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 (00:16):
Can you improve your quality of sleep, destress, enhance your focus and boost your mood with a pair of headphones? Oh, come on. Well, my guest today says yes. In just a minute, I’ll speak with Dr. Daniel Cartledge. Dr. Cartledge is an interventional pain physician at the National Pain Institute in Delray Beach, Florida. Along with his brother, Dr. Richard Cartledge, he invented and patented Xen headphones. These special earbuds are designed to actually stimulate the vagus nerve, which you’ve heard me talk about in my books. It’s the communication pathway between your brain and your other organs. Today, we’re going to talk about the behind Xen and how your brain relates to your overall health.
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So, Dr. Cartledge, welcome to the program.
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (05:04):
Thank you for having me. It’s great to be here.
Dr. Gundry (05:06):
All right. So as a fellow medical device inventor, what the heck led you to create medical devices in the first place?
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (05:18):
Well, I was actually in my pain practice, I was using an auricular acupuncture procedure to help with chronic pain. And that was actually partially the inspiration for tapping into the vagus nerve and creating this product.
Dr. Gundry (05:35):
So for our listeners, what’s an auricle? What’s auricular?
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (05:38):
So auricular is in the ear.
Dr. Gundry (05:42):
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (05:43):
So we are tapping into the vagus nerve, which is a cranial nerve. It’s the 10th cranial nerve, and there is a branch in the ear. So our device uses patented earbuds that actually stimulate the vagus nerve at the level of the ear. So basically you’re wearing earbuds, like the ones I have in.
Dr. Gundry (06:02):
And so the vagus nerve runs by the ear, is part of the ear. I mean, how did you figure this out from your acupuncture practice?
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (06:14):
So actually the device was actually auricular acupuncture that was tapping into not just the vagus nerve, but other nerves, other locations on the ear as well. And I brought up this, I discussed this product with my brother, who’s a physician as well as an inventor. And we basically looked into the science. How is this helping people, putting these needles in the ear and stimulating them with electricity?
And we found out that this seemed to be related to the vagus nerve. And we found some very, very interesting studies. There was a study that was actually an implanted vagus nerve stimulation. It was actually surgically implanted in the body, and this was to treat seizures, to treat epileptic seizure disorder. And it was very interesting because after the study, these patients were supposed to come back to get these devices explanted out the body. And a lot of them hesitated. They didn’t want to have these devices taken out. And the reason for that was they felt good. They felt euphoric. They felt relaxed from it. And again, this was from implanted vagus nerve stimulation.
So that led us to look into the vagus nerve as being this basically center messenger in the ear that could help people relax, feel good, focus and all the other benefits of vagal nerve stimulation. So that was really a turning point. It was actually my brother who discovered that study and that helped lead us to the vagus nerve. And that’s what we focused on with Xen by Neuvana.
Dr. Gundry (07:49):
Interesting. Yeah. Your brother is a cardiac surgeon. He’s chief of cardiac surgery at Boca Raton Regional Hospital. So this is fun. So how do two brothers who are experts in different areas… What’s it like to work together? What’s the process like?
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (08:09):
Well, it’s fun. He’s my older brother, definitely more experienced than myself. And he actually had a lot of experience with medical patents. I believe he has actually over a hundred medical patents to his name. So he’s always been an inventor, really knew how to work around the whole patenting process. So he was my go-to for this, and it was convenient that it happens to be my brother as well. So really appreciated his experience with medical patents and all that research that goes behind it.
Dr. Gundry (08:39):
So what you’re saying is, since he’s not here, is that you’re the genius behind all this, and he’s just the workhorse. Is that right?
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (08:46):
Right. Well, we can say that on this show, right? He won’t be very happy.
Dr. Gundry (08:50):
No, we won’t say that at all. Okay. So before we get into actually Xen and how that happens, so why is your brain so important in so many aspects in your health that you’re trying to tap into?
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (09:06):
Okay, well, great question. I mean, the vagus nerve basically is responsible for really stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. So there’s the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is the fight or flight. Okay? Cortisol is released and epinephrine, neurotransmitters that really get you energized, pumped up and also maybe are somewhat anxiety provoking.
