Our first Wellness Weekly of the new year starts off with a bang. We cover the following topics in this episode:
➡️Wellness Journey – COVID hits the Harris household
➡️Article 1 – Vitamin D co-administration with probiotics
➡️Article 2 – Fat mass and risk of death
➡️Rootine Supplement – Alpha Lipoic Acid
Lifestyle Medicine with Dr. Harris
[00:00:00] Dr. Richard Harris: Join me, Dr. Richard Harris, as we strive to unlock the secrets of the human body. Strive for wellness, strive for great health. Follow the show on iTunes, Spotify, Google, and Android.
Hello, and welcome to this episode of the Strive for Great Health Podcast. And now a word from our sponsors. This week’s episode is brought to you by Rootine. One of the things we get asked a lot is what supplements should we take? And I say it really depends. I can make a ballpark assumption based upon a couple of things, or I can find a way to look at specifically what your body needs, and this is Rootine.
So rootine combines genetic analysis with your lifestyle, your nutrition, what you’re eating, and micronutrient data. So what are the blood levels of these actual nutrients? And then what are the blood levels of the things these nutrients are actually being used for? Because it’s not enough just to check a B12 level.
It’s more important to check a B12 and what the body’s using B12 to make, and that’s Rootine. It meets all of my quality standards, and that’s why I am a clinical advisor for the company because I believe in what we’re trying to do. So to learn more about Rootine, to see how you can benefit from Rootine, check out the link in the show notes, or head to our website, scroll down the bottom and click on the free assessment.
And now to this week’s episode. So today is wellness weekly, and we’re back on our wellness weekly session. This is the first one of the new year. I hope everyone is well. And the first thing that we’re going to talk about on our wellness weekly is COVID hits the Harris household. So me and my wife, both contracted COVID in December.
And it started off as just the usual kind of chills, body aches. Neither one of us ever spiked a fever; I had some abdominal upset. And then it was about four or five days into this that I realized it wasn’t just a cold because I lost my sense of taste and smell. In fact, I remember I was eating eggs, and I took a bite of the egg, and I almost spit it out because it tasted terrible.
I said, what is going on here? Did I not season my food? Did I add something unusual that I, you know, mix something weird into my eggs? And so then I take a bite of fruit, and the fruit tasted horrible. And I was like, blaghhh, and I went to smell it. And then I realized I can’t smell anything. And I said, Oh my gosh, I’ve got COVID.
And this was after the body aches and feeling sick. My nose was on fire. I didn’t really have a cough. I didn’t have any pulmonary symptoms. I didn’t have shortness of breath. It was body aches for four days, nose felt on fire for four days. And then, by the time I was feeling better, that’s what I noticed that I had lost sense of taste and smell.
And it’s been weeks since this first happened, and my smell still hasn’t come back completely. It starting to, you know, it’s super weird to not be able to smell anything. And the same thing has happened with my wife. She still can’t smell anything. She never lost her taste, but neither one of us can really smell.
And we have essential oils at the house. I’m a big fan of lemongrass essential oils. I love putting them in the diffuser in the morning to help me wake up. And I can’t even smell it. You know, I grabbed the entire bottle and [00:04:00] stuck it up my nose pretty much to see if I could smell and absolutely no smell.
You know, our dog can’t smell him. So I don’t know if our household completely stinks right now. I hope not. The maids are coming today. Hopefully, they don’t die from the smell when they walk in the house. But this is the reason we have a wellness plan. A lot of people only start game-planning when bad things happen to them.
I start game-planning before bad things happening for when bad things happen because one of the few guarantees in life is that bad things are going to happen to you. No one is going to make it through life with zero bad things happening to them. The whole reason that I’m a huge advocate of having a wellness plan is when bad things do happen; you are more likely to go back to the state you were in before the bad thing happened.
And what we’ve seen with COVID is those people who have comorbidities, hypertension, obesity, diabetes; these are all conditions that dysregulate the immune system. These are conditions that have a metabolic disruption. And that can lead to potential long-term adverse effects, COVID brain, brain fog. We’ve seen that increase risk of heart attacks, heart damage, kidney damage, liver damage people have neurological symptoms, numbness, tingling.
