), a healthy diet, normal body weight (defined as a BMI of between 18 and 25), low alcohol intake, and no smoking. These are the things that we should be doing every day. Dr. Doidge appropriately quotes late author Norman Mailer, "Every moment of one's existence one is growing into more or retreating into less. One is always living a little more or dying a little bit." If we don't use it, we lose it.

This book is pretty heavy reading at times. It took me a while to finish, and even now I'm not sure that I absorbed all the information, but "The Brain's Way of Healing" solidifies my belief in exploring ideas outside of the traditional viewpoint of the medical establishment. Dr. Doidge writes very well; he takes a complex subject and makes it interesting by relating stories of real people and their astonishing recoveries that traditional medicine did not think were possible. I see some distinct parallels between the growth mindset (the viewpoint that intelligence and achievement are not simply fixed by genetics) and neuroplasticity (where the brain can improve and heal itself in spite of injury or genetic defect). The information contained in this book can change the way we think about what the brain can do and how it can recover from physical and emotional trauma, and it shows that great things can be achieved with a combination of technology and grit. It is worth reading and just may provide you with some inspiration.

Posted May 13, 2022 by Matthew Romans