Author Archives: Dr John Whitcomb

About Dr John Whitcomb

Dr John Whitcomb is one of Milwaukee's premier functional medicine and Anti-Aging doctors. He is in private practice in Brookfield. He is board certified in Anti-Aging Medicine, Internal Medicine, Emergency Medicine and has a Masters Degree in Nutrition and Metabolic Medicine. He is also now developing Wellness University, an innovative course to teach the fundamentals of nutrition and self care to individuals and companies.

Senolytic Therapy for Alzheimer’s? “STOP IT IN ITS TRACKS

References: Aging Cell, Forbes MagazineDiabetes,

It’s getting close to Halloween. Zombies are in everyone’s yards. And zombie cells are in you. You have heard about senescence in this column. It happens to good healthy cells that are “quiescent” (waiting and responsive, able to duplicate) when they tip into “senescence”. A senescent cell is a zombie. It is hanging around but unable to be constructive and helpful. Actually, it is harmful because they ooze inflammatory substances and infect their neighbors. But they don’t go away. Aging is all about accumulating more and more senescent cells in all your organs. And we see that in the blood tests with an inexorable decline in circulating stem cells. We have talked about getting rid of senescent cells with various combinations of supplements on your own, or with Mayo Clinic’s protocol of Dasatinib (a leukemia drug) and quercetin, a well-known supplement derived from onions and apples. 
It’s the accumulation of tau proteins in the brain that appears to be the tipping point in Alzheimer’s, and possibly up to 20 other brain disease. Tau proteins are the stabilizing scaffolding of axons, the wires that connect brain cells. If they get misfolded and disorganized, it’s as though your scaffolding on your new building suddenly collapsed. This paper from the University of Texas shows that a link exists between senescent cells and the accumulation of tau proteins. This means you have senescent cells, zombies, in your brain with broken scaffolding that you can’t clear out. It’s not just that the tau proteins are in the way but the zombie cells won’t go away. No matter how many “Trick or Treats” you give them, they just keep infecting the cells around them. No wonder you can’t think straight! What if……what if you could clear out those zombies? Well, you can. 
You can clear senescent cells from mouse brains that are genetically altered to look like human Alzheimer’s. The “senolytic” treatment given the mice was the same used at Mayo, Dasatinib and Quercetin, once every two weeks over 12 weeks. They then did MRI’s on the mouse’s brains and looked at them under a microscope. 
One of the authors was so enthusiastic about their outcome that he was quoted as saying in Forbes, “It stopped Alzheimer’s in its tracks!” That’s pretty intense. Did it cause the mice any harm? Nope. Not that they could detect. Will this work in humans? Who knows! If you had early-onset Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s…..would you try it?

WWW: What will work for me. This is another classic example of the “ethics” of modern medicine. Is it ethical to take a scientific advance found in mice to you when you are descending into an irreversible disease? If it doesn’t cause harm, that you know of, does that make it easier? Or, do you care if it causes harm? Should this be a therapy used by everyone over 40, as 50% of us are going to get Alzheimer’s someday if we live long enough?

Pop Quiz

  1. It’s Halloween in your brain, what is happening to the zombie cells in your brain? Answer: They are becoming “senescent”
  2. What does senescent mean? Answer: Those cells can’t duplicate anymore but more importantly, they put out inflammatory cytokines that inflame and damage cells around them into becoming senescent.
  3. What appears to be the cardinal marker of ongoing senescence in brain cells? 
    Answer: The accumulation of tau proteins.
  4. n mice, what can you do to clear out those senescent cells? Answer: Dasatinib (chemotherapy drug) and Quercetin, dosed 6 times over 12 weeks.
  5. What else can you do to reverse that senescence? Answer: Walk two miles every day of the world. A bit of sweat is better. Fast mimicking diet if not outright fasting on a routine basis. Growth hormone might also be a secret path.

Prolonged Fasting (10 days) Cures Fatty Liver

References: EMBO Molecular MedicineScience DailyWebMDJ Clin MedEur J GastroJCEM,

If you have gained meaningful weight since you were a teen, and have a waist size 4-6 inches greater than you had before, you likely have fatty liver. If you drink much alcohol, you likely have fatty-liver. That means you join just about 50% of Americans. We all have it. Fatty liver, insulin resistance, diabetes, and big waist size all go hand in hand. In fact, fatty-liver goes hand in hand with SIBO (small intestinal bowel overgrowth), also goes hand in hand, a curious correlation. 
The result of all this is that your liver doesn’t work as efficiently as you would want it to. You have insulin resistance and many other metabolic markers of dysfunction. If you just look at pictures of the endoplasmic reticulum, your body’s metabolic factory where you make critical proteins, you can see that fatty liver just mucks thinks up by making big pools of fat on the factory floor. It’s like parking empty semi-trailers on an assembly line floor – horribly out of context and in the way.

How do you get fatty-liver? Easy. Eating too much stuff that gets turned into fat at a rate so fast you can’t ship it out from your liver. So it backs up. That’s it. Alcohol is a premier example. You instantly make triglycerides and small LDLs in your blood when you drink alcohol and your liver backs up with it if you make more than you can ship to your fat cells. You get a “beer belly” as you keep shipping fat out. That means you are also getting a “beer-liver”. But lots of bread and chips, pretzels and Fritos, bagels and donuts will do it too. Did I mention ice-cream?

GADD45β, (Growth Arrest and DNA Damage-inducible Peptide) appears to be a critical peptide you stop making when you eat or drink too much. It protects you from fatty-liver. Fasting increases its level. There you have it. You can cure your fatty-liver very quickly with a prolonged, 10-day fast. You make more GADD45β. Your liver starts to regenerate and heal itself from the self-induced damage.