We’ve seen these; they’re called the COVID long haulers, and you can just Google it. There are people who haven’t regained their sense of taste and smell, people who were gaining it months later. But a lot of these instances, these people had these types of disruptions. They didn’t have a wellness plan beforehand.
So when we got COVID immediately, our wellness plan kicked in. Boom, we have natural antivirals at the house. We have zinc; we have NAC and glutathione to moderate inflammation. We have camu powder, which is an excellent source of vitamin C. I have my performance mushroom powder; you know, mushrooms are wonderful for the immune system for helping with our metabolism.
So I have all of these things. I had a plan. I have a plan that keeps me well. You know, my daily routine. And then I have a plan for if something happens. I have a plan for, if I injure something, I have a plan for, if I don’t get enough sleep, I have a plan for, even if I get hungover, and yes, I do drink. I don’t do it every single day.
I don’t do it every week. But when I do drink, I have a plan to mitigate those hangovers. I have a plan for if I’m sore after I work out, I have a plan. If I injure something when working out, I have a plan for if we got COVID, and when we did, I kicked in my plan. And so that’s one of the main things I want to get across on this whole podcast is the American system is so reactionary.
It’s, let’s wait for a disease to come, and then let’s treat it with medication instead of trying to prevent that disease from happening in the first place. And then, if something does happen, a disease does happen, let’s have a comprehensive plan that’s just not take this one pill, and it’s gonna solve all your problems.
No, no, no, no, no. That’s the whole purpose of having a wellness plan. And that’s the whole purpose of me out here trying to educate so that if something does happen, you have a plan for how to address it. That’s why we have the anxiety episode. That’s why we have the chronic pain episode. That’s all we have the immune balancing episode.
That’s why we talk about PEMF; that’s all we talk about all of this holistic stuff so that you have a plan for wellness and you also have a plan [00:08:00] if something does happen. So let’s transition into our first article. This article was a really cool article. Again, if you want access to any of the articles, they are available in our Facebook group, there is a link.
The group is called Strive for Great Health. There is a link to my clinical article Google drive folder. So you have access to all the articles I talk about all the articles I read. Sidebar, I was talking to someone online about a famous person who posts health and wellness tips who posts opinion.
They don’t post facts. I always tell people never trust anyone who’s posting health and wellness tips online unless they post research. If you never hear them talk about research. If you never see them quote a study, if you never see them link a study, do not believe a single word that they say because they are giving you opinion and opinion in health and wellness is dangerous.
Very very dangerous. We are a facts-based podcast. Now I have my opinion on certain things, but most of what you hear me talk about is going to be backed by data, by science. So the first article is called the health effects of vitamin D and probiotic cosupplementation, a systemic review of a randomized controlled trial.
So in the introduction, it talks about how we can basically think of the microbiome, our gut bacteria. You know, our, our bacterial load in our body as another organ. And that’s because it has so many different effects. It’s an important role in maintaining metabolic and immune health, making vitamins, making nutrients that aren’t available in our diet.
It helps with the barrier function of the intestines. It helps with renewal of intestinal cells that storage and brain development, to name a few of the critical functions of our microbiome. And we know that dysbiosis or an abnormal microbiome is associated with inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, diabetes, asthma allergies, Alzheimer’s cancer, and all different types of chronic disease, and more data is coming out all the time about the microbiome.
Or a microbiome is affected by things like genetics, age, what we eat. And then, also by what I think is probably the most important and most overlooked thing with the microbiome is stress. And that is psychological stress and physiological stress. But vitamin D also modulates the microbiome, and that’s the vitamin D and then the vitamin D receptor or the VDR.
You might hear me say both. So increased VDR expression may decrease dysbiosis, enhance barrier function, increase anti-microbial molecules, decrease inflammatory cytokines, increase production of short-chain fatty acids, key of which is butyrate. We’ve talked about butyrate a lot on this podcast.
It’s one of my favorite molecules, trophic for the gut anti-inflammatory. And vitamin D has a big role in the microbiomes effect on the body. And so, we know probiotics can improve the balance of the microbiome by regulating microbiome components and metabolites. It can help stimulate the immune system.
