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The Optimum Health Clinic’s Approach to Diagnose and Treat Fatigue (And The Fatigue Super Conference) with Alex Howard

The Optimum Health Clinic's Approach to Diagnose and Treat Fatigue And The Fatigue Superconference with Alex HowardIn this episode, I am talking with Alex Howard, the founder and CEO of the Optimum Health Clinic (OHC)—one of the world’s leading clinics specializing in fatigue-related conditions, about how they approach fatigue at the clinic as well as Alex’s upcoming event, The Fatigue Super Conference.

Sign up for The Fatigue Super Conference here.

In this podcast, Alex will cover:

  • The three stages to the healing and recovery process (It is not as straight forward as you may think!)
  • What are fatigue-related conditions?
  • The truth about fatigue testing (Why diagnosing fatigue-related conditions is difficult)
  • The different lifestyle and psychological traits that are most commonly affected by fatigue
  • How do I identify what the key driver of fatigue is for me?
  • The important role of psychology for people with fatigue

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The Optimum Health Clinic’s Approach to Diagnose and Treat Fatigue (And The Fatigue Superconference) with Alex Howard – Transcript 

Ari Whitten: Hey everyone. Welcome back to the Energy Blueprint Podcast. I’m your host, Ari Whitten, and today I have with me a new friend, who is named, Alex Howard, and he’s the founder and CEO of the Optimum Health Clinic, OHC – one of the world’s leading clinics specializing in fatigue-related conditions. With an award-winning team of 20 full-time practitioners supporting over a thousand patients in 40 countries at any one time. The OHC team have an unrivaled knowledge of what works in a real-world clinical environment for overcoming fatigue.

Along with founding and leading the OHC practitioner teams for the past 16 years, Alex Howard, is an immensely experienced practitioner himself, having delivered over 10,000 consultations working on the psychology side of this group of illnesses. He’s also led the therapeutic coaching practitioner program since 2005 training the next generation of psychology practitioners.

Along with his book “Why me?”, Alex has published research in a number of leading journals such as the “British Medical Journal Open” and “Psychology and Health”. Alex is currently leading the largest ever online conference dedicated to fatigue, “The Fatigue Superconference”, which has over 40 of the world’s top medical experts along with inspirational case studies and recovery stories and is free to join from June 10th through 17th. And this is something I’m going to be promoting myself and I’m honored to say that I’m one of the featured experts and speakers in the conference.

So, with that said, welcome, Alex. Such a pleasure to finally have you on the show.

Alex Howard:  Hi Ari. It’s a pleasure to be here. It’s quite fun on being the other side of the interview. I’ve spent the last four months interviewing all these people. I think it’s nice to be the one that’s being asked the questions. I’m not sure which job is harder, but yeah. Thank you for having me.

Ari Whitten: Well, yeah, I enjoy both of them. I enjoy being the interviewee and the interviewer, but I can imagine doing a span of 40 some interviews in a few weeks get pretty exhausting. Especially prepping for them and putting in the work to read somebody’s background and understand their body of knowledge so that you can engage with them sort of on their level in their area of expertise.

Alex Howard:  Yeah, that bit’s been quite… I would say the prepping for the interviews… and I mean, you know what it’s like with these kinds of things… That the prepping the interviews and doing the interviews, it’s challenging, but it’s kind of the fun bit. It’s all the kind of logistical project management and kind of marketing and kind of web stuff, that kind of goes alongside that. And it was kind of reassuring in a sense though. Obviously, I learned a lot in terms of doing the interviews. But there wasn’t that much, which was radically new to my knowledge, but there was lots of refinements and nuance and kind of upgrading of details.

And yeah. I’ve loved doing it and I don’t know what I’m going to do with my evenings all of a sudden. Game of Thrones is finishing and I’m not interviewing people every evening, let’s say, it’s been a lot of fun…

Ari Whitten: Nice. Tell me a little about your background as far as founding the OHC, the Optimum Health Clinic. Excuse me. How did that all begin? What was your story of how you conceive this approach?

Alex Howard:  I had chronic fatigue syndrome or ME – as we sometimes call it here in the UK – as a teenager. The relatively short version of the story is when I was turning 16 years old, I like to think of as a relatively normal teenager in a sense that I loved playing, I played guitar in a band, I loved playing sports. I had a girlfriend and I had a relatively normal life in that kind of sense. And then, one morning I woke up and it was, it appeared sudden, although of course one can look back and one can see kind of a kind of different jigsaw pieces that kind of lead to that. But I woke up one morning and it was kind of like if there’s a plug of energy that goes into someone’s body that had just been literally like someone had just unplugged my energy system.

And over a period of a kind of month or two, I was very severely fatigued. Unable to go out of the house for more than relatively short periods of time. And mainly that was to go to have doctor’s appointments. And improved a little bit over that time. And then this was over the summer holidays, having finished a set of exams.

And then as I started at a new school, I, within a kind of few weeks of starting that just completely and utterly crashed to the point that I was pretty much bed bound for a long period of time. And in time got diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. And that was for a teenage boy that’s life revolved around kind of sports and activity. And you’re kind of, as a teenager, particularly the teenage boy, your friendships are kind of defined by the things that you can do with other people. Right?

So, you end up in a situation, you can’t do things, you just basically ended up completely isolated. To that diagnosis was quite devastating. And a couple of years passed. And I remember the doctor said to me at the time I was diagnosed, it might take six to twelve months to get back to kind of normal health and functioning. And I remember thinking like when you’re 16 years old, like six months seems like a lifetime.

And then suddenly two years of my life had passed. And like a lot of people that are experiencing fatigue in its different ways. I wasn’t tired because I was depressed. It wasn’t that my kind of met my mindset was the reason why I had fatigue. But I was starting to feel pretty fed up and miserable with my life, having spent two years getting seriously behind at school. Unable really to do anything with extreme exhaustion, dizziness, headaches, and the kind of one of the most frustrating symptoms could be feeling totally exhausted all day and then trying to sleep at night and then spending half the night kind of awake and having anxiety. And I basically reached the point where it wasn’t that I wanted to end my life, I just couldn’t see a future, continue with a life with the kind of level of suffering that I was experiencing.

And I had a conversation with my uncle who was, I don’t know if you’ve seen Lord of the Rings. It was a little bit like Gandalf in Lord of the rings that he wasn’t there very often, but he just seemed to always turn up at just the right moment, have just the right piece of advice and then he just kind of disappear back off into the, into the [distance again]. But he basically just asked me, what I now come to realize was very skillfully done. But a very simple set of coaching questions like, on a scale of naught to 10, how badly do you want to get better? And I was like, well, I’m nine and a half out of 10 because I’m not going to murder anyone and I’m not going to chop any limbs off yet.

I was like, but I do pretty much anything to get better. And then to make a list of all the things in my life that made me worse. There was already, I just put like, I wrote “life” as like a whole, just want to get through the day was, was kind of its own. But then a list of things that I thought could facilitate healing and recovery. And I was 18 years old at the time. I didn’t know much, but I’d read a few bits because I’ve been desperate. I think I had on there; things like meditation, making more changes to my diet, learning more about what I now know is functional medicine, but kind of nutrition. It was kind of talked about then. Perhaps doing a bit of gentle yoga. So, I had this fairly basic list of things I could do.

And he then said to me, “well, you’re nine and a half out of 10 that you want to get better. You’ve got a list of things that you’re doing. How many hours a day do you spend doing the things that you yourself have said could potentially help you get better?” And of course, the answer was “virtually none”.

And then the next question was, how many hours a day do you spend watching television? And the problem was because I felt so ill the whole time. I just lie on the sofa and watch soap operas all day. I think I was watching like seven hours of TV a day. So, it was like basically, you’re gonna end up with a Ph.D. In soap operas, but your life is not changing and it’s not going to change until you address this equation. So, I then set off on … this was a long answer to your question. It was supposed to be a short one.

But I sent off basically on a five-year journey of seeing 30 plus practitioners. I ended up improving to the point of being able to go to university where I studied psychology. I spent my entire student loan on supplements. I think I was taking 60 supplements a day at one point. I probably had the most expensive poo in Wales where I was at the university. A lot of things that I wouldn’t recommend that patients do now, but it was kind of just trying to do anything that I could to change my situation. I was meditating religiously for half an hour, an hour every day. I ended up reading 500 books on health and healing. And my recovery journey really became my life and there were really pros and cons to that right. In the sense that that obsessiveness around recovery was the reason why I think, ultimately, I did recover. But it also might have happened a bit more quickly if I had gone a bit more sensibly in terms of the pace and the attitude and the kind of way.

I just was so relentless in my pursuit of trying to get well. But I was in a sense creating stress in the process of trying to do that. Eventually made a full recovery. And on the other side, in the later years, it was a seven-year journey. In the later years, I’ve been studying psychology and I had done training courses in NLP and hypnotherapy and life coaching, EFT all those things.

And I wrote a book called “Why me? – My journey from ME to health and happiness” about my recovery journey and then basically set up an organization with absolutely no intention whatsoever in working with anybody with chronic fatigue, ME, and fibromyalgia. I had just spent seven years dealing with it. I just, I wanted to, do deal with kind of normal self-development kind of stuff. And basically…

We can come into more of the story of the Optimum Health Clinic. But really the Optimum Health Clinic was what happened while I was trying to do something else. I just suddenly became inundated by people that were in similar situations to what I’d been in that we’re looking for some kind of answers.

Ari Whitten: Well what was the original conception of, was it called the Optimum Health Clinic or was it called something else? And who did you have in mind to work with and what

Specific sort of health goals did you have in mind that you were trying to help people achieve?

Alex Howard:  So initially, I was just working as a practitioner on my own, just looking to work with people that had the usual, anxiety, panic attack, self-esteem, kind of issues. But it’s funny how things go because the website URL that I had was… I’d missed the chance to get So back then, this was back in late 2002, I think it was, there was a period where people used to have “.me.UK, like kind of journeymen. Of course, I hadn’t thought .me was also .ME, which is what we often call chronic fatigue syndrome in the UK. So, my website, it was… obviously… There was a wisdom that was that before. And then, and then I started getting people approaching me and for what I need to have an organization.

I spent a year working with my teachers as an apprentice. And because I didn’t want to set up a chronic fatigue clinic, I thought, well that’s called the Optimum Health Clinic. Let’s make it about health, the wellness as opposed to about disease and sickness. And it was around that time that I met, Niki Gratrix, who’s a mutual friend of ours who originally connected us. Niki was an accountant, Charleston counselor, prior to this. And she had relatively recently started this transition having done many workshops. And also read numerous books and sort of things and health and self-development. She just started training as a nutritional therapist, and she and I had had an amazing connection and so I knew lots of nutritionists, but I just thought she was the most instinctively best practitioner that I knew.

And even though, she might be saying she also qualified at the time. It was quite the spurious situation that she started working with patients or the personal training qualification that she had. But I just, we connected a lot intellectually, but I also, we connect with those people. But she just had an amazing way with clients and an amazing way to synthesize and organize and pull together information. So, she and I started working together and then I met, quite soon after that I met Anna [inaudible], who was the original director of psychology.

So, it was really the three of us. We were all very inexperienced in terms of clinical kind of backgrounds. We were all, I mean, Anna and I were in our early twenties, Niki was in her late twenties- early thirties but we were just obsessively passionate about what we were doing. Anna had also recovered from chronic fatigue herself. And now I look back, this is kind of 16 or so years ago now and I kind of look back and it was a bit crazy.

It’s like, the fact that we started this kind of clinic with the lack of business experience, the lack of, I’ve never had a job, I just have chronic fatigue recovered and started kind of seeing people. But people really resonated. And I think when we kind of formally set up the Optimum Health Clinic, I think in that first year we had something like 5,000 inquiries. And it was just, when you see practitioners try and start businesses and how hard that can be, we didn’t realize how unusual what we were experiencing was at the time. But it was an amazing time when we kind of shared this mutual understanding of this concept of integrated medicine, which people talk about, very freely and people will say, “yes, I’m a naturopath and I worked with supplements, therefore I’m addressing kind of mind, body, and spirit or I’m addressing the kind of the physical elements and the psycho-emotional elements. Because what we do with food affects everything.”

And what we said was, “well, you’ve got to work on all levels. And you’ve got to recognize that everyone is different, in terms of their experience. And yes, there are patterns in there are commonalities and understanding those are important.” But the kind of patient-centered approach wasn’t just a philosophy, it was an absolute kind of heart level passion in a sense that we had with this idea of pulling together these different approaches.

It worked. It didn’t always work, and it didn’t always work as quickly as we might have liked. And I can look back on cases we dealt with 15, 16 years ago and slightly cringe at the lack of depth of understanding that we eventually came to have. But we were providing something that was fundamentally different. And I think one of the things that people really also resonated with is we were somewhat controversially; we were talking about recovery. We weren’t talking about managing symptoms, we weren’t talking about learning to live with being ill. We were talking about people making recoveries. And that was seemingly quite controversial. But yeah, it also resonated with the people that wanted to be helped.


What are fatigue-related conditions?

Ari Whitten: Excellent. So, let’s dig into some of the specifics around your clinic or your personal approach to fatigue to helping people with these fatigue conditions. So first of all, give me like a broad overview of, one of the things in your bio was you mentioned these “fatigue-related conditions”. So, kind of give me the broad overview of how you conceptualize… what are the fatigue-related conditions?

Alex Howard:  So firstly, I think we have a fundamental problem in the lack of agreement about diagnostic criteria and about what these different conditions are. I think there’s an absolute lack of recognition and definition of different subgroups within these different conditions. So, it’s a kind of, one of the things I’m mindful of with, for example, with the naming of “The Fatigue Superconference” is I know we’re going to get push-back from certain communities around the fact we’re lumping all of these different conditions together. So that being things like chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, Lyme disease — some of the coinfections that might go with that. Because there’s a lot of battle on a — very understandably —over the last few decades that people that suffer from these conditions, one to have because of how the psychiatric lobby has kind of hijacks a lot of the research and hijacked that kind of perceptions around that. This is a very strong kind of movement towards these being seen as using labels like Myalgic Encephalomyelitis as opposed to labels like chronic fatigue syndrome. Not because it’s a better label. What it basically means is brain inflammation. There are lots of people that have ME as it were that that isn’t their primary symptom in tabs of what’s going on.

But there’s this fight for these kinds of more medically defined forms of diagnosis on the assumption that we’re going to find one single pathogen that everyone’s got and we can find one single drug treatment for that pathogen that everyone’s going to be able to take and everyone’s going to miraculously get cured. And when you see things like the XMRV kind of thing, that happened a few years ago, so that everyone gets very excited about that.

And once or twice a year there’ll be a piece of research, and I’ll get an email that the press will kind of get over it and people said they think they found the cause of chronic fatigue or ME. I don’t even have to read the research to know what my position’s going to be on it. Which is even if it’s really good research and I really agree with the principles, it’s a subgroup of people.

And so, when I talk about fatigue related conditions, I’m talking about…

Ari Whitten: It’s a subgroup of people or it’s one small aspect of many aspects that are going on in a large portion of people.

Alex Howard:  That’s right. Yeah. That’s a good distinction. Thank you. Yeah, that’s right. And so, in a sense, much to the irritation of some people, I don’t draw much of a distinction between chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, not because I don’t think that those differentiations can’t be important. I think if someone has Lyme for example, you absolutely need to know they have Lyme and you have to deal with that specifically and directly. I just think that when you get too caught in these different labels, there’s a whole set of story and stuff that goes to those labels which become quite unhelpful when actually the principles of effective treatment still stand. Whatever label you’re using, you still need to understand the same key pieces. Now, you might be a different emphasis or different focus based upon some of the key factors that are going on. But I don’t think a distinction between chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia and Lyme is the way that the distinction needs to be done. I think it needs to be much more patient-specific in terms of understanding what’s actually the story of what’s happened with this person. Rarely is it going to be any one thing that’s going on? It’s a jigsaw. You’ve got to understand that jigsaw and put the different pieces together in the right way, in the right order. And label at the top is not going to be a thing that really helps you in doing that.


Why diagnosing fatigue-related conditions is difficult

Ari Whitten: Right. Yeah. It’s also worth mentioning for many people who may not know this, that there is no diagnostic test for chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia. There’s no blood test that they can do that says, hey, you’re positive for this biomarker, and therefore, that means you can officially be diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. A lot of these diagnoses are made based on symptoms. And that lends itself I think very well to what you’re talking about, which is these… To some extent, these diagnoses are fabrications based on constellations of symptoms. And we say, “Hey, this rough constellation of symptoms, which may actually differ between different people, we’ll call it this thing even though we don’t really have a clear diagnostic test for that thing.

Alex Howard:  I think that’s absolutely right. And I think… we were trying to do some research a few years ago that that got complicated for various reasons around looking at ATP profiles and mitochondrial function as being a diagnostic criterion or biomarker for a subgroup of people. And I think you can certainly categorize looking at… there are categories where you know certain systems seem to be the driver of other systems in that case. So, you can see certain cases where you can go back through the kind of our model and look for the different kind of pieces. You can go “look at the primary place where this person’s symptoms are originating is for example in the digestive system. And until we deal with that piece, it’s going to be quite hard to be effective with other pieces”. In other cases, you might look at it and go “well, actually, the immune system is so overloaded by dealing with, with Lyme or co-infections of whatever the cases are going on there.

But until we deal with that, we’re not going to be able to address even potentially digestive function.” So, you do need to kind of make these distinctions. But there isn’t… there will never be a single biomarker. And as you said, effectively what diagnosis is a diagnosis of exclusion. It’s like you don’t have any of these other explanations of what’s happening, and you have the set of symptoms and you haven’t got a co-morbidity of something else which could be causing this; therefore, we’re going to give you this diagnosis.

Well, I would say the effective diagnosis is not a diagnosis of exclusion. Effective diagnosis is actually not, we can’t find anything else causing it. It’s the actually we can see all of these factors from a functional point of view that come into play. And that’s a very clear diagnosis. That’s then the pathway to effective treatments.


The subtypes of fatigue

Ari Whitten: take me into some of the… How you conceptualize, fatigue and kind of dig into the subtypes and identifying what are the specific causal factors or what are going to be the key needle-movers for a particular person. So, you first break things down into subtypes of fatigue, is that correct?

Alex Howard:  Yeah. So, we have a model. We have lots of different models, but in terms of the overall kind of model in terms of how we understand the process of someone getting sick with one of this kind of group of illnesses, is we look at subtypes, we look at stages and we look at systems. So, we look at subtypes as effectively predisposing factors in terms of things that were happening in someone’s life prior to them even necessarily noticing they had symptoms. That becomes a burden and become a load on the system. And we distinguish between what we call nutritional or psychological subtype. Nutritional could also be more broadly talked about those physical or a functional medicine’s kind of lens in terms of what’s happening. And some of you might have one or two of these, others… Often when I go through this, less people will say, “well, I have all of those”.

And we talk about it a little bit like being loads on a boat. The kind of analogy, it’s the final straw that breaks the camel’s back. It’s not any one of these, it’s a number of these together over a period of time, which becomes energy depleting to the body. So, for example, on the nutritional side, we talk about an Adrenal subtype, which is another way of talking about the endocrine system or the kind of nervous system kind of being overactivated, talk about an immune subtype, the digestive subtype, a toxicity overload subtype, and a structural subtype. And then on the psychological side, we talk about a helper subtype, achiever subtype, trauma subtype, and anxiety subtype.

And just to give a couple of lines on those, I think the nutritional and physical ones are a bit more self-explanatory in a sense. But particularly in terms of the psychological side, a helper subtype is somebody who has historically placed other people’s needs as being more important than their own. So, for example, they might get back from home one day long before getting symptoms of fatigue and they’re like, “oh man, I’m really tired. But that was a long day and I don’t know, long kind of weekend.” And then they get a phone call from a friend of theirs or a family member that’s in some kind of mini-crisis and it’s not, it’s not like the phone call. Well, this is like a desperate acute situation. This person really needs me right now. It’s more this person is looking for emotional support and I’m always the person that gives it and that person’s needs are more important than my needs, therefore I’m going to take care of that person.

So, they’re kind of putting other people before ourselves as a way of compensating, if I’m being blunt, compensating often for lack of self-esteem and self-worth. Achiever subtype being where we’re defining ourselves by what we do and what we achieve in the world. So, there’s a constant kind of drive to push ourselves to feel lovable and feel good about ourselves. An anxiety subtype is where we’ve just kind of historically had a sense of feeling a little bit either on edge or just like the world’s not really a safe place. Like there’s a kind of sense where we’re kind of always kind of second-guessing and questioning or wondering or worrying about what, what might be going to happen. And then a trauma subtype when we can talk about that is a kind of “big T trauma”, like a significant key traumatic events or what we would call a “small t trauma” kind of developmental trauma, where —Niki Gratrix talks very, very eloquently about this —but about even just the sense of just not being fully held and nurtured in the way that we needed for our nervous system to learn to self-regulate and adverse childhood experiences and the research around that obviously is a compelling body of research.

So, we kind of have these different factors. And just to kind of remind on the, there’s a kind of the adrenal or hormonal subtype, examples of that would be where we’re kind of constantly kind of, our system has been out of whack and out of balance for different reasons. The immune type may be Lyme cases where there have been various loads on the system, but it might also be just having lots of viruses and bugs and antibiotics and that sort of thing as a kid. The digestive subtype, I think it’s fairly obvious. History of things like IBS. Many years ago, often it would get diagnosed as Candida. These days people talk more about SIBO, but some of the different pieces that will happen there. Toxicity overload where we’ve been potentially exposed to be organophosphates, be it different kind of overloads onto the system of perhaps also a system that’s genetically not very good at handling that.

The structural type could be either postural things that have just been out of balance in different ways. It could be injuries that happened to the system.

But we have these different predisposing factors or subtypes as we talked about. Sometimes just an accumulation of all of these together, and it’s what we call a kind of gradual onset that someone gradually becomes fatigued and depleted over time. Other times you will have a trigger event. Like you will have that kind of that very clear final load or “final straw on the camel’s back” that could be a significant life stress like a divorce or exams or financial stress could be catching a bug light, Epstein Barr or even I’ve seen number of cases where someone, quote-unquote has a Lyme diagnosis but actually Lyme was the final straw. And if they hadn’t had all of these other factors going on before the impact would have been much less in terms of what happened. So that’s the kind of subtypes piece.


The different stages to fatigue and recovery

And then the stages piece is something that we tracked again, a number of years ago. And like all of these pieces of the jigsaw, it was like, it all sounds very simple when you explain it. [inaudible] sounds super simple when I explain it. But there’s, they were kind of certain cases that just did not make sense. And it was like, endless tearing of our hair out conversations… early hours of the morning of like, why is this person not getting better? And then there’s kind of recognition, for example with the stages model, but really, there are three stages to the healing and recovery process. And particularly this was emphasized in terms of the nervous system piece of recovery. But I think it also tracks to some of the more physical pieces as well.

There’s what we call “the crash stage”. And in the crash stage really it will be indicative of that if someone is needing a lot of sleep, that they have very, very low energy production. they will be low in terms of mood, and there might be a kind of nervous system reaction to it where there’s a kind of anxiety induced depressive piece that’s happening. But often the kind of primary characteristic is there’s this deep bodily exhaustion.

And then stage two is what we classify is tired but wired. And this was the kind of the irony that there were patients that we were, we felt they were making progress, but it could look like they were getting worse because what would happen was; they go from sleeping well to not sleeping. They’d go from being exhausted but kind of relatively calm to having an increase in anxiety. It was almost like their anxiety symptoms their nervous system symptoms were getting worse, but also like there was more energy. And what we started to realize was energy was coming back, but the energy was going into the nervous system. And so, you would see this kind of state of feeling exhausted but also kind of wired the at the same time. And what’s important at stage one is different from what’s important at Stage two.

Like the breakthrough at one stage becomes the limitation of the next stage.

So, Stage one, it’s very important to get as much deep rest as possible. One needs to be quite careful in terms of any kind of detoxing or any kind of heavy loads that go on the system. As one comes to stage two, energy comes back. You often need to increase activity but very carefully whilst very much listening to the body. Calming the nervous system becomes crucial. Often people need quite a lot of time outside of outside stimulation. So, time with themselves to be able to get that calm hidden state.

Stage three what you see as people start to come back more into the world. But actually, they come back into the world, their energy is back a bit more again. Systems perhaps a little bit calmer. Now the challenge is maintaining a calm nervous system whilst being around other people so that people are kind of relatively symptom-free at rest or in isolation. They may come back into the world and all the symptoms start, start kicking off. This is where learning how to what we call “bounce the boundaries” in terms of finding a baseline, not increase that because your mind says, “I need to do more”, but as the body has more energy, how to kind of navigate those transitions.

So that stage model is really helpful of understanding at what, what interventions are going to be most helpful from a kind of practitioner/coaching perspective. In terms of where the emphasis should be any kind of why, for example, you can take certain supplements at one stage and they’ll really help and that actually makes patients worse at other stages. And as a whole kind of science of that. They’re just, the final piece on my, if I give very long answers your questions, I just let you come back in.

The final piece is the systems piece and kind of recognizing that for different people, different system, most people, most systems are impacted but the different people, different systems are more crucial. So, the nervous system for example, what we would classify as a maladaptive stress response, which perhaps we can come to a bit more in a bit. The digestive system, lymphatic and immune system, endocrine system, mitochondrial function, energy production.

So again, identifying not just which systems are affected, but also which systems are, or which system is driving the impact on the other system. Because often if you try and work on lots of things at once, that becomes quite… and you’ve got very sensitive patients or very sensitive systems. You often have to go slowly, and protocols can take three or four, six months to get clarity. Choosing really carefully which tracks you go down can significantly shorten the recovery path.

And so, identifying which systems to work within which sequence it also can be very important.

So, there’s this kind of mapping of these subtypes of these stages and these systems as being really a kind of shorthand for us as a team of practitioners taking all of the kind of functional medicine models, all of the protocols that we’ve kind of created. It’s almost like a kind of metamodel of all the other models. So, before just seeing a patient and going, well that person’s got mitochondrial issues. Let’s jump in with mitochondrial supplements and detoxing kind of pathways or whatever to go, well, actually in this map, where do we need to start in this intervention to the way that’s going to be… cause the least likely to cause overload on the system, and it’s going to be the most efficient path to recovery.


The OHC approach to identifying the key drivers of fatigue in the patient

Ari Whitten: So, let’s dig more into that. And I want to talk more about the subtypes as well. How does that actually work as far as identifying which systems of the body you think are the key drivers? So, you basically running people through a battery of functional medicine tests and then if they have, let’s say a really poor microbiome analysis, you might start with gut health or you run them through an ATP profile test. You might start more with Mitochondria or what specifically are you measuring and how are you determining which are the key physiological drivers of the symptoms?

Alex Howard:  It’s a good question. And it’s a question that has an imperfect answer in a sense because it depends on the case and it depends upon the resources of the person whose case we’re dealing with. So, for example in terms of testing. Generally speaking, we’re really big fans of functional medicine testing. It can be a very helpful way, obviously, in terms of getting information. I think you can over test. I think you can cause overwhelm for both practitioners and clients by over testing. You can also under test. Sometimes financial resources are so limited that you can’t do as much testing as you want to do. We will always start with a very detailed clinical questionnaire and part of our experience as being able to take a questionnaire and see certain kind of red flags. Or see certain kind of pictures or certain kinds of patterns as it was, which will inform where we’ll start and where we’ll go.

So, in a sense of the kind of combination of an intuitive like understanding a case. And that’s often, I think intuition is just a lot of logic and rationale that’s been very well honed, that becomes kind of unconscious competence in a sense. But kind of pattern recognition process. We will then tend to use testing to confirm or test assumptions as opposed to just doing a whole massive battery of, five, 10 grand worth of tasks, which is just unreachable for most people in terms of costs. We will tend to do a few tests that may be a few hundred bucks each. If we think we need some confirmation. We will make dietary changes, almost always at the start with people. In terms of the psychology work that we do some people will start with, we have something called the 90-day program, which is an in-person program that starts with two or three days of kind of in-personal attendance and various kinds of support via conference call and video conferencing, that sort of thing.

And that will teach people the key principles of the approach. Like how to calm the nervous system, how to work with helper patterns, anxiety patterns, achiever patterns, how to deal with pacing. And so, there’s a kind of core syllabus that we will either teach through that or through one on one sessions with various support videos and kind of training resources we have. So, in a sense, everyone starts with certain fundamentals and there will be some kind of patient-specific stuff that will happen there as well. And then as we go deeper into the case and we start to… you can often get some really low hanging fruit just by putting those, those kinds of pieces in place. And then as the case unfolds and we get feedback from that, then it will tend to get increasingly nuanced and patient-specific in the process.

Ari Whitten: Gotcha. So, going back to subtypes, how does some of these, for example, psychological personality variables? If somebody is more of a, I forget the terminology used, but more of a giver type where the other…

Alex Howard:  Helper.

Ari Whitten: Helper. Yeah. Putting other people before them or, some of the other subtypes. How does that play into the type of treatment that you’re giving them?

Alex Howard:  There are a few pieces to it. So, the first thing is real people identifying and recognizing that in themselves. And sometimes it’s as simple as if you can see it, you don’t have to be it. It’s like if you can see, “hang on a second, my whole life kind of what I’m doing is I’m making everyone else more important than me. No wonder I’m burning out and burning myself out in the process of doing that.” There’s sometimes that awareness alone. It can be, it can be quite powerful. Often though what you find is that there’s a kind of awareness piece. Then there’s a habituation piece. There’s, there’s a literally a habit which someone has got trained. So, there are certain techniques NLP inspired techniques that we will use as ways of breaking certain habits. Then there’s often a layer underneath that which is there’s more fundamental self-esteem, self-worth kind of pieces that are going on, that are then informing, well, I’m not enough if I’m not helping or if I’m not achieving. Or yes, you can calm the anxiety and often you can have quite significant impacts by calming down one’s nervous system.

But then you can also get into pieces around or the reason why the nervous system was wrapped up in the first place is either unprocessed trauma or there’s just this sense of not feeling safe in the world and there are certain ways working with that psychologically to help give one that sense of grounding and stability and in a [inaudible], which will then allow the system to settle and calm through that process. So some of it is getting people information and the kind of insight happening through that absorption of that information, Some of it is giving people tools to work with themselves, and some of it is, is therapeutic one on one work that then happens as a process of taking someone on a kind of therapeutic journey.

Ari Whitten: Nice. And Are you doing the one on one work in person at the clinic or online or a combination?

Alex Howard:  A combination. At any one time, we have about a thousand people that were working within one on one sessions. I don’t have the exact stat, but probably 95% of that happens via Skype or kind of video conferencing mainly because we have patients in 40 countries. And just logistically it doesn’t work.

Ari Whitten: Sure.

Alex Howard:  With the travel. There are pros and cons to working both ways. There are actually pros to working via Skype. I think sometimes people go deeper more quick… People would ironically think you’d always get… people think that you’d go much deeper in person because more physical holding and there’s more of a sense of being in a practitioner’s presence as I kind of, there are nourishment and support that comes from that. But it’s also true to say, that when someone’s in the safety and the comfort of their own home and they’re not happy to travel to kind of get somewhere and kind of cross London or whatever it may be, that that can also, there’s less armoring that gets built up in that process. So, there’s, there are pros and cons, but we do an enormous amount of work remotely and I’m often quite stacked by how powerful that can be.


What science says about testing

Ari Whitten: Nice. I want to come back to testing for a moment. So, there’s an interesting landscape I think right now, especially when it comes to fatigue, but in health more broadly when it comes to this issue of testing, we have within the realm of fatigue their statistics specifically on standard blood testing. And people with fatigue who go to see their conventional medical doctor and get a standard blood test run. And that is the most, evidence-based the most scientifically valid test for basically everything but including fatigue conditions. They run the standard blood panel. And overall the statistics show that about 95% of the time (and these are, these are actual statistics from a research paper published in the Journal of the American family physician, which is publishing a literature review with evidence-based guidelines for physicians to practice.)

So, 95% of the time they find no detectable abnormality. Either no detectable abnormality or nothing of relevance that changes their recommendations for what that person should do. And their standard recommendations are basically 30 minutes of exercise a day. Cognitive behavioral therapy and antidepressants and stimulants as needed. Those are the four treatments they have. So, 95% of the time they do a blood test, they find nothing that changes that basic, those basic four recommendations that they have for people with fatigue. So testing is a problem there, for the reason that they don’t often find much of anything of use. On the other hand, we go into what I would say the opposite end of the spectrum, which is the functional medicine spectrum where you can run a battery of tests and show people a hundred different things that are wrong with them, and, and all the different various aspects of their physiology. And for many people looking at those tests, it’s really impressive and they say, wow, like I can’t believe I have all these things wrong with me. Yet, many of those tests are not at all scientifically validated. And in fact, many of them are totally wildly inaccurate and just junk data. So how do you, I’m just wondering if you have any sort of thoughts on that, on tests that are more or less accurate or useful,

Alex Howard:  I think it’s a great point that you raise. And I’ve got a few comments. Firstly, the kind of traditional kind of medical process. I mean, I think we will look back, I would have thought we’d be that by now, but we’re not. But I think in a few decades we will look back on the way that people have been treated with fatigue-related conditions. And I think we will be talking about malpractice and, and abuse in terms of how… I mean, I could run off dozens of cases of people whose situations have been made dramatically worse by incompetence and ignorance of traditional medical practitioners. I don’t say that really though judgment. I mean we, I have, there are some of our closest friends in our kind of social circle are traditional medics. In fact, we’re going on holiday next week with a good friend of ours who’s an [inaudible], works for trauma victims.

And basically, his job is [inaudible] people come in, hit by a bus/truck and put them asleep and deal with pain whilst butchers come along and literally save their life. And it’s incredible what he does and what they do. And we go on holiday and he sees me eating differently and taking supplements and thinks I’m insane. So, there’s just a kind of different world view that’s there that doesn’t make one better or one worse if I get hit by the bus or whatever I want him. I don’t want the nutritionist other, well the psychotherapists like it’s, there’s a very different kind of world view. And yet, what’s been done to people with this group of illnesses is fundamentally unacceptable. And so, there’s that kind of that side. And then you go to the other side, which is the, as you’re saying, you could take a basically healthy person.

And when I say a basically healthy person, I mean someone that score good energy doesn’t have any significant medical issues that are going on. And you could run functional tests and you could lead them to believe they’re going to die tomorrow by the way those results get interpreted. So, I think a note of caution is important, and I think it’s important actually on both sides of this. And one of the things that I very strongly advocate for anyone suffering from any of these conditions is you have to be the captain of the ship of your own recovery. You have to take responsibility for, and I imagine people that are in your community or in your community because they want to learn, they want to be educated, they want to take responsibilities. I’m guessing I’m somewhat preaching to the choir as they say. But there’s a sense of the… you can’t just go in and have this kind of patriarchal relationship to kind of medical experts. Be they functional medicine, be they traditional medicine, be they anyone and go, you are the all-knowing being, and I am the ignoramus that just has to follow everything that you say.

I think the place for functional tests is to confirm things that practitioners suspect may be going on. And to take those results as information, not as kind of biblical truth in terms of how things are. And we sometimes as a clinic, and I should make the assumption none of the labs we’re working with are listening to this interview, but we spot test labs sometimes. So if we see a set of results that we think are, are not right or inconsistent, or we see different labs giving wildly different interpretations of stuff, we will sometimes get a patient to do two sets of tests at the same time, send them to different labs and we will compare and contrast and we will be on the phone and say, can you please explain why we’ve done two tests at the same time and we’re getting two different things? So, there are, there is an evolution I think needs to happen in functional medicine. It saved my life and I’ve seen it impact thousands of people’s lives. And there is an enormous amount of incredible knowledge and amazing people doing amazing stuff and we need to understand that functional medicine in its current form, it’s really only a teenager. I mean, it’s not a fully-grown adult that’s been through the kind of maturation process of life. It’s still a teenager, and it’s still figuring stuff out. And that’s where, for me, clinical experience really does trump anything else. When you’ve seen the same thing hundreds of times or the benefit that we have Optimum Health Clinic, having worked with thousands of patients over the years. Sometimes you see stuff in the test that just doesn’t make sense. Other times something in a test is the bit that solves the mystery. But you have to use your own clinical wisdom. You have to cultivate your own experience, your own ability to recognize patterns. You have to dialogue with other practitioners, not be afraid to get on the phone and to dig deeper because that’s where knowledge evolves and unfolds.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, yeah. Well said. I almost want to digress so much into this lab testing topic because I think there’s much more to be discussed here, but I think there’s a number of layers to it. One is the labs themselves may not provide even reliable data. Like you said, you can split test the same blood sample, put two different names on the same exact sample of blood from the same person, taken at the same time, get different results. You could split test blood from one lab to another lab for the same kind of test, get different results. You can test this week versus next week with the same person for the same lab and get different results. You can test blood hormone levels versus urinary versus salivary and get totally different contradictory results. In addition to those issues, there’s a layer where some of the tests themselves just aren’t even valid. So, even if they are giving you consistent information about, like you can test the same blood today and tomorrow and the next day and it’s always the same or very close, that still doesn’t tell you whether it’s actually valid or meaningful data.

So, for example, like IgG food intolerance tests not really scientifically validated. Neurotransmitter tests from urinary tests not really evidence-based or scientifically validated. Many, many other examples of this. And then in addition to that layer, you also have a philosophical layer of the practitioner, which is “what do they believe in?” So, for example, if somebody has a belief in adrenal fatigue and that’s their whole narrative and their philosophy, well they can go do salivary cortisol test. And then based on this they can say, you’re in this or that stage of adrenal fatigue. But adrenal fatigue itself is a totally questionable condition that is not accepted at all within conventional medicine because the research overwhelmingly has not supported or validated the theory.

So, you can have people doing a seemingly scientific test, seemingly cutting-edge thing and finding this biochemical abnormality, which many people perceive as, “Oh wow, this is my diagnosis, this is what’s wrong with me.”

And yet it’s a fabrication largely out of the practitioner’s belief system. And I’ve seen, people basically just fabricate, layers and layers of theories and belief systems on top of a foundation of nonsense, and on top of a foundation of totally scientifically invalid tests. And then I think the last layer here is a lot of functional medicine practitioners that I see are people that substitute tests for actual knowledge. They substitute, having people do a battery of tests in place of like real deep knowledge of physiology. And you can do that like any monkey can throw somebody through a battery of… you can have somebody spend thousands of dollars on a whole range of tests. And as you said, even a healthy person will show up as having at least a dozen or so things wrong with them that they could then look at and say, “ah, here’s what’s causing my symptoms.” But if those same things are showing up as being there, even in a healthy person, are those things really causing the symptoms or is it just that anybody can do these tests and find a bunch of things wrong with them?

And then I think, a lot of these practitioners do this battery of tests and then they’re just basically following some sort of standard template of, “Oh, if this marker is off, then supplement with coq10 and B-vitamins, or if this marker’s off, supplement with vitamin E or…” I think, I totally agree that it’s a teenager. Maybe teenager might even be too generous. But there’s a lot of problems that are going on in functional medicine right now. And that’s not to say what conventional medicine is doing for people with fatigue is much better. But functional medicine, I think it’s worth being skeptical of a lot of things that go on there even though there are some, most certainly some very, very good, very knowledgeable functional medicine practitioners.

Alex Howard:  I think that’s right, and I think that that we just have to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. And that’s true on both sides of this equation. Right. So, one of the things that that also I’ve seen a lot of is people who have gone deep on the kind of naturopathic natural medicine path. On one hand, one would think more free thinking from the point of view of they’ve gone beyond the conventional traditional way of looking at things. But it becomes its own religion, it’s own world view that then restricts or has a confirmation bias and has all the things that go with certain belief structures that can actually be fundamentally unhealthy. For example, I move in my position around some of these pieces. I’ll make a statement that I may wish to attract at some point down the line, but one of the things I’m observing at the moment is certain in cases of people with Lyme are making significant progress through antibiotic treatments, they were not making, using kind of natural antibiotics. Let’s say. Or antimicrobials. And there are those in the more hardcore natural medicine, nutritional world, but have this attitude, which is fundamental if traditional medicine is not acceptable. And what we’ve always tried to do with Optimal Health Clinic, and certainly I think one of the reasons why Niki Gratrix and I connected on such a deep philosophical level when we first met, is we used to always use the word that we’re truth seekers. We didn’t really care what the model was or where it came from or whether it was convenient or politically suitable to take that perspective. What we cared about was what worked. And there were things that we were doing 15, 16 years ago that if I’m really honest with you, we didn’t know why they worked. And we could tell you a story of why they worked.

So, we could build a narrative around it. And Niki and I could both be quite persuasive when we want to be. So, it was kind of a persuasive narrative. And it wasn’t that we would sit down and go I don’t know why it works. I should invent a narrative. Like we believed the narrative at the time.

Ari Whitten:  Yeah.

Alex Howard:  But I look back now and it’s like the mechanisms of how we thought it worked, which is totally fraud. Doesn’t change the fact that it was effective, and it worked, however. And I think sometimes we can get overly fixated on subscribing to world views. Like this is the way that I belong to this model and this is how we do it. And to me, that is nearly always gonna end up in tears. And you see the same thing in the psychological world that people train as a psychotherapist.

And therefore, their attitude is that the resolution to one’s problems generally lies in understanding the past and talking about the past. And then you’ll go and talk to a life coach and they will believe that the resolution to one’s problems is creating a compelling future and building an action plan towards that future and having the motivation and drive towards fulfilling that action plan. And then you’ll go and talk to an EFT practitioner. They will tell you the resolutions one’s problems is getting in touch with someone’s emotions, tapping on acupuncture points whilst talking about those, resolving those emotions. Then you’ll go to a mindfulness teacher and they’ll say, you’ve just got to learn to be present. And if you listen to all that, you end up remarkably confused about like, “so am I going to the past? Am I going into the future? Do I just need to be more in the present?”

And the truth is that an effective psychological model, just like an effective physical or functional medicine or nutritional model, necessarily needs to include many different pieces and ingredients. And that’s problematic to a lot of practitioners. And I mean this with great respect and care to people that have given their lives to want to help others. But I think a lot of practitioners can become quite small minded that they get trained in the approach that they were trained in however many years ago and they follow it like a religious path. They follow it like one who says, well “it says it in the Bible; therefore, it must be true.” And, of course, many of us take the position. Well, we should not debate whether Jesus Christ lived, and God exists. But the Bible is as a piece of information was written a hundred years later by a committee of living human beings, not God, who sat down and wrote it. And when one takes a kind of perspective where they are, “this is how it is”, you then shut your mind off to other ways of looking at things and other perspectives and other ways of working. And I think to truly be effective as practitioners working with one of the most complicated challenging groups of illnesses, one has to kind of let go of their egoic attachment to any one way of doing things and be a student of discovery and a student of learning. And a student of what works.

And that means that most of the time, as a practitioner, you live in uncertainty rather than certainty. And I, if anything, whet many years of working with this proof of illnesses has taught me is I don’t for a second forget what I do know and I feel very solid in my depth of knowledge, but I also realize how little I know. And I get very nervous when people take strong positions with over-levels of confidence because I just think, well, you just haven’t seen the amount of clients that I have, or you haven’t read the research the way that because it’s never that simple.


The role of psychology in fatigue

Ari Whitten: Hmm. Yeah. Well said. And I agree 100%. So last thing I want to talk about is psychology and your background, actually my background too, but your background is in psychology. And I know we’ve touched on this at a few points, especially looking at some of these subtypes and personality styles, and sort of ways that people have of feeding their ego or feeling secure in the world. But talk to me about the role of psychology in these fatigue illnesses and how you conceptualize that and why you feel it’s so important.

Alex Howard:  Yeah, there are quite a few facets to this. We talked about subtypes a little bit. That’s one example where diddling with these tendencies that we have in terms of how we relate to ourselves, how we relate to others, and how we relate to the world, what I call the three relationships. That understanding the kind of way that we relate in terms of are we making what we achieve, what we do for others, more important than self-care. Then this next piece is what we would, what we classify as the maladaptive stress response. And this is something that you and I got into in a previous conversation around there’s a number of different methodologies that are out there. Ashok Gupta, who’s someone I’ve known for many years with the Gupta program. Phil Parker that wasn’t going for many years with the lightning process, Annie Hopper’s got her DNRS a system, and there are a few others that have kind of, taking systems inspired by some of these different works that each one has been doing. But different will have different ways of talking about this.

And what I kind of came to realize a number of years ago were that we don’t really kind of get that what we’re saying a little bit earlier, we don’t really know fully what the mechanism is. The fact when you and I were last talking, you were talking about, Robert Naviaux’s work, which I dived into office. I was fascinated by, by the way, so thank you for that and steering me on that. But what we would really classify as what we call a maladaptive stress response, where effectively the nervous system is maladaptive in the way that it is responding. And there’s a number of reasons why this might be. It might be because someone has a significant amount of trauma or adverse childhood experiences which have caused the system to gradually get more and more revved up. And it’s normalized and stabilized in a state of overstimulation. Often there is a significant trauma impact of being either diagnosed with a fatigue-related condition or just living with it, but even without a diagnosis. Living with symptoms where you know something is fundamentally wrong with your body, but you don’t know what’s wrong, why it’s wrong if you’re ever going to recover, should you rest, should you not rest? That just causes an enormous amount of uncertainty in one’s life and therefore a ramped up the nervous system as a result of that.

So, what we started to identify was that a lot of the people that we were working with even beyond just the kind of background of kind of anxiety and kind of being some of that tended to kind of worry a bit. That was this significantly overactive sympathetic nervous system and teaching certain tools and techniques to calm down that sympathetic overstimulation sometimes has stunningly dramatic results like within a day or two people going from being housebound to having relatively normal energy. Like kind of things that appear like kind of miracles, like literally they aren’t always sustained. And often there are more facets and pieces to that. To other people where it’s a kind of gradual, slow build, but actually, it is the thing which has the biggest impact in terms of that recovery journey and a number of others where it’s just one of the jigsaw pieces and they have to address lots of other factors. But calming down that maladapted stress response becomes crucial. And we have various tools and techniques that we’ve developed and refined over the years to help support that process. Much of that based upon core principles from NLP in terms of breaking habits and patterns and mindfulness in terms of learning to reset and to calm down the nervous system.

And then also on the psychology side, I mentioned trauma. Sometimes dealing with trauma, big t trauma or kind of more developmental kind of trauma. It can be very important. The other piece that can be crucial is we talked about earlier about this kind of model, this kind of map and the different kind of stages is that practitioners playing a role in terms of helping people identify what’s necessary and what’s important, at the next steps of the recovery process. So for example, someone to identify your stage two into Stage three and that means these are the things that are going to be important we need to work on or we classify four types of tiredness, talk about mental tiredness, emotional tiredness, physical tiredness, environmental tiredness,  and the type of tiredness you’re experiencing, will also impact in terms of what sorts of rest and restoration might be important.

So kind of helping people map where they are in that kind of healing journey and then pointing towards things that will be important whilst also establishing a baseline of activity where they are. And then what we call bouncing the boundaries in terms of gradually increasing that capacity. Not based upon not traditional pacing where one would have a kind of written routine of what you should be doing, which I think is often insanity. Like someone that doesn’t feel your body comes in and writes down what your body should be doing is just kind of madness. That one needs to learn to listen to their body and that body be that… And yes it’s a relationship with that. But just establish a solid baseline and then figuring out how to gently, gradually increase that as the body is recovering and, and has more capacity. So we kind of find the psychology team will play different roles at different parts of the process.

It might be initially, often we’ll start with calming down maladaptive stress response because many other interventions are not all that effective until you get the body into a more calm, healing state. Then we’ll tend to work more on some of the subtypes of the historical stuff will work more with the kind of coaching of kind of where you are and what’s important. We may work with those kinds of trauma pieces that are going on. And often, but not always, we will find that there are people which will, if they only come at this from a kind of physical perspective, until they deal with some of these psychological pieces, either they’ll go very slowly on the healing path or they’ll hit plateaus like glass ceilings they just kind of can get past, or they’ll have a repetitive relapse pattern where they’ll get back to recovery. They’ll get to recovery, then they’ll go and go back to being an achiever and a helper and not dealing with certain things. Then they’ll crash. Then they’ll rest. Then they’ll recover. So you kind of have these are passive relapse pattern that you don’t deal with these pieces also, you often see. Just the different ways that that impacts. But it’s, from my perspective it’s often crucial.


Alex’s 3 key takeaways for people struggling with fatigue

Ari Whitten: Excellent. So I know we’ve gone a little bit over time here. I’m wondering if you can wrap up, I know we also want to talk about The Fatigue Superconference that, that you have coming up here. But I’m wondering if you can kind of wrap up this main portion of the interview with your top three sorts of pieces of advice or key tidbits. And these can be things you’ve already said in passing, but sort of the top three things you want to leave people with who are struggling with fatigue. Your key pieces of knowledge.

Alex Howard:  Yeah. So, I think the first thing I would say if we go back to where we started in terms of, I was sharing a bit about my own healing story, that I think the first thing is you have to take responsibility. You have to be captain of the ship of your own recovery. And that’s a double-edged sword, right? Because it says it’s a burden. It’s like Holy Shit. Like I can’t just pass this over to my medical practitioner or to someone else. But it’s also very empowering because it also means that you’re not dependent upon someone else is the one that has to figure it out. And being captain the ship your own recovery doesn’t mean that you have to have more detailed knowledge necessarily than the practitioners you work with. But you need to have enough knowledge to take responsibility, know some of the right questions to ask and how to balance and weigh that alongside other people that you might be doing.

And I think programs such as yours are a great way for people to build that knowledge in that and that understanding. So I think the first thing is being the captain for your own recovery. I think the second thing is you have to understand that it’s a jigsaw and there are lots of pieces to this jigsaw and what you’ll probably find is each expert, or each practitioner, or each person will have some pieces of the jigsaw. They’ll probably think that their pieces are the whole jigsaw, or they’ll think that those pieces are more important than all the other pieces. And that’s again, with this first piece around you’ve got to be the kind of driving force or the captain of the ship, but there will be these different pieces. And part of what we really try to at the Optimum Health Clinic is we try to have as many of the pieces of that jigsaw as possible to try and simplify that process.

We don’t have all the pieces and we’re always discovering new pieces. And there are sometimes, there are other clinics that we actually think do certain pieces better than we do. And we’re busy enough that we’re more than happy to refer those people when we see that.

I think the third thing is the probably the psychology piece we’ve been talking about. And it’s a whole other conversation that maybe down the line we’ll either of, well my side or your side, one of us can host the conversation, but I’d love to go deeper into some of the psychology stuff together on particularly this piece around the maladaptive stress response. I think that could be a whole piece on it on its own. But for the body to heal has to be in a healing state.

And if your body’s not in a healing state, you can take all the right supplements, you can do everything right, and you will not recover if your nervous system is not in a healing state. And I kind of can’t emphasize enough how important it is. And I know that there are all kinds of people listening right now, which are probably wanting to… If they haven’t already, want to turn this interview off because they think that I’m saying that their physical condition is psychologically caused. And I am categorically not saying that. I’m saying that one of the key mechanisms to supporting healing is your nervous system being in a healing state. Cause all the physical processes will function and work differently as a result of that.

But just to summarize, captain the ship your own recovery. It’s a jigsaw and there are different pieces of the jigsaw. And you got to be in a healing state.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Wonderful. I want to comment real quickly on number two, which I love what you said and I think we talked about this when you interviewed me a bit, but there is this a tendency, human psychological tendency that many people have or, most of us probably have where we look for the one thing. It’s gotta be this one thing. And we talked about some of these approaches out there specifically in the context of fatigue that are, “oh, it’s all about the brain and the nervous system where it’s all about the gut, where it’s all about diet or it’s all about, pacing or it’s all about this or that, physiological system and or lifestyle factor or something like that.” And they build an entire methodology that’s specifically around that one factor. And that’s the entire approach. And then they kind of put all their eggs in that basket and they want to insist very dogmatically that this is the only thing that’s just the key thing. Everything else is if it exists at all, is secondary to this one thing.

Alex Howard:  They also retrofit information to fit that even though it doesn’t fit it. Right?

Ari Whitten: Exactly. Yeah. And I just want to say that I really appreciate that about your work, that you are, conceptualizing many, many different factors and trying to put the pieces together and figure out what’s going on for each individual. And I just really appreciate that about the work that you’re doing. So, finally the Fatigue Superconference. So this is coming up. It’s right around the corner. We are recording this podcast towards the end of May, so I’ll be releasing it hopefully just before or right as this conference is starting up, it’s starting on June 10th and goes through June 10 through 17th. Is that correct?

Alex Howard: That’s right, yeah.

Ari Whitten:  Okay. So tell me about the conference and, who speaking, what’s it all about?

Alex Howard: So as soon as an idea that came online towards the end of last year and I’m holding Niki responsible for not talking to me out of it because she had run a conference a few years previously to the tribe. But basically, the seed of the idea… the Optimum Health Clinic approach has become what it is. Because as we’ve talked about in this interview that we’ve been inspired by many, many great thinkers and great experts that are out there. And the idea was what would happen if we could bring all of those people or many of those people together in one place and get those different jigsaw pieces kind of offered up from those different perspectives. So, it’s not that 40 plus speakers in this conference all agree. Far from it. In fact, they have some quite contradictory opinions in place.

They have a lot of sheds kind of core kind of principle opinion. But there are those that will go much deeper on certain areas because they are the pieces of the jigsaw which that the most experience with and, and see the most act clearly and, and struggling. So we have these feature interviews. But also, on the things that we felt having observed some of the excellent online summits and conferences that have been done is that sometimes you can be left with just this endless amount of information, but wondering, well how do you actually apply this? Like what is this actual actually mean when the rubber hits the road in real-life cases. So we also have each day for the eight days of the conference. In addition to having, four, five, six feature interviews. We also have sessions with the practitioner team at the Optimum Health Clinic where they’re taking real-life cases we’ve worked with and a team of sometimes two, sometimes four or five practitioners are literally walking through the case and saying, “this client came in and this is what we saw. We went down this path, this is what happened. We did this test, here’s the test result. This is what we did as a result, here’s how things change and improve.” So proper kind of, detailed, nuanced, how we work with, with cases. We also have recovery stories. So we have people telling the first person like that story of how they recovered from fatigue. We’re taking particular emphasis to those stories. So, they’re not just kind of “I did this and this and that,” but we’re theming the story. So we have one on working on the achiever subtype. One or working on the helper subtype. We have one on, which is an interesting case with one of our psychology team around how they put together the jigsaw pieces as a whole recovery story. Kind of highlighting that kind of principle.

And then we also have, each day we have meditation and Yoga sessions. We just felt also let’s, we’re going to keep a lot of mental stimulation, so let’s get them some ways also it’s kind of just calm settling some supports around that as well. So, it’s each day there’s a number of interviews or recovery story, a case study, a meditation session, and a yoga session which are free. Also, I didn’t mention we’ve got, some sessions, for carers as well. So if you’ve got, if you’re caring for someone with fatigue or you suffer from fatigue and the people around you are being impacted. We have some sessions with a former patient’s husband who’s also trained in our psychology approach to give some perspective here. It’s very much aimed at both those affected by fatigue and practitioners. So we’ve really tried to kind of go deep in places, but also make sure people can follow along in terms of the journey.

It’s free for the seven days. People can register. I’m sure you’ll give a link that people can use-

Ari Whitten: We will put it at

Alex Howard: Great. So, people could go and register there. And then if they, it’s free for the seven, eight, the eight days. And then if they want to buy the recordings and they can also do that and have ongoing access after the conference as well. But it’s I’m obviously biased in the one TV interviews. But I think is a staggeringly helpful resource in terms of, the way that you and I have been talking about this kind of complex, nuanced way of understanding it and going deep on that, but also pulling that together and helpful ways that people can also practically implement.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. I’m really excited for it. I’m excited to share it with my audience, as well. Thank you again for, having me on as one of the speakers and this was excellent. I really enjoyed this conversation, Alex, and thank you so much for coming on the show. And thank you for the work that you’re doing. I appreciate it.

Alex Howard: Thank you, buddy. I enjoyed it. I think we have a lot of looking forward to more conversations that the two times we’ve spoken so far, I felt like they, they float paths side. I’m, yeah, I’m an admirer and respect the work that you’re doing and appreciate you. Thank you.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, thank you. And everybody listening. Please make sure to go to and sign up for this free summit. It’s going to be pretty much the most epic fatigue summit ever done. So, I’m very, very excited to share it with you all and I know that you’re going to love it.

The Optimum Health Clinic’s Approach to Diagnose and Treat Fatigue (And The Fatigue Superconference) with Alex Howard – Show Notes

What are fatigue-related conditions? (15:58)
Why diagnosing fatigue-related conditions is difficult (20:17)
The subtypes of fatigue (22:48)
The different stages to fatigue and recovery (28:55)
The OHC approach to identifying the key drivers of fatigue in the patient (34:22)
What science says about testing (41:30)
The role of psychology in fatigue (58:47)
Alex’s 3 key takeaways for people struggling with fatigue (1:06:08)


Sign up for The Fatigue Super Conference here.

Listen to the podcast with Niki Gratrix on how to heal trauma to heal fatigue

What Science Says About Menopause, Perimenopause, And Hormone Replacement Therapy with Dr. Mache Seibel

What Science Says About Menopause, Perimenopause, and hormone replacement therapy with Dr Mache SeibelHormones are essential in regulating a number of systems in the body. Most people are aware of how they affect women’s cycles, pregnancies, and menopause, but not as many know about the difficulty of treating hormonal issues. In recent years, more and more women are experiencing hormone-related problems such as infertility and early menopause (perimenopause). For quite some time, women were prescribed hormones which were considered to be health-promoting – up until 2002 when a study called the Women’s Health Initiative was published. This study suggested that hormone replacement therapy could cause serious health issues such as breast cancer, heart disease, dementia, and other health problems. As a result, millions of women threw away their hormones and thousands of doctors were afraid to prescribe it. According to Dr. Mache Seibel, this was all a misunderstanding, and hormone replacement therapy can be both safe and effective. So what’s the truth? Is hormone replacement therapy really dangerous, and if so, what are safe and viable treatment options for those suffering from hormonal deficiencies and imbalances?

In this episode, I interview Dr. Mache Seibel, a fertility, menopause and hormone replacement expert. He has authored the books The Estrogen Window and The Estrogen Fix and is an expert in the field. Dr. Seibel will share his vast insights into how hormones affect our bodies, the main causes of hormone imbalance, how to balance hormones naturally, and what science really says about hormone balance therapy.

In this podcast, we’ll cover:

  • Is hormone therapy dangerous?  What does the latest research say?
  • Dr. Seibel’s take on the ideal age for women to get pregnant
  • Nutrition and lifestyle habits that increase fertility
  • From puberty to menopause – the hormonal stages of womanhood
  • The latest breakthrough to help infertility in couples (Should we rely on technology to help women who can’t get pregnant?)
  • Why women are going into menopause earlier and earlier?
  • What women should do about menopause symptoms if anything?
  • The 4 important lifestyle factors that can balance hormones naturally
  • Additional alternative treatments to hormone replacement therapy

Download or listen on iTunes

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What Science Says About Menopause, Perimenopause, And Hormone Replacement Therapy with Dr. Mache Seibel – Transcript

Ari Whitten: Everyone, welcome back to the Energy Blueprint Podcast. I’m your host Ari Whitten, and today I have with me Dr. Mache Seibel, who is a women’s hormone, fertility and menopause, and hormone replacement expert. So we’re going to be talking all about those topics today. Real quick on his bio, his background, he has been selected by his peers as one of the best doctors in America, and he brings innovation to health education focusing on creative approaches to help America stay well. He’s a national expert in helping women in and around menopause, improve their symptoms, including sleep, stress, diabetes, and weight control. In addition to patient care, Dr. Mache does incorporate… does corporate consulting, speaking, workshops and coaching. He also has created Health Rocks, his unique brand of making health education fun and memorable using music and entertainment.

Also, there’s a quote from you that I want to read here because I really like it. Very simple, but it’s a powerful quote: “It’s better to stay well than to get well.” I love this because, you know, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure as they say. I think it’s just so true that it’s so much better to be proactive when it comes to health rather than waiting until things spiral out of control and trying to reverse them. So with that said and with that wonderful quote to get kind of an intro into what you’re all about, welcome Dr. Seibel.

Dr. Mache Seibel: Well, thank you very much. I’m really delighted to join you and to have a chance to talk with you and to your audience.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, thank you. I’m honored to have you here. So I would love for you to talk a bit about your background because you have a unique story that you kind of started out in the fertility realm and then your personal circumstances transitioned more into a focus on menopause and hormone replacement therapy. So can you talk a bit about how that all played out in your life?

Dr. Mache Seibel: Yes, sure. I’ve always known I was going to be a women’s health specialist. I found it just fascinating. There’s just so much that can be done. And I started my career at Harvard Medical School in fertility in the infertility world, and I was very fortunate in the timing. I had the opportunity to do one of the very first in vitro fertilizations in the United States, the first in Massachusetts, one of the first to use ultrasound, etc. And I even was in People Magazine, written up for helping gorillas get pregnant at the zoo. That was one of my, that was my largest patient, I must say. And after that, shortly after that, when I was really at a peak of my career, there was a study that came out called the Women’s Health Initiative that suggested incorrectly that hormones could cause breast cancer in women, heart disease, dementia, and other things.

And millions of women threw away their hormones and thousands of doctors were afraid to prescribe it. And unfortunately just months after that study, my wife had surgery that threw her into early menopause and nobody wanted to treat her. And so I had to sort of stop what I was doing in the one arena and figure it out so she wouldn’t have to tough it out. And so I say I used to do sperm-to-term and now I do womb-to-tomb. So I do still see, in consultation for like second opinions and things, people in the fertility world, particularly women who are later in reproduction trying to transition or get that baby in. But also there are a lot of women now in this country who get thrown into menopause because of surgery that they have done to prevent cancer and other things.

Dr. Mache Seibel: So there are younger and younger women going into menopause in order to protect themselves from cancer. So now I’m focused more on the menopause side.

Why women experience going into menopause at an earlier and earlier age

Ari Whitten: So can you elaborate a bit about that, younger and younger women going into menopause? Let’s talk a bit about why that’s happening.

Dr. Mache Seibel: Well, one thing that’s happening, I mean there are… in a kind of an overview I mean, menopause is still happening in general around age 51. That’s the mean age in the United States. But if you look at menopause, which is the natural menopause at age 51, there’s still about five to 10 percent of women who go into menopause before age 45. That’s just what’s happening in the United States right now. And one in 100 before age 40, one in a thousand before age 30. So you know, you think menopause is about older women, but it’s not about age at all.

It’s actually just about to transition. Transitioning from reproduction into post-reproduction. And as I alluded to, the women who have certain genetic predispositions to certain cancers are being advised to get surgery done when they are 35 to 40 in order to prevent them from having ovarian or breast cancer. And as a result, we have several millions of women who have these genes and who are having surgery at this very early time. And they’re petrified because, you know, sometimes they haven’t had time to complete their fertility. Sometimes they have. But, you know, women are sometimes not marrying at a younger age. Many are going into professions and waiting until they’re later to get married. And so, you know, it takes time to find the right partner. So we have a lot of people who find themselves in a very uncomfortable position. Their solutions to that we could talk about, but still it’s tough. And of course, there’s a lot of things going on environmentally, too. There’s so many pollutants in the environment and so forth that are toxic and lowering fertility overall, environmental toxins and pesticides and a whole host of other things.

Why there is an increase in infertility today

Ari Whitten: Let dig into that a bit more, in the fertility side of things. Obviously, fertility and menopause are very much intertwined, but on the fertility side of things, infertility is becoming an epidemic both among men and women in today’s world. You just alluded to some of the reasons behind that, but can you talk kind of about maybe some of the statistics of rates of infertility and how they’re transitioning in the last few decades? And then what are some of the big causes of why there’s such an epidemic of infertility right now?

Dr. Mache Seibel: Well, part of it is really self-imposed. This is not the biggest reason, but it’s a reason and that is that as women delay childbearing longer and longer to keep their, you know, to find their work and to get their professional lives started, they find themselves working in, they’re starting to get pregnant instead of at 20 or 22 or 25, many women wait until they’re 30 or 35 and some are waiting until they’re 40. But the fact of the matter is that there’s a tremendous decline in the fertility of a woman after the age of 35. And after the age of 38, it drops again. After the age of 40, it drops again. After the age of 42 it has dropped really down to very low single digits. So it’s very important that if you know you’re going to have kids to try and plan your family soon as you can, what makes sense for you. But at least be mindful that many people are under the impression that “I’ve got all the time in the world. If I’m 35 or 40 it’s all the same.” No, it isn’t. And you just lower your chances for success, not saying you won’t.

There are other reasons, of course. The environmental things have gently lowered sperm counts and then over the last decades, and we’re seeing sperm counts dropping just uniformly. Normally about 40 percent of infertility is from the male, about 40 percent of infertility is caused by the female and about 20 percent there’s a little bit from both of the partners. Now the problems are… really if you break it down into why people can’t have kids, it’s for the woman, it’s either hormonal, the ovulation, the egg production is not ideal, or mechanical, the tubes, the openings of where the egg gets to the uterus to get fertilized, there’s blockage or scarring. There are things like that happened. And from the male it’s lower sperm count. That could be due to infection or toxins or some men are born with a blockage that doesn’t allow sperm to come out. And some women go into early menopause, as I mentioned, about one in a 100. And some men are born with really no sperm or very, very low sperm. So there are multiple reasons why it can happen.

Ari Whitten: Very interesting. And are you aware of any particular methods or natural therapies or lifestyle strategies that can impact this to a significant degree? Is it modifiable by lifestyle and nutrition habits?

Dr. Mache Seibel: Well, many things are, you know, many things are. But you know, stress is a big thing in our country today. Stress affects the women’s ability to ovulate and stress affects the male’s ability to produce sperm, and so stress is a real factor. Smoking is probably one of the simplest toxins to get rid of, excess alcohol or drugs, I’m talking about illicit drugs. Those are things that are very common today and that have an impact on reproduction and the quality of the woman’s ovulation, the man’s sperm count. Those are very modifiable. Being particularly overweight can be a problem and it’s also a higher risk of miscarriage for people, for women who are particularly overweight. Those are things that can be modified and are easy to, not easy to do, but doable. The thing that isn’t reversible is the changes that happened with the number of eggs as a result of a woman’s age because they decline over time and that is best handled by starting sooner.

Ari Whitten: Okay. On the point of the decline in fertility and the number of eggs that happen with age, if a woman is particularly health conscious, does that influence fertility? Is there any kind of data that we have comparing, you know, the number of eggs or the fertility levels in very health conscious, lean women with healthy lifestyle habits versus those who don’t have such healthy habits?

Dr. Mache Seibel: Well, let me just say that lean can be a problem. If you are a person who is struggling with bulimia and anorexia, sometimes there’s too little food intake and you need the proteins in order to make the hormones to ovulate. So too little weight is also a problem. Too much weight is a problem.

Ari Whitten: Absolutely.

Dr. Mache Seibel: But of course people who are healthier, who eat healthier, who exercise, who quality control their stress, who are trying to get enough sleep. People who do those things are going to be healthier and everything they do is going to be easier from a health point of view, no question. But the problem is that today we have such tremendously great technology with in vitro fertilization and injecting sperm into eggs and all the new things that are out there that many people are under the assumption that “I don’t have to worry about it at all.” But I’m trying to raise awareness by speaking with you is that that’s only partially true and that in fact, you can wait too long so that the best technology in the world may not be able to help you.

So I’m just putting out a red flag and just saying, “Hey, if you take care of yourself and you try to have your kids at a reasonable time meaning, ideally 35 or under, you’re going to probably do fine. And if you start waiting longer and longer then you may still do fine. But (a) it’s going to take longer and (b) it’s going to happen less consistently.”

Ari Whitten: Very interesting. Do you, just out of curiosity, do you envision any significant breakthroughs in the coming 10, 20, 30 years as far as in vitro fertilization and the ability of otherwise infertile couples to have a baby?

Dr. Mache Seibel: I think today it’s impossible to think 30 years ahead because the changes are happening on a hockey stick kind of a change. The rapid rate of change is just so great. But, you know, the biggest thing that’s happened in the last year or two is that women are now able to freeze their eggs and the eggs can be thawed and be successful.

So when you’re married and, or you have a partner, and you fertilize an embryo, meaning the fertilized egg… for years now we’ve been able to take, you know, the fertilized egg, freeze it, thaw it out and have very good success rates. But it’s only recently that single women or women who don’t have a partner have been able to fertilize, to have an egg extracted and just the egg frozen. Because remember an egg is just one cell. It’s the largest cell in the body, it’s huge. You can see it with your naked eye, so it’s big for cells. But it’s only one cell. And so if anything goes wrong with the egg you lose that potential for pregnancy. But now it is possible to consistently take out eggs, extract them with a fine needle and then freeze them. And then later on when you have a partner, or, you have a partner, you have one child or no child, but you have to have surgery to have your ovaries removed at a young age because you’re trying to prevent cancer or whatever the reason. Maybe you have cancer and you needed radiation or something like that. Now you can take the eggs out ahead of that. Just like men can freeze sperm, women can freeze eggs. I think that’s probably the biggest thing that’s happened and it’s only been in the last couple of years. But you still have to pick your centers carefully. Not everyone is the same quality, so that is probably the biggest thing.

