Over 10 years ago, I found myself in the Royal Hospital in London in front of a old, white haired doctor who was delivering the frightening news that I had cancer. I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. I had recently started a study abroad program in London. While on a run one day in Hyde Park, I realized something wasn’t right with my body. It was hard to breathe while doing what I would normally consider a pretty routine workout. On top of that, a lump had started to form on the side of my neck and it was getting bigger each day. I decided to finally tell my mom who insisted that I see a doctor right away. Two days later, I received the news that I had Lymphoma after an x-ray showed a tumor in my chest that was the size of a small football and blood tests showed there was something terribly wrong inside. It turns out, the tumor in my chest was so large it was blocking my airways and making it hard for me to breathe. I needed to return home to Los Angeles for treatment immediately. I was shocked, confused, and frustrated by the news. Why me? How could I have cancer? What was I going to do now?
When I returned home, I was lucky to have a very supportive family who found me a great team of doctors at USC Norris Cancer Center. After five months of experimental chemotherapy treatment and several weeks of radiation therapy, I was told by my doctors that the cancer was gone. I had successfully gone into remission. Along the way, I battled through some terrible days of treatment and a lot of mixed emotions. My body was beaten up – I had lost 40 pounds and instead of going to the gym regularly, I found myself sleeping a lot more. My workout was going for a short walk occasionally to clear my mind. On those walks, I would stare out from a cliff overlooking the Rose Bowl and just reflect about life, my family, friends, and all the things I wanted to do when I got better. Things became a lot simpler – I stopped worrying about all the silly stuff and focused on what really mattered – getting healthy again. I was thankful to have an wonderful family to support me, several close friends, and an amazing team of doctors who wouldn’t give up on me.
I promised myself that when I got better, I would spend more time giving back and appreciating all that I was given. I also promised myself that I would get back in shape and start feeling alive again. In 2004, I ran the Los Angeles Marathon with a team of 10 loosely connected friends from New York who were all passionate about finding a cure for cancer. We raised $60,000 for cancer and I proved to myself that I was healthy again. I started volunteering with a New York City based cancer charity as a finance committee member and helped organize various charity events in the city. Then in 2009, I was asked by a friend to join the LIVESTRONG Young Leaders Cancer Council ("YLCC"), a group of 20 young adults focused on broadening the organization’s reach, impact, and success in the fight against cancer. By working with LIVESTRONG on various initiatives focused on improving the lives of cancer patients and survivors, I found a way to give back in a way that really hits home every day.
After working with Sean Rogers and Matt Keller on the initial business plan for CMC, it became clear to me that LIVESTRONG would be a great partner. For the first CMC event at Camelback Mountain last September, a group of LIVESTRONG supporters and athletic minded individuals decided to form Team LIVESTRONG and compete in the race together. There was no better feeling than crossing that finish line with a "Survivor" Race Tag pinned to my shorts.
Most of you know that I live my life according to the rules of my genetic make-up. In the pursuance of optimal health and a long life, I try to follow a diet and lifestyle that is reflective of the life that was lived by our ancestors.
Unfortunately, it is not as easy for me to achieve optimal health because of the changes in the environment within which I am forced to live. Grok didn’t have to use supplements, because all of his dietary needs were met by simply eating the nutrient dense foods and drinking the mineral dense water in his untouched environment. Unlike Grok, my world is filled with toxic chemicals and pesticides, and is void of nutrient rich soil and mineral dense water.
Because of this fact, I have to supplement my diet in order to meet the necessary nutritional requirements. Even with a perfect diet, filled with organic vegetables and grass fed meat, the soil from which they grew has been stripped of all minerals and nutrients from years of poor farming, and will not provide me with nearly enough nutrients to meet my needs. One of these needs, and by far, one of the most critical minerals that exists, is zinc.
According to Ananda S. Prasad, MD, PhD, at Wayne State University, the world’s shift from consumption of meat proteins to grains containing high levels of fibers known as phytates may precipitate a deficiency in zinc. In addition to phytates, other known causes of zinc deficiency include surgery, malabsorption issues ( caused by eating grains and sugar), being an athlete, excessive alcohol intake, fasting, illegal drug use, chronic diseases (including sickle cell anemia, thyroid issues, renal and liver diseases), lack of zinc in food crops grown in zinc depleted soils, dependence on processed foods, vegetarianism, and long term exposure to environmental toxins. Maintaining adequate levels of zinc, is CRITICAL to achieving optimal health.
