The Learning Connection

The Learning Connection From Paul Bell "TO LEARN OR NOT TO LEARN, THAT IS THE QUESTION" It is obvious that readers of this newsletter believe in learning but what do we do with that learning? We live in a world with an exploding mountain of knowledge and a vast array of possibilities to tap into this mountain. It is important that we keep up. Our innate curiosity has taken us beyond the formal years of education, but has it expanded our ability and passion to learn? A powerful truism is that “you can only learn what you allow yourself to learn” and that prevents many of us from pushing the boundaries of learning. For example, are we willing to learn from something we did not expect to learn from? The idea that “even a fool can teach you something” can be a threat to our ego and not a temptation to learn. Luckily, we are surrounded by opportunities to learn. If our formal education has done more than just impart knowledge, we should now have a deep desire to learn and a belief that we are good learners. We all have our preferred learning style, but the important part is that we should continually seek to learn. Any mistake should be seen as not just a nuisance but a chance to learn. Working with or just observing others can teach us so much if we are just open to the possibility. Learning a creative technique, such as solving a problem by reading a totally non-related book and then making creative links between the non-related pieces of knowledge, can open a cascade of creative connections. Many experiences are an excellent chance for experiential learning. As Confucius said, “Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand”. From a prescribed exercise on a training course to a random experience that you have, there is a huge opportunity to learn. If we pay attention to the experience as a chance to discover, reflect and then experiment, we will learn. A committed learner will even create some experiences so that they can learn from them. If we have become emotionally involved with the experience it will be easier to remember. William Blake’s idea that, “the true method of knowledge is experiment” can reward all of us if we are willing to push for it. Learning…

The Science Behind Anti-inflammatory Diets

The Science Behind Anti-inflammatory Diets By Emeran Mayer, MD There is a growing consensus about the prominent role of the Western, or Standard American Diet (SAD) in the current epidemic of chronic non-infectious diseases. These seemingly unrelated diseases range from various forms of cancer, chronic liver disease, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and obesity to neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.1 The evidence also supports a role of largely plant-based diets in preventing and sometimes reversing the increased chronic disease risk that is associated with such a diet.2 (You will be able to learn more about this in my upcoming book The Gut Immune Connection!) "The primary mechanism linking an unhealthy diet with various chronic diseases is located in the gut." Surprisingly, the primary mechanisms that link the unhealthy diet with various chronic diseases, is located in our gut, specifically the interaction of trillions of microbes with the gut associated immune system, making up approximately 70% of all immune cells in the body. The current thinking is that diet-induced changes in the microbiome lead to the inappropriate activation of the gut-based immune system, which then spreads throughout the body in what is called “metabolic endotoxemia”, meaning a systemic immune activation unrelated to an infection. Multiple mechanisms have been proposed to underlie this aberrant immune system activation, including compromised intestinal barrier function (“leaky gut”), allowing the contact of microbes with sensors of immune cells in the gut, translocation of microbes across the gut epithelium allowing direct contact of interactions of microbial molecules with the gut based immune system, and a reduction of anti-inflammatory short chain fatty acid production from dietary fiber. "Many of the so-called “anti-inflammatory” diets are more hype than real science." Nutritionists and the lay media have been quick to promote special “anti-inflammatory” diets and supplements with the claim to be able prevent metabolic endotoxemia and reduce chronic disease risk. In fact, many of the so-called “anti-inflammatory” diets are more hype than real science. In contrast to fighting a bacterial infection, which requires a specific antibiotic, when it comes to fighting inflammation with diet, following a specific program for a particular disease does not seem to be necessary. Even though there are some differences in the available evidence behind some unique diets, all the anti-inflammatory diets share a few key elements: they are largely plant-based, made up by a large variety of different fruits and vegetables, with small…

Futuristic Food Boom

Futuristic Food Boom By Juliette Frank "The Plant-Based Meat Substitute Have Scaled-up Into One of the Fastest Growing Markets in the Food Tech Industry." With growing awareness of the negative health and environmental impacts of the meat and dairy industry there has been a growing demand for alternative protein sources in the past few years, making room for an emerging food technology market. The COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated the shift in consumer trends towards plant-based and alternative protein sources with food techs raising $18.1 billion and cell-based agricultural startups raising $1.6 billion in 2020.1 In the first wave of the pandemic alone, sales of vegan meat alternatives rose to triple-digit growth rates with predictions of considerable ongoing investment in the long-term.1 Companies like Impossible Meat and Beyond Burger are at the forefront of this emerging trend with their plant-based meat alternatives already being served at large-scale fast food chains and grocery stores around the world. What was once a niche product made solely for vegans and vegetarians has now scaled-up into one of the fastest growing markets in the food tech industry that does not look like it’s slowing down anytime soon. “Are You Ready for the Lab-to-Table Cuisine?” Featured in a February New York Times article, journalist Joel Stein wrote about his experience hosting a dinner party using only ‘lab-to-table’ products that had to be animal-free, environmentally friendly, and “made in a sci-fi impressive manner.”2 Not only was the food held to these standards, everything from clothes, jewelry, and skin care had to be up to par with this futuristic technology. One of the first things Stein learned while preparing the meal is that there are a lot of complicated ways to make basic things. Beyond Meat’s approach to making their vegan burgers involves mixing a whole host of plants together to come up with a simple burger-like patty. Another method of producing plant-based protein alternatives involves inserting DNA into algae, bacteria, or fungi which releases a desired protein such as heme, which is an iron, blood-like soy protein spit out by DNA-manipulated yeast. The newest technology uses stem cells to grow real animal cells, similar to the process of growing human organs. By taking lab-grown muscle and fat and layering them in a certain way, companies can make edible substances that closely resemble various animal products such as steak, ground beef, chicken, fish, and more.2 Stein went…

