(Breather) Inflammation is the root cause of all disease..
It’s normal and healthy when you have a good workout or twist your ankle, or even when you get stung by a bee, and your body puts up its defenses to heal – inflammation helps with recovery. Chronic inflammation, however, is the body’s reaction to copious stress that leads to a breakdown over the long term which can affect all different parts of your system over time. What starts as inflammation in your gut can lead to depression, anxiety, lethargy, or weight gain, just as an example.
When Tommy speaks of being careful of liquidating all your assets, he’s referring to the notion that causing absolute burnout to your mind and body will lead to chronic inflammation and a host of other problems over time. As an athlete, I used to be hard into the game in believing in just “listening to my body” and paying attention to my rising levels of cortisol as I was taken hard into fight or flight mode. Push harder your mind and body will figure it out! That’s what instinct is for! The problem is that once your brain is finally listening with cortisol heavily pumping into your system, your training has probably already gone too far, and this leaves your body fighting much harder than it needs to. This had been a puzzle that has repeatedly fooled me – “listening to your body” doesn’t work because what happens when you’re jacked with a wallet full of cash? You go buy a boat and don’t realize the actual cost until the bill arrives a month later. How do you prevent liquidating all your assets? By using instinct PLUS a higher level of reasoning. Be mindful and follow your desire to train with subjective guidelines as Kelly S. points out.
The Stress of modern life also has us prematurely liquidating our assets if we’re the type of person that gets highly stressed out during a traffic jam. Stress inevitably creates an unbalance, and if it isn’t managed correctly, you’re on the road to a case of unwarranted inflammation. There are those that lead a hectic and high stimulating lifestyle but always approach their day in a relaxed, unhurried pace. This is the way to keep things balanced even in high-stress situations and a behavior we should try to model. It’s up to you to decide how you’ll react. Dis-ease leads to disease.
Modern athletic training consists of six times more training than what the busiest hunter-gatherer conducted. I read a triathlete book/article (Ironwar?) which posed the theory that a modern-day elite Ironman triathlete is working harder than any human in the history of humanity! This increases the risk of atrial fibrillation (inflammation and scarring) and CV disease (James O’keefe Ted Talk). These guys training so hard believe they’re getting back to their roots, but they’re far exceeding it, in a harmful way, which makes us question the credibility of the paleo and keto diet premise that promises low carb intake of delivering fasting like benefits.
Chronic inflammation is the body’s reaction to undesirable stressors. [04:28]
When we talk about stimulating the fight or flight response, we are “liquidating our assets.” [06:36]
All forms of stress go on the same side of the balance scale, [10:17]
There are genetics involved and some people are more adaptable to higher activity. [12:49]
Today, our ambitious athletic goals are straight up compromising our health.. [15:11]
For the most part, we want to align our diet with ancestral pattern BUT there was no dark chocolate 10,000 years ago [16:46]
Longtime endurance athletes are developing atrial fibrillation. [21:18]
LISTEN:Download Episode MP3
Brad: 00:08 Welcome to the get over yourself podcast. This is author and athlete, Brad Kearns, discovering ways to be healthy, fit and happy in hectic, high stress, modern life. So let’s slow down and take a deep breath. Take a cold plunge and expertly balanced that competitive intensity with an appreciation of the journey. That’s the theme of the show. Here we go.
Brad: 00:33 The harder you train, the more energy you have to devote to recovery. Ooh, I’m sorry. We cannot have our cake and eat it too. Other words, you can go, go, go with inactive forms. Bootstrap like heavy duty workplace activities, deadline, project. Things that strength you cognitively and then go out there and blast a crossfit workout. The modern athlete is disconnected from their ancestral roots. Therefore, when we’re talking about Keto and how well it worked for our ancestors and they were very likely and Keto for a long period of time. Yeah, they weren’t training, uh, an hour and a half crossfit crazy workout four days a week. They weren’t putting in 50 miles a week on the road and then you head off into the work day and you have more energy and alertness and you feel great and you attributed to your wonderful workout. That’s all true because you have stimulated the fight or flight reponse and you’re riding on a hormonal high that requires some downtime and some balance at some point.
Brad: 02:27 Hey, I want to do a recap of my wonderful two shows with Dr Tommy Wood of Nourish, Balance Thrive where we covered that broad spectrum of diet, exercise, lifestyle, health attributes, the social aspects, what a wonderful and wide ranging education on how to do things right and don’t you love how he blends the advanced science and his studies of the research, all that high tech stuff with those simple insights about nurturing your social circles and how that translates directly into better health and longevity.
