October 1, 2020
From podcast: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/podcast/qa-418/
[00:01:07] What Have I Been Up to?
[00:04:07] News Flashes: Super-Rich Biohackers Turning Into Cyborgs
[00:07:14] “The Unmapped Chemical Complexity of Our Diet”
[00:10:23] Can a carnivore diet provide all essential nutrients?
[00:13:37] Intestinal Alkaline Phosphatase
[00:17:46] What happens when you mix baking soda with ketone esters?
[00:21:17] A Fascinating Host Of Metabolic Reactions Revealed
[00:23:19] Japanese Doctor Who Lived To 105
[00:27:58] Ibuprofen Shrinks Your Balls
[00:29:45] Special Announcements / Podcast Sponsors
[00:35:13] Is Phenibut A Good Nootropic or Smart Drug?
[00:42:32] The Effects Of Excess Hygiene On Immunity
[00:47:41] How To Fix Your Vision Without Glasses
[00:54:20] Closing the Podcast
[00:55:47] End of Podcast
Ben: In this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast.
The latest research on longevity, ketones, baking soda, fasting, insane biohacking celebrities, how to fix your vision without glasses, and much more.
Health, performance, nutrition, longevity, ancestral living, biohacking, and much more. My name is Ben Greenfield. Welcome to the show.
Well, folks, I've got good news and I've got bad news. The good news is I have a podcast for you today, a massive Q&A podcast. We've had so much research and questions building up that I just had to record one of these for you. However, the bad news is that my usual trusty, hilarious sidekick, Jay T. Wiles, is not going to be joining me today. I just got a text about an hour ago that his son fell down the stairs. His son's okay, but a father needs to be with son. I understand that, so I'm hopping on today's episode solo.
So, before I jump into today's newsflashes, what have I been up to lately? Probably two things you might find interesting. A, I decided that after a hunting trip in New Mexico during which I largely ate, A, meat, and B, something called keto bricks, which is just basically just what it sounds like, a giant ketogenic brick primarily comprised of cacao butter and coconut oil, and a little bit of sea salt and cacao powder, if I can talk. There are thousand calories in one of these bricks. So, I pretty much just munched on those and ate meat the whole time and I felt so good, so, so good in terms of energy levels that I decided that for the next month, I'm going to eat a keto carnivore diet.
So, I'm essentially just eating meat, organ meats, some sea salt, a little bit of honey, a few little pieces of tuber here and there like particularly a bit of pumpkin and squash, a few berries, and then some of these keto bricks. So, I'm keto carnivore for the month and I actually feel really good. I'm about six days in and my energy levels are fantastic. First few days as is common on a carnivore diet as your gut biome adjusts, or as your body learns to create more bile and hydrochloric acid in response to all the meat. I had a little bit of, shall we say, liquid poo, but that's actually pretty common and I think I'm over that hump, so to speak. And so, that's how I'm eating this month. If you see random food photos on Instagram of me with liver and giant 1,000 calorie keto bricks. That's why.
Anyways, the other interesting thing is that the smoke has been horrible. The smoke where I live in Spokane, Washington is worse than it has been ever in the history of the city. The air pollution where I'm living at right now is the highest air pollution levels in the entire world. So, I've largely been living indoors the past few days. Me and my family are both taking copious amounts of both fish oil and the new Kion immune vitamin C product. Based on some studies I looked into, this will be interesting for any of you who are in polluted areas right now due to all these fires, but anyways, I found some good randomized controlled trials of antioxidants, particularly vitamin C, and also omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation to actually be pretty beneficial for the oxidative stress that occurs in response to air pollution.
And so, I'm doing a lot of vitamin C, doing a lot of fish oil, staying indoors quite a bit, but the air pollution has been hefty. So, I'm pretty much inside stuffing ribeyes and giant 1,000 calorie keto bricks into my face and enjoying life quite a bit. That's what I'm up to. And as I jump into today's podcast episode, especially with all these newsflashes, all the research I'm going to talk about, et cetera, please know that I take copious shownotes, and those are all at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/418.
Well, let's begin with something fun, shall we? “The super-rich biohackers turning into cyborgs with built-in body armour and injecting teenagers blood to stay young.” Yes, that article hit the sun. I don't know how reputable a publication the sun is, but this article was actually pretty entertaining. It talked about Peter Thiel, his thirst for young blood and his involvement with ambrosia and this so-called parabiosis, a transfusion of young plasma. Talked about Elon Musk and the future of these cyborg brain implants like his upcoming project, Neuralink, which apparently is going to allow us to connect our brains to technology, or potentially, to allow us to communicate telepathically, which sounds both safe and fun. A previous podcast guest of mine named Jack Dorsey was also featured on that. Now, when Jack came on my podcast, he admitted to the fact that, shocker, shocker, he's eating one meal a day, which had him painted all over the media as having an eating disorder. Well, in this article, it was now exposed that Jack Dorsey is also, in addition to having an eating disorder, using saunas and ice baths to give himself a brain boost. So, apparently, that turns him into a legitimate biohacker as well.
And then, I was actually featured in this article. This is why I wanted to bring it up in the first place because everything said about me in the entire article was untrue aside from the fact that I do eat black ant powder. Said I massage my rectum with glass rods to promote my prostate health, that several times per year, I inject myself with stem cells that I harvest myself for my own body fat, and also inject into my penis. It says that I fast 16 hours every day and I make giant smoothies full of organ meat comprised primarily of products that I've hunted with bows and arrows on a ranch that I have in Washington State. None of that is true, actually.
