In Northern Europe, where I’m currently based in, late August is the season for ripe elderberries. Seeing them on the path of my daily walk reminds me of the amazing health benefits of these little black berries.
Elderberries are probably best known as a remedy against influenza, but multiple studies show their benefits on the immunity system and inflammation in general  .
I’m a big fan of top-quality, ready-made elderberry syrup by Gaia, made of organic elderberries and all-natural ingredients and have been taking it for years. But more recently, I discovered that it’s super easy to make elderberry syrup at home – it’s much cheaper and even better can be upgraded with ingredients like extra spices and other superfood berries like Aronia!
Previously, I wrote how the continuous HRV monitor by Lief Therapeutics has been a game changer for me to improve my HRV (read my previous articles here, here and here). But what are these game-changing actions that the continuous HRV monitoring helped me to take?
Though I find very helpful the vibration-based biofeedback, this is not why I consider the device a game-changer. Don’t get me wrong – deep breathing is one of the best ways to have an immediate positive impact on the HRV, and a frequent deep breathing will likely increase your average daytime HRV by making the score higher while you are making a conscious effort. Nevertheless, to my frustration, breathing exercises did not make better my nighttime HRV nor daytime baseline HRV when I’m not actively trying to improve my HRV.
Many other strategies resulted in only temporary HRV improvements without changing my baseline HRV. They include: Apollo Neuro, Neuvana, sniffing grapefruit essential oil (a study showed that sniffing certain fragrance such as grapefruit essential oil improves HRV), and vagus nerve exercises, like in the book “Accessing the Healing Power of Vagus Nerve”.
Cold exposure: In my previous post, I reported an incredible effect of a whole-body cold exposure to increase HRV. While I still consider it a very potent way to improve HRV instantly and highly recommend it as a great temporary HRV hack, I have not seen a strong evidence for myself that the improvement gets converted into a permanent increase of the baseline HRV.
Supplements such as a high dose of omega 3 and Parasym Plus (a proprietary mixture that targets at the parasympathetic nervous system) had no impact on my HRV, neither baseline nor temporary. (Omega 3: I have been taking it for years and merely increased the dose from 3 g of DHA & EPA daily to 4 g to see if it improves my HRV, which it didn’t. If you are not taking DHA/EPA at all, the effect might differ. )
Additionally, I tried a nasal oxytocin spray (24 IU) twice daily but experienced no HRV improvement whatsoever.
What puzzled me the most was that my HRV seemed to have very little to do with how I subjectively felt about my stress level. How, at the end of a very easy stress-free day, could I routinely see my HRV a low teen? Also, why was my HRV dropping precipitously whenever I was standing? In both situations, I was not experiencing any stimulus that would particularly stimulate my sympathetic nervous system. After countless days of staring at my Lief, I got an idea; Could it be a suboptimal cardiovascular system causing the low HRV, not an overactive sympathetic nervous system? Because my heart rate was elevated in both above situations, as if my heart had to work extra hard to keep me going late in a day or while on a standing position, it seemed worth exploring above hypothesis. So, I decided to reintroduce vigorous endurance trainings, which used to be a big part of my training regime bur during the recent years had become increasing less.
Over 10 years ago, I injured my legs and had to go on crutches for a few months. Afterwards, I stopped running, an activity I previously used to do 3-4 times a week. As I continued lifting weights and walking regularly, I somehow assumed that it shouldn’t be a big deal to drop running. This significantly reduced the amount of endurance exercise that would get me out of breath, and especially during the past few years, when I no longer participated in gym classes like spinning, the amount of peak-zone endurance trainings had become almost non-existent.
In a hindsight, this must have significantly affected not only my cardiovascular fitness level but also HRV; After re-introducing running into my daily regime, my resting heart rate started to drop in a matter of just a few days. I was even more pleased that, as my RHR dropped, my HRV started to go up and UP! And both kept improving dramatically. After three months of reintroducing vigorous endurance exercises 4-6 times / week, my HR while sleeping dropped from 66 to 59 bpm, and my average nighttime HRV from an upper teen to lower 30s.
Previously, my HRV at night could routinely drop to a low teen, and I was giving myself a high-five on occasions the number was in low 20s. Now, a mid-20 nighttime HRV may make me a sigh with a disappointment, as this has become my new lowest HRV range. After a restful night, my average nighttime HRV can easily be in the 30s now.
There are multiple studies that show the positive impacts of endurance exercises on vagus nerve tone i.e. HRV ,  . But initially, I was solely focused on finding the reasons for my chronically low HRV in stress and overactivated sympathetic nervous system, overlooking exercise.
