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An epiphany over how to achieve optimum health
Dr. Greg Dennis: Family doctor and host, Fit Rx
BY PETER BOWES | WEDNESDAY MARCH 30, 2022
What happens when a devoted meat-eater spends an hour in conversation with a fellow podcaster, who lives by a plant-based diet? In this episode of the LLAMA podcast, I meet Dr. Greg Dennis, a family practice physician from Oklahoma City, who also podcasts about health and fitness. We quiz each other about our longevity-focussed lifestyles – highlighting the significant differences and similarities in our regimes. Dr. Dennis explains the action he took when he realized that his patients were not getting any healthier, under the traditional “standard of care,” and how it led to his weekly podcast, Fit Rx. We also share our longevity goals and discuss the challenges posed by conflicting advice on how to live a healthy life.
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“I just kind of had this epiphany. My patients aren’t getting any better. They’re still fat. They still have arthritis. They feel terrible. They’re still getting heart disease, kidney disease. Their quality of lives weren’t changing. And so I just thought there’s got to be a better way.”Greg Dennis
In this joint episode, we cover:
- The life experiences that led Peter and Greg to focus on longevity and healthspan
- Why Dr. Denis believes a drug-focussed “standard of care” is not working.
- Putting a band aid on ailments rather than treating root causes.
- Adopting a new approach to medicine and questioning medical dogma.
- Marathons, weightlifting and CrossFit
- The best diet for me? The plant-based approach of a meat-first approach?
- Reversing diabetes.
- Why “keto or bust” is not the right approach for everyone
- Defining the benefits of a carnivore diet for certain people
- Tackling the confusion caused by there being dietary regime – often conflicting in their nature – that could potentially improve our health
- Basing a diet on just one ingredient – how does that work?
- Being -careful not to consume too much of a good thing.
- Supplements, biohacking and self-experimentation
- Cold plunges and saunas
- Vitamin D, magnesium – why they’re the big ones for Dr. Dennis
- Growing older and aging aspirations over 50
DoNotAge.org is offering listeners to LLAMA a 10% discount on its range of products – NAD boosters, Sirtuin activators, senolytics and more.Use the code LLAMA at checkout. Any health queries can be answered by emailing the team at email@example.com.
Affiliation disclosure: This podcast receives a small commission when you use the code LLAMA for purchases at DoNotAge.org – it helps to cover production costs and ensures that our interviews remain free for all to listen.
This interview with Dr. Greg Dennis was recorded on December 13, 2021 and transcribed using Sonix AI. Please check against audio recording for absolute accuracy.
Peter Bowes: [00:00:21] Hello again and welcome to the Live Long and Master Aging podcast. I’m Peter Bowes. This is where we explore the science and stories behind human longevity. Now, in this episode, we’re going to explore the colliding worlds and I mean colliding in a positive sense, the colliding worlds of health care and podcasting. There is a vast array of podcasts dedicated to what could loosely be called the longevity space, including FitRX, which is hosted by Dr. Greg Dennis. Greg is a family practice physician in Oklahoma City in the state of Oklahoma here in the US. He is an outspoken advocate for dietary interventions to promote good health and potentially a long healthspan he believes in it and he podcasts about it. We recently joined forces to record a joint episode for both FitRX and Live Long and Master Aging. Here’s our conversation.
Greg Dennis: [00:01:15] Today will be an interesting podcast as I’m going to be interviewing someone as they’re also interviewing me. So my guest today is Peter Bowes. He is a freelance journalist and broadcaster who also hosts his own podcast called Live Long and Master Aging. Peter, welcome to the show.
Peter Bowes: [00:01:37] Greg It’s really good to talk to you and it’s interesting, this is probably new for us both in kind of doing this dual interview. It’s such a rapidly expanding sphere of narrowcasting, I suppose, looking at health care through the eyes of a podcaster. And I always view this as people like yourself, especially trying to reach an audience that perhaps isn’t hearing messages, the kind of things that you believe in from other forms of media or perhaps even their own doctor. And I think that’s probably what I reflect in my podcast looking at longevity, looking at diet and exercise and supplementation and all those issues that go with trying to pursue a long and healthy life.
Greg Dennis: [00:02:18] Well, very nice. So you kind of already answered my a little bit of my next question. But, you know, I always like kind of getting to know my guest a little bit. And so I’m just curious, you know, as somebody who who’s a journalist and broadcaster, like, what kind of attracted you to the longevity space and what made you start researching this? And then ultimately to start a podcast focused on longevity?
Peter Bowes: [00:02:40] Well, I think I’ve always been interested in the longevity space as it applies to myself. And I think anyone who has a passion for this subject, it starts with your own physical fitness. So that’s always been an interest as a journalist and as a broadcaster, working mostly for the BBC over the last few decades, I got an opportunity to make some documentaries looking at this whole issue of longevity, of living long, especially healthspan as opposed to lifespan, which is something that that interests me a lot. In other words, maximizing the number of healthy years as opposed to just maximizing our lifespan, which doesn’t necessarily include healthy years at the end for some people. And I got very interested in that, had an opportunity to go to the University of Southern California to meet Dr. Valter Longo, one of the leading lights, of course, in this sphere, who has done a lot of work on on fasting and his Fasting Mimicking Diet. I actually took part in one of his early human clinical trials. Looking at that particular diet, I think I was one of the first 19 human subjects after he of course, had put a lot of work in with mice and in other areas of research. `But as his studies developed, it became possible it became safe to apply this diet to humans, and I was one of the first to look at that. So that really drew me in to this, not only to how the science could apply to myself, but actually how the science is carried out. And it’s really fascinating being part of a clinical trial. I’m sure you talk about trials and studies all the time, and so do I. But actually being one of the subjects really opened a new door for me to see how scientists like Longo and others actually carried out their research. And and it was with the backdrop of all of that that I wanted to delve into the subject in more detail. And as as you well know, a podcast gives you that opportunity. There’s no hard out. You don’t have to end after 29 minutes and 59 seconds. You can you can keep going a bit. You can talk in depth. And that’s what I wanted to do with the podcast.
Greg Dennis: [00:04:42] When did you start the podcast?
Peter Bowes: [00:04:43] 2017. So we’re actually just coming up to our fifth birthday.
Greg Dennis: [00:04:47] Wow.