Can I explain the sequence of events of what happens to you? Critical to the whole process is turning off insulin, as insulin is the key driver to forcing you to store calories. Part of the storage process is making fat molecules to ship to your fat cells as triglycerides from your liver. Turn off insulin and you turn off the engine driving that process. Sort of like turning off the electricity and your computer printer stops printing. The production of insulin is defined by what you eat. Refined carbs do it best. Any flour will do. But root vegetables, grains, and meat also turn on insulin. Stop eating those foods and your insulin level plummets. The first event in the fasting sequence is turning off insulin, sort of like turning off the electricity. Then, it takes two days to empty your carb reserves when you fast.

By hour 48, you have burned all 1500 calories of carbs that were packed into your muscles and liver as glycogen. You are now in ketosis, meaning you are running on ketones, the breakdown products of fat. You feel differently, sort of like hunger but not really. Your brain feels sharper. You are colder and need an extra sweater. 
Your body is now looking around for calories to burn. First comes the easy to get to tank of fat in your liver. Your fatty liver gets addressed. You start making GADD45β and shipping the fat out to burn. It takes 3-4 days to get rid of that fat, maybe it a bit longer if you have big-time fatty-liver. 
By day 6 or 7, your liver function tests are dramatically better and your blood cholesterol ironically starts to rise. That’s because you are cleaning out the fat from your liver and your arteries. No kidding! Your body needs fuel and that fat is the easy-to-get-to stuff because it’s right there where the blood flows and is access to mobilize. 
Ok, fasting sounds too hard. Traditional methods of treating fatty liver include such advice as “eat less and lose weight”. That hasn’t worked very well because that admonition doesn’t come with recipes of food that don’t turn off insulin. The only foods that don’t turn on insulin are green, above-ground vegetables. Make me a diet of spinach, Brussel’s sprouts, broccoli and kale, and I will get rid of your fatty liver. But you have to eat them only, with a drizzle of olive oil on them and only 800 calories a day. Do that for 4 weeks and your fatty liver will be gone too. Oh heck, just fast for 10 days and get it over with. Come see me and I’ll show you how.

WWW: What will work for me. I’m watching the liver functions of every one of my patients who do 10-day fasts. I’m personally just finished by most recent 5- day fast mimicking diet of 800 calories. I didn’t get hungry, one more time, as my body is now trained to flip into and out of ketosis. It took about 6 months to get there but I’m now quite comfortable getting in and out of it. My liver function tests are now normal and my waist size is back down with two inches of my high school graduation size. It was up over 6 inches from where I am now. Then, I had fatty liver.

Pop Quiz

  1. Who has fatty-liver? Answer: Anyone of us who have gained more than 4-6 inches on our waist sizes since highschool. Hmm: all of us, just about.
  2. What is the cause of fatty liver? Answer: Too much nutrition of fat inducing foods, with a dab of booze on the side.
  3. What’s the best way to get rid of fatty liver? Answer: Stop it. Fast. The fewer the calories, the faster it works. You won’t feel hungry after about day 4-5 but you will feel colder and be more easily fatigued if its the first time you have ever done it.
  4. Can you measure your fatty liver? Answer: Well, yes, with high tech expensive stuff live an MRI or an ultrasound. Better way is your waist size and simply asking if you have gained 6 inches since highschool. Or an SGOT/SGPT liver function tests commonly on the chem panel. GADD45β is really a research tool not on the market for normal folks.
  5. Ok, what’s a more traditional way to get rid of fatty liver? Answer: lose weight more slowly. Takes longer and fails because, because, because. So it doesn’t work very well. This is serious business. Take it seriously. Don’t eat for 10 days. Be a vegan for 7 days before and after. Get lots of help. Read Joel Fuhrman’s book: Fasting Fasting for wellness.

Senescent Cells can by Knocked off with Supplements Too!

References: Forever HealthyAntioxid Redox Signal., WikipediaScientific AmericanMDPI,

The last third of our lives isn’t as fun as the first two. We are in decline. Our bodies are shutting down and falling apart. At the level of the cell, responsive, duplicating, life-sustaining stem cells that are in the “Quiescent” state degrade into a “Senescent” state. They won’t respond to calls to duplicate. They start making mistakes in managing energy supply through the mitochondria and spin-off all sorts of “oxidants”. They develop a unique secretome of chemokines, cytokines and extracellular matrix-degrading proteins, termed the senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP), that can actively damage the tissues in which senescent cells reside. They are a mess. We die when too many of our cells become “senescent” and make SASP. 
Last week we reported on the Mayo Clinic’s publication of clinical improvement in patients given chemotherapy drugs and quercetin (plant-based anti-oxidant) that could be shown to clean out, knock off, get rid of senescent cells.

The question arises, can you do it on your own? Are some of the foods eaten by populations that live longer rich in anti senescent qualities? Are there some foods we should add to our diet? 
With that idea in mind, let’s look at the evidence. The answer might be yes! For example, fisetin is a hot topic compound right now. It’s found naturally in strawberries, grapes, apples and onions. Of the six pathways that senescent cells activate to prevent their death (making them hang around like zombies, present but not really alive) fisetin activates 4 of them leading to the cells clearing out and then dying. All the research to date has been done in mice where there is a lot of interesting evidence that it helps.

Beyond eating more strawberries and grapes, can you take a supplement of fisetin? Dr Mercolacertainly thinks so. The protocols that have been used have a doseof around 20 mg per kilogram body weight for two days in a row, here and there. 
Are there other supplements that might work together with fisetin? Well, yes. Quercetin also has some beneficial effects.

Curcumin might also be helpful. It’s the yellow in curry powder from the spice turmeric. It directly binds and blocks the inflammatory pathway with NK-kappa-B and COX enzymes. Like fisetin and quercetin, it is a common food that has many points of activity, but also very low toxicity.