Brad: 04:28 So just going through the points, we hit on Show One and then in to Show Two. I thought this breather show would be a nice way to get your tight, crisp takeaways and go live the life that you deserve in the future. Yeah, I mean especially what about my comments about the white boxer, the magnificent animal that greeted me at Tommy’s door and how they don’t even recognize white boxers with the AKC, the American Kennel Club. What a disgrace. Those guys should be ashamed of themselves. Anyone who meets a white boxer will know this is the top level animal. Anyway, we got talking about inflammation. You hear this word inflammation all the time from health experts and commentary. Uh, we often hear that inflammation is the root cause of all disease. Seriously, wow. Trip out. So when you hear that stuff, we must distinguish that we’re talking about undesirable chronic inflammation or systemic system wide inflammation.
Brad: 05:31 Uh, in contrast, we have normal, healthy, desirable inflammation such as the inflammation of your muscles. When you’re lifting a heavy weight or sprinting, or if you get stung by a bee or you turn your ankle and your ankle swells up, or your skin swells up where the bee sting was, that’s an inflammation that will contain the damage to a small area, a speed, the healing by more blood flow to the area, swelling it up, and then eventually healing. The chronic inflammation is when you constantly stress your body with a stressor like gluten or sugar or chronic exercise or insufficient sleep. And then you get into this inflammatory state, which sets the stage particularly for heart disease. So we have the oxidation and inflammation pattern that is the true cause of heart disease. So chronic inflammation is the body’s reaction to undesirable stressors that lead to break down over the longterm.
Brad: 06:36 And Tommy had this epic quote where he said, liquidating your assets. And I called that out as an epic quote. So I get credit for that because it was such a brilliant insight. Uh, when we talk about stimulating the fight or flight response, what we’re doing, which is liquidating our assets. In other words, we’re responding to a short term life or death stressor. What are genes perceived to be a life or death stressor, whether it’s a traffic jam, your turn to speak in the conference room or a high intensity workout. Uh, we get this spike of adaptive hormones, stress hormones into the bloodstream so you can function at your peak with elevated heart rate, respiration, cognitive function, everything’s primed and ready to go for battle. Uh, and of course during that time, digestive function, immune function is suppressed or compromised because all of your assets are going toward immediate peak performance.
Brad: 07:38 That’s great when you’re running away from the tiger. The classic example of the primal stressors, the fight or flight stressors that, uh, how we evolve the fight or flight response. But today we tap into the fight or flight response throughout the day when we have these busy, stressful, hectic days where hyperconnected. And so what we’re doing is we’re liquidating our assets, our potential for longevity, our potential for optimal immune function, and we’re getting broken down and burnt out. Uh, I made some comparisons to buying a boat because I had just come from, uh, the beautiful Lake Washington area in Seattle during the visit and saw these cool boats. And I was thinking, man, wouldn’t that be cool to have a boat to go on a lake and have an awesome boat to hang out on? And then I’m like, Gee, I guess I could buy one of those tomorrow if I just banged all my credit cards, maxed them out and didn’t worry about the future or the upcoming bills.
Brad: 08:35 So that’s exactly what we’re doing. When we overstimulate the fight or flight response. Listen to your body does not work because you’re jacked up on these stress hormones and you feel fantastic. This was everything to me as an endurance athlete. I tried to listen to my body and be a smart training athlete, but what would happen would be when I was locked into these overstress patterns of training, I would overproduce the fight or flight hormones. I’d wake up in the morning and I’d feel fantastic. I’d be pumped up, my leg would be tapping at the breakfast table and I’d be thinking, bring it on. Let’s go ride another 84 miles again today. And that was because bathed in these stress hormones, this cocktail of adaptive hormones, I felt fine, but any reasonable person would sit back and think, wow, dude, you’re burning the candle at both ends.
Brad: 09:27 And what you probably need right now is rest rather than more stress. But we can’t extricate ourselves. We have to use our higher level of thinking and reasoning instead of just going by animal instincts. The comparison in the uh, example of the boat is that if you have a wallet full of cash, Oh look, I got a grand man. I’m packing some bills. I went from dollar bills. Now I’m popping rubber bands like Cardi B. Uh, you’re not really as visceral with your credit card balances at high interest rates. So you maybe make a bad purchasing decision because your wallet is bursting with cash. That’s exactly what’s going on when you overstimulate the stress response. Got It. That’s a huge concept. I need to impress that point dramatically because this was make or break throughout my entire athletic career.
Brad: 10:17 Next, we were talking about the stress of modern life and the concept that your exercise, your vigorous workouts are seen erroneously as a stress balancer to the other forms of stress in your life, such as your hectic workday, sitting at your desk, not moving, not doing any physical activity, but all forms of stress go on the same side of the balance scale, the scales of justice.
