November 27, 2013
[01:42] Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long Term World Travel
[03:21] How Damien Ended Up in This Kind of Lifestyle
[04:29] How Damien Got into Health and Fitness
[08:21] The Blood Markers Damien Tracks
[09:44] Visual Contrast Sensitivity Score
[12:31] The Diet Damien Follows
[14:41] Eating in Airports and in Airplanes
[18:24] How Damien Eats in His Destination
[23:07] How Damien Makes His Ghee
[25:49] The Supplements Damien Uses
[29:58] Damien's Fitness Routine
[34:07] Most Common Mistakes People Living A Nomadic Lifestyle Make
[43:26] End of Podcast
Ben: Hey, folks. It's Ben Greenfield, and I know that many of you travel, many of you are into tracking things like your biomarkers and your health, many of you are into eating healthy, but today's guest has kind of wrapped all those three things into one. His name is Damien Blenkinsopp, and in he describes himself as a digital nomad. He actually changes the country that he lives in every three to six months. So, he really doesn't live anywhere, he doesn't have access to all this latest tech or modern amenities of life, but he's still hacking and optimizing his health and fitness at a pretty high level and he's making it work. He even does things like test his blood and stay in really good shape, and he eats paleo in places you'd never think that that was possible, and he's really got a lot of cool tricks up his sleeve, and we've got the pleasure of having him on the call today to talk about all of this.
So, before I jump in and welcome Damian to the call, I did have one quick thing that I wanted to mention to any of you listening in who are really interested in this concept of world travel and kind of this nomadic lifestyle. This episode is brought to you by audiblepodcast.com/ben. And the book that I want to recommend to you over at audiblepodcast.com/ben is a brand-new book that just got released on audio, it's called “Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long Term World Travel”. It has an introduction by Tim Ferris, and it's about taking time off from your normal life, anything from six weeks, to four months, to two years, to discover and experience the world. And I think it's a fantastic book to check out. It tells you how to finance your travel time, how to figure out where you're going to go, how to even do things like work and volunteer overseas, how to handle a lot of the curve balls that are going to get thrown at you as you're traveling to all these different places. So, again, check it out at audiblepodcast.com/ben. You can listen to it for free if you follow that link that I just sent you, and you live in the US or Canada. So it's “Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long Term World Travel”. So, now that you've got that book written down on your wish list, let's go ahead and welcome Damien. Hey, Damien. Thanks so much for coming on the call, man.
Damien: Thanks for the invite.
Ben: You live quite an interesting lifestyle, man. Can you kind of fill us in, first of all, on how you got started doing what you're doing in terms of living this nomadic lifestyle?
Damien: Yeah, sure. I guess I didn't really choose this lifestyle. It's kind of my parents' fault. When I was 11 years old, they moved me out of my country, which was England to start with, and that somehow stuck with me. And ever since the age of 17, I've been kind of moving around. At first, I would get different jobs, and eventually I built my own company, internet company, and I've been a lot more free since then.
Ben: Interesting. So, you're basically working from the road, working from your computer. Are you literally moving on purpose every few months just to kind of experience life?
Damien: Yeah. Well, at different times I've done different things. When I find a place I really love, I end up staying there for a while, but sometimes I have a rule of like three months or six months. So, I think three months is a really good time to get to know a place and really get the feel of it. If it's a bit of a complex place with a lot going on, then six months is a good amount of time.
Ben: Okay. Gotcha. Now you also are really into healthy eating and kind of keeping your body fit, but is that something you've always done, eating healthy? Or is this kind of a new thing that you've started to do?
Damien: Well, I've always been interested in fitness. That's definitely been something that has been big for me. And then, I took more of an interest in health because I had some chronic health issues. So I basically have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome right now, although I'm pretty much, I'd say 70% recovered by now. I'm doing pretty well. I've had it for about 18 months. But for the last five years, I've had some kind of health issues that started when I was living in China. So, that's when I took a really big interest in the last 18 months. So I've spent most of my time researching and improving my health.
Ben: So, when you say Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, did you kind of self-diagnose that, or did you go out and get blood tests, or what exactly happened with that?