So, whenever you're reading articles like this, folks, read with a bit of skepticism. The article is actually pretty entertaining. It goes on and on about Joshua Zeidner, who apparently injects edited DNA into his system to shut down the myostatin, the hormone that inhibits muscle growth so that he can get all swole. It also talks about this new documentary that's apparently coming out on Netflix called “Biohacking.” That one should be interesting. Actually, it's called “Biohackers.” Am I a biohacker? I don't consider myself to be a biohacker. I'm a healthy living enthusiast. I think a true biohacker are these folks who are like injecting chlorophyll into their eyeballs for night vision, or the people who are getting magnetic implants installed in their fingers to be able to interact with technology like they do in the movie “Minority Report,” or perhaps the folks who are getting compasses installed in their chest to vibrate every time they face True North. I consider that to be true fringe biohacking and consider myself again just to be a plain Jane health enthusiast. But it's an interesting article, an entertaining read if you care to delve in.
Well, now, let's turn to actual science, shall we? This was a super interesting study that came out that we only understand about 150 of the 26,000 plus biochemical components of the food we eat. The article was titled, and I'll link to it at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/418, “The Unmapped Chemical Complexity of Our Diet.” Now, this was very interesting. What the folks who wrote this paper reported was that the nutritional components that are actually identified by the United States Department of Agriculture that are actually tracked in their nutritional databases that nearly every piece of nutrition software relies upon to analyze food does not take into account anything except an extremely small fraction of the more than 26,000 distinct definable biochemicals that are actually present in our food.
So, for example, you take garlic. A clove of garlic has more than 2,300 different chemical components, like allicin, which is the organosulfur compound that gives the herb its nice flavor, but also helps with blood pressure, a luteolin, which is a flavone, and garlic with reported protective effects in cardiovascular disease. Some of these are listed in the USDA food database. But again, 2,300 plus components of garlic are not even taken into account. Now, another example would be green tea, specifically what's called the epigallocatechin component of green tea, which is a well-known biochemical compound in green tea with a lot of therapeutic effects. But it turns out that there are 83 different proteins that are associated with the potential therapeutic effects of something like green tea on, in this case, type 2 diabetes, and those haven't even been studied or looked into.
The list goes on and on, but what this comes down to is that when we look at a lot of the blue zones, a lot of these areas where people are living in disproportionately long period of time, I know the blue zones are a little bit controversial in terms of how accurate the epidemiological research is on the blue zones, but we know those folks are eating 100 plus different types of plants, herbs, and spices throughout their nutritional intake. And even someone eating, let's say, a carnivore diet, like I was just alluding to. If you're eating from wild animals, and from pastured animals, and from grass-fed, grass-finished beasts, and you're eating a properly comprised nose-to-tail carnivore-based diet, you're consuming a lot of the plant constituents that those animals have eaten.
And therefore, whether it's a wide variety of plants, herbs, and spices, whether it's a widely varied carnivorous approach diet, the more that you can vary your diet and get access to all these different synergistic chemicals in a wide variety, the better. But perhaps more importantly, what this article highlighted to me was how little we know about the food that we eat. And what's really cool is based on this article, they're developing this whole algorithm, like a biochemical barcode for all of the different food biochemicals and their impact on everybody's individual genome. So, it was just a fascinating article. I was glued to it. And I'll link to that one in the shownotes. It's not super long, but it's worth a read if you're interested in nutritional biochemistry.
Now, another thing related to nutritional biochemistry was Amber O'Hearn, who's a real proponent of the carnivore diet. I realize this whole podcast is sounding like a carnivore diet commercial now. And I promise I'll shut up about it soon, but she actually published a paper about a carnivore diet and whether it could actually provide all the essential nutrients necessary. And it was actually a very good article. The long story short was most nutrients were covered. There were a few problematic ones. One, surprisingly, was calcium. There were a few studies that showed that a high meat diet could impact calcium flux to the extent where you may have to include a little bit of extra calcium if you're using the type of approach, for example, that I'm using all month.
Now, the cool thing is that my friend Paul Saladino, who's also been a podcast guest, wrote in his book “Carnivore Code” about how he'll use things like bone meal powder, for example, to get a really good bioavailable animal-based source of calcium. Another example would be eggshells. I don't think eggshells sprinkled on top of a filet mignon are going to be all that great, but if you're doing smoothies, and I would consider even like a bone broth protein powder to be acceptable in something like a ketogenic carnivore context, and you could blend that up with something like eggshells, you can supplement with a Cal-Mag type of supplement. But calcium was one that popped up in Amber's paper over and over again as potentially being something that you might need more of on a carnivore diet.
The other one was vitamin C, but this one is interesting because despite the fact that meat is a relatively poor source of vitamin C, it actually turns out, and I was unaware of this, meat actually has what's called antiscorbutic properties. Meaning that the type of scurvy and vitamin C deficiency based issues may actually be offset by meat, primarily because carnitine, one of the components of meat that is used for fatty acid oxidation that's also upregulated during ketosis, may decrease your actual requirements for vitamin C. So, it's a really interesting paper. What it comes down to for me really is if anybody's going to eat a carnivore-based diet, you may want to include a little bit of extra calcium. As far as the vitamin C component, it doesn't appear to be that necessary on a properly comprised nose-to-tail carnivore-based diet.
