The Pillars of Health

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 5 – Pillars of Health

In some of my earlier books, I’ve written about different aspects of metabolism and biochemistry that can become unbalanced and lead to ill health, weight gain, and poor performance. In many ways, harnessing the CDR pathway and its role as a “master switch” in directing the body’s response to cellular stress, brings many different aspects of biochemistry together under a concerted and coordinated approach to helping us feel, look, and perform at our best. I refer to each of these four major aspects of biochemical balance as “pillars” of health, including oxidation, inflammation, glycation, and allostation – with imbalances in any of them leading to elevated cellular stress and tissue dysfunction.

For example, scientists and doctors agree that excessive inflammation (due to an imbalance in signaling molecules called cytokines) can lead to accelerated tissue damage and breakdown, so it makes a lot of sense to control inflammation to reduce cellular stress and promote overall health.

But, if you look deeper to find the causes of inflammation, you quickly see other factors that you can control. Because oxidation (caused by free radicals) leads to inflammation at the cellular level, why not also control oxidation as another “trigger” of cellular stress?

Great idea—but why not look even farther up the metabolic chain of events to see if you can control or modulate the causes of oxidation? Doing this shows that glycation (cellular damage caused by overexposure to certain sugars) can lead to oxidation (which can, in turn, lead to inflammation).

Should you stop there? Of course not, because when you look even higher up the metabolic stream, you see that an imbalance in stress hormones such as cortisol and the resulting allostation (inability to adapt to and recover from stress) can lead to glycation, which can lead to oxidation, which in turn leads to inflammation.

Unfortunately, existing scientific or medical research doesn’t go any farther “upstream” with regard to the biochemistry of cellular aging and health promotion. Balancing stress hormones is about as far “upstream” as you can go at this time—but that’s still pretty good. In addition, we know from both laboratory research and clinical experience that such a coordinated approach to restoring biochemical balance can be very effective in reducing cellular stress through CDR activation. In fact, at the recent Cambridge University scientific conference on CDR metabolism, there were research reports linking CDR pathway activation to improvements in each of the four pillars of health.

Obviously, each of these four aspects of your body’s biochemistry is intimately intertwined and interdependent on the others, so saying that any one of these “pillars” is “first” is somewhat arbitrary and situation-dependent. That said, the important take-away message is that having an imbalance in any of the individual aspects (inflammation, for example) can set off a biochemical cascade leading to imbalances in another (such as oxidation) and ultimately increasing cellular stress. They’re all intertwined and interdependent. The different aspects of biochemistry act almost like a set of dominoes—when you touch one, you set off movement and changes in all the others. The good news is that when you restore balance in any one area, you can also get the benefit of restored balance in other areas, with the end result being reductions in cellular stress and optimal levels of health and well-being.

Thanks for reading – be sure to tune in for the next installment about, “Free Radicals, Antioxidants and Health: A Summary

Shawn M Talbott, PhD, CNS, LDN, FACSM, FAIS, FACN
Nutritional Biochemist and Author
801-915-1170 (mobile)


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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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