By Julie Gregory, Chief Health Liaison for Apollo Health

As someone with a Type-A personality (aka “the hare”), I naturally tend to be in a hurry, impatient, and overly eager to get the job done. This personality trait serves me very well in some regards and less well in others. For instance, when I’m tasked with writing a complex article, I can laser-focus for hours — rapidly consuming mounds of information, pulling out key conclusions, and presenting the information in a way that (hopefully) helps the reader feel informed and empowered. When I’m in “the zone,” I can easily disregard interruptions and my physical needs for sustenance, hydration, and even bathroom breaks for hours on end until the job is done, rendering me extraordinarily efficient.

This trait serves me less well, however, when I’m faced with a physical challenge. My husband (aka “the tortoise”) and I both enjoy working in our yard, but we have completely different styles. As usual, I’m overly eager to get the job done. I’m a dynamo, simultaneously pulling weeds, edging beds, trimming shrubs, mulching, planting, sweeping, etc., until I fall into a broken heap 2-3 hours later with every muscle in my body screaming that I’ve overdone. On the other hand, my darling husband often disappears into the garage to make a pot of French-pressed coffee on his workbench, then lumbers slowly about the yard, cup of joe in hand, making almost imperceptible progress, focusing on a single task at a time. He stops to gaze at the sandhill cranes overhead or the serene lake in our backyard before picking up his rake and getting back to the task at hand. At the end of the day, our yard is beautiful, but it’s little thanks to me. My tortoise husband completes the bulk of the work. His steady determination to “get ‘er done” in a plodding, methodical manner while concurrently listening to the needs of his body and caring for himself proves to have the more efficient style. My desire to accomplish is great, but I overdo and render myself useless.

In a similar way, I often see participants who come to Dr. Bredesen’s work extraordinarily eager to dive in fully. Trust me; I get it. If I had been presented with a comprehensive plan such as a ReCODE Report or the step-by-step instructions laid out in “The End of Alzheimer’s Program,”  no doubt I would have been similarly eager. When I was experiencing cognitive decline, Dr. Bredesen’s work hadn’t yet been published, so I was forced to slowly figure things out for myself. As I steadily learned, I subsequently began layering multiple strategies together until I radically optimized my health and ultimately healed my cognition, a process that continues to this day. (I share my full story in Dr. Bredesen’s soon-to-be-released book “The First Survivors of Alzheimer’s,” available August 17th.) In this instance, a lack of knowledge forced me to be the tortoise, but I also think that my extraordinarily broken state of health (insulin resistance, abrupt onset of menopause, mast cell activation, and unbeknownst to me a particularly virulent Lyme disease co-infection all layered on top of a head injury and multiple surgeries) wouldn’t have allowed for a dramatic shift.

That’s my plea to you — be the tortoise. I want you to benefit from this amazing program, but I want you to hasten slowly.”  I’ve seen too many participants dive in too quickly with sometimes devastating consequences. They think, “Oh, fasting is helpful? No problem, I’ll fast for three days,” disregarding our instructions (especially when fasting is difficult) to check for hypoglycemia and to slowly extend the fast by five minutes per day while paying attention to hydration and electrolyte replacement. The examples for harm are endless, and those who overdo have the best of intentions, but too much of a good thing is just that — too much. Our bodies, especially when we’re already exhibiting symptoms, have begun to decline. We’re in protection mode in an effort to survive. Too extreme of a change, even in a healthful direction, can be too much. Our bodies crave homeostasis. The term comes from the Greek words for “same” and “steady,” and refers to any process that living things use to actively maintain fairly stable conditions necessary for survival. Over time, that “steady,” may not be optimal, but we can slowly move it in an optimal direction, whereas too dramatic of a shift could create such instability that we easily may do more harm than good. This warning applies to hundreds of aspects of the protocol, excessively rapid weight loss, unnecessarily high ketones, or overly ambitious detoxification. Each of these and many more can be disadvantageous and even dangerous to your health.

Steps for Change

  1. Identify.  Identify the strategy you’re about to implement. Know why you’re applying it. Carefully research benefits and side effects. It’s best to make one change at a time so that you can more easily determine how it’s affecting you.
  2. Start slowly.  It’s important to start slowly. For instance, if you’ve decided to begin eating more vegetables and you’re currently eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) with lots of processed food, it’s best to increase slowly. Your body is used to refined food “that is essentially” pre-digested, and it may not be up to the task of digesting a plateful of healthful vegetables that are chock-full of fiber overnight. Increase your intake by a cup a day. Pay attention to how you feel. In particular, focus on your mood, cognition, energy level, and sleep.
  3. Evaluate.  If you’re feeling better, move onto the next step. If you’re feeling worse, pay attention. See our extensive list of cautions. Try to determine what is causing your symptoms. Use suggested therapies when applicable, such as digestive enzymes to help you handle the increased fiber from more vegetables. Enlist the help of your practitioner if you feel something isn’t right. You may need to be evaluated for a small-intestinal bowel overgrowth (SIBO) or FODMAP sensitivity.   
  4. Journal.  Keep a written record of your experiment. If you learn you have an underlying condition that needs treatment before proceeding, this process may take time. That’s OK. It’s important for you to have a way to refer to your starting place so you can track your progress.
  5. Stabilize.  Once you’ve achieved stability and can feel the benefit from the change you’ve made, then (and only then) should you consider moving on to the next change.   

Our approach is all about making a series of healthful changes, but it’s important to do so in a cautious manner.  Above all else, I want you to be safe, to heal, to thrive. Consider this blog, my love letter to each of you who are reading. Listen to your body. Make slow changes. Heed each of our warnings. The Bredesen Protocol isn’t meant to be implemented overnight; it’s a plan for life — a marathon and not a sprint.

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