Sunday, January 26, 2020

Vitamin D Optimization to Prevent Illness in Winter

Vitamin D is constantly in the news and for good reason.    Optimal levels of Vitamin D have been linked to a host of benefits including prevention and treatment of many key diseases ranging from Osteoporosis to improved heart health with reduction in heart attack risk to prevention of many different types of cancer.  Optimal Vitamin D levels also help prevent acute illness's like colds and flu!

The ideal way to get optimal levels of Vitamin D is to let your body create it through Safe Sun Exposure (see previous blog on this subject here:  However this is easier said then done, and too much sun is clearly a strong risk factor for skin cancer!      Enter Vitamin D supplementation.

The amount and form of Vitamin D supplementation has changed substantially based on lots of emerging research.    The form that should be taken is Vitamin D-3 NOT D-2 form and all experts agree on this!     However when it comes to dosage things get much trickier.      The confusion comes because Vitamin D is really a powerful compound and functions as a hormone in the body.    As such it has profound impact on virtually every system in the body.    In addition it is possible, although very rare, to overdose on Vitamin D supplements so more is NOT always better!

To insure you are taking the right dosage you need to test your levels of Vitamin D.    The test you want is called a 25(OH)D blood test and is offered by all major labs.   You can either ask your doctor to order this test for you OR you can order an in-home test.   You just prick your finger and put a drop of blood on the enclosed paper and send back in to the labs.    You can also order your own blood test online and go to a lab to have blood drawn in the same way your doctor orders the test.   For more information on testing go here:

Ideal versus Acceptable Blood Levels of Vitamin D
There is a big difference between what is considered “acceptable” or okay and ideal blood levels.    Almost all negative vitamin D studies contain a big flaw - they use a fixed dose for people in the study instead of testing and retesting to determine the optimal dosage to achieve ideal blood levels.  In virtually every case when dosage is optimized for the individual there are significant positive results in preventing acute illness, and improving function throughout the body. 

Here are the classifications of different blood levels of Vitamin D. according to the Vitamin D Council:

0 – 30 ng/ML is very low and considered a deficiency

30 – 39 is better but still insufficient for optimal health and disease prevention.

40 – 100 ng/ML is optimal

Above 150 ng/ML is toxic!

The key is to test and if low take a supplement then retest 2 – 3 months after regular vitamin d use because each person is different in how much supplementation they need based on many factors including sun exposure and skin type.     The RDA for Vitamin D for infants is 400Iiu/10mcg.    For Children 1 – 13 and adults through age 70 the RDA is 600iu and for those over 70 the RDA is 800iu.

Unfortunately, this is way too low to get many people into the sufficient much less optimal range so  testing is really worthwhile.   In many cases people need 4,000 – 10,000 or more iu's per day for at least a month to get where they need to be for optimal health!

Preventing Vitamin D Toxicity through the Co-Administration of Vitamin K-2
Like many vitamins Vitamin D has a co-factor or other vitamin that helps it perform its function better and in a more balanced fashion, and that other vitamin is Vitamin K-2 (not to be confused with K-1 found in many plants).    In an ideal world, you can get all the Vitamin K-1 you need from eating plenty of green, leafy vegetables, and your body can turn it into K-2.   Unfortunately, this conversion is lacking in many people.

More importantly K-2 is not easily toxic and can be taken with Vitamin D.    K-2 is best taken as a supplement as MK7 version which has been heavily researched and shown to improve bone health and prevent arterial calcification which can potentially occur with too much Vitamin D.     For a more complete understanding behind how K-2 works with Vitamin D and why it is a great idea to take the MK-7 form of K-2 with Vitamin D check out this article from Dr. Mercola:

Taking 100 – 200 mcg per day of Vitamin K-2 will help optimize the effects of Vitamin D and minimize risks associated with Vitamin D Supplementation.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Chili Peppers Can Help Prevent Strokes and Heart Attacks

Really?  Yes really!   A study conducted a longitudinal analysis with 22,811 men and women.  As reported in the December 2019 Journal of the American College of Cardiology “…regular consumption of chili pepper is associated with a lower risk of total and CVD death independent of CVD factors or adherence to a Mediterranean diet.”

Pepper eaters had a 40% lower risk of having a fatal heart attack, and their stroke risk was 50% lower!  

So how do peppers lower risk?   Chili peppers contain a plant chemical called capsaicin which is responsible for its hot and spicy jolt.  Capsaicin is concentrated in the seeds and white inner membranes of peppers.

Capsaicin is produced to protect peppers fungus growth.    When ingested it tricks the brain into perceiving heat where it touches the body.    This stimulation of nerves helps block pain and is why topical capsaicin creams can be very helpful for pain.  It exhausts the levels of “substance P” which plays a role in transmitting pain signals to the brain.

Another study showed that Capsaicin can help lower blood pressure by boosting transient receptor vanilloid 1 (TRPV1).     Yet another study published in the American Heart Association Journal Circulation found that using a pain cream with Capsaicin reduced damage to the heart during a heart attack.

While there are many benefits to capsaicin-containing foods, eating chili peppers is not for everyone. Some people cannot tolerate the compound or the flavor, while others may find it upsets existing conditions.