This deep dive can spiral down further and further. Until we have specific tests about how to measure the effectiveness and safety, the level of senolytic cells, the reduction of those cells by your intervention…on an on, it might be a bit premature. But if it doesn’t harm you, is it so bad to experiment? This is food after all! Sounds to me like eating whole, organic, fresh foods might not be such a bad strategy. Doing some strategy twice a year might not be so bad, to cut down on the building burden of senolytic cells.

Or, if you want, can you buy Fisetin take a gram of it three days in a row with a gram of Quercetin and have a nice spicy curry for three days in a row, loaded with fried curry powder so that you get all three? Do that twice a year. Four times a year? 
The other strategy of reducing senolytics should not be forgotten. You can pull back senolytic cells into quiescence by exercise (2 miles of walking daily) and fasting episodically. Growth hormone will also do it.

WWW: What will work for me? Goodness. I love this idea. I’m doing my exercise pretty faithfully. I’ve been doing my 5 day fast mimicking once a month. I bought by spinach to make my soup and curry for my next session. But should I take Fisetin and Quercetin a couple of times a year? I want to find the tests that show improvement. I need one more piece of the puzzle to fall into place.

Pop Quiz

  1. What is senolytics? Answer: The emerging science of getting rid of old, senescent cells.
  2. What are the problems with old, senescent cells? Answer: They give off all sorts of damaging compounds and chemicals that infect the cells around them with aging and poorer function. They can’t multiply. Enough of them and you die.
  3. What are the plant-based three supplements that might be useful to naturally rid yourself of your own senescent cells? Answer: Fisetin, quercetin, curcumin found in strawberries, onions, apples and curry.
  4. Do you need to take these all the time? Answer: No, probably just a couple of times a year.
  5. Do we have human studies to prove the concept? Answer: Very few. Mostly tangential. But sure interesting.

Live Longer by Knocking off your Senile Cells

References: eBiomedicineNatureNature MedicineNatureCellsMediumNIH ResearchCurr Opin LipidologyCell Stem CellAmer Jr of Physiol.,

We want you to have responsive, alert, available stem cells throughout your body. When in this state, we call them “quiescent“. They may be “quiet” but they are geared up and ready to go when called upon. They aren’t dividing or multiplying, but are ready to do so if asked. You just might live forever if your cells were always “quiescent”. The problem is, they become old, damaged and “senescent” or senile.

That is effectively what aging is. Your cells that are able to divide reach a limit (The Hayflick limit of 50 divisions) and stop dividing. They then undergo a whole raft of changes including changes in chemicals they excrete, signals they send out, structure of their internal architecture, etc. They are still metabolically active and doing their “thing” in the organ they belong to, but they can’t divide and they are basically zombies. Like the zombies on horror movies, they can invade you and infect you with their senescence. Transplant senescent cells from old rats to young rats, and the young rats act old. This process is all about the conversation between healthy mitochondria and your nucleus. When that process is humming and healthy, your cells remain responsive and “quiescent”. When it degrades, they become “senescent”. 
Getting rid of senescent cells would appear to be a crafty little idea of helping you live longer. We do know that ailing organs pile up more and more senescent cells as they become more dysfunctional with whatever their disease state is. So what would happen if we found drugs that could selectively kill off senescent cells? 
That’s what this week’s news is about. From the Mayo Clinic, researchers report that they can kill off senescent cells selectively with so-called senolytic drugs. Using an herbal supplement called quercetin and a leukemia drug called dasatinib the study authors found remarkable reduction in the senolytic population that persisted for 11 days after stopping the study. In mice that combination has led to mice living longer. Now we know it appears to be safe in humans in short term studies. We don’t have long term studies, yet. 
But before you rush out and start yourself on quercetin, remember there are other ways to pull your cranky mitochondria back from middle age senescence to more youthful quiescence. Exercise does it! High-Intensity Training, HIT, is the current hot topic where you go nuts for 4 minutes of hard-driving, sweat-inducing and heart rate raising exercise. It works because…..? It wakes up your senescing mitochondria and cells and pulls them back into quiescence. Got that? Anything else? 
Why yes. Fasting. When you fast, you force your body to switch from glucose burning to ketone or fat burning. That’s good for your stem cells and quiesence. In fact, there is increasing evidence that stem cells love your being on ketones. Plain and simple. When you fast, you switch your body into ketone or fat burning (You chop up your fat molecules into ketones once you have burned off all your carbs – usually after about 2 days). That wakes up your middle-aged, sloppy cells on the verge of becoming senescent, and hauls that back into quiescence. What’s the proof? Too much to enter here except to reference all the feeding studies like in Madison, WI where rhesus monkies fed 30% fewer calories lived much, much longer than those fed to satiety. We eat to satiety, and then some.

Any way to speed up senescence? Yes, again. A high-fat diet will do that just fine. Radiation, sedentary life, pesticides, or any other oxidative stress you can think up will all do it.

WWW: What will work for me. Wow. Fascinating. We can use drugs to push old, cruddy quiescent cells out and kill them off. Ok, leukemia drugs make me a bit nervous but quercetin is tried and true safe. It’s the concept that is reinforcing the over-arching concept. We want to keep our cells quiescent. This is the secret sauce of exercise. And then there is fasting. I’m doing my 5-day thing monthly. Did I mention that boosting your growth hormone will do it too?