Now, I've talked in the past about how I do spice my meat. I use things like Dr. Thomas Callan's wonderful organic heirloom vegetable powders. He's got like a low-oxalate greens, he has a root healing powder, he has a really nice sea vegetable powder. And I still include those spices pretty regularly on my meats and on my fish, and when I'm cooking on a carnivore diet. The other reason for that is that polyphenol intake, especially in the context of a higher calorie, higher fat meal, let's say like a giant pastured pork chop, it's actually been shown to reduce the potential for lipopolysaccharide accumulation. Meaning, some of the potential endotoxic byproducts that may occur when you're eating a hefty, higher calorie meal that's got a lot of fat in it. So, I still sprinkle polyphenols, hither and yon, on my meats, on my especially high-fat cuts. But at this point after reading this paper, I'll also be interested in adding a little bit of calcium into the mix, too, such as with a good bone meal powder, which is easily accessible on Amazon, for example, or I guess eggshells.
So, we're getting deep into the science here, and this is going to get super-duper interesting for you guys now because there was this new anti-aging darling that hit a lot of different nutritional news fronts in the past couple of weeks called intestinal alkaline phosphatase. There was actually a study that came out. Several of my friends in the longevity research sector sent this one to me and a lot of people were talking about it, so I figured I'd be remiss not to bring it up. So, alkaline phosphatase is something that you'll find in the gut, and it inhibits inflammatory mediators and is a really important regulator of your gut barrier function, and what's called your microbial homeostasis.
And it turns out that in rodent models, when they supplemented this to animals, not only did it significantly decrease the gut permeability that occurs as both rodents–and humans also have this happen. As you get older, you get increased gut permeability. Well, it not only lowered that, but it lowered all gut-derived systemic inflammation and resulted in a particularly impressive increase in lifespan and decrease in frailty in the mice who are given this alkaline phosphatase type of compound, which actually, you can buy alkaline phosphatase again like on Amazon as a nutrition supplement.
And so, I was thinking about this and looking at the mechanism of action and it turns out that something cheap that might already be in your cupboard seems to have a similar effect, and that is, drum roll, please, baking soda. So, a daily dose of baking soda can actually assist with gut permeability and avoid a lot of the destructive inflammatory damage that occurs to the gut with age when you just take a little bit of baking soda every day. A very interesting article that I'll link to in the shownotes basically looks at the spleen, particularly. And it turns out when you drink bicarbonate, which is baking soda, it affects the spleen. And what it does specifically is you have these things called mesothelial cells in your body. Those line all your body cavities like the one that contains your digestive tract, and it literally keeps the exterior of your organs from rubbing together. That's what these mesothelial cells do. And they have these little fingers called microvilli, that sense the environment and warn the organs that each of these microvilli cover that there's an invader and an immune system response is needed. And sometimes that immune system response can be hyperactive, and you'll see this in a lot of people with autoimmune disease, for example.
And so, it turns out that what happens is when you drink bicarbonate or baking soda affects the spleen and particularly downregulates the immune response of these mesothelial cells. So, you get a decrease in gut inflammation and a shift to an anti-inflammatory profile in terms of the microbiome of your gut. It also seems to have an impact on your vagus nerve and your ability to produce acetylcholine, which could also help with overall gut function and digestion. So, what I do is I wake up every morning and I do, in a giant glass of water, a little bit of hydrogen, a little bit of baking soda, and a little bit of vitamin C, and I just suck all that down as my morning tonic. And it turns out that it might have some of these same anti-inflammatory effects in the gut as the alkaline phosphatase supplementation that was described in this article.
Now, when you combine that with something else that's been shown to help out with gut healing, namely colostrum, you have a really good one-two combo. Usually, I'll do colostrum before I go to bed at night for the gut-healing effect, and then baking soda in the morning. And in terms of things that we can do to battle the effects of a modern lifestyle, such as process components in food eating when stressed, glyphosate, herbicides, pesticides, and the ability of those to be able to increase gut permeability, I think that one-two combo of baking soda in the morning and colostrum in the evening is actually a pretty good idea. So, that's what I've been doing lately, and I hope that's helpful to you and helps you to interpret this literature a little bit better.
So, I'm not going to stop there with baking soda though because another study came out on baking soda that shows that if you are using ketones like ketone esters, which I'm a huge fan of–there's a company called KetoneAid that makes a really good drinkable ketone ester. Another one is HVMN. And I also include those when I'm eating something like a keto carnivore diet. It just upregulates even more the level of ketones that are available in your bloodstream, gives you a good, long, stable source of energy. Well, it turns out when you co-ingest baking soda with ketones, especially for high-intensity performance, what happens is you don't get the same gastrointestinal distress that you'd normally get when consuming either ketones or baking soda, it's really interesting synergistic effect, but you also see an increased time to exhaustion. Meaning, a pretty significant impact in performance. And we know that the sodium bicarbonate helps to buffer lactic acid, but it turns out that when you co-ingest it with the so-called beta-hydroxybutyrates from ketone esters, you also see a steeper rise in blood ketones and a better increase in performance. So, there's a little hack for you also with your baking soda that you can use before workout, especially if you're ketogenic or you combine it with ketone esters.
Now, I was also recently reading a really excellent book called “The Fourth Fuel.” It's a great new book by Travis Christofferson. I highly recommend if you're interested in the way that ketones work. And it turns out that in his book, he highlights how not only do these things increase time to exhaustion, but I wasn't aware of this. They actually looked at the ability of the body to be able to bounce back to recover post-workout. And it turns out that because ketone esters blunt free radical damage that when you have these ketones prior to exercising, you also are able to recover faster. So, there's kind of a one-two whammy effect. And it's even better than antioxidants. A, because when you take a whole bunch of vitamin C or vitamin E after workout, it can blunt the hormetic response to exercise. Meaning, it downregulates some of the satellite cell proliferation and the mitochondrial biogenesis that might occur post-exercise.
