Speaker 1 (00:00):
Welcome to The Dr. Gundry Podcast, the weekly podcast where Dr. G. gives you the tools you need to boost your health and live your healthiest life.
Dr. Gundry (00:17):
Welcome to the Dr. Gundry Podcast. If your goal is a leaner, healthier body, or if you simply want to live a longer, happier life, then my guest on today’s episode can help. Ben Greenfield is a multiple New York Times bestselling author, fitness expert, host of The Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast. And earlier this year, he published a brand new book called Boundless: Upgrade Your Brain, Optimize Your Body, and Defy Aging. And if I have enough strength, I’m going to lift it right now because it’s actually one of the deepest, biggest books you’re ever going to find. There it is, Boundless. So on today’s episode, Ben and I are going to talk about the keto diet, the truth about salt, and some exercises you can do for boosting your longevity. Ben, it’s great to have you on the podcast. Welcome.
Ben Greenfield (01:12):
Well, it’s great to be here. I was commenting before we began recording. I feel as though I should’ve worn a tie and a suit coat. You look so nice and I’m in my office in my bare feet on my treadmill, wearing my old, tattered hoodie. But I guess I’m just going to have to let you show me up.
Dr. Gundry (01:30):
No, it’s kind of how I expect to see you, and our listeners want to see you in your element, so thanks for doing that. All right. So there’s some great stuff in your new book. But you say that plant based diets can lead to amino acid deficiencies and cognitive decline. What’s going on with that? Our listeners want to know.
Ben Greenfield (01:54):
Well, they certainly can. A poorly comprised plant based diet can present one with a host of nutritional deficiencies. And I should say before I highlight what some of those are that I absolutely love plants. They’re a staple in my diet. I’m not one of those strict nose to tail carnivore kind of guys, although I do a fair bit of bow hunting and spear fishing, and love to ethically harvest both plants and animals. Just yesterday, I went out to the wild nettle patch, which is growing about 500 yards outside my house in the forest now. And I harvested a bunch of wild nettle and took up some wild mint and some plantain leaves and a little bit of dandelion leaf on the way home, and stopped by our little herb garden and grabbed some rosemary and thyme. And I took all that back into the kitchen.
And what I do is I ferment the nettle, so it gets this really nice umami flavor. I use just old pickle brine. And I’ll ferment that typically for a week or two, so I’ve always got a batch going. And then I just put all those wonderful wild plants into the food processor with some walnuts, some lemon zest, typically a lot of olive oil, some salt, some pepper. And I blend all that up and make a wild plant pesto. But of course, I tend to smear that on a big old rib eye steak, so I’m an omnivore. And when it comes to plants, if you’re eating strictly plants, I would say that the main things you need to be aware of would be, A, vitamin B12 deficiencies, as the lion’s share of vitamin B12 is going to come from animal foods. And of course, that can be skirted with, for example, the use of a sublingual vitamin B spray, like a methylated vitamin B, like a B12 spray, or some people use even intramuscular injections of vitamin B.
Another one is creatine, and creatine I think is incredibly important. It’s a very under-emphasized compound because I think it’s very much associated with the bodybuilding and the strength and the power industry. But in fact, especially in plant based diets, it’s been show that creatine deficiencies are quite common and can lead to a lot of neural deficits because creatine, it’s a bit of a neurotropic too. And of course, that issue can be sorted via the use of creatine. Typically, a lot of folks who are following a strict plant based diet, I just recommend they take about five grams of just a basic creatine monohydrate on a daily basis.
Taurine is another common deficiency, and that’s also one that you can supplement with. It’s very difficult to find in anything but animal foods. DHA would be another. And yeah, you can get DHA from microalgae sources. A lot of seed sources, the ALA to DHA conversion isn’t that great, so DHA’s another one. And there are vegan forms of DHA that you can of course get. That’d be another. And then probably two others I think are pretty important. One would be carnosine, which is really important for muscle function, and that’s another one kind of like creatine, another one of the Cs, that tends to be really deficient in a plant based diet. And one can also supplement typically with something like beta-alanine, which is a carnosine precursor. And there’s a lot of newer studies coming out, particularly, they’re getting a lot of attention in the athlete community because they’re such great lactic acid buffers if you apply them to the legs or the arms prior to exercise. But transdermal carnosine absorption seems to be a really good delivery mechanism.
And there’s one product I was actually trying out the other day prior to a workout that buffers lactic acid while you’re working out. But that’s a transdermal carnosine. And then the final one, the one that I think a lot of people are aware of would be vitamin D, just because the more bioavailable form of vitamin D that’s going to allow for higher levels of D3 is typically derived, again, from animal products. Adequate sunlight and vitamin D supplementation I think is also smart, so those are examples of a few of the nutrients or vitamins I would say that could be problematic if deficiency of those is built up on a strict plant based diet. And then the only other thing I would take into consideration would be that, of course, as you’re well aware of because you wrote a whole book about this, the idea of the anti nutrients in plants presenting an issue, especially when you’re eating them in the relative high volume that’s necessary for adequate calories on a plant based diet.