Peter Bowes: [00:04:48] With the the podcast, which I know you’ll appreciate, this is an achievement over five episodes is quite good for most podcasters. So hopefully it’s, you know, it’s tough work at times. It’s quite time consuming work, but it’s very rewarding and you know, 180 episodes fairly soon. It’s interesting to see how the science changes and also to see how the science doesn’t change. I listen back to some episodes from five years ago, and the things that experts were telling me then still resonate a lot with the current science. But clearly things do change and it’s nice to be able to follow how they do.
Greg Dennis: [00:05:27] Yeah, I have really enjoyed it. It has given me a platform to meet a lot of people, you know, like yourself and others that I would have never been able to visit with. And it’s nice hearing different perspectives. And a lot of times people are like minded but, you know, maybe have a different twist on things. And so it’s been it’s been nice. It does keep me busy. You know, I have a full time practice as well. And so I do the podcasts myself as far as the editing and everything. And so sometimes when I’m editing my podcast every week, I think, why am I doing this? But but then whenever I go to, to interviewing people like yourself, it, you know, and I always get done and I think, yeah, that’s why I do it. You know, it’s I like it.
Peter Bowes: [00:06:09] So is there a sense of you wanting to try to reach an audience that you feel doesn’t have the kind of information that you as a doctor feel as if they should have, especially based on your experience? And I know you’ve got a passion for diet and dietary interventions and how that can help people without the need of pharmaceuticals or supplementation. That pure, sensible, science based interventions can make such a big difference to people.
Greg Dennis: [00:06:38] Absolutely. And I hope it reaches those people and I hope it reaches health care providers as well. And now I don’t know how many other health care providers listen to my podcast or other podcasts, but, you know, kind of my goal is that they learn some of the things that I’ve learned and that is that our quote, standard of care and my listeners have heard me talk about this before, but our standard of care and what we call health care cares nothing about your health or my health. Our health care system is a big moneymaking machine that’s kind of led by Big Pharma. And I know I’m going to sound like a conspiracist here, but Big Pharma is in bed with our governing organizations like the American Medical Association, American Diabetes Association, and people like that. And so that’s why. You know, things don’t change, or at least they don’t change very, very rapidly. And you can look around, it’s probably a little bit worse here in Oklahoma than it is in California. But you can look around and see how unhealthy people are. And our standard of care explanation or solution, rather, to that is just give give more drugs. You give, give more medication. And I think when I talk to other doctors, most can agree that, yeah, you know, people aren’t really getting any healthier, you know. And so that’s that’s kind of what happened to me, just to kind of give you a brief history of what brought me into this, I was practicing the, quote, standard of care and what I would call evidence based medicine. And when people would question something, I would tell them that I would say, hey, I practice evidence based medicine, you know, because most doctors don’t like it when a patient questions them, you know, and I’d say, hey, I’m quote, evidence based medicine. And I’ve always been a healthy guy and I’ve always been into fitness. But, you know, when it came to practicing medicine, I did it just how I was taught. And you prescribe a medication for this? Medication for that. And there’s not a lot of prevention going on and there’s certainly not a lot of treating the underlying root causes. You’re just putting a Band-Aid on it. And again, that’s that’s why people are so sick. And, you know, the community, the people don’t know any better. I mean, that’s just what they know. And frankly, that’s what they expect is to go to the doctor and and get a medication. And so one day I just kind of had this epiphany and I thought, you know, my patients aren’t getting any better. You know, I’m doing everything I’m supposed to do. On paper their numbers look better so their cholesterol goes down, their hemoglobin, A1C is down because I’ve got them on all these diabetes medications. But they’re still sick, they’re still fat, they still have arthritis. They feel terrible. They’re still getting heart disease, kidney disease. So their quality of lives weren’t changing. And and so I just thought there’s there’s got to be a better way. And so it was about that same time I started questioning some of the things that, you know, some medical dogma, like cholesterol is an example. And we are just so misinformed on on cholesterol in general and the impact that it has. And so I started just kind of diving into that. And the more I learned about that, I thought that’s not what I was taught, you know, and, and so as I begin to discover the truth about that, then I, I thought, okay, what else is out there that that I’ve been doing wrong? And so I discovered things like diabetes that like, hey, I can I can treat, I can reverse diabetes like nobody ever taught me. I can reverse. Now we’re talking type II not type I, but I can reverse type II diabetes. And nobody ever told me that. Nobody ever taught me that, you know, and they just said, give more medicine, you know, if their blood, sugar and control give more medication. And so anyway, this all of this didn’t happen overnight. It was over a time period. And so doctors, you know, they they unfortunately, they don’t have time to question things. And so they just they practice how they’re taught and they just keep keep doing the same thing. And if somebody questions them, well, no, this this is the way we do it. And so all that’s to say, I really transformed the way that I practice. And then with doing that, I was still in corporate medicine at the time and I realized, you know, I’m just not a fit anymore for corporate medicine. When I had 5 minutes to spend with a patient and I’m seeing 25 a day and I just wouldn’t fit anymore. And so I left. And luckily, my my wife had opened up. She’s a physician as well. And so she had opened up a practice. And it was an easy fit for me just to step right in. And now we have a cash based practice. We don’t use any insurance or accept any insurance, and it’s a much smaller, more intimate feel. And I have a lot of time with patients that I can we can really get to the root problems, try to get them off medications, try to work on their diet, work on their nutrition supplements and lifestyle exercise and all that, and really get them well. So, you know, my wife and I have said many of times we feel like we’re doing our best work since we’ve been doing family practice.
Peter Bowes: [00:12:02] It’s interesting and maybe now isn’t the time to delve into this. You did a very interesting episode recently about COVID and a lot of the related issues and this whole problem of people, I suppose, not quite knowing what to believe and which sources that are out there, whether they’re medical journals, whether they’re pharmaceutical companies, whether they’re doctors, whether the government officials or presidents or prime ministers, the whole area has just become a lot murkier, hasn’t it, in the last couple of years, which really, I suppose, underlines and emphasizes your gut feeling that there is a need for simply more information and more evidence based information for people.
Greg Dennis: [00:12:42] Absolutely. And other people are figuring that out as well. We have had so many people come to us since this COVID because they now have a distrust of the health care system. And we hear, gosh, on a daily basis, hey, you know, I don’t trust my doctor anymore because they’re drinking the Kool-Aid and they’re buying into this narrative. And so I think patients are figuring out all of this. And COVID has exposed a lot of the inadequacies of our health care system.
