Your vote can raise awareness and funds - with (the very strong) Dr. Tania Dempsey

Check out the original post here with The POTSCAST.

Dr. Tania Dempsey shares her passion (and some tips) for bodybuilding, because she has been nominated to be on the cover of Muscle and Fitness Hers magazine! If she is voted to be on the cover, it will raise awareness of complex conditions like POTS/MCAS/hypermobility spectrum disorder, AND Dr. Dempsey would donate the $20,000 prize to the documentary in progress about the Triad. You can vote here (and see how strong she is) through Thursday, May 16th, 2024.

 

Episode Transcript

Jill Brook: Hello fellow complex patients and people who care about complex patients. We have an extra mini episode today because we have some cool information and a cool opportunity with a really cool physician. Dr. Tania Dempsey is here with us today to talk about weightlifting. Dr. Dempsey, thank you for being here today, and this is just a little short nugget today, but you have a neat opportunity that’s going to help the whole community, and we’re excited to ask you about that in a second.

But first, you, you like to lead by example. You are very health conscious, and we are wondering, you lift weights. Can you talk about that? What motivates you? How do you find the time? What do you like about it?

Dr. Tania Dempsey: You know, I’d love to give a little background, because I started lifting weights right before I went to medical school, so right between college and, and med school. And it was [00:01:00] sort of the summer and I, you know, wanted to just feel better and I wanted to, to, I knew that med school was gonna be really hard.

So I had the encouragement of some people around me that were like, oh, you know, why don’t you try, you know, lifting weights? And I had not, never really done that. You know, I’ve never really done that in the past, and so I had started, I started lifting weights, and I started to get to know trainers in the gym, and I started to, I really just fell in love.

And so when I went to med school, I had, I had that summer, you know, sort of primed into me, so then once I started med school, I just, I continued. And I will tell you, you know, it was not easy. And I remember that first year of med school where I was, oh my gosh, what a, what a, what a whirlwind. But we had like a little gym, you know, that was near the dorms and I would go down there and I would try to try to lift and try to keep it up.

And, and it wasn’t easy, but I always felt, you know, I always felt better. And I also felt really empowered. You know, I had done cardio, I had done other things, but [00:02:00] there’s something about that lifting, lifting weights that always just made me feel that strong. And capable. And I think that was really, really important for me for that, for that med school journey.

And, and really it continued and it continues until today because I, you know, it is, it is hard to find time. There’s no question about it. I have a busy practice. I have three kids, but I have, I have a lot on my plate. Plus all these other things that I love to do, like doing podcasts and writing and getting all my information out there.

But for me, it is, it is, it serves to, like, it relaxes me, you know, the endorphins come but I really just want to feel the best I, I can for the rest of my life. If I can be healthier, improve my quality of life, all those things as I get older, that’s, that’s my mission. And I know that lifting weights does that.

I know I can see how my body responds. I could, I could feel it. You know, I worry about bone health, you know, osteoporosis is really, actually, quite common in [00:03:00] our chronic complex patients, whether it’s from mast cell or whether it’s from infections like Lyme, I see osteoporosis, osteopenia very, very often.

Weight lifting is one way to either prevent, or to stop the progression. So I think that’s really important. I have a significant family history of osteoporosis in my family, and so I want to do whatever I can to prevent and that’s, and that’s weightlifting. In addition, I think there are things that weights for me are you know, again, empowering.

I find, I find it motivating. I love pushing myself and, and feeling the, the, the payoffs. I love seeing the weights go up. I love, I love all, all that. So, so for me, it is a real important part of my life. And it’s something that, you know, actually, I, I, I met my husband in the gym in med school, so it’s something that we share and it’s something that my kids have started to embrace, which [00:04:00] I love.

I love that they’re all working out and, and really interested in, in just feeling, in feeling good. So that’s sort of the background and I, you know, again, I, I, I love to set an example and I, and I know that not everyone is going to be able to get in the gym and start doing this, right? That’s not, that’s not the point of talking about it, but I would love to figure out with individual patients how to start an exercise program and slowly get, you know into a state where they are you know, tolerating it, and not only tolerating, but then thriving with it. And I’ve seen that happen again and again in the patients who are committed to trying this route. And so that’s why, you know, I want to talk about it.

Jill Brook: That is so exciting! And I was excited to learn that you love lifting weights. I do too, because I find that there’s only so many different ways you can do cardio. And if you have POTS and MCAS and if your body’s very picky about what positions you’re in, sometimes it’s hard to find a [00:05:00] position that is, is friendly.