Pop Quiz

  1. Can you really live longer by knocking off your senile old cells? Answer: Not really proven yet but all the pieces are in place. The longest-lived persons all over the world fit the pattern: they exercise. they fast, they eat less fat
  2. What did the researchers do at Mayo that worked on senescent cells? Answer: They showed they could selectively kill them off with two drugs
  3. Why are senescent cells such a big deal? Answer: They are front and center of just about every disease. You die when your burden of senescent cells piles up too high.
  4. Can you recall how much longer men lived in the Retired Men’s Study from Honolulu when they walked 2 miles a day? Answer: (Bonus points). Double.Nice number.
  5. What are ketones and what do they have to do with senescence? Answer: Ketones are the chopped up fat molecules we make when we have burned off all our carbs. You can get a few ketones in your system every day if you don’t eat for 13 hours. Longer fasting is better. First, you burn off your 1500 calories of carbs. Then you get to theeasy fat hanging out in your fatty liver. Then you plunge ahead and just plain lose weight and wake up all your lazy quiescent cells.

Prolonged Fasting for Heart Disease

References: Fuhrman, Fasting ..., American Heart JournalThoraxNEJMJACMHelio,

Alright. You have terrible chest pressure and feel nauseated and sweaty. You call 911 and the paramedics rush you to the hospital. The ER does and EKG and calls the cardiologist, who whips in and does a catheterization and calls the surgeons because you are just too blocked. In rushes the team and you have bypass surgery of 4 blood vessels. Heros all around. Saved your life! Or did me. Remember, I did this for 25 years. I’ve got the routine down pat. You had your chest sawed open, were in the ICU for 4 days then in rehab for 6 months. 
Did we help you? Maybe, or maybe not. Between 3-4% of people die during open heart surgery. And between 15-44% of folks come out of bypass surgeryintellectually “impaired” or altered. Just a wee bit slower than when they went in. And finally, we know that blockages accelerate in the arteries that are bypassed if you don’t change anything after the surgery. And remember, you didn’t eat for those 5-7 days while you were being chopped up and put in the ICU. Did the surgery help you? Or was it the fasting? 
Let’s talk about the fasting. First of all, it’s cheaper by about a quarter million. Second of all, your brain comes out the same as it went in. Third, it really doesn’t hurt near as much. In fact, it’s pretty boring. So what is going on? 
Well, for starters, we have already reviewed how your high blood pressure goes awayand stays gone for up to 9 months. That’s pretty impressive. High blood pressure is just about the number one risk for coronary artery disease, as it represents your arteries getting stiffer and tighter, mostly from inflammation of the lining of your arteries.

Dean Ornish has also shown that compared to the American Heart Association 30% fat diet, his 15% fat vegan diet reverses heart disease while the AHA diet doesn’t. But that isn’t fasting. It’s just going vegan and very low fat. I’m fond of this idea as I’ve seen it in my own family. My Uncle Paul completely reversed his coronary artery disease after 5 vessel bypass surgery in 1975 (one of the first) by following a Pritikin/Ornish diet. So, we know that being a strict vegan, with low fat will reverse heart disease whereas the American Heart Association diet wont. 
But what about fasting? Well, we don’t have straight up studies. What we have are “tangents”. Close. For example, look at folks who don’t eat for months because they have cancer, or any other wasting disease. They have markedly reduced artery disease. Where did it go? A clue might be with anorexia patients. They have very high cholesterolwhen they are avoiding food (we call that fasting). It is my belief, waiting for clinical studies, that 10 fasting results in your body first emptying your carb tank and turning on ketosis. That takes about 48 hours. Then you clean up the fat in your easy to get places like your liver. That takes another 72-96 hours. Now, you have to get serious and scavenge. The cholesterol pools in your liver are right there on the surface. So, sure enough, day 8-10 your cholesterol spikes. You are cleaning out your arteries. 
What we do have are many clinical anecdotes by doctors who have been treating people with symptoms. Joel Fuhrman is only the most recent prominent doctor to report his success with this. But I’m in there with him. I’ve already had three reports in just the last week of anecdotal improvement with 10 days fasts and vascular disease.

WWW: What will work for me. I think it’s unethical to not teach someone a possible therapeutic alternative that has no side effects and is better than something that has risk and toxicity to it. I’ve now engaged about 20 people with the consideration of doing a 10 day fast to whom I have given lab tests including cholesterols to measure on day 8-10 of the fast. This is way too interesting to let go unreported. And just consider, you can spend $ 250,000 and lose 10% of your brainpower, or you can spend nothing and get completely better. Either way, you don’t eat for about 10 days.

Pop Quiz

  1. Fasting for 10 days is worse for you than open-heart surgery? T or F. Answer: Aw, come on. You just read this. You have open heart surgery and you don’t eat for at least 4-5 days. Have you considered that maybe it was the not eating if you still have enough brainpower to remember? Fasting is easier, cheaper, more effective. But don’t do it and waste it by going back to eating a high animal fat and protein diet
  2. What happens with anorectics when they are not eating – to their cholesterol? Answer: It shoots up to super-high levels.
  3. What does that suggest? Answer: After about 7 days of poor eating, your body scavenges available cholesterol from wherever it can find it to use for fuel, and most of us have quite a bit stored up in our arteries.
  4. What happens to high blood pressure with a 10 day fast? Answer: Cured. No meds.
  5. How hungry are you on a 10 day fast. Answer: Not very. Hunger gone by day 2. You may feel some fatigue but may not. Remember, you have a fat tank with 150,000 calories in it if you are an average shaped woman. More in some. Once you are fasting, your fat cells open up and share their calories so you have fuel to work with. You might feel better if you drank a lot of water with some salt in it.

Prolonged Fasting for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

References: Joel Fuhrman: FastingUpton Sinclair: The Fasting CureCellScience DailyHealthlineCDC StatisticsLancet,

Inflammatory bowel disease is way too common. It is the leading cause of admission to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin (personal communications). It causes a ton of misery. Want to fix it? This may be the cure in sight! A prolonged fast, 10 days of water only, may be the cure! 
There are doctors in America who are already helping people through this. Joel Fuhrman has a whole chapter on the topic. And he is not the first. Ironically, it is one of America’s most prominent authors, Upton Sinclair, who first shown the light on prolonged fasting. He stumbled on 10 day water fasts as a cure for many illnesses and wrote one of his 100 books on the topic. He mentions many illnesses that reported to him how they had been cured when they followed his admonition to fast for 10 days. 
But this advance isn ‘t based on some guru’s opinion. We are now getting credible research to support the claim, including more calls for volunteers to join in research studies.