But the other thing is that it turns out that really, when it comes to antioxidants, consuming antioxidants, and there was a researcher named Krebs and another researcher named Veech, they found that antioxidants didn't seem to make a bit of difference in the cell's ability to be able to neutralize free radicals because the antioxidants are really only going to work that well when what's called the ratio of your NADPH to NADP is proper, and the only way that happens is when there are ketone bodies available. So, if you were going to have antioxidants, you definitely want to have them in the presence of ketone esters, if you want to get everything that you could out of them.
And it's questionable whether you would even need many antioxidants even if you're a heavily exercising individual if you have high levels of beta-hydroxybutyrate. That doesn't necessarily mean you have to eat a low-carb, high-fat diet. It could even just mean that you're going to supplement with some of these ketone esters. But it turns out not only are the recovery implications really good, the performance implications are really good, but also they are better antioxidants, these ketone esters, than antioxidants themselves because you actually need the NADPH to have an increased charge in order to neutralize free radicals. And beta-hydroxybutyrate, which you get from ketone esters, is exactly how to do that. So, I just thought that was absolutely fascinating.
Now, speaking of fascinating, there was also a Japanese study that came out, and this study, kind of like that study I mentioned earlier that talked about all the things we don't know yet about the biochemical markers in food that are good for us, this study looked at fasting. And they found a host of metabolic markers that we weren't even aware of in response to a wide variety of different fasting protocols. They invested all sorts of different metabolites in whole blood, in plasma. They looked at red blood cells, they looked at what's called butyrate, they looked at carnitine, they looked at branched-chain amino acids, they looked at protein synthesis, they looked at DNA and transcriptional reprogramming, the epigenetic effects.
And the host of different metabolic effects in terms of the increase in over 44 different blood metabolites in response to fasting was absolutely mind-blowing. And we're talking about everything from a 12 all the way up to a 56-hour fast. Actually, I think they were as high as 58 in this study. They found enhanced mitochondrial activity, they found increased anabolism, they found an upregulation of the pentose phosphate pathway, which is a really important pathway for energy, they found a significant increase in butyrate, which is wonderful for the gut. And this study just got me thinking if you are not yet on the fasting bandwagon, even something as simple as a 12 to 16-hour daily intermittent fast, or something like a weekly, or a couple of times a month like a dinnertime to dinnertime fast, or even as I do, about every quarter or so, just about five days of reduced calorie intake, like 40% of what you normally eat, which is called a fasting-mimicking diet. If you're not using any of these strategies, you're missing out on a host of benefits that of course have been tapped into by a wide variety of religions and cultures for a long period of time. But man, this latest Japanese study was absolutely amazing in terms of highlighting all of the different effects that fasting has on the body from a beneficial metabolic standpoint.
And what's interesting is at the same time, this other article came out about this Japanese doctor, who lived to 105. They went over his best tips because he wrote a book called “Living Long Living Good.” He died in 2017, but he lived until he was 105. He was actually a Japanese physician and a longevity expert. And he actually didn't list fasting per se as one of his primary mechanisms for increasing longevity, but he did have five tips. I'm going to give them to you real quick, and then I'll link to the full article if you go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/418. So, tip number one was don't retire, but if you must, do so a lot later than age 65. He said there's no need to ever retire, but if one must, it should be a lot later than 65.
And of course, we know that's totally tied into this idea that once you stop pursuing your purpose, your body quits getting that important message every day that is useful to humankind and so you can slowly fade away. That's not only why we need to honor our elders, but also why you need a good purpose fulfilling hobby or passion project even if you do retire. And this Japanese physician, his name was Shigeaki Hinohara. He actually continued to treat patients and worked up to 18 hours a day until just a few months before his death. His other recommendations were to take the stairs. He took the stairs everywhere, even carrying his own package and luggage. And that's actually a rule of mine even when I check into a hotel. If the floor is any higher than three floors up, I'll take the elevator. But anything other than that, it's always the stairs even with all my packages, all my luggage, everything.
His diet was somewhat Spartan. He said for breakfast, he drinks coffee, a glass of milk, and some orange juice with a tablespoon of olive oil in it. For lunch, milk and a few cookies. And then, for dinner, veggies, a bit of fish and rice, and twice a week 100 grams of lean meat. I think that this highlights the fact that you can get away with a pretty wide variety of macronutrient profiles, whether it's high-carb/low-fat, high-fat/low-carb milk, coffee, cookies, orange juice, olive oil, you name it, so long as you're not eating more calories than you're burning. I mean, let's face it. He wasn't paleo, he wasn't vegan, he wasn't carnivore, he wasn't keto, he was just eating small amounts when he did actually eat, which we also know is of course associated with decreased risk of mortality, very similar to fasting.
He said to find a purpose that keeps you busy. I think that everybody needs a purpose in life. In Japan, they call it “ikigai,” and this of course is something I've highlighted over and over again on this podcast and in my writings, particularly in the Sunday articles I've been releasing every week. It's important to stay busy, not just for the sake of staying busy, but to be active in activities that help to serve your life's purpose. And if you don't know how to find out what your life's purpose is, go and read my article that I have at BenGreenfieldFitness.com called “How to Find Your Purpose in Life.” And I'll link to that in the shownotes as well. He said also that rules are stressful, try to relax them. He said we shouldn't be obsessed with restricting our behaviors. His quote is, “We all remember how as children, when we were having fun, we would forget to eat or sleep. I believe we can keep that attitude as adults. It is best not to tire the body with too many rules.”