But I feel like with weightlifting, there’s so many limitless ways to lift weights, even if you have to lift a low weight and do it in some weird position. I find I can always find a way to do that comfortably. So, so…

Dr. Tania Dempsey: And I’m so glad that you, you embraced this, this exercise as well. And, and that’s the thing about lifting weights. You can, you can find the way to do it, right, that minimizes the side effects, whereas with cardio, one, for one, yes, I mean, cardio can get boring really quickly, but also it does put a lot of strain on the autonomic nervous system, on the adrenal glands, especially if it becomes excessive.

Whereas weightlifting, when done appropriately, when done in a, you know, without overdoing it, does not strain the autonomic nervous system the same way that cardiovascular exercise does, which is why I think a lot of [00:06:00] patients with POTS sort of start to go down that path because they, they start to see that it has a different effect on them.

And generally, you know, we want the the sympathetic nervous system to be a little bit, you know, better controlled, and we want the parasympathetic to be higher. And yes, exercising in general is going to sort of increase your sympathetic tone, but, but over time, weightlifting, I think, has a positive effect overall once you’re done.

Jill Brook: So we’re going to talk a little bit more about weightlifting specifically for patients in a moment, because we got some listener questions. But before we dive into that, maybe we should let on why we’re even talking about this, which is that a really cool opportunity came up, an opportunity that you are giving to us by raising awareness of these chronic disorders and also raising money potentially for a [00:07:00] film about the triad, MCAS, POTS, and hypermobility.

Do you want to talk about what is going on and how people can help us raise awareness and maybe win this funding?

Dr. Tania Dempsey: Yeah, that would be amazing. So, you know, back to what I was talking about back in med school, when I was working out, one of the things that I was really passionate about was learning more, not just about working out, but diet and exercise. The bodybuilding community really, they really understood a lot more than, unfortunately, the nutrition class that I took in med school, which was, I don’t even know if it was an hour long for the four years.

So, so yes, there are extremes of bodybuilding, but there, but in general, there were a lot of really great information about supplements and nutrition. So I used to love to, to, to read different magazines. And one of the magazines that I used to read a lot was Muscle and Fitness. And and then eventually I realized that there was a I think it’s Muscle and Fitness Hers [00:08:00] magazine that, that came out as well.

But I would follow this for inspiration, for advice, for things that I could not get anywhere else, especially back, I was in med school in the in the early 90s. And you know, we didn’t have the internet. We didn’t really have stuff to, to learn about. So for me, that was really cool. So recently I came across this opportunity to be on the cover of this magazine, Muscle and Fitness Hers.

And one of the reasons that I thought it would be such a great opportunity is not just, you know, sure, that would be kind cool to be on the cover, but really because they were providing funding. You would get 20, 000 to appear on the cover. And immediately, what I thought of was, I want to take that money, and I want to, I want to put it towards this amazing documentary that you and I are involved with, in addition to several of our other colleagues, like Dr. Lenny Weinstock, Dr. Linda Bluestein, Dr. Laurence Kinsella. We [00:09:00] are really, really passionate about getting that, that documentary out, but we’re, we’re in the middle of fundraising. Funds are tight. And I saw this opportunity as a way of raising money, but then also raising awareness. Because as you read my bio, I’m talking about and want to continue to talk about what I do and how I want to help more people.

And so I just thought, wow, what an opportunity to have this type of exposure for these complex chronic illnesses that I treat every day. So that was sort of the impetus. And then I kind of, I have to be honest, I sort of, you know, this was like a midnight thing. It was midnight, I was about to go to bed.

I’m like, I’ll just, I’ll just apply. Like, what are the chances, you know? And I, I did get a, get an email back saying that I was accepted into this contest and, you know, voting starts. And so we have, we have to vote until I think May 16th, which is a Thursday, and we’ve provided [00:10:00] some links to it.

That’s my, that’s where you can, like, where you can vote for me and we’ll, I’m sure we’ll post it somewhere and I’ve posted it on Instagram and, and Facebook. You know, I would love to again, get, have this opportunity to fund the film and provide more exposure for MCAS patients everywhere.

Jill Brook: Listeners, that is in the show notes. That link is right there where you can go and just, with a few clicks, you can vote for Dr. Dempsey, which is also voting to raise awareness about all these complex disorders that she treats, and also voting to help get that 20, 000 to the documentary about the triad.

So, really neat opportunity here. And just to support an amazing physician who gives so much of her time and energy and expertise to us. So Dr. Dempsey, I know that as this came up, a lot of your followers online got excited to vote for you. And then, of [00:11:00] course, the questions poured in and you were so kind.

You mentioned that you would stick around and answer a couple questions.

Dr. Tania Dempsey: Yeah.

Jill Brook: Were related to weightlifting. Okay, fantastic. So the first question is just, do you have any tips on starting to weightlift for people who have complex issues going on?

Dr. Tania Dempsey: So first, you know, you need to make sure that, you know, everything is as stabilized as possible. Okay. I do think that once you start to exercise, I think it does have an effect on, you know, the body, the mast cells, the cells everywhere. So I think you can continue to improve once you start to exercise.