What is menopause and what happens at a hormone level when you reach menopause?

Ari Whitten: Very interesting. So let’s transition now from fertility to hormone replacement therapy, menopause. Obviously, this transition happened for you in your own life due to the circumstances with your wife and then you went from being an expert in fertility and in vitro to an expert in menopause and hormone replacement. So kind of, you know, I guess let’s go real basic here to start with. What exactly is menopause and what happens on a hormonal level?

Dr. Mache Seibel: Well, menopause is defined as one year after a woman’s last menstrual period. And I’ve mentioned it typically happens at 51, but it can happen at any age. And the symptoms for that startup to 10 years before. So you’re being, you know, here you are, you think you’re fertile and then you’re suddenly having hormonal fluctuations transitioning into menopause. But what happens is as the number of eggs in the ovary dwindle, and you see a woman is born with all the eggs she will ever make, and then over her lifetime, that number diminishes. So as a fetus, when she is a fetus she has like 7 million eggs. By the time she’s born, it’s down to about 400,000 and then those get used up every month after age 13 or 15 or whenever she goes through puberty. And then every month 20 or so come forward and that number diminishes over time until they’re all gone. And when they’re all gone, then the estrogen and progesterone they make are also gone.

So you go from very high hormone levels of estrogen and progesterone, which are the things that really, not only are for fertility, but they affect mood and they affect skin and they affect bladder and intimacy and all kinds of things, those hormones suddenly go from very high to basically almost zero. And when that happens, the body reacts by being, by missing those hormones. And so that’s what causes all the symptoms. And we have to remember our purpose in life from a biologic point of view is to have children and reproduce. And if you think to, in 1900, which I guess was a long time ago, but in evolution not so long ago. In 1900 the people didn’t live beyond age 48. I mean, that was kind of the life expectancy. Of course, some people lived to be 60, 70, 80, but they weren’t many because there was no antibiotics or anything like that.

And if you got pneumonia, you died. Things that were very simple would kill you. So today most women are going to live to be 81 and many are going to live to be 90. One hundred is the fastest growing age group in America. So people are living longer and longer and longer. And so they’re going to be asking their body to stay well beyond menopause for more and more and more years. And that’s why the hormone therapy can be helpful, but some kind of therapy, doing something is very helpful.

Ari Whitten: Okay. So, what is it, kind of, what do estrogen and progesterone look like in a young woman with a menstrual cycle? Can you, I know this is complex and there’s a lot of subtleties to this, but can you give kind of a basic oversimplification of what the fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone look like in a woman who still has a menstrual cycle versus what happens after she goes through menopause?

Dr. Mache Seibel: Sure. Let’s think about what happens to a woman at puberty. You know, now you’ve got a girl who’s prepubertal. She’s flat chested, many times kind of looks like a boy or a girl. They all look about the same when they’re younger. And, you know, her body is kind of up and down and she has no real thoughts about sex or sexuality or any of those kinds of things. And then what happens is she starts to have puberty. And then what happens? Well, breasts start to grow. Curves come to hips, skin gets shiny and fresh, thoughts happen in her mind about the opposite sex or sexual thoughts happen. And her body changes and evolves from one, you know, kind of a neutral place of low or no hormones up to a fully estrogenized or fully hormonally imbued woman. And it stays like that for, you know, 30 years or so.

And what happens is, you know, during that transition your skin starts to get some acne because of all the confusion of your hormones and all that is going on. And then that all smooths out. And your cycles get very irregular and they start and they stop and then they start to get very smoothed out. All that’s going on. Then you get to the other side and it’s like puberty backward. And what ends up happening is that there’s less tissue to the breast. So the breasts start to change in their consistency. There are fewer hormones in the brain. So there may be brain fog and there may be less interest in sex or sexuality. Menstrual periods start to get a little bit wonky and then eventually they go away. Hair may grow in places it didn’t use to, on the chin or along the brows and so forth. So there’s a real change in the hormones and the impact of the hormone on a woman emotionally and physically and reproductively.

How estrogen hormone replacement therapy can help women feel better

Ari Whitten: So my sort of understanding of this is that, you know, maybe in the past, when lifespans were generally shorter, maybe this wasn’t such a huge deal and we didn’t have that many years of life post-menopause. Whereas now, since we have so many decades post menopause, this is becoming a bigger and bigger deal than it used to. So it’s sort of more of a priority to find ways of living healthfully and feeling good post-menopause than it used to be. And I think this is kind of where hormone replacement fits into this, right? The whole idea behind hormone replacement, estrogen replacement therapy was we can help women feel better and feel more like they did when they were younger, rather than suffering some of these symptoms of menopause. Is that an accurate sort of overview of all this?

Dr. Mache Seibel: It is, and I think that the issue is that because of the study I mentioned earlier, the Women’s Health Initiative study, which was inaccurate. And I’ll explain why in a moment. Women avoided taking hormones because they feared for their health. It was kind of like Russian roulette. You thought you might feel better, but you risked breast cancer and other conditions. It turns out that’s not necessarily so. But what happened was because of that study, doctors stopped prescribing it. So what we find is that today there are 8-0, 80 percent fewer women taking hormones than they did in 2002. And that’s because of two things, women’s fear and doctor’s fear. And then what has ended up happening is because there are 80 percent fewer women taking hormones, there’s not as many people proficient at prescribing them because the doctors in training for the last couple of decades have not gotten any training.

A matter of fact, what I’m doing at Harvard Medical School at Beth Israel Hospital is not only seeing patients in perimenopause and menopause, but also helping to train the doctors in training because they’re unfamiliar and they don’t see those patients themselves. And it’s one of the reasons that I ended up writing my book, “The Estrogen Fix” and one before it “The Estrogen Window” because this explains it in simple terms. And what I’d like to do is just briefly explain why they got it wrong, this very well intended study. Because what they wanted to do was to prove estrogen was helpful and they thought it was because it seemed to be beneficial. But when they went to do the study, they enlisted thousands, tens of thousands of women. But because estrogen was the number one medicine prescribed in the United States at that time, it was a $7,000,000,000 hormone.

They couldn’t find any women who weren’t on it. And so in order to fill the study, they took women who were in their sixties and seventies and gave them hormones. And they compared these women in their sixties and seventies to women with a placebo who were in their fifties, who they didn’t give the hormone. So they compared these older women to these younger women. And what they found was women who were in sixties and seventies have more health issues than women who were in their fifties. Well, that’s what you would expect.

Fortunately, about 25 percent of the patients were all in their fifties. And when they took the two groups with hormones and without hormones, and they superimposed them so that everybody was in their fifties, there wasn’t almost any difference between whether you took it or not. But it took them almost a decade and a half to sort out if the same patients… They took the same women who were in that first study and just culled out the ones of the same age. In doing that, they figured out that it’s not hormones that’s a problem. It’s the estrogen window, it’s the window of opportunity. And when you do that, you make things very different.

We now know that women who take hormone therapy actually live longer, even in that original study. If they take it, they have a lower risk of heart disease. They have, if they take estrogen-only they actually have a lower risk of breast cancer, 23 percent lower risk of breast cancer. If they need estrogen and progesterone, in other words, if they have not had a hysterectomy, then it’s about the same is whether you take it or not. And of course, you lower your risk of colon cancer, you lower your risk of hip fracture and osteoporosis, you lower your risk of diabetes. There’s a lot of benefits from taking it. But even if you don’t take it, the thing I want to encourage you to do is to do something about your symptoms because they are having an impact on you.

Ari Whitten: Okay, I want to try and recap this from a slightly different perspective. So estrogen replacement therapy or hormone replacement therapy came into existence what in the 1980s, ’70s, ’90s?

Dr. Mache Seibel: It actually was developed in 1942, but in the fifties is when it really became, you know, more available.

Ari Whitten: Okay. So in the span of several decades, it was very popular and there was emerging data showing things like it helped with hip fractures and bone loss and risk of various other conditions, heart disease, and also subjectively made people feel better and eliminated some uncomfortable symptoms like hot flashes and things of that nature. So there was sort of this very positive vibe around it. People were feeling good, the data was looking good. And then in 2002, there was this sort of big bombshell study that came out, the one that you were referring to, where they did this analysis, tens of thousands of women. And then it made huge headlines in all the media, the major media outlets in the country, maybe in the world, but certainly in the United States, showing that women on hormone replacement had higher risk of all these conditions and were more likely to die of breast cancer and things like that. But what you’re saying is basically they screwed up the analysis and it wasn’t a fair comparison because they’re comparing older women to younger women, older women on the hormone replacement to younger…

Dr. Mache Seibel: It was a bad study design.

Ari Whitten: Okay. So, and then when they did a reanalysis of that same exact study that showed that, they actually found that women of the same age group in their fifties were protected or at least had sort of the same health outcomes, there weren’t any health detriments.

Dr. Mache Seibel: More or less the same outcomes. The thing that where this becomes really important is for those women, the five or 10 percent of women who go into early menopause. Because if you’re in early menopause, meaning age 48 and under, but definitely age 45 and under, and you do not take hormones, or do something for it, then you do increase your risk for heart disease, for emotional health, for hip fracture, for a whole host of conditions. And there you’ll have to take estrogen from the time of early menopause, not when you’re 50, but if you go into menopause at 35, you start it then. If you go into menopause at 40, you start it then. And if you stay on it until you’re 50, 51, which is the age of natural menopause, almost all those increased risks of being in early menopause go away. So it’s really important for those women, particularly these young women who have to have surgery and go into menopause because of risk, you know, cancer prevention and so forth.

What science has found out since 2002

Ari Whitten: Gotcha. So are there, is there any sort of… Well, actually before I ask that question, I have another question. We’re talking about data from 2002 so far. I’m curious, there have obviously been 16 years from then until now. What does the data, you know, from the last five or 10 years show as far as, you know, examining hormone replacement therapy and various sorts of health outcomes?

Dr. Mache Seibel: Oh, it just keeps piling up on the… once the mystery was cracked on this estrogen window, once the investigators understood that when you started is the single most important point of hormone therapy. Now the results are amazing. I mean, it’s really helpful in controlling heart disease, improving sleep, improving sexuality, preventing dementia, bladder control, osteoporosis, longevity. The data is coming out, as I said, you know, I read dozens of articles every month, that are brand new, reinforcing this, but more and more nuanced information. I mean, when I’m talking to women that I coach through, and when I have people that I’ve talked with, one of the things that they really want to know about is how to take hormone therapy. Is it safe to take it? You know which type, how much, how long and so forth? These are things that people are trying to sort out because, what’s happened is because the fear was so great. What happened is that the fear is not rational, and once you have something that affects you emotionally, that you fear, then it’s very hard to undo that because you’ve been hearing all this stuff and what I’m saying is that there’s tons of data, reams of data.

In my book “The Estrogen Fix” I have references in my book that go explain every one of the things that I’ve done, all the papers that lead up to it. I mean it’s been recommended not only for patients but also for doctors because it’s so well referenced. Now you don’t have to read those references. I tell you what it says, but if you wanted to, you wouldn’t have to take my word for it. You could go look at those papers and you would see the data is there. But you make a good point. It wasn’t like they just took that one bad study, and made it good. Study after study after study over the last decade have, once they have understood timing, then everything changed. If you continue to start it later, if you wait until you’re 65 and start taking it, it’s not, what I just said is not true. It can be problematic. It does increase the risk of heart disease. It can increase the risk of dementia. It can increase the risk of bladder problems. There are things that can happen if you don’t start it, because your body has been aging for 15 years and then you’re adding in something on top of that. Now that’s a different story.

Ari Whitten: So this is now getting at the concept of the estrogen window that you’re talking about. It’s basically, that general concept is basically if you go into menopause and then you wait 10 or 15 or 20 years and then you start the hormone replacement therapy, there’s a different set of health outcomes that are associated with that situation than if you go into menopause and then sort of immediately get onto hormone replacement therapy within what, 5 or 10 years?

Dr. Mache Seibel: Totally different story

Ari Whitten: And it’s within 5 or 10 years of going into menopause. What is the actual time window?

Dr. Mache Seibel: Optimum time is within 10 years of… But either in your fifties or within 10 years of starting menopause.

Ari Whitten: Okay.

Dr. Mache Seibel: And another thing that I have done for in terms of the public is I also have this magazine called “The Hot Years” which is a digital magazine.

Ari Whitten: It’s a great name, by the way.

Dr. Mache Seibel: Thank you. Yeah, it’s available and I want to give this to all of your listeners free. It’s We have very interesting interviews, but we have recipes and we have exercises. This latest issue is the woman who is the founder of Zumba Gold. Some of you are familiar with Zumba Gold.

And, you know, we have topics like cardiac risk factors, find your lost libido, anti-aging exercises, you know, but there’s also a whole host of things because I believe that if you want to stay well as you age, you have to start and develop good habits. And you have to take care of, what I say, you take care of the sum of you and not some of you.

Very important that you realize that you are the sum of your parts and that you have to deal with your emotional needs, you have to deal with your physical needs, you have to deal with your lifestyle needs, you have to figure out what’s the best treatments. If you’re not going to take hormone therapy, there are alternatives to hormone therapy that I talk to people about because they need to take their symptoms seriously.

Because, for instance, if you take something like hot flashes, hot flashes are the most common symptom. They are a real nuisance. And 80 to 85 percent of women have hot flashes. These things at first glance just seem like, “Well, you feel warm. What’s the big deal?” But it turns out that women with hot flashes that do not treat them end up missing work on average about six times a year more than women who treat their hot flashes. And so as a result of that they’re also not sleeping as well. And as a result of that, they’re also not performing as well at work. And so there are all these different studies that give data to explain that if you’re treating your hot flashes, you’re not a wuss, you’re not somebody who can’t tough it out.

What you’re doing is you’re figuring it out so that you take care of yourself optimally, and you take care of the quality control of your life and you sleep better, you feel better, you perform better at work, you go to the doctor less often. Just from hot flashes.

Why many women feel they need to ”tough” menopause

Ari Whitten: And, you know, there was one thing that we were chatting about before I started recording that I thought was a good point. You mentioned how the women’s movement has kind of influenced this in a certain way where a lot of women who are experiencing these symptoms feel a desire to, they feel like they’re pressured to just tough it out rather than actually doing something about their symptoms because they might otherwise look like a wuss, right?

Dr. Mache Seibel: Exactly. So many women tell me, you know, “I can tough it out. I can deal with this.” Of course, you can deal with it. “Why would you want to?” is the question. I mean I don’t question it, but why? Especially if you realize that treatment options are really not putting you at increased risk, which is the misconception, or as I call it, the “myth” conception. Because people have learned to fear these things. And if you just won’t take hormones or you can’t because they’re going to be some women who have breast cancer or other conditions and you can’t take it. Okay, I understand that. But there are treatments, there are alternative treatments that you can do. And I talk about those in my book, “The Estrogen Fix.” But there, it is very important that you deal with these symptoms for your quality of life.

Why a holistic approach is essential when doing hormone replacement therapy

Ari Whitten: Okay. I have a little bit of a tough question for you. There are some people who come from a more naturalistic paradigm, and I include myself as one of those people. Not necessarily on this issue, but more broadly speaking, who might look at this and say, “Well, why are humans designed biologically to go into menopause, to lose their fertility, to have this decrease in hormones at this particular age? It’s natural. Shouldn’t we honor this from a biological, evolutionary standpoint? Shouldn’t this be honored?” And the second part of that question is, is there any sort of known tradeoff between, maybe if you do use estrogen or hormone replacement therapy after menopause, maybe you feel better subjectively. Maybe there are various health endpoints or disease endpoints that we can show benefits for. But is there any sort of trade-off where maybe you have worse outcomes in some other area?

Dr. Mache Seibel: Well, to the first, you know, personal views are very important and we have to be open and I try to look at people who come in as individuals and holistically. So if you have a personal preference that hormones are not for you, that’s okay. What I’m advocating here is not that you must take hormones. I’m saying there’s a lot of benefit from taking them and that if your reason for not taking them is fear or worry or confusion, that that can be explained away. If on the other hand, you feel that that’s not what you want to do, I get it. So that’s where the alternative things come in. Now for every woman, whether or not she takes hormones, it’s very important to focus on four lifestyle changes, or four lifestyle issues. Number one is to lower your stress. That’s the number one thing.

: Stress is killing this country and it’s just… I’ve been watching, you know, the news and just the news are very stressful. You never know what’s happening next and there are so many things, but stress, you know, people are working two jobs, people have kids with issues, older parents. Women in menopause often, just if the kids have no problems, they’re just normal kids and you’re carpooling back and forth, you’re trying to go to work and you’re trying to deal with your parents who are aging. Life is tough, but stress reduction is essential. Number two, exercise. You don’t have to run the Boston Marathon, but you have to get up and do something every day, even if it’s just 15 minutes every day, but you got to do something. Ideally, you could do 30 minutes, five days a week and that would be ideal. But exercise, that helps to control stress, it lowers the risk of depression, it lowers the risk of breast cancer. Exercise is good for you.

The third thing is that you’ve got to get enough sleep because people who don’t sleep have a lot of trouble. Their body works against them. They increase their risk of blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and also obesity because hormones that control weight happens when you sleep. It’s kind of like when the tree has lost its leaves, that doesn’t mean it’s dead. It’s doing something in that dormant state and then it’s going to bud in the next spring. So we’ve got to do the same with ourselves every night. It’s detox and a cleansing time of our life. Our cells clean themselves at night. And then we’ve got to eat healthy. We have to choose foods that are not packaged or processed and not too much sugar and not too much salt and we have to be mindful of eating really healthy foods. So those four things, sleep, exercise, stress, and nutrition. That’s important whether or not you choose to take hormones. And then there are all the alternative treatments. And they can be anywhere from, you know, herbs to cognitive behavioral therapy treatments to acupuncture to yoga. And there are all kinds of things that you can recommend for people to help. And so people don’t have to feel trapped between hormones and nothing. I’m just trying to say that if you feel that you can consider hormone therapy, don’t avoid them through fear of an adverse effect.

How to learn more about hormone replacement therapy

Ari Whitten: Excellent. So are there any sort of concluding thoughts that you want to leave people with? And actually, one more question that I’d like to ask you, which is on the technical side of hormone replacement therapy, are there doctors who are doing things in different ways? And if somebody is now, let’s say that after listening to you speak on this interview, if they’re now open to doing hormone replacement therapy, whereas previously they weren’t, is there anything they need to know about what kinds of doctors or types of hormone replacement therapy they should seek out or not seek out?

Dr. Mache Seibel: Well, I would get somebody who is familiar who… there is, the North American Menopause Society has a list of menopause practitioners and I am certified by them as a Certified Menopause Practitioner. But I’m also board certified as a Reproductive Endocrinologist. And that includes hormones and everything. But you want to get somebody who really specifically understands this. I can tell you, I talk about hormone therapy. I do speeches around the country to both medical groups and to lay groups. There’s a lot of pushback still from hormones because there’s a lot of people who understood it in 2002 that there was a problem and they didn’t figure anything out since then. And there’s a lot of pushback still. So I would say that probably about half the doctors out there are going to be reluctant to treat even today with all this data.

Ari Whitten: So it’s very possible that somebody might listen to this podcast and say, “I heard Dr. Seibel say that hormone replacement therapy is not something to be scared of and that the data is overwhelmingly in support of benefits.” And they may go to their doctor and explain that and say, “I’m interested in doing hormone replacement therapy.” And it’s very possible that their doctor may say, “Well, you know, it’s dangerous and you should avoid it. And whoever you heard that podcast with is wrong.”

Dr. Mache Seibel: Yeah, there’s a good chance. A lot of my patients buy my book and take it to their doctors and I’m not joking about that because it’s a really big, it’s a real big issue because the data is confusing. But once you sort this out, and I’ve made it very simple, I mean I’ve distilled it down very simply. But there’s a lot of little steps in this and a lot of nuances. But fundamentally the majority of women can safely take hormone therapy and I would say about half the doctors in the country will still be resistant to it.

So, I think you just have to be an advocate for yourself. I think that it’s very important that when you have a symptom and a need, that you have to seek out people who are knowledgeable, who can help you. And you know, if you’re, if you… I do. Because there are people from around the country who can’t come and see me, I do menopause coaching as I mentioned, if people are interested. And the thing that’s important about it is, whether it’s me, or whoever it is, what really matters is that you understand what your options are.

You understand what your body is optimized by. You have to take into account your personal preferences or your limitations in terms of conditions that you might have and so you may have only option A and not option B or whatever it is, and then you get what’s best for you to take care of the sum of you. What’s important is you realize there’s a lot of information, a lot of options. It’s your life and you’re likely to be living a third of your life after menopause and you want those years to be healthy, happy and vibrant, and the best way to do that is to find out what works best for you.

How to balance your hormones naturally

Ari Whitten: Yeah. One more quick question. You mentioned some natural therapies, obviously those four key habits that you should do whether or not you’re doing hormone therapy. Then you also kind of mentioned in passing some alternative therapies, whether acupuncture or yoga or meditation or various other things that might be available. Is it possible or feasible in your view that someone could maintain a sort of relatively decent hormone balance and be mostly symptom-free if they have enough of those kinds of healthy habits? Or are we looking at just sort of a minimal effect of managing some of these symptoms that don’t compare at all to hormone replacement therapy?

Dr. Mache Seibel: Well, there’s two parts to what you’re asking. And so let me, let me try to address it. I think that the benefit of estrogen is that it treats all the symptoms. So almost everything gets taken care of in kind of one fell swoop. Now, if you choose not to or can’t take hormone therapy, I believe that you can live a very satisfactory and fulfilled life and feel good without it. But you’re going to have to divide your body into its parts and then you’re going to have to find appropriate treatment for each of those. You have to do things to protect your mind, things to protect your skin, things to protect your bones, things to protect your bladder, things to protect, you know, each part of you and each of the symptoms. And it’s just a matter of putting the effort into identifying those products or those behaviors or those foods or those exercises or those, whatever it is, you know, supplements, whatever it is.

But it’s just a combination and so you just have to have somebody work with you to deal with each of the parts. Because, as I said, you’re the sum of you. You either go to the pill or the patch, or whatever form of hormones goes to all of you. That’s not to say that if you don’t do… you can’t take hormones and then eat bad food and never exercise and stay up all night and smoke cigarettes all day and stress out all the time. Hormones aren’t going to save you. Boy, if you think that’s the case, you’ve got the wrong notion. It’s all of this stuff. But if you don’t take hormones, you just have to find the… you have to look at this system of you, all of you and treat each of those independently.

Ari Whitten: Got you. So to conclude, is there any sort of overarching tip or message that you’d like to leave people with?

Dr. Mache Seibel: I would just say from the first part of our conversation, if you’re thinking about having children, have them early as you can. And don’t think that technology will save you even though it can bail you out sometimes or many times. From the menopause side, I would say that find a practitioner who is clear and understands the hormonal side of things, but also the alternatives to it. And just realize that time spent on you isn’t lost. You are investing, you’re investing in yourself. And so I think that it’s well worth putting the time in. And I do want to remind you, I’d be very happy to give you a free subscription to “The Hot Years” magazine, Just go. It’s digital, but it works on all the platforms and just download it and enjoy it and take advantage of it. And I’m happy to hear from you if you have questions or other issues.

Ari Whitten: Excellent. So for people who want to learn more about your work, go get your book on Amazon. It’s called “The Estrogen Fix.” Right? And then you have where they can get a free subscription to your magazine and you also have your website. You also do menopause coaching, right?

Dr. Mache Seibel: Yes, that’s true.

Ari Whitten: Okay. And what’s the name of your website?

Dr. Mache Seibel:

Ari Whitten: Excellent. Well, thank you so much, Dr. Seibel, it’s been an absolute pleasure to do this with you and I really appreciate your time and you sharing your wisdom with my audience.

Dr. Mache Seibel: Thank you so much for having me.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, thank you.


What Science Says About Menopause, Perimenopause, And Hormone Replacement Therapy with Dr. Mache Seibel – Show Notes

Why women experience going into menopause at an earlier and earlier age (4:28)
Why there is an increase in infertility today (6:42)
What is menopause and what happens at a hormone level when you reach menopause? (13:30)
How estrogen hormone replacement therapy can help women feel better (22:13)
What science has found out since 2002 (30:39)
Why many women feel they need to ”tough” menopause (37:08)
Why a holistic approach is essential when doing hormone replacement therapy (38:25)
How to learn more about hormone replacement therapy (43:05)
How to balance your hormones naturally (47:13)


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How Hormone Imbalance Wrecks Your Health and How to Balance Hormones with Food (Cooking for Hormone Balance with Magdalena Wszelaki) │ Hormone Replacement Therapy,
Balancing your hormones can be done without hormone replacement therapy. Learn how to balance hormones with food with Magdalena Wszelaki



How To Overcome Anxiety and Stress, And Increase Your Energy with Christa Orecchio

how to overcome anxiety and stress, and increase your energy with Christa Orecchio
Got stress, anxiety, and fatigue? Then you will be interested to hear Christa Orecchio’s approach to re-wiring your nervous system with her 6 pillars to overcome stress, anxiety, and get more energy.

In this episode, I have with me, Christa Orecchio, who is a clinical and holistic nutritionist and founder of the Whole Journey. She helps people heal from the root cause, using food as their medicine and a mind body spirit approach to health.

In this podcast, Christa will cover

  • What it means to live off stress hormones
  • Christa’s 6 pillars of health
  • Why do most people stay in stress?
  • Why breathing is essential to overcome stress
  • Why Christa doesn’t like the low-carb approach and believes that adequate amounts of carbs are essential for your health
  • How your childhood can affect your health (and how to heal from emotional trauma)
  • What foods can I eat to overcome stress, and anxiety, and fatigue?
  • Why Christa recommends frequent meals
  • Why nutrient ratios matter (and how to track it)
  • Christa’s new “Adrenal ReCode” Program (You can find more information about that HERE)


Download or listen on iTunes

Download the right way to breathe for increase performance and energy on iTunes

Listen outside iTunes


How To Overcome Anxiety and Stress, And Increase Your Energy with Christa Orecchio – Transcript

Ari Whitten: Everyone. Welcome back to the Energy Blueprint Podcast. I’m your host, Ari Whitten, and today I have with me Christa Orecchio, who is a clinical and holistic nutritionist and founder of the Whole Journey. She helps people heal from the root cause, using food as their medicine and a mind body spirit approach to health.

Christa is a bestselling author, TV show host and is super passionate about helping you heal your adrenals, thyroid and nervous system in the most holistic way possible. So welcome to the show, Christa.

Christa Orecchio: Thank you for having me, Ari. I am super excited to be here.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, likewise. And on a personal note, I will say that it was such a pleasure, getting together with you for lunch, I believe it was last week or the week before and getting to talk so much geeky stuff with you around nutrition and health and it was just an absolute pleasure.

Christa Orecchio: The pleasure was mine. I mean, really, it’s funny. We’ve lived so close to each other for so long. Just got to know each other.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, totally.

Christa Orecchio: So that will be the first of many lunches we have.


What it means to live off stress hormone

Ari Whitten: I hope so. So, I know that, you know, one of the things we talked about is you have a new program that you’ve been developing called “Adrenal Recode” and it really revolves around kind of the nervous system’s role in an illness and symptoms and stress hormones. And that one of the things that you say is that the majority of us are living off of stress hormones and we’re not aware of it.

So first of all, how do we know if that applies to us as individuals? And what exactly do you mean by living off of stress hormones?

Christa Orecchio: So, well you know that if that applies to you as an individual, if you’ve had longstanding problems with anxiety, that’s really your telltale sign. If you’ve had longstanding problems with anxiety or insomnia. If you wake up like consistently between one and 4:00 AM, almost like not able to go back to sleep, ready to start the day.

Or when you do wake up in the morning, it’s earlier, like before the alarm you wake up with your heart pounding. These are all signs, but you know, really kind of living in a state of fear, living in a state of overwhelm, that inability to relax and sometimes it’s that alternating anxiety and depression or it’s like at the same time, you know, you’re tired and wired at the same time, but you just, you can’t let go even though you’re just completely exhausted. You have no energy whatsoever, but yet you kind of feel that fried feeling.

Ari Whitten: Gotcha. So, so, so that’s how we know if it applies to us, what does it mean to be living off of stress hormones? Like what hormones are you talking about in particular and why are we in your, in your words, living off of them?

Christa Orecchio: Yeah, so we’re living in a state of stress, so it really comes down to within our central nervous system, within the autonomic nervous system, when we have the sympathetic nervous system and we have the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system, is that fight, flight or freeze. You don’t hear freeze a lot. But that’s what a lot of us do under stress. And when we’re in that state, we need that nervous system. We need a balance, a really healthy balance of both in order to thrive, but what happens is we’re constantly clicking on this sympathetic nervous system unnecessarily so we’re completely overreacting to things as if we’re in danger and we get stuck in this way of responding and reacting and we don’t live in our parasympathetic nervous systems anymore. I know that’s where rest, digest and heal. That’s where we do all of our digesting. That’s when the body can recover and that’s when the body can heal and we should spend the majority of our time, when we’re not in danger in the parasympathetic nervous system.

So, it could be, you know, life can be a lot sometimes. Right, Ari? It’s like modern life and so it could be the stresses we’re under, but a lot of times it’s things that happened to us that forced us into the sympathetic nervous system for a long period of time. So that could be something like childhood trauma. That could be. You could have gone through a divorce or major breakups or having recently had a baby, you know, having a child.

Just the act of going through pregnancy and especially if it’s a traumatic birth and becoming a new mother, sometimes if then you start to add multiple kids to that and just there’s so much to balance, so it doesn’t necessarily have to mean you’ve gone through a trauma. Or like we were talking at lunch, entrepreneurship can do this too, right?

It’s like you’re in the middle of a launch and it’s just too much to do and not enough time to do it. That type of thing, and so what happens is we lose our ability to toggle between these two nervous systems in a healthy way and we get locked in the sympathetic nervous system.

So now we’re constantly releasing adrenaline and then we move into releasing cortisol and what happens is our cells lose their ability to be sensitized to insulin. So now energy can’t get delivered. Glucose can’t get delivered into the cell. And now your thyroid can’t make her burn energy. So, you can’t have an adrenal problem without having a thyroid problem and a nervous system problem and a brain problem because really, they just know all four of them work so intimately together and it’s about healing these systems.

And so, we’re stuck in this habit. We’re stuck in this pattern and you know, I spent a decade in private practice, and I have this one client story that was like a life defining moment for me where I really got this.

And I used to run a ton of neurotransmitter panels where I’m looking at the metabolites of the neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers in the brain. And I’m looking at those in urine to see, okay, what’s going on with this person system with their inhibitory neurotransmitters are the ones that make us feel calm and help us manage stress and help us sleep.

Versus the excitatory ones that, you know, we get anxiety, we get inflammation, we start to get brain trouble. And I looked at this woman’s panel and it looked like she was in like utter crisis. And I had known her for four months at that point and we weren’t getting progress.

But her life was fine, she was happy in her life and I just say, what happened, you know, what, what’s going on? Is there something you didn’t share with me?

And she had a lot of childhood trauma and sexual abuse that she had never shared with anyone. And it was like, that’s an extreme example, but it was, to me it was like, wow, people are getting locked into this state and they’re not getting out of it.

So, you have to get out of that state in a physical way. And then also in a, in an emotional way.

Ari Whitten: I want to talk about the concept of “Adrenal Fatigue” briefly. This is something you and I chatted a bit about at lunch. You know, that I’m not a proponent of the “Adrenal Fatigue” theory and sort of the traditional model of like the three phases of Adrenal, like chronic stress wears out, uh, the adrenals and, and that, you know, sort of results in low cortisol which results in these symptoms of fatigue and insomnia and depression and anxiety and a variety of others.

I don’t think the evidence supports that, but I know that your take on this on adrenal health and how it ties into neurotransmitter health, central nervous system, health, thyroid health, all these other layers to the story that you’re talking about quite a bit more complex than just saying chronic stress wears out the adrenals. Then you get low cortisol that causes your problems.

And also, it seems to me, and please correct me if I’m wrong, it seems to me that you are not really saying that most people have low cortisol necessarily, but in some cases, people have high cortisol. Is that correct?

Christa Orecchio: Yeah. And I agree with you that the term “Adrenal Fatigue” is like a gross over simplification of what’s happening. And the adrenals role in this is, it’s just a, it’s a circadian rhythm problem, right?

Like we secrete certain amount of cortisol to get us up and got us going for the day and lower cortisol so that we can sleep. And so adrenal problems were being stressed too much. You start to go wild fluctuations because. Right? I mean, if you have high cortisol, then your blood sugar, you can’t regulate your blood sugar and so the two of these are working in tandem and so yeah, it’s a circadian rhythm issue and it’s just a regulation. You just. You can’t secrete the right amount of cortisol at the right time basically.


Why most people stay in stress mode

Ari Whitten: Got It. So, we’re living off stress hormones. Many of us have these wild fluctuations of stress hormones. We have an inability to toggle between, stressed out, stress response, sympathetic nervous system, getting back into rest, digest, heal, parasympathetic mode.

How did we get this way? What’s going on in the modern world that made this situation so common?

Christa Orecchio: Yeah. Well, outside of life being a lot like we just talked about from parenting to single parenting to overwork, to just general stress. I mean I definitely want to throw technology into the mix and that deserves a little bit of the blame, right? They say that we light up dopamine in our brain every time. Oh, I’ve got five text or 20[flag] messages or emails, right? You, you actually light up dopamine in the brain which is part and parcel, like constantly activating that reward center and dopamine can get us in there like we’re all really overstimulated. And we become addicted to that feeling of being overstimulated.

Just ask the teenager when you take away their phone for a day, right? So, so that happens. But also, a lot of us, especially if we’re busy, we what do we do? Like we go for quick fixes, so we over rely on coffee and we want to feel… we want to calm down at night, so we over rely on wine or sugar and those types of things and we let exercise fall to the wayside. So there’s things that keep us in balance and can normally moderate these hormones like we don’t anymore because we are convenience oriented and we let our diets slip and then all of a sudden now you have this compromised body because whenever you’re in that parasympathetic nervous system, your body’s job is just to keep you alive and keep you out of danger.

Like you are not going to be digesting your food. Your blood is going to be shunted away from the digestive system to the limbs, right? You have to be on high alert, so whatever it is that you’re eating is gonna. Sit like a rock in your stomach. You’re not going to digest it, even if it’s healthy food and nine times out of 10 when you’re in this stressful state, it’s probably not going to be healthy food.

And so, there’s this just like a culmination of the perfect storm that gets us this way and then it’s like a whirlpool and then we’re stuck in it and we’re living in it and now people say, oh yeah, they think that’s who they are. That’s their new normal. I get hangry, you know, like if I, if I don’t have enough food, you know, so they carry food with them or I’m a night owl now, right? Or I’m a, I have a short fuse, don’t piss me off.

And people think that’s who they are and that’s going to be. They’re normal and they’re just going to live forever. But that was so transformative in my life when I write, because you ended up liking yourself better. You have a completely different experience of life, you have different relationships, you do different things with your time and so I really want to drive home the point that this is in a distress, adaptive state of your biochemistry, but it’s not who you are.

And physiologically, you know, when we’re stuck in this state for too long, we can’t convert our food into fuel, and we have no resilience to stress. So, there’s so many people out there that feel like not one more thing. One more thing and I’m going to snap, and its same thing is happening inside of the body because you know we have in our liver, in our muscles, we store reserves. We store glycogen. So, when we don’t have food or the meal is not there or we’re in a state of stress, the body can then release energy from the liver, from the muscles that stored energy and it can lock out that excess of cortisol response. And so, what we, when you’re in this state, you don’t have any reserves in the liver can store something like 400 grams and the muscles 12 to 1400 grams and that’s burned out and it’s not replaced, it’s burned out.

So, you really physiologically have no reserves and then you emotionally have no reserves and that just makes for a life where you’re living in fear and constantly on edge.


The connection between the brain and the central nervous system

Ari Whitten: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So there’s several other layers to this story that you, you mentioned in passing before with the thyroid, with the central nervous system, the brain, the neurotransmitters kind of take me through your sort of model of, of how this plays out and, and what, what’s actually happening in the brain and the nervous system because that, that seems to be kind of a focus of the paradigm is the brain and the nervous system in the central nervous system needs to be rewired in a different state.

So, kind of take me through what this process of, you know, kind of this, this whole process of cellular dysfunction and nervous system dysfunction looks like, well, how does it start and what does the process look like?

Christa Orecchio: So, let’s say if we start with hormonal balance happening in the brain and we’d go back to these neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers in the brain, we have our primary inhibitory neurotransmitter called GABA.

I’m sure you know all about it and you’ve talked to about it, but its primary job is to neutralize adrenaline and so like else if we continue to overwork it, it will get depleted and then many people in this state, they’re GABA is really low and their lab work. You know, I know you’re not a huge fan of these neurotransmitter test, but they’re loud work can show that that’s happening and then there’s this domino effect and then serotonin starts to become low.

Another feels good inhibitory neurotransmitter, and then we start driving up the inflammatory process. See, because what’s happening is if you are producing too much cortisol, you are in a state of inflammation. The body produces cortisol in order to buffer inflammation.

So we can start to see this when we look at glutamate and excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain when that’s getting too high and that gets higher and higher with start to get cell death and we’re all right, now we’re having cognitive issues ran, all of a sudden our memory and we’re our brain’s foggy and those types of things are happening and it’s like we come down this cascade. So hormonal balance begins in the brain and your pituitary gland is responsible for the control over your thyroid.

So, it’s this cascade that starts to come down, which is why I’m not a fan and we’re right on the same page here with bioidentical hormone therapy. You’re treating something all the way at the end, so downstream, oh, you’re low in this, take this, you know here, low testosterone, testosterone high this, take that and it’s a band aid approach that can drive up other pathways and the way you don’t want them to.

So really all of hormonal balance begins in the brain. But when you are lit up like this for such a long period of time, you’re supposed to only be in a stress adaptive state, so the longer you’re in this state, the more you’re getting damaged to basically the electrical insulator of your nerve cells, which is called your Myelin Sheath.

This leaves you susceptible for neurological issues and disease and for pathogens and things like that to come in and to invade. And so, what we have to do is you have to address all four, so you have to basically stop the adrenals from overproducing cortisol when it’s not time for Cortisol, right? So, we can regulate rhythms.

And then you have to be able to get energy into the cell. You have to get oxygen, glucose, and thyroid hormone that has to be present in yourselves in order to make energy. And you know, all this because your nickname is the mitochondria, man.

And so, we’ve got to be able to have those in ourselves, but it’s not enough to just have them. We have to then kind of stoke the fire, right? So that we can then, once again make energy and start to in… The more your body’s making energy, the more it feels safe, the more you can shut off the sympathetic nervous system, live in the parasympathetic nervous system, but then you also have to repair the collateral damage that’s been done to the Myelin Sheath. If you want to make this your new normal, like you think about a damaged Myelin Sheath is like electrical tape and you’ve taken sandpaper to that electrical tape and it’s all frayed and fried.

Hey, you’re not experiencing trauma or stress anymore, but the damage is there, so we have to go in and soothe that and heal it and calm it. To kind of paving potholes right on a road that’s been over, traveled on, so to speak. So, you’re really. You’re working all four and that’s the only way to really move into a new, let’s say whirlpool and that’s the thing. It’s hard in the beginning because of whirlpools got a mind of its own and it’s flying on its own.

So, you have to constantly interrupt the pattern. I want to talk next about our six pillar strategy. That’s going to interrupt this pattern and get you where you want to go, but it’s going to require vigilance, but then ultimately the healing happens and the whirlpool reverses on its own, in the right direction and it’s normal and natural for you to live in your parasympathetic nervous system, to convert your food into fuel, to make energy, and to really live a completely different life. I mean, we’re talking about the trajectory of two completely different existences here.

Ari Whitten:   Okay, so we are disrupting neurotransmitters in the brain. We’re disrupting hormones and we have a deficit in our ability to drive nutrients and oxygen into the cell where it can be made into energy.

Christa Orecchio: Yes. As well as the deficit in key micro nutrients and key vitamins, minerals and trace minerals. That being in this state for too long just starts to deplete them from the body.

Ari Whitten: Okay so, and so. That paradigm is, is basically the fundamental sort of driver of most chronic disease from your perspective. Correct? Or is it more like a specific kind of symptoms and syndrome?

Christa Orecchio: It’s more for the symptoms that I’ve mentioned? You know, I’ve been in a microbiome rejuvenation for a really long time, so you can’t discount having heavy, heavy pathogenic exposure. So, it’s more kind of talking about different paths at the same mountain.

Ari Whitten: Got ya.

Christa Orecchio: Not going to say it’s the be all end all because if you’re coming and you have outrageous SIBO and you’ve, you know, you’ve, you’ve taken 30 rounds of antibiotics, you know, then then this is going to be the next step after you rejuvenate your microbiome and reeducate your immune system.


The 6 pillars of health

Ari Whitten: Excellent. Okay. So, from here, understanding these sorts of layers of dysfunction, result in those symptoms that you’ve mentioned, what is, what does the path look like from your model as far as fixing this and, and interrupting that whirlpool, so to speak and rewiring somebody central nervous system into a different, a different mode.

Christa Orecchio:  Yeah. So, we have six pillars if you will, that go through and be able to do this. And the first is to use synergistic foods that support all four systems that replace the nutrient deficiencies in micronutrients, but they were also metabolic foods. Which means simply they’re just easy to digest.

So you were giving the body easy to digest foods and the right combinations so that the body, once again can get the food into the cell without it having to work for it, like you really aren’t going to be giving your body foods that it has to be able to convert into other forms of energy to be able to use. So that’s going to be really important. And so, we’re going to be looking at increasing, you know, just in terms of micronutrients, you’ve got to increase a lot of your trace minerals that are just zapped.

And so, you know, increasing the amount of salt. So many people are in this situation are really going to be craving salt anyway. So, using Himalayan pink salt, Celtic Sea salt is going to be really helpful. Getting your trace minerals. Magnesium is crucial for the liver and the thyroid and the body can’t produce glutathione, which is the master antioxidant in the liver, if it doesn’t have enough magnesium, vitamin B, one, the thyroid needs more of that. It’s so involved in cellular energy and in the Krebs Cycle.

And so, we’re, you really want to make sure you’re focusing on foods that are metabolic, easy to digest and you know, we just want to constantly interrupt that pattern. And then food frequency is going to be really important because again, you don’t have enough glycogen reserves, so you have to do for the body what right now in this state, it’s unable to do for itself, which is you need to regulate blood sugar and just give it food it can use.

And so, having food frequency and eating more often, you’ll be able to constantly interrupt the stress pattern.


Foods that are synergistic with overcoming stress, anxiety, and fatigue

Ari Whitten: Okay. So that’s number one end to correct. Yeah. Okay. So, I have a couple of questions digging into this a bit more. Let’s go back to number one, which is synergistic foods, sort of metabolic healing foods. Can you give a couple specific examples of foods that fit that category?

Christa Orecchio: Yeah, so it’s, it’s foods, but it’s also the combination of foods. And so, a lot of people probably aren’t going to like this, but organ meats are really a very metabolic food, more so than muscle meats. I’m not a fan of them. I take the pills, instead of eating them, but you know, you can get fancy and starts and mixed them in with other meats and so for those who are eating muscle meat, like they could mix in organ meat with that or you know, we’re having them have metabolic proteins and so egg yolks and not the whites because of sensitivities.

Shellfish is more of metabolic, low fat white fish. If you’re going to have any time you’re going to have meat like beef or bison, like you’re always gonna have it with a little bit of broth or college and because the combination of those two proteins and adding in the collagen in the broth is going to allow your body to use those wonderful nutrients that are going to be in the grass fed beef.

It’s going to allow your body to actually use it instead of trying to work to be able to use it. So that’s like in terms of meats and then we’re using vegetables that are. And can I will, you and I talked about this at lunch, like we’re getting rid of that fear of carbs. Like in a lot of ways, this is the ketogenic recovery program because the body, you’re going to force your body to overproduce stress hormones. If 70 percent of your calories coming from fat or even sometimes it’s 50 percent of your calories are coming from fat, you’re going to force what you don’t want is for your body to not run off of glucose, but to run right. You don’t necessarily want your body to be running off of fat.

And so, we really want people to be able to use fruit and root vegetables strategically for energy in these early healing foods.

When you combine them with protein, and you combine them with fats that are going to be able to get our reaction to then get glucose into the cell to then that’s the antidote to stress is sugar. And we all know that because you’ve got a crazy sugar addiction problem in the US. I mean, I used to eat sour patch kids for lunch way back in the day, so I know that.

And so, it’s like, no, let’s solve that body’s need for sugar by giving it healthy, supportive micro, nutrient dense fruit that fruit and root vegetables and so combining them in the right way and all of my other programs don’t include dairy because so much with them or for the immune system in the gut, but using really high quality dairy and things like raw milk. It’s the perfect blend of proteins, carbs and fats to shut off the nervous system response to feed the thyroid, without the thyroid having to work for it at all, loaded with the amino acids that you need. And so, yeah, I’m a fan of it for this, for this purpose.

Ari Whitten: Gotcha. Okay. So I have a barrage of questions for you to go into here, but let’s start with, I think probably the most controversial element in what you said, which is that we were now living in a, in a, in a dietary sort of trend where everybody’s saying the opposite of what you said in the sense that everybody’s saying, hey, you don’t want to be a carb burner or a sugar burner to a fat burner. And so, you need to get rid of, get the carbs out of your diet, eat a low carb high fat diet, or a keto, or even there are even people saying a zero-carb diet.

So, we want to be running on, on only fat. And there are even people who kind of invoke a similar sort of logic and they say, well, that eliminates the sort of blood sugar surges that you would get if you consume a carb-based diet.

And to be clear, I’m acting as an impartial. I’m questioner here to try to try to just, you know, devil’s advocate, so to speak. I’m not saying I agree with the keto people were the carnivore diet people by any means. But I do want to pose that question to you so that you can sort of take on what, why are you not one of these people saying get the carbs out of your diet and you want to be a fat burner instead of a sugar burner. You’re saying you want to be a carber. Why is that?

Christa Orecchio: Yeah. I like the idea of slowing the release of glucose throughout your system through using, through using fat, you know, strategically in that way and there are some people where they can go on a ketogenic diet and they can heal, and they can lose weight for three weeks to maybe a couple of months. But if you keep your body and that’s where it can be helpful, but if you keep your body in that state for too long, well first of all you’re challenging your gallbladder because it’s a lot of fat and gallbladders probably going to start having trouble producing bile.

And we’ve had about a lot of people with gallbladder problems from eating this way for an extended period of time. So, I think that there’s no one right dietary theory. It’s like what are you using now and what are you using to heal? And if you’re going to be running off of fat, which you can, but that is not the body’s preferred source of fuel.

And if you’re going to be doing that extended period of time, it’s going to stress the body’s going to put you in a in it. It’s going to put you in a catabolic state where you have to break down tissue to continue that and you can see it with people who have, who know it had this one guy who had been in Ketosis for three years. I mean they start to lose the in their teeth, and they start to have chronic halitosis and it puts us in this state of breakdown that we don’t need to be in. And then we have to recover from that.

So, I think that if you’re under the care of a practitioner using the Ketogenic Diet therapeutically to heal and you’re working specifically, that’s fine, but I don’t think it’s a way of life.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Okay. So, sticking with nutrition a little bit more before we go on. Regarding the glycogen stores thing and kind of that most people are, are not, that, don’t have, don’t have significant enough reserves. What about the people who are extremely overweight and who are generally speaking chronically overeating relative to how much they’re burning each day and um, are, are essentially in a caloric surplus, and I think most would argue are chronically full in terms of their glycogen reserves.

So, is that, how do you sort of differentiate that kind of person that you’re talking about? Is it…?

Christa Orecchio: I wouldn’t say necessarily their glycogen reserves are full because they’re probably eating the kinds of foods that they can’t create storage from. And so, so just to be clear, our program, if you’re not eating more so, so you’re not necessarily eating more calories, reading the right types of calories, the right macronutrients, the right combination of proteins, carbs and fats to shut off the stress response.

And so, someone coming in who’s overweight and having too many calories is there’ll be scaling back their calories, the probably lose weight fairly quickly and especially from regulating your blood sugar because we know that the body stores fat when you have too much cortisol on for too long. And then there’s the opposite to the opposite point that you said is we’ve got a lot of people that they say, I don’t get it. I am stressed all the time, don’t. I don’t really eat that much. And I exercise.

And so, it’s, it’s kind of goes back to the beginning of do we believe in adrenal fatigue, but this really just comes back to balance. It’s like give the body what it needs to convert food into fuel and to burn it efficiently. And then that will create an efficient metabolism, right? The thyroid, the furnace and the thermostat of the human body. We create the sufficient metabolism and then wait, works itself out on its own and then efficient glycogen stores are, are reserved again.


Why Christa recommends frequent meals throughout the day

Ari Whitten: Gotcha. Okay. So, one more question here before we go on. Went with regards to food frequency. It sounds like you’re an advocate of eating a little bit more on the frequent side because people have blood sugar, have trouble regulating blood sugar levels in between meals may go hypoglycemic and have their energy levels drop and brain function drop and that sort of thing and then kind of have to have a stress hormone surge and that sort of thing.

With that in mind, you know, coming, coming from that paradigm, what is your perception of the very popular trend of intermittent fasting now with people having one meal a day or you know, doing prolonged fasting of various kinds?

Christa Orecchio: It really depends on the state of their nervous system, you know, if you, if you have anxiety and that you’re the type of person who struggles with anxiety and insomnia, like that’s not going to be great for you. -but if you already resourced and your nervous system’s fine and you can, you can intermittent fast and you can sleep at night and still have energy and you’re not locked in that state of fear and overwhelm.

Then, kind of go back to the same thing as ketogenic. I don’t think I would do it as a lifestyle because that could start to cause its own issue, but it’s like we’re living breathing organism. Right?

And like life happens and all these different events happen that shift our hormones and shift our perception and our story and so I think we have to be open to changing as we go. Intermittent fasting is not going to work for the person that we’re trying to help with the adrenal recode.

Ari Whitten: Got It. So well before. So, number two is food frequency to regulate blood sugar. Is there. Before we go on to number three, is there anything else you’d want to mention on, on that point?

Christa Orecchio: You know, I think I do, Ari, because somebody coming into this that is coming off of intermittent fasting or they’re coming off of the ketogenic diet or if you’ve, you know, you, you have to work with your own body. And so that’s where we’re working with a team of five clinicians to help people. You can’t go from eating once or twice a day to eating six times a day. You will gain a lot of weight quickly.

You can’t go from eating no fruit or root vegetables, you know, which that’s pretty much, you know, our next pillar, which we talked about, but you can’t go from not eating any to then having them with every meal and not gain weight.

So, it’s meeting people where they are, you know, it’s like whatever, wherever you’re eating now, one or two meals a day, just increase it by one and I’m not talking about increasing the amount of food you’re eating, it’s just spacing it out like so smaller meals more frequently. And then the same thing, you know, if you’ve come from not eating any fruits and you know you’ve got that, then you’re going to start off with an eighth of a cup with breakfast and see how that works for you and because again, you have to work and we’ve got to sensitize yourselves once again to these foods so that they can use them instead of just converting right to fat.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Gotcha. So, fruit and fruit sugar, fruit in roots. So, we’re in this at this point, we’re talking carbohydrate dominant foods and why fruit and root vegetables as opposed to legumes or whole grains and that sort of thing.

Christa Orecchio: What gives because they’re easier to digest. So, someone who’s been in this state for a while, the more you secrete cortisol, the more you can send the lining of your gut in the last. You’ve really digesting and so I like Legos and I like gluten free grains. I’m kind of on the fringe with that, but they have…

Ari Whitten: I’m with you on that by the way.

Christa Orecchio: I remember it and I appreciate that. It’s like it’s. It’s making healthier foods and they’ll be able to in the “Adrenal Recode” they’ll be able to add some of those foods in once they get a certain level of healing, but they have some anti nutrients called lectins or phytic acid or it’s just that it goes back to just let’s make this as easy as possible here. You don’t have to do any work. Just take the food and use it and then when you get a little strength and we’d get a little resilience.

It’s like, here you have to do a little converting. You have to, you know, do a little work to get the nutrients out of this food, but you’re stronger now in your body can do it, no problem. And so that’s when you can start to add those foods back in. And for us it takes. People come into our program and they take a questionnaire and they’ll be put in one of two tiers based upon the severity of what’s going on in their nervous system and the second tier they’re going to have to wait awhile before they can add those foods in because they have to ascertain a certain level of healing. But then the first tier is going to be able to handle those foods in moderation. So, it’s all just depends on, on your current state of health.

Ari Whitten: Excellent. So, within the category of fruit and roots, do you have any, um, particular recommendations on specific types of fruits and or root vegetables that you find extremely beneficial?

Christa Orecchio: Yeah, we’re always given love sweet potatoes and for this I like, I like white potatoes. We put the resistant starches like cassava where those are going to be, you’re going to have them in a little bit later. In terms of, of fruit, a lot of the tropical fruits are really going to do the trick and that is because they do have a little bit of a higher sugar content. And so, we’re talking things like pineapple and mango and Papaya, full of enzymes, also really easy for the body to digest. Grapes, peeled pears and apples because you’re going to take off the skin just for easier digestibility and have them cooked. And so those are kind of the fruits that you’re going to focus on and grapes and melon. And then we have some, some structure for food combining there, we don’t combine fruit and roots together so you can choose what your carbohydrate it’s going to be at that particular meal.


Why fat (in the right amounts) is important

Ari Whitten: Got It. What is next pillar number four,

Christa Orecchio: what pillar number four? We had a brief chat about this is the targeted use of saturated fat to protect the nervous system. So, we know that we need vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin D and vitamin K to protect and support our nervous system. But you know, these vitamins do a whole host of things for the rest of the body as well. And so when we’re in this, we can call it an unstable state because when we’re talking about fats, when you’re healing something like this, you’re going to want 50 percent of your fats to come from a saturated source and so it’s not that you’re eating more fat, but you’re just working and then 45 percent are going to come from a monounsaturated like avocado and olive oil and only five percent from the polyunsaturated because those can be the ones that can drive up, see inflammation process the most because they’re the most unstable of the fat.

So, it’s not that they’re bad when I’m saying a poly unsaturated fat like almonds, right? When you’re talking about nuts and seeds, it’s not that they’re bad and say, we were talking, and you said what? There’re endless studies about the health benefits of nuts and seeds and there are inherent, they’re healthy foods, but just the nature of the long chain molecule, not having hydrogen attached to it on all sides leaves it unstable. Right?

This is why we want to put nuts and seeds in the refrigerator in an airtight container because they’re sensitive to light, heat, and air, and so the saturated fats are not the healthy, high quality saturated fats like the good animal fats and butter and ghee and coconut oil. Those are going to help create more stability within the body as you’re going through your healing process and so the right amount and structure fat is really important to healing. And so, it’s like the right macro ratio of fat and then also the right combination of the fat that you’re eating.

Ari Whitten: Gotcha. So, you’re in an interesting territory here with regards to your views on some food groups and macronutrients and it like it’s, you’re a little bit in no man’s land to some extent.

Christa Orecchio: That’s how my career has gone.


The difference between Christa Orecchio’s and Ray Peat’s work

Ari Whitten: So, what I, what I mean by that is in general, the people who are advocates of lots of saturated fat consumption are generally low carb, Ketoadvocates that sort of crowd and they’re promoting, you know, the idea that consuming lots of saturated fats is really good for you. and then those people are generally, they would not agree with you that people should be carbburners and people are not getting enough carbs and that people should be prioritizing fruits and root vegetables and you know, you are consuming carbs frequently to avoid stress responses.

They would not agree with you on any of those things. And then you have the sort of, you know, some, some other crowds that might agree with you on the carb burner thing, like let’s say a lot of the Vegan diet or Vegan Diet Gurus, but who would vehemently disagree with you about consuming lots of saturated fat. So, you’re, again, your kind of in a little bit of no man’s land but, but the, the person that is closest to you of all the different diet gurus is his Ray Peat.

And it sounds like you’ve been, to me, it sounds like you’ve been, maybe influenced a little bit by his mode of thinking and this certainly there are lots of layers of good stuff there. But I’m curious, you know, and first of all, am I correct that you have been influences?

Christa Orecchio: Yes, about five years ago I really got into, into re Pete’s work and um, I took a lot of powerful influence and started using that in my practice, started using it for myself. But I just want to touch back with you for a second. The saturated fat, like, so to be clear, we’re not, you know, it’s all within reason, so it’s, it’s, it’s within balance.

So, a lot of people, they might not even end up eating more saturated fat than they were eating before this just manipulating the ratio.

Ari Whitten: Gotcha.

Christa Orecchio: We don’t realize it. Like if you’re going to eat something, like if you’re going to make a steak right, and you’re going to add more fat to that, that’s going to be too much saturated fat if you’re going to cook that steak in butter. So, I’m not advocating an overabundance of saturated fat. If that makes sense.

Ari Whitten: Gotcha. So on, this is just my own curiosity on this point. At this point on with regards to Ray Peat. Ray Peat, I think from my perspective, this is my judgment on, you know, being very familiar with what he teaches myself. Yeah, I definitely think there are layers of good stuff there. There’re also some layers that to me just appear wildly out of connection with the existing body of evidence.

And I’ll give you a couple examples just to see. I’m curious whether you agree or don’t agree with his take on things. One thing he’s an advocate of is sterilizing the gut, so like having a sterile microbiome like he, he will cite  research for example, in in rats where they showed that sterilizing the microbiome through use of antibiotics to essentially kill everything in the microbiome was associated with this or that benefit and so he’ll use that as an example to say sterile microbiomes are better than having a microbiome full of lots of diversity of organisms. Like I think pretty much every microbiome scientist would agree with at this point.

Christa Orecchio: That has been wholly disproven. Like time again. Yeah. So, I’m just kind of like what we talked about, you know, when we talked about the institute for Integrative Nutrition, I [inaudible]. It’s just like what I love is how they can put together just a myriad of dietary theories and there’s so many. There’s no one right one out there, but there’s pearls of wisdom from each one and that’s why I left private practice. It’s like, oh, I can take this from that directory, this one, that one, this one, and put this together in such a unique way that helps this individual person. Right. And so, I’ve, I’ve taken 15,000 people through microbiome rejuvenation and I will tell you that is wholly wrong.

Ari Whitten: That’s exactly why I brought that up is because I know I know your background and specializing in the microbiome. So, I figured there must be no chance that you could possibly agree with that, which I’m glad to hear as the case. But a couple of other examples.

One is Peat opposes consumption of Greens, so like green leafy vegetables, he does not advocate and in general advisor advises avoiding fibers. So, like he’ll advise consuming orange juice but no pulp, no, like only the juice of the orange without any pulp.

Christa Orecchio: That depends. And so first of all, I’m not a fan of not eating Greens and so they are loaded with micronutrients in his whole take on that. I don’t agree with, I don’t actually know if there’s any tangible research on it where he says that they have their own inherent pesticide factory that they grow with and to keep invaders from, from eating them. So, then we eat that, but we, we feel better. We know the micronutrients, we know the studies are there, but it’s within moderation for me fo r Oxalis, right? I don’t want you drinking 32 ounces of green juice every day and so even healthy food within the right balance and moderation. And I’m sorry, what was right after greens? What? What was it?

Ari Whitten:  What was that?

Christa Orecchio: The orange juice instead. So, so my take on that is not a Ray Pete’s take. It’s just what amount of fiber can a person handle because now I’m going back to putting on my microbiome rejuvenation hat and the people that were coming to me with SIBO and parasitic infections, multiple autoimmune disorders know they actually, they’re buying doesn’t know what to with that fiber. In the end, if you have a microbiome that you have too much, too many different pathogens driving, which most people with microbiome imbalance do.

Let’s say they’re flipped like 80 percent bad pathogens, 20 percent good, and then you start feeding it with fiber and prebiotics like you are not sure what you’re feeding in there. So, we suspend most of most additional fibers. We suspend most additional fibers until we understand that we have now re-seeded, we understand the diversity in there, we know what we’re feeding instead of just throwing lighter fluid on like something hap hazard. Right? So, it’s not that I agree or disagree with Ray Peat in that sense. It really comes  down to what are you digesting and how.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, and to be clear, I actually agree with your point, but that isn’t his take on it. He doesn’t present a nuanced version of that where it’s like don’t do fiber, if your microbiome is dissed, if you have dysbiosis and want to assess that and then you know up your fiber. If you have a good microbiome, his take is like more of a blanket sort of in general and it’s maybe, you know, hardcore Ray Peat advocates would maybe accuse me of slightly misrepresenting this, but I’d say overall, most people who study Ray Peat come away with the conclusion that Greens are bad essentially like period.

And that gen one should avoid fiber and avoid orange juice, orange fruit, fiber and greens, you know, fiber from greens and fiber from legumes and things like that. And I think, you know, to me this is just wildly out of, um, out of congruent with the overall body of evidence.

But I do agree with certainly your exception to the rule that if somebody has dysbiosis, certainly feeding it with lots of, even the stuff that has good evidence for it, some of the prebiotic fibers can create problems in those people. 100%.

Christa Orecchio: Yeah. Not to get too far into digestive health, fitness, like, yeah, but if for whenever you’re healing the gut, you have to flash the inflammatory process. You’ve got to suspend it, and then you have to interrupt pathogen production, right? You have to interrupt the way these pathogens communicate so that they can no longer communicate, they can no longer replicate, they can’t share their genetic code anymore. And so that’s, you interfere with that step if you were haphazardly using fiber and prebiotics. Right.

And then once you know, once you’ve got that under control, that’s when you would receive with really specific strains of probiotics. Right. Because you can mess up putting probiotics into early as well and so that’s when you know what you’re working with and you can reseed with probiotics and then you get to. Then you can start to add in prebiotics, probiotics, optimize hydrochloric acid and you know, really kind of get the body working again on its own and not tend to the garden, so to speak.

Ari Whitten:  Yeah. I’m with you. Final Ray Peat question.

Christa Orecchio: Yeah. More about Ray Peat than I do to be honest. I didn’t study it.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. I, I, many years ago I went through a Ray Peat phase. You know, I’ve, I’ve been through a lot of phases. I was, you know, it’s funny to me that Keto is popular now. I was doing keto when I was 17 years old and you’re nearly 20 years ago before anybody knew what Keto was and so raised.

Christa Orecchio: You’re raising holistic household though, right?

Ari Whitten: I was also, you know, I started when I was 14 years old. My older brother was a personal trainer and a bodybuilder. And so, I… And then I had a very obsessive personality, so whenever I got interested in something and sort of all I wanted to do and you know, well let’s just say I’ve been interested in nutrition and health for 20 some years now. It’s been a, it’s been a long, long time and it, and I have a bit of an extreme personality too, so I’ve been on lots of very extreme diets of chugging, you know, cream and, and red meat diets and everything to that from raw veganism and sort of everything in between. But Yeah, Ray Peat was certainly one of my phases.

Christa Orecchio: I think it’s good because it makes you relatable, right? Like I’m maybe not to that extreme, but definitely use… I’ve been my own lab rat. I’m trying. Okay. Before I can recommend something, I want to see what my experience of it is, you know, within my own body and my own state.

Ari Whitten: Totally. So, one other aspect to Ray Peat is sugar. He is a, and I think he’s probably literally the only nutrition guru who has this stance regardless of side, of all the different sort of diet cults. I’m pretty sure he’s alone on this one, which has refined sugar consumption. He is actually an advocate of it and advises people to even like add refined sugar into orange juice or into milk and consume extra sugar with the idea in mind that it’s combating stress hormones. So, what, what is, what is your take on that?

Christa Orecchio: Yeah. I’m like, uh, I vehemently opposed to that. Especially when I say, you know, I say I was raised on pizza, pasta, and antibiotics. You know I was such a sugar junkie and have helped so many people heal from sugar addiction. And it is real. I mean, it lights up dopamine in the brain, but at the same way, right. The study showed same way heroin does, so we can’t use the white stuff that kills the good gut bacteria. It leeches your b vitamins at Leeches, your minerals so that that would be a trying to rob Peter to pay Paul type of the situation.

But using fruit and root where you’re giving something that has the natural easy to digest fiber that slows the release of glucose to deliver it in a steady way. That’s the type of sugar that we’re talking about and it’s loaded with these micro nutrients that you’re deficient in any way.

It’s like, yeah, that’s the type of sugar that I’m a fan of and have been since the beginning of my career 15 years ago.


Ari’s secret snack favorite

Ari Whitten:   Yeah, I’m with you on that. And I eat a ton of fruit and I will also say that purple sweet potatoes are, are my weakness. I love purple sweet potatoes and especially, I mean there’s so many good ways to eat them, but especially when you, you bake them, like you make them into wedges and then you bake. I’m sort like thick cut fries but baked instead of fried.

Christa Orecchio: Yeah.

Ari Whitten: And I get a little, you know, I’ll get, I’ll get this. This is one of my secrets I’m releasing now to the world for the first time, but a little bit of honey with some cinnamon as a little bit of dipping sauce for those purple sweet potatoes. Try it. If it sounds, it might sound weird to some of you listening, but…

Christa Orecchio: I’ll try that. We use raw honey, I love raw honey. Interesting. Maybe can you put a little mustard in there too?

Ari Whitten: Now you’re weirding me out. I’m more of a sweet guy and then a savory guy

Christa Orecchio: I lean towards the mustard, [inaudible].


The importance of customized nutrient ratios

Ari Whitten: So anyway. Well thank you for indulging me in that Ray Peat digression, but back to your six pillars. Number five, what is number five?

Christa Orecchio: Okay. So, going back to, to his work about finding the be customized nutrient ratio. That is something I’m interested in and a fan of because you find the right amount of protein, carbs, and fats for your unique body that you need. Like I said, you can shut off the stress response and so using real time feedback, using temperature and using pulse as that marker instead of running like five labs, I would run in private practice.

It’s using temperature and pulse to see if you’re an inflammatory state where you’re not and if that meal worked for you or if it didn’t. And you know, we know that blood sugar and temperature, there’s a correlation and you can regulate your blood sugar. and there are things like ovulation and temperature and things like that, you know, of outside hot drinks that will influence temperature. So, using pulse is, is it kind of a good backup measure to see, okay, how does this, how is this meal working for or against you? Do you need more fat? Do you need more protein? Do you need more carbs? So, so helping you find that exact ratio and that has been pretty life changing for several clients that I’ve worked with, you know, for when I first started getting, you know five years ago and to this work and mine was from an entrepreneur is a mess.

How I got myself into this state and that really helped pull me out of it and subsequently so many other people with thyroid dysfunction. Really. So, um…

Ari Whitten: By the way, is it entrepreneurism or entrepreneurism?

Christa Orecchio: I think it’s both. It just depends how bad it is.

Ari Whitten: So, how does that actually work as far as measuring temperature and pulse? Do you have any sort of practical recommendations on, on how that plays out? Hang on, I’m just going to plug in

Christa Orecchio: For a second. How does that play out for measuring your temperature and pulse?

Ari Whitten: Like what, how do you recommend people go about that or, or use temperature and pulse to get any sort of useful feedback on what they consumed in whether it was good or bad for them.

Christa Orecchio:So, they should check their temperature and their pulse. I would say maybe three or four times throughout the day, like in the morning and before bed and then 20 minutes after a meal. Because if your meal work for you then your food is thermogenic, it’s going to create energy and if it didn’t work for you, you’re going to be low. And so, you want to be able to check, so you want to be within a range of 97 point six to 98 point six, you want to be roughly within that range of 36,5  Celsius to 37 Celsius if you are, if you’re working on, if you’re in the metric system.

So, and then you want to use your pulse, take your pulse should really be somewhere between 75 and 80. And so a lot of people, and you know this, this is just a testament to exercise, right? It’s like when our circulation is better and what the amazing power of exercise can do. The right exercise is we are able to, we get this thermogenic effect, and everything flows and circulation’s better. And so, it’s, when you’re in this depleted state, circulation isn’t so great and you’re, you tend to have a low pulse.

Ari Whitten: Gotcha. Excellent. So, um, as far as the measurement, 20 minutes after a meal, what they’re, what we’re looking for is that pulse shouldn’t drop too much and, and that a body temperature shouldn’t be too low. Correct?

Christa Orecchio: Correct. Yeah. And you know, I recommend you do that for three days in a row and come write down and see where you are because that’s going to give you just from whatever you’re eating changed nothing. Right? And, and do that for three days in. See, okay, am I running chronically low? Yeah. My body’s having a hard time getting out of this state. My body’s about hard time regulating blood sugar and so I probably need to make some changes to make it a little bit easier.

And you start noticing it. Like, of course,  you get cold hands and feet, right? And wait, when you have thyroid problems tend towards constipation and so you start to have those problems and that will be reflected also in temperature and pulse.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. I’m curious, have you looked, do you know who Matt Stone is? Have you looked into his work at all? Okay. He, he’s actually a friend of mine. I don’t agree with pretty much anything he says from a diet perspective and, and, and I’m sure he would say the same about me

He’s, I forget what the movement is called, but it’s something like within the sort of obesity related research community and, and sort of there’s a, there’s a particular movement and there’s one researcher in particular that has led this movement that’s sort of… it’s sort of like a body acceptance movement that the basic jest of it without. I’ll sum this up, try and I’ll try and send this up relatively quickly. But the basic gist of it is like people can’t lose weight. Like diets fail.

