Looking after our cells to age well
Bill Rawls | Physician & writer
BY PETER BOWES | MARCH 20, 2023
Aging, according to Bill Rawls, MD, is the loss of functional cells as we go through life. An author and physician, Dr. Rawls is on a mission to elevate the importance of caring for the basic building blocks of our body. Our cells, he says, are the key to healthy longevity. The fourth generation physician, from Raleigh in North Carolina, confronted a mid-life health crisis of his own that transformed his view of personal wellness. He now focusses his energies on holistic health interventions and the power of herbal supplements. In his latest book, The Cellular Wellness Solution: Tap Into Your Full Health Potential with the Science-Backed Power of Herbs, Dr Rawls lays out what he sees as the limitations of modern medicine and the vast possibilities offered by alternative treatments.
Read a transcript
In this interview we cover:
- Confronting a mid-life health crisis that led to a transformative approach to wellness
- Understanding the link between a lack of sleep and stress
- Adopting herbal medicine to confront every conditions such as high blood pressure, gastrointestinal issues and constipation.
- Defining the value of good cellular health:
“Everything that happens in the body, whether it’s your heart beating, brain impulses, firing thyroid hormone being produced or cartilage being reworked, it’s all done by cells.”Dr. Bill Rawls
- What it means to lose cells as we age and why maximum lifespan appears to stop at about 120
- Carbs, fats and protein. Getting the balance right.
- The numbers game and hemoglobin A1C or HbA1c
- Fasting and keto diets
- Applying the science to ourselves and where to start?
- Personal accountability and healthcare
▸ DISCLOSURE: This site includes affiliate links from which we derive a small commission. It helps support the podcast and allows us to continue sharing conversations about human longevity. LLAMA is available, free of charge, via multiple podcasting platforms. Our mission is to explore the science and lifestyle interventions that could help us live longer and better. Thank you for the support!
Discounts are available from the following companies when you use code LLAMA at checkout.
▸ Recharge Health is offering LLAMA podcast listeners a $30.00 discount on the purchase of FlexBeam, a wearable and targeted red light therapy device which targets key parts of the body needing healing and recovery. Scientific studies suggest light at specific red and near-infrared wavelengths can stimulate the body’s natural process of healing. Listen to our episode with FlexBeam co-founder Bjørn Ekeberg. Use the code LLAMA at checkout here
▸ Time-line is offering LLAMA podcast listeners a 5% discount on its Mitopure (a highly pure form of Urolithin A) products – Mitopure Powder, Softgels and Mitopure + Protein. Urolithin A is a molecule that stimulates a crucial recycling and cleansing process in the body – ultimately protecting cells from age-associated decline. Listen to our episode with Dr. Anurag Singh, Chief Medical Officer with Amazentis Use the code LLAMA at checkout here
▸ EnergyBits is offering LLAMA podcast listeners a 20% discount on its range of algae products. The microscopic form of life is consumed as part of a balanced diet is in some parts of the world, but it is also being hailed as a superfood that could help us age better. Listen to our episode with EnergyBits founder Catharine Arnston Use the code LLAMA at checkout here
▸ Neurohacker Collective is offering LLAMA podcast listeners 15% off any its Qualia formulations. They are designed to help the body more effectively regulate its own biochemistry and restore homeostatic balance. Listen to our interview with Neurohacker Collective’s Nick Bitz. Use the code LLAMA at checkout here
▸ NutriSense is offering LLAMA podcast listeners $25 off the first month of a subscription to its continuous glucose monitoring product. Analyze in real-time how your blood glucose levels respond to food, exercise, stress, and sleep. Listen to our episode with Carlee Hayes, lead dietician at NutriSense. Use the code LLAMA at checkout here
This interview with Dr. Bill Rawls was recorded on February 21, 2023 and transcribed using Sonix AI. Please check against audio recording for absolute accuracy.
Bill Rawls: You hear about a lot of things about aging. You’ll hear about zombie cells and telomeres shortening, but it’s all wrapped around cells. And here’s what it boils down to. What aging is, is the loss of functional cells as we go through life.
Peter Bowes: Bill Rawls is a medical doctor from the US state of North Carolina who, after confronting a health crisis of his own, now focuses his energies on holistic health interventions and the power of herbal supplements. Hello again. 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 Bill is a prolific author. His latest book is The Cellular Wellness Solution. Tap into Your Full Health Potential with the Science Backed Power of Herbs. Dr. Bill Rawls, welcome to the Live Long and Master Aging Podcast.
Bill Rawls: Ah, thank you. It’s a pleasure.
Peter Bowes: Really good to talk to you. So you are a fourth generation physician. You are from a medical family and you start your book with a story that may well surprise some people that we’re hearing this from someone with such a rich medical history, a dramatic personal health crisis.