And then, it highlights Richard Overton, who is one of America's oldest surviving World War II veterans. He says he would have most likely agreed because right up until his death at age 112, this supercentenarian smoked cigars, drank whiskey, and ate fried food and ice cream on a daily basis. This kind of reminds me of those gin chugging cigarette smoking grandmas in Sardinia who, despite their nutritional practices, live a long time because they're surrounded by love and relationships, and perhaps an absence of too many stressful rules. So, in other words, don't be orthorexic.
And then, he had some other tips, but one was to find inspiration, joy, and peace, and art. Apparently, he was very into art and found a lot of joy in drawing and in viewing art. And I think that's important, too. Paul Chek, one of my friends, has said that one sign that you are losing your passion in life or becoming more of a doer than a beer in life is when you stop telling stories, and you stop laughing at or telling jokes, and you stop dancing, and you stop listening to music. So, if you're not dancing, if you're not occasionally turning off podcasts and audiobooks and listening to music instead, if you're not telling stories or even reading fiction books, these are all signs that you may actually have too many obsessive rules in your life and you need to find more inspiration, joy, and peace, and art. So, there you have it, some words of wisdom from this Japanese longevity physician.
And then, finally, I talked so much about the gut that I would be remiss not to mention that I've talked in the past before about ibuprofen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and the horrific effect that those have on what's called inducing something very similar to toxic shock syndrome, when especially you take them and you're exercising, but they impact the kidneys and the liver in a very deleterious way and increased gut permeability, especially when you take them during exercise. And this latest study that came out last month showed that ibuprofen, listen up, fellas, alter human testicular physiology to produce a state of compensated hypogonadism.
What does that mean? It means that ibuprofen, and it turns out that acetaminophen, paracetamol, acetylsalicylic acid, aspirin, all of these fall into the same boat, decreases total testosterone, decreases testicular function, may impact sperm count, and essentially is one of the worst things that you can do for your drive and your hormones when it comes to popular pharmaceutical companies that impact your endocrine function. So, guys, if you value your testosterone and you value your little balls, or your big balls, do not consume ibuprofen unless absolutely 100% necessary, like you're dying from a headache and you got to go step on the stage and give a presentation or something like that. But I stay far away from ibuprofen. And this latest study, I did not expect the impact on testosterone and gonadal function that ibuprofen can have, but proceed with caution.
Alright, there you have it. That's this week's newsflash lightning strike. And all of everything I mentioned is at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/418.
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In a moment, we're going to jump into this week's listener Q&A. If you ever want to call in a question to this podcast, it's very simple, you go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com. There's a handy button you can click on right there that allows you to record a question that you can call into the show, and then I will give you my reply. So, we've got a few good questions today, questions about a Phenibut, questions about the impact of hygiene on immunity, and then how to fix your vision without glasses. So, some cool stuff. Let's jump in.
Chase: Hey, Ben. I just have a question about a nootropic called Phenibut. I got into nootropics after having a head injury, which causes seizures now. So, I got into nootropics to try and mitigate my memory loss, but I've been trying Phenibut for a while and I haven't heard anything about it from anywhere else, but it has a lot of great qualities like mood uplifting, and I just wanted to hear your thoughts on it and want to know if you've ever heard of it. Thanks.
Ben: Alright. Well, this is a good question because Phenibut is interesting, and Chase is interested in it for its nootropic effects, but the interesting thing about it is a lot of times you'll find Phenibut in sleep products. So, what's the deal? Is it a pick-me-up? Is it a relaxant? How does it work? Well, Phenibut, what that actually stands for is beta-phenyl-GABA. Okay. It's very similar to your natural calming neurotransmitter, gamma-Aminobutyric acid. What Phenibut does is it boosts GABA activity in the brain, but at the same time, it stimulates dopamine and serotonin neurotransmission, which is probably why on some people, it has a profound effect on cognition and mood and energy levels. But because it also increases the levels of this calming neurotransmitter GABA, it can also have an impact on sleep.
Many, many people use it the same way that they would use alcohol even though I highly recommend you do not combine it with alcohol because it can be like a hammer to your head. But they'll use it similar to alcohol recreationally to ease social anxiety, or to induce euphoria the same way as one might do, probably something similar be like Kratom or Kava. And it actually has a nickname called The Happy Drug across a lot of online forums because of that. However, a lot of students and entrepreneurs will use it as a nootropic or as a smart drug. Well, it's technically a totally legal product. It's actually not approved by the FDA for clinical use, but it is sold as a nutrition supplement, and it's also sold as a nutrition supplement with a warning because you can overdose on it and the overdose can be near-fatal. And you don't need a ton to overdose on it up to anywhere from 0.5 to 5 grams. Now, the actual dosage you'll find in some supplements is up to 0.5 grams. So, you do have to be careful with Phenibut.