It’s impossible to lose weight. Anybody who does lose weight is going to gain it back so you might as well not even attempt to lose weight because it’s a total waste of time and it will eventually, not only, not only is it a waste of time, but it will actually harm you in the long run.

And there’s an element of truth in that which is that like if somebody adopts stupid, unsustainable diets in a short term basis and they’re not really making sustainable lifestyle changes, they’re just want to go on so and so extreme diet for 30 days or 60 days, try and lose the weight and then they think they’re going to be good after that and they can go back to their old habits. I agree that that’s going to be harmful in the long run if you have many cycles of that, but their view is that sort of any attempt to lose weight is a bad idea and it’s inevitable that it’s going to be counterproductive and ultimately harm your metabolic health and you’ll be fatter in the long run and unhealthier, um, and you’re torturing yourself in the process.

So, Matt Stone is part of that movement and that’s part of his general message, but he’s also part of the, he’s been heavily influenced by Ray Peat’s thinking and he’s also created a sort of his own methodology of eating that revolves specifically around temperature and pulse to some extent, but really body temperature as sort of a key guide to metabolic health. And he actually has written a book called eat for heat that is specifically about how to eat in order to keep your body temperature very high.

And, but, but it’s, it’s too, and this is the part that I really don’t agree with. He’s advocating a style of eating that is diametrically opposed to pretty much all of the nutritional evidence in the sense that he’s advocating for people to consume lots, lots of food, enough food that most people will gain lots of body fat eating the way he’s advocating and lots of processed food. And even, you know, fast food and all kinds of like junk process food he has really no problem with.

And lie I said, he’s, he, I haven’t, I have absolutely nothing against the guy. He’s a personal friend of mine. I actually love him. He’s got a great sense of humor. He’s a super nice guy.

But as far as I’m concerned, like his dietary methodologies are I think counterproductive. Uh, and so anyway, I think you can, I mean certainly you can take anything to an extreme where it’s harmful, but this is an example of I think just someone who has taken the kind of idea of temperature as an indicator of metabolic health too. Like he’s like, you know, eat tons, tons and tons of refined carbs and salt then that’s going to elevate your body temperature. And I think it just gets really…

Christa Orecchio: And it does. Salt, and sugar does elevate your, by the way, to get yourself really sick really fast. Okay. So, to that end, I have to say, first of all, my whole approach to health throughout my private practice and everything, people come, they want to gain weight or lose weight. They want this, they want that. It’s just what’s going on in their body and how do we create balance. They can have whatever goals they want. If we can create balance, the body will heal itself. That’s just fundamental health.

Right, and so without going on too much of a tangent, like a month or so ago, I went to a woman in science event at the Salk Institute in La Jolla and they were they. It was an art exhibit and so it. It was all these organisms done in art and it was so cool because they talked about how art and science meet each other, right? How, how science is.

Science is the subject is the objective assessment. Art is the art is going to be. Your art is going to be. I’m sorry, so science is going to be objective and then the art is subjective. Right? And so, it was about what the field of microscopy would not exist. The scientific field of microscopy that is changed human biology since we had it so we could understand these organs would not exist without art because of the artist’s interpretation from the scientists telling them about it. They could then draw these organisms naked and create something that they didn’t.

They couldn’t build that bridge, so you can’t just rely on lab work or you can’t just rely on any objective assessments, so, so temperature and pulse, their objective assessments and just lab work could be, but it ultimately means nothing without the overlay of the individual. Right? So, we’re having them tuning into themselves often for the first time.

And to your point has. You’re saying, what about following this person and that person in this side and not touch? It’s about shutting out the rest of the world. It’s about shutting out dogma and it’s about tuning into yourself. It’s about creating parasympathetic moments about knowing does this work for me or not? How’s my digestion? How did I sleep? What are my moods? Where’s my anxiety, what’s triggering me, how did I breathe, which is our sixth pillar, and so that by taking that subjective assessment, it will bring. Then there was going to bring the objective assessment to life and actually make it mean something. So that’s where I would differ from your friend Matt in, in one, of 100 ways. Probably.


The sixth pillar – breathing

Ari Whitten: Excellent. Love it. So, pillar number six. Breath.

Christa Orecchio: Yeah. So, the breath is the, it’s the remote control of the brain and the nervous system and it’s so underutilized. So, it’s really its breath and its movement because a lot of, a lot of those of us who are in this state, we can’t be doing any major detoxes and he any major cleansings we’re already depleted. And so, if you’re going to go do some crazy cleanse, you’re probably going to end up getting sicker and then generating more of these stress hormones. But oxygen is the safest and the gentlest detoxifier that we have. And so, we’re using it to be able to do that. But also, obviously, you need oxygen. You need thyroid. You need glucose inside the cell to be able to make and burn energy. And so using that combined with using specific movement through yoga, foam rolling and really just getting out again, you know, walking and moving that that’s going to help so much to be transformative and we have to be able to use the yoga and the foam rolling because when the hip flexors and[inaudible] tight, you know, they call that the junk drawers of emotional storage and that forces us to just breathe through our chest and it perpetuates the problem and forces us to stay in our sympathetic nervous system.

So again, it’s just a holistic approach to opening up the body in a way and being conscious of breathing in your, we call them parasympathetic moments. So, throughout your day, being conscious of breathing your exhalations, extending them longer than your inhalation. And then

also doing, you know, targeted five-minute, five-minute exercises twice a day to your breathing.

Ari Whitten: Excellent. Five-minute breath related exercises.

Christa Orecchio: Yeah.

Ari Whitten: Gotcha. Cool. So, the last part of this, these are the six pillars, but these are really sort of addressing the physical side of health. I know one of the things we talked about in person is you are a big believer in the idea that, and certainly there’s lots of science to back you up on this, that emotional health, psychological health, and you could also use the word spiritual aspects of things are, are also a big factor in our health.

So, talk to me about what you think is going on there.

Christa Orecchio: Yeah. So, so the second part of this is because this is called the adrenal recode, and what we really want to do is help people recode in a way that’s permanent, no way that they can live healthy, completely different life going forward. So, you can do the physical healing, but then what happens the next time a major life stressor comes down the pike, which it probably will because we’re all having a human experience is what are your normal ways of reacting? You know, what is that? Because you have a thought and that thought leads to an emotion and that emotion drives your physiological process. is going to drive the release of cortisol. It’s going to drive up, you know, it’s going to force the release of adrenaline first and then cortisol.

And so how can we start to respond to life instead of reacting to life and so this entire second part of this is we really start with is emotional mastery, so to speak is recoding, creating new mental-emotional  patterns and ways of responding. I don’t know how much time we have or how much you want me to get into it.

Ari Whitten: We have like five or 10 minutes more where we’re a little over time, but this is good stuff. I’m happy to go a little overtime as long as you have time.

Christa Orecchio: This is a really long podcast. Yeah, so. So, I’ll give you the example and I’m my own what this to me is my most personal work that I’ve done in my career in, in the last since I started the whole journey 13 years ago. And so yes, I’ve done this work. Yes, I know how to balance my neurotransmitters and thyroid and adrenals and I pulled myself out from entrepreneurism using this whole physical approach, but there was still that constant. It’s a constant the way you respond to stress.

And so, I had a major stressful situation happened, which I filed for divorce when I was two months pregnant to escape an abusive situation. That’s a pretty intense thing to go through, but you are growing this child and you have all these fears, right? Like how I am going to keep him safe and me safe from, from you know, the abuse.

How am I going to be the sole provider? How am I going to go through this stuff alone? You could really go down a rabbit hole and a lot of people have a lot of things going on that can really take you down a rabbit hole into fear and you’ve got to find a way to get in your elevator and press the button and rise above the energy of fear and intimidation so that you don’t feel it. And I had more motivation than I’ve ever had in my life because it wasn’t just about me anymore. What that stress would do to my body is I am a holistic person. I wrote a book on fertility and prenatal health. I was not going to let my son incubator in a body that was filled with stress hormones and so that’s when I started diving in and developing part two of the adrenal recode.

Well, I wasn’t developing it for the Adrenal recode is developing for myself. I want to pay it forward and be able to share it and so that’s where that came from and so we focus on dismantling limiting beliefs. That’s the beginning. That’s just one of four modules. That’s within the Adrenal recode program is these are beliefs that we all. I don’t know how much you’ve dove into this because they know her so well researched. It’s been a long-time studying psychology, but you know, we do create a set of layers of limiting beliefs from age zero to seven.

Like we’re, we’re egocentric. We have no other way to be as children and so you develop limiting beliefs and for me mine was, I have to do everything by myself. It’s not true, but when thought and belief and life experience combined, you’re locked into a way of being and so that ended up.

I kind of attracted this whole situation. I was able to be able to take accountability for bringing that forth and then to dismantle it and have now more support, more love, more everything that I’ve always wanted in my life as a result of going through what I went through and being able to recode and that there’s more to that story, but unless you can do this work and then you really learn to take that accountability to do the forgiveness work, that’s when you can have genuine gratitude for the endless things there are that every one of us has to be grateful for in life, and that’s when you can start to really live in your essence and claim your power as a human being. That’s always been there. It’s just kind of removing the layers and so the record is about healing physically and learning how to create this emotional mastery, so you don’t react out of past fear or triggers. You’re responding as your present self to a present situation so you don’t end up back there physically again and life will happen. So, we’ll teach you how to integrate and kind of do the dance as life goes on.

Ari Whitten: Excellent. What, what is your preferred sort of methodologies around how to accomplish that sort of recoding of, of limiting beliefs and that sort of thing. Do you have any particular techniques that you favor or anything like that?

Christa Orecchio: Yes, but if we only have a few minutes, I don’t know how, how…

Ari Whitten: You can name it if you want or give like a very brief overview of it. Yeah. I don’t expect you to guide us through the technique practically or.

Christa Orecchio: Yes, so and we’re were working on a, a to two women who were life coaches for Tony Robbins for about a decade and we teamed up with this process of helping people, first of all, understand where like what are sample beliefs and understanding that you have. You have a memorized self and you have a present self. And the memorized self this just is like, we need that because we don’t need. We don’t want to be president every time we’re driving, or we want to be able to walk into gum at the same time. You need to memorize self for those things. But what happens is we, we, we lock in this way of behaving from what we observed, and we lock that in as our memorized selves and that’s our way of responding and reacting to things.

And you know, unlike you, I was raised in a very reactive household, not a holistic household, not a holistic, you know, and it was, it was that whole Italian, New Jersey.

Everything’s a big deal, that type of thing, which there’s a lot of love there too. but you learned that overreaction is just the… that’s just reacting, right? And so everybody has to be able to understand, okay, and then we will work to have them understand what their memorized self is and what are these beliefs and when we just work on the limiting beliefs, one or two, because there are layers that are going to be the big rocks that are going to put them back into this nervous system dysfunction.

And we work and we start to examine the beliefs. And I really liked the work of Byron Katie. I like the work of Joe Dispenza. I like the work of Bruce Lipton and we’re really starting to examine the beliefs and we’re starting to then dismantle them. Starting to question them, start to dismantle them and kind of poke holes in the story so, so the light can get in, you know. so, then we can start to get the truth in there and then we can start to then revolve the belief, and I’m really grossly oversimplifying it for the sake of time.

But you, you have to also release trapped negative emotions from the body. And that’s one big thing that really helped me as I worked privately with a sematic therapist because emotions are stored in our body and we just like, we have to eliminate toxins. These negative emotions, they are toxins. They need to be released. just like we have to change your diet. We release them, we replace them with positive emotions and it’s a new way of operating going forward. But just like we have to constantly interrupt that pattern of living off stress hormones through the physiological approach. You have to constantly interrupt the pattern. The tape that’s been running in your head for 20, 30 or 40 years, so that’s another biochemical shift, but not until you get the physical healing to where you feel calmer, quieter. Are you going to be open to doing the next level of work that’s going to really make sure you don’t end up back there?


The Adrenal Recode

Ari Whitten: Excellent. I love it. Well, Christa, this has been an absolute pleasure. I’ve really enjoyed this conversation and I love the nuance and sophistication and critical thinking that you’re bringing to a lot of these other ideas that are floating around on the diet sort of interwebs. And uh, I really appreciate the perspective that you’re sharing and this paradigm I think is extremely useful and beneficial for people.

So, you’re launching the Adrenal Recode. when are you launching that?

Christa Orecchio: Yeah, so you’ll be able to enroll in tearing on recode from December 18th through January sixth and then it goes away because we all go live together and we implement this on January eighth, but I have a free mini course for everyone with action items, so things you can start eating and doing right away, going out on the 11th and all of that is at the  Yep.

Ari Whitten: Well we’ll put a link to that on the podcast page for this episode as well, the energy, and maybe we’ll talk after this podcast episode if you can arrange any sort of discount code for, for my audience or anything like that that we can have sort of a special link there. And we’ll put that link on And so, you’ll have a series of videos, like a free masterclass or masterclass videos that you’ll release.

Christa Orecchio: Yeah. And, and so everything that we talked about today, it’s like, okay, here, do these three action items today and then build off of those action items for the rest of the course.

Ari Whitten: Excellent, so I will release this podcast during that time so that since there’s a very tight window and obviously it wouldn’t make sense to release this podcast two weeks after this window and have a lot of angry emails from people, uh, so I’ll make sure to release it either just before those dates or during that window and people can get access to the free masterclass and, excellent.

Well, Christa, thank you so much. It’s been an absolute pleasure and I hope to do this again with you sometime soon.

Christa Orecchio: Yes, likewise. Thanks for having me, Ari.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, my pleasure.

How To Overcome Anxiety and Stress, And Increase Your Energy with Christa Orecchio – Show Notes

What it means to live off stress hormones (1:30)
Why most people stay in stress mode (8:59)
The connection between the brain and the central nervous system (13:21)
The 6 pillars of health (19:30)
Foods that are synergistic with overcoming stress, anxiety, and fatigue (21:42)
Why Christa recommends frequent meals throughout the day (29:47)
Why fat (in the right amounts) is important (35:48)
The difference between Christa Orecchio’s and Ray Peat’s work (38:07)
Ari’s favorite snack (49:57)
The importance of customized nutrient ratios (51:00)
The sixth pillar – breathing (1:01:15)
The Adrenal Recode (1:12:24)


Get Christa’s Adrenal ReCode here



If you want to learn more about how to heal your gut, listen to the podcast with Summer Bock from guts and glory

How To Heal Your Gut and The Keys To Restore Gut Health

You’ve likely heard about the connection between a healthy gut and good health. If you have symptoms like bloating, excessive gas, and abdominal pain, you may already know that you have some gut health issues. But there is also a large group of people who are walking around with gut problems without knowing it. Did you know that gut problems can display a whole different set of symptoms that don’t necessarily manifest as overt gut symptoms (i.e. gas, bloating, indigestion, etc.)? These include joint pain, low energy fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome (/MECFS), insomnia, anxiety, depression, poor thyroid function, skin issues, and cardiovascular disease.

So, how do you find out if you have an unhealthy gut, and if you do, how can you restore your gut health?

In this podcast, I speak with Dr. Michael Ruscio, a doctor of Chiropractic, clinical researcher, expert on the gut and author of the bestseller “Healthy Gut, Healthy You.” Dr. Ruscio discusses the science behind gut issues, how to heal your gut, and the keys to restore gut health.

If you suffer from any medical condition that is not responding to normal protocols, this podcast may shed light on how to figure out if your gut is the underlying root cause.

In this podcast, we’ll cover

  • The role of gut tests in diagnosis and their reliability
  • The best diet to restore your gut health (it’s not what you think)
  • Why ”listening to your body” is crucial when you heal your gut
  • The most common (and uncommon) symptoms of an unhealthy gut
  • Is SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth) a real condition? What science says about SIBO
  • What to do if you react to many foods
  • Ruscio’s keys to restore gut health
  • Gluten intolerance. Is it real or just another fad?

Download or listen on iTunes

Download the right way to breathe for increase performance and energy on iTunes

Listen outside iTunes


How to Heal Your Gut and The Keys To Restore Gut Health with Dr. Michael Ruscio – Transcript

Ari Whitten: Hey everyone, welcome back to The Energy Blueprint Podcast. I’m your host Ari Whitten, and today we’re going to be talking all about gut health and how that relates to your health and energy levels more broadly, and a whole bunch of unique connections between the gut and different systems of the body and lots of new content that you almost certainly have not heard before. Today my guest is Dr. Michael Ruscio, who is a Doctor of Chiropractic, a clinical researcher and bestselling author whose practical ideas on healing chronic illness have made him an influential voice in functional and alternative medicine. His research has been published in peer reviewed medical journals and he speaks at integrative medical conferences across the globe and he’s also the new author… he is the author of the new book, I should say, “Healthy Gut, Healthy You.” So welcome Dr. Michael Ruscio. Such a pleasure to have you on.

Dr. Michael Ruscio: Thanks for having me.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. So to get started, I would love for you to just talk a bit about your background of how you got into this space of, I guess health more broadly, but then, specifically, what made you focus on going deep on gut health.

Dr. Michael Ruscio: Sure, sure. Well, I have my own experience while I was in college, and this was when I was pre-MED and still trying to figure out exactly how I wanted to plug into the health medical system. Originally I was thinking about going into conventional medicine, well, I was pretty much set on going into conventional medicine. It appealed to the kind of my type A analytical mind, but as often times happens, I had a few life experiences thrown my way and they kind of diverted my path or helped me become more granular in exactly what I wanted to do. And I didn’t know what was happening at the time, but I started having insomnia, brain fog, fatigue, bouts of depression, and I really was at a loss for why, as a college athlete, someone who was feeling near invincible up until that point, I was, very suddenly started to feel unwell. And I was getting enough sleep, I was eating a all whole foods, mostly organic diet, exercising. I mean I was studying this stuff so I knew how to take care of myself.

Yet, despite all my best efforts, I was still feeling quite ill at this point in time and so I figured, well, I’ll go see a few doctors, this is what they do and this is what I’m going to be doing and so let me, I guess, get a firsthand experience with this. And I saw an internist, an endocrinologist and a general practitioner and they ran some tests and essentially the narrative I got in return was, “Well, you know, you’re the picture of health. Everything looks good. All of your tests are fine. It must be stress, it must be school, what have you.” And there was really nothing that I was offered in terms of a diagnosis or a solution.

So, like many people do at that point in time, I turned to alternative medicine and I found a doctor who thought I may have had an intestinal parasite. And I remember thinking to myself, “This guy is nuts. You know, I hadn’t left the country, I never had food poisoning, I had no digestive symptoms.

How could I have a parasite?” And you know, that taught me a very important lesson, which is you can have a digestive problem that only manifests as non digestive symptoms. And so, lo and behold, a few months later, I figured out that I in fact did have an intestinal parasite that was causing all this gut inflammation but wasn’t causing any gut symptoms. No bloating, no gas, no diarrhea, no abdominal pain, only brain fog, insomnia, fatigue. I was also feeling cold. But before I got the diagnosis, I went on the internet and I researched and I thought I had adrenal fatigue.

I thought I had hypothyroidism or poor thyroid conversion. I thought I had heavy metal toxins. And so I did all the self help protocols for these purported diagnoses and didn’t really feel any better. It wasn’t until I actually figured out that I had a parasite and treated that problem in my gut that I started to respond. And so I decided to go into integrative and alternative medicine.

And when I got there, I liked a lot of what I saw. But I also felt like there was a fair amount of dogma and there was… some beliefs were very rigid, but didn’t seem to have any science to support them. And when I wanted to have an honest inquisition where, just an honest inquiry about “well, does everyone need to go gluten free” you know, “is there really evidence to support that?” And I’d get these, “oh they should,” these really strong answers, yet there weren’t really good data in my mind to support those things.

But you know, I was a student and so you’re… sometimes you’re not confident enough to take on your professor when you’re a student. But that seed was in my head and as I got into clinical practice, I felt like there were, again, a lot of great things in alternative medicine, but a lot of things that I felt like were half truths and potentially a lot of fat that could be excised from the model. And so this led me to performing some of my own research, some of which we’ve done at the clinic, some of which is on its way to publication, and other studies are in the pipeline, trying to find this right balance of what to use from natural integrated medicine. And then, what might be dogma that needs to be left by the wayside as we update this model.

And the gut therapies are the ones that I’ve consistently noticed, albeit I may be a bit biased, but consistently noticed deliver the most improvements for the patient. And that’s why my focus is there and that’s why I kind of have this somewhat critical view of things in healthcare and medicine because I’ve just seen there are a lot of things that are well intentioned but not supported. And if we can identify those things, we can make our model of care more effective.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Well said. We also have a lot in common on one particular point, which is I’m not particularly liked by either people within just purely conventional medicine circles or alternative medicine circles because I’m in this sort of weird no man’s land in between those two where I’m, you know, kind of pointing out flaws within conventional medicine approaches to lots of different chronic medical conditions as far as the lack of education and focus on nutrition and lifestyle factors which are just, of course, massive in almost all chronic conditions.

And then on the other hand, as you were alluding to within alternative medical circles, there’s a lot of dogma and a lot of belief systems that aren’t necessarily supported by very good evidence. And so I’m also simultaneously saying, you know, kind of debunking certain things within alternative medicine communities. And so it sounds like you are also kind of in this no man’s land with me.

Dr. Michael Ruscio: Yes. And I like to think the population in no man’s land is growing. I like to think that is, as information is becoming so easily accessible, people are no longer falling for kind of the argument from authority. And that authority could be the conventional authority, it could be the alternative authority, but I think people are starting to look for factual support rather than expert driven opinions.

And I like to think that there was this pendulum swing toward, you know, dogmatic progressive views both in conventional and alternative medicine, but people are getting burnt out on those dogmatic views.

And, unfortunately, it used to be whoever kind of yelled the loudest got the most attention. But I think that’s been burnt down. Kind of like a marketing campaign in a city. If you’re the first guy to put up a flashing neon sign, you’re going to get some attention. But then eventually there is going to be so many flashing neon signs that people just tune them out completely and they’re looking for maybe the quaint little shop that doesn’t seem to be so in your face sales. And I think, I hope that’s what’s happening in healthcare, health and fitness, in medicine where people are looking for more of a nuanced, you know, opinion and not people that are so hard driving.

And, you know, there’s a quote I like to share, which is “dogmatism can only survive in the presence of ignorance.” And so in my opinion, someone can only be really hard driving on their views if they’re unaware of the contradictory evidence. Because once you are aware of the contradictory evidence to a given point, you have a more balanced view. Well, It could be this, but there’s also data to support that, so you have a softer narrative. And so I think people are getting hip to the fact, privy to the fact that people who give you these really staunch hardline recommendations, unfortunately, are oftentimes ignorant to the contradictory data and therefore giving you advice that’s not really well crafted and well developed.

Ari Whitten: Well said. Yeah, I agree 100 percent. So the gut specifically, it’s not really a new idea that the gut is very important to health. It’s been around since the time of Hippocrates, obviously thousands of years ago. But right now it’s kind of exploding in popularity, this idea that the gut and the microbiome are extremely important in our health. There’s even very big companies that are emerging in this space with Biome and uBiome. I hope to talk about that during this interview with you. But why did you feel compelled to write a book on this subject, you know, as there are so many people talking about gut health? What made you want to say, “I also want to be one of these people talking about gut health, but I want to do it in my way.” What was the motivating factor behind that?

Dr. Michael Ruscio: So the book initially started as an eBook or I just wanted to give people some advice, right some wrongs and try to give people a reasonable narrative. And part of the reason I had that objective was because I was seeing patients come into the clinic and they were, some were just decimated by fear of food.

And they went and they read about how gluten is bad, then about how carbs are bad, then about how dairy is bad, then how FODMAPs are bad, then about how high sulfur is bad while histamine is good. And they come in and they’re just crippled by fear. They don’t even know what to eat and they’ve totally forgotten how to just listen to the simple signals that your body throws you as a way of your body telling you what’s working.

So part of it was that. Part of it was also just seeing how other providers were overly reliant on tests and not realizing that a surprising number of tests have actually not been clinically validated. And so, you know, what that means is that, the real literal translation of that is what you’re looking at has zero meaning. So even though it says “high” or “low” or “bad,” or it’s in red or what have you, that doesn’t actually mean anything.

So it is possible for a lab to tell you something is wrong with you, but that hasn’t actually been validated to mean anything is wrong with you. This is a really unfortunate state of affairs where I think that consumer’s trust and the clinician’s trust has been violated. But I was seeing a number of patients who went to a doctor, had stool testing of some sort done, and the stool tests were treated at the exclusion of the patient’s history, their symptomatic context and the response to treatments and the failure point was there. And these patients would come into my office and it wasn’t hard to get them well.

All you had to do was look at lab testing as one fraction of a multicomponent system. Their history, their signs or symptoms or presentation, their response to previous treatments, their response to current treatments, and use all this to understand the individual and therefore what the individual needs. And once you do that, you’re able to get good results. It turns out that there were more than 60 pages that was required to achieve that end, which I originally thought an eBook would be, maybe 60 pages. My book ended up being about 334 pages with just under a thousand medical references supporting the approach.

So I wanted to give people a full guide for understanding your gut, what are the relevant players, what is a reasonable understanding and what steps you can take to improve your health. And I guess the one other thing, one of the other major items was, I wanted to give people a well rounded, kind of all encompassing approach.

So you kind of had a quarterback perspective. Meaning this isn’t going to be the book all about gluten or all about FODMAPs are all about probiotics or all about low carb or all about high carb and just give you what could be a very helpful treatment plan but that’s tunnel visioned into this one therapeutic avenue. But rather lay out the broad array of therapeutic tools that are available and help you determine which ones are best for you. And then help codify those to a sequence of steps that can help you figure out the optimum number of stimuli to present your gut to allow healing. And of course, you know, when you say it like that, I suppose it’s easy to understand that that wouldn’t really be an eBook that would be, you know, a little bit more of a robust read. But those were some of the main motivators for me to publish the book.

Why testing isn’t a valid marker when you want to restore gut health

Ari Whitten: Excellent. One thing I want to dig into a little bit that you mentioned there is the fact that a lot of the tests that are being used commonly, including in functional medicine circles, are not clinically scientifically validated. And there’s a lot of this going on in functional medicine circles and it’s very deceptive in my opinion, because you have… People will go and do these tests and they think, “Oh, if it’s a test, it must mean that it’s been scientifically validated. It’s really scientifically advanced cutting edge, technologically advanced, all these things. And it’s so much more advanced than not doing testing.”

And yet, you know, when you get down to it, you find out that a lot of these labs that are doing these tests are themselves businesses that are creating tests for the purpose of making money. And you know, basically what ends up happening is people do these tests, they think that they are science, that they’re backed by science, and as you said, a lot of these tests just are meaningless.

Dr. Michael Ruscio: Yeah, I mean it’s very well said. And one of the things that I try to cover in the clinical newsletter that we write for clinicians, as a training tool for clinicians, one of the philosophies is that more testing and treatment does not equate to better results. And it’s been a fictitious promise that we have been sold in, especially in functional medicine. And I don’t think any of this is done with malintent. I think most people are operating with good intentions, although there’s been a couple of labs that litigation has been brought against and they have pled guilty to essentially fraudulence. So it’s not to say we can look at the world through rose colored glasses.

You know, there is some culpability from, I think, a small number of labs that have really been malicious. But for the most part I think the labs, the supplement companies and the providers are all trying to do the best they can for people.

It’s just there’s some errors in how we’re thinking and how we’re processing information that allow erroneous conclusions to be drawn. And then those are propagated. And then, you know, years and years later you have a field that is performing way too much testing, way too much treatment. And we’ve gotten away from some of the rules that actually come back to conventional medicines’ evidence-based hierarchy.

And I think what’s happened is, and I talk about this in my book, I call it the “freedom effect,” where for so long we were shackled by the confines of kind of a conventional healthcare system. And when we finally got a chance to depart from that and have more freedom, we didn’t know how to really use that freedom or be responsible with that freedom. And the analogy I use in the book is you have a teenager who maybe went to a Catholic school and was really kind of isolated their whole life.

Then they go to college where they can drink and smoke and do drugs and they don’t know how to balance it and they just go off the rails because they don’t know how to responsibly handle that freedom. And that may sound like a flippant analogy, but it’s one of the ways I try to account for the fact that some of these tests, like these microbiota mapping tests that you mentioned earlier, while they do have their purpose and that purpose is to amass data so that we can eventually get to a clinical prescriptive predictive ability of these tests.

We are not there right now. And so if you’re someone who’s suffering and you’re going to put a few hundred dollars into one of those tests thinking that those tests provide the answer, they do not. And it’s really unfortunate with the exception of two labs, one called DayTwo that predicts glycemic response to foods and the other called GA-map not to be confused with the GI-MAP, which is available in the United States.

The GA-map is being pioneered by a group out of Norway, and that test is only just showing correlations, meaning this profile correlates to IBS or to IBD. They still haven’t gotten to the point where they can say we know what to do in terms of how to treat these findings.

So the best data that we have, one test shows the ability to predict your glycemic response to foods, so there may be some utility there. I’m certainly open to that. And the other is able to accurately show correlations between IBS and IBD and certain mappings of the microbiota. But treatments still cannot be rendered. And it’s crucially important that we’re clear on that because I see so many patients now that will come in and say, “Oh, I’ve gotten an X, Y, or Z test,” and I shrug my shoulders and say, “Well, you know, that’s great, but we can’t really do anything with that.”

And then I should just quickly mention that it’s not to say that you can’t feel good. There is a tremendous wealth of therapeutic options available to you. It’s just what we don’t want to do is get distracted into treating what I call meaningless measures on non-validated tests because that will give you the highest probability that the treatment that you do will not help you improve. And we want to focus on trying to identify what treatment do you present most likely to respond to and steer you toward those treatments. And ironically for many cases of digestive imbalance, whether they be IBS or similar, a lot of testing isn’t really required to make those adjudications.

Why there isn’t one specific ”gut health diet”

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Well said. One point I want to emphasize here, because I encountered this a lot with these GI mapping companies that are now emerging and becoming very popular. A lot of people are doing these tests. A lot of members of my community are going out and doing these tests with the impression… they are under the belief, and it’s not unreasonable that they’re under this belief because these companies I think are promoting, they want people to believe this.

They do these tests and they think, “Well, I got my GI microbiome mapped and, you know, now they’re, you know, now that it’s mapped, what’s the best diet for me? You know, now that we know what my microbiome is,” as if it’s this sort of static thing, “now I know the best bio individualized diet based on my unique microbiome.” And again, it sounds like scientific and really advanced and I just want to point out to people that, as you’re saying, this is in its infancy, and we are very far from a stage that we can like map somebody’s microbiome and say, “Here, based on this data, here’s the one best diet for you. You should be vegan or you should be keto or whatever.”

Dr. Michael Ruscio: In fact, we have very good data. I think that perhaps the best, arguably the best study that looked at this was known as the DIETFITS trial by Gardner, et al., over at Stanford. And they essentially took some gene markers to try to predict what person would respond best to what type of diet. Would it be a higher carb or a lower carb diet. So genes, a little bit different than microbiota mapping, but essentially, you know, one of the best analyses we have to look at this found that genetic testing to predict who would respond better to a higher carb or lower carb diet found essentially no correlation.

And, you know, so the point I’m making is, and you’re making is, just because we have information doesn’t mean that information can help you inform decision making any better than you would otherwise. In fact, if that data can’t inform your decision making any better, but it’s causing you not to listen to your body’s own response, it will in effect make you less effective in figuring out what works well for your body.

And I also talk about this in the book. There’s a couple different dietary maneuvers one can make to figure out what diet fits best for the microbiota. And it takes you about two to three weeks each diet to figure it out. So by the time you did a test and got the results back you can be halfway there or even all the way there if you happen to do the first diet, or the first diet that you did was the best one for you, to figuring out what works well for your gut, sans the $300-700 bill that you would test for, what the testing would cost you. And also so much on top of that, there are things that we know exists or exist that can’t be readily tested.

Small intestinal fungal overgrowth is one example of this. Now we know about small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or SIBO that’s fairly easy to test.

We also know that small intestinal fungal overgrowth may affect this same subset of patients who have digestive symptoms. Yet we can’t test for it routinely. The only way to test for is really to do an endoscopy and take a biopsy of fluid in the small intestine, which is very invasive and therefore, it’s hardly ever done. So someone could do a SIBO test, come back positive for SIBO and then craft their entire worldview, their entire treatment plan around the fact they have SIBO. Yet they’re missing the fact that perhaps they have small intestinal fungal overgrowth and perhaps are also hypersensitive to gas pressure. And so they’re making all these decisions based upon one slice, or you can think of it like maybe one eighth of data relevant to their gut. And so this is why unfortunately, I see so many people who are following the dictums of the diagnosis that they have, but they’re not listening to their body.

And just really quick here, one patient had SIBO in my clinic, she also had some problems with blood sugar regulation and she asked me, “Oh, Dr. Ruscio, will I ever be able eat fruit again?” And I said, “Well, you know, why, can’t you eat fruit?” She said, “Well, I have SIBO.” And I said, “Oh, okay, so is there something regarding fruit and SIBO that I am not aware of?” She goes, “Well, I’ve read that if you have SIBO you really shouldn’t have fruit, you can never really have fruit, it will feed the SIBO.” And I said, “Okay.” So I chose not to get into that. And I said, “How do you feel when you eat fruit?” She was, “Oh, I feel fantastic.” So yeah, and these things happen more often than you might think. So again, I don’t want to be overly critical on testing, but it’s important to not use testing that hasn’t been validated at the expense of listening to your body. Because you’d be amazed at how far you can get by kind of running through a well crafted algorithm for your gut health, listening to your response and then using your response to inform what you should do.

How gut health relates to energy

Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. So we’ve kind of gone specific down this particular path. I want to go broad real quick and just assume that some people listening don’t necessarily already have a lot of familiarity with gut health and how it relates to overall health or energy levels. There’s obviously a lot of research here and I’m kind of tasking you with summing up this broad landscape with just a few sentences. But, you know, there’s obviously research related to chronic fatigue syndrome, showing gut permeability and lipopolysaccharide antibodies and you know, things related to brain health and you know, all sorts of different systems of the body.

And the more, you know, as this goes on in the coming years, we’re going to find, I’m sure, even way more links than we are currently aware of. But can you kind of just talk about the broad landscape of why gut health is important, and then from there, maybe what are some of the biggest factors or the biggest kinds of gut problems that are emerging in the world today?

Dr. Michael Ruscio: Sure. No, it’s a great question. And you know, maybe a way to kind of provide a philosophical framework to help people navigate the end, take-home, actionable and not get lost in the details that justify the actionable. I would say if you’ve taken some preliminary steps to improve your diet and your lifestyle and you’re still not feeling well, the next thing I would consider is going through a process that helps to improve and optimize your gut health.

And the reason I say that is because you can have a non digestive symptom that is being solely driven by a digestive problem. So you could have joint pain and insomnia, and those are the only symptoms that you have, and the problem could be emanating from your gut. And the gut symptoms could be silent, right? So this is why I don’t want to frame it around, well you’ve got to have gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, reflux, in order for this stuff to be relevant, right?

So that’s a really important piece that we need to slide into place, which is you could have non digestive symptoms that are manifesting from a silent digestive problem. Therefore, look at this in terms of a hierarchy or a sequence. Now what do we know? Well, we know, for example, that, as you alluded to earlier, chronic fatigue syndrome has been shown in one study to respond to a low FODMAP diet. Those with IBS, in another exciting recent study have shown, so IBS is essentially gas, bloating, abdominal pain, and an alteration in bowel frequency, either constipation, diarrhea, or an oscillation between the two. And IBS subjects were shown to have higher scores of fatigue, depression and anxiety. So there is kind of your gut metabolism/gut brain connection and there’s also been, I believe, two meta-analyses, which are summaries of several clinical trials, with probiotics, which is of course a gut treatment, shown the ability to be efficacious for anxiety and depression.

There’s also preliminary evidence showing that either treatment of H pylori, which is a bacterium in the stomach, or a low FODMAP diet, essentially a Paleo type low FODMAP diet, can improve thyroid autoimmunity and lower thyroid antibodies to a significant degree. Other research has found correlations between small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and thyroid autoimmunity and also between small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and hypothyroidism.

Other treatment data shows the ability to improve either rosacea, so skin atopic dermatitis, or restless leg syndrome or, yeah, okay, I got them all, all via the different methods of gut treatment. So we see gut-brain, we see gut-thyroid, we see gut-skin, we see gut-joint. You know, it’s really remarkable the connections. Also, other preliminary evidence is showing the connection between metabolism, specifically I’m meaning blood glucose and cholesterol levels and weight correlate to small intestinal bacteria overgrowth and preliminary data show improvements in cholesterol and blood sugar.

And I’ve seen anecdotally reductions in weight, sometimes marked reductions in weight, but not always, after treating small intestinal bacteria overgrowth. And some preliminary evidence correlating, correlating not showing treatment outcome yet, but heart disease, cardiovascular disease to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. So there’s a tremendous amount here and it can be very hard to say, “Well, these specific symptoms mean that I should improve my gut health.” Which is why I come back to the sequence of first, cover the basics. Then if you’re not feeling well and you’re thinking “is it the thyroid, is it heavy metals, is it toxins, is it lyme, is it mold?” The next thing I recommend you do is look into optimizing your gut health.

The most common gut problems today

Ari Whitten: Okay. Excellent. So what are the specific conditions? I know you’ve obviously mentioned a couple of them in passing, or a few of them in passing here. But what are, can you just kind of list off some of the most common gut problems that exists today?

Dr. Michael Ruscio: Sure. Well we can think of these in constellations of symptoms that are labeled as conditions, or we can think of them as symptoms and I’ll kind of tackle this from both ends. And then I do want to get back to the other part of your question which is what are some of the more effective treatments that people can get started with in optimizing their gut health. But we have IBS, and IBS is oftentimes encapsulated by abdominal pain, bloating, and then altered bowel function. So this can be diarrhea, constipation, or an oscillation between the two. Now there’s also what’s known as dyspepsia or indigestion, and this may involve stomach or kind of sternal area epigastric discomfort, burning, or belching or reflux. There’s also inflammatory bowel disease.

The two most common subsets are your ulcerative colitis and your Crohn’s. Although there are other subsets and the symptoms here have a lot of overlap with IBS, but the underlying cause is different. And so in inflammatory bowel disease or IBD, or also Crohn’s, you oftentimes have a diarrhea presentation. Diarrhea is much, much more common than the small subset that can have constipation. So we have diarrhea, sometimes bloody diarrhea, sometimes as many as 12 bowel movements a day, and they may not all be diarrhea, they may just be frequent loose bowels. There may be urgent bowel and there also may be abdominal pain. But we also know that IBD can also manifest as skin conditions also in there, especially with Crohn’s disease. There’s some skin conditions that can manifest as part of this. And then you also have things like gastritis and ulcers which are irritation to the lining of the stomach.

And this is where I think oftentimes, especially with with gastritis and ulcers, natural medicine actually does a disservice to people because natural medicine is so gung-ho to give supplemental acid, betaine HCl. Yet, oftentimes I find that those conditions do not need any more acid, and in fact, there’s something going on in one’s body immunologically that is causing a high level of acid. And I know that’s considered blasphemous in natural medicine, but it’s really what the data show, if you look at it objectively. So those are just a few of the more common things that people may be grappling with from a digestive perspective. But don’t forget that you could have active inflammation and damage in your gut that’s only manifesting in your joints, in your brain, in your skin, whereever.

What science says about SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth)

Ari Whitten: Excellent. I want to digress on one point if you don’t mind. There’s a point of contention around SIBO. One of my good friends, Dr. Alan Christianson has written a long article, which I know you’ve read, that basically is his attempt at debunking the whole concept of SIBO as a legitimate condition. And there’s a lot of layers to this. And kind of how he’s analyzed the evidence around, you know, the studies testing, is there really too many bacteria in the small intestine, the hydrogen breath tests comparing, you know, normal, healthy people without gut symptoms versus those with IBS symptoms and most studies failing to differentiate based on the amount of hydrogen gas. And there’s a number of other layers to this. But, I know obviously as you mentioned, you still believe in SIBO. So what is your general take on that situation?

Dr. Michael Ruscio: That’s a great question.  So, you know, I don’t think we need to get into a debate of does SIBO exists or does it not exist. I think, you know, what we should do is look at the totality of evidence and then look where the data points, and always be open to updating our opinion.

And when you do that, you know, it’s fairly clear that small intestinal bacteria overgrowth is a legitimate condition. You know, are there areas that need to be updated? I do think so. And I do think Christianson made a few valid criticisms in his article. And mainly these stem around this kind of SIBO monoculture that seems to be budding, where people are just obsessed with SIBO at the exclusion and expense of anything else in the gut. And also they’re in this same mental framework. There does seem to be a lot of unnecessary fear. And I don’t think any of that is intentionally propagated. I think it’s just you have people who write and speak on SIBO, and sometimes we forget that we have to contextualize data points so as to not allow the consumer to run to the worst possible interpretation of those data points.

But you know, I think there’s certainly enough evidence to show that SIBO is a condition. This is likely why the arguably two largest bodies in gastroenterology in the entire world, the Rome Foundation and the North American Expert Consensus have both essentially issued guidelines for how to test SIBO and when to test SIBO and how to treat it. Now that falls, those two major bodies’ opinions do fall counter too much of what the SIBO community recommends. The SIBO community is probably a bit overzealous relative to that. And there are some imperfections with the testing, you know? Yes. But it’s one thing to say here’s something that is helpful, but it’s not perfect and there are some areas that need to be rectified. It’s another thing to say because of those few areas that need to be rectified, we’re going to throw the entire baby out with the bath water.

So, you know, I mean there’s so much that we can go into here. SIBO breath testing has been shown to be validated, at least the concept of showing dysbiosis. Whether that bacterial dysbiosis is the exact pattern of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, I don’t think we can fully say that from the data because there’s been some changes in the interpretation criteria for how you diagnose SIBO. So I believe this is why the one meta-analysis commenting on this, again, very high level scientific data, did show that this… there’s a small intestinal or there’s a dysbiosis that’s more common and that may be elucidated by breath testing in patients with IBS. Is it the exact pattern of SIBO? In that I don’t think we can still fully say and some of this wraps even further into the controversy of SIBO, which is the time interval is important and you can see false positives, meaning the test says you have SIBO, but you actually don’t if you’re not interpreting in a narrow enough time window.

And this is an accurate criticism and this is why these two bodies that I outlined a moment ago are now endorsing a shorter time interval so as to guard against these false positives. We also look at, the overall trend does show that small intestinal bacterial overgrowth does seem to be significantly more common in those with IBS, but you can be perfectly healthy and test positive for SIBO. And this is where sometimes people have a hard time with the nuance. If we were to look at 100 people who are normal and 100 people who have IBS, we’d probably see maybe, just giving, you know, rough approximations, about four percent of those healthy subjects have SIBO and about 40 percent of those healthy subjects, I’m sorry, 40 percent of the subjects with IBS have SIBO. So you know, if you’re looking for this test as 100 percent accurate all the time, then you’re not going to find that. But that’s not really, that’s very infrequently found in healthcare. So we do see a trend showing that if you have the symptoms of IBS, you are more likely by a significant margin to have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.

There’s also data, which in my mind is more important and more compelling, showing that when you look at a SIBO breath test and then you treat someone for the SIBO and then you retest, the values tend to trend in a correlating direction that correspond with someone’s improvement. So the worse the test results, the worse someone’s symptoms, you treat them, the better their symptoms get, the better the results become. In spite of all of that, I still don’t recommend serial retesting of SIBO, every time someone is treated to retest to guide treatment. I think that is an area, I don’t know if Christianson essentially made that criticism per se…

Ari Whitten: He did. Yeah. He said there’s huge lack of consistency in the results of the hydrogen breath tests.

Dr. Michael Ruscio: Right. And, I don’t know if we could say there’s huge lack of consistency in the results. I do think there’s enough consistency to show significant positives in a IBS population compared to a control population. But I think one of the comments he made was SIBO testing was over performed and I would agree. And I cite in my review article that the Rome consensus recommends very conservative testing and the North American consensus recommends somewhat more liberal testing. And kind of in the middle of those two was a systematic review published essentially saying that if you have someone with otherwise non-responsive symptoms, consider testing them to identify if SIBO is an issue. And then from there, treat empirically meaning treat based upon someone’s symptomatic response. And that’s essentially what I advocate. So it means we can use the testing to partially inform what we’re doing. But are we going to hang our hat fully on the testing, be overly literal with how we interpret the testing, and inculcate you into thinking that if you have SIBO you have some incurable condition and shroud this in fear? You know, all of those things I would disagree with and I think those were some of the criticisms that Christianson made. … And I don’t like being overly critical, but I think this is important because he made very strong definitive conclusions. And as I said earlier, be wary of someone who makes strong definitive conclusions because they are oftentimes unaware of the nuance in a body of literature. And so if you wanted to write an article…

Ari Whitten: I’ll just mention one thing just to be fair. He’s not saying these symptoms don’t exist, this cluster of symptoms doesn’t exist. The main critique is there’s basically lots of evidence pointing to the, in his opinion, that contradict the notion that it is specifically small intestinal bacterial overgrowth that’s responsible for those symptoms as opposed to let’s say just dysbiosis. And that the testing for detecting small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is not effective in accurately differentiating people with these symptoms versus those without. So, but you know I will leave it at that. I think ideally I would get you guys both on and you guys could debate back and forth for an hour on this subject, but since we’re limited in time here I think we will…

Dr. Michael Ruscio: Let me just say one more thing.  In his article and in his video, he made very absolute statements and those absolute statements were untenable. There is not conclusive data to support his statements. Now I would have zero issue if anyone wanted to write an article criticizing something and using cautious language. You know, there’s some unanswered questions here. There are some contradictory data points that we need to explore. Fine. I have no quarrel with that at all and it’s very healthy. But his language was very absolute and very definitive and I think it was very misleading. And, I, you know, I’m happy to have a further conversation with him at any point. …

Ari Whitten: Okay. So yeah, I think also it’s worth mentioning on this subject that he has written an article, it’s publicly available. You’ve also written a rebuttal article that is also publicly available. So I would encourage everybody listening to read both reviews of the evidence and you can see Dr. Ruscio’s direct responses to Dr. Christianson’s statements in the article. So I think it’s worth exploring that for people listening. And again, ideally, it would be great to have you guys both on for an hour and talk back and forth directly. Dr. Ruscio, how much more time do you have, because I know you might have a hard cut off coming up here. There’s a bunch more topics I want to cover, but I want to narrow it down if you’re real short on time.

Dr. Michael Ruscio: I can roll for another 10.

What science says about non-celiac gluten sensitivity and gut health

Ari Whitten: Okay, perfect. So we have all these different gut problems that are emerging, gut dysbiosis, permeability, IBS, IBD, SIBO, SIFO, small intestinal fungal overgrowth. I’m curious what your thoughts are on non-celiac gluten sensitivity

Dr. Michael Ruscio: So, you know, in keeping with the theme we just transitioned out of, I think I’ve been one of the more active critics against this overzealous conclusion that’s kind of, you know, potentiated on the Internet that everyone has to avoid gluten. I think that’s harmful and I don’t think the evidence supports that. And there was recently a study published, a multicenter trial in Italy that looked at 12,225 patients. And this was a group of physicians who were really trying to better understand non celiac gluten sensitivity. And just for the audience that means that you don’t have celiac but you feel essentially you have a problem with gluten. And they devised a 60 point assessment looking at lab markers, subjective findings, objective findings, and they were trying to figure out what signs and symptoms and history and lab markers all kind of correlated into this syndrome of non celiac gluten sensitivity.

And they found some, they shouldn’t really be surprising, but I guess they’re surprising relative to the current ethos that exists regarding gluten sensitivity. And essentially what they found was about three percent of the population was found to be non celiac gluten sensitive. So this is both a good and a bad thing, right? If you’re overzealous about gluten free, then this probably comes off as a bad thing. I would say this is actually a good thing. This gives us some very high level support that yes, there are people without celiac who do have a documentable problem with gluten. And it also hopefully should be reassuring that that’s not the majority of the population. So we don’t have to be making these blanket statements that because gluten is bad for some, it’s bad for all. It’s like saying if you have type two diabetes, you have to be very careful with your blood sugar.

But if you have a blood sugar of 103, which is very, I would say it’s essentially normal, but it’s three points over the cutoff. If you have a blood sugar of 103, you have to be eating the same way as end stage type two diabetic. That’s kind of the conflation that’s made and that can be harmful for people. Now there’s some immediate rebukes that come up when I share this, which is the US is going to have a different grain supply than Europe. And I think that’s a fair criticism. Now in the same paper, the authors cite data in the US showing various studies have found a incidence of .6-6% of non celiac gluten sensitivity in the US. And the glyphosate use may contribute to that, essentially a pesticide that is more commonly used here.

So we may have up to double the amount of this in the US than we do Europe, but that’s still six percent of the population. And even if that six percent is underreported, we couldn’t expect it to be much more than double that, just throwing out some reasonable inferences here. So even at the highest level of extrapolation, maybe we get to 12 percent. That is still very far away from what feels like a 80, 90 percent of recommendation of the population to avoid gluten kind of in the current integrative healthcare narrative. There’s one or two other points, but one I think is very salient, which is you know, often times you get the comment that well, you could be eating gluten and fueling this underlying inflammatory/autoimmune process that may not manifest symptomatically for weeks or months or years. And you know, okay, I’m open to this, but we have to be looking at the evidence to inform whether or not the hypothesis has any validity or not.

And in this study they found that over 90 percent of people who are non celiac gluten sensitive, so who had a reaction to gluten, notice that reaction within 24 hours. So what that tells you is that if you’re going to do a gluten elimination and reintroduction, you have an over 90 percent chance, at least according to this study, that if you have a problem with gluten, you will have a symptomatic reaction within 24 hours. Why this is helpful is because if someone is sitting there and saying, “Well, I’m not sure, I have a family history of x, y, or z, that’s autoimmune and I’m not sure if I should ever have any gluten.” It appears that when you perform your reintroduction, you have a very high probability that if you’re going to negatively react, you will react within 24 hours.

And so I think that’s freeing for people. It can help them make a better discernment as to whether or not they need to avoid gluten and it can help them live a less encumbered lifestyle. I still have no problem with eating gluten reduced. But there’s a difference, you know, it’s a long road to go from gluten reduced to fully gluten free and the psychosocial implications of going 100 percent gluten free are somewhat damaging. They are difficult. And so if we can spare someone from adhering to that who doesn’t need to, then I think that’s a real win.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. So I know we only have a few minutes left. Can you kind of get real practical here and kind of give an overview of what the steps of your approach to healing the gut look like?

Dr. Michael Ruscio: Sure.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, go for it. I’ll let you take it from here.

Dr. Michael Ruscio: So in the book, we essentially go through, you know, many of these different things. You know, carbs and gluten and food allergens and also probiotics and microbial earth and specialty diets and dysbiosis and prokinetics and fiber and what have you. And then at the end, if you really understand this stuff, you can portray it into an algorithm, meaning step one, do this. And if you feel great, then you kind of go to this maintenance finishing track. And if you’re not feeling great, you can escalate and then go to step two. And at step two, you feel great, you’re kind of done and you can go to your maintenance track. Or if not, you can escalate to step three. And so that’s essentially what I write in the book. But step one is really diet and lifestyle. And the real on boarding point for people to try to figure out what diet is best for them involves one meal frequency.

Some people do better with frequent meals, other people do better with intermittent fasting. I don’t think we can say everyone should do one or the other, but rather we can listen to one’s system to determine what their ideal meal frequency should be. But probably more unique to just gut health would be do you want to start your diet in the direction of kind of a Paleo diet, which is essentially an anti-inflammatory diet that reduces common allergens? That’s one track you can go down. The other would be do you need to reduce fermentable substrates in your diet? And this is known as the low FODMAP diet. Because for some people they may have too much bacteria in the small intestine and in the gut generally. Or they may have an immune system or pain receptors that are hypersensitive to gases and/or bacteria that are fed by high FODMAP foods. Therefore, they may feel better by going on a low FODMAP diet.

There’s a couple other nuances, but in terms of what is the initial divergent point, it’s trying to assess if someone’s unique gut does better on a Paleo diet or a low FODMAP type diet. And the good news is you only need about two to three weeks to discern if one of these is helping you and if one is, you ride out that wave until you plateau and then reevaluate. And if it’s not, then you move on to the other diets. So it’s not hard to, at least kind of peg the initial diet stroke. After that, there’s a succession of steps. But one of the next things we recommend people consider is probiotics. And there’s confusion regarding probiotics, which is really unfortunate. But just to say this somewhat succinctly, you can take every probiotic product out there and categorize it into one of three types. And category one is a lactobacillus/bifidobacterium blend.

Category two is essentially healthy fungus, saccharomyces Boulardii. And category three are your soil based or spore forming probiotics which oftentimes have bacillus, different types of bacillus species in them. And why this is important is because some people do well on one probiotic, some people don’t do well on another type of probiotic and some people do well on all three. And if, let’s say you take a category one probiotic and you react negatively, but you didn’t realize it was a category one probiotic, right? It was called, you know, Gut Saver Ten, or whatever. And it has 10 strains, and then, oh, you get bloated. So then you hear about this other one, you know, you see it on TV or whatever and you try that and it’s called, you know, Gut Restore Five. But you don’t realize that you keep trying the same category of probiotic and that’s where you’re having this repeat negative reaction.

Once you come to that realization, you can say, “Okay, the lactobacillus and bifido bacterium strain blends, category one, don’t work well for my system. I’m not going to use them anymore, but I am going to try a category two and category three and see which one of those works for me.” Retain that one, use one of the others, and then kind of keep working through the steps that we lay out in the book.

How to use your body’s signals and diet to restore gut health

Ari Whitten: Excellent. I have one last question for you, which is on this subject of kind of getting positive feedback based on interventions or dietary changes that you do. There seems to me to be one potential big pitfall there which is sometimes people are highly reactive to all kinds of things and end up on increasingly more extreme and restrictive diets that ultimately end up being extremely unhealthy and deficient in lots of different nutrients. And they get there as a result of sort of just listening to their body. How can you listen to your body while avoiding that pitfall?

Dr. Michael Ruscio: It’s a great question and there have been two studies that have looked at this and I’ll give you kind of the brief summary. That one study in Italy found that perhaps as much as 30 percent of people with non celiac gluten sensitivity actually had another underlying problem in the gut that was manifesting their symptoms. Now that’s just an observation of an association. We then have to prove that you can actually treat that and see an effect. Another study, and there’s been a number like this published, looked at I believe it was 15 patients who were celiac, went gluten free and didn’t improve. And essentially they found that two of these patients were intolerant to lactose, one had a roundworm infection, one had Blastocystis hominis, and then the other 10 had small intestinal bacteria overgrowth, and one kind of dropped out which accounts for that last remainder.

But the point is after the subjects were treated for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or the other two infections, they all responded and they all overcame their symptoms. So if diet doesn’t work, and I directly address this in the book, we don’t want to try to force the non dietary problem, or I’m sorry, we don’t want to try to force a dietary solution to a non dietary problem. So if the diet doesn’t get you to a point where you’re feeling better and then you can eventually broaden your diet to the broadest diet possible, there’s probably something else going on in the gut that needs to be remedied. Because the goal is to not have you on a restrictive diet forever.

Use the short term to heal and also gather awareness to what a couple of your true food intolerances might be, but we should ultimately get you to a point where you’re feeling better, you’re able to expand your diet, still feeling better, and worse case scenario, you only have a handful of foods that are problematic for you and you can generally eat a much broader diet with a much more resilient gut. It’s an excellent point.

Ari Whitten: Excellent. Thank you so much Dr. Ruscio and I appreciate you going a little overtime here with me. I have like 10 more points on my list of things I wanted to ask you about but I guess we’re not getting to those. So where can people find out more about your work and obviously they can get your book “Healthy Gut, Healthy You “on Amazon. And where can people find out more about your work and follow you?

Dr. Michael Ruscio: As you said, the book’s available on Amazon and it is “Healthy Gut, Health You.” And then pretty much everything else I do you can plug in through the website which is, We have a weekly podcast, a weekly video, weekly article. And also, if you’re a healthcare provider, we publish a monthly newsletter that’s subscription access only where we go through case studies, research summaries, and we take all this stuff that we’ve talked about and we kind of look under the hood from the clinician end. Meaning, you know, this is what the research is showing, this is how we apply it in the clinic, here as a test not to run, here is a test to run. And yeah, I think that, I mean that’s the lion’s share of it. It keeps me pretty busy.

Ari Whitten: Excellent. Well thank you again Dr. Ruscio. It was a pleasure doing this with you and I hope to do it again.

Dr. Michael Ruscio: Been great. Would love to. Thank you.

Ari Whitten: Yeah.

How to Heal Your Gut and The Keys To Restore Gut Health with Dr. Michael Ruscio – Show Notes

Why testing isn’t a valid marker when you want to restore gut health (13:15)
Why there isn’t one specific ”gut health diet” (18:45)
How gut health relates to energy (24:06)
The most common gut problems today (29:11)
What science says about SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) (32:00)
What science says about non celiac gluten sensitivity and gut health (42:30)
How to use your body’s signals and diet to restore gut health (47:39)


Get Chris’ book, Healthy Gut, Healthy You on Amazon

Dr. Alan Christianson’s article on SIBO is found here

Dr. Ruscio’s article on SIBO is found here

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The True Definition of Health Versus Our Healthcare System (And How Technology Can Boost Your Health And Energy Levels) with Dan Pardi Cover │ Heal your gut │ restore gut health,
Our healthcare system may be outdated which makes it difficult to heal and identify the most common diseases today. Listen in as Dan Pardi talks about health and healthcare systems.

The Link Between Hormone Imbalance And Fatigue│ Essential Oils For Hormone Balance, Sleep, Stress, and More

The Link Between Hormone Imbalance And Fatigue │ Essential oils for hormone balance, sleep, stress, and more │ Essential oils for sleep │ Essential oils for stress │ Essential oils for weight loss │ Essential oils for energy, theenergyblueprint.comMany women experience mood swings, unexplained weight gain, horrible PMS, and fatigue at some point in their lives.  As it stands, these experiences are likely symptoms of hormonal imbalance. So what causes it? And more importantly, how can women heal their hormones?

In this podcast, I speak with Dr. Mariza Snyder, a functional practitioner and the author of numerous books, including “Smart Mom’s Guide to Essential Oils,” “The Matcha Miracle”, and is currently working on her latest book “The Essential Oils Hormone Solution.” Dr. Mariza has helped hundreds of women heal their hormones using lifestyle interventions.

One of the things Dr. Mariza found to be particularly effective in helping her patients balance their hormones was essential oils. Essential oils have been proven effective for many ailments, including stress, sleep, and hormone balance. That does, raise the question what are the best essential oils for hormone balance, energy, and stress?

Listen in, as Dr. Mariza uncovers the link between hormone imbalance and fatigue, and the best essential oils for hormone balance, sleep, stress, weight loss, and more.

In this podcast, we’ll cover

  • Why do women experience hormone imbalance?
  • The best essential oils for stress
  • Mariza’s morning and evening routine for optimal energy and hormone balance
  • The link between stress, cortisol, and sleep
  • Is there science to back the benefits of essential oils?
  • The best essential oils for energy
  • The importance of rituals for balanced hormones
  • The best calming essential oils for sleep
  • How hormone imbalance influences weight (the best essential oils for weight loss)
  • What is the link between hormone balance and fatigue?
  • How Dr. Mariza helped her mother overcome a lifetime of hormone imbalance and fatigue (you’ll love the results)
  • Essential oils for hormone imbalance and menstrual cramps
  • Dr. Mariza’s top nutrition and lifestyle tips for energy and hormone balance

Download or listen on iTunes

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The Link Between Hormone Imbalance And Fatigue │ Essential Oils For Hormone Balance, Sleep, Stress, And More With Dr. Mariza Snyder – Transcript

Ari Whitten: Everyone, this is Ari Whitten and welcome back to the Energy Blueprint Podcast. Today, I have a very special guest who has recently become a friend of mine, Dr. Mariza Snyder, and I’m going to read you a little bit about her bio before we get into this.

Dr. Mariza Snyder is a functional practitioner and the author of six books, the best selling “Smart Mom’s Guide to Essential Oils,” “The Dash Diet Cookbook,” as well as The Low-GI Slow Cooker,” The Antioxidant Counter,” the “Water Infusions” detox book, and “The Matcha Miracle.” I’m a big fan of Matcha as we talked about recently, by the way.

Dr. Mariza is currently working on her newest book “The Essential Oils Hormone Solution.” For the past 10 years she has lectured at wellness centers, conferences and corporations on hormone health, essential oils, nutrition and detoxification. She’s also the host of the Essentially You Podcast, designed to empower women to become the CEO of their health.

You can check out her website at, and that’s M-a-r-i-z-a, so it’s spelled like Mariza, but the proper pronunciation is Marissa and it’s all about women’s hormonal health and menopause tips, including essential oil recipes and remedies.

With all of that said, welcome Dr. Mariza.

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Thank you so much for having me, Ari. I am so happy to be here with you.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. It’s a pleasure. And, you know, we’ve had the pleasure of connecting in person a couple of times now. We had lunch a few weeks ago and then we hung out at a seminar recently and I have to say, just on a personal note, she is just an absolute pleasure of a human being. Extremely knowledgeable. And I love the work she’s doing when it comes to female hormonal health, which is the subject of today’s podcast, as luck would have it.

With that said, I would love to get started Dr. Mariza, by just having you talk a bit about your background and how you became so passionate about women’s health.

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Absolutely. So I became really passionate about women’s health because I was having my own health challenges. Growing up, I remember my grandma and my mom struggling, but I didn’t know what was going on necessarily. I felt back then we didn’t really have conversations around women’s hormones or, you know, what could be happening in terms of imbalance.

But my grandma really suffered from hormonal issues and my mom, you know, growing up with her mood swings, unexplained weight gain, horrible PMS, and it was just, you know, I just thought my mom wasn’t well really, is what we thought. And so as I was growing up, I had some of my own kind of hormone issues, even as a teenager and into my twenties. But again, it just wasn’t something we talked about and it just seemed like for women it was just a normal thing.

But then as I got into my late twenties/early thirties, and I’ve always been kind of a quick-paced, fast, you know, I wouldn’t say a type A girl, but just like to keep busy, and that kind of hit up to a screeching halt. And so I had just started my practice. I was seeing patients and seeing women with chronic pain or chronic fatigue, but also a lot of hormone issues.

And around the same time that I was starting to really take care of these women I was having, I was having some of my own hormone, I called “hormone chaos.” I had put on 35 pounds and I couldn’t get rid of it. I was having horrible PMS, insomnia, mood swings. And I was literally chronically fatigued. And I found myself one morning waking up and just really having this inability to lift my head up off the pillow. And I knew that I was in trouble. And I remember looking at myself in the mirror as I kind of crawled to the bathroom that day and I just didn’t even recognize this person. And there were a lot of shame and embarrassment because here I am going to go show up, run tests, figure out what’s going on with these women when I haven’t even figured out a way to take care of myself. And that was when I knew something needed to shift now. And that’s, that was kind of the start of that journey.

How hormone imbalance has become an epidemic

Ari Whitten: Wow. Intense. And this has become, you know, obviously you are one of many here. This has become an epidemic that there are hormonal issues and different kinds of hormonal imbalances that are occurring in women on an epidemic level. First of all, would you say that’s accurate?

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Absolutely, that’s accurate. And very much so. And I think women don’t know what’s happening and a lot of times I feel like these hormonal shifts are happening kind of in the background. You know, starting out as whispers in a way. We just really don’t notice it.

We just think it’s, you know… and when you’re talking to other women, too, about it, it’s just like we’re all living in this normal. And then when we head to the doctor’s office, either, you know, we are misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all and we’re prescribed something entirely different, right? We’re showing up for anxiousness or depression or maybe we’re showing up for, you know, needing a sleep pill. And that’s really not getting to the core root of the issue, it’s just a symptom of what’s happening with us.

Ari Whitten: So why do you think this issue is becoming an epidemic or has become an epidemic? Like give me kind of like the broad landscape. And let me phrase this a different way, like why… you know humans are designed over the course, you know our biology is a product of hundreds of thousands of years of evolution. Why do we even have to think about our hormones at all, or do any strategies that are designed to balance out our hormones? Why hasn’t, you know, sort of nature just taken care of this and our hormones just work the way they should and we don’t have to think about it?

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Well, it’s, I think a big reason for that… you know, I had a different answer and then I’m glad for the clarification because I was going to go on this whole tangent around beliefs and how women don’t believe that they deserve to take care of themselves, which is true.

Ari Whitten: Well, we should talk about that later, too.

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Yes. But what I think is really happening is we are talking about all of those tens of thousands of years of genetics. I would say that our chemistry, our biochemistry, our brain chemistry hasn’t caught up with how quick paced our modern world is. In a lot of ways when we talk about the stress response, and this is what you know more than anybody, so I’m so excited to have this conversation with you. But you know, when we used to, you know, when there was a, I call stranger danger, right?

When there was a threat in the area. And especially for women, it could be, you know, it could be… back in the day it was animals or maybe it was a man or something that was threatening us or… we would have an opportunity to respond through our autonomic nervous system, right?

We had an automatic response through the hypothalamus, sorry, hypothalamic pituitary axis. I’ve said that word I don’t even know how many times today. But so I think it’s, I can’t say it any longer supposedly. So the HPA axis. And I think what’s going on is that our modern world is just triggering us a lot easier and our chemistry, especially our brain chemistry, that HPA axis and our hormone system is having to respond so fast, and we weren’t necessarily meant to do that.

Like I think about a gazelle. You can think about being in Africa. You think about this gazelle and gazelles are just doing their thing, grazing in nature. All of a sudden there’s a tiger and gazelles start to run full speed ahead because that system kicks in and then once the threat is gone, they just go back to doing them. They go back to grazing.

Well, but today for us, you know, imagine that gazelle, is that we’re constantly getting that signal over and over and over again. On the text message, you know, driving somewhere, stuck in traffic, late for a meeting, getting something turned in on time, late for our kids, whatever that may be. We’re constantly triggering the sympathetic nervous system response that’s leading to this cascade of hormone triggers that is over time deregulating the system. And that’s why I think we’re finding ourselves in a bit of a hormonal mess.

The primary cause of hormone imbalance in women

Ari Whitten: Yeah. So let’s get specific now. So what specific kinds of hormonal imbalances are we talking about? And we can make this very specific to women. Obviously, you know, chronic stress also applies to men, but let’s talk just about women here. What specifically is going on hormonally in the people that you’re working with?

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Absolutely. So what I find with women, I picture an average woman that I work with, usually her cortisol levels are deregulated. Oftentimes what I see is they are high at night, so she’s working late into the night, maybe at a computer or doing the second or third job of her day in the evening, and then waking up to lower cortisol levels. And that’s usually due to a lifestyle of stress that can then have an effect on… you know when I look at progesterone and estrogen levels, what I will normally see is if cortisol is requiring that master hormone to make more cortisol.

We call that Pregnenolone, that mother hormone for all of our sex hormones for women. We’re kind of stealing that from progesterone. We tend… I see a lot of women with deregulated cortisol levels.

They also have lower amounts of estrogen. And sometimes with women that I work with, which is oftentimes in kind of that perimenopause and menopause state, they can have, you know, it’s interesting, they could even have lowered estrogen levels or even higher depending on the situation.

But in relation to progesterone, that estrogen is higher, so they’re showing up for estrogen dominance and that can have a… that can also have an effect on our insulin levels, that can have an effect on our thyroid that we’re not, we’re not firing off, you know, our T3 and T4 correctly. We’re not transferring that properly and we start to see women struggling with the inability to go to sleep at night at a good time because they’re wired and tired.

We see women not able to lose weight properly or maybe they’re feeling very sluggish and ultimately, oftentimes what I find is women are just feeling just completely exhausted throughout the day as well. And not that there aren’t other symptoms, but that’s often, I mean I can’t tell you how many levels of hormone tests I’ve looked at over the years and it breaks my heart to see this very similar pattern show up. And I’ve had that exact hormone, those hormone results myself.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. So just to clarify one point, so you can have estrogen dominance while also having low estrogen levels. It’s because it’s relative to the progesterone, correct?

Dr. Mariza Snyder: That’s correct, yes.

Ari Whitten: So you sometimes see women with very high estrogen and low progesterone or you sometimes see low estrogen and even lower progesterone.

Dr. Mariza Snyder: That’s correct. Yep, that’s right.

How hormone imbalance affects weight loss

Ari Whitten: Okay. So let’s talk about weight gain and weight loss specifically. So how do hormones, some of these hormone imbalances that you just mentioned, how do they relate to people struggling to lose weight or kind of gaining weight without really apparently changing any of their lifestyle habits and they are all of a sudden putting on weight?

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Absolutely. So, you know, let’s give an example of, you know… cortisol I find is kind of the orchestrator of a lot of this, in least of what I have seen. And so cortisol can deregulate our insulin levels. So it could help, it could create what I call like insulin deregulation where we’re not metabolizing, we’re not getting blood glucose into the cells, into the liver as efficiently as we could and that lends to weight issues.