Bill Rawls: Yeah, Yeah. It’s interesting to see all that history. You know, I heard stories of my great grandfather when I was growing up, didn’t know him. Of course, I went on house calls with my grandfather. My father was always in the hospital. You know, when I was young, I hardly saw him, and I ended up going that same route. But my journey has been a bit atypical in that I didn’t end up following the conventional pathway of most physicians. I started my career in obstetrics and gynecology, and it’s, you know, which is really great. You know, most of the patients were well and was delivering babies and it was a lot of fun. But back then, unlike today, I was on 24 hour hospital call every second or third day, and that was along with running a busy practice and just didn’t get sleep for 15 or 20 years and finally caught up with me, crashed and, you know, everything. My whole body was falling apart. But oddly, I wasn’t sick enough for the medical system to pay attention to me. You know? I mean, it’s just, you know, most of the labs weren’t bad enough, even though I had heart issues and brain issues and neurological symptoms. And it was like everything. So I identified first with fibromyalgia, which is just kind of a wastebasket diagnosis when they can’t figure out anything else and gravitated later toward a diagnosis of chronic Lyme disease. When I found out I was carrying some of those microbes, but none of the things that the conventional health care system had to offer really helped me. And I ended up you know, I did a lot of things. I changed my diet. I tried every alternative therapy known and finally turned to herbs and herbs, gave me my life back. And I’ve been intrigued by that ever since. And it’s changed my whole pathway, my whole career, that I don’t see chronic illness the same way that other physicians do. I, you know, the whole perspective was changed. And I see herbs as such, this wonderful, important thing that we’re all just missing out on. And so my message is getting the word out, helping people understand how valuable this resource is.
Peter Bowes: And for you, there was a you could say, a light bulb moment, a pivotal moment. You were sitting on a beach and something quite dramatic happened to you.
Bill Rawls: Yeah, I mean, it was, you know, I think like a lot of people, it was I was into physical fitness and it was just, yeah, I can exercise my way through this, you know, if I just exercise hard enough, all these symptoms are going to get better. And I was out trying to surf one day and I just started having really bad heart palpitations, just skipped beat chest pain, and it was like, this is really bad. And I went to the beach thinking, this is kind of like, I don’t know if I’m going to make it. And finally my heart settled down enough that I could get to the car. And I went to the emergency room and they found I wasn’t having an acute heart event. I wasn’t having a heart attack, but my heart was skipping beats almost every second or third beat. And my heart muscle was oxygen starved, but it was more of a chronic process, ended up with a cardiac cath. They said, Well, your vessels are clear, but we can, you know, we can put you on drugs. You might have to have a pacemaker, but that’s about all we can do for you. And it was kind of like they really don’t know how to fix me. And that’s when I made this big transition. And it was kind of like, you know, the drugs make me feel bad. I don’t want a pacemaker. I’m going to figure this thing out and I’m going to find another pathway back to wellness and I’m going to get my life back. And that was about a five year journey. But yeah, I got it all back and then some and it was really cool.
Peter Bowes: Was there any moment when you were going through that crisis that you felt that your medical background or your medical training to a large extent had failed you, that here you are an experienced health care individual, yet you are succumbing to the symptoms then and a medical condition that happens to so many other people. Yet you might think, well, you could have predicted that.
Bill Rawls: I wouldn’t say failed as much as clarified where I was. And you have to understand that I went into obstetrics and gynecology because I really didn’t want to manage chronic illness. I had seen those people and they never get well. You know, they get put on drugs and they end up in a state of managed illness, but they never really get their lives back 100%. And I really didn’t want any part of that. So I wanted a well population. You know, when you look at obstetrics and gynecology, when people do get sick, those things are typically acute. And the interventions that you do are sometimes lifesaving, but you usually something that, you know, it brings them back to where they should be. And I enjoyed that. But, you know, when I crossed over that line to chronic illness myself, I knew what I was in for and I knew what my life was going to be like. And that kind of pushed me over the edge to say, no, there has to be a better way. There just has to be a better way.
Peter Bowes: So what did you do at that point? You acknowledged that there had to be a better way, that there had to be changes in your life and perhaps the way in which you share medical knowledge with other people. So what did you do?
