And now for another round of Monday Musings…
Poop is the new probiotic. Doctors have been using fecal transplants as a “last resort,” mostly to treat the rising scourge of Clostridium difficile, a gut bug that affects about 250,000 Americans every year and proves extremely resistant to antibiotics. Shooting a fecal extract from healthy people into the C. diff-ridden colons of the affected has a 95% success rate. Some docs are pushing for the last resort to be the go-to move. I can’t argue with that.
But gut health isn’t just about acute infection. It’s also about basic metabolic health. A study showed that sterile mice receiving a fecal transplant from obese mice gained more weight than sterile mice who received transplants from lean mice. And most recently, a Dutch pilot study gave 18 obese males with pronounced metabolic syndrome fecal transplants from lean individuals. They did not lose weight, but they did experience improved insulin sensitivity and triglyceride numbers. These improvements reverted after about 12 weeks.
I’ve been thinking about human health for a long, long time – pretty much my entire life. When I was running marathons and battling injuries and illness, I was missing it, and so I sought it. I figured moving on to triathlons would help, maybe by “spreading the damage” across three disciplines, rather than just the one, but that didn’t do it. And so I started tweaking my eating plan by paying attention to anthropological evidence of the human ancestral diet. Obviously, this worked, and for a while, I felt I’d found the optimal path to human health. Things were good.
But my journey didn’t stop at diet. It wasn’t enough. My physical activity had to change, too: resistance training; sprints; hikes, walks, and other long, easy movements; and a marked de-emphasis on Chronic Cardio.
Yesterday, I showed how environmental, behavioral, and social cues act as zeitgebers to human circadian rhythms, and I tried to be as thorough as possible (without outstaying my welcome). I left out one very important environmental cue with the promise of more information today – sound.
I can’t recall exactly where I heard about it, but it was someone’s offhand reference to the notion of the calls of songbirds affecting our circadian rhythms that convinced me I should do a follow-up to the blue light piece from earlier this year. The notion of bird calls affecting us on a deeper level than a regular sound makes some intuitive sense to me, so I did some searching to see if there was anything to it.
For all the unchecked randomness in this world, there are at least some things you can count on. The sun always rises and it always gets dark, and that’s something life – all life – has learned to rely on. Our internal clocks, known as circadian rhythms, tend to match up with this established external cycle. In essentially all known forms of life, from the earliest cells and bacteria to plants and mammals, the circadian rhythm is characterized by a period of around 24 hours.
You might recall a previous MDA series on how blue light can affect our circadian rhythms, and what we can do to maintain normal, natural levels and timing of blue light exposure. Long story short – it turns out that our exposure to blue light is akin to exposure to daylight, and getting too much – or too little – at the wrong times can disrupt our natural circadian rhythm and affect the quality of our sleep by changing when melatonin is secreted in our bodies. In other words, blue light is a major human zeitgeber (the ten-dollar word of the day); an exogenous cue that synchronizes our internal clock. But it’s not just light that affects our circadian rhythms.
Dust mites are everywhere. They are true survivors, able to make it in virtually all climates and at any altitude. They thrive, however, in our homes, especially bedrooms, enjoying the humidity generated by all the breathing, perspiring, and drooling we do at night and feeding on all the skin flakes we produce. For these tiny creatures, we’re living, breathing humidifier-refrigerator-landlords who charge extremely competitive rates. Why wouldn’t they infest us?
In the last couple weeks we’ve taken a look at sleep posture, how to improve it, and modern bedding. Today we’ll take a closer look at your mattress, investigating what may be lurking inside and what you can do about it.
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