Also, I start to see that the thyroid is beginning to overcompensate. And in that particular instance, you’ll have more symptoms of hypothyroidism where women are just, they’re, again, they’re exhausted, their metabolism isn’t firing the way that it normally should because those receptor sites aren’t being filled. And then the other way is we are seeing high estrogen levels. We know high estrogen levels tends to start putting weight on our hip, on our booty, you know, all the places we don’t necessarily want it unless you’re trying to look like Kim Kardashian.

And with the cortisol, too, you know, we’re talking about visceral belly fat because, you know, that particular hormone is our survival hormone. And even if you’ve eaten, even if you’re eating well, you know, your body is in this state of scarcity and it really does feel like it needs to stock up for that emergency moment that you’re having.

So, you know, and the thing about it is, is that each and every one of these hormones can be at play at the same time, you know. But I feel like kind of that master orchestrator, at least in my opinion, what I’ve seen is oftentimes the chronic stress. And yes, can you have hypothyroidism or thyroid issues without having chronic stress? Absolutely. But just in the kind of hormone balances that I see with my patients, cortisol is usually playing a bit of a role too.

How stress affects cortisol

Ari Whitten: So one of the things you mentioned when it comes to cortisol is this pattern of lower morning cortisol, when we should have a big peak in morning cortisol levels, and higher evening cortisol levels. It’s often called a flattened diurnal curve because we’re supposed to have this big sort of peak at the beginning of the day and it’s supposed to decrease, and a lot of people have a blunted peak and then kind of it doesn’t really go down as much as it should.

It kind of stays elevated throughout the day. So what are the biggest factors in causing that and can you talk about maybe some of the ways that you approach correcting that flattened diurnal curve of cortisol?

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Absolutely. So as I had mentioned before, a lot of what I see is that… well a couple things that I have seen is that women, in particular, are just kind of running into their evening. Like they’re not setting up a time for restful sleep. They don’t have a sleep ritual in play. They’re pretty much what I call kind of Tasmanian deviling into bed. And what I’ve learned through my own mistakes is that you can’t just run into bed and go to sleep, you know, your brain is running. And so I think also being at the computer, that blue light is definitely not playing, not helping us as well.

Not being out in nature, not connecting into our bodies is all playing a major role there that we are just kind of in this artificial environment, you know, working, working, working until we fall asleep at night and that’s really stressing the system there.

So I think a lot of it has to do with the way that we’re treating our bodies throughout the day as we’re kind of heading into the evening that then is just throwing us off in the morning. So instead of having that peak of cortisol in the morning to kind of get us up, we’re kind of slogging through that morning, slogging through our day, drinking caffeine, or hitting caffeine and sugar at the same time to kind of get things going. Which again can play a major role on our cortisol levels as well, kind of leading into that Catch 22. But then just kind of like I said, just working our way through that evening and deregulating cortisol levels.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. You know, one thing I’ll add here. I’m actually literally all day for the last several weeks, I’ve been working on this really comprehensive review around causes of diurnal, a flattened diurnal curve in cortisol levels and actually being a night owl. I don’t know if you’ve looked at this at all, but there’s about five or six studies looking at night owl chronotypes versus morning chronotypes, whether you’re a morning person or night owl.

And just being a night owl, even if you’re perfectly healthy and you don’t even have any symptoms can cause profound differences in the morning peak of cortisol levels and the evening levels of cortisol. You can create that pattern, a flattened diurnal curve, just by going to sleep later at night. You know, and just that factor alone is enough to produce pretty big shifts in the cortisol rhythm, which is kind of amazing.

So I think that what you’re saying about kind of people running into the night and not really knowing how to shut down and start to turn things off and kind of just go, they’re still in go, go, go, go mode like for hours and hours and hours probably later than they should be.

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Their brain thinks it’s like 2:00 PM, I feel, you know, running at that 2:00 PM speed when it’s 11 or midnight at night.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. So just that alone. I mean not even looking at any other factor, just that can create pretty big shifts in terms of cortisol dysregulation.

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Yeah. And I can’t tell you, I was on the phone with three different people today, just women, supporting women, women and entrepreneurs as well. And I think each and every one of them was up until one, midnight, two in the morning yesterday. I did interviews with them today and I was like “this is why we’re in trouble.”

They were… every single day I come across… my husband’s a night owl and I’ve really had to force myself to go to bed before him, you know, to not get into that habit because it definitely doesn’t serve me. But I’ve talked to so many women, they’re like, “it’s my only time, It’s my time to get these things done.” Like it’s, they’ve built it in as that third work shift. Like “that is my precious work moment” and I’m like “yeah, and it is killing you.”

Ari Whitten: Yeah. No, I honestly think it would be better for those women to go to sleep early, like maybe with their family, with their kids much earlier in the evening and maybe wake up super early and kind of have their time to do their own thing at that time. Just based on the research that I’ve seen, I think that might be a better strategy for their long term health.

Dr. Mariza Snyder: I agree. I think what it is, is that people, you can kind of push it. It’s like I have this quote recently that I’ve been sharing. It says “you need that extra hour sleep more than you need that next Netflix episode.” Right? You know, it’s so much easier to kind of just push the envelope to stay up a little bit later, but nobody wants to get up super early, you know?

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Well, I mean it’s a function of the modern environment with our houses filled up with artificial lighting and, and TVs and iPhones and computers and all these things that are producing all this light that have subtly shifted like everybody’s bedtime as an entire population. We’ve shifted our bedtime later and later and later over the last few decades. And it’s just being programmed in by the environment and a lot of people now are convincing themselves, “oh, this is just my normal bedtime. This is when my body has always gone to sleep.” Well, yes, but only because of the environment you live in, not because you are genetically designed to go to bed at that time.

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Absolutely. I mean go camping, right? Go camping. When the sun’s down, there’s not a lot more you can do.

How hormone imbalance affects weight

Ari Whitten: Yeah. So, well, let’s get back to weight loss. What in terms of these hormonal imbalances that are contributing to kind of being stuck in terms of weight loss or gaining weight without wanting to. What are some of the things that people can do to start fixing that?

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Absolutely. Well, I think, again, getting to that core root of the issue. You know, you’ve got this orchestrator, this one hormone that, you know, it’s really beautifully designed to protect us in a lot of ways that it’s kind of running the show. And so really I think it’s about starting to create those habits, you know, starting to getting up early, making sure that you’re going to bed at night, creating a morning and evening ritual, you know, to make sure that you’re kind of resetting those cortisol levels.

Becoming more self aware of when you’re feeling stressed and being okay with asking yourself questions. Things like, you know, “is this going to serve me right now?” Or “how is my body going to feel if I do this” or, you know “what is it going to feel like in the morning if I don’t get to sleep?” Just getting really good clarity. I always say that the unexpected solution to radical self healing is self awareness. And if indeed it’s a lifestyle that is kind of causing this deregulation, this flattening of our cortisol curve, then we’ve got to be able to be mindful about switching that. I think a lot of this is lifestyle, especially when it comes to those stress levels.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. So when it comes to stress and when it comes to… actually, you know, before we get there, let’s talk about the morning and evening ritual and dig into some specifics. So I would love to find out about what your night ritual and your morning ritual looks like.

Mariza’s morning ritual

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Absolutely. So I want you to know that my rituals are punctuated with essential oils. I feel like they really do just bring into those rituals… you know, a lot of the reason why I feel we struggle with them is that these are habits. At the end of the day “rituals” is just a kind of a sexier word, right? It sounds a little bit more fun than a “habit”. And, you know what I love about oils, it just makes some of these things a little bit easier. But I do get up early in the morning. I think that that is important. I try to be more of an early morning person than a night owl and I start my morning every day with a warm glass of lemon water because I want to just support my digestive system, kind of wake things up and hydrate my body. Because, goodness knows, at night we lose a lot of water, so we kind of wake up dehydrated.

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Then I get my oils out. And my favorite, I love wild orange, peppermint, monoterpenes and that methanol, they just open up the lungs, kind of awakened the senses and it just gives me that little extra boost of something. Then I go out in nature. I try to go out and put my feet on the grass. I’m outside for a good 10 to 15 minutes at least. Outside I, also, we have a table out on the deck looking over the ocean, so I grab my gratitude journal. I’ve got my little gratitude blend or maybe just a citrus oil like tangerine or wild orange.

Wild orange is known as the oil of abundance and so I always breathe that in, because who doesn’t want a little bit more abundance in their life. And I start writing in my journal because I always say it’s really difficult to have a crappy day when you have just thought about all the ways that life has blessed you. So I have my journal, I map out my big blocks for the day, although I oftentimes do that the night before as well because I think kind of knowing your schedule, prioritizing yourself before you prioritize anybody else’s needs is really going to help you get centered and set the tone for the day. And then I’m a big green smoothie advocate. I’m a green smoothie girl and so I make the green smoothie…

Ari Whitten: I think that moniker is already taken, just so you know.

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Yes, it is.

Ari Whitten: Robin Openshaw may object to you calling yourself “The Green Smoothie Girl.” A long as you specify you are “a” green smoothie girl…

Dr. Mariza Snyder: I’m “a” green smoothie girl, not “The Green Smoothie Girl.” I thought I had said a green smoothie girl. So yeah, I follow the legion of the green smoothie girl, it’s because of her that I’ve been drinking smoothies for 10 plus years now.

My goodness, we’ve known each other a long time. And we put plant based protein in there, we put avocado in there, all kinds of yummy greens and I put matcha green tea in there. I put my berries and it’s just, there’s this ritual around making these green smoothies that really feel nourishing to be in the kitchen to be doing all of this and it’s, you know, it’s very much something I’ve been doing for a long time.

So we have our green smoothies, we take our supplements and so that’s really a big part. And that takes me about, I want to say about a half hour and there’re other things I do. I adorn myself with oils. I have a little shower ritual where I spritz oils around me just to kind of continue to just wake up and just enjoy my mornings.

So that’s my morning routine in a nutshell. So motion, just inspiring the mind, you know, elevating with the oils, fueling the body, hydrating the body and getting out in nature. Those are major things that have to happen for me. And I’ll tell you once you create a morning ritual like this, and it can look different for everybody, you know, you’re not going to want to give it up. You’re not going to want to give that up.

You know, try to take my morning away from me, I swear, ooh, you know, it’s not pretty. So I have to really have that now because I know that I, not only am I protecting my hormones and taking care of my body, but I know that I’m going to show up for this interview or for everything else I do that day like so much better. So that’s my morning. Do you want me to go into the evening as well?

Ari Whitten: Yeah, you beat me to it. That was beautiful. I love your morning ritual.

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Awesome. I’ve got a feeling we were aligned. So evening ritual, again, all electronics have got to go off. I’ve got a big rule, we got to shut it down. So about an hour to two hours before bed, the phone gets put away, I mean, I literally turn it off. Computers go down, try to avoid all the blue light and I’m a big reader. I love reading and I don’t read on a tablet. I read like a real book, you know, and I’ve got books everywhere all over the house. And so I love reading. We get the diffuser going. So we have, I have a little nighttime diffuser right here. We put in calming essential oils, so about an hour to two hours before bed. Oils like Clary sage, lavender, bergamot, which is the oil self love and acceptance, roman chamomile. Any of those oils that kind of just really tell the brain to shut it down.

And so we run those in the house. We run those in our bedroom and then I’m just reading. I’m just taking time to either connect with my husband Alex or reading. And then once we’re heading into bed, I really feel like I’ve kind of got my brain ready. Once I’m heading into bed, I have oils by the bedside. So I have like a little roller like this and it has, again, some of the same oils, like Vetiver, Cedarwood, lavender. And I roll them on my feet, I roll them on the back of my neck, I roll them in my palms and do a couple of deep belly breaths. Take my book, I’m still reading my book in bed, and then usually it is shut down time and I’m asleep within about 15 to 20 minutes. That’s usually what my evening ritual looks like.

Ari Whitten: So you get like two and a half pages of reading done?

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Well the second time, yes.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, no, I know how that is. Sometimes when your nightly ritual is too effective, you don’t actually get much reading done.

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Not a lot of reading done. But you know what, I’m totally okay with that because I had done some before as well. And so yeah. So I usually have like very specific books in bed. So like my in bed books are fiction books. Those usually will keep me up a tiny bit longer, but you know, so often the book is falling against my chest right before heading to bed.

The best essential oils for stress

Ari Whitten: Yeah, totally, I know the feeling. So stress. You’ve talked quite a bit about stress. What specific essential oils do you find are most effective for combating stress?

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Absolutely, so there’s a lot of research on essential oils in reducing cortisol levels, even blood pressure and pulse. So I love oils for reducing stress. And some of the ones that I mentioned for sleep, very similar can be supportive for stress. And when it comes to using them for stress levels, it’s really about the use of aromatherapy, so breathing in those chemical constituents, that’s going to be the most profound way to do that. Because they have a no holds bar directly into that limbic brain, kind of calming down the amygdala, which is again kind of the most important part of the brain for what I call “stranger danger,” right?

Just assessing what is happening and when it’s over activating, you can find yourself very triggered very easily. So I go to oils for stress, if I had to pick a top five is lavender, because lavender is all things calming, Cedarwood, Clary sage, bergamot and roman chamomile. So those, all those five oils have been thoroughly researched to reduce cortisol levels in the body and it’s as simple as having them on your person.

I always have my oils on me at all times. I have a little oil bag that goes into my purse that I have on me. But even when I have a little purse I usually have a stress oil or kind of a relaxing oil on me because you never know when you’re going to get that text message or you never know when you’re finding yourself kind of in a situation where you feel a little bit overwhelmed, at least for me as a woman, it feels that way sometimes. And so what I do is I just take that oil blend. Usually I like it in a roller.

I’ll give you an example. Twenty drops of lavender, 20 drops of bergamot, top it off with grape seed oil or almond oil, whatever you prefer, you know, mix it up. And then I’m going to roll it on my palms like this. And I have a technique called the “the pause and stress reset technique.” And what you do is you have all those chemical constituents on your palms. You take a deep breath and you, all that air, just suck it all the way in and you will hold it for five seconds.

I’m going to do that for you and hold for one, two, three, four, five. Hold it and then breathe it all the way out through your mouth and you’re going to hold it there for another five seconds. And then I repeat this kind of, this pause meditation for five breaths. And what’s happening is you are literally switching from that sympathetic mode over to more of a relaxed parasympathetic mode. And if you do this technique enough with your oils, because that’s that extra boost, you’re getting those chemical constituents at play, you can begin to actually change the way that you manage or you respond to stress.

And that is one, has been one of the most profound ways that I have been able to kind of mitigate or kind of walk around stress so that I’m not as reactive as I used to be.

How your essential oils can affect your cortisol levels

Ari Whitten: Very interesting. So going back to what we talked about before as far as the flattened diurnal curve, lower morning cortisol, higher afternoon/evening cortisol. Do you specifically do this towards like afternoon, let’s say, like throughout the afternoon and the evening hours rather than the morning since these things tend to lower cortisol levels?

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Absolutely. So yes, absolutely more in the afternoon is when I’m kind of bringing things down. But I will say, you know, I have, you know examples… like, let’s say I have flight anxiety, you know. And I fly a lot. And so there may be a moment where I’m, you know, we’re taking off and it’s really turbulent and that’s usually when my anxiousness kind of clicks in.

And that’s, even if it’s in the morning, it doesn’t matter what time of the day. Like it can be so intense I literally feel that like adrenaline coursing through me. And I got to, I know that I need to shut that response down. And so I usually will have this oil blend with me to kind of calm down that alert response, that panic response. But I will say that, you know, I find, and I don’t know if this is for everybody, but I tend to feel a little bit more triggered, a little bit more reactive as the day wears on probably because I am getting tired and I find myself using a blend like that. And then I tend to use more awakening, more invigorating blends in the morning.

Ari Whitten: So what types of… so you mentioned some of the ones that you use in the morning already, wild orange and…

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Peppermint.

Ari Whitten: Peppermint, okay. Just out of curiosity, are you aware of any research on any oils that actually enhance the cortisol awakening response in the morning? That would increase cortisol levels in somebody that has lower cortisol levels?

Dr. Mariza Snyder: I would say usually it’s your mints, your spearmint, your peppermint. But you know what, Ari, I actually haven’t done that research. So I really, I can’t speak to that. But knowing my oils, like knowing those constituents, I mean the reason why I recommend energizer oils kind of when people are feeling sluggish, when they’re feeling fatigued, it’s usually going to be citrus oils because of those monoterpene content.

The limonene in particular for like wild orange, grapefruit, lemon, and then the menthol in like a peppermint or a spearmint. Those tend to be an awakening oil. And then rosemary. Rosemary has been most researched for, you know, I think about brain fog, but really focused concentration, alertness. So like my go-to kind of, I call it my get stuff done oil or my awakening blend usually will also involve rosemary as well.

Ari Whitten: So like peppermint, rosemary, wild orange. Any other good ones for like enhancing focus and mental performance?

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Absolutely. So my go-to oils for enhancing mental performance are going to be rosemary, basil, so both of them because very similar families, rosemary, basil, frankincense, peppermint, any mint so spearmint, peppermint, and then any type of citrus. So tangerine, orange, lemon, lime, any of those are going to have that monoterpene content that I talked about.

And so usually it’s a combination, like I have a blend that has a combination of all five and I’ve been working with women who are dealing with thyroid issues or working with women who are just constantly exhausted. That’s usually a blend they’ll use, you know, during the daytime if they find themselves still in like a zombie at their computer or just feeling exhausted during the day.

Essential oil benefits have been backed by science

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Now one thing I want to mention for people listening to this, I did one podcast with a mutual friend of ours named Eric Zielinski probably maybe six months ago or something like that. And one of the things I talked about in that podcast is the fact that I used to think essential oils were like total new age hippie nonsense and that was mostly just a position based out of ignorance, that I had never bothered to actually look at the research and just assumed that they were nonsense.

But in fact, there’s actually a whole bunch of research on this showing that essential oils have very legitimate effect. There’s chemicals that are in very concentrated amounts, actually, that have very real physiological effects that, as we’re getting at here, can enhance physical performance, can lower cortisol levels. One other thing I’m hoping we’ll talk about is kind of some female hormone balance stuff.

But you know, there is, I just want to point out to people that maybe hadn’t heard that podcast and what I talked about there as far as my story of discovering the science in this area. There is actually a lot of science on this topic. So it’s not just new age hippie nonsense or some things that smell nice, but don’t actually do anything on a physiological level.

Dr. Mariza Snyder: I really appreciate you saying that, but Ari, you are such a great researcher. And then I was, I’m a very good researcher myself. And I, initially, when I got introduced to oils, I also had some of the same reservations mainly because I hadn’t really heard of them before.

Nutrition was my area of focus before that and I was really blown away by the research that I had found. And, you know, my new book coming out on hormones and oils, and we have 40 plus pages of bibliography, like, oh my, I couldn’t believe how the research that was going on in that particular topic. And so it’s really fun to get to research this topic and really, I mean, it’s great to know that people have an option, they have a different option. And I like when I can provide women, and just families in general, a safer, natural alternative to some of the stuff that’s at the drug-store or even, you know, at the pharmacy.

The best essential oils for hormone balance and essential oils for menstrual cramps

Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. Female hormone balance. What specific essential oils have you found most useful for correcting some of the issues we talked about there as far as estrogen dominance and that sort of thing?

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Absolutely. So one of the things I do want to state about oils and hormones is oils are not hormones. So I don’t want people to think like, “oh, I can just do, I can just use an oil and it’s going to automatically boost my estrogen levels.” But then when I think about that as well, you know, I’m not a big proponent of women necessarily taking a bunch of bioidenticals or synthetic hormones.

I think that a lot of the things that we can… a lot of our hormone imbalances can be adjusted and remedied with food, with lifestyle, with oils and with supplementation. So I just wanted to let the record straight there is that, you know, as much as I would love an oil to kind of… I don’t know, actually I don’t even know if I would like necessarily if an oil would go in and just directly increase estrogen levels. But they do still have really profound properties. I think ultimately we think about food as information. I think about oils as information. Ultimately, your body is the one that’s healing and if you can give your body that good information to make good decisions, then we’re on the right track.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, so…

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Okay, so now we can get into the topic.

Ari Whitten: That was a nice preface but…

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Thank you, yeah, the disclaimer, lay the groundwork. So the thing that we were talking about earlier. Yeah. I don’t mean to kind of bring that back, but you know, so often you know what I’m talking about working with cortisol, you know, like I said, these oils can… that’s the one thing I can guarantee, that research is, the oils can lower cortisol levels, it can lower blood pressure, which is really fascinating to me.

And so if you find yourself in a chronic state of stress, the chronic state of deregulated cortisol, you can use oils on a day-to-day basis to really create that balance and also leverage them to make those healthy lifestyle changes. Now, oils can also be used to help support the thyroid, they can be used to help support the gut and the liver.

Dr. Mariza Snyder: And so, for instance, I think about oils for thyroid support is frankincense and myrrh and clove and, you know, there’re blends where women can put on. And the thing about it is, I never want people to think, “Well, oh, if I just use this oil blend, my thyroid is going to be cured.” No, there’s so much more to thyroid health than just using oils. But we know that oils can help reduce inflammation and that they can help support a healthier thyroid. So that’s kind of an example.

Another example I love to use is helping us, helping to raise progesterone levels because we are supporting those cortisol levels. That’s a big one as well. So if we can get cortisol back on track, then we begin to lift the progesterone levels as well. We’re not stealing as much of that Pregnenolone anymore.

And then another one, you know, for boosting metabolism, you know, we’ve got oils like cinnamon oil that are great for blood sugar regulation and insulin regulation. You’ve got oils like peppermint that are great for cravings and great for digestive support. And so, you know, usually what I’m looking at for women is how can I aid with sleep support, how can I aid with cravings and metabolism, how can I aid with stress levels or mood support, and then most importantly like how can I aid with like things like hot flashes or bloating, a lot of the symptoms that women are dealing with when it comes to hormonal imbalance.

Ari Whitten: So let’s get into some of that stuff. Let’s talk about like maybe PMS and menopause symptoms and hot flashes. What are some strategies that you found or some oils that you found to be especially effective there?

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Absolutely. So, you know, it’s interesting, I was just working with a woman the other day who woke up in the middle of the night with the worst menstrual cramps, like so much pain that it woke her up, you know, in the middle of the night. And you know, that go-to oil for helping to reduce menstrual cramps mainly because it helps to calm spasmatic soft tissue, muscle, especially uterine contractions are going to be Clary sage.

And so I have a blend that I, it’s called my hormone synergy blend, my superwoman blend that addresses things like PMS and addresses things like menstrual cramps, hot flashes, and that blend is, the majority of it is going to be clary sage because that tends to be the magic maker. The chemical constituents in that oil, the linalyl, the linalyl acetate in that and the… I’m trying to think about the other major constituent for that… that particular oil helps to calm smooth muscle, helps to support estrogen and helps to stop things like hot flashes and mood swings.

So my superwoman blend is 12 drops in a 10 mil roller, like this, 12 drops of Clary sage, 10 drops of lavender, five drops of Cedarwood, five drops of geranium and four drops of ylang-ylang. And then you just top it off with whatever carrier oil and then you are rolling it, literally rolling it over the ovaries, which is about three inches below the belly button.

Or it can be on the bottom of the feet. It can be on the wrist or inside the arm. Because again, oils are lipophilic and so and they’re systemic, so once they get into the system they are going to go to work. Now I do believe in the path of least resistance. So if you’re having menstrual cramps, maybe not put them on your knee or on your neck, put them right on the area of concern. But that is one of the oils that I really love for women is going to be Clary sage. It tends to be a really big, like kind of a magic maker for women when it comes to hormonal PMS in particular.

Ari Whitten: And that’s having some direct effects on estrogen and progesterone, right?

Dr. Mariza Snyder: It is, it is having some effects on those hormones as well. More so, it’s really, it’s kind of a progesterone booster more than it is an estrogen booster in the research that I’ve seen and it’s phenomenal for women in peri-menopause and menopause. So it really helps to support those menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, irritability, even heavy flow, like heavy periods that can be happening during peri-menopause.

The best and safest way to apply essential oils

Ari Whitten: Very interesting. So actually one other point I want to kind of quickly digress on is there are some people who say that it’s okay to apply essential oils directly to the skin and other people who object to that. What’s your take on that?

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Great question. So to dilute or not to dilute that is the question. So there are a lot of benefits to diluting. So it really, honestly, there’s no reason to not dilute. Remember that essential oils, and I hadn’t talked to you about this in this podcast, but essential oils are volatile aromatic constituents, which means they go from liquid to gas state once they’re at room temperature.

So, for instance, if you had walked into my house and I had just opened a bottle of wild orange, the second that you walked in, that aroma is going to just immerse itself in the environment and you’re going to smell it. Even if I’m across the room several hundred feet away. That, it’s going to be pervasive inside of the house and you’re going to smell it. You’re going to, it’s going to elicit an experience for you and maybe even an emotion for you.

And so that volatility of those oils means that when you put a neat oil on your arm or in your hand or wherever you’re putting it, it’s evaporating as you’re using it, and so in order to really get the full benefit of that oil, diluting it is such a key piece because it allows the oil to stay on the skin and not evaporate as quickly so you’re getting more effectiveness that way.

Also, you’re able to cover a bigger surface area. So if you are dealing with low back pain or neck pain or you’re dealing with stomach cramps or gas and bloating, you can cover a bigger surface area. But then also the big thing about oils is that they are very, very powerful and a little goes a long way. And very rarely do you find that someone needs full strength of anything, and why waste it if you don’t have to.

So those are really the big reasons for diluting. Now with that high concentration with some of these oils, they can be very warming. They can be very cooling literally to the touch and very irritating, so you want to be really mindful of that. So like, for instance, oregano oil. If you look at the research, oregano oil helps to get rid of warts and toe fungus.

And Ari, I can’t tell you how many before and after photos I have received with oregano oil over the years. But again, it’s a really hot, hot oil. You have to be mindful when it comes to using it. So I always say always dilute. You know, are there some oils you can use neat? Yes, there are definitely some of them that are safe. You want to make sure you’re using a very high quality oil. But for the most part they just, it makes sense to use them in a dilution.

The best essential oils for energy

Ari Whitten: Yeah, got you. So at least two, maybe three other contexts, I want to talk about. One is energy. Obviously a lot of people listening to this podcast, The Energy Blueprint, are interested in enhancing their energy levels. I know we kind of indirectly got some of that with the brain enhancing, cognitive enhancing stuff which kind of overlaps with energy enhancement with rosemary, peppermint and wild orange and a few of the others you mentioned.

But are there specifically any substances that you found to be especially effective for kind of maybe giving an afternoon energy boost if somebody is taking a dip and starting to feel tired?

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Absolutely. You know, I have more women come to me because they just want more energy. How often do women ask that of you, Ari, I can’t even imagine. A lot. And so, you know, my mama, that was her thing. I was asking my mom, “how are you doing?” “I just need more energy, Mariza.” And so oils. That was one of the first things I discovered. It was like “can I use these oils to get a little bit more energy out of my day?” Absolutely…

Ari Whitten: And by the way, just, I can’t resist commenting, but you’re, as we were having dinner a couple weeks ago with friends. Your mom texted you that she had just completed a marathon. So whatever the intervention is that you’re about to tell us you did with your mom is obviously effective if she went from “I need more energy” to “I just ran a marathon.”

Dr. Mariza Snyder: And it was first place. She got first place in that one. So proud of her. So yeah. So growing up, my momma always wanted more energy and, you know, that was the one thing. She’s like, “well now you’re a doctor, you got to figure out a way to get me more energy.” And man, she took to oils and took to a lot of my recommendations like fish to water because when you’re that desperate for more energy, or whatever it is that you’re looking for, you’re willing, you know, at that point you’re willing to try whatever it took. And it was using oils for energy that got my mom hook, line and sinker.

And she travels. She, actually, she runs with her oils. You know, you can get these little tiny vials you can put your oils in, you can just tap them out. And so she always has her energy oils with her wherever she goes.

But we have talked about a couple of those oils before and I’ve written some really fun articles for magazines and publications around oils for energy. And really, it’s those citruses are such a big player. Monoterpenes, especially when it comes to the brain, have an ability to activate those good feelings, serotonin, dopamine, neurotransmitters.

So monoterpenes are amazing and they’re very, very adaptive. And when I think about essential oils, I think about the one essential oil that’s very adaptogenic. It’s going to be citruses. So anything that’s got a high monoterpene content, but most specifically 85 to 95 percent limonene is what we’re looking for that really helps give you that extra burst of energy. And that’s what I love to pair those monoterpenes with those oils, those citrus oils with like a mint, like a menthol, because menthol not only kind of opens up airways, so bringing more oxygen to the brain.

It really just kind of alivens the senses, alivens the sinuses and you just feel more alert, more awake. And so, you know, I have people doing long road trips or long nights at the office. Usually I tell people to always have peppermint with them to just be sniffing peppermint oil, you know, into, you know, depending on what it is.

You know, a lot of people I’ve worked with have, you know, are working on the road really late at night and instead of reaching for a red bull or a caffeine, some type of caffeine beverage, it’s usually peppermint and some type of citrus oil. So those would be the two oils based on the chemical constituents that really help to give you that extra energy boost.

The best essential oils for weight loss

Ari Whitten: Very cool. Two other contexts, weight loss, and I know that you’ve kind of addressed this already, but maybe addressed it a little bit at least. But are there any specific oils that you found to be especially effective for weight loss?

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Yes. So there are some oils that are good for weight loss and also great oils for cravings. You know, I always think about cravings as being this unmet need. Usually it’s not the thing that you’re trying to reach for, right? That Kind bar, that See’s candy, those kettle chips, whatever your flavor is that you’re reaching for. Usually it’s, you know, you’re tired or you’re stressed or you’re feeling emotionally drained, whatever that may be. So just being really mindful about what that craving is.

Like what is your body really craving, what is it really looking for? But then using oils to kind of help, you know, depending. There are oils specifically for, you know, I don’t necessarily recommend using oils as an appetite suppressant, but if indeed you are about to make a decision to eat a Twinkie or a donut because you’re tired and you need sugar, you could use oils for boosting energy instead.

But if you’re looking for an appetite suppressant or a craving oil, peppermint is going to come up over and over and over again. And Ari, it’s literally my favorite oil because it has so many benefits. But peppermint is a really powerful, really powerful craving reducer, but also it’s an appetite suppressant. There was a really great article that came out.

Dr. Hirsch had discovered that peppermint oil can actually suppress appetite specifically around cravings in the middle of the afternoon. So peppermint oil is going to be a great oil. Also, cinnamon. Cinnamon is great for blood sugar regulation, grapefruit is wonderful for lymphatic, but also supporting the liver and digestive health. It’s also a powerful detoxifier.

And then ginger oil. So ginger is not only phenomenal for gut health and helping to ensure that you are actually getting the fuel that you consume, but it’s also a metabolizer. It actually kind of, it warms up the body. So ginger and cinnamon are very warming oils and they tend to kind of rev up the metabolism a little bit. So those would be my go-to oils. But there isn’t necessarily an oil that’s like the magic bullet, weight loss oil.

I just oftentimes think, why are we overeating? What’s going on? Why are we making these choices? Clearly, it’s not because we’re fueling the body. Oftentimes, it’s for a different need all together.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I think you can kind of attack it from multiple angles there by addressing appetite control and, you know, kind of suppressing cravings for junk food at the same time supporting energy levels, and you’re affecting the inputs that are controlling body weight regulation through a number of different angles that way. And then you also mentioned, you know, for example, you know, suppressing cortisol levels in the evening when they’re elevated, which is a factor promoting insulin resistance, and decreasing chronic inflammation, which is going to affect thyroid hormone levels and you know, you’re addressing so many different angles all at the same time, which is great.

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Yeah. Thank you. Yeah, it’s really interesting, you know, the use of these. And not that they don’t have their own powerful chemical constituents, but I feel like we have to take a little bit of responsibility around the types of behaviors we’re creating. And you know those late night snacks because we think we need to stay up later. You know, instead, if indeed you had to stay up late for whatever reason, I always have peppermint.

There are, right now in our home, we probably have about eight opened peppermint bottles. Gosh forbid, there wasn’t one in every room of the house because we use it so much for so many reasons. But you know, it’s the thing I reach for if any craving comes out and I always know it’s not because I’m hungry, it’s always something else. But any craving comes around, it’s peppermint. I need a little bit of a boost, it’s peppermint. Like I am just, I’m hardwired to reach for that before I reach for anything else.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. And thank you for mentioning also the fact that this is within a context of, hopefully, you know, nutrition and lifestyle support and interventions as well. You know, one thing I want to comment on that I’ve experienced a lot is I’ve seen a lot of people, especially women who get hormones tested, who get a blood test or a saliva test and then they say, “my hormones are this, this and this. What should I do to affect my hormones?” And they don’t make the connection that hormones are a product of nutrition and lifestyle.

They think like, okay, there’s nutrition, lifestyle and those affect me in certain ways, you know, make me healthy. But they don’t understand that nutrition and lifestyle are directly affecting a lot of these different hormones. Whether cortisol, whether estrogen, whether progesterone. These things are in a constant dynamic interplay with nutrition and lifestyle. And so it’s like, yeah, “okay, you know, my hormones are off, so forget your nutrition and lifestyle stuff. I want something that’s going to fix my hormones.” Do you know what I mean? Like people just don’t see the connection between those two things very well.

Dr. Mariza Snyder: They don’t realize that it’s, that explanation is your hormones are literally chemical messengers that are running around like little UPS men, delivering packages everywhere, you know, with the information you’re giving it. They are literally in response to what you are creating. And I think when people begin to realize that, and I always give that analogy, I’m like, “do you want the UPS man to deliver the wrong package to the house?” I say “because you’re creating a situation where that’s going to happen, you know, over and over and over again” Yeah, we villainize these hormones.

We villainize these chemical messengers that are literally just trying to receive messages and do our bidding based on our lifestyle choices and it’s, you know, it’s always of just kind of, again, taking that deep long look in the mirror and seeing what kind of life do I want to live?

You know, one of the things that Tony Robbins said when I was at an event a couple of years ago is that your life is measured by how you feel, by your emotions. And I remember thinking to myself like, “man, I feel stressed a lot. And my life is measured by how I feel.” My life was being measured by my stress and that was a major kind of… talk about Mack Truck moment. And I was like, “I don’t want to live like this anymore. I am cultivating these behaviors and something has got to shift. ”

The best calming essential oils for sleep

Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And thank you for clarifying that point because obviously we’re, you’re trying to give people like some easy, simple solutions to a lot of these problems like “here use… this helps with this and this helps with this,” but we don’t want to give the message, and I know that you don’t want to give the message, that’s like “this is the entire solution is just to buy 12 essential oils and then you are completely fixed. You can forget about your diet and lifestyle because all you need is essential oils.” Right? So, you know, I thank you for clarifying that, and that was beautifully said.

One more context that I would love for you to talk about essential oil tips with is sleep. And I know you kind of mentioned this when you covered your nightly ritual and I believe you mentioned, let me see if I remember, chamomile, lavender and bergamot. But are there any others that you found that are especially effective in kind of helping the brain shift into sleep mode, shutting down the sympathetic nervous system?

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Absolutely. So there is, there are some major players I did not mention, so I apologize, but I’m going to get to mention them now.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, you should be ashamed of yourself.

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Yeah, my goodness. So the big player, you know, it’s so often, you know… when I think about these oils, I think about bridging the gap towards creating those habits that you really, really want. Oils just kind of just ease us into this with a little bit more grace and ease. That’s how I think about it. And when I think about, you know, going to sleep and sometimes we need a little help to turn off that mental chatter.

Sometimes we need a little bit of a help to get into a routine and I think that’s where oil’s really show up. And I’ve had the blessing to work with a lot of women and men together dealing with sleep issues because, my goodness, it is so prevalent here in our society. And so if I had to name like the two oils, the hook, line and sinker oil, it’s going to be Vetiver. Now Vetiver is a very powerful neurological tonic. Lots of incredible research with Vetiver. And it’s really considered a natural sedative. It’s a root and Vetiver is grown mostly in Haiti. And so, and it smells like, kind of, it smells like peanut butter. It’s really rich, very viscous. And so Vetiver and lavender, you know, that’s kind of our, we call the liquid Ambien of the sleep essential oil world. And it’s really, you can diffuse it, you can make a roller bottle out of lavender and Vetiver. Another one, you know these wood oils are really profound.

So Vetiver, myrrh, sandalwood, frankincense, all of these very calming, very grounding, very sedative. All have these chemical constituents called sesquiterpenes, and sesquiterpenes are neuro calming. They just, they have a way of just shutting down the brain and, you know, it’s so funny, I was diffusing Vetiver and lavender.

Usually the diffuser is a little bit away from the bed, but one of the nights a couple of weeks ago I was diffusing Vetiver and lavender, and I think I had roman camomile in there as well. I like to do it in threes. I like to do threes, you can only do two, but I like threes. So I was diffusing that by the bed by Alex, and Alex was in the middle of talking to me about something and all of a sudden like his, his voice was like flourish. It was, he was falling asleep as he was talking to me. I literally drugged my husband before going to bed.

Ari Whitten: Nice. Do you have any like truth serum, essential oils that substitute for like giving somebody an injection so that they can tell you the truth and can’t help themselves…

Dr. Mariza Snyder: I don’t know those yet. But I do know the really, the big sedative oils and so vetiver is a big one. And then when I work with patients, if… because there’re blends, you know, that they can try that they get. If they aren’t doing the trick I’m like, “okay, we need to bring in the big guns and that’s Vetiver.” And so often it really does have a way of just calming the brain and it’s that… it’s one of the highest sesquiterpene content you can get your hands on that really tends to do the trick.

The best essential oils for anxiety (The benefits of copaiba essential oil)

Ari Whitten: One other… oh, you know, I’m just curious, have you looked into copaiba essential oil at all?

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Ooh yes, I have. Yes…

Ari Whitten: So tell me about copaiba.

Dr. Mariza Snyder: So how I think about Copaiba, it has a lot of benefits. You know, it’s an endocabinnoid. It connects with the CB2 receptors when it comes… like you think about CBD oil or you think about THC and copaiba is, it’s separate. It acts in a different… because those are acting on CB1 receptors. These are acting on CB2 and so it more connects with the endocrine system but has a really profound effect on the neurological system. And it was… I was interviewing a woman today who is a stress researcher and she talks about how when you’re feeling stressed, it’s almost like a rolling boil, and the use of copaiba can take a rolling boil and take it back down to a simmer.

That’s how she describes that ability. So copaiba is kind of very similar to a Vetiver or a Cedarwood or a frankincense, has really powerful calming and sedative properties, but most of where people are using copaiba is really painful and more neurological pain.

So we’re seeing people using it for neuro spasticity or they have hyper spasticity where their, you know, their muscles are overly firing. We’re seeing really great benefits with that. And you know, I need, I will preface the fact that there’s, I need to do more and more research with this oil.

But what I do know about it is that it’s really phenomenal for the neurological system specifically around those C fibers or pain fibers. And it is great for stress. It’s great for anxiousness and it is also, we’re learning that it’s great for cardiovascular health. And so people, it depends on the reason why they’re using it. Some people use it for sleep, some people use it for anxiety, and some people use it for pain, specifically neurological pain.

Ari Whitten: Very nice, very nice summary. There was one other context that I wanted to ask you about…

Dr. Mariza Snyder: And you feel it, Ari. Like you take, you use that oil, and it shifts something. You know, we have it, we have it at home, it’s not too far from where I’m sitting and anytime I use that oil man it is, I feel like you kind of need to buckle in. Be really intentional with an oil like that, you know, be really clear about why you’re using it because you will feel a shift. So I just wanted to just give that information as well.

Ari Whitten: Buckle up and get ready for a hallucinogenic trip. No, not quite. I do really like it and I definitely notice a calming effect from it. But just to be clear for anybody who doesn’t understand my humor there, it is very far from hallucinogenic. So you have no concerns with that.

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Yeah. It’s not like mushrooms. No, it’s just, it’s just a very calming oil. Oh goodness. Now no one’s going to use it.

How to use essential oils safely

Ari Whitten: So we’ve talked a lot about a lot of different oils here. One thing that I want to ask you is, are there any concerns like with, I mean, obviously these are very concentrated chemicals, these are not, you know, these aren’t like homeopathic substances that you could take huge doses of and kind of not even notice any effect. These are very, very concentrated chemicals with active compounds that are pharmacologically active in the human body. Is there any concern about taking too much or using too many different oils or anything like that? Are you aware of any kind of potential side effects of getting a little carried away with essential oils?

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Yes. I can speak to that. And you know, this is from a girl, when I first got started with oils, I had no idea. I was just putting them on, playing with them and even for as powerful as they are, they can still be pretty, pretty safe. However, you do want to be mindful. Anytime we’re taking something like, you know, as powerful as essential oils, you want to be mindful. So yes, you know, at the end of the day your liver is having to process this, your kidneys are having to process this like they’re processing everything else. We don’t want to overload the system.

On average I would say about, you know, a very safe place to play is about 15 drops of oil a day. And when you’re diluting these oils, you really aren’t getting 15 drops a day. You got to really work hard to get 15 drops of essential oils into your system every single day. In terms of using a ton of them, you know, I have blends with five oils in them. And, you know, we will, I’ll use a blend with five oils in them and the oils are being diffused into the environment around me. And so I haven’t really noticed a lot around… you know, I don’t think one should use 20 oils at the exact same time. But I think that, you know, on average usage, you know, you’re using a blend for sleep or maybe you’re using a blend earlier in the day for alertness that you’re really pretty safe.

But just making sure that you’re diluting all of your oils. I typically like to operate around a 10 percent to 25 percent dilution. I feel like that really works for me and a lot of the people, the tens of thousands of people that have used. When it comes to children, you know, you’re looking at an even lower concentration than that, anywhere between one to five percent.

And then for more acute issues, maybe even up to 10 percent. And so, you know, I do a really good job in my “Smart Mom’s Guide to Essential Oils” book to really break down dilutions and I’m very conservative in that book because I don’t know what kind of oils people are using. I don’t know the purity of those oils. So I always want to be really mindful of that. But as long as you’re not dousing yourself with oils every hour on the hour, you know, tons of them, I really feel like you’re in a pretty good place.

Ari Whitten: Got you. One… a couple more quick things on oils. One is how to use them, and I know you’ve covered this a bit already like as far as using the roller, that seems to be your preferred method…

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Let me use some rollers, they are so easy.

Ari Whitten: So and that’s, you’re getting it like basically in two different, through two different mechanisms. You’re absorbing some through the skin and you’re inhaling some, is that accurate?

Dr. Mariza Snyder: That is correct. Yeah. So the roller, I think anytime you’re using topical, you know, the cool thing about topical usage is that you really can be targeted to the area of concern. So yeah, if I am feeling a little bit bloated or I wake up in the middle of night with menstrual cramps, I can apply it right to that area of concern and kind of target that issue.

Or maybe I wake up with a kink in my neck and I need some support in the back of my neck for that. So you can kind of use them in that way. But the fastest and most effective way to use essential oils is going to be aromatic because again, not only are the oils going to the brain, to the limbic system through that olfactory nerve, but you’re also breathing them in and through… you know, these are very, very tiny molecules and so they go into the lungs, they go through the alveoli and they hit the bloodstream.

So the fastest way you can get these oils into the system is by breathing them in. It’s also the easiest way to use them, the most effective way to use them. Topical, I think for a lot of people, you know, the practitioner, you know, I know a lot of people are looking for a very targeted specific problem, you know. They’re having respiratory issues or having sinus issues, they’re having digestive problems.

And when you can apply an oil to that area, you know, there’s something to be said about touch been so healing. So being able to apply those oils or have someone, apply oil on you is a very healing experience. So you’re getting both the benefits of that targeted, you know, area of concern and then the aromatic benefit as well. And then the more controversial consideration is internal. I don’t typically recommend internal usage. People use the copaiba internally. It has to be a very specific reason for very targeted purpose. The oil has to be a very specific grade. There’s a lot of things that have to line up for internal usage to make sense, you know, and it’s not really necessary when you have the other two options.

How to find the best quality essential oil

Ari Whitten: Got you. On that note you mentioned very briefly there, it has to be a very specific grade. I know there’s a lot of talk and controversy among essential oils experts when it comes to specific brands and like fake essential oils or essential oils that not very good quality and maybe are diluted and things of that nature. I know everybody has their favorite brands they like to talk about. But can you talk about to what extent is this really a problem that, you know, an essential oils that someone might get at their local health food store might not be that great of quality,

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Absolutely. So you know it is actually a bit of a concern in the essential oil world. About 85 percent of oils on the market are for synthetic, for perfume purposes. You go down, you go to your local drug store, you’re going to find lavender lotions and even gum and flavorings. Even Coca Cola, for example, what makes Coca Cola the flavoring of Coca Cola is essential oils. And it has to be, you can’t, I can’t even imagine. I haven’t had a Coca Cola in probably almost 20 years. Oh my gosh. But like I’m guessing for those who drink Coca Cola that they don’t want it to taste different. You know, they don’t want one batch of Coke to be different than another batch of Coca Cola. So a lot of the essential oils in the world are actually used for pharmaceutical properties or they’re used for fragrances or they’re used for food grade.

Dr. Mariza Snyder: When it comes to an oil specifically tailored for a therapeutic purpose, there’s a lot more standards that have to come into play. So they’re just being mindful of that, that there’s that whole world of oils there. So you’re looking, you know, when it comes to looking for a good oil, you’re looking for a couple of things, you know. You’re looking for, for me, you know, we live in a world of information. You can Google pretty much everything and anything. So if you’re about to buy an oil from a company, I would just go onto the website and take a look. Do they tell you where they’re sourcing their oils? Do they disclose where these oils are coming from? Because, Ari, you and I both know when it comes to food and when it comes to any kind of plant, you know, where our plants are sourced is really important. You know, are they even sourced in their original habitat?

Dr. Mariza Snyder: That’s going to be important as well. And then what happens after this oil is sourced? You know, what kind of testing are they doing on these oils? Are they antimicrobial, are they free of any types of fillers and additives. What kind of testing do they use? Do they use gas chromatography or gas spectroscopy? Are they testing for chirality? There’s a lot of different ways to look at oils in making sure that they’re pure. So I would just really, what I’m looking for is I’m looking for, tell me where you’re getting them, tell me where these oils are coming from. And then two, are you testing them at all? And any company that’s doing that will share with you that they’re doing it. Just kind of like organic. You know, a farm will tell you if they’re organic, just as an example, because why wouldn’t they? You know, so a company will tell you the type of practices they have around their oils, just like a farm for vegetables will.

Ari Whitten: Okay. And if somebody doesn’t want to spend all of those hours to do all of that investigation of all those companies, do you have a quick breakdown?

Dr. Mariza Snyder: I do.

Ari Whitten: You do, that you want to provide here or that someone can get from you on your site or something like that?

Dr. Mariza Snyder: I’ll share it right now. I’m just pulling all my little, all my little things up real quick. So judging an oil by its label. So one of the things you’re looking for is you are, one, you want to make sure that the oil bottle is amber, that it has an orifice reducer on it, that it’s not a dropper or it’s just, the oil can just spill out because an orifice reducer helps it from oxidizing, helps it from getting… preventing contamination. But amber because oils, again, are volatile and they can be contaminated through light as well. You’re also looking on that amber bottle that there’s a scientific name of the plant that’s clearly labeled on the bottle. And if it’s diluted it should say it’s diluted. It needs to disclose everything inside of that bottle. So if they did use fractionated coconut oil, it had better say they used fractionated coconut oil. They should also, the price is a big thing as well. If you are looking at all of your oils on the shelf and frankincense is priced the same as lemon, best believe they are cheating in some way.

There’s adulteration there. There is no way that you have a cold press lemon oil the same price as a… I mean the thing about harvesting of frankincense oil, people die harvesting that oil. The labor intensity around harvesting that oil in Somalia in 130 degree weather on a mountain, a jagged cliff mountain. You know it’s far beyond such a different way of getting these two oils processed. So there’s no way they can be priced the same. So if you’re seeing that all the prices are the same on the shelf, then that is a red flag to tell you that something’s not right with those oils. And then last but not least is expiration. They better, they need to have an expiration date on them and they need to tell you how to use them. You know, they need to have the ATI label on there and if they are internally consumable, they need to have a supplement label on them as well.

Ari Whitten: Nice. So do you have like top two, three brands that you can suggest and if you don’t want to name them here, you can direct people to…

Dr. Mariza Snyder: To head over to my web site…

Ari Whitten: Yeah.

Dr. Mariza Snyder: You can head over to my… So my top brands, I like Plant Therapy. I think they do a good job. They do disclose a lot of where they get their oils and their purification practices. I am a big fan of DoTERRA because I also feel like they do a good job of disclosing where they get their oils and their purification practices. Those would be my two, and then Mountain Rose oils. I feel like they do a pretty good job at that as well.

Ari Whitten: Nice. Cool. So to wrap up, and this has been excellent. This has been like very practical content packed. Unusually practical where like almost every question that I’ve asked you is like “and what are the practical solutions for this, and what are the practical solutions for this?”

Dr. Mariza Snyder: I like practical and I like easy because I feel like that’s our life. And, you know, I love the science as well. But I feel like so often, you know, people are like, “well how, what do I do, how do I do it?” So I hope that was helpful.

Mariza’s top 4 tips for balancing your hormones

Ari Whitten: Yeah, it was great. So to wrap up, I would love… you know, actually I was going to say your top three things that you want to leave people with, but actually I would like top four because I want one of them to be matcha.

This is just my personal request because obviously when we met for the first time and we hung out for lunch. I was telling you how I just got into matcha and I was like starting to kind of love matcha tea a lot. And you’re like, “oh, I wrote a book on matcha.” And I realize right now that we’re at the end of this interview, we haven’t even talked about matcha at all, so I want you to give your top four tips, but my request is that one of them needs to be matcha.

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Okay, perfect. I can do that for you. So top four tips. First, tip, when it comes to supporting your hormones and really just kind of getting your body back on track, I think it’s super important to have that morning and evening ritual.

Time that is for yourself, that is geared toward that self care. And definitely top two is put oils to work for you. Have those instant wins where you go in and you feel like you’re equipped with the right tools to make those practical decisions and those changes, and that you’ve experienced quick wins. You know so often in this healing journey, it can feel overwhelming and it can feel like you’re not always winning. And that’s what I think I love the oils so much about, is that there are definitely days where I need that win and they really come, they come and they give me that instant win.

So that’s going to be number two. Number three, just get real big clarity on that self awareness. Ask yourself those important questions. You know, what is serving me? How can I love my body more? What’s going to really allow me to have my best day ever? Asking yourself more questions and be coming in tune with your body is such a critical piece to living the best life. And then number four, having again a part of that morning ritual, having wonderful things that you can rely on like matcha green tea.

You know, matcha is a powerful antioxidant. It’s 10 times more powerful than the average green tea. It has L-theanine, which is really wonderful for helping to kind of give you that focus throughout the day without jitters or excess. You know that weird funky energy. And so there’s so many wonderful benefits for matcha from immune system to metabolism to again, keeping you focused at the task at hand. So matcha always makes the list. I drink matcha every single day. And those would be my top four things. I know they were a little bit out of order, but those are the things I’d have you focus on.

Ari Whitten: Get it right next time. Jeez. No, that was beautiful, Mariza. Thank you so much. It was really such a pleasure having you on. Thank you for going a little overtime with me. I appreciate the extra love. And such a pleasure hanging out with you and chatting as always. And thank you. Enjoy the rest of your day. Also, where should people go to get more from you? I know you just wrote a book, the “Smart Mom’s Guide to Essential Oils.” That’s your latest book, but where would you like people to go? Do you want to direct them to Amazon? Do you want to direct them to your site?

Dr. Mariza Snyder: You know, I want to direct them to my podcast. That is where you really get to know me, get to experience amazing individuals like yourself. I can’t wait for our interview. So the Essentially You Podcast. You can find it anywhere, Stitcher, iTunes, you know, wherever you love to listen to podcasts. Wherever you’re listening to Ari’s podcast right now, that’s where you can go. And then if you wanted to check out the books, they are on Amazon. All the books are there. So, but thank you, Ari, for letting me share where you can find me.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with my audience. It was such a pleasure having you on and enjoy the rest of your day.

Dr. Mariza Snyder: Thank you so much.

The Link Between Hormone Imbalance And Fatigue │ Essential Oils For Hormone Balance, Sleep, Stress, And More With Dr. Mariza Snyder – Show Notes

How hormone imbalance has become an epidemic (4:10)
The primary cause of hormone imbalance in women (8:05)
How hormone imbalance affects weight loss (10:47)
How stress affects cortisol (12:49)
How hormone imbalance affects weight (18:40)
Mariza’s morning and evening rituals (20:12)
The best essential oils for stress (26:24)
How your essential oils can affect your cortisol levels (29:29)
Essential oils benefits have been backed by science (32:52)
The best essential oils for hormone balance and essential oils for menstrual cramps (35:05)
The best and safest way to apply essential oils (41:19)
The best essential oils for energy (43:58)
The best essential oils for weight loss (47:39)
The best calming essential oils for sleep (54:09)
The best essential oils for anxiety (The benefits of copaiba essential oil) (58:03)
How to use essentials oils safely (1:01:01)
How to find the best quality essential oil (1:06:00)
Mariza’s top 4 tips for balancing your hormones (1:12:10)


Learn more about the work Dr. Mariza does though her website or listen to her podcast

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How To use essential oils for energy essential oils for stress essential oils for hormone balance,
Listen in to the podcast with Dr. Eric Zielinski on safest ways to use essential oils.

4 Natural Lifestyle Hacks To Fix Behavioral Issues And Mental Illness In Children (And Manage Your Energy As A Parent) with Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD

4 Natural Lifestyle Hacks To Fix Behavioral Issues And Mental Illness In Children (And Manage Your Energy As A Parent) with Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD (1)Behavioral issues and mental illness in children is increasing at an alarming speed. More and more children end up on mood and behavior controlling medications (which often come with a slew of side effects). However, these medications often serve as bandaids and don’t fix the root causes. This raises the question, what are the core reasons for many of the behavioral issues and mental illness in our children today? And, how can parents help their children overcome these issues?

Managing our own health , energy and self-care becomes significantly harder when we have children to care for. It gets even harder with kids with special needs, or who have psychological health challenges, or mood and behavior issues (things like ADHD, autism, bipolar, depression, anxiety).

So how can you help your kids function optimally, while also taking care of your own health and energy levels in the process? And if you don’t have kids, how can you better understand your own psychological health (and the factors that underlie so much of the depression, anxiety and other psychological health issues that are becoming so common today)?

That’s the subject of this week’s podcast.

This week — in one of my personal favorite podcast episodes of all time — I speak with Dr. Nicole Beurkens. Dr. Nicole has a PhD in clinical psychology, masters degrees in nutrition and special education, and is a board-certified nutrition specialist. She’s the founder and director of Horizons Developmental Resource Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and is a bestselling author, award-winning therapist and published researcher.

Dr. Nicole has made it her life’s purpose of helping children overcome psychological and behavioral issues by focusing on the root cause. Her approach to helping children recover from mental illness is unique and helps the whole family get better health, less stress, more energy, more connection, and most importantly, more happiness.

Listen in, as Dr. Nicole shares the 4 simple lifestyle changes that can help fix behavioral issues and mental illness in children (and help parents manage stress and energy.)

In this podcast, we’ll cover:

  • What Dr. Nicole has found to be the main causes of mental illness and behavioral issues in children
  • Why we have seen a drastic increase in mental illness in children over the past 20 years
  • The problem with most typical psychologists and psychiatrists
  • The questionable science behind so much of the paradigm of psychiatry
  • What does science really say about treating psychological health?
  • The connection between nutrition and mental health
  • What makes parents choose to medicate their children (even when they don’t want to)?
  • Dr. Nicole’s 4 keys to fixing behavioral issues and mental illness in children

Download or listen on iTunes

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4 Natural Lifestyle Hacks To Fix Behavioral Issues And Mental Illness In Children (And Manage Your Energy As A Parent) with Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD -Transcript

Ari Whitten: Hey everyone. Welcome back, to the Energy Blueprint Podcast. Today, I have with me Dr. Nicole Beurkens, who is a very unique combination of a psychologist, nutritionist, and special education teacher. She has 20 years of experience supporting children, young adults and families to improve behavior naturally.

She’s an expert in evaluating and treating a wide range of learning, mood and behavior challenges including ADHD, autism, anxiety, mood disorders, and sensory processing disorder. Dr. Nicole has a doctorate in clinical psychology, masters degrees in special education and nutrition and is a board certified nutrition specialist. She’s the founder and director of Horizons Developmental Resource Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and is a bestselling author, award winning therapist and published researcher.

And all around bad ass, I can say from experience. She’s become a personal friend of mine over the last few years and I’ve had the pleasure of having many conversations with her and this is a much, much, much delayed a podcast episode because I’ve been meaning to have you on for a very long time.

So welcome, Dr. Nicole it is such a pleasure to have you on.

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: Thank you so much for having me. Excited to be here.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, so, you know, first of all, kudos to you on an amazing background and all these impressive credentials. I mean, you know, I’ve gone to a PhD program in clinical psychology. I’m literally the only one, in all the years of cohorts that were going through the program, I’m literally the only one, and including the teachers, who knew anything about nutrition among all of those people.

So you are in a very unique position that you are a PhD in clinical psychology and you have a masters in nutrition and a masters in special education. And you’re a board certified nutrition specialist. And I think this is really impressive but also extremely important because as I was going through my PhD program in clinical psychology and I’m looking at the research on all these things.

One of the things that I kept running into is that there’s actually a whole bunch of research on nutrition interventions that relate to different psychological disorders and things like that. And none of that is taught to anybody who is getting their degree in clinical psychology, which is remarkable.

The disconnect between psychological disorders and then looking at the physiology and the underlying cellular and metabolic health of that individual, I mean, it’s just massive. So I just applaud you for going out and educating yourself and getting credentials in all these different areas so that you can really help people in the way they deserve be helped.

Why supporting parents is essential for helping a child with mental illness

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: Thank you. And you know, it’s interesting, I didn’t set out to do any of this. Life sort of has taken a weird and winding path. I mean people would say, “well you’ve got all these different degrees, like how did this come about?” And, you know, really, I mean my undergrad work was in special education and I thought. ”I love kids, I love working with kids who are challenging and…”

So went into special education and really enjoyed that. Enjoyed being a classroom teacher. I specialized in working with kids and teenagers with pretty severe emotional behavioral kinds of disorders. I would take the kids nobody else wanted to work with and that was great. I would close my door and nobody bothered me and I would just do my thing with them and it was awesome and I really enjoyed it. But what I quickly started to see, was that there was a very limited impact I could have in the six to six and a half hours a day that I had those kids.

And I had the parents coming to me saying, “help us know what to do to help our kids. Like it’s awesome. They’re doing well here. They’re learning all of these things, but we’ve got them the other 18 hours of the day and we’re really struggling.”

And I really began to see the need for pulling parents into the process, for giving them education tool support that they needed. And ultimately that’s what led me then to pursue my doctoral work in clinical psychology because I wanted to be able to work with families from the point of first having concerns about their kids, through being able to do good evaluation and diagnosis for them, and then all the way through the treatment process.

And that’s really what spurred me to go on and get the clinical psychology degree. And in the process of that, started doing a lot of work in private practice with families, shifted away from the school environment and more towards working one on one and in groups with parents and helping them to understand what was going on with their kids and to be able to have tools and strategies to use because parents are really left out of the process.

And you know, parenting in general is not for wimps, right? I mean, you know that, you’ve got a child. I have four kids and man kids do not come with instruction manuals and it is an energy intensive effort to be a parent. And especially then when you have a child who has got special needs, whether those are developmental disorders like autism or ADHD, or they are mental health or behavioral types of conditions like anxiety, depression, bipolar, you know, those types of things.

It takes the stress of parenting in general and just amps it up significantly. And so parents really have a lot of need for support and yet tend to be left out of the equation. And so my work with them, you know, really was focused on, “here are the things that you need to understand, here’s what you can do,” and really helping to empower parents.

And so, you know, I got my doctorate in clinical psychology, had my private practice going doing all of that good stuff and began to realize that a lot of the kids that were coming in to see me and to see my team here at the clinic had lots of different things going on, were on lots of different psychiatric medications and weren’t getting better.

And that really led me to start to question several things about how I had been trained. You know, you mentioned at the opening that your experience in the realm of your training in psychology was that, you know, there really was no talk about the body, about physical health, about nutrition. And that was my experience too.

I mean, I was trained in a very good, typical clinical psych program where the idea kind of is that everything from here up, you know, the brain, the mind is stuff that we deal with in psychology. And everything from here down is stuff that’s in the realm of physical medicine, whatever.

And unfortunately that’s the prevailing view I think in medicine, in mental health and it’s so wrong. It’s so wrong because the brain and the body are so interconnected. So I had been trained in that way. You know, my role was to do good counseling, to work with families, to use psychosocial and behavioral interventions, and then if kids were still needing support, refer them to their primary care doctor or their psychiatrist for medication.

So I’ve been trained that way. That’s how I practiced until I began to realize, “wait a second, if this really works, how come all these kids are coming to me still with all of these symptoms even though they’re on medication?” And, in fact, I began to notice that many of them seemed to be getting worse over time as medications were increased, medications were added and changed. It really caused me to delve back into the research literature and look at the whole issues around medication. What psychiatric medications are, what evidence we have for them, particularly in kids.

At the same time as I was looking at that and realizing that maybe a lot of how I’ve been trained was not really consistent with what the research says. I was noticing a pattern, too, in a lot of the kids that were coming to us that they had a lot of physical health problems.

So here we have kids with brain based issues, “mental health problems.” But also many of these kids had things like asthma, terrible eczema, chronic constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, terrible sleep problems, all of these types of physical issues. And that also began to interest me to say, “huh, is there some kind of connection here?”

Now, today that seems ridiculous to me to think that I didn’t know that there was that connection. But honestly, that’s not how we’re trained in these fields to think about things. So again, I went back to the research and started exploring what was out there and found, much like you did, that wait a second, there’s this whole body of research out there that talks about the connection between the physical body and things that are going on with physical health and the brain and mental health symptoms.

So that really got me interested in that whole area. And that’s what led me to go back and get another masters degree in nutrition because I really wanted to understand the connections, I really wanted to understand the science of that so that I could utilize the best protocols to help patients. And you know, I’ll tell you, that really has made such a significant difference adding that piece of nutrition, of integrative health, of the science of that into the treatment that we provide for kids and for parents really just led us to be able to have such better treatment outcomes for kids. And another tool to empower parents, to empower them to improve their own health.

Because one of the things with kids is if we’re going to make changes for them in the realm of their nutrition and health, we want to do that as a family. And many of the kids who come to us, their parents also have significant mental or physical health types of symptoms.

And so the interventions that we’re using with kids become really helpful for adults as well. And the parents end up feeling better, functioning better. The stress level comes down in the entire family. And it’s just a good thing all the way around. So that’s sort of the winding story of how I started in a classroom with special education and ended up having a clinic where we do all of these integrative kinds of things.

What science actually says about treating mental illness in children (and adults)

Ari Whitten: Beautiful. Well, I wanted to interrupt you like five times during that to comment on so many different things, but I restrained myself. But, you know, a couple of things. To go back to this point of the training that you received and this kind of this gap between the training and science.

I really want to emphasize that like the sciences is there already. I mean, granted, there’s certainly much more we can learn and we will continue to learn over the next 10, 20 years. But there’s already a huge amount of science showing that, you know, things like depression, anxiety, autism, things like learning disabilities, things like bipolar disorder, that there are nutrition and lifestyle links to these conditions. And you know, just like bipolar disorder for example, there’s a mountain of evidence on circadian rhythm and sleep for example.

So, you know, there’s a saying that I kind of like, it’s cute, it’s obviously hyperbole, but it’s a nice saying. It’s like “doctors know more and more about less and less until the point where they know absolutely everything about nothing.”

And if we think about like a trend over the last, maybe just even 100 years, there’s been a trend from like, you used to go see your local doctor, you know, regardless of if you had a broken arm or you got stabbed or you have an infection or you’re giving birth or whatever it was. You’d go see your local doctor and he was a systems thinker and understood the whole body and and how everything ties together and his job was to have generalized knowledge. And there’s been a trend towards greater and greater specialization, so learning more and more about less and less.

And we’ve lost systems thinkers. We’ve lost the people who understand all the pieces and how they all tie together. And it’s vital. It’s absolutely vital. I mean if you take somebody with a psychological condition like bipolar or depression, they don’t just need talk therapy. They also need all of these other nutrition and lifestyle factors, and even things like community, that can’t just be provided by people who are solely looking at things from the paradigm of, “oh, this is all just a problem that’s in your brain or in your mind and we need psychological techniques to fix it.”

It’s not just that. So, but the people who are in those paradigms can’t see how all of the pieces tie together. So again, I just really appreciate the fact that you’re a big picture systems thinker, you’re truly a holistic thinker. And I think that kind of approach is vital and necessary and unfortunately becoming all too rare in today’s world.

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: I want to say there that it’s so interesting to me, of getting back to the research evidence piece. It’s bizarre to me that these types of things are the things that are considered alternative. Or, you know, not the norm or these aren’t the things based on science. And that’s especially interesting to me when we compare things like nutrition and lifestyle interventions to things like psychiatric drugs.

If we want to talk about which side of that coin is lacking in evidenced basis in the research. It’s amazing to me that we accept the idea that psychiatric medications are a necessary, integral and research based part of treatment to the point where that is just accepted practice. That is the “gold standard of practice” to put people on these medications and yet we have far less research evidence for that then we have for some of the basic nutrition and lifestyle things that we’re talking about.

And it’s just interesting how that whole way of thinking has evolved as well, particularly in mental health which used to be much more about some of the things that you mentioned. Much more about building community for people and getting to the root of what was going on in their lives and all of those kinds of things and helping them improve their lifestyle and improve their way of thinking and their relationships in order to to have a better quality of life. And we have really shifted away from that, and it’s more to you go to a couple of counseling sessions.

And if that hasn’t totally taken care of your problems, then we’ve got one of several different kinds of drugs that we can put you on, the little magic pill that will help you feel better. And it’s just so bizarre to me that that’s become the accepted practice when we have all of this research evidence for these other kinds of things.

Ari Whitten: I really feel compelled to like reach through my computer screen right now and give you a huge high five for saying that, because yes, exactly that. I agree 100 percent and it just, it shows you how much of common practices and what are the standard practices are more a function of the zeitgeists, the sort of the trends and the perspectives of that particular age in history.

What’s a popular way of thinking about things in any given moment in time as opposed to what the science actually knows about these conditions. Like if we were treating mental, psychological conditions based purely just as an extrapolation of here’s all the evidence, everything we know about what’s involved with these conditions, now let’s create a profession that is designed to help people with these conditions. It wouldn’t be a psychologist, it wouldn’t be a psychiatrist.

It would be what you are right now or what I am, you know, or like people who are big picture thinkers, I mean specifically for psychology related conditions. More what you are since you’re doing some of the more necessary one-on-one work.

But, you know, it would be people with a very broad education in nutrition, lifestyle, psychotherapeutic techniques, understanding the social aspects of things. Big picture. But anyway, I digress just because I’m particularly passionate and I love that we’re so on the same page on this subject.

 One other thing you mentioned in passing that I want to get back to since this is the Energy Blueprint Podcast, is how all of this ties into energy and fatigue specifically. So parenting is rough, you know, just being a parent can wear you out pretty darn good. It can be stressful, you can be sleep deprived, you have much less time for self care. There’s all sorts of aspects of being a parent that tax you and can potentially lead to burnout, fatigue, sleep deprivation, energy problems.

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: Yeah.

Why we see an increase in children with mental illness and behavioral issues

Ari Whitten: It’s even more amplified in kids, like a lot of the kids that you work with who have learning or psychological conditions. So how, you know, first of all, why is this becoming so prevalent that so many kids in today’s world are experiencing mental health problems?

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: Yeah, it’s a great question. And it’s something that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and get asked about really frequently because there’s absolutely no denying that the number of children with neurodevelopmental and/or mental health conditions continues to rise. I mean, that’s just the facts of the statistics of it.

Back when you and I were kids, the numbers that we were using for prevalence of autism was one in 500 kids, one in a thousand kids. Just in the 20 years that I’ve been practicing and working with these populations of kids, we’ve gone from one in 500 to a thousand number, to now we’re at one in 36 boys in the United States is diagnosed on the autism spectrum. You know, getting, that number grows every year. ADD and ADHD, same thing. You know, we can all think back to a kid maybe who was in our class who now would be diagnosed with classic hyperactivity or something like that. But now what we’re seeing is we have 11 percent of school aged children, so kindergarten through high school, 11 percent of children in our schools are diagnosed and/or medicated for ADD or ADHD.

And we see those statistics playing out across the board in things like learning disabilities and mental health issues. The rates of anxiety and depression in children are skyrocketing.

So something is clearly happening that is driving this trend of more and more and more children having these kinds of issues. And we know, and this study was actually done already almost five years ago, but you know the last sort of prevalent study in this country for chronic illness in kids showed that 54 percent of children in the United States have some form of chronic illness.