Peter Bowes: [00:13:11] We could probably talk about it for 2 hours.
Greg Dennis: [00:13:13] Sure
Peter Bowes: [00:13:13] But let’s talk about and I mentioned diet and dietary interventions as being one of your main passions. I think it’s on your website. It’s just about the first thing that you you talk about. I’m curious how you came to that realization. Was it a lot through personal experience and perhaps looking at what’s on your own dinner plate and correlating that with the health of yourself and those close to you?
Greg Dennis: [00:13:36] Yeah, so it was a little bit of both. So I’ve always been a pretty healthy guy, pretty fit, you know, into some form of fitness and that changes up. I ran marathons at one point in my life and then I got into weightlifting and CrossFit and I’ve done all kinds of different things but always been pretty fit. And so I would say when I got into my forties, I was still pretty fit. But I just as a lot of people do in their forties, they start kind of missing a step or slowing down a little bit. And so I really wanted to optimize my health. And so that’s when I just start studying more about diet and nutrition because they really don’t teach us much of that in, in medical school. And so it was just something I had an interest in and, and started kind of researching that. And so I was, I guess, kind of my own guinea pig and started eating healthier, you know, just limiting processed foods and sugars. And, you know, I did strict keto for a little while and I mean, I’ve done a lot of different things, but it wasn’t until years later when I realized that I could use that in my practice to help people. And that’s again when I realized that I can actually reverse diabetes. And one of the the cases that sticks in my mind when I when it kind of cemented this idea that I could reverse diabetes, and I was still kind of trying to figure out how to implement all this into my practice. But I had a guide. Again my listeners have probably heard this before, but he had an A1C of fourteen and a half. Now, for those that don’t know what an ALC is, it’s a three month average of your blood sugar. You know, you want your levels to be less than than 6.5, ideally less than that in a non diabetic. But so anyway, 14 and one half was really, really high and he was reluctant to be on any medications. And historically I would have, you know, most doctors at an A1C that high would have put him on insulin, you know, three or four different oral medications. I mean, they would have thrown the kitchen sink at him. And I said, okay, we’re going to try this. Here’s how we do it. And so I talked to him about, you know, what raises insulin levels and, you know, maybe a higher fat, lower carb, intermittent fasting exercise, you know, the whole deal. And he was on board. And so he took that information, ran with it, came back. I told him to come back in three months. He came back in four months and we rechecked as A1C and it was, I believe it was, 4.5.
Peter Bowes: [00:16:10] Wow.
Greg Dennis: [00:16:10] And his other markers, his insulin levels and different markers were completely normal. And I said, you’re healed. He did that all without medication. And so that was when I realized, wow, there’s, there’s power in this nutrition and fasting and lifestyle change. And and then that just kind of fueled, I guess, my passion to to implement this into my practice.
Peter Bowes: [00:16:34] In terms of fasting, how deep have you delved into fasting? There are so many different protocols these days. Intermittent fasting really is just an umbrella term, isn’t it, for different forms of fasting and in my view actually quite therefore confusing to people when someone says, oh, you should try intermittent fasting. Well, what actually does that mean? Does that mean a 16:8? Does it mean at 23:1? Does it mean fasting seriously for three days and then not fasting again for another three weeks? I think the terminology in the longevity space actually needs to be sorted out so people can have a clearer vision as to what the different fasting protocols are. And then the next question, of course, is what is best for me? Because we’re all different in terms of how we respond to food.
Greg Dennis: [00:17:17] I think what you just said is key. And for all those other things that you mentioned and all the ways you can fast, I would answer that is yes. I mean, those are those are all those are all great. For me. You know, I’m usually not dealing with with people who come in and sometimes I am. But for the most part, I mean, intermittent fasting is a new concept for them. And a lot of patients find us and they come to us because they’re on a sack full of medicines. They want to change their life. They want to get healthy, which is great. We love those those kind of people. But as we introduce these concepts to them, sometimes it’s foreign. And so usually what I tell people is I like to start with a 16:8. It seems, you know, fairly straightforward to me and it sounds like a – 16 hours sounds like a lot. But if you stop eating at 7:00 at night, which I tell people you should because I was like a three hour window before going to bed and you get up the next morning and skip breakfast, wait till lunch. You just went 16 hours. Now for people who can’t do that or that’s a hard time, I say, well, maybe extend it 2 hours. So if you’re used to eating at 8:00, try to extend that till 10:00 till you get used to that and then extend that to, you know, to noon or 1:00. I also tell people, I don’t think you have to do that every single day. I think you can, but I don’t know that you do it every day. But I think the point is to give your body some breaks from food.
Greg Dennis: [00:18:44] And I’m sure, you know, I mean, all of there’s just a ton of health benefits to that. And that’s one of the gosh, probably one of the easiest and cheapest things you can do is just give your body some breaks from eating. And not only can that help lose weight, decrease your insulin levels, I’m sure you’ve talked about autophagy where you’re kind of cleaning your body up and it can do so many things. And anyway, so so I advise people start there, but listen to your body. If your body is telling you that’s too much, back off a little bit. But I like to get people to the point where they’re doing that at least maybe three times a week. And then once they’re used to that, then I’ll tell them to start pushing the envelope a little bit. So maybe once in a while do a 20 hour fast. You know, they don’t have to do it every week, but maybe every couple of weeks, something like that. And then once they get to the point, they can do that pretty easily, then maybe push it a little bit further and occasionally do a two day fast or a three day fast. And I don’t know how many people I don’t think there’s too many people that, you know, really get to that point and take me up on that two, three day fast. But if they do that just every now and again, there’s obviously a lot of health benefits to that. So I think you can get benefits from from all the above. So it’s finding out what works for for the individual.
Peter Bowes: [00:20:04] And I think it’s interesting and you probably got a better insight into this than me, that sometimes in life you go through things, maybe you’re facing a surgery, maybe it’s a colonoscopy, whatever the procedure is. And you’re asked not to eat because you can’t eat because you have you can’t have food in your system for whatever the procedure is going to be. My experience of that and just correlating that to a fasting regime has always been not so great actually doing the during and the preparation for the procedure. But afterwards that sense of being cleansed and completely emptied feels good. It actually feels positive. And there is, in addition to that, that sort of mental high that you feel that synapses snapping in your brain sensation, once you get to a point in the fast that you’re used to utilizing ketone bodies and not glucose, and I know we’re diving into it here, but the whole experience of fasting is generally a positive one for me, and it’s often difficult to get that through to people. When you talk about fasting for the first time, it may sound awful. It may sound like the antithesis of what you want to do and how you want to live your life. But very quickly, you realize that you actually feel good.
