“5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Can Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing” with Dr. Tiffany Caplan
Exercise first thing in the morning: Spend the first 5–10 minutes out of bed by moving. Movement, especially things that get your heart rate up a bit, helps with what’s called your Cortisol Awakening Response or the release of the hormone that helps wake you up and give you energy throughout the day. A perfect example of this a 5–10 minute high-intensity-interval workout such as squats, running in place, or jumping jacks. You can get creative and find what you like.
I had the pleasure to interview Dr. Tiffany Caplan, DC, BCIM. Dr. Caplan is the Co-author of the “Lupus Solution” and Co-Founder of Caplan Health Institute, a virtual health care practice. She helps people all over the world regain their health and live more optimal and vibrant lives through a personalized functional medicine approach.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Dr. Caplan! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?
My health journey and passion started when my own health reached it’s all-time low and I became severely depressed and anxious. I could no longer think clearly and became suicidal. The only answer I received from traditional medicine was a prescription with no explanation as to why this happened or any hope that I could do anything different. That’s when I found a doctor practicing Functional Medicine and she took the time to educate me on why this was happening and found the real underlying root cause for why I was so depressed. She helped me regain my brain focus, resolved my depression and anxiety, which lead to a healthier lifestyle.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I’m so amazed by the changes we achieve with our patients every day, it makes me so happy! From people completely reversing diseases such as diabetes and IBS to helping them achieve remission with autoimmunity, it’s just so rewarding. I will never forget one of my first Lupus patients, she came in having been diagnosed with Lupus and Sjogren’s, two autoimmune conditions, and was having horrible symptoms that were interfering with her daily life despite working with multiple specialists and being on a handful of different medications. I helped her identify the “why” behind her autoimmunity and within six months she was symptom-free and no longer relied on any medications.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
When I first heard that aloe vera juice was good for the gut I drank a little too much not knowing it can act as a natural laxative! I learned that too much of a good thing isn’t always a good thing!
Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?
I first started looking into lupus more when a family member was diagnosed. I was trying to find resources for them and realized that there really wasn’t much information or help out there for this disease outside of the standard medication management, which wasn’t always a fix. So, that’s when I decided that I needed to research what Lupus really is and find out what we can do for it, as remission is actually possible since we were seeing that in our own practice. That’s what prompted my husband and myself to start writing our book “The Lupus Solution,” and host the online educational Lupus and Autoimmunity Summit devoted to sharing information on really understanding this autoimmune disease and teaching people what they need to know about how to avoid flare-ups and achieve long term remission.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My husband and partner Dr. Brent Caplan has really been my rock and has been a huge part of why we have been able to help so many people. Founding our first practice was challenging! But he has such a can-do attitude and gets it done. He was there with me all through school and was my savior through the lowest and scariest time of my life and was a big part of helping me on my own health journey. I couldn’t do any of it without him!
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
I think our biggest block comes from what’s between our ears! Our mindset and predetermined notions of what we can and can not do control us without us even realizing it! Combating automatic negative thoughts and not being afraid to fail is hard to even think about doing but practice makes things easier!
Secondly, just excuses around time, money and things we feel we can’t change. I can tell you, one of the biggest things I work on with patients that makes the biggest difference is stress management. The simple exercises I teach can be done in 5–10 minutes and don’t cost a thing! Don’t let excuses hold you back, they are usually rooted in a negative mindset!
Lastly, being overwhelmed plays a big role in keeping people from taking action. There is almost TOO MUCH information out there and sometimes it is hard for people to know what they need to listen to when so many things contradict each other. This is why I recommend people find a like-minded practitioner well versed in what they are dealing with to help them weed through all the noise and figure out what they need as an individual.
Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”? (Please share a story or an example for each, and feel free to share ideas for mental, emotional and physical health.
- Make your bed every morning: No this isn’t because it matters what your bed looks like, it is the act that counts. By starting your day off accomplishing something you will not only feel more positive but it will motivate you to keep making more positive changes the rest of the day.
- Practice being happy: As weird as it sounds in today’s time and age we are constantly bombarded with stress and negativity and it’s easy to focus on the bad than good. My favorite way to do this is gratitude journaling. I have a journal called The Five Minute Journal that I fill out every morning when I wake up and every night before I go to bed and it is just simple questions like “what three things are you grateful for today?” — it helps to get my day off to a positive start and for me to focus on all the good things in my life.
- Exercise first thing in the morning: Spend the first 5–10 minutes out of bed by moving. Movement, especially things that get your heart rate up a bit, helps with what’s called your Cortisol Awakening Response or the release of the hormone that helps wake you up and give you energy throughout the day. A perfect example of this a 5–10 minute high-intensity-interval workout such as squats, running in place, or jumping jacks. You can get creative and find what you like.
- Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning: By keeping a consistent sleep pattern you help support proper sleep, energy, blood sugar, and hormone regulation and you support your adrenals which regulate stress in the body.
- Get more vitamin D.: Perhaps one of the most important vitamins in our body is vitamin D. Vitamin D is needed with everything from helping control our blood sugar to healing our guts and regulating our immune systems! Our main source of vitamin D is the sun and most people do not get outside enough. Unfortunately, we find that even people that make a point to get outside on a regular basis are a lot of times still deficient and we recommend most people be supplementing with at least 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily.
As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for the public. Aside from weight loss, what are 3 benefits of daily exercise? Can you explain?
Exercise helps with many systems of the body. Perhaps one of the biggest benefits is the increase in circulation which helps get oxygen and nutrients to all the cells in our body. Exercise is also shown to help boost brain function and is helpful in combating depression and memory loss. And as previously mentioned, exercise can help regulate your sleep-wake cycle making sure you have good energy throughout the day and can sleep well at night, not to mention that also helps with the body’s ability to handle stress.
For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?
- First of all, there is no magic exercise that is right for everyone. You definitely have to listen to your body and know what you can tolerate. If you are just starting out, go slow and pay attention to how you feel and how well you recover. Walking is a great place to start. You don’t need any equipment or a gym, simply walk, whether it is in your house or around the block, walking is beneficial for cardiovascular health as well as detox.
- Core exercises are a must. There are varying degrees depending on your fitness level. So whether that means doing bird-dog (on your hands and knees extending one extremity at a time while keeping your core tight), holding a squat/sitting with your back against the wall or doing air squats or planks, find something that gets you to hold your core abdominal muscles tight.
- Thirdly, I think the most important and overlooked exercise is breathing. How we breathe has a major impact on our health. Ever stop to think about how you are breathing? Are you a shallow breather? Do you sometimes find yourself holding your breath especially when exercising or stressed out? By working on deep stomach breathing you not only make sure your body is getting the necessary oxygen it needs but you also help stimulate the part of the nervous system to help your body combat stress. Practice taking a deep breath in while holding your hand on your stomach and feeling it expand as you breathe in and contract as you breathe all the way out.
In my experience, many people begin an exercise regimen but stop because they get too sore afterwards. What ideas would you recommend to someone who plays sports or does heavy exercise to shorten the recovery time, and to prevent short term or long term injury?
When exercising it is important to pay attention to what’s called your metabolic capacity. If you get wiped out or take a long time to recover after working out you may actually be doing too much and doing more harm than good. Too much of a good thing isn’t always a good thing and too much exercise can create excess stress especially if the body is already under stress or inflamed. Wait until you recover and then try less. If you didn’t tolerate an hour, try half an hour and see how you feel or switch up the type of workout you did. You may also want to work with a trainer to find a good routine you can handle. Cryotherapy is great for recovery and can help with inflammation as well.
There are so many different diets today. Can you share what kind of diet you follow? Which diet do you recommend to most of your clients?
That’s the tricky thing with diets, there’s no magic one size fits all that everyone should follow. We find that many people actually react to the foods they are eating and a lot of times don’t know, which is why we typically recommend starting with an elimination type diet that cuts out the commonly reactive food groups to see how they feel before reintroducing them back in one at a time. I personally follow a mix between paleo and mediterrean diets. I found through my own health journey that I was reacting to many foods I was eating and since then have been gluten-free, dairy-free and avoid other foods such as corn and sugar that I know aren’t good for me either.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
That’s a hard one because there are so many great books out there! But I would have to say Dr. Kelly Brogan’s “A Mind of Your Own” and Dr. Steven “Gungry’s The Plant Paradox.” I really resonated with Dr. Brogan’s message about depression not being an SSRI deficiency. From my own experience, I know that depression is so much more and antidepressants don’t fix anything and can actually make things worse for some people. And I loved how Dr. Gundry’s explained how our food is different than it was 20 to 50 years ago. I don’t think many people realize that most of what they are eating on a regular basis hardly qualifies as actual food and how even when you think you are eating healthy maybe it is not the best for your body which goes back to why diets need to be personalized and we see how that makes such a big difference for people.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I believe that empowered, knowledgeable people make better decisions and that starts with their health. When you teach someone how to be healthy and why — you not only affect that one person but also future generations and the people around them. That’s how change happens. I believe that healthier people are happier and happier people make the world a better place.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”
I’ve always been more of a type-A perfectionist and expected myself to know everything right away and I have had to learn that it is the little things that we do on a daily basis that matter most and change takes time and that’s okay.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
Dr. Mark Hyman! He has done so much for Functional Medicine and I would love to pick his brain about how we can make Functional Medicine more mainstream.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!