For most people, however, eating chili peppers will be a beneficial way to get added nutrition, and may prove to be beneficial for heart health. Do not take a capsaicin supplement or use a cream without consulting with a qualified health care professional.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

The Most Effective Strength Training Program in the World: Blood Flow Restriction Training

Blood Flow Restriction Training was first pioneered in Japan 50 years ago and was called “Kaatsu”. Ka means "additional" and atsu means "pressure." In America the method is called "blood flow restriction training," (BFRT) and involves performing strength training exercises while restricting blood flow to the extremities.

One of the many benefits BFRT is that you can use just 30 to 50 percent of the weight you'd normally use while still obtaining the maximum benefits of heavy resistance training.

Cuffs or bands are used that are just tight enough to allow arterial blood flow but not venous flow. The cuffs are placed on the upper arm between the shoulder and top of the bicep and at the top of the thighs right under the gluteal muscles.  BFRT causes lactic acid and other waste products to build up triggering a local and systemic response that provides you with all the benefits of lifting heavy weights without the associated risks and stresses on joints and tissues. 

For this reason, it's a great strategy for those with injuries, older people who cannot safely tolerate loads, and those who are recuperating from an injury or anyone who wants all the benefits of heavy resistance training without the risks!   

How does BFRT Work?

The concept idea behind blood flow restriction training is to restrict blood flow using a band around the upper portion of the arm or leg being worked. This creates a metabolic disturbance that has local and systemic effects:

1. A safe decrease in oxygen along with an increase in the acidity of the muscle tissue stimulates protein synthesis through an adaptive response to the stressor.

2. The central nervous system also senses the challenge and compensates by increasing sympathetic tone, heart rate, ventilation and sweating.  This generates a tremendous cardiovascular response and benefits along with accentuated hormonal response.

3. Although using light weights by reducing oxygen levels muscles are forced to use anaerobic pathways and Type 1 Endurance Muscle Fibers are quickly fatigued so muscles turn on the fast-twitch  Type 2 fibers which is what is required to make significant gains in strength and muscle size.

The low oxygen conditions generated through BFRT causes the release of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) and Hypoxia-Inducible factor-1 alpha (HIF1A).  These factors generate a systemic affect throughout the entire body causing a robust increase in micro-circulation and blood vessel growth and repair.   Through this mechanism BFRT has been shown to increase muscle stem cells by 300% after 8 days of training.

BFRT also results in a very significant boost in Growth Hormone on par with the response to very heavy weightlifting.     

BFRT also lowers myostatin which puts the breaks on muscle growth, and it produces these many powerful benefits while inflicting much less muscle damage.  

Unexpectedly muscle growth occurs throughout the body because of the systemic effects.      The systemic increase in Growth Hormone also drives overall muscle growth.

BFRT Training Protocol

A typical training session uses three sets of 20 – 30 repetitions per set for 3 – 4 sets using half or less of the resistance you'd normally use. Rest between sets is short with typical rest time being 20 - 30 seconds.

Could BFRT Cause Injury such as Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Properly executed BFRT uses special inflatable cuffs that do not allow arterial blood flow to be cut off, so this IS NOT the same as putting a tourniquet on and is quite safe.   In fact, it is heavily used for cardiac and stroke patients in Japan.   The systemic effects of circulatory growth factors often result in improved circulation and lower blood pressure.  It is important to use cuff’s designed specifically for this process.

High Quality BFRT Equipment

There are several great companies providing specially designed BFRT cuffs that fit any arm or leg and provide the ability to apply a precise amount of pressure through a simple, small hand-pump attachment.   These high-quality systems do not allow you to apply to much pressure which could shut down arterial blood flow.   High quality systems include: - an outstanding system at a much lower cost than the original Kaatsu system below

Contraindications for BFRT
  • Women who have had a mastectomy with or without radiation and/or an axillary node dissection should not use blood flow restriction training.
  • People in hemodialysis who have arterial venous fistulas. Avoid doing blood flow restriction on the affected limb
  • Pregnant women should not use BFRT
  • Cuffs should never placed on injured sites.
For more information on Blood Flow Restriction Training check out this video with one of the leaders in this type of Training Dr. Jim Stray-Gunderson:

Monday, January 6, 2020

Is Walking Downstairs Better than Walking Up Stairs?

Believe it there are clearly big benefits to walking downstairs!  A study actually tested the benefits of walking downstairs.   The study was done with obese woman who were 60 or older.  They divided the group into two groups of 15 woman – one group walked up stairs and one group walked downstairs.

For the downstairs group they took an elevator up and walked downstairs.    The other group walked up and took the elevator down.    Both groups did their workout 2 times per week for 12 weeks.

Average HR during downstairs walking was about 23 beats per minute lower in this group compared to the group that walked up stairs.  Resting heart rate and systolic blood pressure decreased more in the group that walked downstairs, and only the group that walked downstairs had an increase on bone mineral density.    In addition, triglycerides, cholesterol, glucose, insulin all dropped in the downstairs walking group only.    The downstairs walking group also saw an increase in HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) while the other group did not.  Finally, the downstairs walking group shoulder a greater increase in strength than the other group.

Why did this happen?   The key is that the downstairs walking group were mostly using eccentric contractions to control their descent while the other group used concentric contractions where the muscle shortens under tension.   

Both forms of contractions are important, but we tend to neglect eccentric muscle contractions because it is more difficult to train this function.   This is where machines like the reACT Trainer ( come in handy since it makes it easy and safe to focus on eccentric muscle function like walking downstairs.