Greg Dennis: [00:21:18] Absolutely. I think our bodies were were meant to do that. I mean, that’s the way we were designed. And, you know, we’ve gotten into this idea that we have to have breakfast, lunch and dinner and snacks in between. And that’s the way most people live. But you’re absolutely right. I think our bodies were designed for that. And so once we get back to that, our bodies like it and it it makes us feel good.
Peter Bowes: [00:21:40] Yeah, exactly. And I suppose time restricted eating is the other buzz phrase that a lot of people are using now. And in many senses, I think what we’ve just talked about, 16:8 is really time restricted eating as opposed to fasting because you don’t go into a really deep fasting state over that still relatively short period of time.
Greg Dennis: [00:22:00] Yeah, correct. Like I said, I think you’ve got to start somewhere and you know, because if I if somebody comes to me and they’ve never done this kind of thing and I say, well, you need to to really get the full benefits of a fast, you know, you need to you need to fast for at least 20 hours. And I want you to do a two or three day fast. I mean, you know, that’s just not going to happen. And so I think starting them out slow and doing maybe that time restricted eating and ease into expanding that a little bit to where you’re doing some longer, fast, that’s usually just the way I approach it. So.
Peter Bowes: [00:22:34] Interesting. And just going back to how we started this in terms of what I’ve learned from many of the guests, and I mentioned Valter long ago, but I’ve spoken to many others as well. And what is oftentimes very interesting to me is when I’m interviewing really old people on the podcast, so 80+, a couple of centenarians as well, and you dove into their lifestyles. They’ve reached a great age. They are still healthy and active and involved in life and having a good time. Very often a fasting regime is there in the background, but they’ve never really thought about it.
Greg Dennis: [00:23:09] Called that, yes.
Peter Bowes: [00:23:09] They’ve just always lived like that. And that was how they were brought up maybe to, as you described it, to have a long period of time between the last meal of the day going to bed, no snacking. There was a time when people didn’t snack. It’s still a fairly modern day thing. And, you know, largely we’ve got grocery stores to blame for that. It’s so easy to buy snacks and to eat them these days. We have them in our cars, but people didn’t always live like that. And if you talk to very old people, they’ll talk about that regiment of breakfast, lunch and dinner. But that was it. And you can almost see that built into their lifestyles was some sort of some degree of fasting. It’s almost science working, but science not being acknowledged by those people who’ve lived to a great age.
Greg Dennis: [00:23:52] Interesting. Yeah. Yeah, it makes sense. Well, let me ask you if I if I may. So you’ve been doing this, you said for about five years, and I’m sure over the years had a lot of guests on. And so other than I mean, we’re talking about fasting and obviously that’s one. But maybe what are some other things that you’ve learned from from these guests that you’ve even implemented yourself to just kind of expand your healthspan and quality of life?
Peter Bowes: [00:24:21] Yeah, I think one of the in terms of implementing myself, one of the things one of the big things that I’ve learned is that, yes, diet is important, but exercise is crucially important, and that is building into your daily lifestyle an element of vigorous exercise every day, which is something that I do. And I think it’s important. And again, I’ve learned it from a number of people to have a routine that you don’t think about eventually, that it really does become just that, a routine. You get up in the morning and you do it because as soon as people start thinking about exercise, thinking about going to the gym, there are barriers in the daily schedule that can upset it. So what I’ve tried to do is build in that routine and generally I find it easier and I think most people do, to get the exercise out of the way, at least the the main exercise as early in the morning as possible. So I do the time restricted eating thing. I try to stop eating 6:00, 7:00 in the evening, go through the night, get up at about 6 a.m.. And my rule of thumb is before 9 a.m.. And I’m guilty of checking emails and doing work and social media and all those things that we get drawn into. I’m guilty of doing that early on, but rule of thumb is before 9 a.m., I’ll head out. I’ll do a three and a half mile hike with my dog, which and the dog is a crucial part of it, but it’s a three and a half mile hike. It takes me about an hour and 5 minutes. It’s quite vigorous. The first mile is uphill, the next half a mile is up a steep hill. So by the time I get to the middle of the the hike, I’m pretty much out of breath. And it gets easier the more you do it and then head back home for about three and a half miles on an empty stomach. That’s before breakfast.
Greg Dennis: [00:26:04] Good for you.
Peter Bowes: [00:26:04] So maybe a cup of coffee or two, then head off, do it and then have breakfast. So it’s 9:00 in the morning, roughly, depending on what I’m doing when I’m having breakfast. So there’s a significant amount of of not eating time overnight. And I do it now without thinking. And I mentioned the dog is a crucial part of it. And I would recommend anyone who is who is able to and enjoys the company of animals, a dog that will get you out and sit in front of you and demand that you go out just to motivate you is really, really helpful. Clearly, it’s not for everyone, but it helps me. Sure. And it’s also I’ve heard it described one of my guests described a similar sort of regime as the golden hour in his day. It’s his favorite hour. The stresses of work aren’t there. They might be in the background, but they’re not there in that moment. And you’re getting some great exercise. You’re getting out into the fresh air, you’re getting sunlight and all the benefits that that brings, that most people are deficient in just getting enough sunlight. So it hits a number of bases.
Greg Dennis: [00:27:03] Absolutely. I was just getting ready to point that out. You know, as I’ve learned more over the years and just reading about all this and talking to people, I’m realizing that our circadian rhythm is is just more and more important for overall health. And early morning sunlight is a big part of that. And not only does it help with melatonin later that night, which which helps you sleep, but, you know, vitamin D and other things. And so I think that’s a big part that a lot of people are missing is is getting that sunlight any time of day is good, but I think especially early in the morning. And so you’re kind of getting multiple birds with one stone. They’re getting your exercise while you’re fasting and getting sunlight. But so I love that you’re doing that. What would you say to people, though, who who say, well, gosh, I got to I’ve got to be at the office at 8:00 and I don’t have time to go walk my dog for for an hour and a half. What would you say to those people?