Whether that is a physical chronic illness, or a mental or behavioral or developmental chronic illness. That’s a little bit over half, and that data is already five years old. So these are things that impact almost every family, if not every family in some way.

And I think there’s several things that I’ve observed and that the research shows are driving this. One is certainly the environment. The physical environment that children are growing up in now is markedly different than it’s been for any generation prior.

So our physical environment has a lot more toxins in it. The air is filled with a lot more toxins. Our soil becomes more depleted and more toxic over time. Our water is filled with toxins and all kinds of things in the physical environment that take a toll on people in general, adults and children.

But the thing about children, they’re kind of the canaries in the coal mine because kids’ systems are smaller, less developed and much more sensitive and vulnerable to these kinds of environmental insults.

Particularly when we’re thinking about babies, even in utero and then through infancy and toddlerhood and preschool years. So our kids are showing us through developing, you know, the high prevalence of these chronic illnesses that something in the environment is going on.

Food supply, another big issue. Not only has the quality and the nutrient density of foods that are grown reducing over time, but we’ve got kids eating a much more processed diet than ever before. So you know, when I think about how I ate growing up and certainly how my grandparents ate, very different than how kids are eating now.

Kids are doing a lot of fast food, a lot of microwaveable meals, a lot of packaged kinds of foods. And we know from the research that the chemicals, the additives, many of the things that are used in processed foods have a negative effect on not only physical development but particularly on brain development. So the nutrition and food piece of it is certainly an issue.

I feel that technology is an issue that is partly driving this trend. Kids are more sedentary than ever before. And a big part of that is because many of their activities, their social lives, their preferred things that they like to do are on a little screen this far from their face.

And while I think that certainly there’s a role for technology and devices in the lives of kids, what has happened is we’ve gone to this extreme where kids are spending so much time on that stuff that they’re not getting even basic physical movement that’s needed to fuel normal development and health.

And one of the things that many parents are not aware of is that movement, physical activity and moving the body is critically important for brain development in children, particularly from birth to about third grade.

Movement and physically exploring and moving through the environment sets the foundations in the brain for all higher level learning. So, you know, academic learning, higher level social relationships, those types of things have as their foundation brain development that comes as a result of movement. So when we’ve got infants, toddlers, elementary aged kids spending a lot of their time sitting, lying down, passively sort of consuming things on screens, that is taking a tangible toll on their brain development and the research shows that. So I think that’s another piece.

And I would also say just the busyness of life and the toll that that takes on parents and on family systems. So, you know, we were talking actually before we started the podcast just about how busy things are and when you have kids it’s like time flies and there’s so much going on and things move fast. And I think, especially a lot of parents, we’ve got two parents in the home who are working in the majority of situations. So they’re busy with that. Kids are in daycare or school. Parents feel compelled and feel pressured to have their kids in all kinds of activities, right? From a very early age.

It’s sort of like keeping up with everybody else in the neighborhood or the school system with making sure that your kid is in all the sports, all the extracurriculars, all of these things. And all of that contributes to this busyness level that creates a ton of stress that takes a toll on parents, on their energy levels, their ability to really be present and engaged with their kids and parenting in a way that supports kids development. And it just takes a toll on kids because kids need downtime. Kids need unstructured free play time and a lot of them aren’t getting that.

So I think that that’s another factor, too. And there’s lots of other things that we could get into that, but I think those are really some of the core trends that I’m seeing and some of the core things that we’re seeing come out of the research that are explaining why it is that we’re seeing so many more kids who are ending up with these kinds of symptoms and diagnoses.

The importance of social life and community for good mental health

Ari Whitten: What do you think about the role of social life and community in all of this? How does that figure into this and, you know, and I know you know, one of the books that had a big influence on me is Phillip Cushman’s, it’s called “Constructing the Self.” I don’t know if you… are you familiar with that book? It’s kind of an obscure book, but basically I’ll give it like sort of a very brief encapsulation of what this book is all about.

But the basic idea of it is there’s been a dissolution of community and even of the family unit over the last several generations since, especially since World War II. And this is obviously an America centric sort of focus of this book. So speaking specifically about the US. There’s been a dissolution of the family unit, of the extended family, of community more broadly, of like sort of more of like you’re a part of this particular community who has these beliefs and traditions and so on.

And we have all sort of… we’re all living in these little boxes in huge cities of millions of people, but we’re less connected than we ever have before. And that, that loss of human connection and community has been a big part of this rise of mental health problems.

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: Yeah, it’s so true. And I think there’s two phases of development in particular where that takes a huge toll on children and their brain development, and their mental health. The first is in the early developmental stages of life, so infancy, toddlers, preschool years because children, their brains develop through relationship with other people. That’s just hands down.

Developmental psychologists have been researching that and have understood that for decades now. That the way that you nurture and support a child’s brain to develop in all areas is through key relationships with other people. Parents obviously being the primary people that they’re engaging with. And then as they get a little older, that circle starts to spread to, you know, extended family members, siblings, maybe daycare providers, teachers, those kinds of things.

But children’s brains develop through relationships with others. And so the more disconnected we get, the busier we get, the more we get absorbed as parents in our work and our devices that we’re on in our free time, you know, maybe holding the baby on one hip and scrolling facebook on the other.

Over time that does take a toll and it does negatively impact the development of young children because the way that they learn about the world, the way they learn about relationships, the way their brain literally grows new connections is by experiencing the world alongside and through the eyes and the experiences of primary caregivers.

So that’s one key developmental stage of life where we see that idea of connection and social relatedness being really important. And then the other one that I notice, really this has an impact on now, is with teens and preteens and their social development and their mental health. And there are several really important studies in the last year that have come out on this issue showing exactly what you said, that yes, we’re connected to the world more so than ever before when you look at being connected through the internet or whatever else.

But we’re more disconnected socially and relatedly than ever before. And so what we’ve got is these preteens and these teens who are very vulnerable and susceptible to, you know, dynamics in relationships at those ages. And we’ve got this profound disconnection from real life interaction and engagement and relationships and it’s a lot of online social media, all of those kinds of things. And it really is having a very detrimental impact on them.

So, it’s not that these things aren’t important for kids at other ages too, but I think those are two key areas that I would want parents to really be thinking about in relation to how the disconnectedness and the disengagement that can come as a result of the busyness of life, being away from extended family, all of the technology, those kinds of things where it really can take a toll.

Why behavioral issues and mental illness in children can be connected to lifestyle (and why medication may not be the answer)

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Beautifully explained. So now that you’ve gone over all these different layers of, you know, lifestyle, nutrition, toxins in the environment, other environmental factors, how the social and interpersonal dynamic has changed over the last few generations, and the loss of community, and all these different things. The solution is obviously just to put people on medications that affect their neurotransmitter balance, right?

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: Clearly, because obviously the real root of the problem is that we have a Prozac deficiency and that, you know, so we just need to give a pill and it’s all taken care. Of course. NO!

Ari Whitten: Makes sense to me. I mean, I just, it just seems like everything that you were saying up until this point just leads logically directly to the conclusion that we need to administer pills that correct the problem that’s going on in the brain, right?

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: When you think about it that way, right, and it’s like that’s total insanity. And yet that’s what we do. “Oh, your teenager is feeling sad and anxious and you know, is withdrawing from things. Well, clearly that’s a Prozac deficiency. You know, they have depression. Let’s give them some medication.

Let’s not examine what’s going on in their life and what the family dynamics are and what their diet is like and how they’re sleeping and the fact that they’re on social media and texting with, you know, friends or whoever and trying to resolve their friend’s crisis at three in the morning when they should be sleeping.

Let’s disregard all of that. And clearly this is just a chemical imbalance. Or a child who is having significant emotional and behavioral dysregulation, throwing temper tantrums all the time, not seeming to learn from consequences or from their experience, very dysregulated kids. Well, clearly they need an anti psychotic drug to help them with that.

Let’s not explore what they’re eating, whether they’re sleeping, what the family dynamics are, let’s not looking at any of that.”

And it’s ridiculous when you think about it, but yet that’s what we do. And there’s several problems with that that I think parents need to be aware of. Because the reality is if you’re a parent who has a child with these kinds of struggles and you go into their primary care doctor, their pediatrician or even to the school and say, “I have concerns about my kid, you know, here’s what’s going on.” Chances are you’re going to walk out of that appointment with a prescription for a medication. Or if you go to the school, they obviously can’t give a prescription. What they’re going to say is “well, you know, yeah, your kids is really having problems in the classroom, you know, these behavior problems, inattentive whatever. You should really see your doctor about, you know, an ADHD diagnosis and some medication.”

And that’s what the experience is for most parents when they raise these concerns. And we’re so conditioned to, you know, when people in white coats say things like that to us, we think, “okay, this is a person who knows what they’re talking about. Oh my gosh, if they feel like my child needs medicine than I should give my child this medicine.”

What’s interesting though, while most parents will do what the physician or the prescriber or whoever the professional is telling them to do. There is this voice in the back of the majority of parents minds going, “I don’t really feel good about this.” And I know that from 20 years of working with parents who 99.9 percent of them will come in and say, “I didn’t want to put my kid on the medicine, but this is what they told me to do and I didn’t know what else to do and so I felt like I should do it.”

So parents, I get why they’re doing it. They’re not bad people. They’re not trying to make poor decisions. They’re being told by people that they’ve been taught to respect and to trust that this is what they need to do. And so they’re following instructions. And yet there is a big part of them that feels like “uh, this probably isn’t the right thing.” And then that just gets confirmed when for the majority of kids putting them on these medications doesn’t resolve the issue.

And that gets to one of the big problems with utilizing medication as a primary, you know, approach or even as any part of the approach to treatment for these kids because they don’t work for the majority of people. And that’s not even just for kids, that’s for adults, too. The research literature on psychotropic drugs is sketchy at best.

I mean, that’s just the reality of it. And people like to argue with me about it, you know, other professionals do. But I just say “read the research literature on it.” You know, we have very sketchy basis for using these medications.

The studies that are done are very short term. We don’t actually have any good longterm studies that show us what happens with these medications in the body over time, especially not for children. So parents are led to believe that these things have been well researched, well studied, they’re very safe. And the reality is we have almost no research evidence to support the use of most psychotropic drugs in children.

Stimulants for ADD/ADHD are the exception. There are studies that have been done, obviously, particularly on kids, but no longterm studies. We don’t have studies that show us if you start giving a kid Ritalin at five, what might that look like for them at 20 or 30 or 75 years of age. And there’s real reason to question now looking at studies that are being done on older adult populations, the impact that these kinds of drugs do do have on that.

What we’re finding is that as adults age the longer they’ve been on these kinds of prescription medications, the more likely they are to have problems like dementia, Alzheimer’s, significant emotional issues, those kinds of things. This is looking at older adults who started on these kinds of drugs in adulthood. What does that look like then for the last two generations of kids who have been started on these kinds of drugs when they were young or when they were in elementary school? What does that look like for them? We don’t know.

The reality is we have no idea and there’s every reason to believe that there’s going to be big problems for these kids down the road. Just looking at what we know and understand about side effects in kids who take them. And that’s the other issue, so not only do we have a very poor research basis, we also have a slew of problematic side effects that accompany these drugs and particularly in kids.

Again, kids bodies and brains are more vulnerable, they’re more sensitive than adults are. And so we’ve got these medications which we really even have very little dosing guidelines on. Most parents don’t realize that either. When a psychiatrist or, you know, a prescriber of whatever sort is prescribing these, for most of these medications, there are no specific guidelines for how to dose them in kids. So they’re taking a guess. “Well, this kid’s maybe half the size of an adult, so we’ll give them half the amount…” They’re really, there’s no rules or standards for that because the studies haven’t been done. So…

Ari Whitten: Yeah, and…. sorry, no go ahead. I’m kind of interrupting.

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: Well, no. I was just going to say that I think it’s important for parents to understand that. That it’s very much a guessing game and we know there’s a ton of problematic side effects. Everything from worsening their mood and behavior and anxiety problems to causing acute suicidality in kids who were not suicidal. Now we start them on these medications. They’re acutely suicidal or aggressive or a danger to themselves or to other people.

Things like insomnia, causing attention problems. And then we’ve got the physical side effects, chronic headaches, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, all of these types of issues, you know, reduced appetite, all of those things.

So we’ve got poor research basis, medications that haven’t been looked at long term or even short term in many cases with children. We’ve got a slew of side effects and the bottom line is no medication on the market today treats the actual root cause of any of these problems.

So at best, even when we use a medication to try to address a certain symptom, we’re putting a bandaid on that. Even when it’s effective. Because it is true for some kids, they go on a medication like a stimulant and they focus better. Okay, great. But what happens eight hours later when it wears off? Well now they can’t focus again because those medications, even when they seem to work, are a bandaid. They’re not treating the root issue.

And that really is my biggest concern and my biggest complaint about how we treat kids with these medications is we’re not ever getting to the root. We’re just putting these bandaids or we’re actually making worse problems. And we’re never really identifying or treating the underlying reasons why they’re having these symptoms in the first place.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, you nailed it. And that was beautifully said and I’m so glad that you explained that because I was actually wanting to interrupt you to explain exactly what you just said. Which is that there’s this kind of problem with the fundamental paradigm that is popular in the world of modern medicine and that includes psychiatry and to some extent psychology, but more conventional medicine, allopathic medicine.

Which is that the fundamental thing that they’re trying to do is basically look at things on a smaller and smaller level. So right now you have the macro, you’re looking at me or you as the person. Then we go beneath the skin, okay, what’s happening beneath the skin? Okay, what’s happening in the bloodstream, what’s happening at the cellular level, what’s happening with different molecules and biochemical pathways or neurotransmitters, or neurotransmitter receptors and things like that?

And then once they get down to those kinds of levels and they say, “oh, bipolar disorder. We’ve detected this abnormality at the biochemical level” or you know, “depression or anxiety, we’ve detected this abnormality, therefore we found the cause. Okay, so now that we found the cause, because we’ve looked at things on a very micro level and found this biochemical imbalance, we’ve found the cause, now let’s create a drug that interrupts this biochemical pathway in some way and alters it to get it back to normal.”

So that’s like the fundamental paradigm that has been popularized not just within conventional medicine but in the general public as well. That’s how most of the world now thinks about these problems.

But let’s now present a different way of imagining this. Just hypothetically, let’s imagine that, what if that biochemical pathway is also affected by your sleep habits? What if it’s affected by your circadian rhythm and the fact that we live in a modern environment that is chronically disrupting our circadian rhythm? What if it’s affected by the food you eat, you know, novel idea, right?

What if it’s affected by whether you move around versus be sedentary? What if it’s affected by whether you get sun exposure? What if it’s… and have vitamin D and things like that?

What if it’s affected by your interpersonal relationships and community and or whether you’re just sitting in front of your tv or your computer or your phone all day and not interacting with other humans, you know, novel idea, right?

What if it’s affected by… all of those biochemical things on a micro level are affected by all of these things that are, again, back on the macro level that are clearly visible. And, in fact that is, as of course you know, that is of course actually what’s happening.

So the problem is that the modern paradigm has just stopped at the level of the biochemical level and they’ve confused what’s happening there, which are mostly just biochemical correlates of a person’s environment. They are a reflection of their environment and lifestyle. They’ve confused what’s going on there with the cause.

So it’s, to make this really blunt, it’s like the equivalent of somebody smashing their foot with a hammer and then getting pain and bleeding and swelling and then being like, “I have pain in my foot, I guess I need to take a pain killer, a painkilling drug and, and you know, a nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drug or some aspirin or something like that to get rid of the pain” as I continue to smash my foot with a hammer. That’s the paradigm of modern medicine. It’s exaggerated, but that’s largely what it is.

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: Yeah, that’s absolutely right. And the way that I describe it to people, and there are several people in the world of functional medicine that talk about it this way too, it’s like if I’m sitting on a tack and that’s causing pain, the solution is not to take Tylenol. The solution is to get rid of the tack, take the tack out, right?

That’s really what we’re talking about shifting towards, is a way of conceptualizing of these symptoms and these disorders from a root cause. A way of thinking about it that says, okay, if we can understand the factors that are driving these symptoms, then we can actually start to address those things from the bottom up and start to actually help people heal, help them to improve.

And that’s a totally different way of thinking about it then as you said, the current paradigm. And I’ll tell you, pharmaceutical companies have done an exceptional job of marketing this paradigm and this way of thinking about it because that’s really where it stems from.

This idea of one chemical imbalance, one pill. They have sold that to the world. They’ve sold that to people in the field of medicine, people in the field of mental health, the public at large. I’ve got just about every patient who comes in here, adult, child, whatever they’ve been told, “you have a chemical imbalance. You need to have this medication for the rest of your life to fix this chemical imbalance.”

And the reality is there’s no research to support that. So it’s a huge issue and I’m just really passionate about helping parents understand the bigger dynamics of what’s really going on because ultimately that’s what’s empowering. And you know, what I think is the best thing that we can do for these kids is to help parents feel empowered and capable and competent to help their kids.

Because there is no worse, more stressful feeling in the world than being a mom or being a dad and feeling completely helpless to do anything to support your kid. That’s like the worst feeling in the world. And so my thought is if we can help empower parents by understanding, look, this isn’t something that’s fundamentally flawed about your kid or your parenting. There are reasons why these symptoms are happening and once we understand those, you can do things that will improve those.

That’s incredibly empowering, it’s incredibly energizing, it’s incredibly stress reducing for parents, which then just helps the whole family system and helps the kid.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Beautiful. So let’s go practical.

Key #1 – Ensure healthy nutrition

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: Yeah.

Ari Whitten: What specific things should… you know, I think it’s obviously very important that, as you said, that you empower parents with the knowledge of how they can start to help their children beyond just psychiatric drugs.

What are some of these other treatment options and what does this look like on a practical level? And maybe you can give specific examples as far as, you know, obviously there’s a lot of different conditions we’re kind of all blending together, behavioral issues from autism and psychological conditions and things of that nature. So I’ll let you kind of take it whatever direction you feel is appropriate.

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: Yeah, I mean the good news is regardless of what diagnosis we’re talking about, all of these symptoms exist on a similar type of spectrum and so it’s the same five core foundational things that are important for parents to think about, whether your child has autism or your child has depression or whatever else they may have.

So let’s practically dive into each of these. And I want to give the parents who are listening, you know, a couple of takeaways of things that they can think about in each of those areas. So the first area, and we’ve already been talking about it, is nutrition. There’s just no way around it, what we feed our kids, the food that we put in our bodies has a huge impact on how our brain functions, a huge impact on our mood, on our anxiety level, all of those things. So, you know, I tell kids and parents, when you put garbage in your body, you’re going to get garbage out, you’re going to get garbage behavior, you’re going to get bad moods, those kinds of things.

That’s a simple way of thinking about it. And I am not one of those, you know, professionals who says, “well, you have to go 100 percent organic, start growing your own food, like don’t, you know, don’t go and buy anything from the supermarket.” Look, I am a mom of four, I’m very practical with this stuff.

I’m not shooting for ideal. I’m just shooting for helping parents to make better choices and understanding what those better choices might be. So some of the key things nutritionally, one is in the realm of diet is looking at feeding kids what we would call more whole foods and less processed food. So a whole food is the food the way that it grows or the way that it is, right? So a piece of fish or a potato, a carrot, a, you know, an apple, those types of things. Processed foods are foods that have been manufactured in some way.

There’s been chemicals or things added to them. They tend to be in boxes and bags and those types of things. And you know a food has been processed if you look at the ingredients and it’s more than just what should be in it, right? So a great example is apple sauce. If we were going to make that at home, pretty simple set of ingredients, right? You need some apples, you need some water, you may add a little bit of, you know, some kind of sweetener to it.

But you look at apple sauce packaged on the shelves, which a lot of kids are eating in their lunches or for snacks, and suddenly you see this list of about 75 ingredients on there. It’s a great example of that food has been very heavily processed. And what we know from the research is that the chemicals and the additives and the things that are put in these processed foods can have a very negative effect, not only on kid’s body health, so things like obesity and, you know, blood sugar and those kinds of things. But also on their brain health.

So reducing the amount of processed foods and shifting to more whole foods is one very simple thing that parents can start to do. And if it feels overwhelming, just pick one thing. Just say, “okay, I’m just going to start having more fruits and vegetables available in the house.” Or “I’m going to start reading packages. If I’m going to buy apple sauce,” for example, “for my kid, for a snack, I’m going to compare the options at the store and if there’s one that just has a couple of ingredients and one that has 30 ingredients, I’m going to go with the simpler one, the less processed option.” Very basic things that we can do.

Another basic thing from a food intake perspective is shifting kids towards drinking more water and getting rid of things like the soda pops, the juices, the sports and energy drinks, you know, all of those types of things. That seems like such a basic thing, but it can have a tremendously positive impact on kids because water is really the liquid that we need.

And especially for children, they need to be well hydrated, not only for physical growth but for brain development. And we have a lot of kids walking around pretty dehydrated. And when we think about the amount of sugar and chemicals that are in a lot of things that kids are drinking, very detrimental.

So I think beverages can be a simple starting point, too. And again, does that mean you have to go get rid right now every non water beverage you have in the house? No. And in fact if you have a family situation where you have tended to drink a lot of pop, a lot of juice, a lot of those types of things, it’s going to take some time.

I don’t recommend for most parents for their sanity and their own stress level that they just cold turkey all this. Especially if you have older kids. Start talking about the, start just gently making some shifts in a better direction. The one thing that I would say if parents are looking for what is one type of food or ingredient that would be really essential to avoid giving kids, it would be artificial sweeteners.

Things like aspartame, sucralose. There’s a lot of names that these artificial sweetening chemicals go by. Basically anything that you might see that has the word “diet” or “light,” you know, in it is going to be something with artificial sweeteners. The companies have gotten clever now though. They know that parents are looking for things with lower sugar, so you have to watch the ingredient lists, too, for products marketed towards kids that say “no added sugar.”

Okay. But you have to read what the chemicals are. And the reason I’m so firm about that is because those are known neurotoxins and kids are especially sensitive to them. And so there is just really is no place for those types of artificial sweetener chemicals in a kid’s diet. And it’s relatively easy to get those out. There’s a lot of other options.

In fact, you know, I had a mom say to me just recently, she was a huge Diet Coke drinker. The kids had grown up on Diet Coke and she was like, “I don’t know if I can get rid of soda pop.” I said, “listen, I feel so strongly about getting the aspartame out of your diets that I would rather you go to just drinking regular Coke, that would actually be better for you at this point. Let’s like wean to that and then we’ll work on getting off of that.” That’s how strongly I feel about that and just the difference that that can make for kids. So those are some of the things food wise from a nutrition standpoint…

Ari Whitten: And real quick on that subject. I know the point of artificial sweeteners is still kind of a contentious thing and there’s still debate back and forth and people on both sides. Have you seen in your practice very noticeable results as kids get off of consuming those things?

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: Absolutely. It’s one of the things that I see the quickest difference in. It’s also one of the things that I see driving a significant number of physical health symptoms in kids as well. So it’s just a good thing I think for parents to get in the habit of reading labels and watching for some of those things that, you know.

Other ones along with that would be things like food dyes, you know, the artificial dyes, anything that has like a color and a number next to it is an artificial food dye and there’s some good research…

Ari Whitten: You mean that blue number 45 doesn’t grow on trees?

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: No, it’s shocking. I know those blue Slurpees are not like that from the blueberries they add to that. I’m sorry to let you down with that. So I think that’s another type of ingredient that’s pretty easy for parents to look for. And the good news is there’s a lot of companies now that are recognizing that parents are becoming wiser to this stuff and are using more natural, you know, food colorings from natural fruit and vegetable dye.

So it’s pretty easy at this point to find replacements for some of maybe your kid’s favorite snack foods or treats or things like that. There’s a lot of options available in the mass supermarkets where you can find things that don’t have those ingredients. So it’s a good starting point for people, I think.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. One more question on diet. I love how you’ve simplified things. Obviously we live, as you know, and we’ve had discussions about this in the past, but we live in a culture of diet fads and extreme diets and to be frank, very stupid extreme diets.

When parents are often, you know, kind of themselves being influenced by some of these diet trends that are going on, they may be inclined to start tweaking their kid’s diet, you know. If they start believing this food and that food are evil foods that are the source of all of our problems, they may end up putting their kids on those kinds of diet fads that we only find out years later, or many of these people find out who are not necessarily reading the science, find out years later that maybe are not as good as they thought they were. What is your recommendation for people to avoid doing that?

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: I think it’s really important for parents to think about balance when it comes to food. Any diet that goes to extremes of cutting out whole groupings of… like no carbohydrates. Let’s talk about no carbs for a second because that’s a very popular thing right now, right? The whole more extreme Paleo/keto kinds of things. And I had a couple in here several weeks ago now where they had, at one of the gyms that they attend, had listened to some seminar where, you know, the person doing the seminar recommended the ketogenic diet.

So they decided to go on it and, like you said, then they started feeding the family this way. They have three kids. It is very problematic for kids. We cannot think about children and their nutrition needs in the same way that we think about adults simply from a growth standpoint. And so kids need the full complement of nutrients.

Kids absolutely need carbs to fuel growth. They absolutely need things in all of the different categories. So things that maybe are not as problematic for adults who have reached their full adult height and all of that and are not physically growing anymore, totally different ballgame. When we’re talking about kids, particularly at different developmental points where they have huge need for more calories, for a balance of energy sources in their food, you know, infancy, toddlerhood, and then adolescence. And a lot of times parents think about feeding their kids like they think about feeding themselves. And that’s not appropriate when we consider the growth needs of children.

So I really steer parents and families away from diets that emphasize taking out large portions of the types of foods that are, that we know are supportive of health. Now there are exceptions. You know, I’m talking about some general guidelines for parents to think about when they have kids with these kinds of issues.

There are children with some types of conditions where a very strict or restrictive type of diet is important. Seizure disorder, certain types of seizure disorders would be one example where we know that a well done, well put together ketogenic diet plan can be essential for some children to manage their seizures.

But if a child is going to require something like that as part of their medical treatment plan, that needs to be done with a team of professionals who understand how to meet the child’s growth needs, how to meet their overall nutrient needs in the context of that diet.

That cannot and should not be done because I read six articles on the internet where somebody said, “oh, this would be a good thing to do, so I just start playing around with it.” Same thing with some children we know on the autism spectrum or with related more significant neurodevelopmental kinds of issues.

There is good research evidence that diets that restrict things like gluten and dairy, for example, or specific carbohydrate diets or, you know, certain types of Paleo diets can be helpful for them. Again, you have to have a foundation first of good healthy parameters around eating, which means we’ve got as many whole foods as possible. We have a good balance of fruits and vegetables and all of the compliment of things that provide the nutrients that kids need.

Because what I see quite a bit of is parents who have gone to a lot of professionals even and their kids had been put on different kinds of diets. And what’s interesting to me is you can still be on a junky diet even on one of these specific nutrition kinds of plans. And gluten and dairy free is a great example of that.

I see many kids come in and they’re like, “well, we’re doing this gluten and casein free diet.” And I’m like, “great, let’s talk about what they’re eating.” And they’re eating a diet that’s full of packaged, processed, junkie gluten and dairy free stuff. That’s not a nutrient dense health or brain supportive diet even though it doesn’t have gluten or casein in it. So I think that it’s really important to get those foundations in place and then if we need to dig deeper and look at removing certain types of foods or having certain types of composition to the diet, great. Then let’s do that if it’s necessary.

But the reality is the majority of kids with these kinds of issues see significant benefit just from putting the foundations of good nutrition and good eating in place.

Key #2 – Getting proper sleep

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Beautiful. So what else beyond nutrition? We are a little overtime here, so maybe two more factors, whatever you have time for.

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: Let’s talk about the other two that I think are critical. The second is sleep. And I think again, parents underestimate the impact of sleep and quality sleep and getting enough sleep on kids’ development and their brains.

And there’s just a slew of research showing us that children with these kinds of conditions – autism, ADHD, anxiety, depression – many of them have disrupted sleep. They aren’t getting enough sleep and it becomes a chicken and an egg thing. Okay, so does the condition caused the sleep problem or is it the sleep problem causing the condition?

The bottom line is it really doesn’t matter from the standpoint of we need to address the sleep problem. Some of the big things that parents should be watching for, you know, if your child has difficulty settling down and falling asleep at night, if they are having episodes of night waking pretty consistently where they’re not sleeping all the way through the night and they’re, you know, obviously not an infant anymore.

Episodes of night terrors, recurrent nightmares, kids who have chronic issues with nightmares, kids who are doing a lot of sleep talking, sleepwalking kids with restless legs or just restless sleep in general. You know, the kind of kid that nobody wants to be in the bed with them because they kick and thrash and you know, are banging into the wall next to their bed all night. Snoring. Those types of things.

All of those are red flags that we have a sleep issue, either a quantity or quality or both issue with sleep that needs to be addressed. And you know, there’s studies that have been done specific to ADHD, for example, that show that anywhere from 25 to 40 percent of kids diagnosed with ADD or ADHD actually have an undiagnosed and untreated sleep disorder. That when you treat the problems with their sleep, suddenly they don’t have the symptoms of ADD/ADHD anymore.

That’s how powerful sleep is, and it is for all of us. I mean obviously we all need good sleep to function. But again, children are more susceptible to problems with sleep and so it’s really something for parents to be aware of and to pursue with their healthcare provider, to work with somebody who will really help them be able to address that.

So that’s the second area.

Key # 3 – Ensure your child moves every day

And the third one is movement. Kids cannot grow and develop properly, cannot regulate their moods, their stress level, their learning, any of that stuff if they’re not getting adequate movement. So ensuring that kids are having periods of physical activity during the day. And unfortunately we can’t count on them getting that at school anymore. Most schools now, even from very young ages are reducing or eliminating recess periods.

They’re not giving the kids time to go out and do physically active play.

Gym classes are getting cut. So kids even from kindergarten on are spending a lot of time sitting at desks, sitting behind computer screens. So as parents we need to make sure then that after school, in the evenings, on the weekends, that they’re getting physical movement.

That we are requiring that they put down the devices or turn off the TV and that they go out and ride their bike, run around with the neighbor kids, climb a tree, take a walk, do whatever it is they’re going to do. That’s really critically important for just their mental health, for their physical health, all of that.

So hopefully that gives people some tangible things to think about in those three areas, at least, that they can start applying with their kids.

Key #4 – Establish a good relationship with technology

Ari Whitten: One more I want to ask you about, technology. Obviously this is a huge issue and I know we’re just scratching the surface of your knowledge here and we could probably do a part two, maybe we should do a part two.

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: That’d be fun!

Ari Whitten: But technology, like this is a huge problem as you talked about earlier. I have a niece for example, who is a beautiful really smart girl who has grown up in a great family with us and very connected to us, connected to her uncles, me and my brother, as well as my parents, her grandparents and she’s been just such a joy all of her life.

And then she got into her teenage years and now she just has no interest in connecting with the family and she just wants to be left alone and stare at her phone. She will stare at her phone for hours and be annoyed if anybody tries to talk to her. So, you know, technology is a big problem. Is there… and it’s obviously very addictive. Is there any thing that you would recommend on that front?

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: Yeah. I recommend that parents be aware of the negative impact that extended and extended periods of time and overuse of technology can have on kids. And it’s interesting because we’re the first generation of parents parenting kids in this 24/7 sort of internet connected, wifi connected, device connected society, right?

Our parents didn’t have to deal with that and so we’re figuring out as we go along and a lot of adults are struggling with managing their own use of these devices, right? So it’s important to be aware that the research is showing more and more very clearly that over use of these devices is creating problems for our kids. So the bottom line is moms and dads, we have to be willing to be the bad guy in this situation.

We have to be willing to put limits in place and we have to be willing to enforce those limits for the good of our kids.

No kid is going to be happy with mom or dad saying, “time to turn the TV off, time to put the smartphone down,” you know, whatever it is, we’re doing something else. Or “you have to go outside and play, you know, practice your piano, get your homework done, whatever before we do the devices.” No kid’s going to be happy with that.

But it’s one of those things where we don’t need our kids to be happy about it. We need to do that for their own good. And we need to model limits and boundaries for ourselves and healthy use for ourselves of these devices.

Really tough to tell a 13-year-old you can’t, you know, use your device for hours at a time when they see us come home from work and basically spend the entire evening sitting and scrolling through facebook or doing work on the computer or whatever.

So we need to be models for that. Two things I want parents to think about. The first is device free meal times. Simple basic rule and standard that I think is important and necessary and that every parent should implement in their home.

Nobody needs to have an electronic device at the dinner table, at the lunch table if we’re all eating together. When we’re eating, that is a time to socialize, to engage with one another, to engage with our food, to be present in the process of eating and spending time together.

And we can do that for 15 or 20 minutes without having our devices. So a very simple starting point. The second thing is devices in the bedroom at night. Big, big no-no. And it’s something that I work with parents on extensively. Nothing good happens in the middle of the night for your kid on the internet period.

There’s no reason a child of any age needs to have access to the internet or their devices in the night. I know they will tell you “but I use it as my alarm, how am I going to get up in the morning?” You can go to Target and buy a $5 alarm clock just like we all had growing up, and lo and behold, they can get up in the morning.

So I’m really, really firm on that with the families that I work with because I see the really detrimental impact that device usage has on kids sleep patterns, on their ability to regulate their behavior and their emotions, and just socially and emotionally the stuff that they might be engaging within those unsupervised hours at night.

Even if they’re telling you, “oh, I’m not doing anything.” No, there’s just… it’s one more thing that parents don’t need to deal with the stress of monitoring what kids are doing on those devices at night. You have a spot in the kitchen or wherever you want to put that, where everyone in the family puts their devices before bedtime.

That’s where they’re charged and housed overnight and we can engage with those when we wake up. We’re not having those things in the bedroom during the night.

Ari Whitten: Beautiful. Well, Nicole, I have absolutely loved this interview and I love the work you’re doing, I think it’s so, so important. And I think also, I mean I just love all of the positive repercussions of this. You know, how this trickles down to so many different areas of the happiness and the health of the parents and the kids and their ability to relate to one another in a happy, healthy way. And I mean it’s just, you’re just spreading love and happiness throughout so many different layers through the work that you’re doing.

And I just, I really appreciate everything that you do. Also, I personally want to recommend to everyone that they go out and get your book. It’s not a new book. It’s not like you’re just launching this, but it is wonderful.

You gave me this copy when we met about a year and a half ago, “Life Will Get Better: Simple Solutions for Parents of Children with Attention, Anxiety, Mood, and Behavior Challenges.” And you can get it on Amazon. And anything else? Where can people follow your work and learn more about what you do?

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: Yeah, so my website is, or they can also go to the clinic website, which is We work with families throughout the United States and all over the world. So they can connect with me there, lots of free videos and articles and lots of resources to help parents plug into these ideas and to just learn more about the things that we started to scratch the surface with tonight.

Ari Whitten: Beautiful. Well thank you so much Dr. Beurkens. Oh by the way, how do you spell your last name? So your website is drbeurkens…

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: Yeah, that’s a good one, it’s b-e-u-r-k-e-n-s.

Ari Whitten: Wonderful. So I hope you guys have enjoyed this interview. I personally have absolutely loved it. So thank you again Dr. Nicole. And have a wonderful night.

Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD: Thank you so much.

Ari Whitten: Hey there, this is Ari again. One more quick thing before you go. Just make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel, The Energy Blueprint. And also make sure to subscribe to this podcast on your favorite podcast platform, whether that’s iTunes or Stitcher or anything else. Hope you guys enjoyed this interview and I will see you again next week.

4 Natural Lifestyle Hacks To Fix Behavioral Issues And Mental Illness In Children (And Manage Your Energy As A Parent) with Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD – Show notes

Why supporting parents is essential for helping a child with mental illness (3:00)
What science actually says about treating mental illness in children (and adults) (10:49)
Why we see an increase in children with mental illness and behavioral issues (17:43)
The importance of social life and community for good mental health (25:22)
Why behavioral issues and mental illness in children can be connected to lifestyle (and why medication may not be the answer) (29:54)
Key #1 – Ensure healthy nutrition (45:30)
Key #2 – Getting proper sleep (1:00:05)
Key # 3 – Ensure your child moves every day (1:02:27)
Key #4 – Establish a good relationship with technology (1:03:44)


Get Dr. Nicole’s book Life Will Get Better: Simple Solutions for Parents of Children with Attention, Anxiety, Mood, and Behavior Challenges here.

You can visit Dr. Nicole’s website here and the website for her clinic here

How To Get More Energy As A Busy Mom │ Balancing Stress, Health, And Energy While Raising A Family With Wellness Mama FB 4 natural lifestyle hacks to fix behavioral issues and mental illness in children (and manage your energy as a parent) with Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD,
Learn more about how to get more energy as a busy mom as Wellness Mama shares how she balances a career and a family of 8.

The Power of Plant Medicine, Herbs and Ayahuasca to Heal the Body, Mind, and Spirit (with Nick Polizzi)

The Power of Plant Medicines, Herbs and Ayahausca to Heal the Body, Mind, and Spirit (with Nick Polizzi)In recent years, we have seen a huge increase in people who swear by plant medicines and herbs for treating their ailments. And while more research emerges that supports the claim that certain plant compounds have incredible healing properties, herb and plant medicine is often frowned upon within conventional medical circles when it comes to treating chronic conditions. But is there some truth to the power of plant medicine, herbs and Ayahuasca (an entheogen/psychedelic plant medicine considered by native people of the Amazon to be a spiritual healer) or is it just mumbo-jumbo? And, if it is so great, why aren’t we using it in modern day medicine?

In this podcast, I speak with Nick Polizzi. Nick has spent his career directing and producing feature-length documentaries about natural alternatives to conventional medicine. In this episode, Nick will share his own personal story about how modern medicine gave up treating his chronic migraines and told him that it would be a lifelong chronic (and debilitating) condition. This led him to discover the power of plant medicines, stress reduction techniques, herbs, and Ayahuasca to heal the body, mind, and spirit, and live a vibrant, healthy, energetic life.

In this podcast, we’ll cover:

  • Why modern medicine often gives up on patients with chronic disease
  • How Nick managed to cure debilitating ocular migraine in only 6 months (after modern medicine had given up on him)
  • Why the current knowledge about plant medicines and herbs is only scratching the surface of  what we will know 20 years from now (hint: only 3% of plants in the Amazon have even been studied), and the real reasons why not enough research is taking place
  • Ayahuasca – Is it really just another drug to get high on? Or is it something more than that?
  • Ayahuasca ceremonies – how to use them for spiritual healing (and why Nick fears doing them every time)
  • Why your conventional doctor is likely not looking to helping you treat your disease using herbs and plant medicine
  • Nick’s personal experiences with Ayahuasca and sweat lodge ceremonies
  • How your personal beliefs can block your healing process
  • Nick’s new docu-series Remedy: Ancient Medicine For Modern Illness – How to use herbs for treating modern epidemics (Note: You can sign up for your FREE access HERE.)

Download or listen on iTunes

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The Power of Plant Medicines, Herbs and Ayahuasca to Heal the Body, Mind, and Spirit (with Nick Polizzi) – Transcript

Ari Whitten: Hey everyone. Welcome back to the Energy Plueprint podcast. I’m your host, Ari Whitten, and today I have with me Nick Polizzi, who has spent his career directing and producing feature length documentaries about natural alternatives to conventional medicine.

Nick’s current role as director of “Remedy: Ancient Medicines for Modern Illness” stems from a calling to honor, preserve and protect the ancient knowledge and rituals of the indigenous peoples of the world, and to bring amazing undiscovered medicines to people in the west. Plant medicines, natural plant medicines, mostly that can help heal many modern illnesses. So with that in mind, thank you so much, Nick, for joining me. It’s such a pleasure to have you.

Nick Polizzi: Ari, I am honored to be here.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. So first of all, I’m a huge fan of what you’re doing and the message that you’re putting out into the world. And I’m also jealous, I have to say. When I was younger when I was a teenager, I remember for certain classes, kind of drawing pictures of me scuba diving on coral reefs and, and kind of extracting certain compounds from corals to try and find medicines that we’re going to cure diseases.

And now most of my time is behind the computer screen writing and you’re down in the Amazon, doing all this, going on all these adventures and trying to find all these undiscovered… Healing compounds and it’s funny you’re doing what I kind of fantasized about doing when I was a teenager. Pretty cool. So I’m jealous. I have to say.

Nick Polizzi: Thank you, man. It’s fun, fun, balance. It’s a little bit of work balancing that with a family. I got to say. I have two small children, so it used to be, I’d say a lot easier to be… Yup, put on your Indiana Jones hat and just, be cavalier about it.

Just kind of go around the world and do what you gotta do.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely.

Nick Polizzi: I used to just pick up and just go around the world and do what I had to deal and I still do that, but there’s a little bit of my heart that never leaves Boulder, Colorado and my two boys. So I love what I do. Don’t get me wrong. But yeah, it makes it a little trickier as you get older and you start a family.

Why Nick turned to plant medicine to treat migraine

Ari Whitten: Nice. So, how did you, how did you stumble into this? How did you, I guess, first get into health and then you started going down this path with the sacred science and coin kind of going on all these adventures down to the Amazon and doing all these, this, these explorations of medicines from indigenous peoples. How did you stumble into all that?

Nick Polizzi: So my path started the way that a lot of people on this healing path start out. And that was with my own illness. I grew up on the, on the east coast. I had four or five aunts that were nurses at the local hospital. A modern medicine was the way of my family and so when I started in my early, early twenties getting migraine headaches, ocular migraine headaches, I turned to modern medicine first. That was all I really knew.

And I went to one of the best neurologists and he tried a lot of different things to get me better. Ocular migraine headaches are terrible, by the way. Anybody who’s listening, who’s ever had one knows it’s not a headache, it shouldn’t even call it a headache because it’s just a totally different thing. It’s basically a combination of a broken bone in your brain and the stroke because, I mean, a lot of times you can have stroke like symptoms during them. I was talking to someone earlier this week who still gets them and she was saying that she goes numb in loses functionality and part of one hemisphere of her body when she gets them.

So its a very tricky condition. And so when I started getting them in my early twenties was scary. Turned to modern medicine. And one of the best neurologists in Connecticut, I was lucky to see and they put me on a bunch of different drugs that would work slightly for the first couple of episodes. I was having one or two a week and then after two or three migraines they would stop working. So I was just going through this Rolodex of different pharmaceuticals that had a number of their own fun side effects in addition to kind of only working partially and then not working after a while.

So I didn’t know what to do. They were running the MRIs. They thought maybe there could be something more serious. And, ultimately, I came in one day after having had one of the most severe migraines that had ever had where I literally was trying to talk to my girlfriend and the words I was trying to say were coming out as different words. And… I had to be in the dark for about 10 hours straight with absolute quiet and a cool rag on my head and just literally could not communicate with the outside world.

I went in to see him and he said, ”Well, Nick, that was the last preventative… That was the last drug I can give you for this.” He said the only thing I can do for you now is put you on something that’s more preventative drug that will maybe work but, and will definitely cause some alterations in the way you perceive your reality. And somehow, even though I was in my early twenties, I was a numbskull, I was living in New York City I’m drinking, chasing girls around, being being a moron. I still at that point knew that that was where I had to draw the line.

I was, ”No, I can’t.” I’ve seen a couple of loved ones go on antidepressants within that same span of time and saw what it did to them. And so how their data’s completely just gone into this, this total, I don’t even want to say coma, but it was almost, there was this slight emotional coma, and I’m… ”I’m not doing it. I’m not going there. I need to at least know who the hell I am.” So, I walked away from that office in desperation and started trying to figure out on the internet what else I can try to do.

Cause he said, ”listen… This is terminal”. I left that part out. He said, ”this is terminal. This is how it is. This is how it’s going to be for your life this is all we can do is try to figure out a way of helping you cope with this problem.”

Ari Whitten: So, on that point, I would imagine that probably, I haven’t looked at the stats, but I would imagine a number of people with a condition that probably end up committing suicide.

Nick Polizzi: I don’t know. Yeah. Who knows? I’m sure I’ve never looked at that either. It’s a big deal. It’s one of those things… I mean, there’s a lot of illnesses out there. So often it’s done a tiny little tangent, a lot of illnesses out there that we’ve all become so familiar with that. It almost makes them sound benign in a way or or there, there’s so usual that we don’t really think about them as being something that, you said, could cause somebody to do something like drastic that. But something an ocular migraine headache twice a week will ruin your life.

I mean, it’s derails your life. You cannot live a normal life. It’s to your pain all the time and the pain and no one understand it and you’re always in fear of it happening again and it does happen again within the matter of days. And so you just never know what you can and can’t do. I mean, there’s a lot of conditions that, but ocular migraines are one of those. And so then I… That’s how I found my way into the healing path. It was not because I thought to myself, You know what’d be cool, I want to start working with herbs” Because I honestly, that was not where my brain is. I’m a New York Jets fan. I was busy. I was a real estate investor in New York City at the furthest thing from my mind was, I want to start working with herbs and going to yoga and thinking, seeking out energy healing practices.

I had no idea what the heck that stuff was. So it was really out of desperation and again, the people that I interview, especially the people who are not native folks, people who are from the Western world who were interested in this stuff. It’s usually, I mean, I’ve got to say at least seven times out of 10 in my experience is because they were somebody they knew got really sick and as many as as often happens, but it’s very unreported. They’re failed by modern medicine miserably, and they go on their own healing path.

And so that’s how I got on this path which led me to herbs. It led me to EFT and led me to other energy healing practices and it also led me ultimately to shamanism.

Nick’s Documentaries – How and why they were made

Ari Whitten: I think that’s a beautiful segue into your last documentary that you worked on, your current one is ”Remedy – Ancient Medicines for Modern Illness”, but the previous one that you’ve done is called ”The Sacred Science.” Where you took a bunch of people down to the Amazon people who had severe illnesses and it was kind of this documentary adventure where you’re following these people as they’re going into the jungle looking for cures to their conditions.

Can you talk about that whole documentary and how things played out with that?

Nick Polizzi: Sure. So I made two documentaries after I got better. So the part I left out is within six months of me leaving modern medicine. I was completely 100 percent cured, never not had a migraine since. So

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Actually, let’s go into that first and then we’ll get into ”The Sacred Science”.

Nick Polizzi: Cool. Yeah, I got to say, I credit EFT with a lot because EFT tapped me into my body. It got me literally tap me literally tuned me into emotions. I never knew that as a, as a dude, just a normal guy. I don’t even know what a normal guy these days or what kind of, if, if that’s offensive to even say… But I was just this, this northeastern Connecticut, New Englander kind of guy and I was raised from a young age not to really look at my emotions. Not to really give them much credence. That was a pretty sissy thing to do in my family. And I’m not… My dad. My parents are great, but that’s just in my society looking, examining yourself too much with a little bit weird to try to do.

And so this period of self examination was helped a lot by, by EFT and I started realizing there were these undercurrents event and these energies and thoughts and ways of being that were not normal, I thought were normal. I thought that’s just kinda the way it was.

But when I started really tapping into it and hanging out with more people who are a little more enlightened than me, I realized that these were choices I was making. And so EFT really helped me dig into those things. And once I got more sensitive to the subtle energies that were going on inside myself, that was when I started really being able to dial into herbs. Herbs who seemed very like…  camomile tea, nothing’s going to feel any of it. There’s nothing bad about it. There’s nothing. It’s not potent. Drugs are the way to go or else there’s no other option.

But once you tune into your body, you start working with plants and start working with diet. As you know, you start sensing in your body what you’re allergic to, you start sensing in your body what makes you feel good? What does it make you feel good? And so that was, that was my entryway, EFT and energy medicine was my entryway into herbs, which was my entryway then into shamanism and rituals.

Because, as you open up the Pandora’s box, and you realize how much more there is going on inside you, and you start finding out that who you thought you were is absolutely not who you are, then you just have to keep on going down that path which is turned [inaudible].

That was when we decided that we were going to make the movie called ”The Sacred Science”. I ended up making a movie with Nick Ortner of the tapping solution, who’s a good friend of mine from a long time ago now.

Ari Whitten: I’ve actually had him on the podcast as well, so a lot of people will be familiar with him.

Nick Polizzi: Ok, cool. So Ortner and I went to high school together, and middle school together. People don’t know this, but he couldn’t speak English until he was in second grade. He came over from Argentina and he did not have a word of English and he just turned into a New York Times best selling author.

So that’s pretty amazing. Pretty amazing human being. So he and I made ”The ”Tapping Solution”. Then we made another movie called ”Simply Raw – Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days” as a part of that too, which is more on the dietary side. And then what I noticed was in what we’re shooting these things behind the scenes, something that I would ask a lot of people that we’re interviewing, out of a personal interest was… ”Who is your mentor, who’s your Guru”, because we’d be sitting down with these big, big name people Jack Canfield and all those folks. You know they are, these people that you are ”Wow, who’d you learn from?”

And when you ask them that question, a lot of times I don’t know how no percentage it was, but a lot of times they were, there was people being pointed to that didn’t live anywhere near us and they were not gray haired white men. You know what I mean? We know that were wearing suits in front of the camera, which is pretty much all the experts that are in a lot of these, a lot of these personal development and nutrition films. They were native people, there are people from other places, other continents. They were elders, they were wise people and that was very intriguing to me.

And so that kind of made me realize that where I wanted to go next, not only because of the herbal side, but also on the leader, the wisdom and the personal transformation side. It was something that looked like it was the next place to go. Shamanism, native practices, healing rituals, ancient medicines.

And so that turned into this path of discovery where we just started, me and two other people on our team started to research shamanism. And at that point it was very hard to find a lot of good information on it because it was not what it is today, 10 years. It’s really, it’s really just blown up into something.

Back then it was the dark, the dark corner, dark, cobweb corners of the Internet. You’d find little, little sites that would talk about it, you know. And so we pieced together this kind of… we called it the law where there were just a map of the world and we started kind of putting, putting different pins in places and starting to get an idea of where were, these cultures are still alive, the, the resources that these cultures had at their disposal, the heal people.

Because we knew, we knew we wanted to do. We want them to take people someplace to get healed. So we wanted to find out the best possible location for, for us to take a crew of people or a group of, of very ill people to get better.

The truth about plants in the Amazon

Ari Whitten: I would guess a lot of those pins ended up in the Amazon area.

Nick Polizzi: Yeah. Yeah. Because not only is this the Amazon has one of the most thriving cultures of shamanism was the planet. I’d say in Africa and in Siberia are probably the two other places that I would say are, are just as just as alive still, but the difference between Siberia and Africa, at least the areas of Africa that we were looking at the Amazon, is that the Amazon has over 80,000 species of plants, less than three percent of them.

I mean now basically coding soundbites from the film that I’m trying not to put it in my own words, but basically three percent of those 80,000 plants had been studied. And of those three percent some 20/25 percent of our cancer treatments or since I’ve been synthesized from those plants, but there’s 97 percent that hasn’t been studied. And the only people who know those plants, are the indigenous people. So we’re okay, ”so there’s this very alive and thriving culture of shamanism and they have at their disposal the biggest, the biggest pharmacopeia of medicinal plants in the entire world. Yeah. Let’s go there.”

Ari Whitten: Yeah. And I think there’s an interesting point to be made there, which is that a lot of us growing up in the west growing up in the United States, for example, have this conception of, of modern science is, ”oh, we’ve, we’ve already discovered and researched all the plants that there are and the different extracts of different herbs and things like that. We already know kind of everything there is to know about all these plants or, maybe not everything there is, no. But we’ve discovered 90 plus percent of the medicinal plants that, that there are to discover.”

I know that I certainly used to be under that impression and it’s just… It’s actually the opposite, is that the science just scratched the surface as far as how many of these, these medicinal plants we’ve actually found and researched.

Nick Polizzi: Yeah, it’s totally true. And there’s all kinds of reasons for it. It’s exciting to me because, I mean you think of this world is a place where no man has been everywhere. So no, there’s nothing original anymore. Who’s going there’s nothing left to do. We’ve already figured this place out. Well, that just told you how little we actually know, we know three percent of. And, and so I say 80,000 species of plants in the Amazon site, not even close. That’s the conservative number of number I say, so I can’t get trolled.

The ethno pharmacologist and a botanist that I talked to who are down there all the time, say the numbers continuing to grow, they estimated that far over 100,000 species of plants and that’s with deforestation, continuing to take a lot of it away. They’re still finding more and more species.

So… And that number, that three percent number, it holds true for most of them, most of the plants around the world. Um, I think that there’s something 450,000 species of plants in the world and I think some similar, some similar percentage of them have actually been studied. So think about that. We’re looking for cures we’re looking for in all these, all these diseases now you and I know that a lot of these diseases are lifestyle diseases that we probably could settle just by being a little bit more responsible. But the ones that aren’t, think about that. So a lot of our medicine comes from there the medicines that you, a lot of medicines that people think are, we’re just kind of born in a, in a factory, come from plants. The easiest one being aspirin, aspirin and comes from white willow bark.

It’s just that, that’s where it comes from. So one of the, one of the most consumed drugs in the world comes from of something that you could probably find in your state somewhere if you’ve looked in the right spot. And like I said before, a lot of, a lot of the cancer treatments… The most potent ones come from come from trees and barks.

So what does that mean? What does that mean for the possibilities that are out there? If you’re sick right now, listening, listening to this right now, what does that mean to you? I mean, does, it has to give you a little bit of hope because that’s what doctors have told you. There’s nothing left for you.

Well, that’s according to their playbook, it’s not, that’s not according to the world’s playbook.

Ari Whitten: And also on the small portion of these plant medicines that have been studied. And I don’t want to get into conspiracy theory in here, but most physicians, most conventional MDs don’t receive any education in the, even the herbs that have been studied or a nutrition class or for that matter, or just the basics of, of lifestyle medicine. They’re not being exposed to these realms of knowledge. So even the stuff that has been studied, you’re probably not going to find out much about those things from your local physician unless they’re one of the small portion of physicians that has gone to great lengths to educate themselves on their own.

Nick Polizzi: Integrative doctors and functional medicine doctors, a lot of them really, really do have strong herbal backgrounds. Robert Roundtree, I’m not sure if you ever had him on. Do you know Robert Roundtree?

Ari Whitten: I do, yeah. I have actually been meaning to get him on because he’s big into a particular topic of interest of mine called Hormesis, so he’s one of my next guests that I was…

Nick Polizzi: He [lives] right down the street. He’s in our new series. He is just, he’s got a lot of brilliant, brilliant stuff to say about this. I mean he’s just a great example of a functional medicine doctor who is just steeped in Herbalism. I mean he’s, he’s graduated from some of the most prestigious universities, all that, all that pedigree, if you will, that’s something that matters to you.

But really first and foremost, you realized somewhere along the way he’s, ”Hey, I got into this to help people and the stuff that we’re doing, some of the works, but a lot of it really doesn’t work. So what else can I do?”

So I mean, I to your point… A lot of doctors out there are really just, and this is something that i’ve had to get over it because I tend towards, towards extremes, so when I first feel myself using herbs and alternative medicines, I started kind of looking at modern medicine suspiciously ”like this is all kind of a crock” and then I’ve just slowly but surely come over to the fact that now everybody’s most everybody’s on a healing path is out there to help people and a lot of doctors are on a healing path to, they’re just trying, but that’s the way that they went and a lot of them are realizing that they need to mix in other stuff and a lot of them are doing that.

So Roundtree’s great. You should have him on the show for sure.

Sacred Science – The power plant medicine and herbs can have in healing chronic and terminal disease

Ari Whitten: He is, yeah. I really like his stuff. So let’s talk about ”The Sacred Science” for a minute. So what you. You took a bunch of people down to the Amazon who had a variety of different illnesses. What were the results or what kinds of experiences to did people have?

Nick Polizzi: So we had three different cancer patients. We have a patient who had neuroendocrine cancer, we had a patient with prostate cancer, another patient with breast cancer. We had a someone come down who had Crohn’s disease, very advanced. We had a person come down who had depression and addiction. We had another patient come down who had advanced Parkinson’s disease. And I always, I always lose track of these things and we have another patient come down who had diabetes. I’m not sure if I said that one before.

And then finally we had to, we had someone else come down who had IBS. And so the results varied. I think that the way that, the way that we put it in the film is, five came back with real results to come back disappointed and one never came back, at all. So you know, I think that part of what we did when we were making the movie is I just wanted it to be real people. And I think you probably see this in the, in the space, there’s a lot of people saying all kinds of stuff about they are trying, making all kinds of claims.

And I think that what we did with that was, ”hey, we’re just going to tell you exactly what happened up here”. Fortunately for us, amazing things happen in a lot of ways. But there’s also there was things that happened in that people, certain people didn’t get the results that they wanted.

I think that the nicest thing about at all or was that every single one of them had a profound spiritual transformation. So for measuring things based on physical improvement I think that those numbers are pretty accurate that I just gave you were measuring things based on personal evolution and the disintegration of limiting beliefs and illusion. And everybody came back whether they were physically improved or not with. Because we asked them all, so how everyone was, I, this, this has been so profoundly beneficial to me. This has been one of the most transformational experiences in my life. So, on a spiritual level, on a consciousness level, I think that it was 100 percent success rate, but, but one person died while we were down there. So that can be looked at as a failure if you want it to look at it from a medical perspective, but everybody who’s on the inside, including the family member, this person was like, ”that was exactly how that was supposed to go.”

Ari Whitten: What are the details around that? As far as the. I mean, that’s just so people know because I’m already aware that, that, that person already had a terminal illness was only a few weeks to live, if I remember correctly.

Nick Polizzi: And so that was Gary. Gary came down and he had neuroendocrine cancer. It wasn’t looking good for him and he was… so he was there for 10 days and he had, I don’t want to say he had a crazy healing breakthrough, but he went from not being able to walk around because it hurt so bad to be able to walk around and really enjoy himself. And we were all, ”Whoa, this is, this is incredible. Gary, how are you? You have tumors all throbbing”. So he had tumors all throughout his body and he knew that this is very likely… this was going to be his final, his final destination.

But then he just had these, these let’s say at least a week of just feeling like he was on the mend and the last couple of days of his life he was, ”I don’t feel I don’t feel any pain anymore”. So we were all, ”what is going on here? This is crazy. I keep an eye on Gary, this is, this is not really going through some kind of transformation”.

So he he passed away on day 11. He had a pulmonary thrombosis and some people some of the doctors we’ve talked to you say that it said that it’s actually part of it doesn’t necessarily mean that, that it wasn’t working, it just means that it might’ve, it might’ve caused an issue. We’d actually never had an autopsy to kind of look at whether there was no, there was a reduction or a shrinking the tumors inside of them.

But Pulmonary thrombosis can happen when with this condition when tumors dislodge or break off and can cause problems once they’re, once they start to go away. So it’s possible that was it. It’s possible that it really wasn’t him getting better. He was just kind of in this kind of final, final 10 days of his life. But I do know that he was, he died pretty happy… He was a pretty happy man down there.

And then. So I called, I remember after he died that next morning on the satellite phone and I called up his sister, which was a very hard phone call to make. And I was ”Susan, I’m so sorry I’ve got bad news for you”. And I was crying and she was trying and I was, ”I’m so sorry, you know? And she’s,”What are you talking about? [Inaudible] all of us. He didn’t… He knew she’s you don’t know this. But the doctors told him that he was going to be alive for four or five more days when he got on the plane” She was, ”He barely got on the plane because he almost couldn’t make the transferring the transferring flight. He didn’t want to tell you because he didn’t think that you’d let them come down”. And I was like, ”Oh my, gosh”.

So he came down, knowing that he was, he had days left and just didn’t tell us about it. So now that was his path, you know? And that was his journey and it was such an inspiration. The other to the other people that were down there, the other, the other, the other individuals who are working on themselves to kind of see him being so strong, even though he was so far gone so that was, that was our story.

Yeah. It’s complex. It isn’t you know what it sounds when you say somebody, somebody went, came down with us and died. It’s, there was, there was much more extenuating circumstances.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Well, yeah. That’s why I wanted to clarify because the way you originally phrased it was, ”Oh yeah, we took him down there and we killed him” It’s a little bit more nuanced than that. But you know, I think it’s interesting. I think it’s interesting that even five of the eight people actually got really good results because from my perspective, the odds are really… the deck is stacked against you getting results.

And what I mean by that is you’re taking people from the western world living a completely different lifestyle and suffering consequences from the modern Western world’s lifestyle and then taking them down to South America to indigenous peoples living in the jungle who have developed a certain medical tradition that hasn’t emerged to treat those illnesses. They’ve never even seen most of those illnesses. And their traditional medicine, culture is not about healing those conditions. It’s about healing the conditions that emerge in their culture. So it’s honestly amazing and remarkable that you worry that they’re able to get significant results with those people.

How mental blocks can hinder your healing

Nick Polizzi: You know, if you talked to healers, it’s a great point. If you talk to healers out there, and I know that you’ve done your fair share of work in these realms. I’ve heard it said so many times.

They’re listen, ”It’s so easy for us to heal our own people. It’s just so easy”. I don’t know that it’s necessarily just because of environmental things and them growing up. Yeah, just been growing up with these plants around them and maybe having some kind of a synergy with them as much as it is. And this is what these guys telling me.

It’s because they have fewer blocks. They trust us, they trust the medicine, skepticism we tell them is going to work. It works. So people come down here and they’re expecting a miracle overnight thing and that doesn’t happen. And then they immediately get discouraged or they come down here distrusting it and just kind of with all kinds of emotional baggage and mental baggage. And then we’ve got to cut through that first.

I mean, that’s why Ayahuasca as much as that’s become a little bit stigmatized, obviously it’s become a lot more popular in the last we’ll last decade. But that’s why it’s so beneficial when you see it used across the board and these healing traditions because they call it, at least in my experience, they say we got it before we started trying to do anything. We need to clean the slate and we want to start with a clean slate.

So before we even tried to start messing with this disease, let’s start getting the are shattering the beliefs you have and shattering this, this, these illusions that are better kind of clinging to you so that you can start seeing things clearly.

And I think that’s so important. You know, and again, some people are ”Oh, hallucinogenics”. Well, now that Michael Pollan came out with this book and made everyone [inaudible] microdosing mushrooms. But for a while, and probably still now I’m sure a lot of people when they hear Ayahuasca. They find out that it’s, that means the vine of death and they can give you crazy come to Jesus type visions and things like that. Then they say, ”nope, that’s where I get off the bus”. But mean you to look at it that way.

I mean, how many… What kind of a mental cage have you imprisoned yourself in? I mean, we all have them in some way, but I mean, some people have really, really thick bars on there so you know, and so before you can start working with the subtle energies of what’s causing your disease. A lot of times you had to actually break free from this thing and understand that you’re not this, you’re not your name. You know, you and I have talked about might’ve talked about this on our of we talked a month ago.

You are not your name. Most people think that their, their name most people, you ask them who they are, they’re gonna say, well I’m Bob and they ask him ”I get it. But, who are you?”

”Oh, well, I’m a, I’m an electrician”. Whatever it is. For some reason, Bob the electrician, it seems to be my example there, but no. People don’t really want to get that real with themselves and they can’t, they don’t have the words to describe who the heck they actually are.

So I mean, I feel that’s a good, that’s a good starting point. It’s if you can’t, you can’t get deeper, deeper than that, then you know that you’ve got some bars that need to be. Need to be sought a way.

How an entheogen like Ayahuasca can be used for personal transformation and spiritual healing

Ari Whitten: Yeah. One hundred percent. And you know, I, I want to mention a few things at this point because we’re gonna I would love to talk a bit more about entheogens and hallucinogenic plant medicines. But there’s a bit of a… It’s kind of an interesting barrier that emerges here where you can talk about these kinds of things and talk about the kinds of experiences that one can have on these things. But people who haven’t actually experienced it won’t really be able to wrap their head around it.

And I know because prior to me experiencing some of this stuff and I heard people talk about these kinds of things, I just thought it was a bunch of crazy talk and I was, ”okay, this person sounds like they’ve lost their mind and this is a bunch of Mumbo-jumbo nonsense”.

So, for everybody listening, who hasn’t experienced any of these hallucinogenic plant medicines, what I just want to preface by saying, open your mind to hearing the message here without judgment and without skepticism and consider the possibility of maybe what they could do for you.

So with that in mind. One thing I want to talk to you about Nick, that I know we talked about on our phone call several weeks ago, is when you went down there to study to film some of these, these shamans doing this work. They were actually skeptical of you initially, right? You know, and they kind of was, ”Well, how do we know we can trust you and why should we let you in here and why should we let you film what we’re doing? And you know, how do we know that your intentions are good?” And so they kind of, they put you through some stuff, didn’t they?

Nick Polizzi: This is just a touch back on something that we’re talking about a few minutes ago when we say that there’s only a three percent of these plants have been studied. It’s also not just because modern medicine doesn’t want to study them. It’s also because they burned tons of bridges down there. So they look at me as, as some gringo with a camera and a crew who wants to come down and do this thing. And they’re, ”oh great. So there’s another Gringo who wants to come down here and take something from us.”

So there’s a reason why there’s a reason why only three percent have been studied down there. The doors have been closed for the most part. You know what I mean? If they, if they get a whiff of anything that they think is, you’re trying to push some kind of agenda, that’s not going to be righteous and just. So yeah, they didn’t, they didn’t want to talk to me necessarily. And I think that that’s sitting in ceremony really was the equalizer.

Ari Whitten: And just, real quick, for people not familiar with the use of language, what do you mean by sitting in ceremony?

Nick Polizzi: So, sitting in ceremony… Before I was able to maneuver very easily down in South America and do anything that was going to do for this project, once we realized we wanted to film down in the jungle. The first thing, the very first thing before anyone was going to even talk to me more than literally a casual conversation in a coffee house kind of a thing was ”Okay, well on Saturday night, come here to this address and we’re gonna sit down and then we’re going to have a ceremony”.

And so that was how it went for me. And so my first ceremony was absolutely it was, it was probably the most strongest, most heart wrenching, gut wrenching ceremony that i’ve ever, i’ve ever been in. And so yeah… Ultimately, what it turned out to be was the first few ceremonies were just their their mechanism by which they could understand me and understand who I was. It’s like a truth serum. I mean, it’s very hard to sit in and Ayahuasca ceremony and continue to have any ulterior motives.

It’s the ultimate truth serum. I mean, I’m sure, I’m sure that somewhere in some way the United States government has tried to figure out a way of using this for some type of a tactic. So yeah, it was, it was absolutely epic. And it was something that I’ve come across that in a couple of, a couple of different scenarios in a couple different cultures.

So, so similar to the Ayahuasca ceremony, I would say the sweat lodge is an intense. Is it intense ceremony too. Some people who might not have, who might be listening, who haven’t worked with a hallucinogen, but who’s, who have been in a sweat lodge. Well, I mean, the intensity of a serious, serious sweat lodge and the intensity of the serious serious Ayahuasca ceremony. I’m not even sure which one I dread more.

I mean, they’re both. It’s really what we’re doing with these rites of passage that keep me so intrigued and, and loyal to them is that we’re playing with… We’re not playing with, but we’re stepping into intentional intensity that that’s the way I look at it.

So I know I’m walking into an intense environment. I know it’s gonna end and without intensity, I don’t think any of passage is really fully complete. I don’t think. I don’t really believe in that as being a rite of passage.

So what your step…

Ari Whitten: I just want to point out one thing that’s interesting that it’s worth mentioning to everybody that hasn’t had one of these experiences yet. You said, ”I’m not sure which one I dread more”. That’s an interesting contrast to some people who haven’t had an experience with something like Ayahuasca who might think, ”Oh, these psychedelics and hallucinogens. This is just a bunch of kids just running off trying to get high and go on drugs and be high and feel that feeling of euphoria and bliss. It’s just drugs and just being high”. And what you just said is ”I dread having this experience. I dread the, the idea that I’m gonna go sit down at the end of this week and do another one of these ceremonies.”

You dread it. Why? Explain that to people who think that these things are just about getting high and being euphoric. Why are, why are they not correct in their assumptions there?

Nick Polizzi: You know, what’s nice. So I don’t think I’ve ever discussed it. Juxtaposed with sweat lodges before and it’s really good. It’s a really good one because that’s one that we can actually describe with words. Very hard to describe what happens with Ayahuasca. We can do it, and it’s relatively effective, but I mean I with a sweat lodge you can really understand that.

So you walk into. So this last experience I had maybe two, or maybe it was two experiences to go. I was sitting there, I was in northern Wisconsin, I’m hanging out with some native American men who are welcoming me into the situation. I don’t like enclosed areas, period. I do not like enclosed areas. I’m the kind of person that when you, when, when you go to a restaurant, I’m sitting looking at the exit at all times. I’m just, I’m always, for whatever reason that could be a genetic thing. That can be some unresolved trauma, I don’t know, but I don’t like to be in enclosed areas.

Ari Whitten: Especially small enclosed areas filled with a bunch of hot, sweaty naked dudes.

Nick Polizzi: And the amount amount of literally glowing hot rocks. And so a lot of people probably haven’t seen what a traditional sweat lodge looks. But it’s nothing, really. Nothing very epic. It’s what? I forgot what the guy was who heard all those people in that big tent that the Dome, the guy from The Secret who got her in it. That’s a huge circus tent. I don’t even know what that was. But a regular sweat lodge is, literally, if you’re standing, you’re standing 5’10 or whatever. The top of the roof of the thing probably comes to your waist. I mean it’s dug into the ground. It’s a very, very small. It’s very it’s maybe 12 feet across.

