The One Thing That May Be Keeping You Sick

nutrition Apr 27, 2015

Do you feel like you live a very healthy lifestyle, but you just don’t feel great? Maybe you have a chronic condition like IBS or you just feel fatigued and lacking the energy you used to have.

I completely understand how you feel because I’ve been there, and I’ve been dealing with this issue recently.

I spent this past weekend in Austin at a conference called Paleo F(x). This was my first year attending the event, and it was nothing short of amazing. I learned from some of the top health and nutrition experts, and met some great people.

One of the presentations I attended had to do with sleep. Ben and I both wanted to go to this session because he’s had problems sleeping for years, and I’ve been having some sleep issues over the past couple of weeks.

Dr. Kirk Parsley was the speaker. As a former Navy Seal and physician for Navy Seals, he has become an expert on sleep and how it impacts performance.

I remember the summer I studied in Spain in college, our motto was “sleep when you die”. We wanted to live life to the fullest, stay out all night, and not slow down. When you’re young and healthy, you might be able to do this short-term, but it’s certainly not sustainable.

I can speak from personal experience, and say that when I go through periods of not sleeping well, I feel miserable. I have no energy throughout the day, my digestion suffers, my adrenals are impaired, I become more stressed out, and my mood is not very friendly.

Sleep is critical! As adults we need between 7-9 hours of quality sleep every night. Most of us don’t get that. Then, we live our stressful, hectic, busy lives, eating on the run, and we don’t understand why we don’t feel well.

Here are just a few things sleep deprivation results in:

  • decreased insulin sensitivity
  • increased cortisol
  • increased adrenaline
  • increased inflammation
  • increased neurotoxins
  • down regulation of D2/D3
  • decreased endorphins
  • decreased serotonin
  • brain atrophy

What does all of this mean? It means that you’re setting yourself up for chronic illness. Prolonged sleep deprivation can lead to adrenal burnout, digestive issues, gut infections, chronic illness, inflammation, mood disorders, and brain atrophy.

Additionally, when you don’t sleep well, you tend to crave sugar, processed foods, and caffeine, and you don’t have the energy to exercise. So, it becomes one vicious cycle of not sleeping, eating poorly, and being inactive.

Particularly for those of you who are dealing with digestive issues, IBS, leaky gut, adrenal fatigue, or chronic inflammation, sleep is an absolutely critical part to healing.

Even if you’re eating a healthy diet and taking great supplements, you must get quality sleep and reduce your stress.

So, how do you do that?

Here are a few tips that Dr. Parsley suggested:

  • Blacken your room
  • Quit using electronics in bed
  • Make a firm bedtime and stick to it
  • Get up at the same time every day (even weekends)
  • Learn 5 ways to decrease stress
  • Improve your insulin sensitivity via diet
  • Exercise daily
  • Decrease blue light 3 hours before bed
  • If you snore loudly, see a doctor

For those of you struggling with getting to sleep or staying asleep, here are a few ways to mitigate poor sleep. I also suggest testing your adrenals and starting a protocol to restore them.


Napping does not interfere with nocturnal sleep. I’ve always been afraid that if I take a nap in the afternoon, I won’t be able to sleep at night. According to Dr. Parsley, this is not true. Make sure your nap is between 20-120 minutes. An ideal nap time is 90 minutes. Also, unlike nocturnal sleep, you want to have a warm body temperature. So nap in a warm environment.


Eating a healthy, real food diet can greatly improve sleep and also help support your adrenals. Focus on clean animal protein, fats, vegetables and fruits. Avoid caffeine, sugar, processed foods, and limit your alcohol intake.

Relaxation Training

You can try incorporating relaxation exercises like yoga, meditation, HRVT (heart rate variability training), and TaiChi.

I encourage you to make sleep a top priority for health and healing. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel after a good night’s sleep!


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