And so a properly comprised plant based diet, in my opinion, takes a lot of time. Right? You’re doing a lot of soaking, sprouting, fermenting. I mean, in our house, there are just glass and mason jars full of cashews that are soaking overnight for a cashew butter or a nut milk. There’s the nettle that I’m fermenting and the pantry. I do a lot of alfalfa seeds and red clover seeds and broccoli seeds. But I’m cleaning those. I’m sanitizing those. And then I’m sprouting those for a good five days. When my wife makes bread, which she does every week, it’s a slow fermented sourdough bread, but that’s more like an overnight process to make that bread, to pre digest a lot of the gluten, and to deactivate a lot of the antinutrients in wheat.
And so you also need to kind of swallow the pill that you’re going to be spending a lot of time, or you’re going to be paying a personal chef to do this kind of stuff for you if you really want to deactivate a lot of these anti nutrients in plant matter to be able to get adequate calories. And then the question just becomes: Why not have liver a couple times a week, and work in some sardines and anchovies and mackerel and salmon and herring, and throw some eggs into the mix? And no, you don’t have to be a full on giant grocery shopping cart out of Costco full of rib eye meat type of person. But I think weaving in some animal foods certainly makes things easier when it comes to addressing some of those deficiencies, and also not presenting yourself with just a host of anti nutrients as you maintain your calorie throughput.
Dr. Gundry (08:07):
So that’s a good segue. I’ve had a couple of the carnivore docs on my podcast. And they somehow want to credit me with saying that’s how they got started because they wanted to eliminate all plant material because plants hate us. And I’m a plant predator. I eat tons of plants. In fact, I eat mostly plants. And I select my plants carefully. So why not do a carnivore diet? What’s the downside?
Ben Greenfield (08:43):
Well, I would agree with a lot of these carnivore diet enthusiasts like Paul Saladino or Shawn Baker, that one can get most of the nutrients, the minerals, the vitamins, et cetera, that they need from a properly comprised nose to tail carnivore diet. Right? Everything from the liver, to the kidney, to the bone broth, to the bone marrow, to the testicles, to the ground up bone, I mean, you can pull it off. Now I think the issue is that a lot of these plant foods, they’re painted by carnivore diet enthusiasts as so-called survival foods, things that our ancestors would’ve only turned to if they didn’t have access to the more convenient and nutrient dense large animals that they could’ve hunted.
But the problem with that scenario is, yes, let’s say that maybe they’re right, and plants were at one time a survival food. Well, they’ve been woven into our culture and into our tradition, and into our societal norms in such a way that they’ve become quite enjoyable parts of our cuisine. When you show up to Thanksgiving dinner, and Aunt Judy brings her wonderful whatever, goat cheese beet kale salad, and somebody else shows up with some special apple pie that they’ve made, and somebody else has got their whatever, their sprouts and their greens. Or my dad always shows up with some kind of shoots, or sprouts, or something he’s grown in his kitchen. These are foods that we gather around. And they’ve become staples in traditions and in societies, and completely ignoring the plant kingdom as a food source sucks a lot of the enjoyment out of the vast array of fascinating things that we can eat that grow on this planet.
So part of it is just the pure, the psychosocial component of just being able to eat a wide variety of foods that go beyond meats. And the other thing that I think is interesting, for example, I was just reading a book. I’m studying up on the local Spokane Indian tribe just because I want to know more about the Native American culture and the type of folks who roamed these plains that I live on before I arrived here, before some of my ancestors arrived here. And when I’m reading the book, they were down in the Spokane Falls collecting hundreds of pounds of salmon in baskets, as these salmon would jump up through the falls. And literally, and I’m sure folks have heard this story, the style of hunting of driving the vast quantity of large animals off of cliffs on horses, and then collecting the carcasses at the bottom because there were just so many bison and buffalo and deer and elk and moose.
But the whole time that the men were out doing all of this, the women were back in the villages and the cities collecting underground roots and plants and berries and seeds and nuts. And it wasn’t because they were starving. It was because they dressed up all these animal foods with all these other compounds that they used as medicine, that they used as digestifs, that they used as flavor enhancers. And so I even raise an eyebrow at this notion that ancient man or woman would’ve just completely neglected plant matter, even if animals were in vast and available quantity. I don’t see that playing out fully from an epidemiological level. You can follow a nose to tail carnivore diet and get everything you need, but it’s going to be boring. It’s going to be socially restrictive. And I don’t think it’s something that we see a lot of examples of in terms of just human cultures that have been around for a long period of time.
Dr. Gundry (12:31):
Yeah, great answer. My research as an undergraduate was in human evolution and biology. And I’ve continued to research that until this day. And I can assure you that we were never fully a meat or even fish eater, that dental wear, even on Neanderthals, show a significant contribution of plants to our diet. And Neanderthals were truly a great upper level predator. But even Neanderthals have typical dental wear in their teeth of plant material. So the idea that we had to get that every now and then, you’re right. The skeletal record does not confirm that.
Ben Greenfield (13:22):
Yeah. I think really, the biggest issue in my opinion is, as Jared Diamond gets into in Guns, Germs, and Steel, just the mass cities and sometimes the lack of hygiene that goes along with that, and the human crowding that was able to develop around the concept of agriculture. And certainly, that did create an issue in terms of just mass quantities of people in one place, and may have contributed a little bit to human disease. And I think also that the evolution of that and the monocropping of wheat, monocropping of corn, monocropping of soy, and almost like a rape of the planet Earth in terms of soil degradation and poor farming practices, I think that’s a bigger issue than whatever, someone growing a backyard patio garden, and then going inside and having to feel guilty that all those plants that they’re eating are poisoning them. I think it’s a ridiculous argument, especially when those plants are properly prepared.