Peter Bowes: [00:28:03] Well, I would say we all have the same number of hours in the day. And we all, a lot of us lead busy lives. And it’s up to the individual, I think, to try to manipulate their day in their lifestyle to accommodate some exercise and fully acknowledge that first thing in the morning. Perhaps you’re a family with with children and other responsibilities, and it just isn’t physically possible to get in what might seem like a selfish act, to head off alone for an hour to get some exercise, maybe afternoon or evening is easier for you or lunch hour. Let’s say you’re an office person. You head off to the office during the day and you do get an hour break. Well make it a point to during that hour to walk and to maybe have your lunch quickly afterwards. There’s there’s a way if you are really determined to do it. And what I do is I try to at least mentally schedule my exercise for the day or indeed for the week, if it involves going into the gym or doing some other form of exercise, schedule it before everything else. Now, clearly you’ve got your fixed points. You’ve got to go to work, you’ve got to do whatever you need to do, take the children to school, you’ve got your fixed points that you have to accommodate. But there might be other things that you do during the week that you enjoy doing, but if you think about it, are probably not as important as you getting your exercise in. So schedule your exercise, put it in the calendar, make sure you do it, treat it like an appointment, treat it like a hair appointment or a doctor’s appointment or a dentist appointment, but do it every day and eventually it becomes routine so that you you don’t think too hard about it, you just do it. And that’s my answer to that and easily acknowledged that it’s very difficult for some people to find that hour. But it comes down to your priorities. And there’s I mean, it’s a cliché, isn’t it? There’s nothing more important than your health. And if you if you don’t have your health, it’s not good for you and it’s not good for people around you. So that’s my justification for prioritizing things in my day that will benefit my health.
Greg Dennis: [00:30:11] Yeah, absolutely. Great advice. Well, let me ask you about nutrition, and that could be a whole episode in and of itself. But, you know, you mentioned that you fast with what you’ve learned over the years in your own studies and interviewing these experts, you know, what do you feel like is the the healthiest diet for you? And has that changed over the years as you’ve kind of been doing this?
Peter Bowes: [00:30:37] This is probably one of the most contentious areas, isn’t it, in terms of what the best diet is. For me, and it’s purely based on my interpretation of the science and the advice that I’ve listened to and the experts that I have listened to. And so my conclusion that I’m applying to myself now, and that might change if science changes over the coming years. In terms of what I’m doing, I’m quite prepared to adapt my dietary lifestyle, but at the moment I’ve settled on a mostly plant based diet. I limit my certainly limit my animal protein intake because I believe that there is some strong science to suggest that simply isn’t good for me, that there is some correlation with certain cancers, for example, with an excessively high animal protein diet. So for me, I believe a low protein diet is best I do all the time restricted eating in relation to those meals. So I get my protein from, from legumes, from beans, from, from peas and a lot of colorful vegetables. So I have a breakfast of some oatmeal and some fruits and maybe some yogurt. And I do eat a little bit of dairy and I’ll have salads during the day and vegetables, steamed vegetables mixed with I like Indian foods. So a curry sort of dressing, which gives you some spices and gives you some flavor. And I’m one of those people that actually doesn’t really mind eating very similar food every day. And a lot of my friends hate that. My friends and loved ones hate the fact that I can eat the same meal repeatedly, but it actually works for me. I’ve settled on something that I like that in terms of lifestyle is easy to achieve and I’m busy like you. I want my meals to be easy to and quick to prepare. So. And I suppose the the reason for continuing to do this is that I feel as if I’m doing quite well on it and I certainly don’t lack in any energy or, or even strength or physical strength. I can go to the gym and lift weights and I can I don’t run. I used to do marathons and triathlons. I do more hiking and slower movement in that respect now. But I don’t feel not including so much protein and especially animal protein in my diet is doing me any harm. And I think it’s doing me a lot of good.
Greg Dennis: [00:33:02] Very good. And I think you hit the nail on the head. You have to find out what works for you.
Peter Bowes: [00:33:07] Right.
Greg Dennis: [00:33:07] And so, you know, and not to get into a debate, although we I guess we could I’m probably – I’m the complete opposite. And so I get most of my calories from meat and I prefer red meat. I don’t always get them from red meat, but I prefer that over pork. But you know, and kind of my goal in 2022 that my New Year’s resolution is to eat more organ meat. So I’ve been eating more liver even recently, been eating some raw liver, and I’ve got a beef heart that’s in my freezer that I haven’t cooked yet. So but anyways, I’m trying to get more organ meats and so I’m not a complete carnivore by any means, but I try to base everything, like I said, probably the complete opposite of you. And then I try to base everything around meat and then everything else is just, you know, a little bit extra. I will say I just got my yearly lab work actually, yesterday. I just got it in today. You know, everything’s fantastic. You know, my insulin levels were three and that’s a very good indicator that I use a lot. You know, Dr. Benjamin Bittman, I’ve had him on my podcast before. You know, he wrote the book Why We Get Sick. And he talks a lot about the harm of elevated insulin levels, which I see every day, obviously, not only diabetes and other things. And we can go down that rabbit hole. But but anyways, that’s not the only marker obviously, but very good marker of inflammation in the body and different things. Again, there’s a there’s a lot of those, but so I like you, I feel good. And, you know, my, my lab markers are really good. But I, I don’t think that as I’ve learned, I don’t think there’s one diet for everybody. I see a lot of people here in the Midwest who are insulin resistant and or already type two diabetic. And so for those people, I may push more of a keto diet because the high fat is is going to be the best as far as insulin surges in getting those insulin levels down. And but I’m certainly not one of those people that say, hey, it’s keto or bust. Now I do have some. And just to talk about maybe the carnivore ish diet, people would say, well, why do you do that? From a clinical perspective, people who do strict carnivore, which there’s not too many of them, it’s a very restrictive diet. But I have I have never seen like anything more powerful than a carnivore diet. And some of these people have autoimmune disease. And so that’s really the only ones that I will kind of push that towards is is these people who have severe autoimmune disease. And I had a patient just a couple of weeks ago who had really severe psoriatic arthritis and he had tried everything. And of course, he went on and went to see a rheumatologist and got on the you know, I think he was on HUMIRA and he got a little bit of relief from that but never resolved it. And so he tried paleo diet. Of course, he was still eating fruits and vegetables. And eventually that led him to a strict carnivore diet where he’s eating all kinds of organ meats, even thymus glands and spleen and liver and all that, which I haven’t gone that far yet, but anyways, completely resolved his psoriatic arthritis. And so I’ve heard a lot of those types of stories from from Carnivore, which I haven’t necessarily heard from people doing more of a plant based. But again, it’s highly individualized. And I, I do realize I’m very familiar with Valter Longo, and understand about the the mTOR and all that. And so I think it’s one of those things that’s it’s kind of a fine balance of mTOR building muscle because muscle is a good thing. And so I think when you’re throwing in the fasting and you’re throwing in the exercise, you know, the body can can kind of adapt and tolerate a lot. Now which ones are better? You know, I don’t know. That’s probably going to be debated for many, many years to come. You know, I’m not one to quote all the the studies. I don’t know if you ever have listened to Paul Saladino. He’s actually out in your way and he’s really good at those debates and quoting all those studies now. Cause he’s kind of hardcore carnivore. I’m not necessarily hardcore, but. But I do kind of revolve most of my calories around meat.
