Modern Science Meets Ancient Wisdom

Dr. Shawn Talbott (Ph.D., CNS, LDN, FACSM, FACN, FAIS) has gone from triathlon struggler to gut-brain guru! With a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry, he's on a mission to boost everyday human performance through the power of natural solutions and the gut-brain axis.

My 13th book, Best Future You, is out!

Over the next several weeks, I’ll be posting excerpts from the book and blogging frequently about the main concept in the book – which is the idea of harnessing your body’s internal cellular biochemistry to achieve true balance in body, mind, and spirit – and in doing so, help you to become your “Best Future You” in terms of how you look, how you feel, and how you perform on every level.

Chapter 2 – Managing Cellular Stress – the Basis for Feeling, Looking, and Performing Your Best

You’ve been introduced to the concept that numerous factors can “stress” cells and wreak havoc on cell membranes, mitochondria, and DNA, leading to tissue damage and a wide range of chronic diseases, including cancer, chronic fatigue, diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease. Certainly, it’s logical to conclude that having cells with “less damage” (and better balance) is better than having cells with “more damage” (and less balance) – better for your health, better for how your mind and body function – and better for your long-term risk of chronic diseases. Of course, the challenge is knowing the most effective way to protect cells from damage, because, as you also learned in the preceding sections, the sources of damaging cellular stressors is external, internal, and unavoidable in our modern world.

Consuming antioxidants and phytonutrients in the form of brightly colored fruits and vegetables has clearly been shown in hundreds of research studies to be associated with reduced cellular damage and improved health. This research has led to many in the nutrition and health arenas to push the idea that if antioxidants in natural foods are beneficial, then we should take even more of them in pill form. Unfortunately, the practice of “taking antioxidants” in the form of isolated high-dose vitamin supplements is being linked in a growing number of research studies to more harm than good.

At the same time, exciting new research is also demonstrating how we can actually encourage the human body to protect itself from cellular stressors by turning on its own built-in and ultra-powerful cellular defense systems. This internal network of protective proteins, the Cellular Defense Response (CDR), is already inside every one of our 100 trillion cells—and its protective properties are more than one million times more powerful than typical antioxidant supplements.

Modern Science Meets Ancient Wisdom

Ancient medicine systems from around the world, particularly traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and traditional Indian medicine (Ayurveda), have used blends of herbs and spices to protect the body, alleviate the symptoms of aging, and promote longevity. Theses herbal/spice blends, including many of the herbs listed above, don’t “give” the body antioxidants like vitamin E or beta-carotene. Instead, these proven and invigorating botanicals amplify the body’s cellular production of its own internal and super-potent protective enzymes (superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione, and many others) for vastly superior cellular protection benefits.

Biochemical and genetic research studies are showing us how these ancient herbal blends work—by activating a family of cellular “switches” (the CDR) to induce a series of cellular anti-stress genes and increase production of internal antioxidant enzymes and related protective proteins.

One way to think about the coordinated cellular defense response (CDR) and the multiple cellular defense pathways that can be activated by certain herbs and nutraceuticals, is to think about the protection to our national defense provided by multiple armed forces. In many different ways, our nation, cities, and communities are protected from various threats by the local police or fire departments; the CIA/FBI; the National Guard, and all the way up to the “big guns” of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. The “level” of response and protection will depend on the route and the type of threat (stressor) encountered. When we activate the local and national defenses to protect the country, it’s very similar to activating the wide range of cellular defense responses (CDRs) through multiple internal biochemical pathways that go by abbreviated names such as NfkB, SIRT1, Nrf2, mTOR, HSP70, and myriad others.

You might think of the CDR pathways as an internal “thermostat” for cellular stress. Whenever a cell is under stress—whether from oxidative stress, inflammatory stress, or any type of other stress that our modern world might throw at us, the CDR pathways sense the stress and induce numerous protective responses. Some of these responses help to reduce free radical damage, or oxidative stress (antioxidant enzymes), while others help to clean up damage (housekeeping proteins), and still others prepare our cells for exposure to future stressors (heat shock proteins).

This natural induction of CDRs is very much a “master regulator” of the body’s antioxidant and protective response—and the same mechanism at the heart of numerous new biotechnology and pharmaceutical research projects. In many ways, the natural induction of CDRs is the future of holistically maintaining proper internal balance, protecting our bodies from destructive environmental factors, and encouraging the repair mechanisms to help us thrive in the face of a world filled with biochemical imbalancers and cellular stressors.

Thanks for reading – tune in for the next installment about how you can encourage your body to “Make it’s own antioxidants” for internal cellular protection and reduction of cellular stress.

Shawn M Talbott, PhD, CNS, LDN, FACSM, FAIS, FACN
Nutritional Biochemist and Author


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The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance, and Reclaim Your Natural Energy
Killer at Large – Why Obesity is America’s Greatest Threat – an award-winning documentary film exploring the causes and solutions underlying the American obesity epidemic
The Cortisol Connection – Why Stress Makes You Fat and Ruins Your Health (Hunter House)
The Cortisol Connection Diet – The Breakthrough Program to Control Stress and Lose Weight (Hunter House)
Cortisol Control and the Beauty Connection – The All-Natural Inside-Out Approach to Reversing Wrinkles, Preventing Acne, And Improving Skin Tone (Hunter House)
Natural Solutions for Pain-Free Living – Lasting Relief for Flexible Joints, Strong Bones and Ache-Free Muscles (Chronicle Publishers – Currant Books)
The Immune Miracle – The All-Natural Approach for Better Health, Increased Energy and Improved Mood (GLH Nutrition, 2012)
A Guide to Understanding Dietary Supplements – an Outstanding Academic Text of 2004 (Haworth Press)
About the Author

Exercise physiologist (MS, UMass Amherst) and Nutritional Biochemist (PhD, Rutgers) who studies how lifestyle influences our biochemistry, psychology and behavior - which kind of makes me a "Psycho-Nutritionist"?!?!

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