Brad: 10:53 I know that doing that evening tempo run is a great release from the pent up frustrations of a stressful work day. But nevertheless, it calls upon those fight or flight hormones just as your argument in the conference room did. And so they’re all weighing down one side of this envisioned scales of justice, right? You know, the blind lady holding the little balancer, okay? So when you try to think of this from a different perspective, it can be very helpful to realize, go back and listen to my show with Joel Jamison. How if you have stressful lifestyle circumstances, that means you have less energy to devote to training. Secondly, related insight, the harder you train, the more energy you have to devote to recovery. Whew! I’m sorry, we cannot have our cake and eat it too. In other words, you can’t go, go, go with uh, inactive forms of stress, like heavy duty workplace activities, uh, deadline projects, thing. That’s things that stress you cognitively and then go out there and blast a crossfit workout.
Brad: 12:00 Similarly, I know you feel fantastic and you get a gold star when you set your alarm for five 30 and make your way over to the freezing cold gym and do the warmup and then start climbing ropes and jumping on boxes and you get out of there with a big smile and a bounce in your step and that endorphin high that you get from a vigorous workout and then you head off into the workday and you have more energy and alertness and you feel great and you attributed to your wonderful workout. That’s all true because you have stimulated the fight or flight response and you’re riding on a hormonal high that requires some downtime and some balance at some point. And if you refuse to listen and refuse to accept these insights, the downtime will be taken for you in the form of breakdown, burnout, illness, and injury.
Brad: 12:49 Then Tommy added a brilliant insight cause I asked him, man, how come some people can do it? They can really seem like they’re burning the candle at both ends and other people are more fragile, namely me. Right? I was always the guy. Uh, when I was training on the pro circuit and mixing with my peers, I was always the most fragile athlete of anyone in the group. I had to train less volume, less intensity, more rest. I was able to, uh, try to battle it out on the race course, but I needed an entirely different training plan, uh, than some of these workhorses that could go, go, go every day without question. Uh, what he said was, yeah, there’s some genetics involved in, some people are more adaptable to a, you know, high, high activity, high stimulation lives, but also stress is reliant upon the perception of the observer, right? So Mia Moore, uh, featured on the Mia Moore show has this chill way of going through life where she can work extremely long hours, balance a side job, doing other things and have these jam packed days full of stimulation, but always moving at a smooth and comfortable pace. Never looking harried or stressed or flustered as so many people react to when they’re stuck in the traffic jam or have a minor interpersonal altercation that will throw them for a loop. And they’ll respond and react and be triggered and go through life, a hot wired, temperamental manner that increases the stress impact of all the things that for another person, traffic jam might be a good opportunity to do breathing exercises and listened to yet another podcast. Okay. So stress is in the eye of the observer. You can kick into so many wonderful strategies that we hear about.
Brad: 14:47 Listen to my show with Dr Elisha Goldstein. Catch yourself when you feel you’re going into reactive mode, uh, slow down, become more aware of your propensity for hyperconnectivity. Take some deep breaths, be kind to yourself, forgive yourself, and then start the process over of being more aware and mindful rather than just reacting all throughout the day. Uh, then Tommy was, uh, offering another brilliant insight that the modern hard training athlete, say a iron man triathlete or a crossfit games aspirant or someone in an intense team sport activity is training at a level likely six times harder than the busiest hunter gatherer throughout evolution. So today, our ambitious athletic goals are straight up compromising our health. They are in conflict with our genetic expectations. For health. Remember that insight that we dropped into the primal blueprint and other books that the hunter gatherer did the absolute bare minimum of effort necessary to survive and never anymore.
Brad: 15:58 They did not train for the marathon run or go out and practice, uh, lifting rocks over and over to get stronger. They did what they needed to do to get their food, clothing, shelter, and then they kick back and relax and had all this leisure time and a much lower stressful existence than today’s person who, like I’ve just mentioned, is juggling a busy, stimulating workplace with athletic goals. So what does that mean? That means that maybe some of these ancestral insights where you’re all in and you’re in life is defined by Paleo and you proudly proclaimed to your friends, well, here’s how I eat. Did it exist 10,000 years ago? Yes or no? If it did, then I can eat it. If not, then I can’t eat it.
Brad: 16:46 That’s flawed on a few levels. One of them is dark chocolate, man. I gotta get a dark chocolate sponsor for the show. Huh? Ah, what a delicious food full of nutritional benefits, a little or no objections to health. And of course it didn’t exist 10,000 years ago. So that’s our first, uh, argument that I’m going to offer back. If you have a modern food that happens to be healthy, of course it’s allowable to eat. So for the most part, we want to align our diet with ancestral pattern, but we’re making modern allowances all the way through anyway. So you just want to honor the spirit of the ancestral message rather than disavow your worldly possessions. Walk everywhere. Uh, live in a tepee. Although it worked for my friends, the Curly boys, they lived in a teepee all winter, uh, through a record snow level in Lake Tahoe and they came, came out of it. Well, so, uh, the modern athlete is disconnected from their ancestral roots. Therefore, when we’re talking about Keto and how well it worked for our ancestors, they were very likely in Keto for long periods of time.