Whenever I test my athletes for the first time, roughly 98 % show up as being zinc deficient. It’s so common that I now assume that all my new athletes are zinc deficient until they can prove otherwise. The problem with this is that zinc is synergistic to many other nutrients. This means, that without sufficient levels of zinc, not much else can be absorbed properly, and your immune system and your metabolism become compromised.
A weak immune system creates a cascade of other problems that can have extremely detrimental effects on your health. One of these effects is hormone disruption. Low zinc levels can create low serum testosterone, and can therefore contribute to a decrease in lean body mass. This is a huge problem for athletes trying to get lean and strong. As soon as I restore their zinc levels ( with MASSIVE amounts taken in a short amount of time), they normally drop 3-4% bodyfat right away.
In addition to losing lean body mass, zinc deficiencies can contribute to the storage of fat. When you eat food, it is either converted into fat or energy. If you metabolism is inadequate, you will not be able to convert the food into usable energy and you will store the food in your adipose tissue. The result: weight gain.
Whether food is burned or stored is determined by a number of chemical reactions that take place in your body. These are activated by enzymes, which are, in turn, dependent upon vitamins and minerals. It is recognized that zinc is actually involved in more than 80 hormone processes and 300 enzyme processes! Therefore, even a slight zinc deficiency will cause weight gain.
Zinc is also an important mineral in appetite control and a deficiency can cause a loss of taste and smell, creating a need for stronger tasting foods (which tend to be sweeter, saltier and more fattening!) Zinc also functions with vitamins A and E to manufacture the thyroid hormones.
Finally, zinc is also a necessary catalyst to the process of removing toxins from your body. If zinc is low, toxins remain stagnant in your body and will eventually be absorbed by adipose tissue. As soon as your adipose tissue starts to store toxins, it now plays a critical role in the protection of your body. As a result, your body will do whatever is necessary to hold onto that fat, and you will never lose weight.
Because zinc is such an essential nutrient, it is crucial that the source of zinc we use is the highest quality available. And to bring zinc levels up, I recommend much higher than normal dosages, so the source of zinc must be carefully considered. Therefore, I recommend Poliquin’s ÜberZinc. When using high dosages of zinc, I don’t want to be concerned with lots of other vitamins or minerals being mega dosed with it, so ÜberZinc is just zinc chelated (i.e., combined) with either aspartate or orotate. These two amino acid chelates have been scientifically proven to be much better absorbed than typical zinc supplements.
Let me know if you would like to be tested for zinc deficiency, or if you would like to order Uberzinc.
by Sarah Scholl – Power X Training
Eat well? It will not matter until you restore this important component of your digestive system:
Recently, a lot of my clients have been feeling overwhelmed with the amount of information that I throw at them on a daily basis. The truth is, they should be. There are so many factors involved in achieving optimal health and optimal body composition, that breaking it down into easy-to-follow directions is not possible, and pointless in my opinion. While it is not necessary to explain and describe the detailed processes that occur in your body, it is necessary to provide you with enough information, so that you can make educated decisions about your own health. I hear so many people talking about how many vitamins they take, and how well they eat.
That fact of the matter is, they are probably only scratching the surface when it comes to taking control of their health. For example, it is possible to take all the vitamins in the world and not absorb a single one if you do not have a healthy digestive system. Proper digestion, absorption, and utilization of the foods is CRITICAL to nourishing our cells, tissues, and organs effectively. In fact, I have come to believe that the digestive tract and its function may be the single most important body component determining health and disease.
Your stomach, small intestine, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, and large intestine are the primary organs involved in the digestive process. Additionally, the emotions, stress level, and balance within the endocrine and nervous systems also affect digestive functioning. If there is one glitch in this complicated system, there can be a cascade of other issues that will follow, and when your digestive system is not working, as it should, you fail to absorb the nutrients that you need.
One of the major players in the digestive process is an acid called hydrochloric acid ( HCl). Decreased HCl production may lead to poor digestion, with symptoms such as gas, bloating, and discomfort after meals. HCl is also a stimulus to pancreatic secretions, containing the majority of enzymes that actively break down foods. The poor digestion of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates then further contributes to poor assimilation and nutritional problems.
