Timing is everything — in war, timing can make all the difference between a hero and a traitor; in love, and timing can produce a happy relationship or a horrific break-up. Now, timing also affects our ability to fight off disease.

Our immune defense appears to lean on our internal physiologic clock. Researchers at the Yale University School of Medicine were able to show that the ability of the immune system to recruit appropriate surveillance and fight off pathogens (bad bugs), was timing related.

To have a healthy immune system we need to be in timing sync with light and dark. This means we wake up refreshed with energy all day long, and we sleep well most of the night, when lots of fighting cancer and physiologic and emotional tweaking and healing takes place.

Timing coordination, called circadian rhythm, is how our bodies are intrinsically linked to planetary day and night.

On the other hand, circadian dysrhythmia means you are out of sync. You wake up fatigued, suffer with low energy and/or energy crashes during the day, but start to wake up later in the evening and have trouble staying asleep.

Disruption of circadian rhythmicity throws a monkey wrench into healthy immune function. (Immunity 2012)

So what’s a pooped insomniac supposed to do?

Sleep meds help some of us fall and stay asleep, but do they reboot the immune system while we sleep in this medicated stupor? We don’t know, but probably not. Numerous studies are demonstrating that sleep meds are related to increased risks of cancer and dying prematurely from a variety of causes. These issues point to immune system issues. So sleep meds may put us to sleep, but not allow that sleep to be immune system restorative.

So what’s a circadian dysrhythmic supposed to do?

Here are some healthy natural sleep boosters:

    • Take both immediate and time-released melatonin tablets one hour before bed and let dissolve slowly under tongue • Magnesium glycinate 250 to 400 mg before bed. If you have loose stools in the morning, you took too much • Avoiding bright lights and computer and TV one hour before sleep • Sleeping in a cooler, completely darkened room (about 68 to 72 degrees) • Avoiding caffeinated beverages after 3 PM • This is one of the biggest sleep aids! Oral progesterone replacement liver production of specific metabolites that topical progesterone does not; which act like natural Ambien). Dosages have to be higher when taken orally: in women: 50 to several hundred mg, in men, 2-10 mg; see a physician in-the-know. • Regular exercise earlier in the day helps a lot • Being outside for at least 20 minutes a day in natural light even if it is gray and rainy outside. • Satisfying love-making at least 2-3 times a week (sign me up!)

Which hormone and vitamin team up together in a melodic duo to protect brains and nerves, even in traumatic brain injuries or with aging?

Hormones and vitamins function (and dysfunction) together. We will see more and more of this in the future. Once again, hormones link elegantly with nutrients to offer protection and a greater chance of healthier nerve function, fewer symptoms, and of warding off disease.

Researchers at Emory University have discovered that Vitamin D, along with progesterone, boost each other’s neuroprotective actions. In this new era of enlightened functional medicine, getting at the root cause of illness, not just tamping down the symptoms, and mixing vitamin and hormones, is the wave of the future.

The marriage I am speaking of here is the combination of progesterone and vitamin D. Progesterone and vitamin D together have multiple effects that healthfully stimulate various anti-inflammatory and pro-survival nerve pathways. They also act in concert to tamp down and inhibit the production of nasty, damaging molecules, such as cytokines (molecules of inflammation).

The combination of progesterone replacement and vitamin D supplementation in traumatic brain injuries is a novel and compelling approach. Both progesterone and vitamin D have high safety profiles, and are very inexpensive. Animal models show that combining the two works better than administering progesterone by itself.

It is estimated that up to 80% of the elderly are vitamin D deficient. Many suffer with variations on the theme of neurologic disorders. The combination therapy of progesterone and vitamin D offers inexpensive and safe hormonal/nutrient neurological repair, when given in the appropriate dosages. And if we want to preserve our nerve and brain integrity in day-to-day living, especially if we have health issues that are linked to nerve disease (such as brain trauma, MS, Parkinson’s disease, or are at high risk of stroke), we need to consider vitamin D levels and possible progesterone replacement, even in menopausal women without a uterus and in the men who love them.

What can protect our smartness as we age? And doesn’t take too much effort!

I love Canadian research, especially into what keeps us smarter (and thinner). Three Montreal Institutions got together and studied a protocol that only took a short amount of time—four days a week—and got folks not only smarter, but carved out their waists and improved their insulin sensitivity. These people, granted the study was small, a pilot study, got 3 bangs for their exertion buck: they got smarter, healthier and leaner. Just by doing this 4 days a week, for 4 months.

What did the study do? It did what every body in health care (in-the-know) is raving about: peak burst performance, which is interval training of high intensity but only for 30 second bursts. These were done on the exercise bike, and only 2 days a week, coupled with some weight training for the other two days a week. Easy and simple.