Now, what Phenibut is is they took GABA, again your body's natural inhibitory neurotransmitter, and they added what's called a phenyl ring to it. That allows it to easily penetrate the blood-brain barrier. And when it does that, it blocks an anxiety-provoking brain substance called beta-phenylethylamine. So, it decreases anxiety while also increasing the levels of your inhibitory neurotransmitter. Because of that, it's been shown to have a pretty wide range of effects. So, it has been shown, like I mentioned, to be a cognitive enhancer. It increases motivation, it increases memory, it increases attention, and it increases concentration. At the same time, it can also reduce anxiety while at the same time improving sleep. It has been shown to be a beneficial compound to consume if you struggle with insomnia or with headaches. It's even been shown to be something that assists if you have ADHD to help you out with focus and sustained attention and memory.
When it comes to exercise performance, it's very interesting because it hasn't been shown in humans to increase exercise performance, but in animal studies, it has been shown to boost performance and to boost growth hormone production. And it may also have a brain protective effect because it increases blood flow to your brain and increases BDNF, brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is really good for neurogenesis, the process of making new brain cells. It also increases VEGF, which can improve circulation. So, it's doing a couple of the same things that, say, like a sauna or exercise would do when it comes to BDNF and VEGF.
So, the problem, like I mentioned, is you definitely would not want to combine with alcohol because it can cause some pretty hefty sedation. The dose of toxicity is pretty low. I wouldn't exceed about 500 milligrams. And in a lot of people, tolerance develops really quickly. So, you need higher and higher doses. And when you do that, you can get a lot of the side effects that come with it like dizziness, and fatigue, and heart palpitations, some people get hallucinations, some people get super weird dreams. That happens to my wife if she takes Phenibut. And so, it's one of those things where you may have to try it and see how it affects your sleep and how it affects your energy levels. It's one of those things that for me is right on the fringe of having enough potentially problematic issues with it to where I wouldn't take it unless I really needed a big dose of inhibitory neurotransmitter production such as if you wake up at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m., your mind is racing and you have to get back to sleep somehow.
And even then, there are other, what I would consider to be safer GABA precursors. A few of them that I would propose to you would be ashwagandha, valerian root, theanine, lemon balm, or there's a company called Quicksilver Scientific that makes a really good formulation called LipoCalm. And LipoCalm is something that I keep next to my bed stand at night because it does have a GABA precursor in it, and it does have some components in it that act kind of similar to Phenibut, specifically something called Pharma GABA. But I actually like Pharma GABA better than I like Phenibut in terms of the effect that it has on increasing GABA levels without the same side effects as what I've experienced personally with something like Phenibut. And what they use is a natural source of GABA, and then they produce that via fermentation via a specific form of bacteria found in kimchi. And then, they added a bunch of botanicals and essential oils like skullcap, and passionflower, and blue chamomile oil. And so, I like that LipoCalm stuff. That's the one that I don't use before I go to bed at night, but if I wake up and my mind's racing, and I need a little bit of a dose of an inhibitory neurotransmitter, I'll usually use that, or if I happen to have any, again lemon balm, theanine, valerian, or ashwagandha around, those are also really, really good.
Now, as far as a smart drug, you know what, I got to tell you, I still, 9 times out of 10, I'm either using a small microdose of psilocybin or LSA, or else, I am just doing a little bit of cup of coffee, a little bit of nicotine gum, or the Qualia Mind, the caffeine-free Qualia Mind, just because it's got like 40 plus different components in it, amino acid precursors, electrolytes, a bunch of different studied up on compounds for brain enhancement. I would say if I had to choose one nootropic “smart drug” out there, it would probably be Qualia Mind, as far as something that's easy to get, that's legal, easily accessible, and that I think just works fantastically. So, I mean, you pop five-day capsules of that stuff and you're off to the races from a cognition standpoint.
So, that's my take on Phenibut. I'm not on the Phenibut bandwagon. It's not the worst thing you could take, but again, it's one of those things you may have to try on your own, and it might impact sleep, might have some nasty side effects. So, I'd go with a few of the other things I proposed instead, if I were you. I'm not a doctor though and don't misconstrue this as medical advice. So, there you have it.
Kiersten: Hi, Ben. My name is Kiersten. I'm asking this question during the corona pandemic, just after having listened to your interview with Lucy Mailing. What do you think the effect on our gut and skin microbiomes will be from the increased use of hand sanitizer and the practice of sanitizing every surface several times a day?
Ben: Yeah. This is interesting. Yeah, it's been going around all over the place that the idea that we are all stuck inside not getting exposed to as many microbes or as many immune systems assailants as we would normally could potentially, once we come out the other side of this COVID-19 pandemic, make us more susceptible to getting sick. And the idea behind this is influenced by this so-called hygiene hypothesis that dictates that your natural killer cells, your dendritic cells, your innate lymphocytes, your gamma delta T cells, all these things can get upregulated when you get exposed to dirt, to microbes, to farm animals. And so, they say that kids who grow up on farms or don't get a lot of antibiotics, or who don't get their bottles boiled as much and their parents give them the pacifier that drops on the floor, and the dog licks their face, wind up being healthier than kids who grow up in a bubble, so to speak.
And although there's something to that idea that a hyper hygienic regimen may actually result in a change of commensal microorganisms, the gastrointestinal tract, the skin, and other surface locations that could potentially downregulate your ability to be able to respond to an immune system assailant in the future. There's actually not a host of really good research behind this idea that when your environment is too clean, you're not exposed to enough microbes to effectively stimulate your immune system as it develops for your kid, or as it's already developed if you're older. And probably the reason for that is even if you're stuck at home right now, microbes are everywhere. They're in the air, they're on food, they're in plants, they're on animals, they're in soil, they're on water. They can be found on just about every surface including inside and outside your body. And sure, the hygiene measures that are recommended during COVID-19 may help to curb the spread of the virus a little bit, but they're not going to eliminate all microbes from our life. And so, it's very difficult on our planet to completely live in a bubble. You're exposed to a lot of microbes. I don't think personally, the extra hygiene precautions that we're taking for COVID-19 are going to weaken our immune systems.