Bill Rawls: It’s all in how you ask questions, right? It’s all how you ask questions. So when a person comes in with any kind of illness, the question is what’s the diagnosis, right? So we want to know the right diagnosis. And when that comes to acute situations like a heart attack, a broken leg, you know, something like that, that that cause and the intervention that you have to do is pretty obvious. But when you cross over into illnesses like dementia, autoimmune diseases, Parkinson’s, all of these kinds of things, you know, that cause there’s there’s not that obvious pinpoint cause that you can’t go in and just surgically fix that thing. So you end up, you know, so in chronic illness, searching for a diagnosis. So we’re we’re defining the person’s symptoms and we’re trying to get some category to put them in. And it’s typically to find out what drug to put them on or drugs to put them on. And what I really came to understand is that drugs have the capacity to reduce symptoms and artificially block the processes of illness, but they don’t have the ability to promote healing or restore a normal state of wellness. And what’s missing is the question. So what I started asking is why am I ill? What caused me to end up in this situation? And some things were obvious, you know, I mean, if you go with sleep, that’s a really bad problem. I didn’t really understand all the reasons why. And even back in the 80s and 90s, they were questioning, Do we really need to sleep so much? It’s such a waste to be there, to have to sit in a bed for eight hours. Can’t we get by with four hours? I bought into that and I can tell you it’s a really bad idea. So, you know, we need sleep. So that was obvious. And the sleep affected my stress levels. So, you know, I was continually trying to balance community being a father, being a husband, doing this really crazy practice. So a lot of stress. And that meant I wasn’t eating properly, about the only thing that I was doing right was trying to exercise regularly whenever I had the chance, everything else I was doing wrong. So obviously those are the things that started changing that I gave up the obstetrics call. You know, I created a practice that evolved into something that we’d probably look at and call a functional medicine practice now. So my practice changed. You know, it took me a long time to get my sleep back. I changed my diet, you know, and all of that was an evolving process. But that helped. But it didn’t get me where I needed to be. And then the diagnosis of Lyme came along and I thought, you know, yeah, I’m carrying these microbes if I can take some antibiotics to get rid of them and took antibiotics and that made me sick or instead of better. And then the herbs, it’s like, okay, I research all these herbs that have antimicrobial properties. I’m still killing the microbes. And then I started getting better and it’s like, Yeah, yeah, this is working, this is working, you know? And I kept, you know, working that equation for about five years until everything got back. But stuff that you wouldn’t really think was part of Lyme disease, like my blood pressure. I had been diagnosed with essential hypertension when I was in my 30s. My blood pressure went to normal, my cholesterol went to normal, my blood sugar came down, you know, all these other things, constipation, GI issues, all of this stuff all resolved when I was taking the herbs. So that forced me to really ask, well, what are the herbs doing and how are these things working? So at first I explored all the herbal traditions such, you know, traditional Chinese medicine and all of and Ayurvedic medicine and all the different things. Those all predate science and my mind needed the science. So I started looking and asking that question of, you know, what are the herbs doing at the cellular and biochemical level? And that’s really took me to a whole different place of where I am now. And looking at this equation of, you know, cellular wellness.
Peter Bowes: And just going back to the lifestyle that you were leading, as you described it, a life full of stress of probably not the optimized diet that perhaps you’ve moved on to, a life of too little sleep that really describes the existence of so many people. You were a busy doctor existing in that lifestyle, but it could apply to teachers. It could apply to engineers, it could apply to cleaners, it could apply to busy parents today. And that’s why there is such a and it’s not an exaggeration. That’s why there is such a health crisis, not only in this country, the United States, but around the world.
Bill Rawls: Yeah, it’s huge. I mean, it’s it’s what we eat. It’s how we go about life. Average American’s sleep in a 6.5 hours average. It’s not enough. So all of these things. But we’re also not taking advantage of this natural plant chemistry that I think is so remarkably important to so even in people who are striving for longevity. So, you know, looking at, you know, how the herbs are actually affecting our cells, whether you’re talking about preventing chronic illness, slowing aging and enhancing longevity. Wow. It’s a powerful tool. It really is.
Peter Bowes: So let’s dive more deeply into what you have discovered since that crisis laden period of your life, and you begun to explore the reasons, the reasons why you were feeling like that. And you talked about herbal medicine. Your new book is The Cellular Wellness Solution. I have it here. It is a hefty book. It is from page to page. It is full of valuable information and it is a deeply researched book and deeply referenced book as well. I should add. What prompted you to write this.
Bill Rawls: Part of my therapy, dating way back has been writing, you know, I mean, as I was learning things, I was writing these health sheets that I would hand out in my practice, and that led to a book, you know, about 15, 20 years ago of when I was going through this about, you know, eating better and just thinking about your body differently. And I wrote another book on chronic Lyme disease, really looking at it from another point of view. So this one was finally just where I am today. Of all the information that I’ve accumulated and taking a very serious look at problems at the cellular level, you know, we don’t typically think of ourselves as a collection of cells. It’s, you know, we think about the whole we think about our body. But when you get right down to it, this all life is built on this model of a living cell. So we are a collection of trillions of cells. Everything that happens in the body, whether it’s your heart beating, brain impulses, firing thyroid hormone being produced or cartilage being reworked, it’s all done by cells, absolutely everything. And your health is a complete reflection of cells in your body. So we are made of cells and our health is a direct function of our cells. What symptoms are and this was really significant just coming to this kind of simple thing. I mean, I look at it now and it seems so simple and it took me ten years to get to this. But what symptoms are are when cells are stressed or injured in the body? We don’t think of symptoms that way. It’s kind of this nebulous discomfort that we think about. But specifically, you know, like if you twist your ankle or if you block off a coronary vessel, you stressed cells or injured cells. And when cells are injured, they do two things. One, they they release chemicals that send a message to the brain that tell us tell the brain that something’s wrong. So we feel it as pain or discomfort. But the second thing is you lose that function or that function becomes compromised. Right? You lose heart muscle or you lose the function of of being able to walk if you sprain your ankle. So any symptom is a reflection of stressed cells. Now, we all have symptoms from time to time, right? So symptoms resolve spontaneously. And what that is, is the ability of cells to repair and regenerate themselves. So you twist your ankle, you start walking on a crutch and take some pressure off of it. It’s going to it’s going to heal Well, that’s cells rebuilding and regenerating. You unblock that coronary vessel and your cells in your heart are going to recover unless you’ve killed them off completely, which is a bad thing. Of cours
Peter Bowes: People often refer to the body’s extraordinary ability to heal itself, and we’ve probably all experienced that to some extent.