Peter Bowes: [00:37:40] I think that’s fascinating. I think what’s really interesting that here we have two people independently coming to a conclusion about their own diet and what they feel. You and I is best for ourselves and acknowledging that we’re all very different and that different diets can produce different results in different people. I think equally it is confusing for people who are in a quandary about their health and and not feeling 100% and wondering if a modification to their diet can make a difference and therefore which way to go and they listen to you and I saying that well, I’m plant based and I’m feeling pretty great and you’re talking about your mostly your meat based diet and feeling great as well. This, I think, emphasizes the need for education, for studies, for research and science based advice for people to begin to make those decisions. Because I don’t know what your experience is with your sort of medical colleagues and other doctors when you pose or when patients pose those questions. Look, I’m not feeling great. I’m wondering whether I can change my diet. Which direction should I go? You’re going to get six different answers, aren’t you? Maybe more than six different answers. If you talk to a range of family practitioners.
Greg Dennis: [00:38:54] No doubt, and I try to simplify it for patients, at least starting off. You know, most of our population is eating a lot of processed foods. So if we can just eliminate that or significantly decrease that, then we’re going to make huge improvements on our health. And so I try to tell people, look, eat foods with one ingredient. Now, if that’s plant based, I mean, that fits that, you know, that’s one ingredient foods. If you want to eat eggs and a steak, that’s one ingredient foods. But, you know, I try to always tell people that to just simplify it because I don’t want them leaving my office and think, should I do vegetarian, should I do keto? Should I do what is keto? What I don’t understand, you know, it’s just overwhelming. But if they can remember, oh, he said one ingredient foods this food. Okay, so broccoli. Broccoli is one ingredient, just broccoli. I can eat broccoli, you know. And so if if nothing else, if they remember that, I think that they will make significant improvements to their health.
Peter Bowes: [00:39:58] Here’s a little anecdote from my perspective. A few years ago, I thought I was eating a lot of healthy foods. I had a lot of nuts spinach, almonds, beetroot, rhubarb were some of my favorite foods. And then I got kidney stones. All foods that are high in oxalate. And I’d been overdoing it. And I had kidney stones, coincidentally quite rare in both sides at the same time, which required some pretty quick surgery to open me up so that the urine could flow and I could continue living. It was actually quite a serious potentially a serious situation. And the lesson in that for me, which I’ve really adhered to ever since, is absolutely moderation in everything. And if you think something is good for you, don’t go over the top and eat too much of it, have a colorful diet and spread out the carbohydrates and the proteins and the fats in terms of where you’re getting them from and don’t over indulge. It’s a real lesson that I think a lot of people probably don’t realize until something like what I experienced happens to them. You know, you’ve got to be super careful in terms of making these decisions about what you eat, even though you think something is good for you.
Greg Dennis: [00:41:10] Yeah, no, no doubt. Yeah, that’s great. Great advice. I mean, you know, you could say that about wine. You know, everybody’s like, oh, yeah, red wine. You know, you get the resveratrol and all that. But I mean, obviously, you know, too much red wine is harmful. It’s not only not beneficial, but but harmful. So what are what are some other things you’ve learned? Do you do you get into in kind of the longevity space? Do you get into much kind of biohacking? You know, I kind of do some crazy stuff out there. Like I get into my cold swimming pool in the wintertime. I call that biohacking and I get in my sauna a lot, especially this time of year. What are some of the things you’ve learned from guests over the years that or do you do any type of biohacking?
Peter Bowes: [00:41:55] Well, I mean, the ones that you examples you mentioned are good examples and I’ve tried certainly the cold water therapy and my sort of running days, the benefits are very obvious in terms of muscle recovery and muscle repair. It’s interesting. I’m just about I haven’t actually done it yet. I’m going to be doing it in the next few weeks, some cryotherapy where I actually go to a unit and stand for 3 minutes in extremely cold temperatures. That is something I haven’t done yet, but I’m looking forward to doing it because I and again, the science is I think the the jury is still out to a large extent in terms of exactly what is happening to us or potentially happening in those 3 minutes. But the anecdotal evidence is very, very strong that it’s good for us. That’s something I’m going to try. In terms of biohacking, one thing that I’ve done is just lend myself to being the human guinea pig. And I’ve been looking into Urolithin A recently with a Swiss company that have been dealing with – a metabolite in our guts that we all generate by eating plants. Pomegranates in particular are high in ellagitannins, which are then converted in the gut to Urolithin A, Urolithin A metabolite very important for mitochondrial health and ergo muscular health and frailty being a big issue as you get older, muscular health is is all important. So I’ve been looking into and taking part in some experimentation at home in terms of Urolithin A supplementation we all generate or produce in our guts Urolithin A in a to different extents. And this was the particular experiment that I was involved in to determine whether I’m a high producer, low producer, medium producer, and as to whether supplementation with Urolithin A and a or a synthetic Urolithin A would be beneficial to me. And I find that kind of experimentation fascinating at a N=1 level. I love doing that, that sort of thing. And, and I suppose my interest was piqued when I took part in the Valter Longo clinical trial, just seeing how individuals can come really play a very important role in helping scientists develop these different protocols.
Greg Dennis: [00:44:13] Okay. So have you researched hormones much or you talked to many people on your podcast about maybe hormone optimization as a tool for longevity and quality of life?
Peter Bowes: [00:44:28] I haven’t delved too deeply into hormones. I’m one I’m one thing I’m going to begin to look at is NAD.