Brad: 17:53 Yeah. They weren’t trained in, uh, an hour and a half crossfit crazy workout four days a week. They weren’t putting in 50 miles a week on the road. And so if you’re one of those people that is pushing the very limit of human performance today, unlike any other time in history, you might have a different parameters and different decision making processes, uh, for your dietary choices. And my story in particular, Tommy got to me a September 1st, 2017 and looked at my blood profiles and my consultation with nourish balance thrive and said, dude, you need to eat more food because you’re an old guy and you’re still trying to perform these magnificent athletic feats and recover well. And I know Keto’s working great and your appetite is moderated, but you need to loosen up the purse strings and just slam down more food a by definition, more carbohydrates, right? But it wasn’t anything a distinct where I was worried about the macros, I was just worried about getting more nutrition into my body, being that my blood work was fine, my body fat level was fine.
Brad: 18:58 And it worked extremely well for me where I suddenly had an increased level of daily energy, faster recovery from my ambitious workouts. Just by increasing my caloric intake. And I know you can live a long life when you minimize insulin production and get calorically efficient, but that discounts the impact of my athletic goals where I’m also striving for longevity by way of maintaining muscle mass, maintaining, maintaining explosive sprint performance and all that stuff. So it’s a puzzle. There’s no cookie cutter, uh, Tommy and his sidekick, Chris Kelly and Megan Roberts and the folks at Nourish Balance Thrive are very good at emphasizing that point. That’s why they do personal consultations at their website. And really interesting food for thought when we’re trying to, uh, make a oversimplified approach to uh, this dietary issue and think that, uh, one diet is great for everybody. Okay?
Brad: 19:58 Uh, yeah. And speaking of that man, I mean, think about these athletes today, like the, the, the modern leader of the pack, uh, and professional, uh, iron man competition. So you take a leading iron man person or a Tour de France athlete or a professional ultra runner or the uh, the, the top level guys who are making it through the national qualifiers to the crossfit games and they are training working harder than any human in the history of humanity. If you define work as mass times forced, like a good scientist, and you imagine peddling the bicycle for four to five hours a day or the triathlete running for an hour, swimming for an hour, peddling for a few hours day after day after day, they are performing more work than a human ever. Even the most hardiest rugged Neanderthal crossbred. Now hunter gatherers fighting it through the stormy winter, uh, on the great plains of North Dakota or the frozen Tundra of Siberia. No comparison to the modern Lycra clad specimen pedaling through a country road near you. Problem. Again, we’re in genetic conflict for health.
Brad: 21:18 So this brings a high risk of atrial fibrillation. The longtime endurance athletes are developing this condition in droves today. It’s scary and it’s disturbing. Atrial fibrillation is when you compromise the electrical signaling of the heart. Due to chronic inflammation because you’re inflaming your heart when you peg it at 160 beats a minute for a five hour bike ride. So you get this inflammatory response and you do it over and over day after day. The heart is a muscle, just like the bicep, just like an overtrained bodybuilder who’s done too many bicep curls and his bicep is sore and feels like heck, that’s the same thing you’re doing to your heart when you fail to observe healthy stress and rest balance. So over time the chronic inflammation leads to scarring and thickening of the ventricle of your heart, which is, is it the right ventricle, the right ventricle? Maybe it’s the left, sorry, a cardiologist and listening. Uh, but you get this inflammation and scarring that compromises the electric signaling. And then you get also known as a fluttery heart. I was just talking to Dave Scott on my podcast with him on the Primal Endurance channel that he just got diagnosed with fluttery heart. Here he is. I think he’s pushing 60. Now we’re over 60. He’s had this wonderful lifetime of healthy eating, fabulous training, maintaining a high state of fitness throughout his life. And it’s a tough one because we’re just not evolved to do this kind of hard work. A watch James O’Keeffe’s Tedtalk: “Run for Your Life, But Not Too Far and at a Slow Pace” talking about this high risk of cardiovascular disease from doing what you think is super healthy lifestyle patterns. So that is getting into the centerpiece of the first show where we’re setting the tone for the modern athlete being an overly stressful pattern, talking about liquidating your assets, the true definition of inflammation and how modern athletes need to, uh, take a different perspective and realize what they’re doing is inherently in conflict with their health.
Brad: 23:34 Nice breather show. Let’s package it with a second breather show to get through all the insights that Tommy offered on his two shows.