Obviously, if your cardiovascular fitness is already optimized, adding more cardio-conditioning exercise is not likely going to improve your HRV. But if you find yourself in a similar situation like mine, the strategy might be worth considering. Please don’t start a high-impact exercise without speaking to your doctor first. Other than the low HRV, I consider myself healthy and also prior to resuming running, monitored my blood pressure and ECG daily with Withing Blood Pressure Cuff to ensure that I had no issue with half-an-hour of vigorous exercise.
HMOs are carbohydrates found in mother’s breast milk. Researches show that HMOs are Recently, this oldest human food has caught a lot of attention as potentially beneficial not only for babies but also for grown-ups. In this interview, Beau Berman at Layer Origin Nutrition discusses how HMOs could potentially enhance the health of adults.
1:19 Layer Origin Nutrition – company history, why it focuses on human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) 4:13 Layer Origin Nutrition’s 10 HMO products 8:20 Immunoglobulin igG content in HMOs 10:50 Clinical researches on HMOs 17:24 Do different HMO strains have different health benefits? 2′-fl: gut health, immune and brain health etc. 21:00 Mechanisms HMOs improve gut health 25:30 What HMO users are saying 38:00 Quantifying gut health 43:30 Is there a known effective HMO dosage for adults? 52:30 Layer Origin’s supplements beyond HMOs 65:00 Human milk supplement vs.HMOs 75:00 Final thoughts on HMOs & where to find more information
Ever since I learnt the importance of dietary fiber (watch my interview with Michael Lustgarten, PhD here), I’ve been trying to increase my daily intake of both soluble and insoluble fibers. It’s not easy, though; even root vegetables like burdock, often considered one of the richest sources for fibers, contain merely six grams per 100 g, Though I do incorporate other fiber-rich foods like raw cacao beans (30 g fiber per 100 g) and chia seeds (34 g per 100 g) in my diet I am continuously looking for other easy sources for this important nutrition.
While reading a Japanese cooking book, I was reminded of kanten (agar), which has traditionally been used as a curdling agent. It is made of two different seaweed species; “tengusa” (Gelidiaceae) and “ogonori” (Gracilaria) to provide a perfect consistency. Both species are types of red algae and contain a very high amount of dietary fiber, a whopping 80 g per 100 g!
If you are not a regular seaweed eater, kanten may be an excellent addition to your diet; beside a high amount of fibers, seaweeds also contain various fight chemicals that possess anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and even anti-cancer properties.
4 g Japanese kanten powder – I like this one in a ready-to-use 4 grams portion You can replace kanten with agar like this one 3 dl Juice of strawberries – I use liquid that naturally results from thawed strawberries 2 dl distilled water 1 – 3 tsp organic raw honey
1. Put the kanten and the water into a small pot. Heat the mixture on a low-medium heat constantly stirring. Let it boil.
2. As soon as the mixture starts boiling, lower the heat to low. Keep cooking it for another 4-5 minutes constantly stirring. At this point, the kanten is completely melted and the liquid should look a little thicker than pure water.
3. Add the strawberry juice to the pan, making sure to add the juice little by little to prevent a pre-mature curdling in the pan. Turn off the heat when all the juice is added. Add the raw honey. Stir to make an even mixture.
4. Transfer the mixture into a square ramekin. Let it cool in the room temperature before transferring to the fridge.
5. It takes about one hour before the kanten solidifies.
It’s extremely important to quantify the state of our health, because the data provide ways to act upon and improve various aspects of health. This is why I track my HRV continuously and perform regular blood tests. Marina Martinic Kavur at Genos shares with us how measuring your glycans, specifically immunoglobulin G (IgG) glycans can provide an uniquely valuable and actionable insight into our biological age.
Video – Watch the interview on video
Audio – Listen to the interview
Timestamps 1:20 What are glycans? 4:20 What are immuno glycans? 9:40 GlycanAge test 12:20 How can glycan estimate your biological age? 16:20 Interventions to improve biological age 21:00 How fast can GlycanAge-based biological age change? 29:30 How blood markers for inflammation, such as CRP, compare with IgG glycans? 39:00 Is a higher GlycanAge correlated with all-cause mortality? 41:50 What improves/worsens your GlycanAge? 47:00 Hormones’ impacts on GlycanAge; roles of estrogen 53:30 How and how much our genes affect glycans? 55:30 Does sleep affect GlycanAge?
The ever-increasing popularity of medicinal mushrooms has led to the industry to boom, and today many companies sell mushroom products. But not all mushroom supplements are created equal – in our conversation, Jeff walks us through in detail everything you, as a savvy and well-educated consumer, need to know about mushrooms including what makes mushrooms so healthy, how to choose a top-quality mushroom supplement (make sure that you are NOT unknowingly consuming grains instead of mushrooms!), some of the key health components in mushrooms such as beta-glucans, ergothioneine and sterols, and a lot more!