Dr. Gundry (14:22):
All right. So you also talk about, actually one of my favorite subjects, the MTHFR gene, or as I tell my patients, the mother effer gene. Tell our listeners, viewers. What is it? What do you think about it?
Ben Greenfield (14:39):
I’m not geneticist, but the MTHFR gene, it’s essentially just a gene that’s going to code for all of the very crucial methylation activities that take place in the body during normal human metabolism on a day to day basis. And we know that deficits in methylation, which can be brought on my mitochondrial deficiencies, mold, mycotoxin, biofilm, metal overload. All sorts of issues can impair cognitive function. It can create gut issues. It can predispose one to higher risk of heart disease, stroke. Having poor methylation status, whether brought on my genetics or whether brought on by environmental issues, it’s a problem. And furthermore, one of the significant things that gene is responsible for doing is the conversion of homocysteine into methionine. And we know that high levels of homocysteine can also be inflammatory and present a lot of issues, particularly from a cardiovascular disease risk standpoint.
And so what we see is that there are certain people who tend to be what’s called homozygous for the MTHFR gene, meaning they have the double A variant of it. And you see pretty significantly reduced methylation activity and pretty significant elevation of homocysteine levels. And in addition to that, you tend to see some deficiencies in folate because that methylation is very important for the availability of folate. And I think that some people think they’ve been cursed if they get a genetic test and find out they’re double A for the MTHFR gene, when in fact, I would suspect, and this part is beyond my body of knowledge, but I would suspect there are some protective mechanisms and some reasons that gene persists.
But let’s say that you do have that genetic risk factor. Well, just like we were talking about with the plant based diet, there are things that you can do about it. For example, supplementing with a really good methylated form of vitamin B, looking at your multivitamin and ensuring that rather than it containing something like synthetic folic acid, or folate, which is quite common and quite poorly absorbed, that you’re instead using something like methyltetrahydrofolate, or a methylated version of folic acid. And so that’s one important thing. Monitoring your homocysteine levels to ensure that they’re staying in control is another.
The issue with the methylation can also be assisted with, again, having adequate methyl groups, and sometimes that means making sure you’ve got enough methionine, for example, in your diet. But when it comes to MTHFR, I think probably the biggest things … Oh, the other thing that’s really important is getting bioavailable folate. And I actually am a fan of using things like liver capsules, for example, or the consumption of organ meats to be able to get some of that. And I think that a lot of the issues with the MTHFR gene can be addressed. And I think that the other issue to pay attention to would be like I mentioned, the environmental factors that would impair methylation.
So I think that especially, if you have that homozygous MTHFR status, that you should do things like pay attention to your metal exposure, pay attention to the amount of detoxification that you’re doing, whether via the regular use of a sauna, or some type of sweating protocol, the regular use of lymph circulating practices like rebounding, or walking, or exercise. And also paying attention to your exposure to things like mold and mycotoxins, and even testing to make sure that you don’t have a mold exposure in your home, or a mold exposure in your office. Just because poor methylation status will impair your ability to be able to detox, and also to be able to withstand the exposure to a lot of those issues.
And I think another one to pay attention to would be metals. That’s another one, especially with modern dental practices, and brake dust, and just living in this post industrial era, tends to be built up in a lot of people. And people with poor methylation status are going to have a harder time with that. And then one that I think flies under the radar, but often, you tend to see as an issue, these so-called stealth co-infections like mold, or mycotoxin, or biofilm, often they’re accompanied by a high metal overload.
And then the third component that tends to be an issue related to that, that’s talked about a little less frequently, is electro hypersensitivity, meaning being hypersensitive to frequent exposure to 5G, wifi, Bluetooth, and a host of nonnative EMF that we’re presented with. Well, if you already have a coinfection, if you’ve already got metal load, and then you throw electro hypersensitivity into the mix, in someone with poor methylation status, that’s all going to be magnified even more. So if you’re homozygous for MTHFR, I think mold, mycotoxin, biofilm, metals and other EMF in your environment are really important to pay attention to, in addition to making sure you’re getting adequate methylated B12, methyltetrahydrofolate, or some other bioavailable form of folate, and then monitoring of homocystine levels to make sure those aren’t getting too elevated.
Dr. Gundry (19:58):
Speaking of EMF, you’re a big fan, as I am, of magnesium. Where does magnesium fit in all of this?
Ben Greenfield (20:08):
Yeah. That’s an interesting one with relation to EMF because we know that a lot of these signals, 3G, 4G, 5G, unfortunately, the testing on that is still kind of … The jury’s out, so I can’t say much about 5G, aside from the fact that it concerns me that it’s being rolled out without a lot of adequate testing on these issues. But we know that there’s an impact on what are called the voltage gated calcium channels on the cell surface. And if you go read a book like Jerry Tennant’s Healing is Voltage, or Robert Becker’s The Body Electric, then you know that our cells are almost like little batteries that need an electrochemical balance that dictates a negative millivolt potential on the interior of that cell.