It’s just a small little kind of a hut that you have to kind of walk down slightly into. It’s dug into the earth and you know. The proper sweat lodge is packed. It’s that little thing is packed. I mean you have there can be two tiers where there’s people sitting up on the top of the top rim and people who were sitting literally with, their knees almost touching the pile of rocks.

So I’m at this thing in Northern Wisconsin, I’m totally honored to be there. I’m, this is crazy. I’m one of the only if the, if not the only person who was the only white male here. I’m at this thing and I just, I’m there to make contact on there because of what I do for a living.

That, you were right, you were saying before you’re envious of me going and tracking down medicine. Well, this might not be one of those things, one of those parts that you’d be envious of having to put yourself through this.

And then also those honestly, most of what I’ve experienced in the Americas, at least, is most native folks do not trust us. You’re, if you’re a white dude with blue eyes and a beard you’re sort of, you’re, you’re the quintessential guy [inaudible], you know what I mean? ”Okay, here we go. Here’s this, come in to try to have an experience.” or ”Here’s this guy coming to try to write a book.”, ”Here’s this guy coming in to try to liberate us from our own problems.”, or ”Here’s this guy trying to make a name for himself.”

So, I mean, I go in there knowing all this stuff so it makes it even more important that I could hang in a sweat lodge. You know what I mean? So, not only the fact that you have this pile of hot rocks stacked up and you have these elders, most of them are older dudes who are just piling in. And there’s no way. It’s a clown car. People will continue to get into this sweat lodge and I’m packed in the middle of it all. Don’t know these people. I know they probably don’t trust me and now we’re in the middle of the worst possible environment for myself.

There’s no dark, there’s no light. It’s not. It’s not it’s a tent that has any transparency to it, so there’s no sunlight coming through or they can literally just skin. It’s animal skins on top of, on top of sticks that are bent, and then they close the flap and its complete darkness and then they sing and you just sit there as this thing fills up with impossibly hot air.

And so to try to compare that to an Ayahuasca experience, I think that the first, the first thing that happens in an Ayahuasca experience that makes it horrifying to me when it’s, when, at least for me, when you’re in a strong medicine experience is. There is a problem… For me, there’s always an issue with getting, getting oxygen. So, so there is, there’s a feeling of disintegration. Your body, your body feels it’s going away. You might think that that sounds a pleasant thing. Wow, my aches and pains get to melt away. And just, I get to be this, this water spirit. Your body, the ego, whatever you wanna call it. I think that connects to your soul. If you believe you have one or just your brain to the rest of your body does not want to feel that.

The idea of your body disintegrating into the ground, into a puddle, like the wicked witch is not something that your body wants. It’s just, it’s an absolute, it’s absolute free fall. It’s, it’s a feeling of, it’s a feeling of death and I think that’s why they call it the vine of death because the feeling is I’m dying. I’m no longer here and it’s not a pleasant thing.

It’s not… Oh, I just took, I just took Ayahuasca. Now I’m having this experience. Well, this is, yes, this is what they say is going to happen. So I’m just going to go with it. There isn’t always going with it with Ayahuasca because a lot of times the mechanism by which you can give yourself some, some positive self talk or some positive words of words of encouragement, or just be your own ally.

Somehow, that part of you can get taken away. You know, the kind of thing where if you’ve ever smoked, smoked a joint before, or even if you had too much to drink, you can at least tell yourself, ”okay, I’m a little bit drunk. I probably shouldn’t have had that last glass of Tequila”. That’s like, you’re still there. You still have cognitive function, you’re, you’re still in control to some degree and you’re kind of going with it. There is no going with it when you, when, when you feel medicine coming up.

And now that being said, sometimes some people will say that it can be a very joyous experience. For me, it’s always been when it comes on really strong, a feeling of that same sensation of that flap closing on the Sweat Lodg. Which is: ”I’m not going to be able to handle this. I’m not going to… This is too much. I should’ve never done this. I should never do this again. I’m not gonna be able to do this. I’m going to die here.” And there’s always that feeling of I’m going to die here.

When there’s, when there’s strong medicine that was toward and you feel it coming on, there’s always a feeling of in the back of your head. For me, again, I’m being very, very candid here. Some people, some people are… well, can it be used, I don’t want to say abuse, but some people would take Ayahuasca every single day. They’re just, ”No man, it’s great. You just it take it and just do your thing”. But for me it’s it’s a feeling of I almost have to kind of put my, put my affairs in order before I stepped into an Ayahuasca ceremony because it can, it can change who you are and so you can come out of an Ayahuasca ceremony and have, have a whole new insight on life and, and going a completely different direction.

But even more than that, even though you know that nobody ever dies and they take Ayahuasca unless there’s other foul play, unless there’s something else going on. The the, the number of fatalities are extremely low in comparison to other drugs and things like that that are taken with Ayahuasca. It’s just not a risk. Even though you know you’re not going to die when you sit there and the medicine starts coming on. Or sometimes these days, even now when I sit there and drink the cup and I go back to my spot in the circle and, ”how did I just find myself sitting here doing that again”? , ”How did I just do that again? I’m sitting back down here and now I know exactly what happened last time. How did I just get myself to do that again?” Because it just is so harsh and so intense for the first hour or two for me.

So I think that, that that the sweat lodge is intense because you literally can’t breathe sometimes when it’s too hot, it’s too hot and there’s nowhere, there’s nowhere to go, you know? And with Ayahuasca it’s, it’s this feeling of complete ego death. You know what I mean? It’s, it’s, it’s you can’t be yourself. You can’t be who you thought you weren’t anymore. You go into my stories about who Nick is doing, don’t have, they’re not going to help me in it. I’ll ask a ceremony. In fact, they’re going to hurt me. So you walk into a ceremony and substance, something deep down inside, especially if you’ve been through at one time, you know that you’ve been playing games, you know what I mean?

You know that you’ve been up to no good ever since he got out of the last one because we just get back into these patterns. So I think there’s part of that too where you’re , you’re just horrified the fact that you’re going to be exposed again and you’re gonna have to shut all that stuff and all those things that you have there for a reason because they’re spackle, spackle on a wall that’s cracked and you don’t want to see the cracks.

You know what I mean? You don’t want to go into those cracks. So the first thing that gets that thing that happens is all that, all that stack against power blasted away and you have to kind of deal with who you are again.

Ari Whitten: This is a terribly tough question to ask and I’m glad that you’re the one answering this instead of me. What?

Nick Polizzi: Swinging white lights. I need some swinging light up here.

Why some choose to do something they fear more than once

Ari Whitten: Why? Why do this, why, what do people get out of this? I mean, probably some people listening to this who have never and maybe are not even inclined to do it or are sitting here listening to you and they’re, ”Why is this guy? Is this guy a masochist or what his deal is? He’s intentionally subjecting himself to something that’s really, really difficult and harsh and painful, and he’s saying he dreads it. Yet, he’s doing it again”. Why do this? What do you get out of this and what do other people get out of it?

Nick Polizzi: Do you ever go through? I’m kind of asking you, but really asking everybody, do you ever go through life and you find yourself in situations where whether you’re alone, whether you’re in groups where you’re trying to be better than you currently are. And you can feel in your periphery, there’s something there that you’re just not quite able to see. It’s holding you back [inaudible].

It’s just… agonizing and maybe some people won’t relate to this, but I think a lot of people get this where you’re trying to be who you know, you could be and in which is awesome because I mean just doing that amazing. The fact that you’re trying and you’re aware that you’re trying to head toward that amazing. But as you’re trying to do it, you’re like… ”What? I don’t get it. I want to do this. I know that this is who I want to be, but there are things that are making they’re limiting. I have a spoiler on, I have a whatever it is. I have this weird ceiling, a glass ceiling that I can’t see, that’s preventing me from getting there”.

Well, for me that was an earlier period of my life, which is when I first started working with native plants was this a period where I knew I was in a Rut. I knew I wasn’t doing. I knew that there was a thing going on in my life that was holding me back. It was a dark period. Even though I couldn’t put a finger on what it was, everything on the outside look great. I just didn’t feel happy. I wasn’t thriving. I was over it. I was lost. I didn’t know who the hell I wanted to be. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. My health wasn’t great. It was, it was an entheogen that shattered it all unexpectedly.

And so that was how I started working with enthogens and psychedelic plants. I really don’t work with synthetic stuff. I, I really only worked with, with with power plants, teacher plants because I just feel there’s something, there’s something to them that really resonates with me a lot more. But, but that’s why I work with cerimonies. Period. Because I think that there are certain things for me.

I mean some people might’ve had the most perfect upbringing and they might have had parents. I mean my parents are good. Again, the most perfect circumstances and maybe they were empowered and maybe they don’t have anything that. Maybe they’re actually maybe they’re actually going after it. They don’t need that. Maybe they don’t need to work with these, with these types of interventions.

But for me, ever since I healed myself with migraines using alternative methods, I’ve been very suspicious of anything that I think is impossible. Especially if things that I think are impossible limitations that I have, so I would do these ceremonies because they’re the only way that I can get a look at that I can do. That’s the only way that I can get a look at the thing that’s holding me back. And it’s never, here’s everything that’s holding you back because I think that that’s almost your body or maybe the medicine or however you want to call it, is there’s enough intelligence not to show you everything because you probably would just have a panic attack and die.

But there’s always just gives me the glimpse of the next thing. It feels you’re scaling. There’s so many metaphors, analogies. It’s you’re, you’re scaling the mountain. You know what I mean? All I need is the next finger hole I don’t need. I don’t need to know it all. I just need to know… Generally, I’m going in the direction of who I’m supposed to be and I have my foot on something and I have me, one of my hands on something. So sometimes you’re just looking for that next handhold and the only way, I mean sometimes you can get it through a lot of things. I the long distance run for that reason. I am fasting for that reason, because you can get those little insights in those little glimpses into that stuff too, there. But when I find myself in an Ayahuasca ceremony, usually it’s either a. Because I know it’s been too long and I know it’s been too long when it’s been over a year.

I’m, okay, well, it’s time to go back this time. Or if it’s a period where I just can tell that they’re stagnating and there’s something that absolutely. Like one of my, one of one of the Shamans that I work with is to call and he’s ”a shakeup. Sometimes you just need to shake up”. And when I know that there’s, when I know that there’s stagnation and I know that I’m really hurting on something. If I know that I’m not being good to one of my, if I know that I’m being moody, they’re if I’m being I’m not, I have a block or some calcification around a relationship with a loved one. Even that kind of thing. I’m, that’s hard, man. I don’t even know how to get through that.

Sometimes it’s just one ceremony away. Oh, I get it now. The next morning, the next morning you wake up, are you covered in vomit? Maybe. Have you been through something really kind of scary? Maybe. But do you have answers? Hell yeah.

Usually you have answers, you come back, it might not be, might not be the most pretty thing in the world, but in that in the middle of that place. The fires, a purification that you’re sort of all of a sudden start seeing truth and then you start looking at your life with that through that lens and things are very, very clear.

How to use Ayahuasca to give yourself an upgrade

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Beautifully said. You know, I, I think of it upgrading the operating system. Gives you little upgrades to the next level of operating system. Meaning, more love, less attachment, less struggle, more compassion, more creative energy, more insight, more acceptance of wounds and traumas, and living your life from a new vantage point, a new perspective, and it gives you these… There’s, you said, there’s an intelligence that it’s a non self intelligence. Some people call it God, other people maybe atheists, but even whether you’re a religious person or an atheist, you are going to experience some kind of non-self intelligence that is very clearly not just your brain. I’m not just any of your normal brain’s way of ways of thinking about things. I should say…

Nick Polizzi: That would be a really great experiment. Get 20 atheists and sit them…. Then ask him the next morning. So, what do you think?

Ari Whitten: Totally. Yeah. And, and well, I’ve had, I’ve gone through… I don’t know that I would call myself an atheist necessarily, but I’m definitely not a religious person who’s talking about God all the time. But I’ve definitely had some experiences that have, have showed me that there is some kind of intelligence that doesn’t feel anything like any of my normal thoughts or feelings or ways of looking at things.

And it is very, very clearly have a higher degree of wisdom that is guiding me and showing me and teaching me new things and new ways of being in the world. And there’s an interesting aspect to this which is that it seems to be an intelligence that often guides you into wounds, traumas things that are blocks for you.

You know, I’ll give an example of a friend of mine who actually a wife of a friend of mine whose father committed suicide when she was very young. Literally her… When she was in the house having dinner. Her mom told her dad that she wanted, she was gonna leave him and he literally went upstairs and hung himself in the house while they were having dinner.

And you know, she was, I think 10 years old or something. So her, she did a, a journey an Ayahuasca journey and had to relive that. And it was a, it was a terribly painful thing. And I know lots of people and I myself have also kind of, it’s guided me back into some of my own wounds.

But you know, there’s a saying in I’m in Jungian traditions of psychotherapy that ”the gold is in the shit”. And what they mean by that is there. If you can gain a new perspective on your past wounds and traumas and accept those things that happened and heal those wounds and come and start to to see them from a new perspective and maybe even see the blessing and what those wounds have have given you the positive side of them and how they’ve actually been blessings in your life, or if you can start to cultivate how that experience can be a blessing in your life.

That’s how you turn shit into gold. And this type of medicine seems to be an intelligence that just facilitates that ”shit to gold” process.

Nick Polizzi: Yeah. It’s just reminded me of the first and second ceremony, I ever did. Where felt, literally and, uh, and so people… A lot of people call Ayahuasca grandma because it has this feminine, maternal, but very hot, really rigid but loving type of energy to it.

And I remember for a couple of those ceremonies it really just felt after I got pat got through the initial free fall feeling I was going to die and then realized that really I actually wasn’t going to die, but I was going to feel I was going to be dying for a while. And I got through all that. Then every time after two hours of maybe, maybe an hour and a half to two hours of that free fall type, trying to get safety to figure out the, figuring out the balance system of the whole thing after I kind of got my bearings and let go of all the thoughts and started being present with just what was happening in my immediate, my immediate reality.

There’d be this feeling of her kind of coming down and you know, first of all it’s saying hi and saying thank you. You know, whatever. Some kind of dialogue. And then it just felt it would always turn into me being picked up by the scruff of my neck, a puppy pretty much. And just dragged into different scenarios from my past.

But at that point it would be a, ”Hey, do you want to see the next thing”? At that, after a certain point it became more of a, a total conversation because the assumption that I guess was that are maybe the, what was being said was that I had already gone through a lot already. So it wasn’t, there was, it was optional. Do I want to kind of just chill and just kind of or do I want to start going inside and go with her more, well, I’m going to, I’m going to totally go… Now that I’m here… Understand that I’m okay. And, and also, honestly, the fact that you feel there’s another presence with you as watching a benevolent, the presence that you feel.

It doesn’t always feel like a benevolent presence there for me. When you come up with the come up as part, it just feels you’re on your own and, and you, you might’ve made a mistake… Maybe this is going to be the time that’s not going to be okay, you’re not going to be, get this, get through this one, but then after a while there’s always this, this, this amazing energy that descends upon me when I try it. I can’t speak for everybody. And then it just feels, you said, you spend the rest of the night for me, I spend the rest of the night being guided into my darkness and, and it’s horrifying.

But then once you realize that you’re not alone, no, it’s not as horrifying, but you just say you continue. So I just continue to do it. Okay, well, here’s, where’s the next thing? And sometimes it turns into a Rolodex. Maybe you and I talked about this, a Rolodex of just people in your life. You’re okay, well now, now that I had his lens, now that I have the, the positive, I have sore, I’m kind of the good, I have the beautiful… Whatever the opposite of that is where it’s just, you’re seeing with clearsight then you kinda wanna start looking at everything and that you can so you can try to mend things and you can kind of see what’s going on.

So there’s definitely some ounces, a Rolodex of people and then for any charge, looking at them for anything that needs to be talked about or brought out. That kind of thing.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Beautiful. You know, I think…I use the analogy of upgrading the operating system when I, when I know it’s time for another journey for me it’s kind of when your computer is starting to freeze up a lot and you know, starting to dig to get real slow and, and it’s not really as responsive as it should be. And then sometimes it just shuts down on its own and you’re like ”God damn it. I lost all this work I’ve been working on for the last half an hour”. And I think when you start to what, for me personally, when I start to experience that sort of feeling in my day to day life as far as what’s going on up here in my head, that’s when I know it’s, all right, time, time for another, upgrade to my operating system.

I don’t want to continue to live like this, continue to, I’d rather than live from a place of frustration or irritability or lack of flow in creative energy, and lack of love. I want to move more into love, acceptance, creativity, flow, gratitude and I think it’s natural and just living stressful day to day lives, we start to lose those things. And I think it’s good to have rituals on a daily basis and also maybe some of these, these, these bigger journeys once in a once in a while that help reconnect you to I think the higher intelligences of what is really important and valuable in life.

Nick Polizzi: Yeah, I think that that’s something I think is being lost. So maybe a little bit now is people are starting to do this are on a weekly basis. And I’m not saying that there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it, but I do think there is a risk and anything can be abused. Anything can be you can build a tolerance to anything. You know, I know plenty of people who sit in the ceremony every weekend who is, at least from my own bs detector… I’m like, ”I don’t think, I don’t think this is really helping you”. You know what I mean? This is really what you need. Maybe we need is the exact opposite of this. Maybe you need to…

Remedy, ancient medicines for modern illness Documentary – How plant medicine, herbs, and entheogenics can help you recover from and prevent most modern illness today

Ari Whitten: Just more day to day life and less deep insights for a little while.

So we’ve, we’ve talked a lot about entheogens here. We’ve gone a little bit over time. Do you have 10 more minutes that you could spare? Because right now I want to shift the discussion to your new film Remedy which is launching right now. I’ve already sent out a couple of emails to my audience, letting them know about it, so we’ve already got, I know several thousand people have signed up for it.

But talk to me about Remedy and I know obviously for anybody thinking that the whole focus is all about Entheogens, just to clarify, Remedy is, not really about hallucinogenic plant medicines or that kind of thing that we’ve been talking about for the last 20 or 30 minutes, but it is really about herbal medicines for treating a lot of ailments and also just living with greater health and energy and vitality. So, so talk to me about Remedy.

Nick Polizzi: So remedy is a nine part docu series. We sat down with a number of different experts in the health world. But really, a lot of scientists and a lot of herbalists predominantly to find the most promising, powerful, effective plants in the world for the conditions that plague our society today.

So yeah, entheogens are one way to go… They have a specific use and I think that from what you and I just we’re talking about it’s a, it’s something that you do a ceremony and you do it with intentionality and you do it every once in a while when you need, when you need that little extra, something, a little extra insight.

Whereas there’s tons and tons and tons of herbs around the world that are being used and have been used for thousands of years on a regular basis to, for everyday wellness to kind of keep your body in balance, to give you energy, to give you better sleep, to clarify thought.

And there are three main schools of Herbalism that we’re focusing on. They’re probably the three main schools of Herbalism that would come to mind if you were, if you were if you were talking to someone about or who knew who was in the, the know revelism, one of them is Chinese Herbalism.

The Chinese have been doing this for thousands and thousands of years. Their text or medical texts are literally thousands and thousands of years old with formulas that are still being used today. I’m having not been adjusted because they still work so well in hospitals and hospitals in China. Regular hospitals. They also have herbs that are being used in the same proportions as they worked thousands of years ago.

Ayovedic medicine from India is the second school, another very vast, vast school of healing plants that has been in existence for a long time.

And then the third is Western Herbalism, which is more North American and European Herbalism. Which, if you’re in the states, it’s the kind of Herbalism, the folk Herbalism that our grandmas might’ve might’ve practiced and brought over. I mean, I’m from, I’m from Italy and Ireland and that I have, I have a little bit of both on both sides that I know is still still used. So both all three of these schools have a lot to offer in the way of healing chronic illness.

We’re not trying to figure out how to heal broken bones herbs or that’s not what, that’s not what I’m after. I think that, I think emergency medicine, modern medicine is extremely good at things like that. But chronic illness is something that is plaguing our society and in large part modern medicine doesn’t have an answer to. So we’re going into things pain what you can do for pain using a variety of different herbs that have been around for a very long time.

What you can do for stress and anxiety, which many, many believe, is the root of all illness. And from what I’ve experienced in my travels, I tend to agree. So what you can do to eliminate stress and anxiety, whether it’s literally mental stress or stress in the body systems and energetics within your body.

We’re going into cognitive function, which something that herbs are incredibly good at. How to have more memory, clarity and focus. And then also going into some of the more serious illnesses in the brain, the brain area.

And we’re also going into more serious illnesses in the brain that are sort of reside in that region, Parkinson’s disease, MS, Alzheimer’s in any herbs that can be used to heal those.

I mean, the numbers on these things are incredible when you get into this stuff. It’s fascinating. First of all, the numbers on the success with the modern medicine has are startlingly low. You’re like ”wow. So that’s, that’s, that’s it. That’s the efficacy rate, but how come that’s all we know about.” And then you look at the efficacy rate of herbs which are usually just as good, if not better, and they have little to no side effects.

Ari Whitten: So just as one example of this, I’ve seen the trial of, I think it’s called ”Azilect” an Alzheimer’s drug versus saffron. And I think saffron, just straight saffron and nothing else, no lifestyle intervention, no diet overhaul, just saffron pills. I think was at least as effective, if not more effective.

Nick Polizzi: And you know, what’s the real [inaudible] of that is that, is that stuff like saffron and Rosemary and potentially even Gotu Kola. They’ve done studies on those things. I was talking to Sayer Ji. Do you know Sayer Ji from Greenmedinfo?

Ari Whitten: Yeah.

Nick Polizzi: He’s in the series, but he was, he was making this point that you look at these studies and some of them you’d think that the more, the more you take, the better or the more you take, the more potent it was more drastic results. And some of, some of them really are that way. Things like turmeric seemed to be kind of like that.

But, some of them, it’s actually a specific dose. You go higher, it’s not going to be as good, if you’re lower it’s not gonna be as good to get the right dose. And it’s not it’s not intuitive. It’s not something that you’d be… ” oh yeah, it makes sense”. It’s literally a certain, one gram or a half a gram. And then if you go any more than the results kind of fade away of rosemary for Alzheimer’s or dementia. It’s very interesting when you start getting down to it, in the energetics of, of things and the, and the formula, the formula of herbs and how important it is to get the proportions right for the individual. It’s interesting how you have, more isn’t always better. I guess when you’re talking about plant medicine.

Ari Whitten: well you, it sounds like kind of a weird idea, but on the other hand, it’s actually fairly common knowledge. If you think about exercise, for example. Exercise is really powerful medicine, but really important to get the dose right two little below your, that person’s fitness level and what their body is adapted to, and you’re not really doing anything. You’re not stimulating any new adaptations.

If you exceed that person’s fitness level too much and go way beyond what their body’s adapted for, then you just cause trauma. You make them exhausted, you cause damage and inflammation and it’s mostly counterproductive. And if it’s really extreme, link in extreme endurance athletes, sometimes you get calcification of the arteries, heart attacks, things that.

So, yeah, you gotta know your fitness level and then do just the right amount or just a little bit beyond that to start to stimulate a little greater adaptations. But getting that dose right is really important.

Nick Polizzi: Totally. It’s, so, it’s, it’s been a mind blowing experience creating the project. You know, we asked, we have, we have a whole episode on cancer, which has been… I make these films and my buddy Jeff says, some people say, ”Hey Jeff, how do you do all your research? And he’s like, you watched my research, I don’t, I start off, I ask a question and then I in these interviews so I could find out what the heck’s going on”.

And that’s kind of how this project’s been. And it’s very humbling when you go into a project, but some certain assumptions and then you sit down with experts who are extremely good at what they do and they just shatter your existing belief systems about how things are supposed to be.

For instance, I walked, I went into this series with a pretty a pretty big chip on my shoulder about modern medicine and it, and its approaches to treating cancer.

Well, I came out of this experience with a number of amazing herbs that are being used in China specifically as well as a few of the countries that are very effective and promising for the treatment of cancer. But I also came out of this with a new appreciation of some of the modern interventions that are available too. And how they can dovetail very nicely with herbs and the importance of an integrative approach.

So it’s really amazing to be doing this for a living. Going back to your original point, I love what I do for a living and I think that the one thing that I’m most proud of about this series is that there are a lot of things coming out right now that are very. And we’ve mentioned this before. There’s a lot of people who are, who are making crazy claims out there.

I’m not saying that those people are necessarily doing it for any bad reason, I just think there’s a lot of voices out there and people are trying to be the loudest and, and get attention. And I think that when you’re dealing with conditions that are as dire as something like cancer, you need to be very careful about what you were saying to the world so and cancers is just among many other things.

But, you know, and I think that what I’m most proud of is that the work that we’re doing and the information we’re putting out is, is really, really, really well vetted. And it’s very evenhanded. There isn’t, there isn’t a, we’re not trying to put it in any way down. Yeah, we are exposing some truths about modern medicine, but that’s real. Those are things that are actually happening that people need to know about. We’re not saying the herb, that herbs are the answer for everything but we are showing you where they can be highly effective.

We don’t want to waste anybody’s time specifically from people who are really dealing with, with the more harsh conditions. We want everyone to have the resources at their disposal that they need to make the most educated decisions they can. So if we’re talking about it, if we’re covering it in an episode, it’s because we’re confident that it’s something that you know, that you need to know about.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, beautifully said and I, I really appreciate that. I completely agree that there are people out there that are saying all kinds of wacky stuff that is not supported by the evidence, and it’s also not evenhanded is, is really misrepresenting things and giving kind of just a false impression of effectiveness or ineffectiveness of various approaches. So I, I appreciate the value system that this is coming from.

So I appreciate the extra time that you’ve taken to do this interview with me as well. So real quick, can you give kind of an overview of what people can get in the documentary? So obviously there’s an episode on cancer, but what are some of the other episodes?

Nick Polizzi: Okay, so I’m going to, I’m going to do a little lightning round on this.

Episode one is it’s all about, it’s all about modern medicine and Herbalism. It’s all about how they, how they have sort of interface with each other in the last hundred years. Here’s why. It’s why you don’t know about Herbalism is you really only know predominantly about modern medicine. And there is, there is some really interesting, slightly conspiracy theory stuff there, but actually very founded in fact. In history, so we have a little history lesson, the beginning where we then we kind of explained to you how the evolution of humans and plants, is it basically episode one.

Then we go into for episode two through nine, we go into specific herbs for specific illnesses ultimately.

Episode two is all about stress and anxiety with a second part on chronic pain. So it’s a two parter, episode two.

Episode three is all about the immune system and the microbiome. So another two parter. We start with the immune system and then we, then we dive headlong into the microbiome and the herbs we can use to support those trillions of microorganisms that dwell inside of her body and largely contribute to our health. So those two systems are very intertwined. As you’ll find out in episode three.

Episode four is all about cognitive function, brain health, memory, clarity, focus, and the more serious illnesses that can, can happen.

Episode five is all about Lyme disease and coinfections is an epidemic that touched my life very, very recently. My son got Lyme last year and we used herbs to get him better, but it’s an incredible episodes talking about bacterial infections in life. And, and how to know if you have one and what to do if you find out that you’d have one.

Episode six is all about heart health and with the second part on depression. And then another one of these amazing revelations that I’ve had on just making this project and literally just having a told me by numerous different herbalists from different schools is that there’s a direct connection between your heart health and symptoms of depression. So we have a whole first half on what to do for, for good circulation and for a healthy heart, but then we dovetail right into depression and herbs that you can use to alleviate those symptoms.

Episode seven is on energy and sleep. It’s basically just diving into how to have more energy, how to get the best night of sleep ever. And then fatigue goes away, obviously when you kind of handle that.

Episode Eight is all about cancer. So at that, that’s a, that’s a pretty long episode. Really crammed with a lot of great information.

Episode nine is about sex hormones and overall reproductive health.

Those are our nine episodes. And basically you can put an herbs for front of every single one of those episodes. Titles.

Ari Whitten: Beautiful. I love it, man. With it. It sounds great. I’m excited to see it myself. And also importantly, what are the dates because you are… I should also say to people, this is not, you’re not asking for money to see all of this material. You’re giving this away for free.

Nick Polizzi: Yeah.

Ari Whitten: When, and it’s free during specific dates. So what are those dates?

Nick Polizzi: So it is free. The episode one premieres on September fifth, and then there’s going to be one episode a day from the fifth through the 13th and you’ll be able to watch episode one for the entire, the entire event, but every other episode is only gonna be up for 24 hours. So you gotta you gotta register, you got to tune in and you gotta make sure you open up the emails we sent to you on the day and the episode comes out so you can watch it in the period, the viewing window that we’re offering it for free.

September 5th through the 13th.

Ari Whitten: Awesome. Well, I’m going to rush to get this podcast out so that we get it out before then or at the very latest during then, but hopefully this coming weekend.

So Nick, it’s been such a pleasure. Thank you so much for taking time out of your day and extra time to do this interview with me. It’s, it’s really, I’ve really, really enjoyed this conversation. I really appreciate the work that you’re doing. I think it’s very important work and I appreciate you getting the word out on plant medicines for both physical, psychological, and spiritual ailments. I really value everything that you’re doing, so thank you for the work you’re doing and thank you for joining me on the podcast today.

Nick Polizzi: Alright. Thank you for having me. It’s an honor to be here with you.

Ari Whitten: Awesome brother. We’ll take care and enjoy the rest of your day.

The Power of Plant Medicines, Herbs and Ayahuasca to Heal the Body, Mind, and Spirit (with Nick Polizzi) – Show Notes

Why Nick turned to plant medicine to treat migraine (2:17)
Nick’s Documentaries – How and why they were made (08:08)
The truth about plants in the Amazon (14:12)
Sacred Science – The power plant medicine and herbs can have in healing chronic and terminal disease (20:45)
How mental blocks can hinder your healing (28:05)
How an entheogen like Ayahuasca can be used for personal transformation and spiritual healing (31:04)
Why some choose to do something they fear more than once (46:32)
How to use Ayahuasca to give yourself an upgrade (51:57)
Remedy, ancient medicines for modern illness Documentary – How plant medicine, herbs, and entheogenics can help you recover from and prevent many modern illnesses today (1:01:21)


You can access Nick’s new documentary for FREE (during a limited time) HERE.


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Learn more about plant medicine and how it can be used for healing your mind, body, and spirit.

Secrets of Natural Skin Care and Healthy Teeth (and The Best Natural Skin Care Products and Natural Dental Care Products)

Secrets of Natural Skin Care and Healthy Teeth (and The Best Natural Skin Care Products and Natural Dental Care Products)-CoverThe average women in the U.S. uses over 12 personal care products every day, and the typical man uses over 6 personal care products daily. Hand soap, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, cologne, perfume, skin moisturizer, facial cleanser, makeup, etc… We use them to look and feel good and most people never think twice about any of this. 99.9% people have absolutely no idea about the amount of chemical toxins lurking in these products. And I’m not just fear-mongering here. I’m talking about chemicals with known toxicity — we have thousands of studies showing that these ingredients are toxic to human health and they are being put in most personal care products anyway. For example, did you know that heavy metals like lead (which is extremely toxic to your brain, your mitochondria and disrupts several hormones) are actually extremely common in makeup? (See the research here if you don’t believe me.) Did you know that hormone disrupting chemicals like phthalates are extremely common in perfumes/colognes and many other personal care products? (So as you put sprays on that are designed to make you more attractive, you’re simultaneously damaging the very hormones that your health and attractiveness depend on.) And that’s just to name a couple examples — many of these typical personal care products have toxic metals like mercury , aluminum and arsenic, hinder the natural skin production of oils, and many of them also disrupt the skin microbiome, the oral microbiome, and even the gut microbiome (and can contribute to gut permeability.) There are many researchers who believe that toxin exposure through personal care products (and through our food, water, air, etc.) is the single most significant driver of disease. So does this mean that you can’t use any personal care products like facial cleansers, deodorant, moisturizer, perfume/cologne, etc?  No, as it turns out there are a few brands of ultra high quality natural skin care and dental care products on the market that support a healthy, beautiful skin, healthy teeth, AND supports your body in maintaining optimal health and energy levels.

In this podcast, I speak with health expert and author Nadine Artemis. Nadine has written the books “Holistic Dental Care” and “Renegade Beauty.” She has also co-founded Living Libations, a natural health and wellness and beauty company. In this interview, Nadine will deliver some mind-blowing information about the science behind personal care products, how they affect our health, and how to find the best skin care products to support your health and energy. This is must-know information for anyone who cares about their health. (I was actually extremely impressed with Nadine’s knowledge and command of the science. She knows her stuff.)

(Personal note: Since recording this podcast a few weeks ago, my wife and I have actually been using her products. They are, hands down, the absolute best personal care products I’ve ever found. The highest quality ingredients with NO garbage/toxic ingredients, and I’ve actually seen noticeable improvements in my wife’s skin in just a few weeks of use. Her skin glows now — it’s seriously radiant. And she gets compliments all the time when we’re at the gym together. Check out Nadine’s product “Best Skin Ever” and read some of the reviews on her site. Also, I get lots of compliments on the essential oil men’s scents. I am a convert. Seriously, these products are the highest end natural skin care and dental care products I have ever found.)

Want to try out Nadine’s products for yourself? (Plus, a discount code)

Go check out her range of natural skin care products here. In addition, Nadine is offering 10% off to all my listeners. Use the code “Energy10” to get your personal discount.

You can also get Nadine’s books, Renegade Beauty and Holistic Dental Care from

Okay, now onto the podcast…

In this podcast, we’ll cover

  • Why your handsoap and body lotion/moisturizer may be toxic to you
  • Why your skin bacteria is important to your health (and the best skin care products to support it)
  • The best (and cheapest) way to brush your teeth and have healthy teeth (and why your toothpaste is disrupting your oral microbiome and contributing to leaky gut)
  • The natural oils that mimic the skin’s sebum and supports skin health
  • The best natural skin care routine for beautiful and healthy skin (the methods might surprise you)
  • How the ancient Greeks understood the power of natural skin care
  • What science says about protecting your skin from the sun (hint: it doesn’t work the way you were told)
  • Nadine’s top recommendations of ingredients for different purposes and her recommendation for the 3 best natural skin care products

Download or listen on iTunes

Download the right way to breathe for increase performance and energy on iTunes

Listen outside of iTunes


Secrets of natural skin care and healthy teeth (and the best natural skin care products and natural dental care products) with Nadine Artemis – Transcript

Ari Whitten: Hey everyone, welcome back to the Energy Blueprint Podcast. I’m your host Ari Whitten, and today I have with me Nadine Artemis, who is a speaker, health expert and author of “Holistic Dental Care” and her newest book “Renegade Beauty” which I have right here. Nadine was kind enough to send this to me and I just read it actually earlier today.

And so a little bit more about her, Nadine is a co-founder of Living Libations, a natural health and wellness and beauty company. Nadine seeks to inspire people to rethink the traditional concept of health and beauty with her paradigm of renegade beauty. And Nadine offers beauty and wellness products that bring out the strength of the botanicals without reliance on synthetics, which we’re going to talk more about. So welcome to the show Nadine.

Nadine Artemis: Thank you so much for inviting me on.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, and I’ll mention now that we’re recording, prior to starting the recording, I was just commenting on how beautiful this view is in the background there.

And I love that you’re involved in forest bathing and you’re practicing a healthy lifestyle. And you mention forest bathing in this book, which I love.  And I have to also say that for somebody who’s more in the skin care, cosmetics realm, I was to be honest, kind of anticipating this book to be a little bit fluffy and woo-woo. And I have to say that I’m actually really impressed with what you did with this book. There’s a lot of science integrated into this.

There’s a lot of valuable content. This is not just fluff. You did a phenomenal job with this and I highly recommend that people watching this pick this beauty up for all kinds of do-it-yourself skin care stuff and all kinds of just great health tips.

Really, seriously, excellent job with this. And I really… I’m not that complimentary of a person, I don’t compliment. Most of the stuff that I see in the health field is not stuff that I particularly think is impressive or that I think is worth complimenting. But yeah, you did it. You did a wonderful job with this book. So I’m excited to dig into this material with you.

Nadine Artemis: Thank you. That’s great, we can have a great dialogue since you have read it.

Why natural skin care products are preferred to conventional personal care products

Ari Whitten: Yeah. So toxins in personal care products, and one of the things in your bio here that I just read is you’re focusing on beauty and wellness products that bring out the strength of the botanicals without reliance on synthetics. And I think that’s probably a good place to start, as far as why not synthetics.

And I think there are some people out there who think, you know, who are really impressed with a lot of these fancy ingredients on a… in cosmetics and you know, with all kinds of weird chemical names that they can’t pronounce and they think, “Oh, this must be really good science, that you know, that it’s all kinds of this advanced scientific technology that’s producing these chemicals that are going to have miraculous effects on my skin.” So some people are approaching it from that angle. And you, on the other hand, you’re saying “I’m avoiding synthetics and specifically sticking to natural ingredients.” So why do you think your paradigm is better than that sort of chemical technology, synthetic sort of approach to cosmetics and skin care?

Nadine Artemis: Well, I think, you know when I go into it, to me no pore, no cell is parched for petroleum.  You know, it’s not something that we’re depleted in. It’s not something that we need to put on our skin. And I think like, you know, hard to say who knows what, but I think we understand now like the chemicals, they’re hormone disruptors, you know.

We know about the perfumes and the chemicals that they’re making and that there’s petroleum in skin care and there’s aluminum in deodorant and we’ve really had focused previous decades about them being hormone disruptors and finding parabens in the liver or in diseased breast tissue when they test it. Ninety-nine percent diseased breast tissue has parabens in it and you know, and that’s like our daily dose of deodorant or our daily dose of lotion and then it’s finding its way to our breast. So we know that.

But what’s really new and I think really just delivers why we need to use botanicals even more is because of all the research that’s been done in the past few decades about our microbiome and understanding the skin’s microbiome, which is a whole other layer on top of this.

Chemicals are endocrine disruptors. We have a whole new reason to get off the synthetics. And, I think that’s like even more of an understanding because to me, I understand that a cell is like alive, but now we have to like expand our minds to understand like we are teaming with bacteria. You know, our skin is like this tapestry with trillions of bacteria and that like, you know, I think of…  so it’s like all there, right now there’s a whole party going on on a microscopic level.

And we got this big hand that comes along, and I just sort of imagine like a comic version, and then we’re like, our hand is delivering those toxins and mutating the microbiome and disrupting their whole life force, their food system. So we’re scrubbing away the sebum that the cells need to, I’m sorry, the microbiome needs to thrive. We’re over exfoliating and getting rid of the food supply that the bacteria needs, so we really got to tone that down and get back to things that are compatible with our bodies, with ourselves and with our microbiome.

Why your personal care products are toxic to your health and energy

Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s a really important angle, that a lot of people don’t talk about it and are unaware of is this idea that we not only have a gut microbiome, all these trillions of bacteria living in our gut, but we have basically the same thing on our skin surface as well and they play a role in our skin health. So I think there’s like, kind of the way I see it, there are three layers, at least three layers, maybe I’m missing one.

But at least three layers to how personal care products, I think, relate to health and, you know, what a lot of people on this podcast… listeners of this podcast are interested in and what I’m interested in, overall health and energy optimization and how personal care products fit into that. Which are endocrine disruption, so potentially disrupting hormonal balance in your body; a lot of these chemicals that are in these compounds, for example, phthalates, BPA or heavy metals have also been shown to be directly toxic to mitochondria in our cells, which are the energy producers in our cells; and this layer of the skin microbiome. And maybe, I don’t know if I’m missing any other.

So, I would love if, maybe, we could dig into some of those other areas and I know you kind of, you mentioned in passing like parabens and some of these endocrine disruptors, but maybe a lot of the listeners are not actually familiar with the idea that there are compounds in, you know, common skin care and personal care products that are having negative effects on their physiology.

Maybe they’re just completely unaware of that. So can you talk, kind of just back up, and assume that the listener knows nothing about any of these topics and talk about some of those key compounds that have been shown to create damage to our health.

Nadine Artemis: Yes, So there are so many, like thousands. And so, you know, we gotta… we can’t talk about them all in a way. But there’s also like, there’s the specifics and then also as a group, we just know like… we don’t want to go there, so the words are going to be all very… Because a product is made really with four different ways.

You have your preservation system, you have your oil, and then you’re either going to add water to that or like a surfactant. So that’s like a modern cosmetic thing where we want to take it, is to just like water, lipids, which are your fats, the medicine part and then the seeds. But that’s a whole other thing. But that’s really all you need. But in this chemical world, we have thousands of chemical cocktails. And then there are the families. So you’ve got your surfactant realm, which could be your sodium lauryl sulfate.

And that’s the stuff that’s scrubbing and foaming, and those disrupt the epithelium in our mouths, which is one layer thick. So you got sodium lauryl sulfate in your toothpaste. And then in our skin we’ve got the dermis and then the epidermis, which is most of our activity where we’re accessing is the epidermis, that’s the very thin top layer of the skin. It’s one millimeter, so it’s like a credit card and in that credit card sideways is four layers of skin layers that are doing a whole bunch of stuff and that’s just the epidermis, not the dermis, and so anything that we’re putting on is going to affect that.

And then, so then within that realm, so you’ve got the foaming things and then you’ve got your…  their version of oils which could be your petroleum oil, soy oil or like a polymer, like literally just like plastic polymer things that they’re liquidizing.

And then within petroleum there is like 100 versions of some kind of petroleum thing. And when you’re reading it you don’t even know that it was petroleum at some point. And so those are all toxic to ourselves. And then there’s the preservation system. So it could be parabens, parabens are only used… because that’s always the argument, because a certified organic skin care only has to be 70 percent certified organic ingredients, that other 30… the list is crazy of what is allowed. Like I would never put it on my body… and parabens are allowed and then a lot of people are just like, well, it’s only zero point zero one percent because it is that effective. It’s very potent. It’s infinitesimal in a way and when it’s used, but that’s all it’s ever…

Ari Whitten: Are you talking about parabens?

Nadine Artemis: Yeah. So to make it an effective preservation, you only need 0,01 percent. So it’s minor, but it really, it works. It does preserve.

Ari Whitten: And real quick, what are parabens and what are they doing? Are they put in these formulas because they’re like preserving the product or because they’re intended to do something beneficial for our skin or what?

Nadine Artemis: It’s really just to preserve the product. That’s it’s the main thing. It’s really…. it’s not like a thing like, ooh, now with parabens helping your wrinkles. So it’s just a preservation system. It’s a very popular one, but it’s only ever used in that tiny amount and that’s what’s showing up in our breasts. Right? So we know that different chemicals have different… what’s the… it’s not a shelf life..

Ari Whitten: Like half-life…

Nadine Artemis: Thank you. Half-life. Is it half life? Yeah, so right, like the half-life of mercury versus you know, so I don’t know the specifics, but it’s a tenacious chemical or then you could have like a triclosan in there or something as well, which is within an antibiotic sort of realm. It’s not good on eco… water systems. So yeah, forget the…

Ari Whitten: Yeah, and that one has actually gotten to the point now where there’s so much negative research that’s accumulated that they’ve actually banned that from being in products, which is great, but the problem is that like most people have been using products like soaps and even just hand soaps or hand sanitizers or various personal care products that have it for the last 10 years or 15 years or however long it’s been around.

Nadine Artemis: Exactly, and studies show it makes us more vulnerable to superbugs. It lowers your immune system.

Ari Whitten: Yeah.

Nadine Artemis: Go figure, right?

Ari Whitten: Okay. So parabens, what else is in there? And I’ll mention one thing that I know about that’s pretty shocking and that I think a lot of people would be shocked by is how common heavy metals are in a lot of makeup products. I think makeup especially, like, I mean probably a lot of people listening to this are unaware of the fact that there’s lots of research showing that most common like lipstick brands and many types of very popular makeup brands, mainstream makeup brands have lead in them.

Like lead is a very, very toxic heavy metal that is known to cause all kinds of harm to our body and it is being absorbed through our skin, into our body, disrupting hormones, damaging mitochondria causing all kinds of negative effects. And people just have no clue when they’re putting this stuff on every day that there are heavy metals in there.

Nadine Artemis: Totally, heavy metals and mercury. And then there is mercury in a lot of like bleaching creams. And it should be banned. Like there are regulations on some of these things, but things slip through and now we can really shop quite internationally. So yeah, it’s just, it’s a scary situation and we are…  the average North American women are accumulating five pounds a year of chemicals in their body and that’s like if you take, remove the water from the cosmetics.

If you add in the water that goes to like 35 pounds, hard to imagine.  But five pounds we are like putting, applying onto our bodies and into our bodies every year. And so also an average woman just doing like a normal day of abolutions in washing her face would have over 200 chemicals applied to her body and I think we think we don’t absorb it or like, oh, it’s our skin, you know. And everything that you’re putting on your skin goes in and it doesn’t have the same filtering system.

So apparently the data is having a chlorinated shower is more toxic than drinking an eight-ounce glass of chlorinated water, it is being absorbed and inhaled into the body. And so when we’re drinking the water that is chlorinated, we have our digestive system, our liver and kidneys to help process it. But when we’re applying it to the skin, it just right into the bloodstream and ends up in our organs.

How the benefits of natural skin care products are backed by science

Ari Whitten: Crazy stuff. I mean, it’s just, it’s honestly just kind of madness that there’s so much nasty stuff in these commonly used products, extremely popular products and most people just have no clue about it. And I also want to mention that there are some people out there who think any talk of toxins in, you know, in these types of products is just woo-woo and nonsense and kind of new age like fear mongering around toxins around people who don’t understand toxins. But there’s actually science every step of the way here. I mean, we know that these compounds do have, I mean, there’s science testing the fact that these compounds do have things like heavy metals and all kinds of other hormone-disrupting compounds.

We know that they do get absorbed through the skin into our bodies that they do actually have hormonal disrupting effects, mitochondria damaging effects, skin microbiome damaging effects. And we know that, you know, all of these things are actually happening. So there is real data showing that this is a very real health concern and I just want to mention that for everybody listening who is inclined to brush all of this stuff off as woo-woo sort of nonsense, like hippie nonsense. “Oh yeah, you and your essential oils, like I’ll stick to my Neutrogena or whatever.” So I think it’s really worth mentioning just that this is actually science-based.

Nadine Artemis: Totally science-based. And also it is the one area, I mean we definitely have control over, which is kind of exciting because you can’t always, you know, the air that you’re breathing or you know, there are things that we can’t necessarily change, but we can literally do that. And the thing is, too, it’s 2018 so it’s not like I’m saying throw them all away and then you’ve got nothing, it’s a banquet what is available and in the realm that you get to like play in.  It is so exciting. It’s so juicy. It’s such a celebration of life instead of this lifeless liquid that’s not doing anything. I mean, what really fascinated me when I was like just a teenager and going into all this stuff, I learned that perfumers were the medicine makers and medicine makers were the perfumist in many different cultures. I found that so fascinating.

There was no division between a perfume and a medicine. It wasn’t until the 19th century when we started making synthetics. But then there was that division and then the plant realm became like frivolous femininity, kind of like perfumes and all that. And then the medicines became like the extracts and then those extracts got refined and refined and then synthesized and all of that. But that, you know, perfumes used to be pressed from pedals and what we applied to our skin was just, you know, tinctures and from sap and like all this juicy stuff that was applied to the body.

And then it just became petroleum all the way. How can we use petroleum and bleach it and refine it and fluff it up into a white pristine cream and then just put a whole marketing campaign on it. And there’s nothing in the bottle. Like it’s just so negative to the body, it’s just really nothing for you. There’s nothing in there in these things except there is that feeling of moisture and lubrication or soap. That’s wrong.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, that’s a really, really fascinating observation. And you got my wheels turning as you were talking there because it’s, you know, the way that kind of the most people look at these…  I was kind of lumping them into three categories in my head, like perfumes, like scent things that we wear to smell good; personal care products, skin care products, dental products, whatever other personal care products; and then medicines, you know, things we take to make ourselves healthier.

In the modern mainstream approach these are very, very different categories. You know, we have our moisturizers and our colognes and our perfumes and stuff like that. And then we have our medicines, then… there’s no overlap at all in these three categories. But then when you look at what you’re doing and you’re doing certain kinds of things within the realm of personal care products within the realm of sense and things like that.

And then this category of medicine and then you realize the types of products that you’re producing have medicinal effects. They smell good and they’re benefiting cellular health. They’re not just something to smell nice and they’re not only not damaging to like our hormones or mitochondria, our skin microbiome, but they’re actually benefiting our health.  They are anti-inflammatory compounds, they benefit brain health, you know, all these different layers of benefits. And so what you’re doing actually is very much this kind of interconnection of these three areas of like, smell good while improving your health while having all these benefits on every aspect of those things.

Nadine Artemis: Yeah, and that, to me it’s fun, it’s convenient and it makes sense, you know, like it’s just such a celebration. You reminded me of the, there’s an ancient Greek word called thymiatechny and it means let perfume be your medicine.

The natural skin care products that are supportive and beneficial to skin microbiome

Ari Whitten: That’s cute. I like that. Nice. So, I want to go back to the microbiome, the skin microbiome a little bit because I think that’s a fascinating topic. I’m curious if you found any particular research around like specific ingredients that, you know, in common, you know, popular mainstream products that are particularly damaging to the skin microbiome. And then the second part of this question after that is have you found any ingredients or products that are really supportive of skin microbiome health?

Nadine Artemis: Yeah, that’s a great question. For sure. There is, I think this is a fascinating one it’s surfactants, which is, you know is soap. So you can still have your natural bar of soap, you know, hopefully you get something really natural made from like a farmer’s market or something. And then you use that for scrubbing your nails and washing your hands and pits and bits, but that’s all you need it for.  You don’t need to wash your face with soap ever, like just don’t.

And I’ll tell you in a minute. And I think like the Dial ad or the Irish Spring and they’re lathering their body so much that,  just put that out of your head because our skin, no area of our skin needs that. So the fascinating research on surfactant is… because we, right, how do we wash our face in North America, foam it up and that’s how people feel, we think that’s what clean is. And studies show that surfactants, whether it’s from a mild foaming based cleanser from the health food store or your really whatever, I don’t know, whatever they’re selling now these days like from Sephora.

And these surfactants lodge themselves into the stratum corneum, which is the top layer of your epidermis and they stay there even after rinsing. So every day, maybe twice a day, we are just lodging those into our skin and it’s all microscopic.

And then we’ve got this habitual use, and chronic…  it will cause chronic inflammation, irritation which may lead to things like melasma, which is hyperpigmentation. It’s certainly not the only cause of it or it could lead to acne or rosacea because you’ve thrown off that whole ecosystem that your skin’s oasis.  This is just like totally thrown off by that. And yeah. So we got to ditch the soap, which I think people are surprised at with the skin’s microbiome.

I think what might be more obvious are things like chlorine, so showering in chlorine is really affecting the microbes that keep your skin from drying out. So for… and again, you know, somebody could shower in chlorine and they have a different experience, but one person’s got like dandruff and they can’t get away from that dry, itchy skin or they are having edema. So not everybody’s going to get edema from that, but it just depends what your Achilles heel is and then when you’re combining it with different things. So definitely everybody should be getting a shower filter if you don’t have access to clean water that’s coming from your tap.

So that to me is an obvious one, like chlorine would be pretty obvious. Now when you’ve… then, we create these you know, so we’ve got these skin care regimes with petroleum and different chemicals and then we’re probably going why we spent so much money and we’re doing all this stuff.

But why is the acne still here? Or it worked for a bit, but then it didn’t because we’re getting into this vicious cycle because now we’ve removed food sources, we’ve mutated microbes. We’ve made ones missing, we’re killing off diversity on our skin, all that’s going on and you might venture out to visit like a dermatologist and then they’re going to bring out the harder stuff. So cortisone creams and steroids, you know, either internally or topically and then that is just like further going to deplete your teams of bacteria.

And so really any skin therapy should be working on building diversity in the skin’s microbiome, not further depleting it because again, that might be effective for like a week and then like all the problems are going to come out again and probably a little bit stronger, sort of made the beast a bit stronger.

The best natural skin care routine

Ari Whitten: So what…  if we shouldn’t scrub our face with facial cleansers and soap, what should we scrub our face and our body with to, I guess, keep things clean and also support skin and skin microbiome health?

Nadine Artemis: So we go… we look to ancient practices and then what we find is oil, which is so like a mind trip for people, especially if they have acne.  They’re like, what? But again, we’re not going to be using petroleum oil, baby oil, mineral oil or some of its names, and we’re not going to use like rancid almond oil or grapeseed oil.

You want to use really good quality, like a pure virgin, organic, real olive oil. Jojoba is my absolute favorite. So you want to get an organic jojoba oil that is good for everybody’s skin type. It’s actually a liquid wax, not a plant oil. So it’s very stable and it’s an oil that mimics our sebum unlike any other oil on the planet.

And so you just wet a cloth, put a squirt of oil on there and then you’re just, you know, it’s like you’re washing your face kind of it, it’s the same actions that you do, you’re just doing it with oil and it lifts up dirt from pores, it unclogs pores, it removes makeup if you need that. And that’s what you do and you can do that to your whole skin. Like you can do it before your shower if you want.

And then you can even use like what the ancients would do with gua sha, and so they would use like a piece of wood or a stone or crystal or like a piece of metal, a strigil was in Ancient Greece, and then they would oil up the skin and then just do this motion with that stick. And then lots of stuff would come out…

Ari Whitten: For people who are listening to this and not watching, I don’t know if there is a good word for that either. But basically like press the object, the stick or the piece of metal or whatever it is, against your arm and kind of, you know, put some pressure on it and then kind of do an upward or… is it only upward or downward motion?

Nadine Artemis: I think upwards is the best motion but it doesn’t totally matter. And you do put a bit of pressure and you can do, you can do whatever pressure you want, but it also a light pressure is more lymphatic. It’ll actually tone the lymphatic system, and then you go a little bit deeper on the pressure and you are working with the fascia. Now that’s a little advanced. So you don’t have to… I’m not trying to say get fancier with your, you know, your morning shower. Because really what I’m saying is quite simple, you’re going to put oil on your face, wash it and then shower and oil up your body and you’re good to go.

Ari Whitten: Well, I like that. This is like you’re killing two birds with one stone, too, because it’s almost like self-massage or self-myofascial release, you know, you’re, it’s almost like massage or foam rolling or something like that…

Nadine Artemis: Yeah, with the oil. And then you’re like toning your skin and conditioning it at the same time. And you know what else is fun? Is even applying oil afterward with a cloth like you’re doing with the face. It gives like the very gentlest exfoliation to your skin and the oil really sinks in even deeper.

The power of jojoba and coconut oil

Ari Whitten: Interesting. So, you mentioned one thing about jojoba oil mimicking sebum. I’m glad you brought that up because I was actually going to ask. I was under the impression that coconut oil was like, I’ve heard people recommend coconut oil because it’s very similar to our sebum. But your opinion jojoba is more…

Nadine Artemis: Jojoba to me is like the king or queen. And definitely I love coconut oil. It’s in many of our formulas. I do find you probably want to dilute it though with jojoba or olive oil just so that it’s liquid unless you’re like tropical or you can keep it warm, and it’s really nice to just even combine them. Coconut oil is a beautiful thing.

Those are like the top three, like just really practical oils that you know are going to be good quality and then you don’t have to go into that peach kernel/almond oil/grapeseed realm because they’re often not real. They’re often rancid and like grapeseed oil is with solvents. It’s made with solvents. It actually wouldn’t be the color it is, it would be a real glaumy, thick thing. And those are the key oils that are often used in the industry.

Ari Whitten: Okay. So jojoba, coconut oil, and extra virgin olive oil, is that correct?

Nadine Artemis: Yeah.

Ari Whitten: A question on moisturizers. I’ve known some people over the years, especially women who use moisturizers, skin moisturizers regularly. I’ve known people, not my wife but friends, previous girlfriends years ago who used like mainstream regular sort of skin moisturizers and also like chapsticks as well.

The same principle applies, but what I’m getting at is that a lot of these people, there’s sort of like an addiction effect from what I can tell where once you start using these things, it seems to me that the skin stops working as it should, it stops producing its own oils and keeping its own moisture properly.

And then you get dry skin whenever you don’t use that stuff regularly and then you get into this sort of vicious cycle where you have to constantly keep applying the stuff for your skin to be properly moisturized. So is my observation on that correct and…?

Nadine Artemis: It is so correct. I love seeing the difference because then somebody will switch over to like a lip balm I’ve made and they’re like, this is lasting me a year, I put it on in the morning and their lips are moist all day.

Ari Whitten: So what’s going on there? What’s actually happening that… what are these things do to our skin?

Nadine Artemis: Yeah, we are creating of those vicious cycles which will manifest sort of differently for everybody. And for many it’s just that common dry, irritated skin so you have to keep putting on this layer of moisture. And those products you mentioned, I mean if it is just a classic cream from the drugstore or a classic chapstick, they’ve got petroleum products in them, you know, and that’s like a layer, it’s like an invisible Saran wrap.

So yeah, from the things we’ve talked about, like endocrine disruption and microbiome disruption, then there’s just, I mean there are so many ways that we could look at it, but then there’s just like a letting the skin breath, don’t forget about that.

So besides our polyester clothing and underwear, then we’ve got the, you know, the creams that are putting on this microscopic Saran wrap and our skin can’t breathe and because it’s a two-way thing. Like would I, I’m always amazed at the stat and I don’t quite know it, but that amount of pounds that our skin sheds every day. It’s like a few pounds and you kinda like where did it, where? Right? So our skin is just this… it’s a breathing, living tissue. I like to refer to it as the moist envelope of our soul, but we’ve been treating it like it’s like a plastic bag or something.

How essential oils work in harmony with your skin and promote skin health

Ari Whitten: Interesting. So the idea of letting the skin breathe is interesting. Now, how does that relate to the oils that you use.  Do those still allow the skin to breathe?

Nadine Artemis: Oh, yeah. It’s full… everything’s flowing and breathing and then…  Oh yeah, to answer a question from before that we didn’t get to, so we got two new questions, was what isn’t disturbing the microbiome. So that was so fascinating too because I’ve been working with this pallet of beautiful plants for a few decades and the microbiome stuff is newer and so when I get to go into that research because of antibiotic resistance and those kinds of issues right now. Sorry about the not light situation.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, no worries. We get to look at your silhouette with the beautiful background of the forest and the lake behind you.

Nadine Artemis: The sun is setting.  It‘s… the microbiome is so fascinating to me as you probably can tell from the book, but it’s so fun because we have a huge crisis right now of antibiotic resistance and so much of science and research is what can…  how can we solve this because it’s not more antibiotics. And then the whole world of essential oils opens up and we understand why people have been using these plants forever.

We have the modern science giving us data on, “oh, that’s why people were using frankincense in oral care forever or that on their skin forever.”  And so we find out that essential oils are very effective quorum sensing inhibitors, short for QSI, or that would be the abbreviation. And what those are is they inhibit the gene expression of the pathogens in our bodies.

So pathogens are kind of free-floating in our bodies like phytoplankton in the ocean. But then when they gain… there’s other friends in the body, then they can gain traction by like communicating and joining forces and then that’s when they start creating biofilms and creating…

Ari Whitten: The term that you used earlier, just to clarify for people, quorum sensing, is that sort of when there are big groups of pathogenic bacteria that are kind of communicating with one another.

Nadine Artemis: Yes. Thank you for that. And then, so what essential oils do is they inhibit the quorum sensing very effectively. Now we’re going to have different to varying degrees, like clove oil is like 70 percent effective. And then it would depend on what pathogen. So it would be like very detailed. But in general we can say that essential oils are effective at tiding up the pathogens, but working with the friendly bacteria.

So there’s this intelligence, right, that I’m sure we’ll study a lot in science and then they’ll just be, there’s always going to be a certain je ne sais quoi, a certain mystery that we don’t know how it all works, but that’s where the plants come in. So they’re really a true friend right now for us because… and then they can do things that we want in skin care that we’ve been, you know, sold that that’s what we want, like inhibiting collagen destruction or lengthening telomeres or giving us the antibacterial boost we need when we’ve got acne or helping those dermodex mites when we are experiencing rosacea.

Nadine Artemis: So the essential oils are these like… I like to refer to them as botanical biotics because biotics means life. Antibiotic is not life and these are our botanical biotics, which is the botanical medicine that we can then use to really activate this beautiful jojoba or the olive oil. And then that’s the fat, the beautiful fat that’s going to deliver that juice into your skin. And then it’s so fun if that goes into the rest of your body because it works well with the liver and it’s helping the lungs and it’s helping on a cellular level.

And then we’re delivering these really healthy monoterpenes, which is the building block of the essential oils into our body. And having fun at the same time and it smells great. It’s all good news.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, like we were saying before, this kind of interface between perfumes and smells and personal care and skin care and all that good stuff, and medicine actually making your cells function better. So fascinating stuff. So, we’ve talked a lot about stuff that’s not good so far.

Let’s switch to some of the stuff that is particularly good. And I know you’ve mentioned a few of these things in passing, but what are some of the most beneficial botanical compounds when it comes to… we’ll start with skin health and then we’ll maybe shift to some of the other areas of personal care products.

Nadine Artemis: Sure. You know, there’s so many and they’re all like my children, so I love them all. But we have really some classics like frankincense which I just mentioned is so beautiful, you know, for men, for women it’s strengthening.

It’s…  I feel like it’s fortitude and fortifying and even good fortune and on a cellular level and then you just go into pub meds and pull up frankincense. You’d be blown away by the stuff that’s going on and what it can do and how it can stop the skin and cells from going down pathways that we don’t want the skin and cells to do.

And how, you know, and I just… it can help just clearing up melasma and hyperpigmentation, just so many skin problems that are so common now and they’re literally, there are answers for it and it’s from the natural world and they’ve been existing forever and they’re effective. And so we, you know, we don’t have to use the petroleum and it wasn’t working anyway.

Ari Whitten: Beautiful. And any other one or two compounds that you haven’t mentioned yet?

Nadine Artemis: Yeah. Rosato is just the steam distilled version of rose is so medicinal. Like, it’s right… rose is so beautiful and it’s so sensual, but at the same time, it’s such potent medicine. It’s also analgesic, it’s like got even a numbing thing. You could even put it on a toothache. It’s really, really exquisite. Immortelle is another essential oil. The Latin name is Helichrysum italicum.

I’ve been getting ours distilled on the island of Corsica forever. I have, you know, we have a reserve list. We only get a few leaders each year. It’s so special at healing scars, you can pour it into like you know, if you have cuts or nicks or anything like that. Essential oils are good at healing old scars and new scars, so if you’ve got something that’s got a keloid you want to work down, or if you just had a situation and then you want to prevent scars from forming, you want to get the essential oil.

So essential oils are generally diluted to use because they’re so potent you are using it by the drop, but there are times when you just want that drop undiluted. So you know, you can pour it right in, clean something. It cleans it, it seals it, starts sealing the skin. And then once the skin is sealed, because they’re all an analgesic, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, it’s like all the things you want to clean a cut or something like that.

The skin starts closing and then you can… then you start working them with an oil with that, so you could add the frankincense to jojoba and then prevent the scar. So they’re just really, they’re kind of magic, the magic bullet we need.

Treating melasma (hyperpigmentation)

Ari Whitten: Fascinating. So a couple specific questions on skin health. Do you have any tips for hyperpigmentation? I know you mentioned frankincense, but is there anything else on hyperpigmentation and then also for like eczema or psoriasis, do you have any tips for those?

Nadine Artemis: So everything you mentioned, we always have a blend or something for that, and people can also make their own. Because you could even just look on the ingredients that we’re using and then make your own. It’s like that easy. So we make… combos are usually good because always diversity, right? It just helps. But you can also just use a single like frankincense, but for the melasma or hyperpigmentation, some of my favorite oils are frankincense, cypress, immortelle and Rosato.

Myrrh is also good. And sometimes you might want to try something for a while and then switch it up the next month. The main thing is it may take a little bit longer. Like, I don’t know, longer as compared to what?  But you just, you got to stick to it, two, you know, two applications a day for like two months. Some people it completely disappears. Some people it like fades and it’s really great, like there’s totally hope for bringing that all into balance and then also I have lots of tips on even how to prevent that in the first place and how it comes… because it could be coming from a birth control pill or your sunblock or eating a lot of canola or Mazola oil.

Those are the three huge areas that are creating melasma for people. So psoriasis and eczema are actually in those areas, that’s where there’s been a drop in microbial diversity. That’s when you get that reaction. And so for that, first you want to start thinking of the symptoms. Usually there’s an itchiness and that’s the biggest thing. So if we can get the itchiness down then that stops the person from making it worse. And peppermint is such a great essential oil because it literally is cooling.

Like it’s not just antiinflammatory and calming, it’s cooling. It’s like you don’t need ice. You got a cut or a bite or sting, peppermint and then you can walk around and you don’t have to put ice on it. Or your headache, now you can just put two drops there and so what that does is it totally stops the itch. So you take a little jojoba, put some peppermint in there, and then the itch is gone. And then to just calm the whole thing down. You know, oils like yarrow, blue tansy, chamomile, frankincense, peppermint, those are really all good at… for both eczema and psoriasis.

Ari Whitten: Okay. Do you, just out of curiosity, do you have a formula for those? Do you have one for hyperpigmentation? Do you have one for… what other kinds of like skin formulas do you have?

Nadine Artemis: We…  so we have four beauty realms, and then within them we can chart all the different things… so that we can kind of group things. So there’s that real calming and cooling realm. So things like eczema or psoriasis or like a hive or red, you know, when people… it’s not eczema or psoriasis, but it’s like a red bump or you know, anything that’s sort of like angry and irritated.

That’s that realm, which is the life beauty realm. And in there we have Frankincense Best Skin Ever. And we have these potent skin spot treatments called a DewDab and that DewDab is called Bee DewDab, and it’s even blue, it’s pure essential oil blend and you just take one drop and add it to the area that needs it or your hyperpigmentation. And then for melasma there are two realms because there’s sort of two ways that people experience it.

And for that there’s DewDab or Jewel Dab, we have fun naming things. And then with that you’ve got the Sandalwood Best Skin Ever or the Rose Best Skin Ever. And then we have a realm called the brilliant beauty realm, which is like your acne, fungal, thrush candida, you know, you’re getting those more fungal rashes and that kind of thing. And that one’s, the DewDab for that is Zippity DewDab. For acne, like overnight you just put a drop on or you could mix it with clay. And so we have all the solutions, but we also like to educate people, too, on how they can just get it and, you know, just get their own jojoba and their own frankincense and combine things, too. It’s that easy.

The best natural dental care products for healthy teeth

Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. So I want to shift into dental care, which I know is another big area of passion for you. What are some of the biggest problems with conventional dental care products? And I guess we’ll start with that and then we’ll shift into maybe some of the more beneficial compounds.

Nadine Artemis: Well, we can see a pattern emerging because then we have an oral microbiome which is really a very focused and important microbiome that’s obviously through the alimentary canal hooked up to our gut microbiome and everything that we’re applying on a commercial level is not good. So we’re kind of creating the perfect storm for dental issues. We’re creating the perfect storm for bleeding gums, which, apparently, over 90 percent of the population have issues with their gums or inflamed gums.

And so the sodium lauryl sulfate is going right into the bloodstream. Mercury fillings are throwing off the oral microbiome. Sodium lauryl sulfate is throwing off the microbiome, our alcoholic mouth rinses, totally throwing off the microbiome, not to mention stuff that might be applied or put on at the dentist’s office.

And so, you know, or the petroleum waxed, dental floss, it’s like every facet is no good. So you want to just clear that out and if you just replaced with baking soda, like you could get that simple, you’d be way better off. Now we can upgrade that, we can biohack that, but literally clear that out and just get the baking soda and you’d be off to a good start. And maybe some coconut oil for oil swishing and pulling.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Actually on that note, I just saw a study a few days ago on baking soda decreasing bleeding gums and gingivitis and plaque formation. So there actually research to support that. This, I mean you can get baking soda for like ninety-nine cents for a five-month supply. So it’s kind of amazing, you know, this is not exactly something that’s some exotic ingredient that you need to go spend a fortune on instead of standard toothpaste. It’s actually cheaper.

Nadine Artemis: Oh yeah. Like, and really what you’d be using in your mouth like in a year is so tiny. And also for interest’s sake, all baking soda is aluminum free. It’s baking powder that’s got the aluminum issue. So you can feel free to get the stuff at the supermarket.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, there’s some… I’ve seen that sort of, the myth around the idea that baking soda has aluminum in it.

Nadine Artemis: Yeah. So feel free, and that’s just one fun thing to do to really help gums is to coat the… brush your teeth first with the baking soda and then just get a kind of really sloppy bunch of baking soda and then you take a teaspoon, half a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, which is an acid, but baking soda is so alkaline that the sum total is still in the alkaline realm. And then you pour that in. You have like a full science experiment going on your mouth. The kids love it, which is great because they are not good teeth brushers…

Ari Whitten: Are you teaching people how to create an explosion in their mouth?

Nadine Artemis: Yes, and then that lifts up all of the plaque and the first time I did it I was like, my mouth was so clean. It was a travel day too, which feels like you get more plaque on travel days for some reason. I was in LA at that time and I felt like I’d still brushed my teeth like just five minutes ago. It’s so good.

