A few minutes ago I heaped about 40 pounds of ice into my bathtub filled with already cold water. As I write this, I'm sitting in the tub, in the icy water, and, well, loving it. My heart beat has decreased. I'm calm, focused. I have quelled every ache in the body. I've literally cooled off any inflammation in my brain. I'm burning more fat than a 10 mile run. And maybe you're still wondering, "why the heck is this guy sitting in ice?" Because it does all the things I just mentioned and then some.
Perhaps I should start earlier in the day.
I woke up at 3:40am, solved a Rubik's cube in less than 3 minutes, cleared my mind with a leisurely, meditative walk, completed 9 hours of consulting, balanced some books, mailed out my estimated taxes, did not eat a single bite of food and bought a ton of ice. It's 4pm. My mind is clear. My energy is great. I'm not hungry. Life is good. And maybe you're still wondering, "why the heck is this guy sitting in ice?"
Perhaps I should start earlier in the year.
Months ago my business partner brought to my attention Julien Smith's free E-book, "The Flinch." The gist is that our minds are too preoccupied by the thought of and overprotection from danger. Largely, this annoying waste of brain energy, one might argue, inhibits personal growth. Nothing risked, nothing gained. How do we shut up this pesky little voice that's holding us back? According to Julien, step one is to walk to your shower, crank it up full blast on the coldest it will go and then step in. Don't think. Just do.
It worked. The first time I did it I just laughed afterwards. Colors were brighter. Sounds were more vibrant. Smells more robust. The sensation of touch was entirely new and nearly overwhelming. All of that brain bandwidth gets freed up. All day long you waste so much brain computing on worry. "Did I return that email?" "Are the bills due?" "Did I get back to so and so?" "What will so and so think of me?" And on and on our minds spin. The more cognitive preservation multi-tasking, the harder it is to focus on anything. Paralysis by analysis. But then you go do something that your unconscious mind thinks is killing you, and it shuts up after a few minutes. Exercise works this way. Skydiving works this way. So does cold. Having trouble sleeping because inane and deleterious thoughts are pecking about in your head? Do some sprints and jump in ice.
The icy shower is good; but many of my peers have argued that the ice bath is superior in every way. The vast majority of my employees over the years were collegiate athletes and had at one time or another used ice for recovery. But until this moment, I only dreamed about it.
As far as I can tell, ice does it all:
1.) Burn Fat
It takes a lot of energy to heat your body up. After all, strictly speaking, a calorie is the measure of energy to raise a gram of water one degree Celsius. It takes some adaptation, but activating brown fat (the heating that is shiver-independent) annihilates the rest of your fat.
There are some studies challenging this; but I believe they aren't accounting for the fact that some participants dread the ice bath. Clearly, if you hate it, it will be very difficult for you to reap the benefit. Much like studying a subject you dislike or "don't get," the dividends of benefit aren't paid out when there's no passion. On the other hand, after you've adapted to cold and look forward to it, you find that recovery from workouts or even tough days is greatly improved. We know for a fact that ice calms down inflammation wherever it's applied.
3.) Live longer
Aside from the obvious fact that while very cold you slow the breakdown associated with aging, there are some extreme examples of when people died in freezing water or on ice and were successfully resuscitated hours (and maybe even days) later.
4.) Sleep better
Neurosurgeon Jack Kruse is a great resource for cold thermogenesis. Frankly, I haven't looked at any of his material until just now while writing this; but I know he's developed protocols for how people can safely incorporate this into their regimen. He has ample articles about how cold thermogenesis fixes everything, including sleep.
It's long been demonstrated that blood serum testosterone improves in people who practice cold thermogenesis; and I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of it had to do with the fact that people taking icy showers before bed sleep like the dead. Sleep tends to improve everything.
5.) Think clearer/brain health
Like the rest of these bullet points, there are endless studies to back them and lots of caveats to explore. But perhaps the best evidence is this article itself. I've written it in the span of about ten minutes; and now, as I can sense that my body may start shivering shortly, I'm going to wrap up the article and get out of the ice water.
I'm not going to detail this; but suffice it to say that the old adage about taking a cold shower just simply isn't true. Think of it this way: if you can shut up all of your worries, negative thoughts, negative self-speak and fear, you can focus your mind on whatever you want without diversion. It could be a conference call, a presentation, a tournament, an article or whatever you imagine.