What is the credible research that is out there? In Cell Reports, Valter Longo shows that in mice with inflammatory bowel disease, fasting with both a fast mimicking reduced-calorie format and water only format, signs and symptoms dramatically improved. This occurred, in part, because of a dramatic shift in the type of bacteria in the colon: many more beneficial lactobacillus and bifidobactericea species.

We don’t have large, multicenter studies in humans yet. We have anecdotal cases and “tangent” type studies: close and similar but not quite. For example, in the journal Lancet from 1993 we have an elimination diet study with some 123 people with inflammatory bowel disease who embarked on an elimination diet versus standard steroids. The elimination folks who identified and then avoided their offending foods did MUCH better at maintaining a remission: 3.8 versus 7.5 months with the elimination diet. 
There is likely some overlap with the concept of lectins as detailed in Steven Gundry’s Plant Paradox box. He also gives anecdotes of folks cured of Crohn’s with a “lectin avoiding diet”. That is another form of elimination diet. It is what I would do if I had inflammatory bowel disease. 
What is going on with fasting that cures inflammatory bowel disease? Here is my conjecture that makes sense with what we know so far. Our fore-parents, just 300,000 years ago ate African plants. As humans spread across the globe out of Africa, we discovered more foods that had elements that spark inflammation and immune response. (Gundry’s lectin thesis.) This accelerated in the 20th century with industrial food production and jet planes/refrigeration. We are able to get exotic foods from all over the world to assault our intestines. I believe that Crohn’s is actually an autoimmune response to atypical tuberculosis in the gut caused by drinking contaminated milk from cow’s with Johne’s disease (atypical tuberculosis in cows that sheds the TB bacteria into their milk and isn’t removed with pasteurization). Crohn’s is the only disease besides TB in the lung that makes granulomas – rounded islands of inflammation. Our guts are so distracted with fighting all the foreign lectins, bacteria, sugars, noxious trans fats, fake sweeteners and trace pesticides that our immune system just can’t tamp down the occasional autoimmune cell. When we fast, we remove the damaging input and our immune system can refocus on the causative autoimmune cells. That’s it in a nutshell.

WWW: What Will Work for me. I’m intentional embarking on a program of eating more fiber by changing my breakfast to blueberries in almond milk with 3 heaping tablespoons of freshly ground flax. It’s a yummy breakfast. And then I have 2-3 heaping tablespoons of L. reuteri yogurt I make at home to have a massive hit of probiotics. L. reuteri is the lactobacillus you find in folks who have never had antibiotics. We Americans are weaned off artificial formula made from soy immediately onto Amoxicillin at age three months. No wonder our guts are distressed.

Pop Quiz

  1. Prolonged fasting is actually just stupidly starving yourself. T or F. Answer: Well, we naturally answer this as true. But it’s not. It’s resetting your immune system.
  2. Why is the gut to involved with our immune system? Answer: 70% of your immune system is around your gut because it is the first barrier between the outside world, what you eat, and your inside world. The cell lining of your gut is only one cell layer thick, so the immune system has to be sitting there, watching.
  3. Why is our gut so recently so dramatically inflamed? (Crohn’s disease has increased from 2 million to 3 million sufferers in America in just the last 18 years). Answer: Conjecture here but the cumulative effect of foods containing lectins, to pesticides, to all sorts of modern chemicals, to Johne’s disease, to drugs like ibuprofen and alcohol that make leaky gut, to stress, to lack of sleep, to…….
  4. What has Longo proven with a 5 day fast mimicking diet in humans in regard to your immune system? Answer: Your CRP drops some 30% and your immune system gets a reboot while your “vacuum cleaner” gobbles up and eats dysfunctional tissues, cells, debris, old organelles…a nice combination deal.
  5. Who is that famous author who did 10-day water fasting all the time? Answer: Upton Sinclair. Read his book, “The Fasting Cure”. 99c on Amazon.
  6.  

Fasting and Rheumatoid Arthritis

References: Joel Fuhrman’s Fasting…for HealthWikipediaScand Jr RheumatologyLANCETArthritis Rheum,

We need about 30 grams of protein a day and eat around 150. That extra animal protein needs to be digested and broken down to all its breakdown products. Many of the pieces along the way look like antigens and inspire an antibody reaction of some kind. Because there is quite an overlap between animal proteins and human proteins, some of the antibodies made begin to attack us because the proteins that trigger them look like us. The next step is for antigen-antibody complexes to end up in our joints where they set off the natural inflammation those complexes are designed to set off. We call that rheumatoid arthritis.

Next step, dozens of very toxic drugs for 1 % of the population
What would happen if we took the triggers away that are setting off all that inflammation? Trigger number one: Animal protein (eggs, meat, cheese, milk, yoghurt). Trigger number two: all food. Yes, all food. The reason that 70% of your immune system is around your gut is because cleaning up the toxins in the food you eat is 70% of the work your immune system has to do. Let’s take away that work.

Now, let’s give your immune system 10 days to clean up its foolishness it has gotten into with your rheumatoid arthritis. Remember, most of us are at least 25% fat. I am. I have 50 pounds of fat which gives me 175,000 calories of fuel to work with. At 1800 calories a day, that is 97 days worth of fuel. 10 days is not starving. It is simply giving your immune system and your gut a chance to reboot.

What happens? It has been studied.