And furthermore, back in 2012, there was a paper in which scientists debunked the idea that any rise in allergic diseases or autoimmune dysfunction is due to our homes or our environments becoming too clean. And the reason for that is that they're instead explaining the increase in a lot of chronic inflammatory diseases and autoimmune diseases to other issues such as changes in dietary intake, changes in physical activity, potentially the overuse of antibiotics, and some of the other things that we might find as far as like home cleaning chemicals, et cetera. But it's not our lack of exposure to microbes that seem to be the issue, it's instead things that would directly impact our biome, our environmental biome, and our body's biome from a deleterious standpoint such as excess antibiotic intake, possibly herbicides, pesticides, air pollution, et cetera. But it's really, really hard to go completely microbe-free.
Now, I will say this. A lot of us are socially isolated at this time and I think the bigger issue with the social isolation is not a lack of exposure to germs because again, it's really hard to not get exposed to germs and microbes, but it is instead the psychological effects of social isolation and the effect that we know that has on the immune system. We know the antiviral response is suppressed when you are lonely. There is one analysis of 148 different studies with more than 300,000 people that found that people who are more socially connected were 50% less likely to die over any given period of time. People with social ties have been found to be less susceptible to the common cold. We know that stress and fear, which a lot of people are in a state of these days, has similar harmful effects on immune function because the hormones involved in a stress response like cortisol and epinephrine, and norepinephrine all interfere with the function of immune cells.
So, I would say that the problem with not being with people is not that you're not getting those people sneezing their germs all over you, it's that you're not just feeling the love and being with other human beings that's more problematic for your immune system than, say, being locked off from any germ whatsoever. So, if you can get outside, get outside. If you can kiss your animal, kiss your animal. If you can go garden or get your hands in the soil for some of the natural microbes on the planet Earth, do that, but don't fear that just because you haven't been out in public, you're all of a sudden going to be getting super sick as soon as you do start getting out in public. I think the data on that is pretty poor and I'm personally not too concerned about it.
Noah: Hi, Ben. This is Noah. I listened to a great podcast you did with the minimalists on purpose and you really briefly mentioned how you do eye exercises and eye stretches to make sure your eyeballs don't like explode while you're at the computer all day. And I was wondering, could you share what those specific eye stretches are? Because I know there's just dozens of them to choose from and you probably know some of the most potent ones. And then, also, the frequency that you do them on because maybe you can overstretch, or I'm not sure just when the law of diminishing returns kicks in. Thanks.
Ben: Alright, the Bates method is what this is called, Noah, fixing your vision without glasses. And I first tapped into this when I interviewed the folks from this company called Z-Health. And I interviewed Eric from Z-health. Really cool company. I'll link to their website in the shownotes if you go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/418. But Z-Health had produced something called the Vision Gym, and I ordered it for my wife, and it was a bunch of different wall charts, and manuals, and drills, and vision charts, and eye exercises that supposedly have helped many people, anecdotally, get off their glasses and not have to use their contacts. And they say the shoemaker's wife wears no shoes, and so I think the Vision Gym just got packed away in my wife's closet somewhere and she never touched it. And I don't try to stress her out and push her when I do stuff like that. I'll just set it out, a book, a program, whatever. And if she uses it, she uses it. And if not, no biggie, she's her own person, and I respect that.
But anyways, this Vision Gym intrigued me and it's all based on this thing called the Bates method. This guy named William Bates, the year I was born, 1981, he wrote a book called “The Bates Method for Better Eyesight Without Glasses.” And what the Bates method is based on is sunning, meaning, exposing your eyes to direct sunlight, palming, covering closed eyes with the palms of your hand, and then some different eye charts and vision exercises that cause your eye muscles to both contract and relax. Now, the idea behind this is that it's supposedly supposed to address some different refractive errors in the eye based on the eyes' anatomy and how the eye refracts light.
So, what you need to understand here is that when your eyeball is too short, that means you're farsighted. You can't focus on near objects because light rays entering your eye achieve a point of focus somewhere beyond your retina. When you're nearsighted, that means your eyeball is too long and light rays have too far to go and fall short of achieving that point of focus on your retina. And then, there are other issues like astigmatisms where your cornea has an irregular shape and that causes the light rays that are entering your eye to split into different points of focus, and that creates blurry vision. And there's another one called presbyopia, which occurs with aging, when your eyes' natural lens starts to lose elasticity and can't properly focus on close-up objects anymore.
Now, we know that many of these cases such as nearsightedness, for example, they can be aggravated by staring at things that are too close to your eyes, say, a computer or a smartphone for long periods of time without changing your gaze, staring up into the horizon, allowing the eye muscles to relax as you switch focus, et cetera. That's why I'm a fan of like the–I use a software program called Iris and it sucks all the blue light out of the screen, adjust the screen texture to be more similar to something like a Kindle paper. And then, also, I can have pop-ups on there every 15 minutes, every 30 minutes, et cetera, that walk me through a series of different eye exercises. And I have that installed on both of my children's MacBooks as well. So, when they're doing school during the day, they can do the same thing. And I think that is important because it keeps the eye muscles from being excessively stressed or excessively shortened during the entire time that you're working.