Whereas the sympathetic nervous system, which the vagus nerve stimulates and balances is basically the rest, the digest, the relaxation. So basically we are balancing the nervous system and promoting relaxation by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system through the vagus nerve.
Dr. Gundry (09:57):
So are you saying that over the last, I don’t know, 20, 30 years that this balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic systems have been all screwed up?
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (10:13):
Well, I’ll tell you. I think that as we age, there’s a little more chaos in our bodies through and through. And it’s just part of the aging process where we probably balance out much more sympathetic than parasympathetic activity over time. It’s just part of unfortunately what happens to our bodies as we age. And let’s face it, we’re all, as Americans, most of the people I know, including myself undergo… We deal with a lot of stress. Life can be very stressful. It’s nice having something that can balance you out, help you relax without drugs, without any chemicals. Basically we’re tapping into the body using electricity.
Dr. Gundry (10:55):
I mean, in your practice, are there more neurological issues now than there were 10, 20 years ago?
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (11:05):
I’ll tell you, it’s interesting. I think that it’s really hard to say. You’re saying as a generational thing, have things changed? Are there more neurological disease processes now than before? It’s hard to say because I think people are more likely to be treated in general now. Even my specialty, pain management, I mean, people didn’t really talk about, or even know about pain management before the 1970s. So it’s actually a relatively new specialty.
So what did people do in the forties and fifties? Were they more stoic? Did they just accept the fact when I’m older, I have arthritis, I have back problems, I have more pain? We definitely seem to be a society now that wants to fix things and fix them very quickly. We don’t want to deal with anything that hurts. We want to change that. We want to find a treatment plan. So I think maybe, are there more neurologic processes going on, or are we just being treated more commonly and more frequently? That’s the question in general.
Dr. Gundry (12:08):
Gotcha. So one of the things that I’ve written about is that the vagus nerve is a two-way street from the brain down to the gut and various organs, like the heart, which I was originally interested in. But it’s also a street from the gut and the gut microbiome up to the brain. So are you stimulating both directions or how… Take me into the science of how vagal nerve stimulation works.
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (12:45):
Sure. So again we’re stimulating the vagus nerve at the ear level. So we think that there is both afferent and efferent effects from this. So it seems since this is a cranial nerve, there’s a direct connection to the brain. That stimulating the vagus nerve at this level of the ear is actually sending a signal and helping to increase feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain, acetylcholine, serotonin, and help you relax, help you feel better, increase the mood overall.
Dr. Gundry (13:21):
Now acetylcholine, that’s helping one neuron talk to another neuron. Right?
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (13:27):
Dr. Gundry (13:28):
And obviously a lot of the dementia drugs are based on manipulating acetylcholine in one way or another. Are you seeing that people can think more clearly? Does it affect memory or what at least is the anecdotal experience with this?
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (13:51):
Yes. Something that we hear very, very frequently and I find his myself when using Xen by Neuvana is an improvement in focus. If I have to do something mundane that I’ve been putting off because it’s not fun, it’s boring, it’s tedious, I use the device and it really helps me focus. It almost takes away the background noise from life, if you will, and helps me focus on my task, excuse me, at hand. And there are a lot of studies going on, some past studies and some current studies going on right now with using vagal nerve stimulation for treating dementia, even treating Alzheimer dementia as well.
So, again, we have not done these studies with our device, but there are vagal nerve stimulations going on to treat dementia. So it’s interesting that you mention the acetylcholine because you’re right. That is a information processing neurotransmitter that does relate to memory and thoughts and all our mental processing. So that’s something that we’ll see a lot more of in the future as these studies come out and really see what kind of benefits are coming out for using vagal nerve stimulation to treat dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Dr. Gundry (15:02):
So why shouldn’t I just go out and get myself a vagus nerve stimulator implanted in my neck instead of putting a couple of earbuds in my ear?
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (15:16):
Well, as I always say to my patients, always go conservative first. Always try non-invasive before invasive. Look, there are some vagal nerve implanted devices. There’s one to treat to depression. There’s one to treat seizure disorder. There’s one for weight loss as well. And these have been very effective, very, very effective treatments for people. But again, it’s surgery. Anytime there’s surgery, there’s a risk. So we’re offering again a consumer device that is really no different than putting earbuds in your ear and listening to music. Again, we’re not crossing the skin. This is transcutaneous.