Bill Rawls: It’s all cellular
Peter Bowes: Yeah, exactly. That’s exactly what you’re saying, that it starts with our cells, which I know for a lot of people is just difficult to get your head around that really the root of everything starts with our cells.
Bill Rawls: Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, and what chronic illness is, is when the stresses aren’t don’t let up. It’s like if you don’t unblock that coronary vessel, sooner or later the cells in your heart are going to die. If you keep walking on a bad ankle and don’t use crutches, you’re going to keep having pain and discomfort and you’re not going to get that function back. So what chronic illness is, is chronically stressed cells. So what we’re doing with drugs is we’re blocking that impulse. You know, we don’t we don’t want our brain to hear the message of that pain and we want to kind of hobble through and jigger, you know, those cellular functions as much as we can with those stressed cells so we can keep on going, but we never get well. So the only way to get well from a chronic illness is to address the stress factors. When we have chronic illness, what it is, is stressed cells in the body. So if like if you have a number of symptoms, that’s just chronically stressed cells. So when we look at what we’re doing with drug therapy, we’re basically blocking that impulse that, you know, the stress cells are trying to get our brain attention, our attention. Well, we don’t want to block that. We don’t want to be bothered. And we kind of jigger how our compromised cells are functioning so we can get some function back. And that’s what we do with drugs, but we don’t get rid of the cellular stress, so we never get well. It’s like walking on that bad ankle, you know, it’s just never going to heal itself. So it really here’s the really cool thing is when you start asking the question of what causes cellular stress there are only five categories of things. And we’ve already talked about some of them, right? So cells need. Five things. There are five categories of things that can affect our cells. So one, what you eat if you’re not nourishing your cells properly, they’re not going to function properly. Toxic environment. We have not only chemical toxins but radiation and all of these kinds of things in our environment. A lot of things that weren’t here a hundred years ago. Well, they are compromising cellular functions, stress, chronic stress and not sleeping cells need some stress to get going, but they need downtime. And when they get most of their downtime is at night when we’re asleep, that’s when recovery is happening. Physical activity, what we’re doing when we exercise more than anything else and exercise does a lot of good stuff, but the big thing it does is increase blood flow. And when we increase blood flow, that delivers more nutrients and pulls away more toxins from our cells. Our cells depend on that. So but I put in that category of physical factors, also trauma and things like that, like stress and your ankle. The fifth category, this is the big one is, is microbes. We’re just exposed to thousands of microbes. I heard the other day that every time you take a breath, you breathe in a thousand different kinds of viruses. So we have things coming at us and they’re affecting our cellular functions. So microbes is one that I took a big, deep dive in. If we have time, we can talk about that some. So those five categories of things are defining illness and we have different illnesses because those factors come together to affect different cells in our body and also genetic factors. You know, some people are more susceptible to some stress factors than others. So we have a lot of different illnesses, but all the illnesses are different presentations of cellular stress, of chronic cellular stress. So when you start looking at illness as stressed cells and how do we relieve that stress to promote actual healing, wow, It’s pretty powerful.
Peter Bowes: Now, leaving illness and healing aside, we talk a lot about aging and longevity on this podcast, and I’m just curious as to whether you have a definition for what aging is from a cellular perspective.
Bill Rawls: Yeah, you know, you hear about a lot of things about aging. You’ll hear about zombie cells and telomere shortening and all kinds of stuff wrapped around it, but it’s all wrapped around cells. And here’s what it boils down to. What aging is, is the loss of functional cells as we go through life. All right. So we accumulate cells until around age 20. Our body is in a building phase that we’re growing and we’re building cells, we’re creating more cells, and that stops around age 20. So at age 20, we have 5 to 10 times more cells than you really need to stay functional. That’s why, you know, we’re pretty cocky when we’re at 20. I mean, we feel invulnerable because, yeah, we’re all our cells are brand new and, and and we’ve got a lot more than we need through the rest of our lives. We gradually lose cells. Now that process, loss of cells is there are other there are various factors that play into that. But all of our cells will gradually run out of energy because they burn out their mitochondria. Now telomere shortening and all the other things you hear about fit into that equation. But what it boils down to is we gradually lose cells and some cells we’re losing more rapidly than others.