It can balance the good gut bacteria, which we call commensal, versus the bad gut bacteria, which we call pathogenic. It can help with barrier integrity. The microbiome can help alter toxic compounds. And we talked about that on another wellness weekly. With the TMAO, how the microbiome can take that in and then make that non-toxic.
So the microbiome does help us in that regard, and it can promote healthy host products. The microbiome can actually influence our generation of precursor amino acids to things like serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, the brain chemicals. What is interesting and what’s something that not a lot of [00:12:00] people know is probiotics are also shown to increase vitamin D intestinal absorption.
They increase the expression of the vitamin D receptor, and they increase the gene coding that vitamin D does. So the VDR status seems to be very crucial to the mechanism of probiotics, and how probiotics modulate inflammation, how they help with the immune system, and how they have anti-infective properties.
So basically, what we’re saying is, there seems to be evidence that shows that the effect of vitamin D and probiotics is synergistic and necessary and that the probiotics to work need vitamin D. So what’s the method. They looked at studies that had vitamin D in probiotic co-administration versus placebo, and they looked at a bunch of different health conditions, schizophrenia, gestational diabetes, which is when a mother, a pregnant mother gets diabetes while she’s pregnant, type two diabetes, coronary artery disease, polycystic ovarian syndrome, osteopenia, irritable bowel, and infant colic. So what did the study find? And this is really cool. So co-administration resulted in improved health benefits versus placebo.
And these benefits were greater than either the placebo or single administration of these agents in schizophrenia on metabolic outcomes. So improved insulin sensitivity, inflammation, antioxidant capacity. It also showed that in PCOS, the co-administration improved mental health parameters and depression, stress, it improved hormonal profiles, levels of inflammation, and then antioxidant properties or the antioxidant capacity in the body was improved.
In cardiovascular disease and diabetes and improved anxiety and improved depression, improved insulin sensitivity, inflammatory markers, antioxidative capacity, and dyslipidemia. And gestational diabetes, there was greater improvement in glucose control, insulin sensitivity, and improvement in cholesterol markers, those blood lipids that we talked about in the cholesterol podcast, inflammatory markers, and antioxidative capacity. Antioxidant capacity is basically looking at what is the body’s total capacity to neutralize free radicals to neutralize those molecules that damage DNA and other proteins; we’ve talked about free radicals before. They basically have a free electron, and they try to pull electrons from other things, which causes damage.
So measuring the antioxidant capacity is measuring how well the body can deal with those types of insults, those free radicals, reactive oxygen species. And osteopenia, the markers of bone turnover, the markers of bone being reabsorbed improved. And so, this is a really interesting review of the literature showing that vitamin D and probiotics, when administered together, had a bigger effect on multiple different tangible outcomes.
And so we know vitamin D is extremely important. We talked a lot about vitamin D and the vitamin D podcast. You can go back and check that out. Vitamin D inhibits something called NF-KB, which is the major pro-inflammatory genetic switch. We know that vitamin D activates autophagy; autophagy is how our cells clean themselves.
It stimulates anti-inflammatory cytokines. Cytokines are messengers that are used by the immune system to talk to other cells and the other immune cells. It helps regulate genes involved in intestinal inflammation, helps regulate genes involved in dysbiosis. And so [00:16:00] there’s some evidence that shows that certain genetic variations in the VDR, the vitamin D receptor influences your intestinal microbiome.
And so what they did was they showed that knockout mice, basically a knockout mouse is a mouse that’s missing a particular gene that we want to study. Mice that had a VDR knockout had a much higher chance, much more dysbiosis with an abundance of a species of bacteria that was known to cause some issues with inflammation.
And so it seems that the benefits of probiotics require adequate vitamin D levels and vitamin D expression. So there’s some evidence in mice that if you give them probiotics and they lacked the vitamin D receptor, the probiotics did nothing beneficial. The good news is that supplementing with probiotics influences VDR expression.
So what’s the key takeaway before we get to the key takeaway and vitamin D is also important for numerous brain processes, including modulation of our nerves, protecting our nerves, and brain development. It’s also important for increasing norepinephrine and dopamine, and we know the microbiome is important for serotonin and GABA synthesis; serotonin the happy neurotransmitter, the happy brain chemical, GABA is the one that tells us to calm and relax.