Thus, in addition to HCl, supplemental support of digestive enzymes may be even more critical to restoring the health of your gut. You can consume exceptionally healthy, nutrient rich food, but if you do not have adequate hydrochloric acid in your stomach, you will not break it down properly and your body will not be able to utilize it. So while you think you are getting what you need, you are actually slowly becoming deficient.
Research shows that the natural level of hydrochloric acid (HCl) and digestive enzymes decrease as we age or if we abuse our gastrointestinal tracts and whole bodies through food excesses, chemical use, and stress. One of the reasons stress causes rapid aging is because it diminishes HCl production and weakens digestion. I’m talking about the low-grade, long-term, emotionally oriented life stress. Constant worriers and high-achieving “Type A” individuals have an ongoing stress that is associated with low HCl production and therefore, a host of other problems.
Iron deficiency anemia, owing to poor iron absorption, and osteoporosis, resulting in part from decreased calcium absorption, are two common problems. General allergies and, specifically, food allergies are correlated with low HCl. Poor food breakdown and the “leaky gut” syndrome are associated with food allergies( article on allergies next week). More than half the people with gallstones show decreased HCl secretion compared with gallstone-free patients. Diabetics have lower secretion, as do people with eczema, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, vitiligo, and tooth and periodontal disease. With low stomach acid levels, there can be an increase in bacteria, yeasts, and parasites growing in the intestines as well.
It is common for athletes to suffer from HCL depletion because of the high levels of physical and mental stress that they endure. Before I give them any supplements, I make sure that they have adequate levels of HCL in their stomachs. I perform a simple test by giving them a handful of HCL to bring home. They are told to take one capsule in the middle of a meal to start. If they feel nothing (looking out for a warm sensation in the stomach), then they are told to increase the number of capsules by one each time they eat until they reach 7. If an athlete reaches 7 capsules and still does not feel a warm sensation, than their HCl production is extremely low and I put them on a dose of 7 HCl capsules with every single meal containing protein.
A lot of my athletes will tell me, “I don’t want to take this forever!” Fortunately, they don’t have to. It may take a while, but eventually, the HCl levels should be restored and the supplements will no longer be needed. That being said, if the same stressful lifestyle continues, and they continue to eat poorly and expose themselves to toxic environments, then the HCl production will again be compromised.
One thing that you can do to help restore your HCl levels is to take niacin, vitamin B3, as these will help to stimulate the production. These should be taken before meals, as can magnesium chloride a pyridoxal-5-phosphate( the active form of vitamin B6) to help stimulate the body’s own HCl. In addition, drinking the juice of half a lemon squeezed in water or a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass of warm water 20 minutes before meals will also help. Herbs such as rosemary and spices like ginger, cumin and orange peel can be seeped into warm water, making a tea that will help the HCl production before meals.
If you would like to test your HCl levels, come see me and I will provide you with the tester capsules.
by Sarah Scholl – Power X Training
Most of my clients are semi-aware of ‘health’ issues because they make a moderate effort to read, hear things in passing, and talk to friends. They know that getting their D3 levels tested is important, but probably do not know why. By going to a regular medical practitioner (notice I do not use the word doctor, because going to medical school does not qualify anyone in my opinion), they learn that their levels of ‘D’ are either adequate or deficient according to the ‘norm.’
The problem is that the ‘norm’ is the average D3 levels of the obese, unhealthy population. The norm that they use as a benchmark is 25 mg/ml. The norm that should be used as a benchmark is 80-100 ng/ml!! Studies show, 99% of the population above the Mason Dixon line are deficient in D3. Even if your practitioner says that your levels are fine, they are NOT.
The scientific literature is overwhelmed with data that confirm what all these experts have seen. The bottom line is that virtually every disease and adverse health condition is associated with low vitamin D3 levels. Consequently, many of these problems may be fixed with adequate vitamin D3 supplementation, or can be avoided by keeping vitamin D3 levels in the high normal range.
For a long time vitamin D3 was simply regarded as the anti-rickets and bone health vitamin – an underwhelming bit of evidence. Because it was originally labeled as a vitamin, it was assumed that it was something that only needed to be taken by those who don’t “eat well.” Most clients tell me, “I drink milk, I don’t need calcium of Vitamin D3.” The details of this will be saved for another article, but the bottom line is, that is ignorant.