In 2001, a report in the Scandanavian Journal of Rheumatology reported on their update of all studies of fasting followed by a vegetarian diet. They don’t give exact numbers in the abstract but they say the effect is statistically positive and very much worth studying on a larger scale. 
The British Journal, The Lancet, published an article showing that folks who followed a vegetarian diet benefited with statistically improved joints for up to a year after following a strict vegan, low-fat diet.

The Scandanavians have been doing much more of this. Back in 1988, they published a report of 14 patients undertaking a 7 day total fast and becoming strikingly much better.

What’s the takeaway? My goodness. For no cost at all, you can reduce your symptoms dramatically, and may even get a full remission! No toxicity! No side effects! And all you are frightened of is that you will be hungry!

WWW: What will work for me. This should be the first strategy offered to you if you have RA. Seeing as how it affects 5% of elderly, a lot of people have this awful disease. My mother in law was subjected to all the toxic side effects of gold and had to have all her tendons moved to keep her hands working. She suffered immeasurably. Curiously, she was a very odd eater, which I interpreted as being anorectic. Looking back, I think she did it because she felt better when she fasted. She was doing it for spiritual reasons. I bet the spirit led her because she felt a lot better. In any case, she lived way longer than that 10 years multiple joint RA folks live. Give her great credit for intuitively figuring out how to keep herself well.

Pop Quiz

  1. What is Rheumatoid Arthritis? Answer: (No fair). Didn’t include this. Inflammation, mostly of the knuckles but also every joint everywhere in some folks, of swelling, pain, limited motion, increased risk of heart disease and general malaise.
  2. What is the cause or RA? Answer: Making antibodies to yourself, most notably your joints.
  3. What is the proposed mechanism? Answer: Your body making antibodies to animal proteins that cross-react with human ones, meaning you. Vegetable proteins are clearly different so don’t set up such confusion.
  4. Why does fasting help RA? Answer: It gives your immune system time to focus elsewhere – wherever the problem is.
  5. What percent of people with RA are cured by fasting followed by vegan diets? Answer: Hard to ferret out but the chance is there. There are many reports of complete remission. Most objective studies show statistically valid changes in large groups. Enough to be encouraging.
  6. Can I make it 10 days on a fast? Answer: Easy. You likely have 100 days of fuel in you in your fat stores. A properly conducted fast will get you ketogenic and not hungry in about 24-48 hours. Then, you aren’t hungry so it’s easy. (Boring, but easy)

Fasting for High Blood Pressure

References: FuhrmanUpton SinclairHarvard Health, American Heart Association BP Guidelines, Br J PharmacologyJ. Manipul Physiotherapy,

Almost 70% of Americans over 70 have high blood pressure. It’s the first thing you measure when you go see a doctor. Modern medicine gives you pills to lower it. There is recent evidence that the benefit of lowering your blood pressure to 130 over 80 is worth the cost and side effects over accepting 140/90. The American Heart Association has followed with new guidelines aiming for 130/80. Hence, more pills. 
What is high blood pressure? It is being rethought of as endothelial dysfunction. That’s a fancy term to say that the cells lining your blood vessels, the last line of defense between the outside world and the vulnerable, sensitive cell, is inflamed and annoyed. It puts out chemicals that makes it squeeze down. Pressure goes up. 
How long you live is very closely associated with how high your blood pressure is. 180/120 untreated and you live about 10 months. Insurance companies know this. They send a nurse to your home to measure your blood pressure three times because it’s their money on the line. The lower your pressure, the longer you live. Period. Low blood pressure is good. Lower is better, provided it’s not from shock or a pathological condition. (So the 25% of people with mold sensitivity and ADH osmolality mismatches have trouble hanging onto water and have lower pressure because of that – so that’s a pathological condition that gets better when they are fixed.) 
What is happening when you fast? You are not taking in any food that your immune system has to deal with. You stop annoying your blood vessels. Your level of inflammatory cytokines drops. And your blood pressure drops. Really! 
How much? Ok, take 174 consecutive folks with BP over 140/90 on treatment. Do a 10 day water fast with a 2 day pre and 7 day post vegan period. 100% are off their meds in 10 days. Try that with medications! (And they weren’t hungry!) 
Joel Fuhrman documents Dr. Alan Goldhamer’s ongoing study in which 51 people with high blood pressure have been fasted for an average of 11.2 days. The average presenting blood pressure was 151.8/91.1 and 10 days later the average was 117.8/75.1. Six months later, the average blood pressure was 123/77.48 
Does this just blow you away with amazement? How come you haven’t been told about this before? Was the option offered to you when you were first diagnosed with high blood pressure? Do you freak out with fear that you will be too hungry? 
Most of us have 25%-40% fat which means we are carrying around enough calories to fast for 60-100 days before we starve. That’s a nifty feature of human fat. It gives us the ability to make it through winter, or dry season. But there is some nuance to how all this fasting should be done. A pre ramp-up diet of vegetables and a withdrawal come down diet of gradual reintroduction of calories is all part of a properly conducted diet.

And if you want a little fun, order Upton Sinclair’s personal pamphlet on fasting from Amazon (The Fasting Cure). It will cost you $ .99 in Kindle format. Upton Sinclair won the Pulitzer prize back in the 50’s for all his work, most notably The Jungle. He discovered fasting all by himself after being chronically ill for years and seeking every health guru in America’s advice. He has a couple of hilarious letters to the Editor of the New York Times, but mostly multiple compelling, real-life stories of his success and his family’s success. His wife survived appendicitis without surgery but was also chronically ill. She fasted 10 days and returned to full health.

WWW: What will work for me. I do a 5 day fast mimicking thing every month for the last 16 months. In two days, I’m not hungry and actually can feel my memory pick up then. I sleep better and do fine. I’m certain I could go 10 days. Upton Sinclair, in his pamphlet, ridicules people who fast frequently, again and again. He maintains its silly because once you do it, you are cured. He suggests you don’t need to do it if you are well. Hmmmm. This three meals a day thing may just not be the best for us, particularly when it comes with sugar, fat, and too many calories. (The bag of taco chips on the counter is waving at me.)

