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Ask Dr. Mike: Artificial Light & Natural Ways to Boost Your Metabolism

Here you'll find the answers to a wealth of health and wellness questions posed by Healthy Talk fans. Listen in because what you know helps ensure healthy choices you can live with. Today on Healthy Talk, you wanted to know:

Cancer Weekly wrote an article on artificial light and cancer. What connection is there between the two?

A recent article posted in Cancer Weekly highlighted the issue of artificial lighting and how it can affect your sleep cycle and damage your overall health. When you're ready to go to bed, your cortisol level drops, your melatonin levels rise and you fall into several sleep cycles throughout the night.

University of Connecticut cancer epidemiologist, Richard Stevens, has been studying this theory for many years and says, "It's become clear that typical lighting is affecting our physiology, but lighting can be improved.

We're learning that better lighting can reduce these physiological effects.

By that, we mean dimmer and longer wavelengths in the evening, and avoiding the bright blue of e-readers, tablets and smart phones."

The problem is now as a society, we're more connected than ever and now have access to everything online, which allows you to bring laptops, smartphones, tablets, iPads and TVs in your bedroom... all of which increase stimulation, cause disruptions in your sleep cycle and cause other health issues..including cancer.

I've been on low-carb, low-sugar diet. This hasn't worked. I'm only five feet and weigh 120 pounds.

Weight isn't just depending on calories in and calories out; you also need to be active in order to help burn fat and boost your metabolism. DHEA and capsasion extract can also help boost your metabolism.

If you have a health question or concern, Dr. Mike encourages you to write him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or call in, toll-free, to the LIVE radio show (1.844.305.7800) so he can provide you with support and helpful advice.

RadioMD Presents:Healthy Talk | Original Air Date: April 27, 2015
Host: Mike Smith, MD

RadioMD. It's time to ask Dr. Mike. Do you have a question about your health? Dr. Mike can answer your questions. Just email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call now: 877-711-5211. The lines are open.

DR MIKE: So, this first one, this first question for this segment of Ask Dr. Mike—again, send me your questions. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . All that was written here was this: I'm going to read it.

"Cancer Weekly wrote an article on artificial light and cancer risk."

Hey, that's all. That's all my listener wanted to write. That's fine. So, I'll go with it. So, I went to Cancer Weekly and I found the article. Technology's so awesome, right? This is from, again, Cancer Weekly, March 26, 2015:

Is Too Much Artificial Light at Night Making Us Sick?

That was the headline. This is the beginning paragraph:

Modern life, with its preponderance of inadequate exposure to natural light during the day and overexposure to artificial light at night is not conducive to the body's natural sleep/wake cycle.

So, right there. If research is showing that not enough natural light during the day and too much artificial light at night is disrupting healthy restorative sleep/wake cycles, you better believe that's making us sick. When you're ready to catch some Z's—it's time to go to bed—cortisol drops, melatonin goes up. As a matter of fact, cortisol and melatonin are opposite ends of the spectrum and they counter each other. So, when cortisol drops, melatonin naturally comes up, you go to sleep and you go through these sleep cycles. Very important. There's these different phases of sleep. It's the deep, the REM cycle, where another hormone is release called "growth hormone" and that's where we do a lot of cell repair and regeneration. As a matter of fact, when you're a child and you're actually growing, getting taller, gaining muscle and fat, growth hormone really is helping you grow. But, when you're an adult, it's not really about growth. It's more about repair and regeneration.

So, as adults, I like to call it the "repair and regeneration" hormone. Not growth hormone anymore. Because it's a little misleading. But, the point I want to make is, the healthy sleep/wake cycle is so important to how your body manages cortisol, melatonin and growth hormone and if you're doing anything, whatever it is, if you're doing anything—drinking a bunch of caffeine before you go to bed--Anything that disrupts those normal sleep phases, the normal sleep/wake cycle—if you do anything that disrupts that, that's going to cause some major problems in your body. You're not going to be able to repair and regenerate healthy tissues. That's not good.