The researchers (Montreal Heart Institute, the University of Montreal, and the Montreal Geriatric University Institute) got 6 people to do this for 4 months. The overweight people did a series of 30 second bursts (going ‘all out’) on the exercise bike followed by 30 seconds of rest, twice a week, with some weight/resistant work the other two days.

Pre and post-tests showed that these chubby out of condition folks, for their not too overwhelming efforts, lost weight especially on their middle, improved their cognition and became demonstrably smarter, and improved their blood sugar metabolism. And all within a third of a year! (Presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Toronto 2012)

You know, there is no excuse to not do some exercise program like this. When patients come into me, even if they have knee problems or are in a wheel chair, I can figure out some way each one of them do some kind of safe repetitive motion that for them is ‘going all out’, so their heart rates go up and their circulation increases.

For example, if they are in a wheel chair, I can have them simply shake their upper body for 30 seconds in a way that doesn’t hurt them, but it is getting them moving. Doing anything, but with huge effort (however, build up gently, don’t get hurt), for 30 seconds, gets your heart rate up, your oxygen pumping, and gets results.

Most of us are simply get lazy about moving. Food is powerful, I say this on the radio all the time. But, moving is powerful, too. And it doesn’t take a lot of perfectionism to pull off benefits. You can just improve your eating a bit, and get moving a bit, and voile’ you start to be a smarter leaner person less likely to get diabetes!

What ONE TINY food acts like a medication to lower blood pressure?

Adding this food, flaxseeds, to the diet of folks with heart disease and high blood pressure (peripheral artery disease-PAD) greatly lowered blood pressure by 10 mm of HG systolic (top number) and 7 mm of HG diastolic (diastolic) after 6 months. One small group even had their blood pressure lowered more, equivalent to taking medication.

“This is the largest decrease in blood pressure ever shown by any dietary intervention,” said Dr Delfin Rodriguez speaking to the American Heart Association from the University Hospital Holguin, Cuba. This is yet another example of just how powerful healthy foods can be.

These improvements in blood pressure, by consuming 2 tablespoons of flaxseeds daily, would decrease the incidence of stroke by 50% and of heart attacks by 30%. (Presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2012)

But everything has a shadow side, even flaxseeds. These seeds contain a substance, linatine, that can competitively bind with vitamin B6, and block it’s action. When regularly adding flaxseeds to your diet, make sure you take a back-up B complex.

What might you be breathing in, that could cause early menopause, which doubles your risk of heart disease, bone loss, quality of life and can put a serious dent in your sexuality?

Hormone disruptors are compounds in the environment that look enough like hormones to your body, that if they gain access into your blood stream, these masquerading pollutants can hijack your normal hormonal system. I wrote one of the first books that discussed the role of hormone disruptors in health and what we can do about it (Hormone Deception McGraw-Hill 2000, Awakened Medicine 2010).

At a medical meeting, research was presented that showed that women who had increased exposure in their everyday lives to hormone disrupting chemicals, can experience menopause 2 to even 15 years earlier then normal.

Any change in timing of what is called a milestone in reproductive life, of which menopause is a big one, can produce huge impacts on women’s lives.

Women going through earlier menopause (even a few years earlier) can have more heart disease, increased bone loss, worsened sexual function, increased risk of diabetes, resistant weight gain, decreased overall quality of life, including less sex drive and sexual enjoyment not to mention wimpier orgasms.

These potential nasty chemicals included phthalates (found in nail polish, perfume, flexible plastic like grocery bags, foods shrunk wrapped, even plastic computers that heat up while you work in front of them can out-gas this chemical), and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls).

You can read Hormone Deception to find out where the most common residues are found and how to decrease your family’s exposure in food, air, water, and even in your office.

PCBs are no longer manufactured or widely used today, but they are still in the environment and we can still get exposed. Food is the largest source of contamination especially concentrated in fish from contaminated waters with fish at the top and bottom of the chain having the highest amounts. Some older fluorescent lights found in schools, offices and homes can still contain parts that have some PCB and if there are leaks, these can get into the air you breath. Accidents and fires release PCBs into the air but there are ways to get rid of PCBs out of our system. We will hear more and more about effective, scientific detox, like we already use on firefighters and cleanup crews that need them. (Menopause 2012)

BITE SIZE Are plastics in foods, air, and water making your kids fat? Yes, the link is strong enough in human studies to suggest we should try to reduce our children’s exposure to plastics, in this case, Bisphenol A (BPA). Urinary levels of BPA that reflect exposure, in almost 3,000 white children, 6-9 years of age, were linked to obesity, more in boys than girls. It has been suggested that females may process BPA through the body faster than boys (unlike alcohol). We need alternatives to BPA, but not all those are safe either. Stay tuned. Journal of the American Medical Association 2012

