Are We Asking the Right Questions?

Are we asking the right questions?


Intermittent Fasting, Autophagy, Oral Health and Cardiovascular Disease:

Key Takeaways:

  1. Atherosclerosis and How to Keep The Plumbing Clear
  2. Slowing progression and reversing the process
  3. My health story from ten years in India
  4. Sugar, Insulin Resistance and Fatty Liver
  5. Hiding sugar on Food Labels
  6. Omega-3s Help but Follow up with Nutritional Changes
  7. Intermittent Fasting – You can do it
  8. Autophagy as an antiaging strategy
  9. Inflammation from Stress
  10. Inflammation from lack of Oral Hygiene

As a patient diagnosed with  “atherosclerotic plaque,” I read a lot about the relationships between lifestyle, nutritional issues and cardiovascular disease. Oftentimes, we don’t get clear answers because we may not be asking the right questions. 

Here’s some information on keeping the arteries clear:slow the progression of cardiovascular plaques

How can plaque from atherosclerosis be reduced?

  1. Exercise regularly. Regular aerobic exercise can help fight atherosclerosis by reducing the amount of fat in your blood, lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol, and controlling your weight. It’s never too late to start exercising. Brisk walking, swimming, and bicycling are good choices.
  2. Vitamin D +K2: Vitamin K2 with D3 inhibits the progression of plaques.
  3. Use of Nitric Oxide: Nitric Oxide is a potent vasodilator. We can produce more nitric oxide by nasal breathing over mouth breathing. Here are five more ways to increase nitric oxide:

garey simmonsI have a genetic propensity to heart disease, diabetes and celiac disease, at least in the fact that both my parents have/had heart disease to some extent. 

In my case, I did extensive testing in 2021 trying to understand why I couldn’t get my blood numbers to resemble a so-called healthy person, at least in the eyes of the various cardiologists and blood lipid specialists I met with.

I lived a pretty typical American lifestyle until my twenties. Very few vegetables, except what came out of a can. Lots of burgers, fries and pizza in college. But then I moved overseas and spent 7 years in Europe and several more years in Asia.

I learned a different lifestyle. However, the downfall I had in India was in the fact that I never adapted to the water in India. We were told to boil it before drinking and with good reason. The bacteria is quite different from a Western nations’ water supply. I did get dysentery for a few months but it finally resolved in month four of my ten year stay in India. 

Early on I also contracted hepatitis. I had to become a vegetarian for at least a year as I couldn’t digest any fat at all. But overall, I ate well and was healthy most of the time. The one large mistake was sugar. It was a daily overindulgence in sugar laden tea (indian chai) and bottled soft drinks, since the water wasn’t deemed safe.

This period of ten years of overdoing it on the sugar intake was detrimental to my blood numbers. I was warned in 1990 that my triglycerides were high and that I should use artificial sweeteners, you know those pink and blue packets. Sounds funny today to hear a doctor say to use artificial sweeteners, when they are suspected of causing cancer.  I thought the taste was very chemical and kept using sugar.

I was never one to accept medical advice readily due to my lack of confidence in medical pharmacology. Later Splenda was brought to market and it tasted more like sugar and was meant to be calorie free. The good news is that Stevia is now available in every store. This is a zero calorie sweetener derived from a Brazilian plant. I like the Trader Joe’s brand best. 

The whole point of lowering triglycerides was to lower sugar intake. But replacing it with an artificial sweetener has many faults and didn’t help my situation one bit. At that time I was unaware that sugar is nearly in everything that is manufactured food. There are fifty different ways food manufacturers can add sugar to a label without it saying sugar. Anything that ends in “-ose” is sugar in one form or another. 

sugar by any other name
Brown organic cane sugar, honey honeycombs, green leaves stevia plants and pills, diet food, health sweeteners vector. Illustration of natural cane sugar, coconut and stevia

Here is a short list:

  • Brown sugar
  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Malt sugar
  • Molasses
  • Raw sugar
  • Sugar molecules ending in “ose” (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose)
  • Syrup

So when I was in the States, I was eating plenty of high glycemic carbohydrates that nearly instantly turned into sugar and spiked insulin. Yes, that hamburger bun has added sugar and is converted to blood glucose quickly! When you spike insulin on a daily basis, it’s easy to develop insulin resistance which disallows sugar from being absorbed at the cellular level for energy use, rather it gets stored as fat. Hence, my 2005 diagnosis of “fatty liver.” And being 25 lbs overweight. 

Starting on Omega-3s in 2005 was a reprieve that did in fact lower my triglycerides substantially at first. But that needs to be followed up with a better nutritional diet. I didn’t always follow through. After learning more about nutrition, I eventually became aware of my diabetic predisposition. I began intermittent fasting and learned the importance of autophagy. 

16 8 IF AprilSimply stated, intermittent fasting is a means of time restricted feeding. Autophagy is the body’s ability to recycle protein. Intermittent fasting can lead to autophagy which is now believed to be a serious anti-aging strategy in other words, you get healthier. If you can dial down the caloric intake, good things can happen. 

Look, we all fast everyday. We all break our fast with breakfast, right? So what if you can prolong your fast a few extra hours like skipping breakfast and break the fast with a meal around noon? You’re not skipping breakfast, you’re just postponing it for a little extra time.