And when you have a steep influx of calcium, which we do know occurs based on the activation of these voltage gated calcium channels in response to EMF, you tend to lose that negative charge. This is one reason why we tend to see people feel better when they go outside barefoot, or do some kind of grounding, or earthing. You’re getting exposed to a lot of negative ions walking on the sand on the beach, swimming in the ocean, walking outside in the forest barefoot, et cetera. Now it turns out that one of the best ways to offset that steep influx of calcium into the cell is with magnesium. And considering based on what I was talking about earlier, the monocropping of soils and the deficient minerals that are present in a lot of plants, many people, if you test the red blood cell magnesium levels, tend to be deficient in magnesium. And I think that’s further aggravated by the increasing exposure to EMF.
And so I am a fan of magnesium supplementation. Of if you have a garden or a backyard patio, even getting some of these mineral dense powders that you can add into the soil, so that the produce that you’re eating is richer in minerals. And the other two things, if you are really going to kind of try to hack the EMF piece as far as nutrients go, I would also pay attention to anything that’s going to assist with DNA repair, and in particular, that would be the one, two combo of sirtuins, either via supplements, such as resveratrol, or something I consider to be even better than resveratrol, which would be pterostilbene. And the inclusion of a lot of these foods like cacao, wine, blueberries, black currant berries, anything kind of like the black, blue, dark red, purplish kind of category for the sirtuins is going to be very important for the DNA damage that occurs in response to a lot of that electromagnetic radiation.
And the sirtuins are really going to be dependent upon your NAD status. And so a practice of things like intermittent fasting, or high intake of fermented foods, that’s going to assist with the levels of what’s called nicotinamide adenine nucleotide, which is really important and tends to decrease as you age, kind of similar to the way that your available stem cell pool will decease as you age, so will your available NAD levels. We know this. And supplementation with nicotinamide riboside, or NMN, or even the use of NAD IVs, or NAD patches, along with fermented foods and intermittent fasting, well, you pair that with a sirtuin rich diet, or with sirtuin supplements, and you’re really set up to help to repair a lot of the DNA damage that’s going to occur with aging, but that will be accelerated due to EMF exposure.
And then the last thing, in addition to magnesium, sirtuins, and NAD that I would pay attention to would be the NF-kappa B pathway is an inflammation modulating pathway that tends to be down regulated in response to EMFs. And one of the best ways to keep that pathway activated is by the burning of ketone bodies. And mitigation of carbohydrate intake, or paying attention to the amount that your blood glucose fluctuates during the day, I think that’s important from everybody. Keeping your glycemic variability under control, meaning the extent to which and the amount of time to which your blood glucose is staying elevated during the day. If that’s staying low, you are by nature of that fact, going to be burning more fatty acids and producing more ketone bodies as a product of that low carbohydrate availability.
But in addition to that, I even think if you’re living in an EMF soup, in a high EMF environment, you may even want to consider the use of these supplements like ketone salts and ketone esters to help with those inflammatory pathways. And while those are not daily dietary staples for me, when I’m doing a long haul flight, or I’m traveling through LA, or New York, or some other area where there’s a lot more EMF, I actually supplement with liquid ketone esters, just to help with that inflammatory pathway. So yeah, magnesium, sirtuins, and NAD and ketones I would say are the best kind of dietary, or nutrient, or supplementation steps you can take to help to protect yourself from EMF.
Dr. Gundry (25:12):
All right. So that’s a good segue. People hear the word ketones and ketogenic diet. Where are you on the spectrum? Should we all be eating an extremely high fat diet? Should we always be in ketosis? What say you?
Ben Greenfield (25:33):
Yeah. I mean, that’s a big issue. And the short answer is no. I mean, the same ketogenic diet that may have helped your neighbor to lose 20 pounds, for you, could completely screw you metabolically. For example, maybe you have an FTO gene that would predispose weight gain and inflammation in response to saturated fat intake that exceeds about 10% of your total fat intake, which, if you look at a modern, newfangled, ketogenic, bastardized diet full of butter and coconut oil and huge cuts of meat streaked with fat, then that’s going to be an issue for you, especially if you have that gene.
Maybe you have poor liver or gall bladder function that dictates that you’re going to have some digestive difficulties with that amount of fat throughput. Perhaps you have familiar hypercholesteremia. In which case, we know that while I am not one of those folks who would say that cholesterol is going to predispose one to heart disease, even LDL cholesterol, or cholesterol above 200, it is a factor that if present, can contribute to heart disease and is an even more concerning factor in those with familial hypercholesteremia. And so if you have any of these type of factors present, then a ketogenic diet really is not going to be metabolically appropriate for you.
Now when I say a ketogenic diet, what I’m referring to is, again, the modern bastardized version of ketosis, which is put a stick of butter in your tea and coffee and eat oodles of coconut oil, and have tons of saturated fat and meat just drenched in fat. Whereas, if you look at the physiology of ketones, the way that we would’ve naturally attained high levels of ketone bodies in the past would’ve been via restricted feeding windows, such as the use of intermittent fasting. It would’ve been via certain periods of time of caloric restriction or low amount of available calories. It would’ve been by low intake of ultra processed carbohydrates, or very concentrated forms of starches and sugars. And it would’ve been via high amounts of low level physical activity throughout the day.
