Naturopath Dr. Nadia Musavvir on Spermidine

Naturopath Dr. Nadia Musavvir on Spermidine

By Jessica Ourisman

There are as many wellness journeys as there are people in this world. But within the functional wellness community, countless stories begin with the shortcomings of conventional medicine to go beyond symptom management with prescription medications. Naturopathic doctor Nadia Musavvir's journey began in the same way—after conventional medicine repeatedly dismissed digestive symptoms and poor sleep quality as normal.

"I had gone to the doctor a few times, but everything was always 'normal' according to them. One time I was actually prescribed heartburn medication to try," says Dr. Musavvir. "One time I was actually prescribed heartburn medication 'to try.'"

Needless to say, this taught her to look beyond the confines of the Western medical lens. During her undergraduate education in kinesiology, she developed a passion for nutrition and the mind-body connection. While she was planning her post-graduate studies, someone recommended that she look into holistic nutrition and naturopathic medicine. The moment she looked at the curriculum of study, she knew that was the path she wanted to pursue.

Patients seek out naturopathic doctors to address the root causes of illness and help the body achieve balance as a whole. Lifestyle changes like stress-reduction, diet, supplements, and other alternative modalities from chiropractic work, to massage, to acupuncture, and herbs, are used to help teach the patient how to support their own bodies in pursuit of optimal health.

Below, naturopathic doctor Nadia Musavvir answers a few of our top questions about spermidine, one of the buzziest new longevity supplements featured in the new calm (beauty) supplement. 

First, what role do supplements play in naturopathic treatment planning?

Supplements play a major role: they can be corrective, preventative, and/or geared towards longevity. The best outcome is when supplements are combined with a diet and lifestyle that are also catered to the same goals. Many people argue that they would prefer to get their nutrients solely from food, but the reality is, in today's world, if you want to be the most optimal version of yourself, you need both the right foods and supplements.

Spermidine has become a particularly buzzy supplement, but what is it?

Spermidine is a polyamine naturally found in the body that plays a role in curbing inflammation and oxidative damage, both of which cause damage to DNA structures within the cell. These functions, as well as autophagy (which is kind of like a self-conducted cellular spring cleaning), mean it protects and rejuvenates at a cellular level.

Why is the longevity community abuzz over Spermidine?

As this study shows, levels of polyamines like spermidine are so significant to aging and health that they are being studied as new clinical bio-markers for age-related diseases. Spermidine is being called the "elixir of longevity" because it targets a few different hallmarks of aging; it promotes autophagy, regulation of the circadian rhythm. It has many resulting benefits for gut health, muscle and hair growth, and immune, cardiovascular, and brain health, and newer studies are showing it may even help treat fatty liver and fertility concerns

If it is found in the body naturally, why supplement it?

As more studies emerge to support these clinical outcomes, supplement and skincare options are coming to market. The reason why is that like other longevity compounds, such as NAD+, the amount of spermidine produced within the body naturally declines with age.

As a supplement, the recommended dose is typically between 1 mg - 6 mg. A maintenance dose for someone that is young and healthy might be 1 mg. For someone that is older, sick, in a diseased state, or in cognitive decline, the therapeutic dose would be closer to 6 mg. Because of its strong effect on autophagy, it is also beneficial to cycle between high and low dosages.

I know you are passionate about treating hair growth, regrowth, and fullness at your practice. What is it about spermidine that benefits the hair?

Spermidine works by prolonging the amount of time that the hair follicle spends in the anagen phase (i.e., the growth phase) and preventing hair follicle cell death. Both of these impact how spermidine promotes hair growth.  

This is particularly beneficial for the aging hair follicle because one of the hallmarks of hair aging is that it spends less time in the anagen phase and more in the telogen phase (i.e., the  resting phase). Melanin production also decreases with age because the melanocytes (i.e., the cells that produce melanin and hair color) are only active during anagen.

Thus, both growth and pigment are reduced in aging hair due to changes in the hair growth cycle—which spermidine rejuvenate. This is also why spermidine reduces hair greying. As a side note, I actually saw this on myself! After noticing a grey eyebrow hair, it started to come in dark again after just a couple weeks of supplementing with spermidine.

The one caveat is that spermidine will not address hair loss that is mediated by imbalances such as excess androgens, thyroid hormone imbalances, or nutrition gaps. In these instances, a root cause approach to hair is still recommended.

Is it better to take spermidine orally or topically?

There is good evidence supporting bioavailability in both ways. Orally, spermidine is very bioavailable. Many popular compounds like NAD+, glutathione, and other vitamins, are difficult to absorb orally and need to be ingested in liposomal forms (or other deliveries altogether). But spermidine has high bioavailability through the intestines, without even needing a liposomal format. There is also evidence to suggest having a robust gut microbiome will also support its absorption.

Topically, it is thought to reverse cellular aging of the skin, theoretically improving biological skin age vis-a-vis its impact on cellular aging. On the scalp, topical solutions had a similar effect as seen systemically with supporting transition from the telogen to anagen phases. I suspect we will see many more topical products become available in the coming months and years.

By the way, it also absorbs well vaginally. The key is to delay your partner's ejaculation so that they build up a good amount of spermidine…

Does spermidine have any effect on stress reduction?

Indirectly, yes. Its calming effect likely stems from the role spermidine plays in neuroprotection, the reduction of inflammation, and an improved gut-brain connection. We see this in individuals who report increased deep sleep based on their wearable devices.

Who should give spermidine supplements a try?

It's rather safe so anyone over 30 could consider supplementing, as its production in the body starts to decline then. If someone has Celiac's disease or is highly sensitive to gluten, I would recommend finding a supplement that is gluten free.