Sleep, stress, diet and exercise, each on their own, and in combination, are extremely important for intracellular health and regeneration and optimization of existing stem cells in the bloodstream. Optimizing each of these areas of health play a large role in daily physical and mental performance, and in how a patient responds to and recovers from the above procedures. Once you begin to make small, daily changes in each of these areas, you will begin to notice huge improvements in how you feel and even in your general health and well-being. Follow this series of blogs addressing each of these issues and what you can do to improve your own cellular health.
Insufficient sleep quantity or quality leads to decreases in general health, cardiovascular health, mental health, cellular health, performance, and more. During sleep, the body regenerates and rejuvenates. Sleep allows the body to repair damaged tissue by increasing growth hormone and stem cell production and by optimizing internal repair mechanisms. Sleep helps regulate cortisol production, insulin resistance, metabolic hormone production and more. With good quality sleep, a person actively decreases their overall mortality risk as compared to those who sleep less than 6 hours per night. Lack of sleep has been shown to be associated with poor pancreatic control of glucose regulation, and increased production of proinflammatory cytokines. Poor sleep leads to increased inflammation in the body, and therefore poor pain control, poor digestion, and increased risk of autoimmunity. Prolonged inflammation also increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, and more. Physical injuries do not heal as efficiently when sleep is poor. Good restorative sleep is incredibly important for stem cell production and for the overall restorative state in the body.
Sleep not only affects physical health and performance, but it plays a large role in mental health and cognitive function, as well. As sleep time declines, mental health suffers. Lack of sleep is correlated with poor attention, decreased executive function, impaired memory, slower cognitive thought and poor processing speed. People with chronic sleep deprivation have been shown to experience increased incidence of anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders.
Mindfulness meditation has been shown to improve sleep quality and improve lifespan by decreasing ruminative thoughts and emotional reactivity. It has been proven to decrease stress and improve general health, which suggests that both sleep and stress levels play an important role in overall health, separately and in combination with each other3. I have personally found that with a daily meditation practice of only 10-20 minutes per day, I can control my thoughts and my emotions, calm the stressors from the day, and relax into sleep easier.
Stress has a major influence upon mood and general sense of well being. The relationship between psychosocial stressors and physiological disease states is related to a variety of factors, including, but not limited to, the nature of the stressor in combination with the person’s ability to cope with the stressor, learned pattern of coping and present physiological and mental health. Prolonged stress leads to increased tissue damage, decreased cellular health, and increased disease.
Individuals with poor coping skills have increased and prolonged autonomic and hormonal responses to stress. While these responses are important and protective during acute stress, individuals with prolonged and chronic stress have a higher risk of developing physical and mental health issues.
Following an acute stressor, the nervous, cardiovascular, endocrine and immune systems undergo a cascade of events. These events are important in the short term. The cardiovascular and nervous systems increase blood pressure in order to divert energy to the appropriate tissues that need increased distribution of energy. Stress hormones are released to increase energy stores in appropriate areas. The immune system is activated to prepare for battle. These are all important for an acute stress response, but become maladaptive when activated frequently or continuously.
In chronic stress, persistently increased blood pressure may result in stroke or heart attack, chronic stress causes an overactive immune system and increases the risk of acquiring an autoimmune disease. An overactive immune system also increases inflammation in the body over a prolonged period of time, increasing plaque formation in the blood vessels, inflammation in the joints (arthritis), poor response to viral/bacterial attack, and poor gut health. Prolonged inflammation also leads to feelings of fatigue, malaise, loss of appetite, and depression. Prolonged persistent and significant stressors, in combination with age, genetics, diet, exercise consumption, and other constitutional factors lead to increased chance of developing physical and mental disease.
Food is so important. And not just what you eat, but when you eat and your mental approach to eating as well. Minimizing processed foods decreases inflammation in the gut and decreases the associated risk for chronic disease and autoimmune disease. A Mediterranean diet, specifically, has been shown to decrease cholesterol levels, be protective against oxidative (inflammatory and degenerative) stress, decrease cancer risk, improve gut health, and improve insulin sensitivity. It promotes brain health, gut health, cardiovascular health, hormone health, allergy management, and more. Eating a largely Mediterranean diet has been shown to increase resistance to physical and mental stress. It has also been shown that eating a diversity of foods from multiple different sources synergistically helps to reduce inflammation and decrease risk of acquiring type 2 diabetes. “Higher quality diets”, consisting of whole grains, unprocessed foods, low in trans fats, high in olive oil, all have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. The Mediterranean diet has additionally been shown to increase satiety producing hormones and thus secondarily helps prevent over eating and weight gain. The Mediterranean diet helps excretion of bad estrogens in the gut, thereby decreasing risk of estrogen receptor positive breast cancer and other estrogen dependent cancers. It has also been shown that moderate animal protein restriction, and/or limiting animal proteins in the diet, decreases the risk of getting cancer and increases lifespan, independent of caloric intake.
Not only is what you eat important, timing of how and what you eat plays a role in health. Calorie restriction has been proven to increase longevity, promote weight loss, and decrease cancer risk. There are many types of caloric restriction diets. There are also pharmaceuticals that mimic calorie restriction, such as feinstein and metformin.
Calorie restriction in the form of fasting or intermittent fasting, encourages cellular autophagy. This is the processing and recycling of intracellular particles for degradation. The better the body is at getting rid of dead or unwanted cells, the less potential for chronic disease and age related diseases a person will have. It has been shown that people who have robust autophagic systems have less neurodegenerative disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other chronic disease. They have also been shown to improve longevity (both healthspan and lifespan are greater). Calorie restriction, by way of autophagy, results in better lipid levels and improved glucose control.
Moderate running and exercise also increase autophagy and result in increased lifespan, and decreased incidence of chronic disease7. Exercise, specifically weight bearing exercise and strength training, decrease incidence of osteoporosis and improve cellular production of energy. Exercise also promotes healthy expression of genes and increases the number of stem cells circulating in the bloodstream, thereby allowing for better healing and repair of damaged or injured tissue. Exercise improves sleep quality and sleep duration. Both cardiovascular exercise and weight bearing exercise decrease the body’s acquired stress response, mimic calorie restriction, and improve adaptive intracellular mechanisms for repair and recovery from stress.
Regenerative Medicine, sleep, stress control, diet and exercise work intimately together to improve intracellular healing, overall health and improved longevity. Think of these aspects of health like compounded interest in the financial world. The more you change your daily habits to consist of a high quality diet, good sleep, less stress and increased exercise, the more compounded benefit you will get from your life, your cellular health, your ability to repair and recover, and your general health. Be an active participant in each of these areas of your life while you still have your health, so that managing your disease doesn’t become a full time job.