However, there is not a lot of evidence that exercising your eyes is going to change the basic shape of your eyeball, making it longer or shorter, is going to change the shape of your cornea or the angle at which light rays enter your eyes, are going to reshape a cornea as a regular surface to address astigmatism, or are going to restore elasticity to your eyes lenses if you have presbyopia. There's no research that actually could occur. And so, what I suspect is going on with the Bates method is not necessarily that it is actually changing the shape of the eyeball, or changing the shape of the cornea, or restoring the eye's lens in terms of the elasticity. I think, if anything, it's making you more aware as you're doing it of not simply focusing myopically, pun intended, on objects that are close to your field of vision because you're engaged in different eye exercises every single day.
And so, I think it's more of training for your eye muscles than it is actually addressing the clinical background behind actual eye issues, which is why I think anecdotally, for some people, it actually works. But if you go and, for example, read up on the Wikipedia page for the Bates method, which I'll link to in the shownotes, the science behind it is weak. It would be like, similar to saying that, I don't know, this will be controversial analogy for me, but let's say someone says that veganism fixed their entire health for all time. Was it switching to raw foods and more vegetables and plants and limiting meats, or was the fact that someone was eating a standard American diet and then switched to veganism and felt really good? Because compared to a standard American diet, veganism is awesome. I don't think it's God's gift to mankind as far as the perfect human diet, but it's much better than what a lot of people were doing before.
And the same could be said by the Bates method. If you're sunning, palming, being more aware of your eye health overall, shifting your gaze, et cetera, you're going to have healthier eyes and healthier eye muscles and probably a slight correction of vision. But if you have full-on nearsightedness, or farsightedness, or presbyopia, or astigmatism, or anything like this, it's not going to actually fix that, but you are probably going to see some kind of a noticeable improvement. Some of it just due to lifestyle changes, some of it possibly due to placebo, some of it due to a decreased contraction of the eye muscles being in that fully contracted state when they're staring at screens all day long. And some people call it yoga for the eyes, right? It makes sense. It's just something you can do to help your eyes be more relaxed during the day. It's not going to necessarily fix a medically diagnosed eye problem, but this is one of those things where it's–kind of like Phenibut, like I was talking about earlier. It's worth a try to see if it actually changes anything for you. I think one of the better-systematized versions of it is that Vision Gym by Z-health. And I'll link to that in the shownotes, or maybe I'll try and dig mine out of my wife's closet and send it to you. I don't know. I'm sure it's hanging around, still in its packaging somewhere. So, yeah. That's the idea behind the Bates method. Great question.
Now, I talked about a lot in today's episode. It's always hard for me when I'm just talking about myself without my sidekick to bounce things off of. Sometimes I wonder if you guys get sick of just hearing my voice drone on about all this stuff, but I do take notes. I keep them all at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/418, everything I talked about in terms of that alkaline phosphatase, some of the new anti-aging stuff, the hilarious story about the biohacking celebrities including yours truly, some of the alternatives to Phenibut, some of the research papers I found in the hygiene hypothesis, and especially the hygiene hypothesis relative to COVID-19 susceptibility. I will link to all that in the shownotes at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/418.
And in addition to that, if you are listening on any of your favorite podcast players, whether it's Castbox or Apple podcast, or just your freaking computer, your car, whatever, wherever you're at, leave this podcast a quick rating. Go and leave it a star, give it a rating, give it a review. It's the best thing that you can do to help the show out.
And then, you can also, over on the shownotes page at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/418, kick in with your own comments, your own feedback, anything else that you want to throw in. I read all the comments. I love the discussions that happen after we do podcasts like this. So, that is it. That is me coming at you for today's Q&A solosode and until next time. I'm Ben Greenfield from BenGreenfieldFitness.com. Have an amazing week.
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Is Phenibut A Good Nootropic or Smart Drug?…35:15
Chase asks: My question is about a nootropic called phenibut. I got into nootropics after having a head injury which causes seizures. I thought nootropics would help to mitigate some of the memory loss I've suffered. I've been trying phenibut for a while, but haven't heard anything about it from any nootropics experts. It has a lot of good qualities, like mood enhancement. Just wondering if you've heard of it, or have any opinions on it.
In my response, I recommend:
- Qualia Mind(caffeine-free is what Ben uses)
- Valerian Root
- Lemon Balm
- Quicksilver LipoCalm(use code GREENFIELD10 to save 10%)
The Effects Of Excess Hygiene On Immunity…42:30
Kiersten asks: I'm asking this question during the coronavirus pandemic, just after listening to your recent podcast with Lucy Mailing. What do you think the effect on our gut and skin microbiomes will be from the increased use of hand sanitizer and the practice of sanitizing every surface several times per day?
In my response, I recommend:
- Does the hygiene hypothesis apply to COVID-19 susceptibility?
- Scientists debunk idea that rise in allergic diseases is due to homes becoming “too clean”
How To Fix Your Vision Without Glasses…47:40
Noah asks: In the great podcast you did with the minimalist on purpose (don't know which one that is), you briefly mentioned some of the exercises you do to move and stretch the eyes to make sure your eyeballs don't explode while at the computer all day. Can you share the specific eye stretches you personally do, as well as the frequency with which you do them?
In my response, I recommend:
- Z-Health Vision Gym
- BGF podcast with Dr. Eric Cobb from Z-Health
- The Bates Method
- IRIS Screen Software