FOOD PORN! Worst fast foods at fast food restaurants! Executive Director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest says many fast food chains base their profits on increasing your waist size, not your health. Worst winners: Cheesecake Factory’s Bistro Shrimp Pasta (almost 90 grams of saturated fat and over 1000 calories), Johnny Rocket’s Bacon Cheddar Double Hamburger (1770 calories with over 2300 mg of sodium), Cheesecake Factory’s Crispy Chicken Costolett (entire 12-piece bucket of KFC has same calories but half the fat), Smoothie King’s Peanut Power Plus Grape Smoothie (22 tsps. of added sugar), and Chocolate Zuccotto Cake from Maggiano’s Little Italy (one-pound desert with 26 tsps. sugar). Beware of food you don’t make! Reuters 2013

Should you be egg-o-phobic? One egg per day was not linked to increased risk of poor heart health or stroke. This summary came from 8 articles with 17 reports looking at 3,081,269 person-years and 5,847 incident cases for coronary heart disease, and 4,148,095 person-years and 7,579 incident cases for stroke. British Medical Journal 2013 Other studies suggest that some individuals are more egg “sensitive” than others, so trying to figure out if eggs are your friendly or unfriendly food is a personal thing, but in general, low egg consumption does not a yucky yolk food make.

Honey, please pass the honey for that nighttime cough! Honey given at bedtime (three different extracts all worked) was more effective than placebo in reducing the frequency and severity of nighttime cough. Authors tell parents that honey could be used as a safe and effective cough suppressant for children one year of age and older. Pediatrics 2012

Can kids smoking pot go to pot? Fifty-nine cases have been documented of cannabis-related strokes, in folks averaging 33 years of age, occurring while smoking or within a half-hour of smoking. Cannabis smoking has also been linked to increasing the risk of heart attack within a short period of time after smoking. Stroke 2012 Other studies have suggested that the nutrient N-acetylcystiene helps teenagers reduce their desire to smoke pot, even without intense counseling. Get smart; use nutraceuticals along with sensible guidance.

Read labels, especially on perfume, make-up, and lipstick. Higher blood levels of a plasticizer, called phthalates, have been linked with women going through menopause two to 15 years earlier, which puts them at risk of all kinds of health woes from heart disease and diabetes to plain not feeling good or enjoying sex. Strive to purchase plastic-free cosmetics. Menopause 2012

Meditation makes us less reactive and more successful in life, in relationships with others and ourselves, and promotes a happier pair of sunglasses through which to see the world. Researchers proved that sitting quietly helps us keep our heads together even when life is messy. They then went to the Dalai Lama and shared their contemplative neuroscience findings. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 2012 If your mate won’t sit down, tie him or her down, giving new meaning to being tied up, with a positive bent!

The mind follows sound. Hearing loss accelerates decline of cognitive functions such as thinking and remembering. (Journal of American Medical Association on Line 2013). So using hearing aids, if hearing loss is occurring, is not just hearing protective, but also brain protective. But instead of relying only on hearing aids, look into aldosterone hormone testing and replacement, shown to be helpful in some adult cases of hearing loss. There is hearing-help in them there hormones!

“Ugly” cholesterol comes from “ugly’”fat, and is a more dangerous factor that total or LDL cholesterol. The real risk of heart disease and potential mortality comes more from ugly cholesterol, which is remnant cholesterol, than the other cholesterols. The culprits? Any excess weight from overweight to frank obesity, smoking, and unhealthy fatty foods and high triglycerides. (Journal of the American College of Cardiology 2013)

What your breathe in affects how you breathe out. Those exposed to cleaning products—farmers, hairdressers, and printing workers— were found to have increased risk of getting asthma. Besides cleaning products, flour, enzymes, metals, and textile exposure at the workplace are also linked to higher rates of asthma. Occupational asthma holds a message for us all. Use green products and ventilate when you clean, especially if you have young children who spend lots of time on the floor and put most things in their mouths. (Thorax 2013)

How we sleep may affect our perception of gratitude! Wow, this is a real body/mind/hormones study. How we sleep affects how we see ourselves and how others perceive us. Groundbreaking research showed that poor sleep makes our heart feel poorly, so we experience or perceive less gratitude. Other new studies also suggest that giving time and money to others makes us feel healthier, wealthier, and happier, and may improve our sleep. It seems that how we sleep affects our perception of how we live, and vice versa. We’re all connected. As above, so below; from sleep to sleep affects how we move through our world and attract what comes our way. How do you like that? (Part of this to be presented at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) meeting January 2013)