Bill Rawls: It’s like we turn over skin cells all the time. We don’t turn over brain cells nearly as much and we only have so many brain cells. So our brain and our heart cells, those are really vital. So when we reach a point where we don’t have enough cells, especially in the brain and the heart, to sustain us, that’s the end. How long that happens depends on how much you stress your cells, right? So if we lived in a perfect world where there was no stress, that we had just perfect conditions, it’s theorized that our cell count, just from loss of mitochondrial function, would carry us about 120 years. And that’s the longest that any person has ever lived. 121 was is the limit that we know of. But most people don’t come anywhere near that because when we’re stressing ourselves with bad food, not sleeping and all of these other factors, we burn out cells a lot faster. So the faster you burn out cells, the quicker you’re going to reach the end. And it’s it’s as simple as that. So taking care of your cells is so. Believably important.
Peter Bowes: Which is why the processes of regular listeners to this podcast will know. We’ve talked a lot about autophagy and mitophagy in the past, essentially the renewal process for those cells and mitophagy renewing our mitochondria which are so important, the energy centers of our bodies really, really, they keep us going every day, but those cells don’t last forever. And I think what is fascinating, especially very recent research and you delve into this to some extent in your book, is what we can do to nurture that process.
Bill Rawls: Yeah, well, you know, we’ve talked about some of those things. It’s our diet and America overloaded with carbohydrates. I mean, you know, I think of it this way. What we’re doing with carbohydrates is very unnatural. Our bodies, our cells are just designed to run lean. They’re not designed to do that. And it’s like taking an old steam locomotive on a track and putting the brakes on and just keeping shoveling coal and packing that engine up as hard as it’ll go, but not using the energy to to run actually to run the engine and run the train and you blow the engine out. Well, that’s basically what we’re doing to all the cells in our body with excess carbohydrates. And, you know, it’s just really harmful. So it it really it inhibits the autophagy process. I mean, we could just go on and on about carbohydrates.
Peter Bowes: Pausing there to just to think about carbohydrates. Clearly, a lot of people are huge proponents of keto diets these days, which are clearly much higher in protein and fat than carbohydrate on the scale of low carbohydrate, high carbohydrate, low protein, high protein. Where do you settle?
Bill Rawls: Where do I settle? Yeah, you know, I have just a few basic rules for diet. I try to follow them every day of my life and it works for me just wonderfully. The first is I try to make Whole Foods a preference. I mean, when you talk about Whole Foods, a whole piece of salmon, a whole piece of broccoli, you’re talking about cells. An apple is made of cells. A piece of salmon is made of cells. Cells contain the nutrients that our cells need. So when we eat whole foods, we’re eating all the right nutrients for our cells. When you eat carbohydrate extracted from a seed, that’s a very different thing. So eating flour from bread is not the same thing. So Whole Foods, I try to eat more vegetables than anything else. Truly, you know, more than 50% every day. It’s not that hard to do. Even if you don’t like vegetables, you can still fit them in. So I try to eat a lot of vegetables. They have lots of fiber, low carb, all the great things that we need. My carbohydrate, I don’t really go ketogenic. I set a limit of 150g of carbohydrate a day. Now ketogenic is 75g. And what that means is that you are running your body on ketones and your brain is running on ketones and that’s okay, but it’s not really how we’re designed. We’re designed for some carbohydrate. So I think about it this way fats are good for the slow burn, you know, when you need the long haul. So our heart burns mostly fat. No matter what you eat, it’s going to burn mostly fat. Our brain, however, likes glucose. It runs a little glucose. Glucose is fast energy. The body can break it down and get lots of energy really fast. It’s very reactive molecule. You don’t want too much of it. So, you know, so I think having some glucose that starches and sugars, you know, however you get them, I prefer to get them from Whole Foods like a whole fruit, a whole banana, whatever. But I set a limit of 150g of carbohydrate. And what that does is it allows me more pleasure with my food. You go to ketogenic and it’s really hard to enjoy food when you cut out all carbohydrate. It’s tough to do. I’ve tried it over and over again. I’ve even tried it, a vegetarian version of it, and it’s really hard. And I found if I bump my carbohydrates up to 150, I was comfortable. You know, I mean, I could eat a little bit of carbohydrate. I could eat some fruit. I could eat things that I enjoy, but not push it so much that, you know, I’m I’m then I’m really worried about the the adverse effects of of carbohydrates. And I measure that with a test called a hemoglobin A1C, which is measuring the process of GLYCATION or the harm that that glucose blood sugar is doing. And mine stays about 5.2, which is quite normal for or quite good for someone of age 65. Most people are sitting about six in America or worse, 5.2. That’s very acceptable. And so I do that on 150g. And so and then I kind of split up my food. I eat some meat, you know, I eat some nuts. I eat a pretty good variety. But that 150 allows me to enjoy some things in life. Like I’ll occasionally have a piece of pizza, as long as it doesn’t break that 150 for the day. You know, I might not. The other thing that I do is that concept of intermittent fasting that I typically narrow my eating window down to 6 to 8 hours. So I’ll typically get up and have a really low carb breakfast. Like one of my favorites is a fried egg and I take just mixed salad greens and saute them with a little pesto. That’s breakfast really low carb. I won’t eat anything until lunchtime and then I’ll eat all my calories between 12 and 6 and I don’t eat after six and that I don’t get hungry like I used to when I was younger. And my weight is good. My hemoglobin a-1c is good and life is really pleasurable. And I found this just a lot more doable and I’ve been able to do it consistently. Where most people find sticking to a ketogenic is just really hard.
