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Anti-Aging Conference

I hadn’t been to Las Vegas in probably 40 years, but the 2016 Anti-Aging conference had some compelling speakers, so there I went. Surprisingly, the changes were mostly good: less cigarette smoke walking through the casino and three restaurants in our hotel that made it easy to order gluten-free meals, with wild-caught salmon and grass-fed beef. The hotel gym had rowing machines! I did not personally appreciate the glittering new Trump tower, but it was easy to look around it: the skies were clear and the mountains in the distance sparkled. Sadly, Lake Mead was quite depleted as we flew into town.

But let me get to the conference: it was actually incredible!

Dr. David Perlmutter, of Grain Brain fame (if you haven’t read it, I encourage you to read it today and adjust your life accordingly!) opened the conference with an address to the assembled hundreds of doctors in attendance. (Note: there were actually over 5,000 physicians and other health care providers in attendance! No wonder they needed a Vegas hotel!) He is a great speaker. He reminded us what we are learning in frequent journal articles: most dreaded degenerative diseases of all organ systems, are inflammatory at their core and currently the #1 cause of death on the planet. Turns out that the setpoint of inflammation, throughout our bodies, is determined and regulated by the microbiome, the community of bacteria living in our intestines.

TAKEAWAYS: Avoid GMO’s, diet drinks and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. The bigger your waist size, the smaller your hippocampal volume (and the more at risk for Alzheimer’s.) Avoid unnecessary antibiotics that raise your risk of obesity, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes and more. Avoid proton pump inhibitors that raise your risk of heart attacks and Alzheimer’s. 

When did you last take antibiotics? Many diseases can be solved without resorting to drugs that devastate your microbiome.

On the positive side for drugs, another speaker suggested that the type 2 diabetes drug, Metformin, might be relying for its effectiveness at least partly on its ability to heal a damaged microbiome and restore healthy populations of the organism Akkermansia, reversing metabolic problems and possibly obesity.

Dr. David Ludwig spoke next, challenging anyone who still advises calorie counting as a sane response to obesity. Along the same lines, Jeff Volek discussed his experience with the ketogenic diet, working with patients interested in normalizing their metabolism and their weight. I don’t think I would be over-simplifying if I said that all the speakers who addressed diet suggested avoiding gluten, perhaps avoiding all grains, and keeping dietary fiber diverse and colorful for the benefit of our microbiome. Healthy fats just can’t receive too much attention: Bulletproof coffee in the exhibit hall, discussion of butter, grass-fed beef, avocado and more in the lecture hall. And a casual spotting of the three Davids (Perlmutter, Lustig, and Asprey) enjoying dinner at the hotel restaurant that featured delicious, huge (splittable!) grass-fed beef steak dinners!

I’ll spend a little time with two topics I’ve addressed elsewhere but were key parts of the conference: hormones and low dose naltrexone.

Hormones, lots of talks about hormones. Hormones enhancing sexuality for both men and women of increasing age. Lack of hormones can cause serious problems and there are ways to replace them safely! Vaginal estrogen for women (prevents UTI's as discussed here) is just a start. Women in general will fare much better in our cardiovascular system, as well as all the B's (brains, breasts, bones, bowels and buff-ness) if we replenish our estradiol and progesterone with natural hormones, and top off our DHEA and testosterone levels as needed. We understand how estrogen is metabolised in the body, along with so many environmental chemicals that end up looking like estrogen in our liver, and that metabolism should be supported by avoiding excessive chemicals, eating cruciferous vegetables, and supporting our process of methylation to the extent it needs support. Men enjoy the same benefits with testosterone support as needed. Younger men can revive their ability to produce testosterone (after menopause, women cannot do the same for estrogen), but older men usually require replacement.  Testosterone management includes optimal dosing and management of testosterone metabolism: with too much belly fat, it can turn into estrogen. Additionally the pathways of testosterone metabolism itself can be hazardous or harmonious, easily tested with a urine test. Men need some, not too much, estrogen. The danger of prostate cancer actually correlates adverse testosterone metabolism (too much 5-alpha reductase activity and too much aromatase activity) resulting in higher levels of DHTestosterone and estrogen;  not the testosterone itself, which is healthy for the prostate. Okay, each line in this paragraph could merit an article all its own....I realize that!

Low dose naltrexone: this talk was a lot of fun, an energetic and enthusiastic young pharmacist who had lots to say about new uses for naltrexone. Conventionally used for getting folks off of opioid medication or alcohol, it is used in low doses for various inflammatory and auto-immune conditions. It can be used topically for skin inflammation, whether eczema or keloid formation. He also recommended it for chronic wounds, encouraging healing, and to stop the itch in chronic burn scars. It can be used as a lotion on the scalp for alopecia or on seriously inflamed psoriatic plaques. It can be used orally, this part I already rely upon: symptom mitigation in autoimmune disease ranging from multiple sclerosis to Sjogren's syndrome. A nasal spray can enable a damaged olfactory nerve to regrow and return a lost sense of smell after chronic sinus infections. Chronic neuropathic pain can also respond to topical naltrexone. The most exciting area of research is still too new to count on, but he has seen hefty doses of naltrexone facilitate recovery when injected into a damaged spinal cord!

I am grateful to the conference organizers: we have every speaker's slides...and the speakers themselves were generous providing other information that came up in their talks. And it turned out that Vegas was a lot easier to visit than I had imagined. I'll try to get to some of these topics in more detail: let me know what you'd like to hear more about!