Greg Dennis: [00:44:35] Yeah, it’s a big one,
Peter Bowes: [00:44:36] You know, a lot of people are talking about and as I understand it, there are two different ways that we can accelerate our NAD production NR supplementation or NMN which again future podcasts that I’m going to be doing in the next few weeks are going to look into that and I’m going to be doing an at home test to determine my levels of NAD to see on the scale where I am. So I think that’s really interesting. I think the whole area of supplementation is interesting. I’ve always been and still am to some extent skeptical about supplementation. I think we can. I mean, it’s a huge market place. Of course, there’s a tremendous amount of money being made out of supplements, many of which I believe if you have a – and you know this, I’m preaching to the converted here, but, you know, if you’ve got a great diet and exercise regime, a lot of the supplementation that people pay dollars for probably isn’t necessary, but I think some supplementation probably is important. Uh, was it you? I think it was. You did an episode about magnesium.
Greg Dennis: [00:45:36] Yeah. Just recently.
Peter Bowes: [00:45:38] I listen to that and it’s fascinating. It’s absolutely fascinating. And in terms of the sleep issue, I think I agree with you. I think sleep I think magnesium is one of those supplements that is probably important to us. But, uh, yeah, I’d like to look at each individual component of supplementation rather than taking a mix of, of everything, which maybe if you don’t have time to look into it is a good safety point. It’s a good insurance policy.
Greg Dennis: [00:46:03] I agree 100%. I call it targeted supplementation. And so that’s what I tell patients, you know, because unfortunately, a lot of doctors that do what I do, you know, they sell supplements and then people will go into their offices and they come out with $500 worth of supplements, you know, and and I don’t I don’t like that. I don’t agree with that. I will say people ask me all the time, you know, what supplements should I be taking? And, you know, obviously that depends on the individual. But I can say with pretty universally, almost everybody should be on vitamin D and magnesium. Those are my two big ones. And Vitamin D being the big one most. And it’s probably not as bad in California. It’s a little sunnier there than it is here. And but almost everybody here and I checked vitamin D levels on everyone and almost everybody is low. And I like levels to get you know, when we when we see a range of vitamin D, it’s a huge range you’re going to see on the lab anywhere from 30 to 100. And I like to see people on that upper range of normal because vitamin D is actually a hormone. It’s not even really a vitamin. But and with all hormones, I like to optimize hormones. And so I like really seeing that vitamin D level up. And so with that, my clinical experience in the last two years, treating COVID people with high vitamin D levels, they do fine. And this was actually validated just recently. A study came out showing that people with a vitamin D level of greater than 50 had a zero mortality rate due to COVID. And I’m like, well, that’s not something you hear on the news, unfortunately. But anyway, so vitamin D is a big one. I really try to preach for people to know their vitamin D levels, get their vitamin D levels up before they get COVID. And, you know, and then most likely, I mean, there’s other factors, obviously, but I mean, most likely they’re going to that’s going to help them out a lot. So vitamin D, magnesium, the two big ones, and as far as you know, is actually about hormones. You know, I’m certified in an organization called Age Management Medicine, which was just extra training in age management medicine. And they really push hormone optimization, which I’m a big believer in for for men and women, because as we get older, our hormones obviously naturally decline. And so as we optimize those hormones, I think it helps. There’s a lot of health benefits to that. And not only does it improve the health span, but it just improves quality of life and just improves so many things. I think when we kind of optimize those hormones. So do you. I’m sorry. While we’re still on supplements. So so what if you don’t mind me asking? I mean, what do you take, you know, kind of what your or do you have a necessarily a supplemental regimen?
Peter Bowes: [00:48:46] Well, actually, recently I’ve only been taking my Mitopure so the Urolithin A supplementation.
Greg Dennis: [00:48:53] okay
Peter Bowes: [00:48:54] And because I’ve been delving into that quite deeply I haven’t wanted to skew any potential results by taking other things. And I think that is an issue, isn’t it, if you’re taking lots of different types of supplementation, clearly there is a potential crossover in terms of the effects on on how you feel. There may not be a biochemical crossover, but sometimes the ultimate result for people is, is simply how I feel and how I’m performing every day and how my sleep is and how I’m able to lift weights at the gym or go for my walk. I don’t want to kind of skew the results by taking different forms of supplementation when I’m trying to identify just one component that could potentially be beneficial for me. So really that is the only thing that I’ve been taking. And I try to have a very colorful diet and as I say, with exercise as well, that pretty much serves me well.
Greg Dennis: [00:49:49] Very good, very smart.
Peter Bowes: [00:49:51] So let me ask you this question. Just getting off the area of supplementation, it’s one question that I often ask people generally towards the end of the interview, and that is clearly you’ve got a passion for for health and for longevity in terms of looking forward in your life, the decades to come. Do you have longevity, aspirations? Some people think very deeply about the fact that they want to get to in this sphere of research, they want to get to 100 that there is a goal. Do you have a goal? And if you do, what is your motivation for wanting to be very old and hopefully very healthy?
Greg Dennis: [00:50:28] Yeah, good question. Yeah, my wife asked me that a lot because she sees me do crazy stuff like, you know, get in the cold pool in the wintertime. And, you know, she always says, I don’t know why you’re doing that because, you know, I’m probably going to, you know, live till 85. So if you live to 100, then, you know, you’re going to be by yourself. So I don’t know why you’re so motivated to live that long. So, you know, I don’t really have a number in mind. I think I do it for several reasons. One is I just want to feel good and, you know, just optimize my health to the best of my ability. But but I don’t, I haven’t really thought of a specific number now. I would certainly that being said, I would certainly like to live well into my nineties, just, you know, to watch my kids grow up and my grandkids. I got started fairly late in life having kids. And so to really have much to do with my grandkids, I’m going to have to live pretty old. And so that’s probably one motivation. And then another is I love to see what the body is capable of. Even now, at my age, I just kind of like pushing the envelope a little bit and I want to see what what the body can do in my fifties, in my sixties and my seventies and my eighties. And obviously that’s going to look different in my eighties then than it does now.
Peter Bowes: [00:51:48] And what age are you now?
Greg Dennis: [00:51:49] I’m 48.
Peter Bowes: [00:51:50] Okay.
Greg Dennis: [00:51:51] Yeah.
Peter Bowes: [00:51:52] So you’re a young guy, then?