Damien: Yeah. Well, what happened is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, no one knows what you have. So, you end up wandering around, getting diagnoses of, like I had brain cancer, what else did I have that was nice. You have all sorts of crazy stuff. I had stroke. And then eventually you find someone who gives you a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which is pretty flimsy. The whole science of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome isn't very clear. So, you get this diagnosis based on some blood tests, basically, some blood markers, but kind of flimsy. Now, I actually have a much better view and it's a lot more detailed on what I'm working on in terms of the disease, and I'm working with some specific providers. So I don't actually call it Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, what I have anymore, 'cause I see it's more specific, but no one really knows about the terms I use, so I just say Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and then people can relate to it.
Ben: Okay. I gotcha. So, are you actually able to test your blood or test your biomarkers when you're traveling around the world? I know that in the US, and to a limited extent in Canada and the UK a little bit, people are testing their blood or kind of taking charge of their own medical care so to speak, but have you found that that's doable when you're traveling a lot?
Damien: Well, from one standpoint, it's actually easier. You have kind of a regulatory barrier in the UK, and the US, and other countries, which is that you have to go through physicians, and there's a lot of, it just makes life a bit of a logistical hassle. You know have to find a physician, and sometimes these are very basic tests which you know very well, you just want to get them, you don't need to go for an appointment. If you're traveling like me, I do want to get a physician every time I'm in a new town. So, the nice thing about when you're traveling is most countries, like outside of the Western world, you can just walk in and get your urine labs done, and you don't have to go for a physician. You can get the results straight back. So, I'm Mexico right now. I can just walk into a lab, I get my test results, there's no hassle.
Ben: How do you find a lab? Are you just walking into a hospital or are you going to an actual blood lab?
Damien: I normally look for private clinics. That was one of the lessons I kind of learned. Hospitals tend to charge too much. That's the main reason. And they often force you to see a doctor to look over your results as well, so you pay some extra fee. You kind of waste time as well. So, I just look for the private clinics, and I also find that they're a lot more efficient and professional in terms of how quickly you get your results back, and you get some nicer print-outs and stuff generally when you go to a private lab rather than a hospital.
Ben: Now, you've got a website, I haven't mentioned your web URL yet, but it's at biohacked.net. And I noticed that at biohacked.net, you actually have some specific biomarkers that you test for yourself. You've got some things like visual contrast sensitivity score, you've got homocysteine, hs-CRP, LDL cholesterol. Now when you walk into one of these labs, are you asking for specific tests based on you wanting to keep track of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or are you basically testing these parameters because you found them to be the biggest wins, so to speak, for you to keep a handle on your health as you're traveling?
Damien: Right. So, there's a few things I track just to keep an eye on my body, what's going on. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or some of the things that are going on is that you have problems with your liver, for instance. So, you have problems with detox. So, that's something you want to keep track of, and I've had raced out some things along the lines. I know when to chill out, give it a rest, and focus a bit more on detox, and give my body more rest. That's getting a hard time, if you like. Those things I'd track every month. And I'd probably be doing them even if I didn't have chronic fatigue syndrome that I've learned about them anyway is it can, things like, for instance, CRP, c-reactive protein, that can be a good predictor of something that's coming. So, if you just feel a little bit tired, but if you're tracking this monthly, you can actually see something that's going to happen in month's time. And that's the same I've found with LDL. Another role of LDL is that it helps with infections. So, you'll see LDL go up just before you get some kind of problem, normally. So, these can be kind of good warning systems if something's going to happen so it can alert you to, if you're maybe working too hard or you're overstressing your body or something like that, you can calm down a bit to let your body deal with whatever the infection is, or whatever else is going on, or you could look into it yourself.
Ben: Tell me about this visual contrast sensitivity score. What is that?
Damien: Well, this is something very specific to me, but I actually think it's something that could be interesting for many people who have been traveling around like me. ‘Cause this more related to biotoxin illness. So, I said that you know I don't really consider I have CFS anymore 'cause that's a very general undefined definition. What I have is a biotoxin illness. I have a very specific problem with molds and mycotoxins, which have damaged my body from having lived in buildings where these have been present, and I have a genetic susceptibility to those. So, we call this a biotoxin illness 'cause mold emit biotoxins, which we call mycotoxins. So what the visual contrast sensitivity does is it measures how many biotoxins you have in your body. ‘Cause what happens is the neurons in your brain stop working properly when you get to a certain level of biotoxins, and the higher the level of biotoxins, the more interruption of your nervous system, if you want to talk about it like that. So, visual contrast is basically a function of our brain. We think of it like our eyes where you can't see the difference between two different grays, right? If you have to grays that are very similar, you can't really see the difference to them.