So, right there, just based on this first paragraph right there from Cancer Weekly. I love it. But now, in this case, they're linking it more specifically to cancer. So, you know, one of their doctors from the University of Connecticut Health and Cancer Research Center, Dr. Richard Stephens says, "Light is affecting our physiology. We're learning that better lighting can reduce these physiological effects. By that, we mean dimmer and longer wavelengths in the evening and avoiding the bright blue of e-readers, tablets and smartphones."

Thank you, Dr. Stephens. Come on. I've been saying this for a while now. If you're a listener to Healthy Talk, you already know I am a big supporter of turning off all electronics, at least ones that you're holding within a foot or so of your face, 2 hours before you go to bed. The type of light that's coming off electronics is known as blue light and blue light is high energy light. It hits your retina. It stimulates. It causes eye issues, by the way.

But, beyond that, it's just a very stimulating type of light. If you're having insomnia problems or, even if you feel like you're going to sleep okay, but you're not waking up refreshed, you've got to get rid of the electronics. Thank you, Dr. Stephens. I like it when people agree with me.

He goes on to say:
Those devices emit enough blue light when used in the evening to suppress the sleep inducing hormone, melatonin.
Ah! There you go.

And disrupt the body's Circadian rhythm, the biological mechanism that enables restful sleep. I'm telling you, it doesn't matter what you do, whether it's an actual stimulant, light stimulant, like the blue light from an e-reader or a smart phone or whatever. If you do anything to disrupt the balance between cortisol, melatonin and growth hormone, you're not going to regenerate healthy tissue. That's pretty much why we sleep. It's the time when your body is able to repair things, okay? It knocks you out. It does the repairs that it needs to do. If you can't do that, you're going to have some damage to cells and tissues and within that damage is really the hallmark of, often, cancer development. That's kind of the connection they make here.

So, what do you do? Well, you put the smart phone down. I mean, honestly, I'm not a parent, but if I were, I think one of my rules in the house would be 2 hours before bed, the smart phones are off, the tablets are off, get off the computer. Now, if you're going to watch TV, that's probably okay because you don't sit right in front of the TV. If you do, back up! I mean, there are some simple things to do. Give your body the chance to begin to relax, calm down.

Oh! By the way, it's not just the blue light from the computer or the tablet or whatever you're looking at, sometimes it's the information itself that you're reading is stimulating. I remember a study not that long ago that showed that reading e-mails right before you went to bed caused some disruption in that cortisol, melatonin, growth hormone cascade stuff. Yes. Emails. Then, add that to the blue light you're looking at. Yes, we can't sleep in this country and if we can't sleep, we're not repairing cells and tissues. If we don't repair cells and tissues, that could increase the risk for abnormal cell growth, the dreaded scary "C" word. Cancer.

Interesting. Do I have time for another one? I think so. Real quick here.

This is from Deborah Benson:

"I've been on a very low carb, no sugar diet to try to lose 15 pounds. This hasn't worked as I feel my metabolism is at a standstill. I'm only 5 feet tall and weigh 125 pounds. I'm 64 years old and I've never weighted this much before. There are some other things there, but just for time sake, the basic issue that I'm pulling out of Deborah's question is, she needs help with metabolism. Remember, your weight on any given moment is determined by very simple equation. Weight = calories in – calories out.

Some of us have a calorie in issue—we eat too much. We have cravings and appetite control issues and there are supplements that work with that. But, some of us, we actually are dieting. I believe you, Deborah. So, the issue isn't really the calorie in part, it's the calorie out part. We're not burning enough. So, obviously, the exercise—she does say she does try to walk every day. Maybe try to pick that up a little bit. But, she may need a little boost there. A little metabolic boost. Burn some more calories at rest. So, I would start with, Deborah, seven keto-DHEA. It has some great research behind it. It's a true thermogenic nutrient. It causes your fat cells to burn the fat within them. Seven keto-DHEA. About 100mg a day will boost your metabolism. Start there. Things that you can add to that as you go along would be hot pepper extracts, capsaicin or cayenne also have shown to boost the thermogenic process which is really related to metabolism.

So, try to get some more exercise. Start with the seven keto-DHEA and, if need be, add some, let's say capsaicin extract. That would be my suggestion for boosting metabolism. Thanks for your question, Deborah.

This is Healthy Talk on RadioMD. I'm Dr. Mike. Stay well.