But I think to have your mast cells as stabilized as can be going into the routine, I think it’s important, you know? It’s just going to minimize an uptick, potentially, from exercise. But again, the point is that once you exercise, once [00:12:00] you start to get your body conditioned to do those things, it actually will have a positive feedback on, on the, on MCAS and everything else, right?

So, so that’s the, that’s the thing, right? We want but we want, you know, to be prepared going into it. I do recommend that you work with somebody who has some experience, especially if you’ve never been to a gym. You know, I could say that even starting with a physical therapist, you know, if you have hypermobility, if you have POTS, you might already be you might already be doing physical therapy.

Or if you know somebody that does that, sometimes that’s a good sort of way to kind of get into it. You know, you prepare your body, you prepare your mobility, and you and then sometimes those physical therapists will be very good at starting the process of lifting weights. If not, you know, sometimes there are good trainers.

But if you’ve never done it before, I do think it would be helpful to have some, some guidance. And then, and I did have guidance when I, when I started my journey. I did. I did, you know, have trainers who helped [00:13:00] and other, other people in the gym that, that guided me. But, you know, I think, I think that’s, so those are, I think, important points.

I think you can start relatively low weight, get your body used to it, but I do think that lifting heavy it is important. It’s important again for the muscles to protect the bones. I think it’s important for your overall health. It’s important for your metabolism. So, but you’re not going to just, you know, run to the gym and pick up 20 pound weights and start going.

So you can start a little lower. You can get yourself kind of ready, right? And progress over time. You might start with, you know, maybe it’s a couple times a week to start. Maybe it’s once a week to start. Maybe then it’s a couple times a week. Then maybe it’s advancing to three times a week. You know, maybe you start with a, with a, with a 10 minute protocol, and maybe you do one exercise per body part.

Maybe you only do one body part. You know, maybe, maybe you have to just really start to start slow. Again, that’s where I [00:14:00] think having somebody to guide you is really important. I think it could be, I think it would be helpful, right, because I don’t know, you know, how you would even know if you’ve never been to a gym, where to start.

Now there’s some people listening, they may be already familiar with the gym, but maybe they’ve, and they used to work out in the past, and now they’re, you know, they’ve been deconditioned, you know, their system is fighting a lot of things, so they want to sort of get back into it. If you have some experience with it, right, I think, again, listen to your body, listen to what you are capable of, and, and slowly start.

You know, it’s the first day you do something and you just don’t, you know, you just realize it wasn’t right for you. Okay, so take a break and, and then start again. But I think it’s, in the end, if you can get your nutrition on, on board, you can get your and you can start to exercise, those things, those two things together can have such a profound effect on, on the healing process.

It’s not going to be the whole answer, you know, but it’s going to be a piece of the [00:15:00] puzzle. So, you know, again, that’s, that’s sort of a, it’s a, it’s a big answer because without knowing the person it’s really hard, but that’s sort of, I just want to say, I want to encourage people to think about this as they are on their healing journey.

Jill Brook: I have to laugh because two more questions came in to you while we were answering this one. So we might have to have a whole episode about this at some point.

Dr. Tania Dempsey: Oh, this would be great. Okay. We could do that.

Jill Brook: Cause I know, I know it is Mother’s Day and this was an extra last minute thing, but I have to laugh because I love weightlifting now, but it was so humbling in the beginning and it showed me new triggers that I had and I almost had to laugh because I learned that heat was a trigger.

I tried that little vibration machine that they have at the gym that’s supposed to be so good for your muscles and your bone density and that’s how I learned that vibration is a trigger and mechanical pressure is a trigger so I have to [00:16:00] change positions and I can’t do the same things for too long. So anyway, my point was just to say that people might expect a few little hiccups and you might learn a few new things about your body and triggers you didn’t know you had.

But in the end, wow, nothing helps sleep as much and I have hyperadrenergic POTS, so every time I get hyper, I think, okay, I’m going to turn that into some new muscle today because otherwise I don’t know how I’m going to get rid of that energy. And it’s been such a positive but you are very inspiring because, I mean, you’re not just a dedicated selfless physician who might be on the cover on the, of this magazine, but you actually look like you belong on the cover of this magazine. So I know people are gonna, one other big question that we get all the time is, aren’t I gonna get bulky?

Dr. Tania Dempsey: Yeah, I do get it. I ask that a lot. No, it’s impossible. I can’t get bulky [00:17:00] enough and I do this, you know, all the time. So, women just don’t have enough testosterone to build the type of muscle that you would need to really be bulky. Now, I will tell you what I think bulky is really for, for some patients, some patients who say that they get bulky.