So for instance, when I first did this test, I had a very, very low score of about 40, and all of the pictures I was looking at looked the same. They just looked like one sheet of gray. Now, when I look at it, I see lots of black and white lines. So, this is actually your neurons in your brain interpreting what your eyes are seeing, and they get interrupted when you have high levels of biotoxins in your body. So, I think anyone really could have some level of biotoxins their body, if you've been traveling around, if you been exposed to different things in different third world countries especially, I think it's something worth testing just see if you have an issue. And then you can simply take some things to take those toxins out of your body, and it will help your brain work better and you'll be healthier.
Ben: So this is a test that you can do online, this visual contrast sensitivity test?
Damien: Yeah. That's the best thing about it. It's just super convenient. So, you can do it anywhere. It actually started, they would be actually using it with basically a piece of equipment you would put set up in front of you to do this. But Dr. Shoemaker, who is basically headed up a lot of the research on biotoxin illnesses and mold illness, he developed this tool so that it could be used online. So, now you can go to, I think it's chronicneurotoxins.net, or dot com, and he has the test there and you can do it online.
Ben: I'll hunt it down and put a link in the show notes for people who want to try out this test, because it looks like a cool parameter to track if you wanted to kind of keep track of your neural health for sure. I really like it. It's one I hadn't seen before. Now, do you follow a specific diet, Damien?
Damien: I would say I'm kind of paleo upgraded. So, obviously I've read a lot and I've tried to lower, like I told you, I had liver problems, so I've had to be pretty extreme about my health habits to get myself back to recovery and help my body along the way. So, what I've done is basically taken as many toxins out of the diet as possible and just give my body an easier time. So, of course, if you know a bit about paleo, it's a lot about taking grains, and gluten, and casein, and other things out of the diet. That, I noticed, that helped a lot. When I first got ill, I would go into restaurants and eat normal food, and I'd basically be sick afterwards and even be vomiting sometimes. So, I got really sensitive to it. So, I could really notice when I did a paleo upgraded. And paleo upgraded for me is basically a mix of a few guys I've been reading. So, you probably know Chris Kresser, Dave Asprey, Paul Jaminet. So basically I read a bunch of guys blogs and their ideas and paleo, and I take the ones I think are worth, have some kind of impact or I test them out and that's what I go with. And I think everyone's a bit different, anyway.
Ben: Yeah. For sure. Well, all those three guys are fantastic resources. Absolutely. Now, let's jump into the nitty gritty. We like to get into brass tacks on this podcast. So, you've got the unique perspective of you kind of tying in the dietary philosophies of these really great diets, like the things that Chris Kresser, and Dave Asprey, and Paul Jaminet are putting out. But you're doing this kind of thing when you're traveling. So, let's go ahead in jump into some specific travel questions here. I'd like to start with the airplane and navigating through airports and airplane food. Do you actually find that you can eat by marking the gluten free box or whatever when you're traveling on the airplane or ordering salads and things like that in the airports? Do you find that you can eat what's available there? Do you travel with your own food? Do you do a little bit of a combination of both? What exactly do you do when you're navigating through airplanes and airports?
Damien: Yeah. I really don't think you're going to like answer to this question. Over time, I've found that just the quality of food in airports and airplanes in particular is just terrible. So what I do today is avoidance. I don't bother trying to take anything or anything. You probably know about intermittent fasting and the benefits of that, so I don't really see it as problem and I do fasting sometimes anyway. So, what I do is I will kind of load it up on fats, like ghee, MCT oil. So I'll have a good fatty meal, egg yolks, that kind of stuff before I go on any trip. I won't really feel that hungry. I mean if you get into the habit of doing this kind of thing, you don't really get that hungry when you load up on fats. I just won't anything. I'll just be drinking water. Basically, that's all I do on airplanes. I feel it's really underwhelming, the quality of food on there.