Greg Dennis: [00:51:53] Yes. Yeah. Yeah, I don’t know. I’m almost 50, but. And so and the other thing I would say, too, is I love fitness. I love working out. Again. I have I’ve done full marathons. I’ve done last year I did a bucket list thing and competed in a physique competition, which was a kind of a unique experience and especially at my age. And I wanted to get real low body fat. Of course I had to for that. And and I did. And so and now I’m back to doing CrossFit at 48 years old, which is pretty can be pretty rough. And I’m, I’m modifying. So I want to be able to still do those things as I’m older because I just love physical fitness. Now it’s going to look different again in my sixties and seventies and eighties, I’m probably not going to be doing CrossFit, you know, in my sixties and and seventies and or probably not running marathons, but I want to do something. And so that’s a motivating factor for me too, is just to to stay healthy and be able to do those kinds of things.
Peter Bowes: [00:53:02] Yeah. And I would probably tell the story in exactly the same way that I still want to be in my sixties start as we record this towards the end of January in just a few weeks time.
Greg Dennis: [00:53:13] Okay,
Peter Bowes: [00:53:13] I’ll be 60 in March. And I suppose I’ve gone through that phase of doing a lot of triathlons and marathons and well, I would never say never, but I don’t think they’re going to happen again. But I do a lot.
Greg Dennis: [00:53:24] Probably not for me either. So.
Peter Bowes: [00:53:25] Right. There you go. But I do a lot of hiking and still get out there and really just enjoy it as much. It’s the experience of doing exercise no matter what that form of exercise is, and that’s what I want to continue to do until I’m as old as I can be and continue to do that. And it’s about, I think, getting to an age where you can share your wisdom, you can share your lifetime experiences with other people. You talked about children and grandchildren. What strikes me is that a lot of people I don’t have children, but a lot of the people I interview, it’s the first thing that they mention in terms of why they want to get old and be healthy and continue to be healthy. It is those people that are close to you being with them, seeing children grow up. And a lot of people, those that don’t have children talk about they want to be educators, want to continue to teach and to share the wisdom of their decades. And that’s a big motivation, I suppose. The point is what I’m saying is it’s very rarely a selfish thing. It’s very rarely just about me. It’s about the role that you can continue to play. And I know in terms of what I do and the work, especially that I do, I’m one of those people that there are never quite enough hours in the day. There’s always something else I need to do and want to do. Retirement doesn’t even come into my mindset. It’s a kind of lifestyle. I just want to keep on doing it, doing it productively, doing it sensibly. And that for me is a good motivation to keep on living and keep on living as healthy as I can.
Greg Dennis: [00:54:56] Oh, excellent. Okay. So on that note, as we kind of wrap up here, so I always ask my guest to give us one health tip that could make us healthier today. So with all that you’ve learned and with what you do, what would you say to that?
Peter Bowes: [00:55:11] It’s difficult focusing on just one health tip, isn’t it? I would say maybe something that we haven’t talked about. I would say drink lots of water. It’s a very simple one.
[00:55:21] drink clean water. Do it first thing in the morning when you get up. And if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t want to get up too much overnight, well, maybe stop drinking your water mid afternoon but get a good couple of liters of water at least in during the day. You’ll feel better for it. You’ll be hydrated. All those obvious reasons why you should drink water. But I think as your general, as far as your general well-being is concerned, if you do that consistently, you say, What’s going to benefit me today? That’s going to benefit you
Greg Dennis: [00:55:52] Very good.
Peter Bowes: [00:55:53] How would you answer that one?
Greg Dennis: [00:55:54] Well, I know we’ve been talking about it, but again, I love exercise so much. I’m going to have to say exercise. You know, people just don’t move enough. And especially in this part of the country, the few times that I’ve been out there, it seems like, you know, people on the coast do a little bit better job. But out here in the Midwest, where, you know, we’re one of the the top obese states in the nation. Gosh, people just aren’t moving, you know? And so I just try to get people to maybe get five to seven thousand steps in a day to start there. But exercise. Specifically. Just just move. Just move.
Peter Bowes: [00:56:31] Yeah, that’s interesting. And I only mentioned water because we haven’t talked about it. If you give me a blank piece of paper, I would have said exercise as well, that being the absolute number one. That’s why it’s in my routine. That’s why I do it every day. You know, it doesn’t have to be a three and a half mile hike before breakfast. It can be a determination to go to the market and to park as far away from the front door as possible. It’s getting those steps in it. Use the technology, use a watch or whatever to count your steps, get to 6000, get to 10,000, get to 15,000 a day and see how you feel on that. And generally, you’re going to feel pretty good.
Greg Dennis: [00:57:08] Yeah, for sure. Yeah. I’d love maybe when I retire. I can I can do that. I’d love to be in a place where I could get up in the morning and just go on a, you know, a three mile walk, especially, you know, I don’t know if you live in the mountains or whatever, but, you know, of course, around here where I’m at, there’s really nowhere to nothing to see, nowhere to walk, you know.
Peter Bowes: [00:57:27] So, yeah. And first, to acknowledge that I do live in the canyons to the north of Los Angeles. So it’s it’s the Wild West out here. You see a few coyotes, and you gotta watch out for the rattlesnakes on the hike. But, yeah, it feels good.
Greg Dennis: [00:57:39] Yeah, very good.
Peter Bowes: [00:57:40] Greg. I’ve really enjoyed this.
Greg Dennis: [00:57:42] Yes. Thank you so much for your time.
Peter Bowes: [00:57:45] And if you’d like to hear more from Greg, his podcast is FitRX, which you can find at DrGregDennis.com or Greg’s clinic. VibrantLifeDC.com stands for Direct Care. Those details are also in the show notes for this episode at our website LLAMApodcast.com LLAMApodcast.com This has been a HealthSpan Media production. If you’ve enjoyed it or have anything to say about it, you can review us at Apple Podcasts. You can contact me in social media @PeterBowes or via email Peter@LLAMA Podcast.com
Peter Bowes: [00:57:45] We’ll be back with another episode very soon. Oh and if you haven’t come across it already, we now have a Sunday supplement to the podcast. It’s short and sweet. About 10 minutes My Day | My Life delves into the daily routines of people who are living life to the full and have in one way or another, mastered the art of aging. We find full details at our website. Thanks so much for listening.
The Live Long and Master Aging podcast, a HealthSpan Media LLC production, shares ideas but does not offer medical advice. If you have health concerns of any kind, or you are considering adopting a new diet or exercise regime, you should consult your doctor.