So what’s the key takeaway here. It seems to be that there is a good amount of evidence that shows that we should be taking probiotics and vitamin D together. And actually, before I read this study, that’s actually what I do. I take my vitamin D, my K2, and my probiotic together. All right, let’s move on to article number two.
Article two is called central fatness, and the risk of all-cause mortality, systemic review, and dose-response meta-analysis of 72 prospective cohort studies. Basically, this is a study that’s looking at other studies and aggregating all of that data and looking at central obesity, central body fat, and the risk of all-cause mortality, which is death from any cause. And when we say all-cause mortality, what we’re basically looking at is if you have this condition or these parameters versus if you don’t, what is the increase risk of death that we’ve seen in that study period? So it’s basically looking at if you have this risk factor versus if you don’t during this time period that we looked at this, what is the increased risk of dying from any medical cause during that study period, because of this risk factor, and this is really timely because we’re seeing this with this Cosmo article, you know, that says this is healthy and this just blows my mind. So I never call anybody fat. There’s a negative connotation with that.
And there’s an; there’s an implication by calling someone fat that you’re saying that this is a cosmetic issue and you look terrible, and that’s not what we’re supposed to do as healthcare providers. Obesity is not a cosmetic issue. Do I think that you can be obese and beautiful? Absolutely. Absolutely.
Because it’s not a cosmetic issue for me, it is a health issue. It is a health problem. We know that it’s linked to all different types of cancer. It’s linked to diabetes. It’s linked to strokes. It’s linked to Alzheimer’s, linked to kidney disease. There’s so many disease links. It is a medical problem that increases your risk of developing numerous diseases.
And so what I do is I tell people to get objective measures of body fat. And [00:20:00] I’ll say to them, listen, this objective test here says that you have elevated body fat. And this puts you at risk for X, Y, Z. Is this something that you want to work on? Is this something that you want to mitigate? If so, there is a way that we can do this.
And that’s how I approach that conversation. I remove, try to remove that negative emotion, that negative connotation, and look at it like it is a serious medical condition. And if we’re not talking about it as a serious medical condition, then we’re doing people a disservice, just like everyone knows that drinking too much is bad for them.
Just like people know that smoking is bad for them. Just like people know that not exercising is bad for them. We need to know that obesity, having excess body fat is bad for us; it’s bad for our health. So this article looks at measures of central obesity, central body fat. And so we know that body mass index is, for all intents and purposes is terrible. Body mass index does not differentiate between lean body mass and fat mass. So my BMI, I think, is like 28 or 29, something like that. It varies depending on how much water I’m carrying that day, which of course, will put me near the obese category, but I’m 12% body fat; you know, I have a six-pack.
The BMI does not capture that. And so we know that it does not reflect regional differences in fat deposition either. And this is important because we know that central and abdominal deposition of body fat is strongly associated with cardio-metabolic risk, chronic disease, and overall obesity. So most of the studies that have looked at BMI and risk of mortality use self-reported height and weight.
And that’s a problem because most people tend to under-report their weight and overestimate their height. So it’s throwing off the accuracy of these previous studies. So indices of central fatness include waist circumference, hip circumference, waist-to-hip ratio, waist-to-height ratio, body adiposity index, and A body shape index.
So this study looked at all of these things and said, okay, how do these measures correlate with mortality? So in the results, each 10 centimeter or 3.94-inch increase in waist circumference was associated with an 11% higher risk of all-cause mortality. That number was 8% for men on average, 12% for women.
And the association was significant when you control for smoking, physical activity, alcohol consumption, and it was strengthened when you control for BMI. So when you control for BMI, you’re, you’re basically saying, okay, we’re going to not look at overall weight, overall body mass, and we’re only looking at the central obesity.
And when you controlled for body mass, that number actually went up to 17%. So it was even more significant. It wasn’t significant when people were older than 60 years old. And it was interesting; there’s a kind of a cliff here or what we call a J shaped curve, meaning that for waist circumference in women, there was no risk between 60 and 80 centimeters.
And then it increased sharply after that. And then for men, it’s 90 centimeters and increased sharply. And it’s called the J curve because it kind of sits flat, and then it just goes up astronomically, kind of like a J. So waist-to-hip ratio for every 0.1 unit increase in this ratio is associated with a 20% higher risk of mortality for men that was about 12% women, 16%, [00:24:00] when you isolated them.