This is not meant to be exhaustively comprehensive so much as concisely heavy impact. I did not include logic puzzles, sleep, art and the like, because, frankly, after you do even a few of these seven practices, one of the first ideas that will come to mind is a desire to obliterate a sudoku puzzle, write a song, paint a picture, read and write a few books, speak a new language, and invent something that makes the Rubik's cube look like a prehistoric relic. Oh yeah, and you will sleep progressively better and better and better.
Complex large living organisms that don't move don't have brains. They're called plants. John Ratey, MD has created a great book, "Spark," which details numerous studies showing the cognitive benefit from movement and then the mechanics down to the cell level of how exercise makes you smarter. My favorite illustration driving this home concerns the Sea Squirt, an underwater invertebrate. This little critter roams about until it finds the place where it will live out the rest of its life; and then it eats it own brain. After all, if you sit still most of the time, why would you need a brain?
2.) Ketosis (not to be conflated with ketoacidosis)
Your brain will live longer if you can keep your blood sugar low almost all the time. Eat seldom; and when you do, make sure you get coconut oil, butter and fish oil. Your body will learn to live off of fat (again, since this is how it was meant to work and how it started working when you were born). Without elevated blood sugar, it is darn near impossible to get any chronic diseases, especially the ones affecting the brain.
There are numerous examples of people who reversed advanced Alzheimer's and dementia by simple ketotic regulation.
Via intermittent fasting and MCT and short chain fatty acid administration - d beta hydroxybutyrate can cross the blood brain barrier and is neuroprotective. Given that neural cell death will occur when energy is no longer uptaken, ketone bodies afford each affected cell within the brain additional longevity since they operate independent from insulin-dependent GLUTs.
J Clin Invest. 2003 Sep;112(6):892-901.
D-beta-hydroxybutyrate rescues mitochondrial respiration and mitigates features of Parkinson disease. Tieu K, Perier C, Caspersen C, Teismann P, Wu DC, Yan SD, Naini A, Vila M, Jackson-Lewis V, Ramasamy R, Przedborski S.
Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids 70 (2004) 309–319. The therapeutic implications of ketone bodies: the effects of ketone bodies in pathological conditions: ketosis, ketogenic diet, redox states, insulin resistance, and mitochondrial metabolism. Richard L. Veech* Laboratory of Membrane Biochemistry and Biophysics, National Institutes of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, 12501 Washington Ave., Rockville, MD 20850, USA
3.) Stop the Confusion: Eat Great Food
Your brain started out only hungry for its needs: vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. You starved it from its needs and became a drug addict. That is, you stopped eating foods dense in nutrients; and instead you began eating foods which have no nutritional value, leech nutrients out of your body and get you high. That's right, the nutritional value of grains and pasteurized dairy is less than nothing. Not only does their processing rob them of any nutritional value whatsoever, your body uncouples some of its own minerals (like calcium) to get them out of your body.
Add to that the fact that these foods create a euphoria from the blood sugar roller coaster and that they contain opioids: casomorphin and gluteomorphin.
Your brain is actually confused about what it wants and what it thinks tastes good, because you have starved it from its needs and been taking opiates for years. You are an actual drug addict. This is not a joke.
The good news is that as you begin supplementing, eating nutrient dense foods and turning away from your opiate addiction, you can actually regain normal brain function again. Believe it or not, when you have been flawlessly feeding your brain appropriately for a few months, you don't crave or think about the drugs anymore. I repeat, this is not a joke. I'm having an ever-growing number of executive and lifestyle coaching clients who don't even think about pasta or pastries anymore.
If you get an itch, it's only because you are nutrient deficient, and/or because you're still sneaking a little opium in (a piece of cheese, a bite of bread, or a sip of beer).
Be prepared for withdrawal. "Everything in moderation" is folly when talking about opiates. And that's to say nothing of the inflammatory sadomasochistic euphoria from blood sugar instability. You are sick; and the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. If you need some help during detox, don't be afraid to get more vigilant with your antioxidants and properly sourced caffeine (more to come on nicotine gum in the future).
4.) Rewire Neurons
Practice focused thought. You can do it with breathing, with guidance, with neurofeedback devices, and/or by running a low current across the brain. All of these increase levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, GAbA and serotonin. Depression, anxiety, pain and neurodegeneration can be stopped. The brain is complex; but it is still a series of many understood processes which can all be altered.