Dairy makes your body acidic, and in an acidic environment, calcium and minerals are leached from your body in a struggle to make your body alkaline again. Even if you ate perfectly, flooding your system with dark leafy greens and basking in the sun for hours a day, chances are you STILL need to supplement with D3. It is no longer considered to be a vitamin. Now it is more properly recognized as a prohormone that is essential to life. Even if it were only good for bone health, vitamin D3 still would be an important supplement, but the benefits go way beyond just bone health.
Charles Poliquin has compiled a comprehensive list of peer reviewed research on the importance of vitamin D3. If you do not have time to actually read the research (I understand), just look at the titles of the studies and you will get the idea.
1. Rickets, bone density, osteoporosis, osteopenia, osteomalacia: Low levels of vitamin D contribute to osteopenia and fractures. JAMA. 2002;287:3127-3129.
2. Fetal brain development and maternal health: Med Hypotheses. 2010 Jan;74(1):71-5. Epub 2009 Aug 18.
3. Psoriasis: “Hyperproliferative skin disorders such as psoriasis might be responsive to treatment with vitamin D….” “[Treatment with vitamin D] …showed great improvement in reducing the severity and area of psoriatic lesions.” Holick, MF. High prevalence of vitamin D inadequacy and implications for health. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2006 Mar;81(3):353-73.
4. Cancer: “Both prospective and retrospective epidemiologic studies indicate that levels of 25-OH D below 20 ng [nanograms] per milliliter are associated with a 30 to 50% increased risk of incident colon, prostate, and breast cancer, along with higher mortality from these cancers….” “Vitamin D either directly or indirectly controls more than 200 genes, including genes responsible for the regulation of cellular proliferation, differentiation, apoptosis, and angiogenesis.” Holick MF. Vitamin D deficiency. N Engl J Med. 2007;357(3):266-81.
5. Blood sugar regulation and insulin resistance: “Vitamin D deficiency increased insulin resistance, decreased insulin production, and was associated with the metabolic syndrome.” Holick MF. Vitamin D deficiency. N Engl J Med. 2007;357(3):266-81.
6. Depression and other neurological concerns: “Several studies suggest an association between hypovitaminosis D and basic and executive cognitive functions, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.” Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2009 Feb;11(1):12-9.
7. Multiple Sclerosis: “High circulating levels of vitamin D are associated with a lower risk of multiple sclerosis.” JAMA. 2006;296:2832.
8. Immune function: “When serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D fall below 20 ng per milliliter, the monocyte or macrophage is prevented from initiating this innate immune response” Holick MF. Vitamin D deficiency. N Engl J Med. 2007;357(3):266-81.
9. Cold, flu, and respiratory tract infection: shortened duration of symptoms in study of African women.
10. Symptoms associated with autoimmune conditions: Vitamin D deficiency affects the immune system’s capacity to self-regulate and can therefore lead to tissue damage via overproduction of potentially pathogenic cytokines.
11. Hypertension and congestive heart failure: “In a study of patients with hypertension who were exposed to ultraviolet B radiation three times a week for 3 months, 25-OH D levels increased by approximately 180% and blood pressure became normal.” “Vitamin D deficiency is associated with congestive heart failure.” Holick MF. Vitamin D deficiency. N Engl J Med. 2007;357(3):266-81.
12. Muscle mass and strength: “Vitamin D deficiency causes muscle weakness.” “Performance speed and proximal muscle strength were markedly improved when 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels increase from 4 to 16 ng per milliliter (10 to 40 nmol [nanomole] per liter) and continued to improve as the levels increase to more than 40ng per milliliter (100 nmol per liter). Holick MF. Vitamin D deficiency. N Engl J Med. 2007;357(3):266-81.
13. Weight Loss: “For every increase of 1 ng/mL in level of 25-OH D3, subjects ended up losing almost 0.2 kg more on their calorie-restricted diet.” Shalamar Sibley, prepublication report for the Endocrine Society’s 91st Annual Meeting.
14. And even longevity, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, thyroid conditions…
…and this just scratches the surface of the research!
Taking a regular D3 supplement in small doses will not restore your deficiency. Poliquin recommends flooding your system for 3 weeks and then taking a maintenance dose, assuming that your levels are adequate at that point. For more information on this protocol, please come see me. I take Poliquin’s D3 Excellence and can order it for you.
by Sarah Scholl – Power X Training