The popular story of how low-carb diets work goes something like this: Reducing your carbohydrate...
Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...Tell Me More
Over the course of a day’s hike or in a sudden wonderstruck moment, many of us have felt the edges of our selves dissolve into the wild that surrounds us. We become unconsciously “of” our environments. Shedding the insular, constraining cages of our everyday hyperrationality—the mental chatter, the rigid expectations, and inevitable tension and failures that accompany them—identities and desires evaporate into the senses. For a time, we become raw awareness. The heightening of the senses alone can feel like a kind of animalistic thrill.
I haven’t talked much about stress this month, and I don’t want to give it short shrift. Yes, there’s a lot to take apart with food and exercise, both of which can feel more “actionable” at times. But stress can be a major roadblock to success. How we deal with emotional and physical stress will invariably impact our health, well-being and performance. Until we dial it in, we’ll compromise the results of all our other Primal efforts.
I’ve said in the past that stress has been one of the hardest aspects I’ve struggled with—and continue to now and then. Living Primally means I’m running on full rather than empty to be sure, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the world always conforms to logic or sanity, let alone my preferences. And emotional tension aside, I like to push myself periodically in the gym or on an outdoor adventure, which means I’m dealing with physical stressors, too.
Here’s one thing I’ve done for twenty years to counter both emotional and physical stress.
A few months back, I put together an article on alternative therapies for depression. Many readers showed a lot of interest in some of the emerging non-drug treatments in that field, and, more importantly, many began to relay their own stories about how they overcame or successfully managed their depression through various strategies. That’s what I love the most about this community—sharing experience and expertise in the interest of broadening available solutions beyond what conventional thought tells us.
I’ve received frequent requests over the years to do the same for the convoluted world of ADD and ADHD treatment. There’s a lot to this picture and (if there’s interest) probably fodder for a follow-up post. For today I’ll delve into some of the lifestyle strategies and alternative therapies that offer the most promise.
For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m delving more deeply into dopamine. Readers asked some great questions and made some interest comments in the comment board of last week’s post on dopamine, and today I’m addressing three of them. First, how does caffeine related to dopamine? Second, what’s the deal with all my mention of pornography in the last post? And finally, is MDA just providing dopamine hits?
Scientists recently discovered a major difference between humans and apes. It’s not the body hair, or the prehensile feet, or the propensity to fling poop with less-than-perfect accuracy. It’s actually the TH gene, one that directs the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Humans express the TH gene in the striatum, a part of the brain involved in movement, and in the neocortex, which conducts higher-order thinking. Chimps and other apes do not.
Why is this so important?
The book is an ancient technology whose importance has only increased in modern times. With a book, you gain access to another person’s mind or life experiences. That’s hard to beat. People who aren’t reading are really selling themselves short and missing out on an enjoyable pastime as well as a leg up on the competition.
Here are some fantastic books to dig into this coming year. Most of them are new and deal with health, fitness, and nutrition. Others are about history, productivity, or self-improvement. Some are just fun reads. They’re some of my recent (or long-time) favorites and all great options for people looking to read more this coming year.
If you look at the latest stats, you might assume there’s no cognitive health crisis. The overall number of dementia cases are going up, but that’s because the aging population is growing. Older folks are living longer than ever before, so there are more people around who can develop dementia. Dementia and Alzheimer’s rates are dropping in the Western world. Politicians, those archetypical paragons of cognitive aptitude, are hanging around in office longer than ever. Technology, science, and other fields that require large amounts of cognitive ability are progressing.
But broad trends and large numbers are just statistics. However reassuring they are to public policy analysts, they mean nothing to the individual suffering from cognitive decline. They’re too abstract. Your grandpa no longer knowing who you are? That’s real. You, personally, don’t want to lose your cognitive abilities as you age. You, personally, don’t want to see the people you love get Alzheimer’s. Individual cases matter to those individuals and their loved ones. And it’s still happening more than it should.
The team and I are hustling today, getting everything in place before the holiday weekend, and all of us are already thinking about the festivities (not to mention feasts) to come. So, you’ll forgive me if I indulge the holiday spirit and even wax a bit sentimental—just a little. (Thanksgiving IS my favorite, I’ll admit….) And, on a more practical note, let me share some “best of MDA” tips and recipes for making the holiday weekend healthier and happier.
I’ve been using adaptogens for quite some time, but in the last year I’ve been experimenting a little more with them. You may have caught my mention of a few adaptogenic varieties in one version of my daily big ass salad (not for a flavor hit). I’ve also briefly highlighted ashwagandha and holy basil, and I’ve always been a big believer (and user) of Rhodiola rosea for normalizing stress response.
All well and good. But what’s the backstory on adaptogens? What is there to gain? And what about the other options?
It’s fair to say that I gravitate towards tangible, actionable subject matter when it comes to improving my own and others’ health. Things like nutrition, fitness, sleep, hormonal responses, and supplement science may seem like a lot to chew on for the layperson, but these are my personal passions as well as my long-time profession.
And while these are certainly the big, actionable players in the game of health, I fully acknowledge there may be more lurking behind the scenes than we realize. A body that refuses to heal no matter how Primal you eat. Stubborn health conditions that simply refuse to fully go away, despite all the changes you make in your life. A propensity for disease that defies everything you’ve learned about ancestral nutrition and wellness. An intriguing new angle in the health sphere suggests the hurdle for some people may be embedded deeper than outer changes can access.