Pop Quiz

  1. If you fast 10 days, you are stupidly starving yourself? T or F. Answer: False. You are resetting your immune system and allowing your body to recover from the damaging assault on your immune system our modern food supply brings.
  2. You feel famished and can’t stand the hunger in a prolonged fast. T or F. Answer: False. It’s the tiny bit of carbs, sugar and other temptations that make you feel hungry. Once you are in ketosis, your hunger goes away.
  3. How long does it take to get into ketosis (burning fat)? Answer: You begin to enter ketosis every night by about 12 hours and have a bHB level of 1.1 at 7 am after an all-night 14 hour fast but it takes 48 hours to get bHB into the 3 plus range.
  4. What percent of folks with high blood pressure can be off all their meds with a 10 day, supervised fast? Answer: 100
  5. What is the best predictor of how long you live? Answer: It might be more complicated than a super simple answer, but the money is on your blood pressure. Lower is better. I value an insulin blood level over a cholesterol level for predicting cardiovascular disease down the road.

Fasting: Part 1: Why?

References: Fuhrman: Fasting and Eating for HealthShelton: Fine Art of FastingCurr Opin Onco., Longo, , HVMN,

If I told you to not eat a thing for a week or two, would you think I was nuts? Would you feel afraid and say, “I can’t do that!”. Those were my thoughts. I write this column for me to learn and to share with you. Prepare for a mind-bending trip of discovery. This idea works. I want to do a deep dive and learn it.

Joel Fuhrman is one of America’s most respected functional medicine doctors. He is widely read with his many books and has a very active research and clinical practice. With that in mind, did you know that he was a world-caliber ice skater? In that career, he had a “career-ending injury” and had an orthopedic surgeon give up on him, telling him he would never skate again. He refused to take part in a program of experimental, unproven surgery opting instead to follow Dr. Shelton’s idea of fasting. He embarked on a 40 day fast, got better, came in 3rd in the World’s Men’s figure skating. Not bad for fasting. That intrigued him so much, he went to medical school. He found medical school all about giving drugs, not healing. Fasting? You kidding? So, what goes on in fasting? 
We’ve learned from Longo in prior columns that your body turns on two sets of genes when you reduce calories: RAS and PKA. You can call them your vacuum cleaner and your stem cell engine if you want to understand their function. It’s primarily glucose and protein that cause trouble, in part because they turn on insulin.

Aha! Turning off insulin. How do you do that? In essence, you have to stop stimulating its production. You have to stop eating glucose and protein sources. Longo does that by cleverly making an 800 calorie diet based on nuts and green vegetables. That is an 80-90% fat diet when you consider that green vegetables get converted into fat (beta-hydroxybutyrate is the short-chain fatty acid made by the bacteria in your colon when you eat green, leafy vegetables.) You can get beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) from eating greens or coconut oil, or by burning your own fat. How much fat have you got to burn? Well, most of us are at least 20% fat if we are slender and up to 50% fat if we aren’t. Take me at 210 pounds: 20% is equal to 40 pounds of fat. Forty pounds at 3500 calories per pound is 140,000 calories. At 1800 calories a day in fasting mode, that’s 77 days worth of calories. 
But why the fast need? Ah! Here’s the rub. Most of our modern diseases are caused by the immune response to our food. 70% of our immune system is around our gut. Our immune system has to spend most of its energy policing what we eat and the effect it has on us. Our gut interface is the primary boundary between us and the outside world. When we eat food that sets off our immune system, we make immune responses that are often dysfunctional, attacking us. We call those diseases “auto-immune”. When we fast, we first of all remove the foreign proteins that are setting off the immune response. But more importantly, we give our system a chance to turn on your “vacuum cleaner”. Our system has to clean up old, unused stuff, and knock off dysfunctional, sulking, bad-assed immune cells that are causing trouble. That’s effectively what you do when you fast. 
Let’s just summarize that and then move on to other topics like exactly what can fasting do for you. When you fast, you switch off the engine of foreign proteins that drive your immune system to distraction with an overload of wicked things. You switch your metabolism from running on glucose to running on your own BHB (the ketone beta-hydroxybutyrate). Your brain can’t run on fat, but it can run on BHB so you don’t have to have carbs or glucose for your brain to function just fine. Fasting can give you a giant reset button to push. 
At the 30,000 foot level, you turn on the conversation between your nucleus and your mitochondria when you fast. Exercise does that too. And growth hormone naturally does that. Being young is nice because you made growth hormone for free then. Over 40 and you simply aren’t making it any more growth hormone that isn’t suppressed by somatostatin. But this column is about fasting. Yes indeed, you are waking up the vibrant conversation between your nucleus and your mitochondria to get into shape when you fast.

It’s not starving. It’s fasting. Yes, you lose weight. Yes, you reduce calories. Yes, you feel hungry for the first two days. But then you have a period of time in which your body heals, resets, rejuvenates. Next week, just what!

WWW: What will work for me. I’ve been doing the fast mimicking diet for 18 months now. Every month I go 5 days at 800 calories. I am used to it now and confident that I switch into ketosis in 48 hours. I measure my BHB and can prove it. I also am confident that it only takes a tiny dose of glucose or protein to subvert that. I’m curious about what else is possible. I’ve ordered Shelton’s book and am going to read that too.