And it was significant when adjusted for physical activity, alcohol smoking, and body mass index. And this one did not show that J shape. It was pretty linear in what they saw. Waist-to-height ratio, same thing for every 0.1 increase in the ratio, was associated with a 24% increase in mortality. This was about 13% in men, 18% in women when isolated.
When you controlled for BMI again, this was a 42% increase. So really devastating numbers, devastating numbers, showing obesity, central obesity, and increased risk of mortality. The waist-to-thigh ratio, a 0.1 increase in this ratio, is associated with a 21% increase in mortality, 19% in men, 15% in women when they were isolated.
A 10% increase in body adipose percent was a 17% increase in mortality. This was more evident in men, 27% women, 3%, and the lowest risk was below 30%. The A-body shape index is a 0.005 increase was associated with a 15% increased mortality. Now some good news, actually an elevated thigh circumference was associated with an 18% lower risk of mortality.
So that old adage thick thighs save lives, this is where it comes from. There’s data that shows that if you look at elevated thigh circumference, there’s a lower risk of mortality. So 18% lower risk with every five centimeters or 1.97-inch increase in thigh circumference and then a 10-centimeter increase in hips circumference was associated with a 10% lower risk. And that was significant for men but not women. And this association became stronger when you actually accounted for BMI and waist circumference.
Dr. Richard Harris: So let’s talk about some things in why this study kind of found what it did find. So when BMI was accounted for, right, they were all still significant. And so this indicates, like we talked about earlier, that abdominal deposition of fat, independent of overall obesity, is associated with a higher risk. And we know that correlates with lots of data that shows that central obesity, central fat deposition is horrible for our health.
Now we know that increase adipose tissue, increased fat tissue has adverse impact on inflammation, increases oxidative stress increases, insulin resistance, increases blood pressure, dysregulates the blood lipid profile, causes damage to blood vessels, the lining of the blood vessels, what we call endothelial dysfunction.
It makes it so that the blood doesn’t flow like it should. It’s linked to a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, kidney disease, and neurological disease. And obesity rates have doubled over the last 40 years to the point that one-third of the world’s population is obese. And we know that high waist circumference is highly correlated with detrimental visceral or abdominal or peri-organ or around organ fat.
So even if you have a normal weight and you have elevated central body fat, that’s associated with an increased risk of morbidity, which is disease basically, and mortality, which is death. And what they found in this study was that it appears that waist-to-hip ratio may provide the best measure of any of these measures, that they looked at the waist-to-hip ratio, and then that A body index seemed to be the best two measures.
And so the waist-to-hip ratio considers bad, visceral, bad abdominal fat and beneficial gluteal fat and muscle. And it’s less correlated with the BMI than waist circumference. A higher ratio [00:28:00] indicates higher visceral, higher abdominal fat and lower gluteal and lower thigh fat and muscle. And so, this study correlates with previous studies.
Previous studies have shown similar numbers. That’s always good when your study correlates with some other studies in that area. And it also correlates with some of those guidelines that you see, you know, the lowest risk for waist circumference, about a hundred centimeters in men, 90 in women, which is similar to the current us guidelines for waist-to hip-ratio of 0.5 and below is a low risk, and that’s in line with current guidelines.
And so, you should combine BMI with these other measures for a more accurate risk assessment. And I talked about earlier that A-body shape index that seems to have the strongest association with mortality risks, so that A body and the waist-to-hip ratio are probably the best ratios according to this study.
And they’re super easy to measure. The A-body shape index can be calculated by dividing your waist circumference by BMI to exponential two thirds and height to the exponential one half. And so this is something that could easily be done in an automated system, can easily be measured. So let’s move on to the last thing we’re talking about our supplement today, and we’re still in our routine series.
We’re going to talk about alpha lipoic acid or ALA. Alpha-lipoic acid is produced in the body, but the amount is not enough for its functions. And so we have to obtain it from food or supplementation. What does it do? It helps with energy generation in the mitochondria. It’s a very powerful antioxidant, and it helps regenerate vitamin C, vitamin E, and glutathione.