And so you can achieve ketosis via two methods. You can achieve ketosis via this nutritional scenario, where you’re just eating coconut oil and butter and fatty meat all day. Or you can move around, take 15,000 steps a day, do some intermittent fasting, pay attention to your carbohydrate intake, and try to only eat carbohydrates when you actually need that type of energy available for physical activity. And you’ll be burning ketone bodies without actually being on a so-called ketogenic diet. And so if that’s your approach to ketosis and that’s your definition of ketosis, I’m fine with that.
But if your definition of ketosis is just this, what I would consider to be also a somewhat micronutrient void diet, that relies upon a hefty intake of saturated fats, I would say I’m not a huge fan of that. And I do have to say, I have tried that diet. I was part of Jeff Volek’s faster study, where I ate a 90% fat based diet for a year going into that study. And it produced some remarkable benefits in terms of endurance capacity, but I also experienced borderline hypogonadism. I experienced a real significant impact on thyroid, had low energy levels, had low libido, low high end work output for harder workouts. And that was just due to the massive decrease in glycogen availability. And now my approach is more of what I would call kind of like a cyclic ketogenic approach.
And what I mean by that is I eat primarily healthy proteins, produce, vegetables, plants, and primarily monounsaturated Mediterranean style fats throughout the day. I do not eat many carbohydrates at all until the very end of the day. At the very end of the day, I tend to do a workout that kind of temporarily places me in a pretty insulin sensitive state and up regulates glucose transporters, so that when I sit down to dinner, which tends to be the one meal of the day where most people do want a little bit more freedom and flexibility, maybe it’s a party, or a night out, or a family dinner, or whatever, that’s when I’ll have some red wine, or dark chocolate, or a little bit of sourdough bread, or millet, or sweet potato fries, typically about 150, 200 grams or so of carbohydrates.
And then I’m topping off my glycogen stores, my liver and muscle glycogen stores, for the next day’s physical activity and allowing myself enough glycogen to be able to maintain thyroid status, testosterone, even the proteoglycans that help to make up my joints. And then I wear a continuous blood glucose monitor. I’ve tested my ketones. By the next morning, I’m easily back into burning ketones as my primary source of fuel. So it kind of allows you to have your cake and eat it too when you just pay attention to your carbohydrate intake, maintain some semblance of physical activity, you’re going to reap the benefits of ketosis without necessarily having to create a diaper pan scenario by having MCT oil for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Dr. Gundry (30:46):
Yeah. I’m glad you brought that up. A number of my patients unfortunately dive into a ketogenic diet with a lot of MCT oil and/or coconut oil, which has a lot of MCTs in it, and suffer the consequences. You’re right. And you’re right. Normally, and I go into a lot of this in my next book, The Energy Paradox, if you’re doing things correctly, you absolutely, positively should be, when you wake up in the morning, should be burning ketones for fuel if you have mitochondrial flexibility. And I think that’s what you’re getting to. Yeah.
Ben Greenfield (31:31):
Dr. Gundry (31:32):
Yeah. You can have a wonderful big meal at night, and you should be in ketosis by the next morning if you did things right.
Ben Greenfield (31:38):
Yeah. And a lot of people will argue that you should eat your carbohydrates in the morning because the body’s in a more insulin sensitive state in the morning. And that is actually true. However, like I mentioned, you can induce, self induce a state of temporary insulin sensitivity by simply saving, let’s say a weight training workout, or a high intensity interval training workout, and it doesn’t have to be long. We’re talking maybe 10 to 15 minutes prior to dinner, and then you’re actually kind of opening up those pathways to be able to partition that glucose properly.
And I’ve got to tell you, after wearing this continuous blood glucose monitor for as long as I have, one thing I’ve found that I think also flies under the radar that has had the most remarkable impact on lowering my blood glucose for a very long time, and I do this now prior to dinner as well, just because it’s nice for enhancing sleep also because it drops your core temperature so significantly, and that’s some kind of cold shower, or cold bath, or cold soak. Just two to five minutes of cold exposure drops the blood glucose 20 to 30 points and keeps it down for a pretty significant period of time, even if you’re eating carbohydrates. So if you can do a later afternoon or early evening workout, and then if you have the ability to do so, take an icy cold shower, or jump in a cold tub, or ocean, or lake, or river, or pool, then you’re going to be even more insulin sensitive when it comes that that carbohydrate feeding in the evening.
Dr. Gundry (33:02):
Great advice. But I’m not going to be able to do that in Palm Springs in the summer very well. Even my pool is hot. All right. So cold thermogenesis is a real thing and it does work. What about you’re walking next to a Joovv panel of red light and near infrared light? Where does that come into play?
Ben Greenfield (33:29):
Yeah. That falls under the category of what’s called photo biomodulation, meaning that you have a part of your mitochondria called cytochrome oxidase, and it responds to photons of light and can up-regulate production of ATP by the mitochondria when exposed particularly to near infrared, far infrared, or red light. And so these panels are I think the most benefit that you can get out of them would be the up-regulated mitochondrial activity and the energy that you get from exposure to these wavelengths of light, that you could get from sunlight, but A, sometimes people don’t have the ability to be able to go out in the sun during a workday. Or like right now, it’s gray and cloudy outside. I was using that this morning because I don’t really have appreciable amounts of infrared light if I go outside.