And that method was invented by Dr Paul Keyes, who was a dental surgeon and he was like, how can we stop doing all these gum grafts because they’re… usually you gotta go back and get another one in a few years because it’s not a solution. It’s a band-aid and we, I like to really get into the situations where you’re doing something deeply, hopefully just sort of setting it and forgetting it and then you don’t have to think about it again instead of having a whole system of taking care of our bodies with a bunch of bandaids and it’s just like too complicated and it’s not effective.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. So baking soda kind of scrub with a toothbrush, is that correct? And then while the baking soda is still in there, you’re, you just kind of take a little sip…

Nadine Artemis: Have a round where you’re getting, you know, doing brushing and spitting and then have a round where you’re just sort of like applying it really on there. And then just get that half teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. Close your mouth, swish it around, take the toothbrush again, brush it a bit, spit that out. And so fresh and clean.

Ari Whitten: Interesting. I’m going to have to try that.

Nadine Artemis: Let me know how it goes.

Ari Whitten: Okay, I will.  And then you also have some dental care formulas.

Nadine Artemis: Yeah, we go deep into that realm. And so besides like the normal things like paste and all that… we make dental paste, we have swishing serums, which are oil pulling serums with like CoQ10, and then we make really three really concentrated dental serums that are just concentrated and you take one drop and you put it along with your floss for example. And then you’re getting up into that area. You’re getting the essential oils into that area.

Most people that have bleeding gums find it, like they just have to do that once, it’s gone. Some people, depending on the sponginess of the gums, it could take two weeks to clear that up, but like the power is really quite fast for many people and it’s all they needed. So yeah, you’re flossing all the time and gums are bleeding, you know, that’s… your mouth is telling you that you’ve got to change things, but literally even just sodium lauryl sulfate can make gums very susceptible to bleeding.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, and for people that don’t know that ingredient, it’s a very common ingredient in the majority of toothpaste out there. Even natural toothpaste.

Nadine Artemis: Yeah, the majority.. it’s in anything that has a bit of a foam really like your shampoo, your soap, your face…  it’s in so many things and there’s like 20 versions of it with different suffixes at the end and you know, it gets crazy in that world of language. Yeah, so like we’re just making our mouth so susceptible.

And for example, strep, which is a bacteria that does cause cavities. It’s in everybody’s mouth all the time, even the people with a perfect checkup. But what is it, how is it causing cavities when it does? Well, that’s because we’re creating the environment where we’re not, you know, we may be stripping away it’s bacterial buddies because it needs… the bacteria needs other bacteria to keep the other bacteria in check, to prevent the sort of pathogen parties that are coming up.

And so that’s where you want to keep that in balance. And then everything we’re doing to our mouths is stripping away that diversity, mutating the microbes or literally killing them off.

And so there isn’t that microbe anymore. So we want to think… when we think of what we want to do for our mouths, we want to stop using the stuff, the alcoholic mouthwash and that sort of stuff. And then we want to seal, which is sealing your gums from bleeding. You want to make sure that that’s all cool. And then you want to get the gums back, like I call it, like having a turtleneck around every gum like a turtleneck around the tooth. And you want a turtleneck neck, not a cowl neck or a v-neck, that’s when the gum starts receding. So you really want to get the gum pockets backup, seal the teeth, and then we want to think about re-seeding. So and that’s…

Ari Whitten: Let me ask you, just on that point of sealing the gum pockets and kind of supporting gum health. What, what in particular does that best?

Nadine Artemis: I feel like the dental serums… we have an ozonated gel which is amazing. Stopping using that stuff like, that alone could stop it for, the bleeding gums for somebody. It’s just like moving to that baking soda and then yeah, really how you’re caring for your body. You know, you may also need to take care of a leaky gut because to me that… when you have a bleeding gum in the mouth, that’s kind of like your mouth’s version of a leaky gut.

The same thing on our skin with psoriasis or eczema, that is like, you know, like a leaky skin. It’s open. Things are happening. So we want to seal the skin, we want to seal the mouth, seal the gut. And so… and also you may need to change up your diet to also seal that mouth, which is, you know.

We also don’t want to be eating things like GMOs because that’s… the thing with the GMOs is that it’s okay because humans don’t have a shikimate pathway, which is what is in the chemicals used in things like roundup are affecting in the plant to be a pesticide.

Nadine Artemis: But now by understanding the microbiome, we now know… no, we don’t have one, but the billions of microbes on us, they all have one. So we don’t want to be eating pesticides because we have our own ecosystem as well.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. So…

Nadine Artemis: Oh, mercury fillings can create bleeding gums…

What science says about sun and sun protection

Ari Whitten: Yeah, so there’s a number of other related areas we could go into, but we don’t have endless time and I want to be sensitive to time here. I mean hair and you know, female hygiene deodorant. I mean there’s a lot of different areas of this or kind of deeper into the fragrances and stuff like that.

One area that I do want to go into a little bit is your take on sun exposure and sunscreens. So can you talk about your take on sun and the role of that in skin health and in skin aging and traditional sort of mainstream sunscreens, mainstream thinking on that whole stuff and sunscreen products and how your take on things differs from that.

Nadine Artemis: Sure. I love talking about the sun and I devoted a whole chapter about it in the book. We also really need to undo so much information because I feel like we’ve really been lobbied into this loss of sunlight and it’s such a beautiful thing because we wouldn’t be here if there was no sun. So the fear, this like “ah, the sun,” we’ve got to reexamine that.

Obviously, it can burn us and we don’t want to be burned all the time. But if you do burn your skin once in a while it’s okay. You’re going to be okay. And this is a really interesting thing. Your skin, your DNA deals better with a sunburn than it does you applying sunblock or sunscreen and sitting in the sun for a few hours.

Ari Whitten: Elaborate on that. Explain what you mean by that.

Nadine Artemis: So, the DNA can process the excess heat of the burn and it can deal with 99 percent of, 99.9 percent of the damage from that burn and clean it up. But when we’re putting that sunscreen on us, we’re deactivating our body’s warning system to say, get out of the sun. So there’s that. We’re separating the rays. So we don’t even know to this day all of the rays that the sun has and the wavelengths that it’s providing for us, but we do know some. UVA/UVB for starters.

And what sunscreen is doing, again besides all those chemicals and the hormone disruptors and the oxybenzone, which is not carcinogenic until it is exposed to sunlight, which is the main active ingredient, which for example, Hawaii state legislature is trying to ban… just put in paperwork to have sunscreens with oxybenzone banned from Hawaii to save the coral reef because they are literally killing the coral reef.

Especially around Australia. Wherever there is one, but Australia, Caribbean, Hawaii, they’re losing the coral reef, which is so essential, so we can’t even imagine what it’s doing to our bodies…

Ari Whitten: I just want to interrupt on that point real quick because I just want to mention I’m glad you brought this up because there are so many things that humans do that, we do for whatever reason, either because we think it’s good or just because we’re trying to… there are businesses trying to make money and for the sake of greed even, and they continue to do them even though they’re bad.

But there are a lot of things that we humans do that are not only damaging our own health, but at the same time are also damaging the environment. So there’s this… also this interface between making this switch to this seemingly simple thing of making a switch away from conventional personal care products to natural ones, not only can be more effective and can be more supportive, much more supportive of your own health, but at the same time are actually supportive of the planet and the ecosystem and the environment around us. It’s kind of like you do something that’s good for your own selfish interests and you’re doing good for everybody else at the same time.

Nadine Artemis: That’s so true. I love that it’s a microcosm and macrocosm, you know. We’ve got mercury in our mouths and mercury in our seas and you know, so we got to… if we can’t control a lot of that, we can start with our own bodies.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, sorry to interrupt with that.  Carry on with the whole sun stuff.

Nadine Artemis: So the main… this is the main issue that’s so damaging is that sunscreens separate the UVA and UVB rays and the UVA is what we’re getting when we have sunscreen on. We’re not getting UVB.  It’s the UVB that provides the vitamin D so we’re not getting that and it’s the UVA on its own that is damaging the skin. So it’s like fully setting… the sunscreen thing is setting you up for many issues. It’s not going to all happen on one day. It’s going to be, you know, over the lifetime. So…

Ari Whitten: Yeah, I want to add one thing on this. There was just a huge systematic literature review. And for those that don’t know what that is, that is a scientific review of basically all of the relevant research on a given topic. It’s the top of the hierarchy of evidence. It’s considered basically the highest level of scientific evidence because it’s basically an accumulation, a compilation of basically all of the relevant evidence. And there was one that was just done on the use of sunscreen and the relevance to sunscreen use and skin cancer. And believe it or not, and most people might find this shocking because they haven’t actually read the research, but the science overwhelmingly does not support the idea that sunscreen use is protective of skin cancer.

So there’s this enormous gap between sort of public thinking and the public conception around “oh, we, you know, the sun is bad, we need to use sunscreen to protect our skin from skin cancer,” and the actual scientific evidence which just flat out does not support the idea that sunscreen use is actually effective for preventing skin cancer.

Nadine Artemis: Yeah, and I would venture to say probably gonna send you down a route you don’t want to go, know what I mean? Like it could be part of the problem is what I am saying. Defiantly not preventing and it could be contributing because, again we’re putting on these things and then we are baking it into our skin. Not so good. And then we denying the vitamin D that is anticancer on every single level, however you slice it.

And so yeah, and then if we are just getting UVA, that’s also when the skin damage starts and all that kind of stuff, you know. So and really it turned, I guess around the fifties or sixties, but prior to that the sun was having a heyday. Now it would go in and out of fashion, and there was definitely times like literally, even in the dark ages, it was also like there was a sort of… it was seen not proper to be in the sun and that kind of stuff too.

Nadine Artemis: But then there was like the renaissance and everybody celebrating the sun again. And then really at the turn of the century, there’s those early, you know, hygienists and natural European naturopathic doctors. And then in 1902 we have Niels Finsen winning the Nobel prize for heliotherapy, which is sun therapy.

And then in the twenties with his great work from Dr. Rollier who was in Switzerland and had these clinics where people were coming from all over and healing their tuberculosis and their rickets to a very successful level. And then, you know, there was, and then even Mademoiselle Coco Chanel the fashion designer was like, you know, every outfit needs a tan, it had its heyday, and then you know, then I don’t know what happened, but it was like “cancer!”

Ari Whitten: Yeah. One more point I want to add because actually sun exposure and light and the effects of light in health is a particular area of passion of mine. But in addition to the study I just mentioned, the review of the studies on sunscreen use in skin cancer, I also want to mention here this fear of sun exposure in relation to skin cancer and all these recommendations have kind of come out of this view of, “oh, you know, the sun has this link potentially with melanoma.”

You know, we have this kind of idea and we’re looking at this very small sliver of the overall research specifically on this one type of cancer and the relationship of sunlight, to this one type of cancer, this little sliver of the pie. But when we open up the whole pie and we look at the benefits, the relationship of sun exposure to all the different types of cancers, not just melanoma, but all of them and lots of other different causes of mortality.

This whole other paradigm emerges, which is that sunlight is profoundly supportive of good health and longevity and disease prevention and specifically the prevention of dozens of other types of cancers.  And there was a very big study just published either last year or the year before that was… it was a very rare kind of study where they tracked, I think it was something ridiculous like 20,000 women or something like that. This huge number of people. It was a study in Sweden and they tracked them over like 20 years.

So it’s one of these very rare studies with this huge number of people tracked over a very long period of time. They found that the health risk of avoiding sun exposure was on par, the actual effect size in terms of how much it damages your health, was on par with smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. That’s how damaging it was to your health to avoid sun exposure.

So there is this, just this huge gap between the public’s perception of sun exposure and the actual research around the link between sun exposure and health and disease prevention and longevity. So it is profoundly supportive of preventing all kinds of diseases and extending our life. So anyway, this is your interview. I don’t want to, I didn’t want to take away from it, but I wanted to add that for…

Nadine Artemis: I love sun research so much. And I feel like yeah, there are new studies probably that come out all the time. One of the books I mentioned in my book is written by Dr. Barnard Ackerman, and it’s a hard book to get but it’s called “Myth on Myth” and it’s on melanoma, and he was the founding father of dermatopathology, which is like beyond dermatology. It’s like disease and the skin. And the books like that thick and he goes through every study up until that date, it was like 2009 it was printed in. Yeah, like the sun, and the sun doesn’t actually cause melanoma either. You know what I mean? Like he went deeply into it. He always sported a tan, a skin doctor.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Even with, we won’t digress too much in that, but even within that one, the link between sun exposure and melanoma is even highly questionable once you start to dig into the research. Obviously getting sunburned regularly is a problem. Getting exposure below the threshold of getting burned is not linked with skin cancer. And there are even studies showing that outdoor workers have lower skin cancer rates than indoor office workers which…

Nadine Artemis: And probably that’s from fluorescent lighting because they’re more susceptible. And when we expose ourselves slowly but surely to the sun, then we build up our melanin, aka the base tan, and we build up our bodies for that. But the other thing is too, it’s lubricating the skin from within. We have thousands of vitamin D receptors on our skin, but in the depths of our body and they were designed… they’re vitamin D receptors, they’re designed to engage with the sun.

It’s literally like as soon as those sun rays hit our skin our cells, our pores dilate to receive those rays, to receive the energy converted into this hormonal precursor and special types of a cholesterol, a cholesterol sulfate. And that sun/skin reaction and communion are creating a water-soluble vitamin D, which we cannot get in the fat-soluble over the counter supplements. And so we can’t just take the supplement and be fine. We need, well you need both if you’re like in the winter. So we need that connection. And I like to think of it as cosmic pollination and we are designed for that. The vitamin D receptors tell us that it’s an ancient relationship and we can trust it.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Beautifully said. So, real quick, what do you think are some of the most supportive strategies for getting sun exposure and kind of supporting skin health in that process, avoiding  skin aging, supporting the skins ability to adapt to that sun exposure, not be damaged by it and to get all the benefits of the sun exposure without any downsides.

Nadine Artemis: Well, you want to be in the sun whenever you can and expose as much of your body as possible. If you still feel a little bit shy about what I’m saying or whatever, put a hat on, hide your face, get the rest of your body and that will create enough vitamin D. But what I’ll do is I’ll lay out for whatever amount of time, you know, whatever, but, and then I’ll put my face in the sun for like maybe five, 10 minutes.

So it comes in at the end and because it does, it needs less sun, my face would get burned earlier than my leg for example. You want to build it up, you’ve got to know your body. Everybody’s different. We could have an Irish redhead or somebody from Morocco that’s got a nice Mediterranean skin tone. So we’re all different. We all live in different parts of the universe.

And I would take, there’s an app called the D Minder and that will tell you your weather, you know, you put in where you are, your geographic location and it’ll figure it out. The weather that day. And it’ll tell you how long you need to be in the sun to get the vitamin D. Now you still may need to build up because you may be that Irish redhead, so it may say 15 minutes, but you need to maybe start five minutes every day for a week. That’s what Dr Rollier would do, you know, just do the calves for five minutes every day and we then build up to the thigh and you just slowly but surely get your body exposed.

And start in the spring and keep going in the fall. And it’s also a great way to energize the body because it’s working on a cellular level. It’s igniting the ATP. It’s helping create microbial peptides. It’s juicy.

The best skin care products for natural skin care

Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. Well, we could go, I’m sure three more hours and I’ve really, really enjoyed this conversation and there’s so much more I think we could talk about with nutrition and other aspects of personal care. But I want to be sensitive to time here.

So, one thing… one comment I’ll make and then one question I have. The comment is I just want to mention to all the listeners how important this is for your health and your energy levels to get rid of this constant bombardment of your body, your bloodstream and all your cells and your mitochondria with all of these hormone-disrupting chemicals; microbiome, gut microbiome, skin microbiome disrupting chemicals; heavy metals; hormone disruptors.

One of the key steps in improving your health is you just, you have to clean up your personal care world of everything that you’re putting in and on your body when it comes to personal care. With that in mind, I really love and appreciate what you’re doing. You… I’ve looked at your products. You’ve also sent me a sample kit. I’ve also read your book and you have like really top-notch products. I am honestly very, very impressed with your products.

My wife has been raving about them and she absolutely loves them. The one thing that I think is confusing is when I go to your site, there’s like so many products that it’s almost hard to know how to navigate that. So I would love if you could just kind of give somebody like a three-minute sort of shtick of maybe some of your most important products that you’d recommend to them and kind of how to think about navigating through this. You know, the 200 products on your site.

Nadine Artemis: Well at first I just would like to say I’m sorry about our navigation, but we’re cleaning that up. We had to… we’ve been designing, redesigning our site and it’s going to be ready in June, July. So just know that and apologies for its issues.

Ari Whitten: Well, I wasn’t even implied that there was an issue with the site. I was just saying that there are just so many products. It’s just hard to know like where one should begin.

Nadine Artemis: We’re prolifically creative and also people really love… when they’re in they are in and they love Living Libations and so I feel like it’s my duty to also say, don’t worry, I’ll take care of every aspect of your body so you don’t have to go anywhere else.

Because people kind of doesn’t want to it. Because, you know, they’re like, well we’re here. This is the best… we can’t…  So I commit to really seeing… also I get, questions, thousands of questions a year so I also know what people need and sort of what health issues we’re having on our planet at this time. Like the crisis we are having with melasma. It’s kind of crazy.

Anyway, Best Skin Ever is key. That is called the Best Skin Ever. We do have a few types, pick a frankincense, sea buckthorn. Those are like some good starters and that is like a foundation. That’s your one bottle to do it all. You could… it can act like your most high-end serum or your most, you know, and your basic cleanser. Men can use it as an aftershave. It can also use it even as a shave, and you can use it for a cuticle oil, you can use it on your baby’s bum for preventing a diaper rash. It’s got you covered. So that is essential and that will help you do away with your soap.

Then I would say like a dental serum, perhaps like the Healthy Gum Drops. So we have paste and gels and all that, but you could also just have that one dental serum and it could replace your toothpaste. You can just put one drop on your toothbrush and then do that one drop to floss. I think what people also have to get used to is like this is… we make concentrated, potent.

We don’t like to dumb stuff down. We don’t like to dilute it down per se. And so what people may need to get used to is like, yeah, one drop, you know, it’s not like a big squeeze of something and it’s very effective. So we’ve got that for the oral care, maybe switch over a deodorant to one of our Poetic Pits or Underarm Charms. We’ve got great men’s ones like Radiant Earth…

Ari Whitten: I love the names, Poetic Pits. That’s great.

Nadine Artemis: And it’s great because what it does is it works with your microbiome in your armpit. It makes… it takes your pheromones and then just delivers them in the most like a juicy aromatic package so you don’t have to worry that there’s also some of your sweat aroma mixed in there because it’s gonna make it like a perfume now.

I don’t mean like a feminine perfume but like an “oh my God, what’s he wearing?” People come out of hot yoga and people are like, “oh my God, what are you wearing?” It literally makes men like pied pipers.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. I have one of your men’s essential oil mixes that’s kind of like a scent and it’s got…

Nadine Artemis: Oh, like a cologne?

Ari Whitten: Yeah, like spruce and a number of other kind of foresty, like tree derived essential oils.

Nadine Artemis: Yeah, you’re forest bathing in a cologne.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. And I always get a lot of compliments when I wear that. So…

Nadine Artemis: Yeah. So you could have a cologne, but I think… Yeah, so if you just replace what you just feel like you’re really in some kind of commercial vortex with something and then just break out of that. But we really do, we got shave cream, shampoo, like juicy conditioners that you can leave on. We’ve got clay masks, tiny masks. So once you’ve got some basics, there’s, it can go on for years.

Ari Whitten: Beautiful. I love it. So, one quick question and maybe a request. I’m wondering if you would be willing to offer my listeners a little bit of a discount if we could set up a special link, to offer them a discount if they are listening to this podcast and they want to come buy some of your products.

Okay, cool. And then your book “Renegade Beauty” can also be found on Amazon, is that accurate?

Nadine Artemis: Yes. Like any online bookseller has it.

Ari Whitten: Okay. Awesome. So we’ll get everybody set up with a link to the.. to your store, Nadine, and a special discount code on this page. And I will… I’m trying to think what we should… we haven’t created the webpage for this yet, but it will be

So we’ll set up that link and then on that podcast page there will be a special link to get a discount in your store. And, you know, again, I’ve been experimenting with your products, they’re great stuff. My wife is like raving about them constantly and I also have closely looked at all of the ingredients of your stuff and it truly is just top notch, the best I’ve seen as far as personal care products, so highly, highly recommended it to everybody listening.

Ari Whitten: And, Nadine, thank you so much for this interview. It’s been an absolute pleasure and really fun to have this conversation with you on so many fascinating topics related to health and personal care.

Nadine Artemis: Thank you so much, it was such a pleasure meeting you today.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, likewise. Awesome. Well take care and I hope this is the first of many conversations and I look forward to doing it again.

Nadine Artemis: Great. Thank you so much. Have a lovely time.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, take care Nadine.

Secrets of natural skin care and healthy teeth (and the best natural skin care products and natural dental care products) with Nadine Artemis – Show Notes

Why natural skin care products are preferred to conventional personal care products (2:29)
Why your personal care products are toxic to your health and energy (6:05)
How the benefits of natural skin care products are backed by science (14:57)
The natural skin care products that are supportive and beneficial to skin microbiome (20:30)
The best natural skin care routine (24:42)
The power of jojoba and coconut oil  (27:54)
How essential oils work in harmony with your skin and promote skin health (31:41)
Treating melasma (hyperpigmentation) (39:09)
The best natural dental care products for healthy teeth (43:21)
What science says about sun and sun protection (52:34)
The best skin care products for natural skin care (01:07:33)


Want to try out Nadine’s products for yourself? Go check out her range of natural skin care products here. In addition, Nadine is offering 10% off to all my listeners. Use the code ”Energy10” to get your personal discount.

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How youse essential oiis to improve sleep, energ, and lowering stress │ Natural Skin Care ┼ Best skin care products
Essential oils are acrucial part of energy and health and natural skin care products. Listen in as Dr Z shares his expertise on essential oils and health

The Top Brain Foods, Supplements for Brain Health, and The 3 Keys to Alzheimer’s Prevention and Optimal Brain Health

The Top Supplements for Brain Health, Brain Foods, and The 3 Keys to Alzheimer's Prevention and Optimal Brain Health with Julia Lundstrom

If you’re interested in optimizing your brain health, learning about the best foods and supplements for brain health, and preventing dementia and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s diseases, then you’ll want to listen in to this podcast. Here’s the thing: Many people think that good brain health is just about “challenging your brain.” While that’s certainly important, brain health is about so much more than just being able to memorize trivia questions or doing crossword puzzles. Brain health depends massively on our nutrition and lifestyle habits. And no amount of brain games can make up for what’s lacking in nutrition and lifestyle habits.

Thousands of patients are diagnosed and die from neurodegenerative diseases every year. It’s a fast growing epidemic, and it’s one of the worst ways to go. People suffering from these illnesses often end up house-bound and as a burden to the people closest to them as they are dependent on others to receive care. The stress of seeing your loved ones wither away and lose their ability to understand what’s going on, and even to remember who their family members are is extremely painful for everyone involved. Fortunately, it is very likely that most of these conditions can be prevented with good nutrition and lifestyle habits.

So, what is actually the main cause of poor brain health? And more importantly, what can you do to heal your brain?

This week, I speak with Julia Lundstrom, the founder of Simple Smart Science. Julia had had the devastating experience of seeing her own aunt fall ill and pass away due to Alzheimer’s. Her aunt falling ill was the main trigger for Julia and her brother to found Simple Smart Science. We will cover topics such as; the best supplements for brain health, brain food, and the top 3 keys to Alzheimer’s prevention and optimal brain health.

In this podcast, we’ll cover

  • The 3 main keys to optimal brain health
  • Do toxins actually play a role in neurodegenerative diseases?
  • The best supplements for brain health (why many get too little of it)
  • Why working night shifts can be linked with poor brain health
  • Why social connection is essential to good brain health and overall well being
  • How technology is making us dumber (and how to improve your memory)
  • The power of laughter
  • The ultimate brain food for optimal brain health
  • Julia’s take on why we sleep too little (and how it wrecks havoc on your brain)
  • Julia’s top nutrient for brain health
  • Why sleep is essential and often underrated (and why you should make sure to get your sleep every night)
  • Why popping a pill isn’t the answer to fixing your health


Download or listen on iTunes

Download the right way to breathe for increase performance and energy on iTunes

Listen outside of iTunes


The Top Supplements for Brain Health, Brain Foods, and The 3 Keys to Alzheimer’s Prevention and Optimal Brain Health with Julia Lundstrom- Transcript

Ari Whitten: Hey everyone, welcome back to the Energy Blueprint Podcast. I’m your host Ari Whitten, and today I have with me Julia Lundstrom, who is the founder of Simple Smart Science. She is an educator in the fields of neuroscience and brain health and she has helped over 47,000 people through her webinars, public speeches, books, and podcast interviews. With her knowledge of the brain, she combines neuroscience and brain chemistry to help people take leaps instead of steps in making measurable improvements in their memories and their lives. And for the last five years, Julia has collaborated extensively with doctors, scientists, and neurologists to develop an entire suite of brain health products. And as a result, Simple Smart Science was born. So with that said, welcome Julia. It’s a pleasure to have you on.

Julia Lundstrom: Thank you so much, Ari. It’s so great to be here. Thank you for having me on.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. So, I’ve checked out your blog very extensively. I love what you’re doing. I’m a fan of your work and, and I really appreciate your natural and holistic health approach to optimizing brain health. But what I would love to do to start off this interview is to have you actually talk about your background and why you got into all of this stuff because you have a fascinating personal story. So I would love if you could just talk a bit about what led to you getting so interested in the brain in the first place.

Julia Lundstrom: Yeah. So prior to starting this company with my brother in 2013 – 2014, I was working in the health industry but more of on the weight loss side, and my brother and I knew we wanted to go do something else. And right around the same time my aunt got diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and we are an extremely close family. And so we all flew over that summer to Sweden to actually see my aunt because that’s where she was living. My Dad is originally from Sweden. And it progressed so fast that by the time we got there, and this was probably only about three months from diagnosis, she already was having a hard time remembering people.

She had a hard time remembering the cabin that she built with her own hands in the sixties and seventies, it was very unfamiliar to her. She’d get lost going to the bathroom.  And so it was progressing extremely rapidly and that really triggered something for me in seeing how her family had to deal with it, the financial aspects, the getting her help. And, of course, very quickly the marriage, they never got divorced, but they couldn’t even live together because he was aging as well. It was really traumatic on really the whole family and especially my dad, you know, his little baby sister and he’s the oldest and it’s not supposed to happen that way.

My brother and I became very passionate around the brain and brain health and decided to start doing a lot of research around this and synergies happened and we started working with the scientists who focused on Alzheimer’s and cognition and Simple Smart Science was born because it was just this natural flow into what we can do to help. Now, unfortunately, my aunt did pass away just last December. And in the end, for the last two years, she couldn’t, you know, it’s just one of the worst diseases, she couldn’t remember her kids.  My dad flew over there last summer and of course she couldn’t remember him at that point and it’s just a terrible, I think it’s probably the worst way to go for the person and everyone around you.


The main causes of poor brain health

Ari Whitten: Yeah, that’s brutal. So what did you find in all of this research that you’ve done? And I, I know that is a very general, broad question and that is the whole purpose of your brand and that you could probably talk for 20 hours on that subject. But what I would love is maybe if you could summarize kind of a 30,000-foot view of what are some of the key factors as to why we’re having so many brain health issues these days because there is an epidemic that is rapidly increasing in the prevalence of dementia, of neurodegenerative diseases. And why is that happening? What’s going on in our environment, in the modern world, in the lifestyle that is leading to that? And if you, again, like to kind of condense 20 hours or maybe 50 hours of material into maybe like a two minute or five minutes, sort of very succinct encapsulation of what some of the big factors look like.

Julia Lundstrom: Sure. And you’re right, I can talk forever on this subject because there are so many different components and I think that’s kind of the point. Uh, I ride a lot around my nine pillars of brain health because what I think is the really big component that we overlook is that it’s not just about one part of your health, one part of using your memory or you’re losing your memory. It’s the holistic part of your entire being. And that’s what most people miss. But I would say, you know, there’s a couple of really overlooked ones that people talk a lot about in different aspects. But when it comes to your brain. I’d say two really key ones I talk about often because it’s most overlooked or sleep, which is really, really key, not just for all the diseases and lack thereof, but it’s estimated that 76 percent of Americans don’t get enough sleep and it’s really quite an epidemic and no one talks about it.

Everybody thinks well, no one sleeps very well, so it must be okay. The issue comes down to when it comes to your memory is sleep is where not only when your brain is clearing out the toxins overnight, and so if you’re not getting enough sleep, it’s like you have a dirty city and the street sweepers can only clean out, you know, 10 percent or 50 percent of it, and then the other 50 percent stays dirty, but it’s also the time when your memories consolidate, they stick. So it’s when you’re short-term memories turn into long-term memories. So if you think about that? We think about, okay, so if I’m getting an hour less sleep a night, that’s an hour’s worth of short-term memories that are not going to be there. They’re going to be gone, poof, because I didn’t give my brain a chance to consolidate those to make those stick.

So, I talk a lot about sleep in the context of memory and you know there’s a ton of different views around sleep, but in general you’re looking to get between seven to nine hours of sleep. It doesn’t all have to be in one block, but it’s really important to get into that rem sleep too because that’s where a lot of the consolidation takes place. And I would say the next one, you know, I know you’re passionate around nutrition that I would say they’re released specific nutritional components that people aren’t getting, especially older people. A one is B12. It’s found in fish and meat and dairy products. If you’re a vegetarian or Vegan, you have to supplement with B12. But it is one of, I would say four nutrients that are so important for brain health and think it’s something like 40 percent of everyone over 50 years old is deficient in B12.

So that’s a really critical nutrient to either supplement with. I say if you’re over 40, just supplement with it. The other one is DHA and it kinda goes hand in hand because DHA is also found in fish, mainly. It’s also found in flax seeds and things like that. So for me, the nutrition plays such a key role and people don’t really look at the nutritional side of your brain health. I’ll look at it when it comes to your weight or your heart, but no one’s talking about the brain when it comes to nutrition. And that’s really what I want to try to get out there because there are these nutrients like DHA that again, most people aren’t getting and there’s a deficiency. And so there you’re mega threes and DHA makes up 90 percent of the, of the Omega threes in your brain. Twenty-five percent of the overall fat content. So talk about important for your brain. I mean, it helps your brain communicate, helps the electricity to move faster. So it’s things like that that we can do that are so simple that everyone can do and it’s not expensive. And that’s what I love to talk about. What are the little things that you can do day to day that is really going to help your brain health?

Ari Whitten: So what else? Sleep, nutrition, any other big factors that are playing a role in that? The epidemic of neurodegenerative disease that we have going on right now?

Julia Lundstrom: Sure. There’s a big one that really no one’s really addressing and that’s our technology. And I actually just heard my phone go off as we’re talking here, but a really big issue is that we’re not using our memories and with our technology. We don’t remember. We don’t have to remember anything anymore, right? We have, hey google, can you add this to my shopping list? And then you go to the store and it’s on your shopping list or your calendar or phone numbers or even people’s names. We put them on our phones and we don’t ever use our memories and it’s like a muscle. And if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. So it just becomes atrophied. And so we’re seeing that more and more that with technology people don’t have to use their brains, they don’t have to use their memories and so people are getting dumber and they’re getting slower and it’s harder to remember. And there’s always this, oh, I can never remember names or dates. Well that’s a different subject because that’s actually more of a training. No one could remember names, sorry. Our brains aren’t wired to remember names. Our brains are wired to, hey, I just met you. Are you a threat? To me? That’s it. So when someone says her name and the first 10 seconds you are not taking that in.

Ari Whitten: I can attest to that. I, I’ve actually, I’ve been known to have a very good memory to remember all sorts of obscure scientific facts about all sorts of things. But I cannot for the life of me remember anyone’s name, who I meet. So I’m glad to hear that. It’s not just me whose brain is wired that way.

Julia Lundstrom: Everyone’s brain is wired that way. Everyone complains about not remembering. And there are techniques you can learn and you know, you just prepare yourself too. Okay, none of these people in this room are going to be a threat. So when I walk in, the one thing I’m going to be listening for is their name, but you have to prep yourself and you have to be ready to hear it. And then of course there’s visualization techniques and whatnot to remember to remember their names, but that’s a separate issue. But when it comes to really remember things like what happened yesterday, we don’t take the time to digest what happened today to remember it tomorrow. And that’s a really key component.  I have, you know, get my nine pillars of brain health and I do a coaching program.

How to strengthen your brain health

Julia Lundstrom: And in there I really talk about using your brain and challenging your brain and not just crossword puzzles, things like that, they’re great. But you have to have something new and different. So, you know, if you’re, if you’ve been a dancer your whole life dancing more isn’t going to grow your brain cells back or challenge you. Maybe if you’ve never done a crossword and you start them and that will do it. Or learning an instrument, if you’re an expert at something, doing more of that isn’t going to help do something different. Learn a language, playing an instrument, learn how to paint or nit or different sports or whatever it’s going to be, or read more. I think I’m gonna. Turn off the TV that doesn’t use any of your brain. That is completely an observer in life and doesn’t grow your brain at all. Maybe if you’re watching the national history channel or something, but even then you’re probably not absorbing it.

Julia Lundstrom: Turn off the TV. Read a nonfiction book. Ten percent of the population reads nonfiction. That’s it, so be one of those people that read something about life and you’ll retain more, so use your brain more. Use it in different ways. That’s really important and you’ll actually grow different parts of your brain in that way. One of the really respected, he’s actually a psychologist, but Dr. Daniel Amen. Does a lot of brain scans on people and he’s been able to show if you have brain damage in one sector of the brain, if you work on what that sector focuses on, let’s say in the creativity sector, if you work on painting or learning how to paint, you can actually start to regrow the damaged part of your brain, which is amazing because I think so many of our problems, especially psychological issues come from damaged brains that people got when they were kids are growing up and we don’t even think about that.

Ari Whitten: Fascinating stuff. Any other factors you want to mention here? That you think are playing a role?

Julia Lundstrom: Well, there. So I usually talk about nine. So meditation is a huge one. Meditation has been shown to grow the prefrontal cortex. I know you’ve talked a lot about that. The social component, which is extraordinarily interesting when it comes to brain health. I know there’s that study floating around how the social component is actually more important to your health and longevity than any of the other 10 components combined. It’s like you watched the chart, it’s like socialist here and then wages here. There was recently a Harvard study that spanned over 80 years and the number one factor of people that live longer and healthier over that 80 years, it was just men of course, because in the early 19 hundreds they weren’t, you know, researching women. It was as if they were still married and they had good social networks and that is so key and no one really talks about that either when it comes to your brain health and how that stimulates you and makes you live longer, happier.

I mean, I could share a story real quick if you have time around what my dad just went through. So I complain a lot around modern medicine and I complain a lot around doctors, but you know, at some point modern medicine does help a lot. And right now it’s keeping my dad alive. But, I went out to visit him about two months ago now and he lives in Palm Desert and three days after I got there he ended up in the hospital for kidney failure and ended up having to go on dialysis, which they said is, you know, kind of the rest of your life, three days a week for three and a half, four hours at a time. So it’s really like going back to work at 85 years old to now he has to be at the center. And I asked the doctors, the nurses, pretty much anyone I could see what’s his post hospital, you know, what, what is his dialysis diet that he needs to eat? No one can tell me, no one can tell me, no one could tell me.

Finally, when I got to the dialysis center, the nurse gave me a book and a website and I did a little research on my own and it, there’s so much research around it. It’s no potassium, no phosphorous and no sodium. So I put my dad on this really restrictive diet, eliminating those foods from his diet. He’s supposed to have a little bit of each, but, and I’m actually just last week he went in on Monday for his dialysis treatment and the kidney doctor came in and said that his blood work looked so good that he shouldn’t come back in the rest of the week for his dialysis and that they’re going to take more blood in another couple weeks and determine if he ever needs to go back because he still has some kidney function and his kidneys were able to now process that.  And it’s pretty unheard of for someone to get off dialysis.

I just think that food and nutrition needs to be the very first thing. And I know I’ve already talked about that, but it’s just such a key, key component to everything we do. And I think that that needs to be looked at before we get on these medicines. Or at least at some point because we’re. So, you know, we’re such a pill-popping society and know I told you I lived in Sweden last four years. They don’t have pharmaceutical commercials and I come over here and I am blown away at how many pharmaceutical commercials there are now.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Yeah, it’s crazy.

Julia Lundstrom: And every one of those were made to affect some part of your brain and your body and that the trickle-down effect of that is crazy and we’re actually seeing our lifespans were going up, up, up, up, and now they’re starting to go down, down, down, down, and I think a lot of that, of course, is obesity. But it’s which is another thing we don’t see in Sweden, at all. But I think it’s also the pharmaceuticals, everyone’s pill poppers instead of just looking at their lifestyle and how much they move because exercise is another one and how much they’re getting out there. And especially in the older generation, they don’t get out there and socialize very much.

Why social connection is important for brain health and healing

Ari Whitten: So a couple things. One comment that I want to make is that I’m really glad you mentioned community and the social aspect of things because I think there’s a tendency among health experts to fall into the trap of kind of seeing every person as just their own little encapsulated individual where their health is solely determined by the chemicals floating around in their bloodstream and the hormones and so on and to not look outside of that as far as seeing the person’s relationship to the world around them, to other people, to the environment more broadly. And I think that’s an important aspect of things. So just wanted to thank you for mentioning that. I think it’s critical. I personally think I’m after having gone through a phd program in clinical psychology and one of my big gripes with a lot of talk therapy focused methods was the exclusion.

And granted, you know, this is not meant to be super critical because they’re limited by what a psychologist can do with an individual. But so many of the psychology paradigms exclude that aspect of the, the interpersonal dynamics and whether a person has relationships, whether they’re part of a, a healthy family or community, and I personally think that is a huge aspect, a huge percentage of the overall burden of mental health problems is from that and also have brain health problems later in life. I mean I’m looking at loneliness and isolation and relationship to some of these brain diseases. And I know there’s, there’s quite a bit of research on that, but I’m sure you’ve, you’ve looked into.

Julia Lundstrom: Yeah. And actually that was kind of my point with my dad. I wouldn’t have been tangent around the nutrition because that’s such a big piece of it too. But I was staying there with my son and my husband for seven weeks, getting him through all this and actually living with him, which we don’t get a do as adults. Right. We don’t live with their parents anymore and it was. So my son is two years old now and to have that time with, you know, my dad being able to spend with us and his grandson. I had multiple doctors tell me that every time they see the family get involved and that family be part of it, people heal so much faster. You’re absolutely right. And I’m sure you’ve seen a lot in your practice on the social aspect and loneliness.

How toxins play a role in poor brain health

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So, one other thing I want to ask you is that you didn’t mention, have you seen much or are you convinced that a lot of the brain health problems that are becoming epidemics now are due to toxins? And I’ll mention that there’s a number of studies on this, I’m sure you’ve seen. But one I just saw the other day. I think that that just got published by Dr Datis Kharrazian and one of his colleagues was on the relationship of BPA exposure from plastics and brain inflammation and brain autoimmunity and they showed a link between BPA exposure to degenerative processes in the brain. So there and, and, and you know, of course not to mention heavy metals and mercury and things like that. But just wondering if you can, if you can speak to that a topic a bit and have you seen much research that leads you to, to think that toxins are playing a large role in all of this?

Julia Lundstrom: Well, I will be honest and saying just last year I started to get into that research so it’s still relatively new for me even if it’s not for other people, but I will say from what I’ve seen, there is a tremendous correlation between the toxins in our environment and that goes to everything. The house cleaner the other day was using chlorine on the oven. I was like, “oh, what are you doing? I don’t use chlorine anymore.” But a really, really big one is mold. And that is something that they’re really discovering now is a big problem when it comes to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. And so I encourage everyone to go get their home tested for mold because it’s kind of that silent killer that you don’t know about. And… Especially if you live in a very old building, you may not know it’s there and no one wants to deal with the ramifications of paying for, you know, cutting out walls or moving or whatever it’s going to take, but you really don’t want the ramifications of 20 years later of living in a mold infested house leading to Alzheimer’s and there are a ton of studies right now that show that that is one of the causes of Alzheimer’s disease.

So yes, toxins. What we breathe. I know a lot of the plastics that are in the ocean now that are getting, you know, the little micro, what are they called? The microplastics are getting into our water and our water supply. That’s a huge issue. I haven’t specifically seen that report you’re talking to, but I’m not surprised at all.

The real reason why we sleep less and how it affects brain health

Ari Whitten: Yeah, the, it’s brand new. I was like maybe two days ago published. Very, very interesting stuff. So, you know, what I’d love to do is dig into sleep and circadian rhythm a little bit deeper since that was the first one that you mentioned and I’m happy also that you brought a toxin clearance from the brain while we sleep and the importance of that. And I know that there have been some kind of big discoveries around that whole concept in the last year or two, uh, with the lymphatic system and, and all of that. But can you talk a bit more about why sleep is important? Brain health and, and, and this is maybe for some people like why should sleep be an issue? I mean humans still, we all still asleep and we’ve been sleeping for a long time. So, so what’s actually going on there? That is all of the sudden, why? Why is our sleep becoming bad and uh, or, or not effective in keeping our brains healthy? What, what’s actually causing them?

Julia Lundstrom: Well, I think that’s kind of a two-parter. If I heard you correctly. One was kind of what’s going on in your brain and the other is what’s causing the problem. Why people aren’t sleeping. And I think the biggest issue I undertake the latter first is stress. I think stress is a giant issue, which is another of my brain pillars that people don’t really address when it comes to your brain health, but people aren’t sleeping because they’re stressed out and so we have different brain waves that you mentioned and we have our Beta, which is kind of what most people stay in. You have your high Beta, which you know it’s you’re super stressed out state and then Beta, which is what most people are running and all day, which is this really high frequency state and then below that you have alpha, which is your more relaxed state, your creative state where you’re going to come up with your best ideas and then you have your data which is your in-between sleep states right before you fall asleep and your gamma, which is your sleep state.

And then there’s sub gamma and whatnot. So as you get into deeper sleep, the problem we have is that with a stressed out environment, people are staying in this high Beta state and you’re. You need to vary your brainwave states like you do your heart. If you go work out, you don’t want to stay super high intensity the whole time, or if you do short term, you know you’re not going to get a super high intensity for eight hours a day. They’ll give yourself a heart attack. Well, that’s what most people are doing in their brains are staying in this super high brainwave intense state. They’re not varying their brainwave states. And so to go from a High Beta state or Beta state to gamma, when you lie down to sleep at night, almost impossible to do. And that’s why it’s taking hours because your brain is trying to process to go down to these other states.

And I think that’s why meditation is so key because it helps train your brain to go to the different brainwave states. So you teach yourself how to actually go into different states to help yourself fall asleep easier and to stay asleep all night. You know, there’s always those people that wake up at 1:00 AM and just can’t get back to sleep for hours. And we’ve all been there, I mean we, we’ve done it, you know, and for me it’s always when I’m stressed out, when there’s too much on my mind when there’s too much going on and I haven’t meditated, I’m out of practice, things like that. So I think that’s really key to train yourself how to get between those dates so you can fall asleep easier or allow time to process thoughts during the day. If you’re not going to meditate, at least give yourself 20 minutes that’s not right before bed to process your thoughts because when you lie down in bed, what’s happening, you’re just processing all your thoughts.

Well, if you can just give yourself that time, you know, outside of the sleep to just, I don’t know, lay down, close your eyes on the couch or whatever, you know, 6:00 at night and just process those thoughts so that they’re out of your head by the time you lay down and go to sleep. That helps. But people are stressed out so they’re not getting enough sleep and they’re not prioritizing it. I mean, I put my sleep before everything else and I’ll clear my schedule the next day if I’m going to go have a big night or there’s a wedding or something going on so that I can sleep and I’ll even line up care for my son so that I can sleep. So it’s really prioritizing it because people, like I said at the beginning, they just think, you know, no one, no one really sleeps. I know my cousin sleep maybe four or five hours a night and he just, now I will say there is a gene that five percent of people have where they don’t need more than four or five hours with the sleep. But if you really, my cousin think this thing that if you really believe it’s, you go get tested. Not doing this, you know, you’re a vocable damage to your brain over the long term. And we know it causes strokes and heart attacks and Alzheimer’s and dementia have decades worth of sleep deprivation.

Ari Whitten: So we’re stressed and as a result of that, sleeping less than we used to. And I know that there are some data around that that you know, that have tracked average amount of hours of sleep over the last 60 years or something like that and it’s gone down by about an hour and a half or two hours a night. And depending on what study you look at, they might differ by half an hour or 45 minutes or so. But um, the overall trend is clearly in the direction of less sleep. So what if somebody says, I’m getting, you know, I, I get seven and a half hours of sleep are or were for seven hours of sleep every night. Am I good? If, if somebody says to you, did they get in bed every night at 10:30 and they wake up at six, do you say, okay, you’re good to go, your sleep issue is solved? Or is there more to it than that?

Julia Lundstrom: There’s a lot more to it. And I think this goes to everything around the human body is that every single person is unique and we all have our own physiology and so it’s really important to find out how much sleep you need. I’m a nine-hour girl myself and so it’s really important for me to go to bed early and lately I’ve actually just been going to bed with my son at 7:30 and eight so that I can get up at 5:00 in the morning and go surf or whatever it is I’m going to do. But that hasn’t always been the case. I’ve usually been a night owl, so that’s changed for me, but it’s keeping a journal and now sleep changes do take time. So if you’re really sleep deprived and all of a sudden you start getting nine hours a night, you may not notice that it’s improving your health and improving your sleep for a couple of weeks.

So try to give yourself that space and time to sleep. And the other part is of course, are you actually getting into your REM sleep? Are you getting into the different phases of sleep? Because that’s really important as well. If you’re, let’s say you drink a lot, you may never be getting into a deep sleep, and so you may sleep 10 hours, but it’s not quality sleep and that’s what we’re looking for. And actually quality is almost better than quantity, noninterrupted sleep. It’s better to get five hours uninterrupted than eight hours where you’re being woken up every 30 minutes or 40 minutes. So those are really key components there. I mean that’s a big one, but it’s going to depend on the person. Ad they’re going to have to keep a journal and figure out what’s working for them. If they feel great after seven and a half hours, great, no problem.

If they feel great after nine hours, no problem. But I, it’s really going to be measuring how you feel in the morning and good sleep actually starts in the morning. It starts with your morning routines. It starts with what you do during the day. If you’re not getting movement throughout the day, you’re probably not going to sleep very well. If you’re not eating well, you’re not going to sleep very well. If you’re not meditating or having those different brainwave states throughout the day, you’re not going to sleep very well. So those are all really… It’s all tied together.

The connection between artificial light exposure and brain health

Ari Whitten: Have you found any research on artificial light exposure at night in relation to brain health?

Julia Lundstrom: That’s very, very key. I’m glad you brought that up, but I know you know this one. That’s our circadian rhythm is exactly what makes us sleep. Now there are chemical, of course, there’s a bunch of chemicals that are involved in that GABA one. There’s also another one that has to do with your memory.

Ari Whitten: Oh, the irony, the irony.

Julia Lundstrom: It’s not an easy one.

Ari Whitten: Say it again.

Julia Lundstrom: 4BEP2. So that’s a chemical that that’s actually, I talked about your, your memories consolidating. That’s the chemical that does it. That builds up during the day. Your GABA builds up during the day. Basically start with an empty tank in the morning and as you go throughout their day, it builds up and builds up. And that’s actually, it’s like a stop sign in between your brain cells and it, it just makes everything shut down and go to sleep. It makes the transmitters transmitting or not a transplant I guess I should say. So that’s, that’s an important one too. So the light is actually helping these chemicals build up and helping these chemicals do what they’re supposed to do at the end and a lot of sleep problems are caused because people don’t have enough GABA and their system.

And so people supplement with Gavin what not. But I, I’ve been thinking about that so much lately. So it’s funny that you bring it up, especially since I’ve just started going to bed at in the past month or two I guess now with my son, when the sun goes down I go to bed and I’m up with the sun and I tell you it’s made a complete change in my brainwave states and how I feel throughout the day and my energy levels and how happy I am. And I think there’s. I know there’s a lot of studies. I don’t have one off the top of my head. I went through a lot of, about two years ago, and there’s such a high correlation with the sunrise and sunset and the artificial light that we get at night and how that’s messing with when we’re supposed to go to sleep and…

The effect of staying up late at night has on your health

Ari Whitten: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. A couple things. One is also just Melatonin suppression at Melatonin is a key stabilizer of mitochondrial membranes including mitochondrial membranes in the brain and actually protects the cells from damage and if you’re chronically suppressing that with artificial light at night, you know, I would imagine that adds up and you know, probably contributes to a lot of neurodegenerative diseases, but I would imagine we probably need more research on that. The other thing is kind of a, you, as you were alluding to this, this change in your bedtime, I’m curious if you found any relationship of Chronotype to a brain health, like have you, is there research showing that night owls are uniquely prone to, to brain problems and going to bed earlier is linked with better brain health. Have you seen anything of that nature?

Julia Lundstrom: I haven’t seen a lot of research on night owl specifically, but there is a ton of research on night shift workers and yes, very degenerative over decades. A year or two, not a big deal, but if you’re a night shift worker and nurse, a physician that works nights over decades, extreme neurodegenerative diseases can happen. So lots and lots of research done on that. But as far as like night owls that stay up till one or 2:00 in the morning, I haven’t seen any. They, they’re, they’re probably out there. But usually they’re looking more at the complete shift tell our customers to, if they’ve been doing it for decades to find another job. And that’s a hard one to here. But it’s, you know,

Ari Whitten: That’s my least favorite questions as circadian rhythm and sleep or a big passion of mine. And it’s honestly the least favorite question that I ever get is somebody who is a night shift worker who has been it for years or decades and they depend on it for their living. You know, I’ve even had some people who work day shifts and night shifts and they couldn’t survive financially without doing that and I mean, it’s just, I just feel it just gives me the worst feeling to then tell them like, “hey, your night shift work is probably doing really serious damage to your health and can probably going to lead to disease in the long run”. And then to hear like they can’t in some cases they can’t change that situation.

And I’m like, I almost feel bad. Like I’m going to create a nocebo effect and actually make it even worse for them by telling them that there’s research showing that it leads to bad health outcomes. And so I kind of am a little bit tormented by that ethically as far as like, should I tell this person who’s stuck in this situation about this research or should I keep it from them?  I never know what the right answer is in that situation. But, uh, I always, I always ended up being convinced that telling people about the research and at least giving them the opportunity to have that knowledge and decide what to do with it is probably the best situation.

Julia Lundstrom: Yeah. It’s a really tough one. It’s also a double edge sword because of my dad ran to the hospitals for two months ago, it was at night, and I’ll tell you a thing, those fit night shift physicians and the nurses, you’re grateful they’re there, you’re really grateful they’re there. Go look at them and just feel really bad about what they’re doing to themselves. So it is a double-edged sword on that.

Ari Whitten: Yeah, 100 percent. I’m certainly grateful they’re there too. Having said that, I also know quite a bit of quite a few nurses personally and have known many over the years and I just cannot tell you how many nurses that I’ve seen with chronic health problems as a result, in my opinion, almost certainly as a result of night shift work who have, when I told them to demand that they do not work night shifts anymore or find some way of not working night shifts their health problems all of a sudden magically improve and disappeared. So, ‘yeah, it’s this weird irony where so many people in the health profession are, are suffering in terms of their health because of their working situation.

How to clear toxins from your brain

So the other aspect of this question that I asked you is kind of the mechanisms of how sleep leads to a better brain health. And I know you, you kind of mentioned in passing the clearance of toxins, but can you dig in a bit more to the mechanisms?

Julia Lundstrom: Well, let’s see. I’ve already talked about the 4BPEtwo. So that one’s a really winning when it comes to the memory and the. And this is one that is where I usually focus on, um, so when you’re looking at the neurotransmitters in your knowns, in your brain, what’s happening during the is every single time that you think a thought or you speak or you move your, the chemicals in your brain are releasing a little bit of trash every single time. And that was built up during the day. So those are the toxins. And then at night that’s when you can, you know, we like to talk about the cleaning crews come in and they fix the potholes and they take the graffiti off the walls and they clean the trash from the streets. That’s what’s happening because if you don’t clean up that little bit of neuro trash, it’s going to build up.

And then it’s almost like a, you know, people talk about brain fog, but it is almost like you’re, it’s traveling through fog or mud. You know, your electric signals are traveling through mud during the day because you haven’t cleaned up that trash. And so that’s really the only time your brain can focus on doing that is when you’re asleep. Because of course, when you’re awake, there’s too much else going on, you’re moving and talking and breathing and looking and hearing and smelling and seeing. But that’s what’s so beautiful about sleep is all those get shut off actually getting paralyzed when we sleep as well. From the neck down and that’s another way that your brain is saying, okay, I need all these resources to help get rid of all this narrow trash that’s happened. And of course it’s all in all your brain and all of your cells in your body, in your brain.

So yeah, I mean if you think about, you know, cutting off an hour or two a night of sleep, how much of that neuro trash gets left in your brain? So how much now are you not going to be able to recall those memories fast. I mean, it’s not just about memory sticking and you remembering things, but it’s also about the speed of recall. You know, when you have those, those tip of the tongue moments and it’s right there. It’s right there. I know it’s there or it’s about retaining. When you’re learning how fast you learn to someone have to show you something two, three times or did you get it the first time. So it’s things like that. There’s different components of memory and different components of using your brain when it comes to your memory and each of those needs. The clean highways to get through such a critical component to clean out that neuro trash.

Ari Whitten: On that note, I’m wondering if you have seen any of the kind of. There’s, there’s a trend now for a lot of people, especially like biohacking types of people to talk about things like, “oh, here’s how to, you know, here’s my special bio hack to be able to function on just, you know, five hours of sleep instead of, you know, so you don’t waste an extra two or three hours of sleep because you’re not sleeping efficiently” and, and things like that. Well, what do you think of those kinds of claims?

Julia Lundstrom: Well, I think again, long term we don’t have any studies longterm because these are all kind of new, you know, trendy things too. I know that we all know the book where he talks about sleeping two hours at a time throughout the day and night and yeah, I mean the dream is that we all have more time, but I think long-term that is just going to cause so much damage to a person’s brain and it does, it takes a decade or two or three to see the damage, but I do believe that it’s, it’s a bad trend and I don’t think there’s any replacement for sleep. There’s just not. I would rather I used to get really bad and that I needed to nine hours of sleep, but my awakening hours after that, you know, the other, what is it, 16, 15 hours a day are so much higher quality and so much more productive and so much more fun and energetic. Then if I got six hours of sleep and that’s the way I look at it, like I can pack and much more in those fishing hours than I would in 18 hours because it’s just higher quality.

Julia Lundstrom: I think it’s a bad trend. Have you experimented with any of that yourself?

Ari Whitten: No. I’m very into various strategies to improve sleep and circadian rhythm and to improve sleep efficiency, but I sleep how long my body tells me it wants to sleep and I’m also an extremely active person between lifting weights and sprinting and rock climbing and surfing and hiking and things like that. That, I mean if I wanted to cut two hours off my sleep and still wake up refreshed, you know, one strategy I could do is not be nearly as physically active then my body wouldn’t need nearly as much recovery time and sleep time. But I kinda like being really physically active. So, you know, sleeping more is what my body needs and I listen to my body and if I don’t and if I consistently cut it off artificially and say I only want to sleep this much, then what happens is first my energy levels tank, then my brain function tanks and I’m not as productive and efficient with my time during the day.

And then my immune system tanks and then I get sick. And then nothing is functioning well and then I can’t be active. And then all my body wants to do is lay down and rest. So, um, there’s, there’s a right balance and maybe this is different for each individual that everybody else, that everybody has their unique balance point. But for me, I need eight hours and oftentimes nine hours of sleep in order to remain highly energetic and stay physically active and performing well physically and mentally and to keep my immune system strong so that I don’t get sick because if I don’t, you know, being super, physically active, doing lots of hours of intense exercise combined with sleep deprivation is a recipe for getting sick really fast.

The best brain food and the best supplements for brain health and Alzheimer’s prevention

So let’s move on to nutrition. What, and I know you’ve, you’ve talked about DHA and B12 so far. I’m looking at my memory. Isn’t that impressive?

Julia Lundstrom: Very good. Most people don’t know what DHA is because when you talk about Omega threes, everybody looks at the EPA. It’s actually the DHA when it comes to your brain health and it’s, it’s such, it makes herself more fluid. It makes electricity move faster through your brain. Like that’s one of the… I could go on forever about DHA. So one of the ones I talk about both, so yes, but I’m proud of you referred DHA because it’s… Not a lot of people have looked at or talk about DHA.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. So what, what are, are there any other significant nutrients of note, and maybe I have two questions here. One is, are there any aspects of things that people are eating that are known to be harmful to the brain that people are maybe not aware of and should be aware of? And then maybe is there anything you can build on as far as B12in Dha at any other nutrients or foods that are particularly supportive of brain health?

Julia Lundstrom: Absolutely. I mean this is another one I could talk about all day or with nutrition and brain health. I know you could too, right. Um, so I’m going to start from a really high level and go back to individual physiology. So it’s really different for every single person on what your body needs. And the FDA has our recommended allowances, but most people don’t even know how they’re, what they’re consuming, if that even falls in those guidelines. So the first thing I always recommend for people to do is to test themselves and I use a great app called chronometer. It’s free, there’s a 100 of them out there, my plate, but it doesn’t go down, so chronometer goes down to the micronutrient level so you can measure your food for two weeks and see what you’re lacking. Now, of course it’s the FDA recommendations, but at least start there and then test what works for yourself.

Test, taking out dairy, test, taking in different foods. I want to be careful when I talk about that because that is a critical component for our brain health and we’ve had the past 30 years of “fat is bad. Don’t eat fat. It makes you fat”, which is a complete lie that we now know, right? Yes, that is high in calories. If you’re only eating fat and your plus, you’re eating a bunch of carbs, you’re going to get fat, but fat is hugely important for your brain health, your brain. Off the top of my head, I think it’s 80 percent of your brain is actually fat. So critically important for your brain health and the rest of your body. So that’s another huge nutrient, but most people don’t certainly don’t get enough fat.

Ari Whitten: Any particular type of fat, I mean DHA, it’s obviously an important fat that’s linked to brain health. Are there some distinctions that you want to make as far as fats that are either healthy or less healthy or healthy for brain health?

Julia Lundstrom: Right? I mean you’re it and that does kind of go back to the old studies around saturated fat versus unsaturated fat. Like Avocados are one of the best fats you can eat and fishy fats, your Omega three, Omega six, Omega nines, all very important fatty acids. So those. And again, I’ll just go back to, there are some things I just recommend everybody to supplement with. I mean, unless you’re eating filet of salmon and night, which they do in Sweden, which is probably why they are all so fit. But you know, Supplement with these. But fat is that as a critical component and so are so many of the other micronutrients. I know a lot of people have folate issues, which goes back to the um, but a lot of people don’t absorb folate, so that’s another, I’m gonna talk from kind of the big picture again, so when you’re measuring. So what I’ll do is I’ll take two weeks and chronometer and it’ll tell me down to the micronutrient level and for some reason I’ve always kind of lacking in the irons and the metals and so I know that that’s what I should supplement with, but then you also have to take it one step further and measure your blood tests and get everything measured and you usually want to do it a couple of different times because it’s a snapshot in time, right?

If I go get my blood tested tomorrow, it’s just going to be dependent upon what I’ve eaten in the last few days. So you want to do it over time to see what is lacking as well. And then supplement with either food or food and diet or supplements. Say Supplement. I don’t always mean a pill and I take more of that food in. So that’s really key because what’s happening I think is with our process food, like you’re talking about what not to eat sugar, of course everyone’s beating up on sugar. We’re not going to say it with your brain health has been high correlations of the amount of sugar people eat and dementia and stroke. Stroke is a huge one when it comes to sugar intake. Salt is another one. The average American eats over 3,500 milligrams of salt daily and you’re only supposed to have 1500 by the FDA standards, which I think is even still probably high.

And that’s going to get, do things like give you kidney problems later in life. But salts is another one where it’s not very good to have that excess salt your brain. So your general heart health and food health diets, you know, I’d, I’d always recommend the Mediterranean Diet seems to be the best balance when you get good fats like olive oils and olives and certain cheeses and fish, a lot of fish and lean meats and things like that. I’m trying to think here. So yeah, I mean I always kind of take it from that level because it is so independent and per person that it’s hard for me to say, you know, well, you should be going out and eating this percentage of your diet and fat and carbs and protein when that might not be what’s right for you.

Ari Whitten: And you know, as I’m hearing you talk kind of in and say, you know, a lot of people could use more fat and less sugar. I think maybe one distinction is important. Are you saying that people should go out and eat as much fatty red meat as possible and avoid things like blueberries which are rich in sugar? Or are you trying to get at something else?

Julia Lundstrom: Thank you for making that distinction is I know that you know that one, no, natural sugars are fine. Um, it’s the added sugars in 1975, a high fructose corn syrup was introduced in this country and the epidemic of obesity with the introduction of high fructose corn syrup is just a one to one correlation. Absolutely everything. Your bread, your ketchup, say any, I mean salad dressings, anything you think is the only thing that’s not in your natural foods, fruits and vegetables, it’s even in your chickens like they pumped chicken now is sugar water to make them look bigger, so you want to really be careful with this and like when I went shopping for my dad to look for low sodium, all those meats that you get that are already know, pre-packaged those and even that, your Deli meats, tons of sodium. I had asked for specific low sodium meets, but yes, natural fruits I think are good for you. Blueberries specifically you, you nailed it on the hat is one of the brain-boosting foods, tons of antioxidants and blueberries, which is great. You’ve got to get rid of those free radicals flying around your brain.

You know, flax seeds are really good for your brain. Chia seeds,  avocado, asparagus a lot of a lot of your foods that are good for your heart and your health are also good for your brain, but natural fruit, natural sugars are okay.

Ari Whitten: Are there any brain super foods or herbs or you know, various kinds of, of plant foods, botanicals, things like that that you think are really special in terms of their effects on the brain?

Julia Lundstrom: Absolutely, and we actually, we have a monthly newsletter we just said “are your superfoods so super.?” And the point of that was that yes, your superfoods, your blueberries, I just mentioned a lot of, um, spinach, Avocados, Chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts. Very, very good for your brain. Of course, fish that I’ve talked to about your fatty fish, salmon’s, a lot of anchovies and sardines, but what you have to be careful of when you’re looking at that, and that’s why I talked about are they so super if you want to prepare and a lot of spices like turmeric and things like that, but you want to prepare them yourself. Anytime you buy the pre-processed precut carrots or your preprocessed, even turmeric preprocess turmeric, either taking out so many of the nutrients and vitamins that it’s just better to just buy the root and shave it yourself to make your superfoods even more super. You really should be taking the whole food and making yourself and of course it’s more time consuming, but it’s much more time consuming to be sick and have a disease.

The worst advice on brain health

Ari Whitten: Absolutely. So   Couple other questions I have for you. Is the worst advice that you see throwing around out there as far as brain health?

Julia Lundstrom: Well, I think we’ve touched a little bit on it… maybe a lot on it, but I think it really comes down to this pill popping society and people go in and they see a doctor and he gives them a diagnosis and it gives them a pill and they go home and take the pill and then they may be on it for a week or a month or forever and no one’s asking ”what does this do?” And then they prescribed another pill for some other problem and how do those work together in the brain and what the chemical reaction that’s happening around when those two come together. And so I think that this is. This is a really, really big problem we’re seeing. I think the average American, It can vary from year to year. I think five years ago it was on three and now it’s like eight medications and of course the commercials you see and it’s just that and then you have multiple doctors.

One doctor isn’t talking to the other and it’s like going back to my dad, he was on a multivitamin that his primary care wanted him to be on for the beach while and everything else in it, but I loved it. The potassium level was 33 percent of his intake for the day or wait for him. That’s his 100 percent of his intake for the day and one multivitamin. Why is he taking this? And no one caught that? I’m the one who caught that. So you have to take charge of your own health and you have to know what’s in these prescriptions. Most people don’t know. They don’t know what it does to them. They don’t research them, they don’t look. I mean the information is online and it talks about what side effects it has and, and you’ll see so many times that the side effects of so many of these prescriptions are fogginess and hard to sleep.

And all the other problems that people are having, it’s just exasperating those problems which are going to create more problems in the future. So really dangerous that your doctors don’t ask about your sleep, they don’t ask about your diet, they don’t ask you about your social life and instead they just go straight to their pad. And I know that doctors get a lot of slack, but I tell you that they’d still do. Every doctor I see, that’s the first thing they do. So it’s beating up bottom and I’m grateful. So grateful they’re there. But at the same time, our, our, our medicinal world needs to change.

Julia’s top 3 tips to improving your brain health

Ari Whitten: To wrap up, what are your three top tips that you want to leave people with to improve their brain health that will get them to start seeing results, to start to see results maybe in the next 30, 60 days? Something like that.

Julia Lundstrom: I would say kind of just to summarize everything we’ve talked about and try something new. Challenge Yourself, um, read a nonfiction book. I think that’s just such a big one because most people get stuck in a Rut. You know, our learning curve when we’re born through age 30 is just straight up and down and then we start to get a little comfortable in our careers, our lives and have kids and then we get older and then our learning curves actually go down and we stop learning. We stop using our brain and the piece of me really thinks that the reason that we have brain shrinkage and we have memory problems is we just stopped using it. I see how much kids learn every day and my son learns every day and I try to do the same. I’m an adamant reader. I’m out there learning new stuff all the time. I just haven’t played volleyball in 30 years. I bought a volleyball yesterday that’s been sitting around to use the other parts of my brain and body, so really get out there, try something new. Whether it’s the standards of learning an instrument or learning a new language or just be creative with it and don’t just sit behind the computer. I think that’s a really big one. Turn off the TV, turn off the computer, go back to the fifties, forties. When they didn’t have it, what did people do for fun? Go do that.

Julia Lundstrom: Go do something fun and laughs. Oh my goodness. Laugh. Even if it’s watching a funny movie, I don’t care who it is so important for our brain and our body and our. Our whole big. There was one study done in diabetics patients where one group, they both eat the same meals. One Wing Watch, a sad movie and the other went and watched it. The other group went and watched a comedy and the group that watched the comedy not need their insulin shot after watching the movie. Whereas the Sadd group, so talk about what last year does to you, right? It just laugh right now. Even just smile. Fake it. If you go out there and laugh and be social with your friends and try something new and then actually use your memory. And I’m not talking about challenging yourself. Learning something new. I’m talking about learning or trying to memorize things and there are lots of memory tricks out there.

Julia Lundstrom: Go learn some of them. Um, you know, numbers once. There’s a great book called Moonwalking with Einstein. If you want to learn how to really learn how to memorize things and use your memory. This is the book and it follows this guy Josh, for how he went from just a regular guy to in one year the memory champion, I think the United States just fantastic book, but there are all these tools and techniques. Start memorizing your shopping list. Stop depending so much on technology. Start using your memory to remember your dates and schedules and you know, so look at your schedule first thing in the morning and then don’t look at your calendar the rest of the day. So you have to remember, try remembering people’s names. Use Your memory before you lose it. Those would be my three things.

Ari Whitten: Beautiful. I love it. So this has been an absolute pleasure. I’ve loved the content and I’m really excited to share this with my audience. Where can people go to learn more about your work, a signup for your email list. Also, do you have any programs that people can sign up for?

Julia Lundstrom: Absolutely. So our website is Tons and tons of articles on there. Um, it, like I said, our latest one is on are your superfoods, so super talks about the whole food versus the process. So you can go to our website. Simple smart on there is a registration for my webinar that I host a multiple times a week where you go on and you just register and I talk about more things you can do in the next 30 days to improve your memory all from the comfort of your own home so you can pick a date and time that works for you there. Um, and yeah, like I said, there’s just tons of information there. So.

Ari Whitten: Beautiful. Well thank you so much Julian. It’s been an absolute pleasure and I look forward to talking again soon.

Julia Lundstrom: Absolutely, Ari. You definitely challenged me in some of those questions and I love that.

Ari Whitten: That’s my goal. Thanks so much Julia.

Julia Lundstrom: Alright, take care.

Ari Whitten: Bye.

Julia Lundstrom: Bye.

The Top Supplements for Brain Health, Brain Foods, and The 3 Keys to Alzheimer’s Prevention and Optimal Brain Health with Julia Lundstrom– Show Notes

The main causes of poor brain health (3:54)

How to strengthen your brain health (11:31)

Why social connection is important for brain health and healing (17:54)

How toxins play a role in poor brain health (20:27)

The real reason why we sleep less and how it affects brain health (23:07)

The connection between artificial light exposure and brain health (31:27)

The effect of staying up late at night has on your health (33:44)

How to clear toxins from your brain (37:57)

The best brain food and the best supplements for brain health and alzheimer’s prevention (44:44)

The worst advice on brain health (54:34)

Julia’s top 3 tips to improving your brain health (57:15)



To learn more about Julia’s work, go check out her website.


THe best supplements for brain health │ brain food │ Alzheimer's Prevention │ Meditation.
Meditation is great for brain health. Listen in, as I talk to Emily Fletcher about meditation for energy and high performance.

