This sidebar from the AIP series is about the essence of what we’re trying to achieve.
Considering metformin as an anti-aging drug.
Using sauna therapy to reduce cardiovascular death, all-cause mortality, and dementia.
All the wondrous new biohacks rest on a singular underlying concept:
Significant stuff happens below the threshold of our awareness, and we try to change them, using new sensors and tools.
The newest understanding is that THE MOST SIGNIFICANT STUFF happens at a level you can’t feel. Everyone notices things at the “cooking” scale from a pot roast to a chia seed because we have sense organs that work at that level. But very few people can accurately feel when their blood pressure is high, or if their blood sugar goes up 10 points. And nobody can sense when their tight junctions open up, or their microglia prune synapses in the brain, or their zinc levels fall.
Stuff that impairs the immune system (which can then mess with every organ system in the body) happens at the molecular level, smaller than the smallest nerve endings. Where micropores are drilled into surfaces of cells, or gateway molecules between individual cells get altered.
By the time we feel things starting to go wrong — at the “cooking” scale — the pot roast has long been burnt.
To fix things, you can work forwards, or you can walk backwards
Both approaches work, and both have a cost.
To work forwards, you can get a handle on the molecular realm before you develop obvious symptoms.
You can adopt broadly sensible lifestyle modifications, which have been shown to positively affect the deeper levels: the Paleo or AIP diets, periodic vigorous exercise, daily sunlight exposure, 8+ hours nightly of sleep, inner work and stress management, and maintaining deep social connections. Upside: you can start now and the odds of success are good. Downside: it’s a bit shotgun, and you may end up curbing things that don’t need to be avoided.
You can get commercially available tests, through labs such as Cyrex or Great Plains Laboratory, to identify biomarkers of early changes that can precision-guide your lifestyle adjustments. Upside: you can prioritize the lifestyle modifications to address your particular imbalances. Downside: the tests aren’t cheap (about $200-$500 per panel).
You can also walk things back from a current state of suffering.
I was eating clean and being active before, but once my asthma and eczema resurfaced, I pulled out all the stops. I did a deep dive into functional medicine, studied the AIP from the diet’s founder, Sarah Ballantyne PhD, dialed-in my long paused high intensity exercise (prehab and martial arts), and generally increased my compliance ten-fold with a comprehensive health program.
Upside: working from current dysfunction, shizz is real, and you are highly motivated to correct your faulty biochemistry. The theoretical downside: if you’ve waited this long, the cow has long since left the barn and wandered down the road (though there are good indications you can bring Bessie back, and we all work with what we’ve got).
It’s not new, it’s strange but it doesn’t have to be
Improving your future by manipulating things that you can’t see is something we do every day. Using a credit card to buy groceries by moving electrons between your bank and the store. Putting money aside for retirement. Eating right and working out now, for a stronger and trimmer you months from now.
We deal with the unseen but important stuff by using tools to make the invisible things visible.
We can’t see molecules, but we can use molecular biology to understand what’s happening at the molecular level. We can’t feel vitamin D, but we can use biochemistry and immunology to understand how its absence affects the immune system. Just like we can’t see our muscles growing while doing pushups, but we can use the lessons of physiology to understand how working out will lead to muscle growth.
Ignorance is not an option
Not really, not if you want to avoid “inevitable” chronic illnesses and improve your health and wellness.
Ignoring what medical science now tells us about how the brain works, how the gut and the brain communicate with one another, and how the immune system ties everything together…would be like taking the newest and best tools we have to fix ourselves, and putting them in a closet so you could watch sitcom reruns.
Understandable if you’ve had a long day, but not something to make a habit of.
It’s time to spend some time where the real stuff is happening.