Some studies on current applied across brain:
Researchers attached an electrode to the upper incisor in rabbits to stimulate the trigeminal nuclei via the infra orbital nerve with only 10hz @ 5v, resulting in over 15% increase in cerebral cortical blood flow.
Int J Neurosci. 2009;119(9):1292-302.
Assessment of the outcomes of cerebral blood flow measurements after electrical stimulation of upper right incisor tooth in rabbits.
Gulturk S, Gedik R, Develioglu H, Oztoprak I, Cetin A.
Department of Physiology, School of Medicine, Cumhuriyet University, 58140 Sivas, Turkey. email@example.com
Another 10hz study showing safe increased blood flow with brain stim:
Acta Physiol Scand. 1990 Mar;138(3):307-16.
Effect on cortical blood flow of electrical stimulation of trigeminal cerebrovascular nerve fibres in the rat.
Suzuki N, Hardebo JE, Kåhrström J, Owman C.
Department of Medical Cell Research, University of Lund, Sweden.
Safe, among the longest studied so-called "nootropics" or smart drugs, they boast alleged IQ improvements in adults.
In rat models, they have proven to be specifically neuroprotective in the substantia nigra, including pars compacta.
There are about 3000 favorable studies on pubmed for the racetams, although I found the following one among the most recent and interesting.
Indian J Pharmacol. 2012 Nov-Dec;44(6):774-9. doi: 10.4103/0253-7613.103300. Piracetam and vinpocetine ameliorate rotenone-induced Parkinsonism in rats. Zaitone SA, Abo-Elmatty DM, Elshazly SM. Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Suez Canal University, Ismailia, Egypt.
It's a drug. It's controversial. It's basically NZT from the movie "Limitless." It makes people smarter, better at problem solving and extremely focused for very long periods of time. If you are a depressed, anxious, unhealthy and addictive personality, it is inarguably a bad idea. Moody people and the emotionally immature beware. That's most of you, even the adults who aren't in college anymore. However, if you are happy, smart, relaxed, healthy and very controlled, prepare to have the best day of your life. On modafinil, sleep is deep, recuperative but totally unnecessary. Daily longterm persistent high dose use, like with any drug, isn't smart. But limited irregular use, like with many drugs, has some significant upsides. One of them is the protection of brain cells.
Clinical trials have proven its benefit in improving concentration. Unfortunately, most of the studies with Modafinil for Parkinson's were focused on finger tapping, not mental acuity, and therefore had minimal statistically significant outcomes. Mental fatigue is much less with modafinil, even if body fatigue is under affected.
Aviat Space Environ Med. 2012 Jun;83(6):556-64.
Modafinil as a replacement for dextroamphetamine for sustaining alertness in military helicopter pilots. Estrada A, Kelley AM, Webb CM, Athy JR, Crowley JS.
J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2010 Spring;22(2):130-54. doi: 10.1176/appi.neuropsych.22.2.130. Psychopharmacological neuroprotection in neurodegenerative disease: heuristic clinical applications.
Lauterbach EC, Shillcutt SD, Victoroff J, Coburn KL, Mendez MF.
The above six takeaways should be substantial enough to help 99% of people A LOT. However, in the case of Parkinsonism, there is at least one more big trick.
This is some of the heaviest artillery for people deep into neurodegeneration. The layperson need not apply. Although selegiline has fallen largely out of favor, even for early-onset Parkinson's among American medical practitioners, it has a track record of netting the patients much greater overall benefit than dopamine therapy alone. More recent reviews argue that the fears once associated with selegiline had too many confounding factors.
J Neural Transm. 2013 Mar;120(3):435-44. doi: 10.1007/s00702-012-0899-3. Epub 2012 Sep 12. Rasagiline and selegiline, inhibitors of type B monoamine oxidase, induce type A monoamine oxidase in human SH-SY5Y cells. Inaba-Hasegawa K, Akao Y, Maruyama W, Naoi M.
Source: Department of Neurosciences, Gifu International Institute of Biotechnology, Kakamigahara, Gifu, Japan.
Clin Neuropharmacol. 2012 May;35(3):134-40. doi: 10.1097/WNF.0b013e318255838b.
Selegiline: a reappraisal of its role in Parkinson disease.
Fabbrini G, Abbruzzese G, Marconi S, Zappia M.
Source : Department of Neurology and Psychiatry and IRCSS Neuromed Institute, "Sapienza" University of Rome, Rome, Italy.