Daily aspirin might SERIOUSLY increase the risk of an aggressive type of age-related macular degeneration. This is the third large study in the last year to suggest potential eye disease from regular aspirin use. It’s a small risk. Aspirin does protect against heart attack, stroke, and dementia, and when used for over 5 years, it protects against many types of cancer. But if you are part of the 1% who gets this serious eye disease, then statistics mean nothing. But the conclusions are still not set in stone, and a soon-to-be published study may even reflect opposite results. So, right now, aspirin use is a conundrum. Bottom line: Try to avoid it for pain control and have thorough discussions with your doctor about any use of it on a regular basis. Aspirin is not as simple as we used to think. Remember, this year we learned that folks with hidden stomach infections with h. pylori are more prone to dangerous bleeding from daily aspirin. If you regularly take aspirin, get tested for this bug and treated if found to have it; then the risk of bleeds from aspirin is greatly reduced. (JAMA Internal Medicine online (formerly Archives of Neurology 2013) Turns out there is no drug without a shadow side. Actually, there is no one, no thing, in this life without a shadow side. We live in the world of duality, so there are always both sides, light and dark.

Hormone replacement is back in favor, if it is individualized, given in the appropriate dose, delivery, and timing. HRT appears to protect us in the second half of life even with use of a few years from the start of menopause. I explain and emphasize all this in Safe Hormones, Smart Women. Note my newly-released revised audio edition with over 20 hours of audio. You can get my Safe Hormones, Smart Women in eBook and the audio at the Live Younger Book Store. Click here___. In 2012 we saw:

    • The conservative North American Menopause Society in their 9th positional statement says hormone replacement is a good thing when the benefits outweigh the risks, and that estrogen replaced from outside the body may even have protective actions against breast cancer. • KEEPs study says hormone replacement significantly improves quality of life. • Danish randomized controlled study shows that hormone replacement significantly reduces the risk of heart disease and continues this protection even some years after you stop taking it.

Hormone studies are now saying that hormones are not only safe again, but also that exogenous estrogen for younger women (50-60 years of age), without the addition of synthetic progestins may, prevent breast cancer, decrease heart disease, and boost the quality of life, preventing or offsetting diabetes, depression, obesity, and sexual dysfunction. Keeps Study A study called KEEPS, which stands for Kronos Early Estrogen Prevention Study, was presented at the North American Menopause Society in the fall of 2012. The study focused on quality of life and took a close look at plaque in arteries, cognition, density of breasts and a few other parameters. The KEEPS trial had both groups of women on bioidentical progesterone (Prometrium®, Abbott Laboratories) for 12 days a month, which is called cycling. This is because the progesterone was not given daily, but was given in a pattern to mimic premenopausal women. The 727 women who were newly menopausal (within three years of the onset of menopause) averaged 52.7 years old. The trial tested two different types of estrogen compared with placebo: a low-dose oral conjugated estrogen and a transdermal (topical) estradiol patch. The take-home is that the KEEPS trial results showed many favorable effects of hormone therapy. Women taking hormones had:

    • Substantial reduction in menopausal symptoms (hot flashes, night sweats) • Bone mineral density improvement • A lowering of bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) • An increase in good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) • An increase in triglycerides in the women taking oral estrogen, probably due to its effect on the liver • Women taking topical estrogen had neither a negative or positive effect on blood fats (cholesterol, triglyceride) • Topical estrogen had a beneficial effect on insulin resistance • A trend of less calcification in arteries was seen in women taking estrogen compared with women taking the placebo. • No negative effect was seen on cognition • Both forms of estrogen saw improvement in mood and sexual function (Medscape 2012)

The Danish study was a randomized controlled scientific 10-year study, which showed that HRT reduces heart disease by 50% without increasing the risk of breast cancer or stroke. Emotion has overcome the evidence for hormone replacement!

Danish scientists followed 1,006 women on hormone replacement, 45-58 years old, for 11 years, and even many years later once they went off the replacement. Women on HRT had less chronic diseases—like heart disease, stroke, heart attack, or bone fractures—and they had better quality of life.

After 10 years of randomized treatment, women receiving hormone replacement therapy early after menopause (before age 60) had a significantly reduced risk of mortality (death from any cause), heart failure, or myocardial infarction, without any increased risk for cancer, blood clots, or stroke.

This article is free on line! British Medical Journal 2012. Go to Pub med and download it.

This study supports the “window-of-opportunity” (starting HRT before age 60, or within 10 years of menopause, and continued for six years or more) for maximal protection against heart disease and overall mortality and minimization of risks.

The authors of this landmark work say that there is a substantial increase in quality-adjusted life-years over a 5 to 30-year period in women who initiate HRT in close proximity to menopause, supporting HRT as a highly cost-effective strategy for improving quality-adjusted life over years to come.