And B, I can get a huge dose of infrared that would, if I were to go outside in the sun, necessitate me being exposed to UVA and UVB radiation for a good four to six hours to get the equivalent effect of 10 to 20 minutes of infrared using something like a light panel. So I’m not against UVA and UVB radiation. I think the hermetic effect of it is beneficial. But I think four to six hours every single day might be a little excessive. So I use it for that, I also use it because, and this is actually why I originally began to use a photo biomodulation, the Leydig cells in the testes of men actually respond pretty well to these wavelengths of light in terms of up-regulating their cytochrome oxidase pathways.
And so we tend to see an increase in testosterone, total and free, with about 10 to 20 minutes per day of red light on the genitals. So what I do is I just flip that thing on in the morning and go sip my cup of coffee and go through my emails with my pants pulled down. I just take all my clothes off because it’s wonderful for the skin, for collagen, for elastin, et cetera, and just bathe myself in red light every single morning. And it feels great. It feels like a cup of coffee for the whole body, and it’s wonderful for the skin, wonderful for hormones, and wonderful for the mitochondria. So that kind of falls into the category of all the things that I do for mitochondrial health. What I mean by that is if you are eating healthy and you have a good physical movement practice, and you still have low energy levels, I think that you should begin to incorporate practices that increase mitochondrial biogenesis, or the throughput of electrons through the electron transport chain, or up-regulation of the cytochrome oxidase pathways.
And the best ways to do that, I think are light therapy, grounding, or earthing, meaning going outside barefoot, walking around, laying down on your back in the backyard, some kind of heat practice like regular sweating, heat exposure, sauna use, some type of cold practice, cold thermogenesis, cold showers, cold baths, cold soak. And then I start and end every day with a big 30 ounce glass mason jar full of minerals, sea salt, or hypertonic minerals, or something I’ll put in there because the minerals help to carry this charge through your body. We’re turning back to what we were saying about folks like Jerry Tennant and Robert Becker and The Body Electric. So I think one of the best things you can do is eat healthy, have a good movement practice, and then get exposed to light, get exposed to the planet Earth, do heat, do cold, and drink good water with minerals in it. I mean, those are some staples for me as far as my daily foundational health practices.
Dr. Gundry (36:55):
Wait a minute. Aren’t we supposed to avoid salt? Isn’t salt bad for you?
Ben Greenfield (37:01):
Yeah, isolated sodium chloride, it can be problematic. So yes, sodium can be an issue. But when accompanied by potassium and the 70 plus other minerals that are necessary for sodium to actually work properly within the body and not cause issues with hypertension, or acidity, or anything like that, then it’s a nonissue. So it depends on what your source of salt actually is. And I’m a sucker for great salts. I have a Celtic salt I use. I get black kona salt. I use these liquid minerals called quinton minerals, which are harvested from algal blooms that are just a wonderful source of minerals. And I’ve actually looked at a mass spec analysis of all these different salts out there on the market. And when it comes to the highest amount of minerals and lowest amount of metals, micro-plastics, lot of these other things that we do tend to find in salt, there’s one really good brand.
And you can find it at any grocery store, just about, order easily online, and it’s the Celtic brand salt, just that one that comes in a little blue bag. That’s one of the best salts. You can just put pinches of it on your food and your water. It’s got all the minerals that balance out the amount of sodium. And so yeah, the answer to your question is it depends. If you have a full spectrum of minerals, I personally do probably the equivalent around six grams of salt on a daily basis. I have wonderful blood pressure. And I used to go to bed at night, especially when I was competing as an Ironman triathlete, and I could hear my blood pounding in my ears, also some sluggish energy during the day that I think was related to exhaustion of mineral supplies in the adrenal glands.
And that was back [inaudible 00:38:43], and based on the advice from an exercise physiologist, I began to supplement pretty heavily with minerals and with good salt. And those problems went away almost overnight. And ever since then, and also since reading books that have followed, such as The Salt Fix, and some of the literature out there on the fact that salt is not necessarily evil, or as evil as we’ve been led to believe it is, I’ve been a huge fan of minerals and salting my food pretty heavily.
Dr. Gundry (39:08):
I’m going to put a proviso in there. I’m a big fan of salt in those forms. But I’ve seen kind of a mini epidemic of hypothyroidism in patients who do not get iodine in their diet that they used to get in iodized salt. And when we supplement with iodine, either with say, spirulina, or with kept, or chlorella, or have them get an iodized sea salt, which is now increasingly available, their thyroid function dramatically improves. And I do think people have to have a source of iodine in their diet.
Ben Greenfield (39:52):
Yeah. What I do is every day for lunch, I have a big cup of bone broth. I put about two teaspoons of a seaweed vegetable minerals in there. I get them from a doctor, Thomas Cowan, Thomas Cowan’s vegetable powders. And those have wonderful flavor. And then I typically, on any given day, with either dinner or with lunch, have a big mess of either kelp, or I have a nori wrap, or I have some form of seaweed or sea vegetables worked into the actual food as well. So I think I’m getting a pretty good amount of iodine just from sea vegetables and seaweed that I work into my diet.
Dr. Gundry (40:30):
All right. You mentioned pounding in your ears, et cetera. Tell us. You got a trick for sleep? Sleep seems to be one of those problems that 50% of people have. Sometimes they don’t talk about it. Any tricks?
