I don’t like to visit doctors. Not big on routine exams. Surely they’ll find something if they start looking. I generally go when I’m in need. And I’ve been in need this year. After surgery, aftermath, radiation, I was referred to Maxine Barish-Wreden, a holistic/integrative practitioner, someone I already knew from my connections with Sutter.
Actually, I almost cancelled the appointment. In the past she’d been big into supplements and I ditched that approach when my daily intake of pills was heading to twenty. My current doc (who I adore) says Americans have the most expensive pee on the planet. But I went to see Dr. Max at the beginning of March, when the cold that lasted forever was just beginning to fester.
And my #1 question was about building my challenged immune system and I loved her incredible ability to listen. Then she plied me with information that went in a direction I so did not expect and that is the basis for this newsletter. I have zero expertise in the stuff that follows. Just letting you know what she recommended to boost my immune system and my personal experience with this investigation.
Optimizing circadian rhythm was the first topic. What is that exactly? Imagine a 24-hour internal clock running in the brain background that cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals. This life rhythm is also affected by natural cycles of light and dark. With the advent of electricity and more recently screens everywhere we turn…well, there is nothing natural about our cycles of light and dark, unless we are having some fortunate time off the grid.
Helping these rhythms move closer to normal requires us to play with some pretty sacred habits. Stuff like getting some exposure to sunlight in the morning, regular mealtimes, narrowing the food consumption window (more on that later), no eating 3-4 hours before bedtime, asleep by 10:00. Any one of these might be a radical shift for most of us. I started to pay attention. BTW, easy TedTalk to absorb.
What I noticed was I had a long food window beginning with my 7am green drink and coasting to a stop with a treat cup of yogurt at 9pm. Healthy food, yes. But that’s 14 hours. So, curiosity piqued, I delved into a related topic: time restricted eating. Could I shift some of those sacred habits and close that window to 12, maybe experiment with 10, 8, 6? I played with this over a couple weeks. Each increment had it’s challenges. Sadly, it was not curing the cold that lasted forever, but I noticed my energy shifting, cravings dropping, clarity increasing.
Digestion is a ton of work for the body. Less daily digestion time creates more body rest time. If I were an immune system trying to get back on track, I’d appreciate that. My body was saying yes. Of course WHAT you eat is important. But this focus on WHEN you eat is so very interesting. My diet is already pretty healthy. I did shift to more vegetarian/vegan options. My small consumption of caffeine and alcohol fell away without notice. Not wanting/expecting that to be permanent! This approach to health feels so in alignment with the spirit of physical therapy. No pills, no fancy tricks or gimmicks, no diet plans. Just harnessing the body’s resources for healing.
The cold that never ended turned into a bacterial infection at the end of March. A course of antibiotics cleared the ear and sinus malaise but I am still left with this virus that seems to be plaguing so many. After starting medical treatment two weeks ago, I still feel like I’m functioning at 75%. I have heard from you. I am not alone. Last week I let go of my frustration, my need for things to be different than they are and just surrendered. I trust that my intelligent and capable body is doing exactly what it needs to do.
But I woke from a sound sleep several days ago with an intuitive flash: it’s time to take WHEN to the next level. The other info in my Dr. Max packet was about fasting. Limited experience in this realm: a three-day fast in 2000 connected with a vision quest. At the time, the thought petrified me but the actual experience surprised me. Easy with initial hunger passing pretty quickly. But I am a self-identified passionate foodie who loves everything having to do with gardening, harvesting, shopping, prepping, tasting, consuming and all the social beauty that goes with this human activity. Why would I deprive myself with fasting?
Well there’s some research out there (not enough) about many purported health benefits. But more importantly, it made sense to not feed whatever virus demons were occupying my interior landscape. So I did three days. It was not hard and I have been eating super-healthy light since. Most of us have little experience with hunger as sensation. Tolerance for this sensation can be cultivated. I don’t know what the future holds for me in this realm. But I feel super-clear and know I’m doing everything to optimize my health.
Long after humans are gone from this planet, the bacteria and fungi and viruses will be thriving. We are reaching our limits on many fronts about what we can do medically to cure things. I’m grateful to this body, this temple, this vehicle that has housed me for so long and allowed me to find such satisfying expression in the world. So I’m just gonna keep playing in this food field and if you have personal experience you care to share, I would love to hear from you. And if I’ve intrigued you a bit, WHEN is super-easy to track and tinker with.
Gonna close this screen down right now!