So it’s an antioxidant in its own right. And it helps us by making sure our other antioxidants are regenerated after they’ve been used. It’s important in insulin signaling and preventing insulin resistance. It helps remove heavy metals. It’s involved with cell signaling. So it actually antagonizes that NF-kappa B that we’ve talked about that master pro-inflammatory genetic switch.
And it’s also involved in the metabolism of alpha-keto acids. Alpha keto-acids are important intermediates in what we call the Krebs cycle. This is our energy generation cycle, how we take food and turn it into what our body actually uses for energy, which is called ATP. So what you need to know is that it is important in generating energy from food.
And it’s also important to the metabolism of amino acids. It’s a really interesting molecule because it acts as both a fat or lipid-soluble and water-soluble molecule. And that’s pretty interesting because it changes some of the absorption and distribution properties of it.
Deficiencies can be caused by poor nutrition. If you’re not eating the foods that have this, if you have increased oxidative stress, increased inflammation, you can run out of this. If you have poor intake of vitamin C or the amino acids that are precursors to glutathione or vitamin E, if you have insulin resistance, these are all things that can cause deficiencies in ALA.
So it’s the symptoms and diseases associated with it are not overt. It’s important for the utilization of sugar. How, when we ingest glucose, how we break it down, it’s also important for protection against certain diabetes-related complications and age-related decline. So you’re not going to see an overt disease per se because of a deficiency in this alone.
But what you’re going to see is diseases related to oxidative stress and inflammation. So from food sources, what are the food sources? Organ meats, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, peas, brussel sprouts, brewers, yeast, potatoes, yams, carrots, and beets. About 30% of it is absorbed from food [00:32:00] or dietary sources. So the bioavailability, how much actually reaches the bloodstream, is low.
The liquid formulations of this actually have improved absorption, and it’s actually best absorbed on an empty stomach. So what are the genes that are associated with this? We can look at all the glutathione genes, GSTM1, GSTP1, GSTT. We can look at a gene called GPX, which is involved in the detoxification of hydrogen peroxide.
Hydrogen peroxide is a reactive oxygen species that is made. And so this is something that needs to be detoxified. You can look at specific inflammatory genes, TNF-alpha SOD, that superoxide dismutase, and some of the inflammatory messengers, those cytokines that we’ve talked about, IL-10, IL-1, IL-6.
Now looking at the nutrient testing for ALA, alpha-lipoic acid, you can look at amino acids and methionine and taurine. You can look at pyroglutamic acid, and then you can look at some of those alpha-keto acids I talked about, like alpha-ketoglutarate, and then other intermediates in the Krebs cycle in the energy generation cycle like pyruvic acid, oxaloacetic acid. These are Krebs cycle intermediates; these are molecules that are made in our energy generation cycle. You can look at vitamin C levels, glutathione, and then other things associated with glutathione like cystine and cysteine. You can look at measures of oxidative stress like lipid peroxides, which are oxidized lipids, and the 8 OHdG, which is a DNA base that oxidizes very easily.
We’ve talked about that before. So, those are what you look at when you’re doing the testing dose. Now the dosing protocols you’ll see anywhere from a hundred to 1800 milligrams daily, depending on what you’re treating and what stage in the treatment people are in. It’s very well tolerated orally when used.
So the side effects are usually pretty benign. And if it does happen, it may be headache, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, change in urine color, or odor. But overall, it’s a very well-tolerated molecule. Well, this has been the first wellness weekly of the new year. I hope you guys are enjoying the format. Yeah, I’m trying to bring things that are really pertinent and really drive forward the mission and the goal of the Strive for Great Health Podcast, which is creating informed health consumers.
So if you feel like you are in a better place now, after listening to this podcast or any of our other episodes to make a decision about your health or your family’s health, please let us know if you want us to talk about anything. Please let us know. I am here for your service. This is a way for me to get the message of holistic health and wellness out there.
So help me help you. I really appreciate you guys, all the listeners for being with me on this journey. This is episode number 55, and we’re not stopping anytime soon. So thank you for listening to the Strive for Great Health Podcast with your host, Dr. Richard Harris. Have a blessed day.
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Thank you again, and God bless.