If you stopped eating at 8pm and then had a meal around noon instead of 8 in the morning, then you have fasted for 16 hours. Eating high quality food (whatever that means to you) from 12 noon to 8 pm means you have an 8 hour grazing time. This is called 16/8 fasting. It’s pretty easy to adopt this manner of eating if you are busy in the morning and have stuff to do. 

What this means to me is that I am giving my organs, my stomach, pancreas and my liver a chance to rest from its hard labor and recuperate, heal, replenish, even regenerate to a point. It’s not necessary to practice eating this way 7 days a week. You can try a few days a week or every other day. 

Many people use a one meal a day method and others combine for a more relaxed schedule on the weekends and practice 16/8 five days a week. It’s not necessarily a weight loss program but it can be. If you want to lose weight or feel you need to lose weight, going for 18/6 would be more effective and a monthly 3 days fast will propel you to lose weight even faster. Of course, you have to be able to do this in a medically safe manner. This is especially true if you have any diagnosed conditions surrounding cardiovascular disease or diabetes. 

Now for the fun part. I learned through my extensive testing that I was safe from diabetes. I was doing all the right things in terms of correcting those blood sugar numbers. My A1C and C-reactive protein numbers were great! However, inflammation was still showing up in the more intensive cardiovascular blood tests I did. So I finally got to ask a functional medicine doctor, “Where is the inflammation coming from?” 

There were two possibilities: stress and oral health. 

We are either in a sympathetic or parasympathetic state. This has to do with the central nervous system and the very important Vagus nerve. I won’t go into those details here, but leaning sympathetic dominant, which means I am generally much more stressed than not, will cause bodily systemic inflammation as all systems remain on high alert awaiting or expecting impending danger.

We make up stories all the time that keep us stressed. Worrying about things that are in the past and being overly concerned about stuff that might happen in the future. Yes, I have leaned “sympathetic” (stressed) for many years. Most people do if you have a habit of paying attention to the news or like to watch high anxiety TV.

Heck, I love to read historical novels with thriller plots and suspense. More commonly, most of us have money worries.  You worry when you feel like you don’t have enough, and if you have money, what the hell do you do with it not to lose it? And then you have to worry about taxes! Stress, stress, stress. 

We seem to all have family dynamic stressors too, raising kids from the womb right up through teenage years. It’s never an easy road. If you can get all that right and straightened out, great! But it doesn’t come easily and not without a load of stress to carry. Isn’t life exciting? 

Now let’s talk about something physiological. Oral health. 

Healthy teeth healthy heart
Healthy teeth concept.

It’s not hard to understand that most pathological invasions into your body come through your mouth and nasal cavity. There is a lot of protection because of the sinuses. But there are more bacteria in the mouth than anywhere else in the body. That’s because we are sticking all kinds of stuff in our mouths everyday. This can lead from bad breath to periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease is nothing to be complacent about.

“Bacterial populations attached to tooth surfaces consist of biofilm communities sometimes 50–100 cells in thickness and with a bacterial density of up to 1011 CFU/mg. Thus, the biofilm that colonizes tooth surfaces may be among the most complex that exist in nature.

“During the last two decades, there has been an increasing interest in the impact of oral health on atherosclerosis and subsequent cardiovascular disease (CVD).”

There are various methods of combating this avenue of infection/inflammation entering the body. It begins with excellent oral hygiene which means brushing often, flossing daily and in the case of advanced disease, using more aggressive measures.

Certainly, waterpiks and hydro flossing, using food grade hydrogen peroxide as a disinfectant, or taking a targeted probiotic to address undesirable bacteria in the mouth. If you google “probiotics for oral hygiene”, you’ll find a few different brands that have the common goal of improving oral hygiene. If your gums bleed when you brush, get to the dentist and if needed, get a dental hygienist  every three months or as required. 

Gut Health Tip of the Week: 

Remove, Restore and Repair – When a person has digestive issues and heads to the doctor or looks for a health coaching program, the ‘go to’ solution is the three R’s.

Remove things that are damaging to the gut. Processed food undoubtedly has ingredients that are injurious to the gut. All those preservatives and all those additives make it shelf stable for years. If bacteria won’t eat it, then we probably shouldn’t eat it either. In fact, everything you eat should be eaten to feed your gut bacteria which in turn will make food for your human cells. That’s just the way it works.

Years of stress, poor diet, or bad bacteria overgrowth, your gut lining takes a beat down. The lining of the intestines is one cell thick and many of the things we shove in our mouths will damage the endothelial cell lining of the gut. Not the least of which is a water based molecule called glyphosate. It’s the same stuff you may be using to kill weeds on your lawn (ie Roundup).

The EPA says it is harmless to humans but at 20 parts per million, glyphosate will break down this boundary wall and leaky gut will ensue. It’s been clinically proven that it takes about 16 minutes from eating a carrot from a field that has been sprayed with glyphosate to begin the breakdown of the endothelial lining.

This is one reason to eat organic when possible, however even organic produce can be contaminated with glyphosate if the field of the farmer next door is using this pesticide. Glyphosate is used on wheat as a desiccant to speed up the dehydration process of wheat in order to harvest more efficiently.

You might think you are gluten sensitive but for sure we are all glyphosate intolerant. There are ways and means of treating this type of leaky gut and I can help with that if it’s an issue. We’ll talk about Restore and Repair in a future issue.

Best in health, 






Garey Simmons


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