Peter Bowes: And I think it’s not just sticking to a ketogenic diet. There are lots of other regimes that people find very difficult to stick to, whether it’s a fasting regime. And one thing that I’ve learned through doing this podcast and talking to people like yourself is that a lot of people gravitate to the kind of regime that you’re doing, and actually I do as well. And that is time restricted eating, eating all of your food within a limited period of time and generally not going over 5 or 6 pm. And one of the big pluses of that, of course, is that you tend to sleep much better for that. But there is a tremendous amount of powerful research behind this idea of time restricted eating.
Bill Rawls: Yeah, you know, it’s I’ve listened to your other podcasts and there was a gentleman that talked about fasting and I think there’s a place for fasting. It’s hard to fit it into regular life, but intermittent fasting is a little bit more comfortable. And something that came out of studying the research behind autophagy. So autophagy gets its name from self eating that, you know, if we don’t eat anything, then our cells have a survival mechanism of breaking down their parts to generate energy and rebuild themselves, which is really great. But it turns out that they’re doing that all the time anyway, and you suppress that when you eat a high carb diet. You know, there are a lot of different things that can suppress it. Regular exercise stimulates it. So we want autophagy. It’s going on at peak levels at night. It’s really a big part of your autophagy. So autophagy is cellular housekeeping, the ability of cells to, you know, prune bad proteins, DNA, etcetera, and rebuild themselves. But something that interesting came out of that work is if you are fasting for less than 16 hours, your cells aren’t cannibalizing their own parts to create energy. They’re basically just pruning and fixing. Once you go over 16 hours, your cells start cannibalizing their own parts just to stay alive. So I think, you know, there are some really good parts of fasting, but I worry about doing it too often. And I, I look, I have to ask a question. Well, is it necessary to really be healthy or get that longevity if you’re fasting like 16 hours but not over and you’re doing that virtually every day, that makes a lot of sense to me.
Peter Bowes: This is the Live Long and Master Aging podcast. Our guest is Dr. Bill Rawls. His new book is The Cellular Wellness Solution. Bill. The word wellness has become commonplace in our discussions about health these days. Some people actually prefer wellness to health care. Do words matter in these discussions? As far as you have them.
Bill Rawls: You know, the health care industry uses wellness inappropriately when they’re not really able to offer true wellness. You know, I’ve kind of I’ve noticed that over the years, words matter in the sense that it’s how we communicate ideas. And so I would also say, you know, something I talked about in the book is that wellness is relative. You know, when we talk about that 20 year old at peak cellular health, especially if they’re doing all the things that they should be doing to stay healthy, that’s probably peak wellness. So at age 65, I’m not going to get that kind of wellness again. You know, I’ve lost a lot of cells over the time. But the point is that at age 65 and even after having this really bad health crisis in the middle of my life, I know I’ve burned a lot of cells through that period of my life, man, I’m enjoying health that is much better than the average person. You know, I’m physically fit. I don’t really have any significant symptoms. I’m doing things that I had no idea that I would be doing at this point in my life, like kite surfing and things like that. And I feel great. My brain is working great, my cholesterol is normal, my blood pressure is normal. I mean, you know, it’s just it’s it’s really cool to be able to have that at this point. So I would say, you know, wellness is the absence of debilitating symptoms. And it is you have to look at it from an age point of view and and and translate it to to that extrapolate to that age.
Peter Bowes: We’ve touched already on the issue of sleep, which is so important. In fact, I always put sleep at number one of the list of things that I need to get right to to maximize my wellness. Clearly, diet, exercise and focused supplementation are all important, but if if sleep isn’t got right, it’s going to be a bad day. It’s generally going to be a bad day. If I only have 4 or 5 or six hours of sleep. And you write in your book about melatonin, which is probably the most popular supplementation to help people with their sleep, It’s also quite misunderstood, isn’t it, in terms of how it helps us, Right.