Ben Greenfield (40:50):
Well, yeah. I think the sleep chapter alone in Boundless is 80 pages long.
Dr. Gundry (40:50):
Ben Greenfield (40:56):
And we could talk for hours about sleep. But let me tell you, most people I think these days are aware of sleep hygiene. Right? You keep the room cold and you sleep in a cold environment. You eliminate light sources, especially from screens and e-readers and computers. You limit your stress as much as possible before you go to bed. And you sleep in a somewhat quiet environment. You control the noise. And most people are aware of that, but then when it comes down to boots in the streets, there are so many little things that people forget that I think are the big drains when it comes to sleep.
So for example, we know that the absence of light at night is important. But not many people talk about the massive importance of waking up to large amounts of natural sunlight, even the use of these red light devices that simulate sunrise, the use of devices you can place in your ears, or glasses that produce light to just blast you with light if you live in a dark, or dreary, or gray area like Seattle or Portland. Your sleep cycle begins in the morning. And you need to expose yourself to as much natural light, either via sunlight, or via these red light producing devices, or a combination of both, in the morning because that’s what jump starts your circadian rhythm.
And then in the evening, a lot of people are wearing blue light blockers. They’re installing programs like Flux, or the one that I like even better than that, Iris, on their computers. But their lighting in their actual bedroom is still subpar. It’s LED. It’s fluorescent. It’s producing a lot of flicker. It’s producing a lot of red light. So I think one of the best things you can do is replace all of the light bulbs in your bedroom and your master bathroom with red incandescent bulbs, or some of these newer biological LED bulbs, that are the color red because your skin has a ton of photo receptors in it, and I don’t care if you’re wearing blue light blocking glasses, your entire body is an eye, and so you need to be aware of that when it comes to light. That’s one thing.
When it comes to cold, a lot of people decrease the temperature, but they won’t decrease it enough. I think the optimum sleeping temperature is one in which when you take off your clothes to go to bed at night, there’s a little bit of mental resistance because it’s kind of sort of chilly when you take off your clothes. Typically, that’s about 63 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s the ideal sleeping temperature for a bedroom. And furthermore, there are little tricks. There was one study that showed a 15 minute decrease in sleep latency when you wear wool socks as you go to bed because your feet become warm, and that helps to cool the rest of the body. I also like this chilly pad device that you can get and sleep on. It’ll circulate 55 degree cold water under your bed at night. In addition to that, kind of like later afternoon, early evening, cold shower or cold soak. So it’s not just about kind of, sort of keeping the room kind of cold. You want to go out of your way to actually get everything pretty cold and take some extra steps to do so.
The last couple of things to think about is we know that silence is important. Right? Barking dogs, blaring alarms, sirens, et cetera. But there are certain noises that can help to enhance sleep. There was one study, I think it was done at Stanford, that showed that a form of noise, we’re all familiar with white noise and brown noise, well, a lot of these apps, you can take your phone, put it in airplane mode next to the bed. And I use an app called SleepStream for this, to play pink noise. Turns out that pink noise can enhance sleep, particularly deep sleep, more than any of these other forms of noise that will drown out ambient sounds. So I play a little bit of pink noise to drown out ambient sounds.
And then the last thing is, I talked about not going to bed in a stressed state. And I would say the top three things that I do for that, number one is as I go to sleep, I take an exhale that’s twice as long as my inhale. So typically, it’s about one, two, in, one, two, three, four, out. And as you do that, it just lulls your body into a parasympathetic state. We know that long exhales have an impact on the vagus nerve that will activate the parasympathetic state. And so doing a breath work practice, like a two, four, or a four, eight breath work practice as you fall asleep helps to manage the stress component.
And then your bed needs to be a place that you, even from a subconscious standpoint, associate with safety. And the two ways you can do that are A, don’t let your computer or books associated with your work or your career, or business discussions, or anything like that come anywhere near the bedroom. Don’t be that person. Even when you check into a hotel room, don’t plop your laptop on your bed and crawl onto the bed on your belly to get some work done. Keep the laptop away from the bed. Do not let your brain associate the bed in any way with work.
And then furthermore, to enhance that feeling of safety, I’m a huge fan, I’ve had a lot of people respond really, really well to this, of gravity blankets, a 20 to 25 pound good, cooling gravity blanket, it makes you feel as though you’re protected by this hard protective layer that kind of just … It’s very similar like when you were a baby, and you were swaddled. And you put one of these gravity blankets on your bed, and that’s amazing also for the stress peace. So yeah, pay attention to cold, light, silence and stress. But also, understand the little nitty gritties of how to do that. And get into all that stuff in the big sleep chapter in my book.
Dr. Gundry (46:16):
Yeah. It is a book, and it’s going to take you a while to eat all of this. It’s a fantastic reference material, if nothing else. And it’s certainly far more than that. So what’s one thing that surprised you maybe the most when you were researching Boundless?
Ben Greenfield (46:41):
One interesting one was, we tend to, I think especially my audience, I tend to have a lot of people who are interested in exercise, who are exercise enthusiasts, or so-called gym junkies. And this idea that more muscle is not better. We see a lot of body builders dying from cardiomegaly and left ventricular hypertrophy. We know that muscle takes a lot of energy to carry, to cool. You need higher endogenous antioxidant production. And when you look at longevity studies on muscle from guinea pig models all the way up to human models, you find that it’s not the amount of muscle. It’s actually the power of the fast twitch muscle fibers that’s important.