Meeting Our Difficulties with Self-Compassion

Meeting Our Difficulties with Self-Compassion By Amanda Gilbert One of my first mindfulness meditation mentors would often say, “usually we don’t begin a meditation practice because everything is going well in our lives.” The first few times I heard this it felt alarming and almost too honest. As a longtime meditation teacher now myself, I think back to my mentor's perspective and have to acknowledge the validity and truth in his words. Even though many people do start meditation to train their minds or make them feel even better than they already do, others knock at meditation’s door because they are looking for more tools or resources to meet the inevitable difficulties we all go through as human beings. This side of meditation is the experience of transformation and growth through meeting our difficulties with compassion, particularly self-compassion. This is the muddy, often heart-rapturing side of the practice that you come into contact with when parts of yourself need to heal or when you are experiencing challenges, stress or change. The secret here is that meditation not only trains our brains to become more present, but it also automatically trains us to be more compassionate. So as long as we are showing up and not resisting our present moment experience by wishing our thoughts away or bypassing our emotions, then we are also inherently training ourselves to become more loving and kind. Each time you meet yourself with kindness in your meditation practice, you also learn to meet your difficulties in a way that will lead to eventual transformation through self-compassion. Compassion is the ability to be with our own hardships and the hardships of others, is what gets us through to the other side of love and growth. If you could use more support overcoming common obstacles to self-compassion, I share my Three Simple Steps to Self-Compassion in my upcoming book Kindness Now: A 28-Day to Living with Authenticity, Intention, and Compassion. Yet today, I want to take it a step further and share one of my go-to self-compassion practices. How To Cultivate Self-Compassion Along with meeting your thoughts, emotions and the moment exactly as it is in meditation, there is an additional practice I often recommend to cultivate compassion. At any time during your meditation or in the midst of daily activity, stress or hardship, gently introduce the following self-compassion phrases. You can repeat them silently, with your…

The Mind-Gut Connection: Nutritional Psychiatry

The Mind-Gut Connection: Nutritional Psychiatry By E. Dylan Mayer As stated in an article from Harvard Health, your brain functions like a high-performance vehicle – it works best when it gets premium fuel. The logic behind this view is that eating high-quality foods packed with vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, fiber and healthy fats will help protect your brain from oxidative stress, allowing it function at optimum capacity. Even though our brain is incredibly resilient and can fully function even with restricted diets or during times of starvation, it is becoming abundantly clear that nutrition plays a significant role in brain health. Regularly consuming ultra-processed foods and refined sugars is damaging to the brain. Studies have found a connection between these “low-grade fuel” substances and impaired brain function, including worsening symptoms of mood disorders, such as depression.1 “How Can This Be?” Surprisingly, much of this connection between what we eat, and our brain health comes down to the microbes in our gut. What we eat has a direct effect on the abundance and diversity of microbes and the molecules they generate, some of which in turn affect how our brain functions. Converging evidence has demonstrated that the brain and the gut microbiota are in bidirectional communication.2 Rodent studies suggest a causal role of an altered microbiome in the regulation of brain function and behavior, and a possible role of alterations in these brain gut interactions in common brain and brain-gut disorders including food addiction, anxiety, depression, Parkinson’s disease and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).3 In humans, associations between gut microbial composition and function and several brain disorders have been reported, and fecal microbial transplants from patient populations into germ-free mice have resulted in the reproduction of homologous features in the recipient mice. A statistic that has been thrown around frequently with the explosion of interest in gut health, is that 95% of the body’s serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract. Serotonin is the key hormone that stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being and happiness. It would only make sense that our gut plays a key role in our emotions as the vast majority of our “feel-good” hormone is produced and stored there. “Studying the Connection Between Diet and Health” Being a recipient of the MGC newsletter, chances are you’re fully aware of the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. If you aren’t a fan of this tasty cuisine already, here is just…