Bill Rawls: You know, low doses of melatonin, I think are okay every now and then. But the best sleep is natural sleep. You know, we we for years because sleep is such an issue. We try to manipulate sleep with drugs and supplements and all kinds of other things to force the body into sleep. And we and we try you know, all of the drugs are just hitting one particular pathway in the brain. And I’d like to think of sleep as a state in which, you know, during the daytime we have a flow of hormones that are stimulating and keep us awake. And that’s led by cortisol. And in the later in the day, cortisol starts to go down. Well, it’s like the tide coming in and out. So as we move toward the evening hours in the daylight or, you know, we’re becoming more restful, lights are going are getting lower, we secrete melatonin and that initiates this other tide. So you have the stimulating hormones flowing out and the the the calming hormones flowing in to that sleep state. And that starts reversing in the early hours of the morning. So to try to hit it with one thing, you know, one drug or whatever, it just doesn’t work that well. So there are herbs out there that we use that can that are mildly sedative. There are certainly drugs that people use to the drugs are elephant guns. The herbs are more like flyswatters. You know, you’re just it’s just not going to be nearly as intense. People, you know, everybody wants to be able to take that one thing that gives them eight hours of perfect sleep. Then with no habituation and no side effects and it just doesn’t exist. The thing that helped my sleep the very best and it was years to get it back was, you know, good health habits, taking care of my cells. And interestingly, the herbs that I was taking just to restore my general health, the ones that I was taking that I thought was treating Lyme disease, that’s what got me. I sleep back and I realized what they were doing was they were restoring my cellular health and everything was working better. So there’s another thing about thinking about that cellular model. We all hear about hormones and how we can tweak our hormones and nobody asks, Well, what are the hormones actually doing? What hormones are doing is cells talking to other cells. So we’re a unit made of cells. And to coordinate all those functions, all the cells in our body have to talk to one another. And we have the brain that basically through our five senses, senses everything that’s going on around us. And as sending messages to our cells through nerves and hormones to modify cellular functions to meet those those needs that we have as we’re going about our day or going about our evening. So they’re just, you know, they’re literally thousands and thousands of chemical messengers in the body. And what they’re all doing is cellular communication coordinating functions. So if we’re chronically ill or out of whack or chronically stressed or not sleeping, it’s because those communications are disrupted. So the interesting thing is, you know, you have lots of different kinds of doctors trying to to tweak hormones, get hormone levels and let’s tweak the hormones and an anti-aging, let’s give growth hormone, let’s go all these hormones. And what I would say to that is if your hormones are disrupted or low, it’s because you’re doing things that have disrupted cellular functions or you have affected the cells that are producing those hormones. So what I’ve found is when you enhance cellular wellness, when cells are well, when cells are working at their peak performance, all of those hormones will self balance your body will self regulate. So taking care of your cells should be the first step. And whether you’re talking about anti-aging, recovering from an illness, it doesn’t matter. It’s just so vitally important.
Peter Bowes: Now, one of the big problems for so many people is accepting what you say. Reading a book like this, which is packed full of information, suggestions about different herbs that we can take to benefit us in certain ways. The key problem for most people is where on earth do I start? You can acknowledge that you have issues that you need to address and that you can address those issues with dietary changes, with exercise changes by using certain herbal supplements. But where to start? And for most, I imagine this huge spreadsheet listing all of the reasons why we want to change. And then on the other side, all the potential ways in which we could change and what we could use. And then perhaps a line on the bottom that says, well, these are going to cost you money, what can you actually afford? So what is your advice to people in terms of what practically they can do?
Bill Rawls: Well, that’s you know, that’s a big reason why I bought the book. And the book is truly four books in one. So the first book is that concept of cellular wellness and just thinking about it. The second book is really understanding herbs differently from a cellular wellness point of view. So when we take an herb, the chemist, we’re taking the protective chemistry of the plant. So plants are cellular organisms just like we are, and they’re producing these robust spectrums of chemicals to protect their cells from free radicals and radiation and toxic substances and every variety of microbe known. So all plants, all herbs have antimicrobial properties. And that’s a big deal because that’s a big factor in in chronic illness and longevity and everything else. You know, we we probably aren’t going to have time to get into that micro factor, but that’s that’s a huge part of what the herbs are doing. So when you know some there’s a wide spectrum of herbs at one end you have herbs that do have drug like properties, but at the other end you have herbs that are mainly protective, they’re cellular protectants, they’re restorative, so they’re actually enhancing healing. And so when so what I was what happened to me, you know, I was taking all these herbs. I thought I was just killing a microbe. But what they were doing is balancing all of the microbes in my body, including the ones that we’ve actually found that we have in our tissue and our tissues and our brain and our heart. It was balancing those microbes, promoting autophagy. They’re very good studies that’s showing showing that herbs promote autophagy, and they do that by protecting cells of the body from all of these stress factors. So when you take an herb, you can think of it as an intense cell protectant. Which whatever you’re doing, whether it’s diet or anything else, you’re going to get an exponentially increased benefit from that herb. You know, there’s just really nothing quite like it on earth that’s going to give you that benefit. So the second book is really helping the average person look at that concept of taking herbs, which really looks kind of scary when you look at all the traditional herbal medicine and all of that. It’s not everything can be simplified when you bring everything down to the cellular level. Absolutely everything is simplified, including herbs and which ones you should use. So that’s book two. Book three is just guidelines about diet and environment and lifestyle and getting better sleep.And then book four is part Part four of the book is just about applying those to different kinds of problems like brain and dementia and and those kinds of things which which I think is really important. But, you know, the herbs are such a big part of the whole thing. There are a lot of companies out there that make herbs. My biggest disappointment is that so many companies are shortcutting the quality of the herb and the intensity. You know, what you’re buying is quantity of phytochemicals, the plant, chemicals and what what for most products, you’re getting a lot of marketing hype and not much plant chemistry. And so, you know, one of the things that I did in my practice when I was struggling with this with patients, I was trying to recommend herbs and recommend products, and I ended up creating my own products to my specifications that really have like 5 to 10 times the concentration of these chemicals and just making that whole process easier. But, you know, there are other companies out there that do that, too. But it’s as if you take the right concentrations, man, It can totally change your life for sure. It did mine.