Dr. Gundry (15:57):
Okay. So take me through what’s going on. So you’re not putting earbuds in your ear and you’re listening to soothing music that is going to make you kind of zone out and feel bliss and happiness.
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (16:14):
So there are actually three different ways to use Xen by Neuvana. For one, you can use it without music. So, again, there’s two earbuds. It’s the left earbud that actually stimulates the vagus nerve. Both earbuds have speakers for listening to music. So you have a couple different options. There is a mode that doesn’t use music. You don’t have to use music at all, where basically we have some preset wave form patterns that you can use. There’s four different choices, and that would be without music again.
There’s another, there’s a sync mode where basically you can listen to the music of your voice on your iPhone, iTunes, or Pandora or Spotify. And the signal to the vagus nerve will actually sync the music. So it’ll be different depending on the song and depending on the genre of music that you’re listening to. And there’s another mode called ambient mode that we wanted for people that go to public music venues like concerts, and there’s actually a speaker that will pick up the ambient music and sync that signal to the vagus nerve stimulation. So you have some choices basically.
Dr. Gundry (17:29):
Wow. So all right now, help me through this. So if I’m listening to Aerosmith, you’re saying that your device might actually be able to calm me down syncing with Aerosmith?
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (17:44):
Dr. Gundry (17:45):
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (17:47):
So Aerosmith will probably give you some good signal as well. There’s some great beats, great guitar in that, as opposed to listening to Air Supply, which will be a lot less stimulation, much softer music. But it’s also a taste thing. I mean, some people want to relax. They want the music itself to be very relaxing, classical piano music, which obviously is not going to give you as much stimulation as the Aerosmith. But the combination of the relaxing piano music with this vagal nerve stimulation could be absolutely enjoyable and make you feel good.
Dr. Gundry (18:25):
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All right. So you said weight loss, and I know my listeners and viewers perked up and said, “Weight loss. Tell me more, please.”
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (22:12):
So there is an implanted device for weight loss, and again, we haven’t tested our unit for weight loss. We’re not going to make any of those claims, but there definitely… The vagus nerve, as you know, really affects a lot of body systems. I mean, heart, lungs and digestive system. So with this device, they’re really tapping into the digestive synchronization of the vagus nerve. The relation between, excuse me, the relation between the vagus nerve and the digestive system to increase the feeling of satiety and decrease appetite.
Dr. Gundry (22:51):
Now, this is not your area of expertise, but I’ll throw it out there. Any evidence of vagal nerve stimulation affecting heart rate variability?
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (23:04):
Yes. So, great question. And I figured from your cardiothoracic surgery background, you’d be asking about this.
Dr. Gundry (23:11):
You’ve been studying for the test, come on.
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (23:13):
Right, I’ve been studying for the test. So there definitely have been a lot of studies that show that vagal nerve stimulation, especially at the auricle, do promote slowing down of the heart rate, heart rate variability, which a lot of times occurs when people are calmer, people are feeling more relaxed.
Dr. Gundry (23:37):
Okay. And that’s actually with the auricle stimulation, not some implantable device. Right?
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (23:41):
Correct. And so these were auricular studies that were done, yes, that showed heart rate variability.
Dr. Gundry (23:48):
All right. Dumb question. Why not stimulate both ears?
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (23:52):
Well, this is a consumer device and the right side, the right vagus nerve has a more direct link to cardiac function. And, again, so as a consumer device, we were really tapping into the vagus nerve’s ability to relax, make people feel good, improve their mood and help their sleep. So we’re not promoting this as any kind of cardiac treatment. So we’re sticking to the left side of the vagus nerve, the left ear only.
Dr. Gundry (24:23):
So as a consumer device, do you have to get FDA clearance, or you can go right ahead and use this, whatever?
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (24:32):
As a consumer device, we do not have to get FDA clearance for this.
Dr. Gundry (24:36):
Gotcha. Okay. All right. This is fascinating. So how long did it take you guys to actually develop this? How did the Xen come about as a consumer product? Tell me the whole story.