The Ultimate Guide To Red Light Therapy And Near-Infrared Light Therapy (Updated 2018)

The Ultimate Guide to Red Light Therapy Cover Image,

What if the missing key to achieving your fat loss, anti-aging, and health goals was … light?

Of course, everyone knows about the importance of vitamin D from sunlight (from UV light). But few are aware that there is another type of light that may be just as vital to our health – red and near-infrared light (also referred to as photobiomodulation.)

Think it’s all just hype? Think again! Believe it or not, there are now over 3,000 peer-reviewed scientific studies showing incredible health and anti-aging benefits of red light therapy and near-infrared light therapy, proving that they can help you:

  • Fight skin aging, wrinkles, and cellulite and look 10 years younger
  • Lose fat (nearly twice as with diet and exercise alone)
  • Rid your body of chronic inflammation
  • Fight the oxidative damage that drives aging
  • Increase strength, endurance, and muscle mass
  • Decrease pain
  • Combat hair loss
  • Build resilience to stress at the cellular level
  • Speed up wound/injury healing
  • Combat some autoimmune conditions and improve hormonal health
  • Optimize your brain function and mood
  • Overcome fatigue and improve energy levels

If there was a pill that was proven to have all these effects, it would be hailed as a “miracle drug.” Hundreds of millions of people would be told to start taking it by their doctors every day. And people would tell you that you’re crazy if you weren’t taking it.



What Is Red Light Therapy And Near-Infrared Light Therapy/Photobiomodulation?

Red and near-infrared light are part of the electromagnetic spectrum, and more specifically, part of the spectrum of light emitted by the sun (and also fire light). These wavelengths of light are “bioactive” in humans. That means that these types of light literally affect the function of our cells.

So what’s all this talk of “electromagnetic spectrum” and “spectrum of light”? Let’s take a look at the electromagnetic spectrum so I can show you more clearly what I’m talking about…

visible light spectrum - red light therapy,

Electromagnetic waves range from 0.0001 nanometer (gamma rays and x-rays are very small waves) all the way to over centimeters and meters (radar and radio waves).

White light through a prism - red light therapy, theenergyblueprint.comIf you pass white light (like sunlight) through a prism, it will separate out the different colors based on their wavelengths. This is how we get rainbows as well, and you might remember this from school with the acronym ROY. G. BIV, which stands for red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.

A tiny part of this spectrum – from roughly 400nm to 700nm – is visible to the human eye.

At the highest end of the visible light spectrum is red light, which goes from a little over 600nm to approximately 700nm. Above the visible light spectrum is near-infrared, from about 700nm to a little over 1,100nm.

It is the red and near-infrared wavelengths specifically that have these amazing effects on our bodies. (Interestingly, even within that range, not all the red and near-infrared wavelengths seem to be created equal. Specifically, most research showing benefits of red light and near-infrared light have used wavelengths in the narrow ranges of 630-680nm and 800-880nm.)

While most other wavelengths of light (such as UV, blue, green, and yellow light, etc.) are mostly unable to penetrate into the body and stay in the layers of the skin, near-infrared light and red light are able to reach deep into the human body (several centimeters, and close to 2 inches, in some cases) and are able to directly penetrate into the cells, tissues, blood, nerves, the brain, and into the bones.

penetration range of different wavelengths │ red light therapy,

Once in those deeper tissues, red light and near-infrared (NIR) light have incredible healing effects on the cells where they can increase energy production, modulate inflammation, relieve pain, help cells regenerate faster, and much more.


Why Doesn’t Everyone Already Know About  Near-Infrared and Red Light Therapy? (And Do You Need Lasers To Get The Benefits?)

Two big barriers specifically have hindered the widespread adoption of this technology by the general public:

  1. Until recently, it was thought that you needed an expensive laser device to obtain these benefits. This technology has been in use in doctor’s offices for many years now and goes by the name of either “low-level laser therapy” (LLLT) or “cold laser.” These red/NIR light laser devices often cost $5,000-$30,000. This is precisely why this technology hasn’t gone mainstream and why most people still haven’t heard of it – because most people are under the impression that you can only get near-infrared and red light therapy from these incredibly expensive laser devices.
  2. Red and near-infrared therapy LED panels are also being used in anti-aging clinics, where people are being charged $75-$300 per single session to use these lights. This is one of the other barriers – most people believe not only that these lights cost many thousands of dollars, but also that they can only use them by paying hundreds of dollars for a single treatment in a fancy clinic.

Shockingly, new research has shown that it is not necessary to use these expensive laser devices, and most experts now agree that it’s possible to get the same benefits from near-infrared and red light therapy LED panels at a fraction of the cost.

Here’s what Harvard researcher Michael Hamblin, PhD (widely regarded as the world’s top authority on photobiomodulation) has to say on this subject:

“Most of the early work in this field was carried out with various kinds of lasers, and it was thought that laser light had some special characteristics not possessed by light from other light sources such as sunlight, fluorescent or incandescent lamps and now LEDs. However all the studies that have been done comparing lasers to equivalent light sources with similar wavelength and power density of their emission, have found essentially no difference between them.[1]

So you don’t need a $5,000-$30,000 medical laser device to get these amazing health benefits. You can get these effects with a device that costs just a few hundred dollars.

You don’t have to go to a clinic and pay $75-$300 per treatment. Once you buy one of these devices, you can do unlimited treatments at home for free (or for just the cost of a few minutes of electricity)! You can do light sessions at home with your own light and get all the same benefits while saving yourself the thousands of dollars you would spend at an anti-aging or medical clinic.

As people come to realize that you can get all the amazing benefits of near-infrared and red light therapy without spending $5,000-$30,000 on a laser device or $75-$300 for a single treatment session in an anti-aging clinic, I believe this therapy will go mainstream and nearly everyone will have a red/NIR light therapy device in their home. After all, who wouldn’t want to have a simple-to-use device in their home that can dramatically speed healing, improve hormonal health, accelerate fat loss, increase energy, and combat skin aging?


The Five “Bioactive” Types of Light: Why Humans Need Sunlight to Be Healthy

Just as human cells need nutrients from food, light is also a necessary nutrient for our cells to function well. Certain wavelengths of light can help power up our cells, affect hormones and neurotransmitters, balance our mood, enhance physical performance, hasten recovery from stress, increase alertness, improve sleep, and positively affect the expression of our genes.

The human body needs light to be healthy. Both the right types and the right doses.

This may seem like a strange idea at first, as we’re generally not used to thinking of light as playing an important role in our health. We’re used to thinking of light as what we turn on in our house so we can see, or the headlights of our car that allow us to drive at night. Most of us are deeply unaware of the fact that many different types of light are “bioactive” in humans (which means they affect the functioning of human cells), and that our health is largely influenced by the dosage of these different types of light that we get each day.

These are the five types of bioactive light in humans:

The Five “Bioactive” Types of Light - red light therapy

Most modern humans are deficient in the benefits of all of these five wavelengths of light. And just as there are health consequences of not getting enough of the right nutrients in our diet (malnutrition), there are health consequences when we don’t get enough of the right light “nutrients” (mal-illumination).

What kind of health consequences?

Here are two well-known examples of how light deficiencies and imbalances impact human health in profound ways…

Sunlight deficiency and vitamin D deficiency have been linked with numerous diseases, such as:

There is even research that suggests that low levels of sun exposure are a risk factor for human health equivalent to that of being a cigarette smoker![16] A Swedish study looked at nearly 30,000 women for 20 years (note: studies with this many people that are this long-term are exceedingly rare) and found that women with the lowest sun exposure had a twofold higher rate of death compared to the women with the most sun exposure![17]

As another example of mal-illumination, artificial light exposure at night (from electronic devices like phones, TVs, computers, indoor lighting, etc.) have been linked with numerous diseases, like:

  • Numerous types of cancer[18],[19]
  • Depression[20]
  • Fat gain, obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome[21],[22],[23]
  • Insomnia and poor sleep[24]
  • Mood disorders[25]

And this is just a few of the dozens of health problems linked to mal-illumination.

But what if I told you that there is another kind of light deficiency that most people are totally unaware of, and that is likely even more problematic?

Near-infrared (NIR) and red light deficiency.

Red and near-infrared light have profound effects on our cellular and hormonal health. And we’re designed to need ample amounts of those types of light to have optimal health.

Just as the modern world of processed food leads to chronic malnutrition, our modern light environment (of too much of the wrong kinds of light and too little of the right kinds, and with poor timing) is called mal-illumination. The vast majority of people living in the modern world are suffering from chronic mal-illumination and don’t even realize it. And it has widespread effects on our brain and organ function, immune system , energy levels, mood, neurotransmitter balance, and hormone levels.


How Does Near-Infrared (NIR) and Red Light Therapy Work?

The next important question to answer is “how the heck does red and near-infrared light actually cause these effects?”

We know how UV light affects us, for example – it works primarily by interacting with our skin and stimulating the production of vitamin D. We also know how blue light enters our eyes and feeds back into the circadian clock in our brain (in the suprachiasmatic nucleus) to regulate our 24-hour biological rhythm, including the complex array of hormones and neurotransmitters that are regulated by this circadian clock in our brain.

These mechanisms are well understood by science. But what about red/NIR light?

There are numerous different physiological and biochemical mechanisms that researchers have identified as being affected by red and near-infrared light, but for our purposes here (since this is not an article meant for academics, but for regular people wanting to benefit from red and near-infrared light), I don’t want to get too bogged down in the details of dozens of different molecular signaling pathways at the cellular level. Instead, I want to keep things as simple and easily understandable as possible.

To give you an idea of what I mean when I say that things can be complex, here is a short list of biochemical pathways that have been proven to be altered by red/near-infrared light:

  • Cytochrome c oxidase
  • Retrograde mitochondrial signaling
  • Light-sensitive ion channels
  • Adenosine triphosphate (ATP)
  • Cyclic AMP
  • Reactive oxygen species (ROS)
  • Calcium
  • Nitric oxide (NO)
  • Nuclear factor kappa B
  • Hypoxia-inducible factor
  • Akt/GSK3b/b-catenin pathway
  • Akt/mTOR/CyclinD1 pathway
  • PPARy
  • RUNX2
  • Transforming growth factor
  • Pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines
  • Vascular endothelial growth factor
  • Hepatocyte growth factor
  • Basic fibroblast growth factor and keratinocyte growth factor
  • Heat-shock proteins
  • Melatonin
  • Brain-derived neurotrophic factor

Rather than talk about the details of dozens of different biochemical pathways, let me simplify the major mechanisms of red/near-infrared light on our body…


Two Key Mechanisms of NIR And Red Light Therapy

I generally think of photobiomodulation as having two central mechanisms in how it benefits cellular function and overall health:

  1. Stimulating ATP production in the mitochondria through interacting with a photoreceptor called cytochrome c oxidase.
  2. Creating a temporary, low-dose metabolic stress that ultimately builds up the anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and cell defense systems of the cell (known as hormesis, which is also a primary mechanism of why exercise works).

Two key mechanisms of near infrared and red light therapy,

Let’s talk about each of these mechanisms in more detail:


Mechanism #1: Stimulating Mitochondrial Energy Production

Researchers have found that one specific mechanism of near-infrared and red light therapy is that these wavelengths of light are able to penetrate into cells and activate the mitochondria, directly leading to increased cellular energy production. Many lines of research indicate that the mitochondria are the key player when it comes to the mechanism of how red and near-infrared light affect our cells. [26]

This point deserves special attention, because a huge amount of research in the last decade points to the mitochondria as being critical to health, disease prevention, energy levels, and longevity. The mitochondria are the batteries that fuel all the processes of our organs; thus, things which enhance the mitochondria translate into more cellular energy inside the cell, which allows the cell or organ (e.g. brain, heart, liver, skin, muscles, etc.) to work optimally.

When it comes to red/NIR, the photoacceptor cytochrome c oxidase in our mitochondria is of particular importance.

Red light therapy - impact on ATP production,

Cytochrome c oxidase is part of the respiratory chain in our mitochondria that is responsible for producing ATP (cellular energy). When red and near-infrared light photons hit the photoacceptor cytochrome c oxidase, it helps the mitochondria use oxygen more efficiently to produce ATP.

While the exact mechanisms are still debated, most researchers believe that nitric oxide (NO) plays a central role.[27],[28]

NO of course plays many vital roles in the body, but when we have too much of it, too much in the wrong place, or when our cells don’t have the antioxidant capacity to quell the buildup of NO, it can hinder ATP from being manufactured in the mitochondria. [29]  


Well, nitric oxide begins to compete with oxygen in the mitochondria.

In fact, NO binds with cytochrome c — preventing it from binding with oxygen. It basically blocks the oxygen from being used by the mitochondria. Because of this, the NO inhibits efficient ATP production.

Therefore, in unhealthy cells, nitric oxide prevents cytochrome c from getting enough oxygen molecules. This hinders ATP production, which is a recipe for poor mitochondrial function, and thus, poor cellular function.

As shown by several research groups around the world, red and near-infrared light essentially prevents this pairing of NO with cytochrome c oxidase. It knocks the NO out and lets the oxygen in!

In essence, photobiomodulation allows oxygen into the mitochondria (and prevents NO from halting energy production).[30]

This boosts mitochondrial function and helps improve the health of every organ and system in our body.


Mechanism #2: Hormesis

Another key mechanism for how near-infrared and red light therapy work is through hormesis. Hormesis is the process by which a transient metabolic stressor stimulates adaptations that actually improve health. This may sound like an odd concept at first, but you’re more familiar with it than you realize – exercise is a type of hormesis. Exercise works by transiently creating metabolic stress – stressing out the body (workouts are hard work!) and temporarily increasing reactive oxygen species, a.k.a. free radicals – and then in response to that stress, the body adapts to it with things like improved cardiovascular efficiency, improved blood delivery to the muscles, and by strengthening and growing the mitochondria. It also involves downregulating the genes involved in chronic inflammation and oxidative stress (two keys drivers of aging and disease), and upregulating the genes involved in energy production and the internal cellular antioxidant defense system.

The mitochondria get temporarily stressed in a way that causes them to send signals back to the nucleus of the cell (which contains your DNA), and these signals are literally used by the nucleus to determine what genes should be expressed. This is called “retrograde signaling.” It’s a remarkable phenomenon, because most people think that our genes do all the dictating of what happens in our cells. In fact, mitochondria generate signals (based on the environment) that signal back to the nucleus which genes to switch on and off!

In particular, the transient increases in ROS (free radicals) from red/NIR light activates many of the same cell defense systems that exercise does. The transcription factor NF-kB is activated through exposure to free radicals generated by red and near-infrared light, which promotes a very low level inflammatory response. This then engages a mechanism called the NRF2 pathway and the Antioxidant Response Element (A.R.E.) – our internal cellular antioxidant defense system – which helps put out the fire by eliminating the inflammation and free radicals. In short, in much the same way that exercise builds your muscles stronger by temporarily stressing them, light does the same thing to our internal anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory defense system. It helps make your cells more tolerant to stress, combats inflammation, helps prevent the buildup of free radicals, and ultimately makes your cells healthier, more energetic, and more resilient.

It turns out that humans actually need some of these low-level stressors in their life. The absence of these stressors actually sabotages our health.

Light serves a transient low-level stress to your cells. The end result of these cellular adaptations to the temporary stress is healthier cells that produce more energy, have a stronger anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory defense system, and are more resilient to overall stress.

How stress affect the body - red light therapy,

So near-infrared and red light therapy also are a form of hormesis, and benefit the mitochondria by creating a low dose stressor that the body then adapts to by becoming even stronger – the body increases production of internal antioxidant and anti-inflammatory systems, and builds up the size and strength of mitochondria.

In this way, red/NIR light become a powerful tool that doesn’t just temporarily alleviate symptoms (like say, an anti-inflammatory or painkiller drug), but it stimulates your body making lasting adaptations at the cellular level that lead to more resilience against stressors and a greater capacity to produce energy.


Mechanisms Summary

As mentioned above in the list of factors known to be affected by red/NIR light, there are also many other mechanisms of action of photobiomodulation which researchers are still elucidating. It is likely that other effects on specific compounds (e.g. BDNF, cAMP, nitric oxide, etc.), on stem cells,[36] on hormones,[37],[38] DNA repair,[39] or some other specific effects on gene expression[40],[41],[42] also play a role in mediating many of the positive effects of red/NIR light therapy.

The truth is that it’s possible to get endlessly complex and nuanced about all the different molecular and biochemical pathways involved. But again, to simplify all this…

In essence, what this all boils down to is that near-infrared and red light therapy help mitochondria produce more energy, decrease inflammation, and help build the cell defense systems to increase resiliency.

Thus, the reason it can benefit so many radically different health issues is actually quite simple: The health of every organ and every cell in the body depends on the energy being produced by the mitochondria in those cells. Thus, because red/NIR light therapy work to enhance mitochondrial energy production in essentially every type of cell in the body, it can enhance the cellular processes and cellular health of potentially almost every type of cell in the body.


Benefits of Red Light Therapy

the benefits of red and NIR light - red light therapy,

Here are the major benefits that have been proven by scientific research for near-infrared and red light therapy:


Near-Infrared and Red Light Therapy For Skin

Bouncy-Plump-Youthful-Skin-With-Red-Light-TherapyBecause red light stimulates both collagen and elastin production, dramatically reduces lines and wrinkles, as well as the appearance of scars, surface varicose veins, acne, and cellulite, photobiomodulation is fast becoming recognized as a safe and welcome alternative to injections and surgeries for anti-aging and skin rejuvenation.

Repairing damage from UV rays requires that skin be able to repair cellular and DNA damage, much as it does when healing from wounds. Red light does this extremely well through stimulating collagen synthesis and fibroblast formation, anti-inflammatory action, stimulation of energy production in mitochondria, and even stimulating DNA repair.[44]

A wealth of human studies is proving photobiomodulation can reverse the signs of aging, repair damage from UV rays, and reduce the appearance of lines, wrinkles, and even hard to remove scars. A 2013 issue of Seminars in Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery featured a review of the research that highlighted dozens of studies proving photobiomodulation can reduce the signs of aging.[45]

Another review of the research by Harvard professor Michael Hamblin, PhD has found that red and near-infrared light therapy can:

  • reduce the signs of damage, DNA damage, [46] and aging from UV rays[47]
  • reduce wrinkles[48]
  • reduce color patches, hyperpigmentation, and skin discoloration[49]
  • enhance collagen synthesis and collagen density (research has shown it can enhance production of collagen by 31%)[50],[51]
  • accelerate repair in the epithelial layer of skin[52]
  • combat other skin conditions like acne, keloids, vitiligo, burns, herpes virus sores, and psoriasis[53]
  • speed wound healing by enhancing skin tissue repair and growth of skin cells[54]

In short, photobiomodulation is offering a new, extremely safe and non-invasive alternative to various anti-aging skin surgeries, Botox injections, and more abrasive chemical peels. For combating skin aging, red and near-infrared light is an extraordinarily powerful tool.


Near-Infrared and Red Light Therapy For Hair Loss and Growth

Slow Hair Loss and Re-Grow Hair with Near-Infrared and Red Light TherapyRed light has also been shown to help with certain types of hair loss. Red light has proven to help both women and men with various conditions to regrow hair and even thicken the diameter of individual hair strands. Near-infrared and red light therapy has proven to help women with alopecia to significantly regrow and thicken hair.[55]


Near-Infrared And Red Light Therapy For Cellulite


One study found that when photobiomodulation is combined with massage, it led to an astounding 71% reduction in cellulite![61]

Another study that assessed the use of near-infrared and red light therapy on skin health found that “91% of subjects reported improved skin tone, and 82% reported enhanced smoothness of skin in the treatment area.”[62]


Photobiomodulation For Wound Healing

Speed-Up-Wound-Healing-With-Red-Light-TherapyNear-infrared and red light therapy are fantastic for wound healing. Red/infrared light accomplishes this in several ways:

  • cleaning up dead and damaged cells in skin (phagocytosis)
  • increasing ATP in skin cells, giving cells more energy to heal themselves
  • increasing the production of fibroblasts[64],[65]
  • increasing blood flow, supplying the wound more oxygen and nutrients needed for repair
  • stimulating the production of collagen and the health of the extracellular matrix[66]
  • stimulating lymph activity
  • stimulating the formation of new connective tissue and blood capillaries on the surface of the wound. [67],[68],[69],[70],[71],[72],[73]


Near-Infrared And Red Light Therapy For Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue, and More Energy

Studies show that red light therapy is also effective at restoring energy and vitality in persons suffering with fibromyalgia. Multiple studies have found that photobiomodulation offers:

  • Enhanced quality of life for fibromyalgia patients
  • Decreased pain
  • Decreased muscle spasm
  • Decreased morning stiffness
  • Decreased total tender point number in fibromyalgia cases

Research – including a very recent 2017 study – suggests that this therapy method is a safe and effective treatment for fibromyalgia.[76],[77],[78]


Near-Infrared and Red Light Therapy For Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism

Fight Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism with Near-Infrared and Red Light TherapySeveral studies have shown profound benefits of photobiomodulation for autoimmune hypothyroidism.

  • A recent 2013 randomized, placebo-controlled study in hypothyroid patients demonstrated that in people who got near-infrared light therapy, thyroid function dramatically improved, and remarkably, that thyroid antibody (TPOAb) levels were massively reduced. Amazingly, 47% of patients were able to stop medication completely! Moreover, the researchers also followed up 9 months after treatment and found that the effects were still evident![85] They even published a 6-year follow-up, which basically said that even at 6 years, some of the benefits still remained, but periodic sessions were recommended to maintain all benefits.[86] (To be honest, I don’t suggest red/NIR light as a one-time treatment that is expected to last long-term. For optimal benefits, most research indicates that sessions be done with red/NIR therapy at least once a week consistently.)
  • A 2010 study found that photobiomodulation helped 38 %of study participants reduce their hypothyroid medication dose, with a whopping 17% being able to stop taking the medication altogether![87]
  • A 1997 study done in Russia included some data on people with autoimmune hypothyroidism who underwent a thyroid surgery. They found that red/NIR light therapy improved thyroid hormone levels enough that they required, on average, roughly half as much thyroid hormone medication.[88]
  • A 2003 study done in the Ukraine showed that red light therapy can decrease thyroid medication needs by 50-75% in people with postsurgical hypothyroidism.[89]
  • A 2010 Russian dissertation study gave red light therapy on the thyroid gland to a group of people with hypothyroidism and found that 17% of people could completely get off thyroid medication and 38% could decrease the dose by 25-50µg.[90]
  • A 2014 study used the light therapy for 10 sessions with 347 women with subclinical hypothyroidism. At baseline, the average TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) was 9.1 mIU/L. (Note: Higher TSH is a sign of hypothyroidism). After ten sessions of light therapy, the TSH was normalized in 337 (97%) of these women. Their TSH averaged at 2.2 mIU/L after just 10 light treatments.[91]


Increase Bone Healing with Near-Infrared and Red Light Therapy

Improve Cognitive Performance with Near-Infrared and Red Light Therapy Studies on animals and humans have found that red and near-infrared light therapy greatly aids in healing breaks, fractures, and bone defects.[103] ATP production is interrupted in broken bones, and cells begin to die from lack of energy. Red and near-infrared light have been shown to:

  • Stimulate energy production in the bone cells[104]
  • Increase bone growth factors[105]
  • Enhance blood vessel formation and blood flow to the affected area[106]
  • Modulate inflammation[107]
  • Enhance the attachment and production of collagen and procollagen and stimulates growth of bone cells – all of which accelerate the bone repair process[108],[109]

Overall, bone irradiated with near-infrared wavelengths shows increased bone formation and collagen deposition.[110] Photobiomodulation is becoming very popular in all sports where breaks, sprains, and fractures are frequent — from horse racing to football.


Near-Infrared and Red Light Therapy For Inflammation (and Potentially Inflammation-Related Diseases)

Lower Inflammation (and Potentially Inflammation-Related Diseases) with Near-Infrared and Red Light Therapy (1)Red and near-infrared light therapy is highly effective in treating chronic inflammation.

Since chronic inflammation is now being recognized as a major contributor to most chronic diseases from heart disease, depression, and cancer, to Alzheimer’s and chronic fatigue syndrome, this effect of red light therapy on inflammation is a very big deal.

Many aging scientists now speak of “inflamm-aging”[111] — the concept that the genes and pathways that control inflammation may very well be the key drivers of aging and disease.

Studies have even shown that red/NIR light therapy can have anti-inflammatory effects on par with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs),[115] which are the anti-inflammatory drugs routinely prescribed and typically, the over-the-counter drugs people buy when in pain.


Improve Eye Health with Near-Infrared and Red Light Therapy

Improve Eye Health with Near-Infrared Improve Eye Health with Near-Infrared and Red Light Therapyand Red Light TherapyResearch into the benefits of near-infrared and red light therapy for eye health is very promising. Studies on animals show that photobiomodulation can heal damage to eyes from excessive bright light in the retina. This kind of damage is similar to the damage that occurs in age-related macular degeneration (AMD).[116]

One human study in patients with AMD showed that red light therapy improved vision and that improvements were maintained for 3-36 months after treatment. It also appeared to improve edema, bleeding, metamorphosia, scotoma and dyschromatopsia in some patients.[117]

Note: The eyes are sensitive tissues, and as such, for any self-use of light therapy, I suggest shorter sessions at an increased distance away from the light. And as always, for any medical conditions, consult your physician rather than attempting to self-treat.


Near-Infrared And Red Light Therapy For Anxiety And Depression

A 2009 study took 10 patients with a history of major depression and anxiety (including PTSD and drug abuse) and gave them four weeks of treatments to the forehead with red/NIR light. Remarkably, by the end of the four-week study, 6 out of 10 patients experienced a remission of their depression, and 7 out of 10 patients experienced a remission of their anxiety.”[122]

Though further research is needed, there have been 10 studies so far on the use of photobiomodulation to treat depression and anxiety related disorders with 9 of 10 studies yielding very positive results.[123],[124],[125],[126],[127],[128],[129],[130]


Improve Cognitive Performance with Photobiomodulation

Improve Cognitive Performance with Near-Infrared and Red Light TherapyIn studies, researchers have found that transcranial near-infrared and red light therapy profoundly benefits the brain and cognitive performance.[132] Research has also shown that transcranial near-infrared stimulation has been found to increase neurocognitive function in young healthy adults,[133] finding that it improved sustained attention and short-term memory retrieval in young adults, and improved memory in older adults with significant memory impairment at risk for cognitive decline.[134]

Another study found photobiomodulation also increased executive cognitive function in young healthy adults, providing hope that further studies find that near-infrared and red light therapy may provide a hopeful treatment in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease, as well as prevention.[135]


Near-Infrared and Red Light Therapy for Tendonitis

One of the most common uses for red and near-infrared therapy in clinics is for injuries and tendonitis. Because red light stimulates collagen production, speeds wound healing, and is highly anti-inflammatory, it has been shown to bring great relief to people suffering from tendinopathy and tendonitis. [136],[137]

A systematic review of the research concludes that photobiomodulation has proven highly effective in treating tendon disorders in all 12 studies conducted.[138]


Increase Fertility with Near-Infrared and Red Light Therapy

Increase Fertility with Near-Infrared and Red Light TherapySome research suggests that red light therapy may be useful for fertility, which is making quite an impact upon couples trying to conceive.

It also improves follicular health, which are highly vulnerable to oxidative stress. Two recent studies, one in Japan and one in Denmark, found that photobiomodulation improved pregnancy rates where IVF had previously failed, in Denmark, by 68%.[140]

In Japan, near-infrared and red light therapy resulted in pregnancy for 22.3% of severely infertile women with 50.1% successful live births.[141]
As mentioned previously, the testicles also have photoreceptors that respond to red light, and research shows that photobiomodulation can greatly enhance sperm motility and therefore, fertility.[142],[143]

In studies on human sperm, near-infrared light therapy at 830 nm produced significant improvements in sperm motility.[144]

Note: Some people have made some claims around the capacity ofphotobiomodulation to increase testosterone levels. While I was initially excited about this, upon exploring the research that was cited in support of this, I have concluded that the evidence is simply not strong enough to support these claims. The claims are based mostly on one study in rats, which wasn’t an impressive study – it only showed elevations in testosterone briefly on one day, before returning to normal.[145] It also didn’t show testosterone elevation for the group using near-infrared (only in the group using red light). The study did use very high doses (far too high, in my opinion) and it’s possible that a more reasonable dose could lead to benefits for testosterone levels. However, other studies have failed to show similar benefits. [146],[147]  I remain open to the possibility that red/NIR light may increase testosterone levels when used on the testes, but the evidence for it as of this writing (2018) is not sufficient. That said, there is some intriguing research on the ability of sun exposure and vitamin D to boost testosterone levels, and that seems a safer bet for now.[148],[149]

While the research on boosting testosterone is not strong, there is an abundance of solid evidence for the ability of red/NIR light therapy to improve fertility.


Near-Infrared and Red Light Therapy For Arthritis and Joint Health

Studies have also shown that near-infrared and red light therapy can help people with osteoarthritis (often called just “arthritis”).[150],[151],[152]


29 Health Benefits of Red light therapy A4-01


Decrease Diabetes Symptoms with Photobiomodulation

Decrease Diabetes Symptoms with Near-Infrared and Red Light TherapyFor diabetics, the most positive results gleaned from studies on the effects of near-infrared and red light therapy for healing is healing foot ulcers. Historically, these are harder to heal due to poor circulation and high glucose levels, especially in the lower limbs. Studies in animals and humans reveal that photobiomodulation restores diabetic patients’ normal healing ability by exerting a stimulatory effect on the mitochondria with a resulting increase in adenosine triphosphate (ATP).[158],[159],[160],[161]

Red light therapy also has had profound success in helping patients with painful diabetic neuropathy. Studies have found that photobiomodulation also helps to relieve pain and improve nerve function and foot skin microcirculation in diabetic patients.[162],[163],[164],[165]

(Another way to reduce foot ulcers is to do Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) Listen in, as Dr. Scott Sherr shares his expertise on HBOT and how it relates to diabetics with foot ulcers.)


Near-Infrared and Red Light Therapy For Oral Health

Improve Oral health with Near-Infrared and Red Light TherapyRed light therapy and near-infrared light therapy have proven to have numerous benefits for oral health and research in this area is booming right now. So far, studies indicate promising results for photobiomodulation, which has been shown to:

  • Combat viral and bacterial infections of the mouth (tonsillitis, herpes, cold sores)[166],[167],[168]
  • Reduce mouth pain[169]
  • Facilitate tooth growth/tooth movement and reduce pain for individuals with corrective braces[170],[171],[172]
  • Help diabetics with gum problems and periodontal disease[173],[174],[175]
  • Reduce thrush (yeast in the mouth/candidiasis)[176],[177]
  • Improve tooth sensitivity[178],[179]
  • Fight gum disease and gingivitis[180],[181],[182]


Improve Respiratory Health with Near-Infrared and Red Light Therapy

Improve Respiratory Health with Near-Infrared and Red Light TherapyIn studies, photobiomodulation has been shown to improve the health of those who suffer from chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma, COPD, bronchiectasis, and ILD,[184],[185],[186],[187] as well as patients suffering from chronic obstructive bronchitis.[188]



Red And Near-Infrared Light Therapy For Pain Relief

Decrease Pain with Near-Infrared and Red Light TherapyNear-infrared and red light therapy has been remarkably effective at reducing joint pain in virtually all areas of the body.

Here are several conditions where red/NIR light has proven effective:


Use Photobiomodulation To Improve Immune System Function 

Improve Immunity with Near-Infrared and Red Light TherapyIn numerous studies, red/NIR light therapy has proven to benefit the immune system.

  • In animal studies, near-infrared and red light therapy has a boosting effect on the immune system of immune-deficient cancer-inoculated animals, resulting in an increased lifespan.[216]
  • In human studies, photobiomodulation also boosted the immune systems and T cells of preoperative cancer patients without increasing tumor size. [217]
  • In the context of wound healing, it has also been shown to have beneficial effects, in part by modulating immune function.[218]
  • Another study found that red/NIR light therapy to the bone marrow could increase the platelet count and help resolve low blood platelets caused by chemotherapy or by an autoimmune disease.[219],[220]
  • It also appears to selectively modulate cell function in some types of infected cells while not affecting healthy uninfected cells in the same way.[221]
  • In vitro studies on human leukocytes have shown that near-infrared light can increase activity of these immune cells. Given that we know red/NIR light penetrates our blood vessels and irradiates our bloodstream, it is reasonable to think may also happen internally.[222],[223]
  • A fascinating study in mice looked at shining red light on the thymus gland (an important gland in the immune system) and on an area of a back leg. They found that the mice who received the treatment on the thymus gland area (in the center of the chest) had more profound changes in immune cell function.[224]
  • Another remarkable and more recent study from December 2017 suggests that red/NIR light may be able to slow or even reverse this “thymic involution” – thus keeping our thymus gland function and immune function in tact as we age.[225]
  • As discussed in the section on thyroid health, in people with Hashimoto’s – a common autoimmune condition responsible for most hypothyroidism – red/NIR light has proven to have remarkably beneficial effects on immune function.[228] Another animal model of multiple sclerosis (another autoimmune condition that degenerates the fatty sheath around nerves that helps nerve conduction) showed that just two treatments done over a span of 14 days led to significant improvement with less brain cell death and slowed the progression of the disease.[229] Other animal studies have found similar effects.[230]

Overall, red/NIR light seems to be an “immune nutrient” that supports optimal immune function in a wide variety of different scenarios and health conditions. It seems to be able to positively affect immune function in the right direction, potentially, regardless of whether someone has low immune function during an infection or has an overly active and imbalanced immune system due to autoimmune disease.


Red Light Therapy For Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Spinal Cord Injury

Help Heal Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Spinal Cord Injury with Near-Infrared and Red Light TherapyRed light therapy is bringing recovery and enhanced cognition to those suffering from traumatic brain injury. Patients who have suffered TBI report improved cognition, better sleep, and enhanced recovery from the traumatic experience of their accident.[231],[232]

In animal research, photobiomodulation has impressive outcomes in recovery of animals after stroke. Scientists believe the therapeutic effects stem largely from increased mitochondrial function (i.e. increased ATP production) in brain cells irradiated with near-infrared and red light therapy.[233],[234],[235]

Spinal cord injuries cause severe damage to the central nervous system with no effective known restorative therapies. However, near-infrared and red light therapy has been found to accelerate regeneration of the injured peripheral nerve and increase the axonal number and distance of nerve axon regrowth, while significantly improving aspects of function toward normal levels. Numerous studies indicate that near-infrared and red light therapy is a promising treatment for spinal cord injury that warrants full investigation.[236],[237],[238],[239]


Near-Infrared and Red Light Therapy For Sleep (Improve Your Sleep Quality)

Fall Asleep Faster and Improve Sleep QualitySeveral studies in China have found that red/NIR light exposure, and studies have also found dramatic benefit to sleep in people with insomnia.[260],[261],[262]

  • The first documented use of a similar intranasal light therapy device to directly observe melatonin level was conducted by Xu C et al in 2001. They treated 38 subjects that had insomnia with intranasal low level laser therapy once a day over 10 days. They found that serum melatonin had increased.
  • The same group of researchers further treated another group of 128 patients with insomnia and found that the polysomnogram (sleep study that includes data on brain waves as electrical activity) data had improved.
  • In 2006, Wang F et al reported that they had treated 50 patients with insomnia with intranasal low level laser therapy that is of similar specifications to Vielight’s laser device for 60 minutes per session. Each session was conducted once a day over between 10 to 14 days. They found that the condition had improved significantly in 41 (82%) of the cases, mild for 4 (8%) of the cases, and none for 5 (10%) of the cases.
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners often prescribe herbs as remedy for insomnia. This seems to help somewhat. Chen YM et al tested 90 patients and found that that the condition improved significantly for 40% of the cases, mild for 37.5% and none for 22.5% of the cases. In the group that added the extra element of the intranasal low level laser therapy, the improvement in the number of positive results were significantly more impressive. 78% of the patients experienced significant improvement, 20% mild and 2% none.[263],[264],[265],[266]


Near-Infrared And Red Light Therapy For Brain Health (Slow Progression of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease)

Recent studies have now found that photobiomodulation may significantly slow the progression of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.[280],[281]

Red and near-infrared light have been shown to:[275],[276],[277],[278],[279]

  • Benefit cognitive performance and memory
  • Improved mitochondrial function of brain cells
  • Have a protective effect on neurons
  • Improve cellular repair of neurons
  • Increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and nerve growth factor (NGF)
  • Decrease brain inflammation (decreased pro-inflammatory cytokines and increased anti-inflammatory cytokines)


Use Photobiomodulation To Enhance Muscle Gain, Strength, Endurance, and Recovery 

“In the near future, sport agencies must deal with ‘laser doping’ by at least openly discussing it because the aforementioned beneficial effects and the pre-conditioning achieved by laser and LED irradiation will highly improve athletic performance.” [286]

– Michael Hamblin, PhD

Red/NIR light with exercise makes a potent combination. Not only does red/NIR light help you recover faster, it seems to amplify everything that happens with exercise – increased muscle gain, fat loss, performance, strength, and endurance.

Muscle tissue has more mitochondria than almost any other tissue or organ in the human body. So muscle tissue is particularly responsive to photobiomodulation. The muscles are packed with mitochondria, because ATP is needed for every muscle twitch and movement, no matter how insignificant.

Through their effect on ATP production and cellular healing mechanisms, red/NIR light help individuals to recover more quickly from strenuous and resistance exercise, and even helps to prevent muscle fatigue during exercise.[292]

Studies provide evidence that near-infrared and red light therapy powerfully help prevent muscle fatigue, enhance muscle strength and endurance, increase fat loss responses from exercise, increase muscle growth responses from exercise, and promote faster recovery.[293],[294],[295],[296],[297],[298],[299],[300],[301]

To get into just a few of the dozens of studies on this topic:

  • One study by Vieira et al. examined levels of fatigue in leg muscles after endurance exercise and found that using light therapy immediately following significantly reduced fatigue scores relative to the control group. The researchers concluded “The results suggest that an endurance training program combined with LLLT leads to a greater reduction in fatigue than an endurance training program without LLLT. This is relevant to everyone involved in sport and rehabilitation.”[310]
  • Leal-Junior et al. performed a review of the relevant research in 2015 to examine the effects of phototherapy on exercise performance and recovery. They compiled data from thirteen randomized control trials and examined the number of repetitions and time until exhaustion for muscle performance, as well as markers of exercise-induced muscle damage. The researchers concluded that pre-conditioning the muscles with red/NIR light (i.e. using the light prior to exercise) significantly improves muscular performance and accelerates recovery.[311]
  • Another study looked at use of LED red/NIR therapy lights in male athletes who performed 3 intense bouts of exercise on a stationary bike. The athletes who were given the LED light therapy prior to the exercise had significantly lower levels of creatine kinase (a marker for muscle damage) compared to the sham light therapy (placebo) group.[312]
  • A recent 2016 review of 16 studies by Nampo et al.[313] looked at research using both laser and LED therapy on exercise capacity and muscle performance of people undergoing exercise compared to placebo/sham treatments. They found an average improvement of 3.51 reps, a 4 second delay in time to exhaustion (i.e. people were able to exercise longer before exhaustion), increased peak strength, and a significant reduction in lactic acid production.
  • A review of research by Borsa et al. found that studies consistently show that red/NIR light done prior to weight training improved performance and decreased muscle damage.[314]
  • Another study compared red/NIR light therapy with LEDs to cold water immersion (e.g. ice baths) as a recovery method after exercise and found that red/NIR light improved recovery more than ice baths.[316] 
  • A 2015 study by Baroni et al. [317] looked at 30 healthy males who were randomized into 3 groups:
  1. Control group – remained sedentary
  2. Training group (TG) – did an 8-week exercise program
  3. Training + light therapy (TLG) – did the same 8-week exercise program plus also did a light treatment using a near-infrared light (810nm wavelength) before each training session.

What happened?

  • The training group improved strength by about an average of 14% while the group that included light therapy improved by nearly 25%.[318]
  • The training group improved muscle size of the quadriceps muscles by about 10% while the group that included light therapy nearly doubled that improvement! [319]
Muscle size preak torque red light therapy
(Image Source: Suppversity)

As you can see, red and near-infrared light also have the ability to increase your strength and endurance adaptations to exercise, decrease muscle damage from your workouts, help you recover faster, and even increase muscle gains.


Red Light Therapy For Weight Loss (And Help Burn Off Stubborn Fat) 

Research has shown that photobiomodulation has a profound impact on reducing fat mass and fat tissue, and at eliminating cellulite. Red light therapy devices have even been approved by the FDA for fat reduction.

In studies, near-infrared and red light therapy have helped shave an entire 3.5 to 5.17 inches off waist and hip circumference by reducing the fat mass layer in just four weeks of use. [321],[322]

In another study of 86 individuals using red light therapy at 635 nm for 20 minutes every other day for two weeks, study participants lost 2.99 inches across all body parts — yes, 3 inches — in just 14 days of photobiomodulation.[324]

That said, I am not a strong advocate of trying to use red/NIR light therapy alone to cause fat loss. Where I believe red/NIR light therapy really shine (forgive the pun) is when combined with exercise and a good diet.

Some research shows that photobiomodulation can dramatically enhance — nearly double — fat loss from exercise, as compared to people doing just the exercise routine without the NIR light therapy.[325] In addition, the group using the NIR light therapy in tandem with exercise saw nearly double the improvements in insulin resistance![326]

Red light therapy on body mass,
(Image source: Suppversity). The above graph shows the differences in reductions in body weight, body fat, insulin levels, and insulin resistance (IR) from either NIR light therapy (ET-PHOTO) vs. sham/placebo light therapy (ET-SHAM). As you can see, exercising with NIR light nearly doubled the loss of body fat and nearly doubled the improvement in insulin resistance.

Again, please note that red/NIR light therapy doesn’t actually burn off the fat by itself. The mechanism appears to be that it causes the fat cells to release their stored fat into the bloodstream where it can (potentially) be burned for energy. One still must be in a calorie deficit to have actual fat loss. Your overall diet and lifestyle must be conducive to overall net fat loss, otherwise you will just put back the fat right back into the fat cells it was released from. If you’re not actively doing nutrition and lifestyle interventions to lose fat, please don’t think that the light therapy alone will cause fat loss. Think of it more as a tool to amplify the fat loss effects from diet and exercise, rather than a tool that generates fat loss by itself. Nevertheless, this technology can be used to greatly accelerate loss of overall body fat, and even “stubborn fat” from fat areas that normally are resistant to being burned off – for men, this is the lower abdomen and love handles, and for women, the hips and thighs most typically, or belly fat.

Overall, the research is clear that red/NIR light can be a powerful tool to support your fat loss efforts.


Photobiomodulation Dosing Guide 

If you want an effective light therapy session, you must have an effective dose. That requires:

  • A light that is relatively powerful (i.e. has an ideal “power density”)
  • Ideally, a light that can treat a large area of the body at once
  • An understanding of the optimal duration of time using the light to get the right total dose

Too little of a dose and you get minimal to no effects. Too strong of a dose and you get minimal to no effects.

Let’s talk about power density of the light first.

Most studies showing benefits of red/NIR light therapy used light outputs of 20-200mW/cm2.

This is basically a measurement of power density – how much power the light is emitting (in watts) over how big of an area.

To put that in different terms, if you shine the light on your torso (let’s say, for the sake of ease of calculation, that it’s an area of 50cm x 40cm, which equals 2,000cm2)…

And the light you’re using is 200 watts (which is 200,000mW), then you have 200,000mW/2,000cm2 = 100mW/cm2

That’s a great power density.

(Note: This is presented in an excessively simple way for the sake of clarity. In reality, there are factors that make this calculation much more complex, like the fact that actual wattage differs from claimed wattage for most lights, and the distance away from the light dramatically changes the power density, among other factors.)

Overall, the device needs to emit light above a certain power density (light intensity), needs to be at the right wavelengths, be at the proper distance away from your body, and ideally, needs to be physically large enough to emit light over a large portion of your body.

But for simplicity, let’s leave all these nuances of the calculations out of it.

The next part of the equation is how long should you apply the light. The dose (duration of exposure) is calculated by:

200,000mW/2,000cm2 = 100mW/cm2 │ The Ultimate Guide To Red Light Therapy,

Dose = Power Density x Time

So all we are doing is taking that number we already have (mW/cm2) and then the “dose” can be calculated once you know how long you should apply that light for. (If this sounds complex, don’t worry, because it’s actually VERY simple if you get the lights I recommend). Here’s the equation you need to calculate the dose:

mW/cm2 x time (in seconds) x 0.001 = J/cm2

Here’s the critical piece of information you need to know: The dose you want to shoot for is between 3J/cm2 – 50J/cm2.

(Note: Depending on whether you’re treating superficial areas like the skin or surface wounds or deeper tissues like muscles/organs, etc., you want different doses. We’ll talk more about the specifics of those treatment goals in a later section.)

Here are some sample calculations to show you how this works:

  • 25mW/cm² applied for 40 seconds gives 1J/cm²
  • 50mW/cm² applied for 20 seconds gives 1J/cm²
  • 75mW/cm² applied for 15 seconds gives 1J/cm²
  • 100mW/cm² applied for 10 seconds gives 1J/cm²

What that means is that if you have a device with a power output of 100mW/cm2 (at the distance you are using it), then you want your treatment time to be between 30 seconds-7 minutes on a given area of your body (that will equate to roughly 3-50J/cm2).

If you have a device that has 50mW/cm2 (at the distance you are using it), your treatment time would be 1-14 minutes on each area.

That’s a pretty wide range of times, so let me simplify this.

If you get either of the two top lights I recommend, here are the irradiance numbers (light ouput) at various distances:

Red light therapy - potency - Distance,

Now you might be wondering, “Okay, so how do I know whether to use it for 1 minute or 10 minutes? And how do I know whether to use it from 6” away or 24” away?”

Good questions!

For skin issues (e.g. anti-aging benefits) and other more superficial (near to the surface) body issues, there are a few things to note. We want a relatively low overall dose on each area of skin, of roughly 3-15J. Also, there is some indication that lower power densities (below 50mW/cm2) may actually be more optimal for treating the skin than very higher power densities.

In contrast, for treating deep tissues, you want bigger doses and higher power density (light intensity) for optimal effects. You want doses of 10-60J. So in general, you’d want to have the light much closer to your body with a much higher light intensity. That’s what’s needed to deliver optimal doses of light deep into your tissues.

To sum up: With skin/surface treatments, you want to be further away from the light (which lowers the light intensity and covers a broader area of your body) for an overall lower dose. With deeper tissues, you want to be closer to the light (which increases the light intensity) for an overall higher dose.

To make this very specific and practical, here are some simple guidelines:

IMPORTANT: The above recommendations are based on the lights I recommend. All these calculations change when you use lights that are less powerful than the ones I recommend. If you purchase a different light, you will need to measure the power density of that light at different distances and calculate doses for that specific light according to the guidelines in this book.


Can You Overdose on Photobiomodulation? (The Biphasic Dose Response)

As I mentioned, there is something called the biphasic dose response. But what does that mean?

That means that too little red/NIR light therapy won’t provide much, if any, benefit, and too much will also negate the benefit.

In other words, it’s important to get the dose right and to be in the range I’m recommending. You aren’t doing yourself any favors by dosing higher than my guidelines suggest.

Below are two illustrations meant to give you an idea of the optimal dosing surface tissues and deep tissues. (Note: These images are not exact, because actual responses differ somewhat depending on the exact tissues treated and the type of device and other parameters used – these images are intended to illustrate the general concept of the biphasic dose response and give an idea of the general range of optimal doses.)

Here is an illustration of the general optimal dose range for skin treatments (or tissues near to the surface of the body):

Biphasic dose response │ Red Light Therapy,

Here is an illustration of the general optimal dose range for deeper tissues beneath the skin:

Biphasic dose response │ Red Light Therapy, theenergyblueprint.comI know there is a tendency in human psychology to want to do more and think that higher amounts of something will be better – i.e. “if a little is good, a lot must be better.” So let me repeat one more time for emphasis: With red/NIR light treatment, more DOES NOT equal better. 

Stick with the recommended dose range, start with the lowest end of the range, and don’t be in a rush to do a lot more. The benefits may be most optimal in the lower to mid-range of the recommended dosage.


How To Get Red Light Therapy At Home (The Ultimate Guide To Red Light Therapy Devices)

When choosing the right near-infrared and red light therapy light device, you want to select a device that’s long-lasting, has a great warranty, is well-manufactured, and most importantly, one that offers the correct wavelengths at the right power density over a large area.

Here are the most important things to look for specifically include the near-infrared and red light therapy devices:

  1. Wavelength: What wavelengths does the device offer? Do these have health benefits? Are they in the proven ranges of 600-700nm and 780-1070nm, or better, the most researched ranges of 630-680nm and 800-880nm?
  2. Power Density: How much irradiance/power does the device deliver — what is the power density in mW/cm2? (To calculate this, you need to know the total wattage and the treatment area of the light.) To get optimal effects, the light needs to emit high enough power output in the therapeutic range. (Note: Most lights on the market DON’T!)
  3. Size of the light and treatment area: This is critically important – how big of an area will it treat? Is it a small light of less than 12” or a big light that can treat half of your body or your whole body all at once? Think about it: Do you want to hold one of these small devices by hand for 30-60 minutes to do a treatment? Probably not. You’ll get tired of using it really fast. So it has to be convenient, and ideally, has to be something that is not only fast, but something that you do while doing other things (if you wish), so you’re not sitting there holding a device in different positions for 30-60 minutes.
  4. Warranty: How long does the warranty last? Will you have time to find out if it works? (Hint: look for at least one year or longer.)
  5. What do you want it for? Depending on your specific purpose, there are a few different devices you may want to consider. (If you have specialty needs like brain health, or skin health, it will affect the wavelengths you want, the power of the device, and even the type of device.)

I cannot emphasize this enough: When choosing a red light or near-infrared light device, you want to be extremely careful to choose wisely, based on the wavelength and power density levels of the device. Most devices on the market are way underpowered and largely a waste of money.

Wavelength and intensity makes all the difference between incredible benefits and no benefits.


You Want Therapeutic Wavelengths that Achieve Real Results

Again, not all wavelengths are equal — nor all devices. Look for wavelengths in the proven therapeutic ranges.

Based on the bulk of the research, you want:

  • 630-680nm (the optimal healing spectrum of red light)
  • 800 to 880nm (the optimal healing spectrum of near-infrared)
  • or a combination of both


Why Power Density of The Light Matters

Power density is also important because your cells need to receive a certain intensity of red light to benefit.

Remember, to know power density, you simply need to know the wattage of the light and the treatment area (as described in the guide to dosing section).

We want a sizable light that has a power density of at least 30mW/cm2, and around 100mW/cm2 from close range (e.g. 6” away). That’s what will allow us to get up to the therapeutic levels that are used in the studies – especially for the deeper tissues.


How Big is the Light and How Much of Your Body Can It Treat at Once

Most photobiomodulation devices have a very small treatment area capability.

Most handheld devices and red lights sold online as skin improving/anti-aging devices offer about 10mW/cm2 (and many of them offer far less than even that!) and only treat about a 5-10 square inch area, meaning you’d have to use the device for 30-60 minutes to cover a significant area of your body.

But if you get a device with a high power output that also treats a large area at once, that’s where the magic is.

Higher powered devices, like the lights I recommend, deliver close to 100mW/cm2 at about 6″ from the device and still have effective doses (roughly 20-30mW/cm2) even a full 24” away! This is a huge benefit, because now even a smaller light (say 15-20” long) can basically function as though it is a full human body-sized light! In other words, a powerful light that’s 15” long can be positioned 24” or even 36” away from your body, and since light spreads out the more you move away from the source, that light can now give an effective dose to nearly your entire front or back of your body at once! (Note: This way of using it is not ideal for deep tissues – it is ideal specifically for anti-aging and skin health purposes.)

So again, it can basically function the same as a light that is 3 times the physical size (i.e. a light that is the size of your entire body).

Having a high-power light that is also large enough in size allows you to treat large areas of your body at once in just a few minutes. You can treat an area like the face, the whole torso or legs, or even do multiple parts of the body and effectively, the entire body, in just a few minutes!  

High-power lights are going to give you far more benefits in far less time, are more effective (especially for deep tissues), and have more flexibility in how you can use them. I strongly recommend getting a large panel light over a hand-held device. Most people who purchase the small devices end up never using them because it’s just too time consuming.

What is the Warranty and How Long Will the Device Last?

This one is very straightforward – buy from a company with a strong warranty who stand by their lights. Otherwise, you’ll likely be throwing money away and having to buy a replacement in 6 months to a year. With a high-quality red/NIR light therapy device from a reputable company, you will have it for many years without any problems whatsoever. And if there is a problem, they’ll replace it. If you’re going to spend hundreds of dollars on something, quality is key.


What is Your Goal With Using Red Light Therapy?

My general recommendation is that if you want to treat deeper tissues, prioritize near-infrared over red light. The more you want to treat skin issues, prioritize red light. That’s a general principle you can use to tailor your choice of a light to your unique needs keeping in mind that both types of light will work for most purposes.

For most purposes, a large mixed LED panel with a mix of 660nm and 850nm is the best choice.

But for specific issues, you may want to consider other options:

  • For skin issues and hair loss, it is possible that red light at 660nm may be the most optimal. (Though near-infrared at 850nm will still have most of the same benefits. It’s just a question of what is most optimal.
  • If you only want to treat deeper organ, gland, joint, or muscle/tendon issues (and NOT skin issues), then you may want to go with a pure 850nm light device.
  • If you only want to treat your brain (e.g. for depression, anxiety, cognitive performance, or neurological disease), then near-infrared is best. (The VieLight Neuro is likely the best option for this specific purpose. See the information on this device in the “Recommended Devices” section later in this book.)
  • But for most purposes and for most people, the best choice is a combination of the 660nm and 850nm LEDs in a large LED panel that will treat a large area of the body at once. This option is best because it works for basically any and all purposes you could possibly want it for. A combined near-infrared and red light therapy device offering both 660nm and 850nm will allow you to do anything you want on any given day – whether anti-aging treatments on your skin, or healing an injury or lower back pain, or muscle recovery and fat reduction.

My Recommended Lights (How To Choose The Best Red and Near-Infrared Light Therapy Device For Your Needs)  

I know all this information can feel overwhelming and confusing. So let me break it down for you very simply, by giving you my top choices for devices in each category from small to large.

You want to get a light device that gives spa-worthy treatment in your own home. While treatments from health professionals and doctors using red/NIR light therapy can cost hundreds of dollars, a wise one-time investment in a high-quality light will allow you to do treatments at home that would cost tens of thousands of dollars if you were to go to an anti-aging clinic or doctor’s office for treatment.

By the way, I happen to know of some anti-aging clinics that use the exact lights I’m recommending, but charge people $75-$150 for a single session with the light. Now you know how to accomplish this in the privacy of your own home, at your own convenience, while – after the initial purchase of the light – only costing cents to use each day.


Best Small Red Light Therapy Device

best small red light therapy deviceI do not recommend the small devices, as they are extremely underpowered and only irradiate a small portion of your body. So in general, I think it is much wiser to spend a little more and get a much bigger and higher power device.

But if you must get a small device (or you only want to treat a very small part of your body), the only small light that I recommend is this one from Red Light Man. It’s a 100 watt light with LEDs split between 610nm, 630nm, 660nm, and 680nm. Or you can get it as solely a 670nm light. I recommend doing the latter, because 670nm will active cytochrome c oxidase in the mitochondria more effectively than lower wavelengths like 610nm. This light will have a good power density at about 4-5” away from the light, but remember, it’s a small light, so light will only hit a small part of your body. (Note: The effective power density of therapeutic light is considerably lowered by the fact that some of the wavelengths – especially 610nm – used in this light are outside the optimal therapeutic wavelengths, so be aware of that if you get this device with the mixed wavelengths.)

To treat larger areas of your body at once – which I strongly recommend doing for time-efficiency and to get greater benefits, especially for general skin anti-aging uses – you’ll definitely want to get a larger light.

In general, it’s best to spend your money (even if you have to save up) on a larger more powerful light rather than rushing to get a small one.


Best Medium Sized Near-Infrared and Red Light Devices

These lights get into the optimal range for power output and size, so they can treat a large portion of your body at once with a sufficient dose.

These devices generally cost upwards of $450 and deliver upwards of 120-300 watts of power to large portion of your body (like large muscle groups and a large portion of the torso at once). This is a huge time-saver when compared with treating the same areas with a small device and will lead to better results. Also, since some of the effects of the light are from irradiating the blood and lowering inflammation, the larger lights will treat more of the blood at once and will have better body-wide effects.

My top choices in medium size devices are as follows:

  • The Joovv Mini
    • It has 60 LED and is listed as 120 watts.
    • It’s available in 660nm, all in 850nm, or a 50-50 split of 660nm and 850nm.
    • Has FDA clearance (which means that it meets standards for safety and quality of the parts and the manufacturing process).
    • The price is $695
  • The BIO-300 by Platinum Therapy Lights
    • It’s listed at 300 watts.
    • It’s 19” tall by about 9” wide.
    • It has 100 LEDs.
    • It’s available in 660nm, all in 850nm, or a 50-50 split of 660nm and 850nm.
    • It’s $449

These are all great options.

Now, if you want a large light to treat the whole front or whole back of your body at once with high power density, I would strongly recommend considering the larger and more powerful half-body units.


Best Large Near-Infrared and Red Light Therapy Devices

Bio-300 and bio-600 best red light therapy deviceThese units generally cost upwards of $700 to $2,500, with a couple great options of large, high power effective lights for under $1,000.

There are much more expensive options available and full body devices like tanning beds that can treat basically every inch of your body at once, but these are far more expensive and unnecessary for most people. There are a lot more expensive “luxury” red light options for those that want them, but in my opinion, there is really no need to go beyond the lights in this category. This is the category that provides all you need to get great results at a very reasonable price. In my opinion, these half body devices are a fraction of the price, and essentially offer the same benefits.

Several of the devices in this category are much higher power (relative to the medium-sized lights), from about 300 watts on the low end to 600 watts.

This is a great thing, especially when combined with being able to shine light on a much larger area of your body at once, because this will dramatically increase the overall number of photons hitting your body and the dose you receive. Thus, the effects are stronger, and the benefits are greater – especially if you want to treat deeper tissues in larger areas of your body, for organ health, muscle gain, and fat loss, etc. And you can do less treatment time per session.

Plus, if you want to treat deep tissues in large areas of your body at once, it’s very time-efficient with sessions of just a few minutes, whereas with smaller devices, it can be more time consuming by having to treat multiple areas.

So if you’re looking for a large high power device to do full body treatments, this is ideal.

Here are the large high power devices I recommend:

  • Red Rush720 by
  • Joovv Solo:
    • It’s 12″ x 40″.
    • It comes with either in 660nm, all in 850nm, or a 50-50 split of 660nm and 850nm.
    • Has FDA clearance (a status that ensures they use safe and quality parts in their device)
    • The price is $1,195
  • The BIO-600 by Platinum Therapy Lights:
    • It’s 36” tall by about 8” wide.
    • You can also get this in  either in 660nm, all in 850nm, or a 50-50 split of 660nm and 850nm.
    • The price is $789
  • The Full Stack by Red Light Rising:
    • It’s a great option for people in the UK and Europe to get a high quality light at a good price with low shipping costs
    • It’s $772 (Use the discount code “energy blueprint” for $40 off)

Full Body Near-Infrared and Red Light Therapy Device

There is also the option of doing a light setup that will shine on the full front or back of your body from head to toe.

  • Joovv has a selection of high quality LEDs in very large sizes that cover the whole length of the body — the DUO and QUAD. Prices range from $2,195-$3,995. They come with the same options of either pure 660nm, pure 850nm, or a 50-50 mix of the two.


Ultra High End Near-Infrared and Red Light Therapy Options

Joovv has an extremely large, high quality LED panel. It looks like it is big enough to even treat two people at once. It’s priced at $5,995.

There are also a couple options for super high-end tanning bed-style red light therapy units. These are generally priced in excess of $15,000 with one well-known brand selling their unit for upwards of $100,000!

I put these full body tanning bed style devices here in case you’re interested in very high-end devices (and you’re doing well enough financially to entertain such purchases), but to be honest, I really do not think such devices are necessary. I do not believe that the benefits of these devices will be vastly superior to the other far cheaper lights I recommend.

Here are the two tanning-bed style whole body options:

  • Mitogen Red Light Bed. This consists of 10,000 LEDs that are a mix of 660nm and 850nm light (the same wavelengths as the RedRush and Platinum light. The power density is 15mW/cm2. Treatment times will generally be about 10-25 minutes.
  • NovoThor (a well-known manufacturer of laser devices) also offers a full-body tanning bed-style LED device. This one is a mix of 630nm, 660nm, and 850nm. It has a power density of 17mW/cm2. And it costs over $100k. This is most likely an option either for extremely wealthy people or a professional gym/spa/medical setting

To be clear, I am in NO WAY implying or suggesting that you need to purchase these ultra-expensive tanning bed style devices.

I mention these purely for the sake of presenting all the options on the market, but again, this is not to be interpreted as me implying that you should purchase these luxury red/NIR devices. I believe that you can get all the benefits of red/NIR light therapy with the far less expensive LED panels recommended above.


Sauna + Red/NIR Light Therapy Options

There are a few sauna brands make far-infrared saunas that also add near-infrared light into their sauna. This allows you to get all the benefits of near-infrared light discussed in this book while also getting the benefits of the sauna heat (sweating, detoxification, mitochondrial benefits, etc.).

These are a great option, provided you have the money for it, as they are considerably more expensive than the pure red/NIR devices.

If you want something in this category, Sunlighten saunas, ClearLight saunas, Sun Stream Saunas all make ultra high quality wooden full-spectrum saunas. With this type of premium sauna, you can get far-infrared + near-infrared saunas and enjoy all the benefits of both near-infrared therapy and a traditional far-infrared sauna.

SaunaSpace manufactures heat lamp saunas that use 4 incandescent heat lamp bulbs. These will have both far-infrared and near-infrared and red light. They come with a canvas tent (as opposed to a wooden room), and thus are considerably less expensive than the wooden saunas made by the brands listed above. You can get their “Pocket Sauna” here.

For those who can afford it, these are excellent options. It’s also convenient as it allows you to get your near-infrared treatment while doing a sauna session. I highly recommend the Sunlighten mPulse line and the SaunaSpace saunas.



Top Light for Use on the Brain

If you’re using light on the brain specifically – for either a brain health issue or to improve mood or cognitive function – it’s important to get a light with near-infrared, not just red light. Research has shown that near-infrared is more effective in penetrating the skull than red light (which has minimal to no penetration of the skull), so this is ideal for the brain.

The LED panel lights I recommend like the Red Rush360 and Platinum Lights have near-infrared (either pure near-infrared or mixed near-infrared with red), and are powerful enough to be used on the forehead and will likely be effective in penetrating the skull with some light.

Nevertheless, if your main goal is to treat the brain, the best option is the VieLight Neuro, which has multiple contact points on the head (that can be worked into contact the scalp to allow light to penetrate through the hair) and will likely have the best results for brain-specific issues. (Note: This device is designed specifically to be worn on the head  and thus, won’t work well at all to treat other areas of the body.)

Please note that they also sell intranasal devices that claim to target the brain, but Michael Hamblin, PhD does not believe these devices actually do reach the brain directly[329], therefore, I do not advocate those devices. Yet they do have some positive research. Hamblin believes that they don’t work by directly irradiating the brain, but that they work through irradiating the blood through the capillaries, which indirectly affects the brain (and other systems of the body). Assuming he is correct, it really does not make sense to use these low-power intranasal devices to treat the blood – it would be much better to use a high power (and much larger) LED device for that purpose.

Having said that, the VieLight Neuro has the head unit which likely does effectively target the brain. And the VieLight Neuro may very well be the best product for treating the brain specifically. We don’t know for sure, as there are no studies comparing it directly to LED lights, but there is research supporting the use of this product in treating dementia.[330]


Other options:

  • Photopuncture Kit from The Photonic Therapy Institute.
  • REDjuvenator – (Note: Much lower light output than the devices recommended below.)
  • GembaRed – (A small, relatively low-power 45W panel. Much lower light output than the devices recommended below.)


Animal treatment devices:



My Top Overall Best All-Purpose Red Light Devices 

Taking into account all of the previously mentioned factors, here are my personal recommendations for the lights that are the most powerful, cost-effective, and provide amazing bang for the buck (presented in no particular order). All of these devices get my highest recommendations.


You can get this light HERE.

Discount Code: They will give a $25 discount to readers of this book bringing total cost down to $749. Just enter the discount code “energy blueprint” when checking out.

Discount Code: They will give a $25 discount to readers of this book bringing total cost down to $424. Just enter the discount code “energy blueprint” when checking out.

You can get these lights HERE.


You can get this light HERE.

Discount Code: They will give a $25 discount to readers of this book bringing total cost down to $424. Just enter the discount code “energy blueprint” when checking out.


You can get this light device HERE.

Discount Code: They will give a $40 discount to readers of this book bringing total cost down to $749. Just enter the discount code “energy blueprint” when checking out.

(Use the discount code “energy blueprint” for $40 off)

(DISCLOSURE: As you can see, I have arranged discounts for you with some of these manufacturers offering high-quality devices. I was not able to arrange discounts with all of the manufacturers listed here, but I tried to do it with every manufacturer that was open to offering a discount to readers of this guide. Please be aware that I do get a small commission on any of these devices that you purchase if you use my discount code. If you appreciate the work I’ve done in writing this guide, I appreciate you using my discount code. That is how I get rewarded for this work. Please know that this is at no expense to you. In fact, I have negotiated directly with these manufacturers to get you discounts off the normal prices by letting them know that you were referred by this book. In short, everyone wins. But if you have any objection to this, feel free to order the lights without using the discount code. Please know that my rankings of these devices are in no way influenced by this. I have no ownership in any of these companies or vested financial interest in promoting any one of them over another. My recommendations for which light devices you should get are exactly the same whether you choose to use the discount codes or not. Moreover, there are in fact many other devices I could promote that offer much more generous commissions, which I am actually not promoting because they do not offer high quality devices. I give you my word that all my rankings here are best on a purely objective analysis of the power output, quality, and bang-for-the-buck of all these devices. My #1 priority is making sure that you get the best device for your needs. I have done my best to negotiate the biggest discounts for you as possible with all of the manufacturers who were open to giving discounts.)


Best Brain Device

Best red light therapy device for the brainVieLight Neuro Alpha or Neuro Gamma – $1,749 You can purchase through their website here.

Discount code is “energy blueprint” which gets you 10% off, which equates to $175 off the regular price. Note: I recommend the Neuro Alpha over the Gamma.


The clear winners for general LED panels that can be used for basically any purpose are the Red Rush360, Joovv Solo and DUO, and Platinum Therapy Lights LED panels, which powerful lights and offer amazing bang-for-the-buck.

With these setups, you can get all the benefits of red and near-infrared light therapy (that a clinic might charge over $100 per session for!) in the comfort of your own home with unlimited sessions for less than $1,000 or even less than $500.


Wrapping Up

If all of the complexity and science talk has you feeling overwhelmed, I want to end with some simplicity. I’ve tried to cover the nuances of the science on this topic in this book, but I don’t want you to get so caught up in all the details that you feel overwhelmed and confused on how to get started and actually do a red/NIR light therapy session. So let me summarize the practical aspects of all this in a very simple way:

  1. Go get yourself one of the recommended light devices (e.g. RedRush360 or Joovv Solo or Duo).
  2. Switch the light on.
  3. Put your chosen body area in front of it for a few minutes (following the dosing guidelines for different body areas and treatment goals).

That’s it. It’s really that simple.

Once you are comfortable with those basic three steps, then go through the details of my recommended dosing guidelines to make sure you’re doing optimal treatments for the specific body area (e.g. skin issues vs. deep tissues). Then make sure to go through the specific strategies, tips, and protocols I offer in the section titled “Practical Tips and Strategies for Specific Goals” to get more specific detailed guidance on using the light for specific goals you may have like brain enhancement, muscle/strength gain, overcoming fatigue, improving mood, fat loss, sleep, or anti-aging.

It’s that simple.

After you get one of these lights, you can immediately start using it to:

  • Increase your energy
  • Make your skin healthier and get rid of cellulite
  • Speed up fat loss
  • Improve muscle recovery and athletic performance
  • Improve mood and cognitive function
  • Increase muscle size and strength
  • Speed healing from injury
  • Improve metabolic and hormonal healthBenefits Of Red Light Therapy Infographic │ The Ultimate Guide To Red Light Therapy │ The Ultimate Guide To Red Light Therapy,

You now know everything you need to know to start using this powerful technology. Now go start using it and taking your health, body and energy to new heights!


Summarizing the Benefits of Near-Infrared and Red Light Therapy

In summary, near-infrared and red light therapy are incredibly powerful tools you can use to dramatically enhance your health. As I said at the beginning of this book, if there were a drug that had scientific research showing all these benefits, it would be an absolute blockbuster drug for pharmaceutical companies – it would be hailed as a “miracle drug” and prescribed to basically everyone.

Here’s the best part: That “drug” exists. It’s just not in the form of a pill. It’s in the form of near-infrared and red light therapy!




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