Peter Bowes: And I think one of the points to make here is least this is what I believe is that you shouldn’t be overwhelmed by the the task ahead and the amount of information that’s there. And you’ve written these very detailed books. There’s information, there is reliable information. But we do have to be self-motivated, don’t we? Because no one is going to do this for us. Ultimately, we have to take the decision ourselves that we want to to change, or at least to adopt a different lifestyle. You’ve got to do the research and then apply what is best for you.
Bill Rawls: Yep. You know, I think that’s a very important message. It’s it’s all about personal accountability. You know, when we lose our health. And this was true with me, too. You know, what you want is to go to someone else, a doctor or whoever, and say, hey, I’m in bad shape. Fix me, you know, plug me in to whatever, give me a dose of whatever and get me back to where I want to be. And what I found is the health care system really has very little capacity to actually do the healing for you. And I recognize that as a physician, I knew no matter how good my drug choices or how precise my surgical skills, if the patient’s body had lost the ability to heal itself, things weren’t going to go well. So healing comes from inside. So it healing is our responsibility. And, you know, it is about what we eat and choices that we make. Herbs make the whole process much easier. But yeah, that’s what it’s all about. And if you want to live long and live well, you have to do some basic things. Wow. The trade off isn’t so bad though, you know? I mean, yeah, I add vegetables in my diet. Mean yeah I don’t eat tons of carbs and I cut my eating window and I’m picky about my sleep. I’m going to take a bunch of capsules every morning and but hey, I’m 65 and just living a great life.
Peter Bowes: And you’ve almost, I think, just answered what was going to be my final question, which is talking about longevity as we do on this podcast. It’s about looking to the future. And I just wonder what your own vision about your future is. Do you do you dwell on what life is going to be like in ten, 20, 30, 40 years time? Who knows? And if you do think about that seriously, how do you apply the knowledge that you have to how you live every day now to try to achieve that longevity?
Bill Rawls: Yeah, yeah, I’m very realistic. And, you know, I, follow all the science. I look at all the anti-aging drugs and all the things that they’re. Doing. And quite frankly, when I look at it from a cellular wellness model, I see flaws in virtually all of them. And but I’m realistic. You know, looking at that cellular model, I burn a lot of cells between my 30s and 50s, and I’m probably not going to make it to 100 years old. That’s okay. But I intend to live well without symptoms. Being able to enjoy my life as long as I live. And I hope to be able to make it to 80, 90, maybe beyond. But I don’t want to go beyond that if I’m not living well. And and the message that I would have is, you know, I did some things that weren’t smart retrospectively that I would probably change in my through through, you know, a large portion of my life. But I stopped doing that. And just what I got back was extraordinary. So no matter how what your cell count is in your body, if you’re taking care of those cells, you are going to live at a higher level of health than most people have the capacity to live. It is as simple as that. And yes, there are probably going to be all kinds of technologies and potential miracles coming down the pike. But again, I think a lot of those things are flawed and the things that can matter so much, you know what we eat, how much time we take to sleep and taking herbs every day and just getting out and walking every day, those things will matter more than any longevity drug they ever will come up with, period.
Peter Bowes: I think that’s a great message and I wish you all the best. With the decades ahead, and especially this book. It is it is a great read. It is a deep read, as I say. But there’s some really valuable information in there. Dr. Bill Rawls, thank you very much.
Bill Rawls: Well, thank you so much for having me. It’s such a pleasure.
Peter Bowes: And Dr. Rawls book is The Cellular Wellness Solution. Tap into Your full health Potential with the science backed power of herbs. There’s a link to it in the show notes for this episode. You’ll also find there a transcript of this conversation, and I hope you find it useful. 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.