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (24:54):
Sure. I’ll give you the story. So my brother and I founded the company in 2014, and our first prototypes were done actually for 2016. We first showed… Actually, the company was called Nirvana then. We’ve actually changed it to Neuvana. And the device was called Nirvana as well. So Nirvana at that time, launched at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, 2016, and we actually won Best Product in the Health and Digital Wellness sector.
Dr. Gundry (25:27):
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (25:28):
Thank you. So we’re very excited about that. We got a lot of PR, tons of international media attention when we launched. It was very, very exciting. And then basically end of 2019, actually in October, we came out with our second generation. So our first generation was a little bit boxy looking and maybe looked a little dated, wasn’t as high tech as we wanted it to be, but it worked and people really loved it.
And our new device, which is now called Xen. And, again, our company went from Nirvana to Neuvana. This is very sleek. It’s app-based. It’s with Bluetooth. It has a rechargeable battery. The sound quality of the earbuds is much, much better than our generation one. And it’s also a stronger signal. So we feel that we’ve come out with a really much, much better product. So we’re very excited.
Dr. Gundry (26:26):
All right. So tell me how do you use this thing? What does it look like? Show us please.
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (26:32):
Okay. I will show.
Dr. Gundry (26:33):
Talk us through it as well.
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (26:34):
So this is the device right here. This is the generator and then have the [crosstalk 00:26:43]-
Dr. Gundry (26:42):
It looks like a skinny hockey puck.
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (26:45):
A skinny hockey puck. Yeah, exactly. And I’m actually going to… I don’t know if you can see the illumination there.
Dr. Gundry (26:53):
Yeah. Well, it’s very, very exotic looking.
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (26:57):
Exotic looking. Right? And it’s connected to these ear buds. So this is the generator and there’s really only one button on the generator, the on/off switch. Everything else is done through the phone, through the app.
Dr. Gundry (27:11):
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (27:12):
And then have these two earbuds. So the left earbud, this is the active stimulator earbud, is white. It’s labeled, of course, left ear and then right ear. So only the left ear bud is actually stimulating the vagus nerve. Both of these of course have speakers that you’re listening to.
Dr. Gundry (27:30):
Okay. Can you feel this stimulating the nerve? I mean, are you getting electric shock therapy help me through this?
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (27:38):
Right. This is not as severe as like ECT, but you can increase or decrease the actual signal. And most people will start very low in the beginning. Since I’ve been using this for a long time, I use it on the max stimulation pretty much every time I use it.
Dr. Gundry (27:58):
While listening to Aerosmith, right?
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (28:00):
Listening to Aerosmith. Basically at the lower settings, it almost feels like ants crawling.
Dr. Gundry (28:06):
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (28:08):
And then as you get stronger, you feel more of a pulsing, stronger stimulation in the ear. So it’s a preference. I mean, we have a lot of people who are audio files and music aficionados, and they like to really feel a strong signal. And a lot of people actually love the sensation. You listen to music and then you listen to music with Xen and you’re really feeling the beat with that synchronization of the vagal nerve stimulation to the music. It really adds another dimension to the music as well.
Dr. Gundry (28:39):
So, again, for our audience, many people in your specialty use TENS devices, and that uses a little electrical current. Is that the sort of current sensation people are going to feel in their ear, or is that way off?
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (29:01):
It is. No, actually it could be compared to TENS unit simulation. Absolutely. Of course, it feels different. TENS, you’re using in a large surface area, low back, neck. Whereas this is so localized to the auricle, but yes, it could feel like that, almost like a little tingling, again, ants crawling kind of tingling sensation. And then a little more pulsative as you go stronger with the signal itself. But, yeah, absolutely. It could be compared to a TENS unit signal.
Dr. Gundry (29:28):
Okay. So now we’re in the ear. You’ve got it hooked up. How do you use it? How long do you use it? Do you use it… I’ll just throw out some examples. If you are going to do something that requires a lot of mental concentration, do you use it? If you want to go to sleep, do you use it? Do you want to feel happy? Do you use it? And so how do we do it?
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (29:52):
Right. So we’re recommending two 15-minute sessions a day, okay? And we have a lot of people that actually will use it right before they go to bed to sleep better, wake up feeling more refreshed. Again, people like myself that use it sometimes to get a mundane task done because it makes me feel good, makes the task more enjoyable and it helps me focus. And so people use it differently.