2:50 What makes mushrooms so healthy and beneficial? Fibers, beta-glucans and much more. 6:30 Mushrooms – the forgotten food that promote longevity 9:30 Beta-glucan 101 15:00 Mushrooms in Japan/Asia 20:20 Could Jeff have predicted the current level of mushroom appreciation? 23:20 Beverages, chocolate and other products with mushroom extracts 26:20 How to choose high-quality mushroom supplements 31:20 Shocking truth about grain-grown mycelium sold as mushroom supplement 38:30 Telltale signs for false mushroom products 41:00 How Jeff makes sure his mushroom product is certified organic and tested for harmful chemicals 47:00 Dried mushroom powders vs. mushroom extracts: the latters are much more concentrated 50:40 Drugs made from mushrooms, PSK, Lentinene made from shitake, D-fraction made from maitake 53:10 Greenhouse vs. wood log grown mushrooms; do their nutritional profiles differ? 58:00 Where does Jeff see the mushroom business is going to? 60:20 Ergosterol, Vitamin D2
Dr. Lustgarten is a scientist at Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University with a mission to conquer aging through rigorous tracking of biomarkers. His Youtube videos, in which Dr. Lustgarten crunches scientific data in formats easily digestible by everyone and also provides his own biomarkers, are super educational and have inspired me personally in many ways. In our interview, we discuss his Youtube videos, his book Microbial Burden, his cutting-edge research on microbiome’s impacts on aging and much more!
Video – Watch the interview on video
Audio – Listen to the interview
1:30 Dr. Lustgarten’s approaches to longevity; quantification through biomarkers 7:00 Dr. Lustgarten’s Youtube videos; health optimization and longevity 10:30 Reference values vs. optimal values; why you should focus on the latter 17:00 Dr. Lustgarten’s longevity strategies including dietary and exercise based approaches 20:00 Exercises’ impacts on maximum and average lifespans 21:40 Nutrition-dense food 33:40 How to optimize mineral intakes? “Small scales vs. big scales” 37:50 What’s adequate Vitamin K intake? RDA is not always optimal 38:55 Organ meats, carnivore diet 43:00 How to optimize mitochondrial health; exercise, fasting 48:00 Body’s water content (hydration); impacts of vegetables, muscle mass 51:07 Dr. Lustgarten’s book: Microbial Burden 57:56 Microbial metabolites 67:50 Exercises’ impacts on gut microbiome
I cannot recommend highly enough Dr. Lustgarten’s videos on Youtube! They provide bite-sized takeaways for everyone that are based on solid sciences/measurements, whether you are a novice just getting started with biohacking or a seasoned biohacker.
We all breathe as an absolute necessity, yet, many of us breathe sub optimally. In this interview, Anders, author of a highly rated book Conscious Breathing, walks us through the seven components of Conscious Breathing. We also discuss fascinating and less-discussed topics around breathing, such as the importance of carbon dioxide (CO2) in our body, sex hormones’ interactions with breathing and much more!
1:40 Anders’ path to become one of international leaders in breathing 4:40 What is Conscious Breathing; its seven habits 5:40 Importance of nasal breathing 6:40 Low breathing, not the same as deep breathing 9:10 Roles of oxygen and carbon dioxide (CO2) in our body, mitochondria, ROS 28:00 The importance of right posture 32:00 How to improve the lung and diaphragm muscles 34:30 Rhythm of breathing 38:00 Relaxator by Conscious Breathing; how it affects heart rate and HRV (heart rate variability) 42:00 How hormones affect our breathing 49:00 Sleeptape by Conscious Breathing 55:50 Relaxator’s positive effects on HRV 64:00 Habit #7: quiet breathing 65:30 Exciting future plans: breathing suit, breath analyzer
Many of us wear several health wearables, be it Whoop, Fitbit, or in my case, Lief Therapeutics, take tests such as comprehensive blood panels, Organic Acids Test (OAT) etc., all from different providers. The results are available through their own platforms/apps, making it hard to get the maximum values out of these data. Seqster, a company who creates customer-centric interoperability solution for all types of health data, is on a mission to change that all.
Tasty and nutrition-filled energy bars are everyone’s favourites! Upgrade your healthy snack with added grass-fed collagen for further health benefits.
Most often, collagen is associated with skin benefits, but collagen’s health benefits go much deeper than just skin deep. It is very rich in amino acid glycine – a 100 grams of grass-fed beef collagen contains ca. 21 grams of this important nutrition. Higher serum glycine level is associated with improved insulin sensitivity and better lipid and inflammatory profile in plasma, such as higher HDL and lower triglycerides .
Feel free to experiment with the nuts/seeds in this recipe. After many trials, the combination below is my personal favourite, but other nuts and seeds of your choice can create nice variations.