I think the problem is that there’s a fat layer on top of the fat, on top of the muscle. And so it can give you like a puffy appearance, but the muscle underneath it is really, it’s very, very hard to truly build muscle without having enough testosterone, not having the amount of testosterone that men have.

So, you know, that may be, so in any, in any case, and you’re definitely not going to get that big if you’re using, you know, five or 10 pounds to start, or even less to start. But as you progress, I mean, you can see even in my pictures, right, I lift really heavy. I, you know, do a lot right to, to, to try to build.

And I, and I can’t, I mean, I have some muscle I think you can see, but I can’t like [00:18:00] really build it. And I think or at least build it to the, to the, the way that, you know, bodybuilders do. And there’s a lot that bodybuilders do that I wouldn’t recommend to get the way they look. Right. So, so generally speaking.

You can lift heavy weights, it’d be very, very hard to put on too much muscle. You can never have enough muscle, really, as a woman. But if, if you are seeing a bulky appearance, usually that’s because, again, there’s, there’s fat on top of it, and that might be an indication that you have to change your diet up a little bit, that you have to kind of figure out why things are looking that way. It’s not, it’s not muscle, actually.

Jill Brook: And what I’ve learned is that as you age, you want that metabolism help anyways, and so,

Dr. Tania Dempsey: You sure do. And the more muscle you have, the more you actually burn. You know, a lot of people think, you know, you get on the elliptical or the treadmill or the stairmaster, whatever, whatever cardio you do, and you get up there and they, they, [00:19:00] they will show you how many calories you burn. You know, you put in your weight, you put in your age, and then they tell you, oh, you burned, you know, 300 calories for this hour.

And what a lot of people don’t understand is that you, you might have burned all those calories, but you, you might not have, because those machines are really not that accurate, but that may just be burning, like what you’ve burned that, that moment, maybe for a short time after, but when you weight lift, and it’s a very short lived when you do cardio, when you weight lift though, the, the, the muscles continue to burn for longer, longer periods of time.

They’re just more efficient at shuttling in the nutrients and, and things like that. So, so that’s something to keep in mind that yes, muscles, more muscle means theoretically better, better metabolic health.

Jill Brook: Fantastic. Well, we have some questions here about specific supplements, specific approaches, but I think maybe what we should do is form an actual entire episode [00:20:00] dedicated to going deep

on this. And for today, what I’m hearing is that for anybody who can starting slow and gradual with some help from a professional, maybe when your mast cells and your joints are starting in a fairly stabilized place and boy, if you can find time to do it, then I think all of us,

all of us should be able to find some time.

Dr. Tania Dempsey: But it, but it, but it, but it is hard. I think it’s about prioritizing, right? I prioritize I have a lot of priorities in my life. And, and, you know, exercise and lifting weights for me is sort of non negotiable in terms of what, you know, what I won’t give up on. And so that takes dedication, and, but, but I know that the payoff is, is big for me, right?

I know that, I know how I feel, I know how I look, and I know, more importantly, that what I’m doing is preventing disease, hopefully, as I [00:21:00] age, I really, really think that this sort of, there’s, there’s a, a community out there that, you know, I’ll consider myself a part of, we’ll call it like, whether it’s biohacking or longevity or anti aging or regenerative medicine, however you want to, whatever term you want to use, you’ll have problems actually, I don’t think any of them are really perfect, but the reality is that, you know, as our population ages, you know, I just see it all the time.

When I was in the hospital, people were so sick and, and it’s like kind of young ages, you know, and so I want to, I want personally to, to live in a, in a, in a way that is healthy, good quality of life with minimal effects from, from the aging process. If I could live longer, I’d love that too. And I think that, and I, and as I get older, I have to prioritize all that.

You know, that’s how I look. I have a lot of work to do with my practice and, and, and helping this community. [00:22:00] I want to be around for a long time, and so I have to prioritize this stuff. But it is, it can be hard, right? It’s just, it’s a mind shift that I think people, you know, need to think about.

Jill Brook: Well, we want you to be around a really long time too for this community. We thank you so much for everything that you do. And we’re just really excited that this unusual, you know, reason for us to learn about this little aspect of, you know, one of your personal strategies for being your best and that you’re using it to help the community raise awareness and raise funding for the not only the documentary, but the, the educational library that goes with it. And so thanks a million. And hey, listeners, we hope you consider listening to us if you’re out there lifting weights. And we’ll be back with a full regular episode next time, but don’t forget to go to the link in the show notes and vote for Dr. Dempsey. [00:23:00] And I think they can vote once a day, right?

Dr. Tania Dempsey: Yes. Yeah.

Jill Brook: Until Thursday. Okay.

Dr. Tania Dempsey: Yes, exactly. That would be, that would be much appreciated. Thank you.

Jill Brook: Okay. Thanks everybody. Thank you, Dr. Dempsey. Go vote and have a good weekend. Take care. Bye bye.