We also have a lot of people that are using it, a lot of athletes are using it after they work out to help them recover. They say it feels better. They’re feeling less pain, less soreness and it’s helping to relax them as well after their workout. So this is kind of another interesting use for athletics, post workout recovery.
Dr. Gundry (30:42):
I take it this isn’t pseudoscience. There’s actual studies that say this happens.
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (30:53):
Absolutely. There are tons of studies on vagal nerve stimulation, and besides just this wellness chapter that we’re working on as a consumer product, there’s been studies for, again, treating dementia, memory loss from Alzheimer’s disease. There’s also been a lot of studies that have shown vagal nerve, VNS stimulation to be very promising for post-traumatic stress disorder. They’re even studying, treating autism as well. And just a lot of different things. Again, some of the things we talked about: weight loss, of course, seizure disorder.
There’s also a lot of rheumatologic studies as well, where they believe that the vagal nerve simulation is decreasing inflammation in the body. And they’re doing studies with patients with rheumatoid arthritis. So there’s really, really tons of studies that have been done and tons of studies that will be going on in the future. It’s very interesting, really encompassing a lot of different medical issues.
Dr. Gundry (31:59):
All right. Well, it’s been great having you on the program because I can tell you-
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (32:04):
Thank you so much for having me.
Dr. Gundry (32:04):
I really appreciate it.
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (32:05):
I tell you, our listeners, I would guarantee have never heard about this. Where can my audience learn about you and your work?
Sure. Our website is Neuvanalife.com. That’s N-E-U-V-A-N-A-L-I-F-E .com. And we’re on Twitter and Facebook. And there’s a lot of articles… I’m sorry.
Speaker 4 (32:31):
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (32:31):
Oh, Instagram as well.
Dr. Gundry (32:33):
Yeah, so it’s N-E-U?
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (32:35):
N-E-U-V-A-N-A-L-I-F-E. Neuvanalife.com is the website.
Dr. Gundry (32:42):
And dumb question, can they get your device on Amazon, or they got to go direct to you?
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (32:47):
They have to go directly through the website.
Dr. Gundry (32:49):
Gotcha. Okay. So if they type that in on Amazon, that’s not you.
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (32:54):
That’s not us. Exactly.
Dr. Gundry (32:57):
All right. All right. Well, this has been great fun and hopefully you’ll send one out and I’ll give it a try and give you a shout-out.
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (33:06):
Absolutely. I’ll make sure we send one to you. Absolutely. Thank you so much for this opportunity. Really, really enjoyed it. I watched some of your podcasts. You’re fantastic. I’m definitely learning about diet.
Dr. Gundry (33:14):
Oh, very good.
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (33:16):
A lot of things that I shouldn’t be eating so…
Dr. Gundry (33:18):
Well, I’m not going to say this, but maybe you can put the ear bud in and eat lectins all you want. I didn’t say that, people.
Dr. Daniel Cartledge (33:28):
Not coming from you.
Dr. Gundry (33:30):
All right, so it’s time for our audience question.
Heather Dubrow (33:38):
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Dr. Gundry (34:05):
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Annabel Bentos on YouTube wrote in and asked, “Dr. Gundry, what is your opinion about homemade kombucha?” So homemade kombucha’s a great idea, but please, please, please watch the sugar content. I’ve had some patients bring me their homemade kombucha, and it’s like having root beer soda. It is so sweet. The object of the game is to have the fermentation process use up all the sugar in your kombucha.
That’s why I’ve said before, when you go to the stores or the health food stores, please look at the label and look at the sugar content because some of them are sweetened to be a sugary beverage. And that’s really not what you’re looking for, but great question. Yeah, make your own. All right. So that’s all we got time for. Dr. Cartledge, great to have you, and we’ll see you next week on The Dr. Gundry Podcast.
On The Dr. Gundry Podcast, we provide a venue for discussion and the views expressed by my guests do not necessarily reflect my own.
Thanks for joining me on this epic 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 could always find me on YouTube at youtube.com/drgundry, because I’m Dr. Gundry, and I’m always looking out for you.