Pop Quiz

  1.  An average skinny person can fast for how many days before they use up all their fat stores? Answer: Probably at least 40
  2. What good things happen when you fast? Answer: You turn on your internal stem cell engine, your internal vacuum cleaner and you fit into your old jeans. Your immune system has the time and energy to fight the right fight instead of being distracted by all that stupid food you eat.
  3. Do you feel hungry when you fast? Answer: Well, yes, for the first day or two but then you slip into ketosis and run on your internal fat stores, which your body loves to do.
  4. Most of our modern diseases are caused by? Answer: the wrong foods we so cheerfully eat.
  5. What single thing can I learn from this column? Answer: start by eating more vegetables every day. Cut one serving of meat and one serving of bread in exchange for a real food grown in real soil.

Leaky gut and LDL-Particle Number

References: PLOS OneWikipediaInfection and ImmunityScience DirectJr of Immunology,

Feel tired and run down? No energy? Ever thought of where that might be coming from? Might you have lipopolysaccharides circulating in your body because you have leaky gut? Does that sound like gobble-di-gook? You suspected it could be your thyroid? I’ve been going down the mold rabbit hole. But there are other causes of fatigue. One of the main causes is explained by one of the main “triads” in your body’s function: the brain-gut-immune triad. And it is inflammation. Here is how it works.

Most of your immune system is around your gut. Some 70% of it is there, as that is the main interface between you and the outside world. Most alien stuff gets into you through your gut by what you eat. Your gut lining is only one cell thick so if the tight junction of your gut is loosened, you allow large particles with foreign antigens in them to leak into your blood. If your gut is leaky, your immune system gets stimulated. Now, the kicker. Half your brain cells are immune responsive and react to the inflammatory messages put forth by your immune system. The triad.

This is where lipopolysaccharides (LPS) come in. LPS is part of the coating of many bacteria and certainly something your immune system gets all in a bother about. You have to get rid of it. Well, you do. You clear it from your blood via your LDL particles. Your LDL particles are essentially taxis carrying the fat you have manufactured in your liver to your fat cells and muscles. But they also function as Uber’s carrying LPS particles back to your liver which is your central laundry. Your liver cells can process and detoxify the LPS particles. You have to get your LPS particles out of circulation where they are setting off all sorts of fire alarms. That’s what LDLs do.

Now, if you are septic (the number one cause of death in American hospitals) you certainly have a lot of circulating LPS particles. But just everyday run of the mill living with “leaky gut” and you have some LPS in you, messing with you. Your HDL particles suck it up and bind it. They transfer it to other white cells, notably your LDLs. The more LPS you have, the more LDL particles you have to make.

So, did you get that slight slip of the tongue? Your cholesterol count goes up, not because you didn’t take a statin, but because you had leaky gut. The more LPS particles you have the more LDL particles you need to carry them. LDLs get smaller and more dangerous. On your LDL particle count, the more small dense particles you have, the worse your heart disease not from the cholesterol effect but really from the lipopolysaccharides.

Ok, you mean my cholesterol may be more dangerous because I have leaky gut? Yup, because it, leaky gut, releases more LPS which then changes your big fluffy, harmless LDLs into small dense, dangerous ones, all with the same total cholesterol. This is why total cholesterol is a simplistic, incomplete picture because the same total can be associated with large, safe LDLs or small, dense LDLs that aren’t safe at all.

How did I get leaky gut? Taking ibuprofen (or any NSAID), too much sugar, too much alcohol, lack of Vitamin D or A, lack of zinc, stress, chronic disease of any kind are all on the common list.

How do you fix leaky gut? First and foremost, stop the above, and throw in wheat. Gluten stimulates zonulin which unzips your gut. Then, feed your gut the food it wants to be healthy. Most importantly, prebiotics and fiber. Aim for 25 grams a day. Glutamine, zinc, inulin, omega fats, fiber, fiber, bifer. Measure your particle number of LDLs, not your total. Measure your zonulin, your LPS, your, CRP. There is a whole raft of newer labs that allow you to see your progress.

WWW: What will work for me. Well, this sounds gross but let’s get down and dirty. Start thinking of your stool as a precious commodity. When your gut is happy and not “leaky”, your LPS goes down, your particle count goes down, your LDLs get bigger and safer. You can tell if your gut is happy with a very simple test. Do you have soft, easily passed bowel movements daily? If you are consitpated, you aren’t getting enough fiber. Make your breakfast cereal from the following: a cut of berries with a cup of almond milk. Add 1-2 T of chia seeds and 1-2 T of freshly ground flax seed. Every week add another T of freshly ground flax. Within twoo-three weeks you will have a happy gut. And a happier LDL particle count. And a happier brain.

Pop Quiz

  1. What is LPS? Answer: Lipopolysaccharide – the coating of many dangerous bacteria which our immune system responds to. Too much of it causes septic shock and collapse. Just a little makes you feel like you do when you feel “crummy”.
  2. How does LPS get into you? Answer: It’s there in your gut all the time but can’t penetrate past your single-cell layer lining, until you damage the lining by eating NSAIDs of all kinds. Motrin is the biggest offender but they are all wicked. Antibiotics, steroids, acid blockers, chemotherapy all do it too. Wheat and milk do it to a variable degree in folks. (Note: read the Canadian GI Societywhich says there is no such thing as leaky gut. They see the world through the eyes of diseases, not function. In time we’ll convert them.)
  3. What does LPS do inside you? Answer: your immune system goes nuts. We call it septic shock and collapse if there is enough. But a small amount makes you feel crummy. Sets off all your internal fire alarms.)
  4. How do you get rid of LPS? Answer: You have to carry it back go your body’s central clearinghouse, your liver.
  5. And to do all that, what happens to your particle number? Answer: It goes up. (I’m looking for stronger research on this. Many functional medicine doctors swear it happens and the see it “all the time” but the published literature is thin. It’s the new frontier and I intend to see if I can prove it. Let me test you and show you.). In the meantime, don’t ruin the test by starting to eat more fiber. You’ll get fixed before I can test you. (Kidding: eat more fiber.)