And so if you’re exercising, and you’re exercising for longevity, being able to generate high amounts of force over a low period of time is much more important than the amount of muscle that you actually carry. And this means actually having a couple of workouts during the week, even as you age, that force you to move a little bit more quickly than you want to move. You got for a walk and you monitor your step count, and you take a brisk walk in which you’re walking a little bit faster than the step count that your brain actually wants you to walk. We know that walking speed is correlated with longevity. There’s even a device that will train you.
You would get a kick out of this, Steven. There’s a concept of enhanced external counter pulsation therapy that’s used in recovery in cardiovascular rehab. And there’s this device called a counter pace. And it ties to your phone app. You wear a little heart rate monitor. It ties to a phone app and it trains you to time each step in direct correlation to the diastolic phase of your heartbeat. And so it’ll monitor your heart rate and monitor your step count. And you’re basically pumping blood back up to your heart with the muscles of your legs right as you’re in that diastolic phase. Well, what I’ve found is that’s also a really, really good way to keep your walking speed elevated because it’ll tell you to speed up or slow down based on your heartbeat.
But then the other thing is doing some body weight explosive workouts, where you’re just moving quickly. You’re moving quickly. You’re not just doing super slow training. But you might work in some box jumps, or lunge jumps, or some push ups, where you’re pushing up really fast and lowering yourself slowly. But I think that was one thing that really surprised me, was the importance especially with age, of maintaining power. As a matter of fact, some of the healthiest athletes you’re going to find out there, this is something else interesting I learned while writing the book, we know and Daniel Amen has a lot of research out about this, that of all the sports you could play to live a long time, it would be swimming and table tennis because both of those involve a lot of left, right brain hemispheric activity.
But in addition to that, we find that some of the most metabolically healthy, long lived exercises, if we’re looking at this from an exercising standpoint, are power lifters because power lifting involves moving weights that aren’t super heavy, they can be heavy, but more importantly, they’re moved very explosively, very quickly. So I would say don’t focus on the amount of muscle that you have. Focus on how functional and how fast that muscle is.
Dr. Gundry (49:41):
All right. Good advice. I’m going to have to get that device. I want to step to my diastolic time period. That’s cool. All right. So probably we don’t even need to ask this. But where do people find you? I know where we can get the book. Where do we find you?
Ben Greenfield (49:59):
I would say Google, but I’m becoming a little bit disillusioned with Google these days. So I’m going to say just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com. That’s where my podcast is. I write a couple of articles a week over there. Boundlessbook.com is where you can get the book, and then bengreenfieldfitness.com for everything else, including an interview I did with you, Steven, a couple years ago.
Dr. Gundry (50:21):
That’s right. That’s right. I enjoyed that. All right. We got an audience question, and I’m going to give it to you first. Big Founder on Instagram asks, “Isn’t flax seed a massive killer of testosterone in men? I’ve heard this from several other nutrition experts recently.” Did he hear that from you, Ben? Come on.
Ben Greenfield (50:43):
I don’t think he heard it from me. I mean, I’m more opposed to flax seed being viewed as a really good source of DHA. Like I mentioned earlier, the ALA to DHA conversion in flax seed and chia seed, et cetera, is pretty poor. But flax seed does have a phytoestrogens in it that can bind to estrogen receptors. They’re pretty weak binders and typically tend to be a nonissue, especially actually in males. I think the one population that needs to be careful with flax seeds are women with estrogen dominance and progesterone deficiencies because in that population, I think doing as much as you can to minimize estrogen exposure from xenoestrogens in plastics and household cleaning chemicals and personal care products, and even phytoestrogens, from plants. I think it’s important if you tend to have estrogen dominance.
If you’re a male and you have some real over aromatization issues, or even genetic factors that might impair estrogen metabolism, which are usually liver related, you may also want to moderate flax intake. But those phytoestrogens are, yeah, they can mimic estrogen, but they’re really weak binders, and I think that they’re only a concern if you’re already estrogen dominant, or have estrogen clearance issues due to genetic factors.
Dr. Gundry (51:54):
Yeah, I agree with you. In fact, there’s actually some … First of all, folks, you will not convert flax oil or flax seeds into DHA or EPA. I mean, you do a little bit. But I see a ton of vegans who are convinced that flax oil is all they need to make DHA. And we measure their DHA and it’s just nonexistent. But yeah, I think the issue of this being an estrogen producing substance that’s going to block your testosterone production, I’ve actually never seen it, even in my vegans. So thank you for answering that question. All right. Okay. Now you can get off your treadmill. You can go on the couch. You can go do whatever you would normally do. You’ve shown off enough. And again, it’s great to see you again. And thanks for coming on the podcast.
Ben Greenfield (52:48):
Time for Twinkies and Netflix now, baby. Thanks for having me on, Steven. I appreciate it.
Dr. Gundry (52:52):
Take care. Thanks for joining me on this episode of The Dr. Gundry Podcast. Before you go, I just wanted to remind you that you can find the show on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. And if you want to watch each episode of The Dr. Gundry Podcast, you can always find me on YouTube at YouTube.com/drgundry because I’m Dr. Gundry, and I’m always looking out for you.