What I used to do was I used to order the special meals. You've got an option when you book flights, you can have the gluten free, you can have the diabetic meal, which is kind of low carb, basically. And there's few different things like that you can choose, and I used to go for those, but there's still not much to eat, I don't think. Because what I've found as I have been traveling, and we will talk about this a bit more, is that the quality of food is as important as the preparation. Where are they buying the vegetables, where are they buying the meat, where are they getting it from? And as I got really sensitive to this kind of, right. So, as I got really sensitive to this, I just found that I basically would be reacting to things that weren't good quality. So it wasn't even just about the cooking. ‘Cause paleo also has a large focus on the cooking, right? Use the right oils and that kind of thing which helps a lot. But I think it's really the quality of where you buy this stuff now. From my journey, that's really been the biggest learning, I think.
Ben: Yeah. I've run into a lot of the same issues, even marking the gluten free box or whatever when I'm on airplanes. And my problem is I get hungry. Even though I'm ketogenic and everything, and many times, I'm landing in the next day, I'm going to race, so I can't do a full day of fasting before a race. So, for me, I tend to put avocado and a little can of sardines, and then I also travel with healthy, organic meal replacement powders. I use a company down in Florida, they make this stuff called Living Fuel, and it's pretty close to real food. And I'll put a Ziploc powder bag full of that with a handful of raw almonds for a little crunch thrown in. I travel with those kind of things in my bag, but…
Damien: That sounds really good. ‘Cause obviously most people, I don't think most people are into fasting. So, yours are a lot more convenient and accessible for most people, I think.
Ben: Yeah. And for me, just exercising when I get to where I'm going or racing when I get to where I'm going, I never have quite that pop in my legs when I fast while I'm traveling, but it's certainly an option and I think you make a great point that even if you do order the airplane food that's gluten free, or vegetarian, or whatever, it's still sourced from a really crappy source. I guarantee.
Damien: Very economic focus.
Ben: Now, what about when you get to where you're going? Do you shop at the grocery store? Do you eat at restaurants? Do you kind of do a combination of both? Or do you just kind of have your own method?
Damien: Well, keep in mind that a lot of the time I'm in countries which are mostly third world or somewhere out there on the spectrum, not necessarily is like the US where you have access to everything. So for restaurants, I've really found to get quality food, it's very, very difficult. So, I spend most of my time cooking at home and getting groceries. When I go out, it's more for socializing and I don't eat very much. I'm kind of limiting myself. As I said, maybe I'll have a meal of fat or something earlier and I just go out for socializing, but I'm not really there to eat 'cause I don't expect much. In fact, it's at a point now that I just don't see the value in the food. Especially in a tourist destination, you pay this quite high price for some food. It's hard for me to understand it because health wise, it's like a negative, and then they can charge this high price for it because it's focused on your taste buds and you always got some nice sources and stuff in there. But when you're looking from health focus, you're just like, “Well, I'm paying money to lose here.”
Ben: Tell me about some foods that you can eat. Even in like a third world country, if you land and you're in a third world country, and went to the farmer's market, or you went to the grocery store, what kind of foods have you found to be conducive to kind of like really eating in this upgraded type of fashion, this paleo type of fashion and ultra-healthy fashion that you eat in? What kind of foods do you actually get? What goes into your refrigerator, or do you bring home with you?
Damien: Well, you've already mentioned, the number one easiest I've found actually is avocados, guacamole more specifically. Like guacamole, for instance in Mexico. Obviously, you can get it in most restaurants, so that's something I always turn to. And it's a side dish, right? I can just order some guacamole whenever I want, and it's great. And the nice thing about that is it's also protected against pesticides. So, you can buy that and you don't have to worry about organic or anything, because one of the bigger problems in a lot of these federal countries is there's a lot of high use of pesticides and it's completely uncontrolled. I found, for me, that caused problems. So, avocados are great 'cause they are one of the ones that are a bit more resistant. So many other things I go for, like basically, my first step will be to go to the big supermarket chains. So, every country has its big supermarket chains. And you want to go for the more upper market ones, like the larger ones, not necessarily the economic ones, especially in countries like Mexico and Bangkok. They can have very, very cost-efficient supermarkets, but you're going to have very, very low, low cost economic, but not the greatest quality of food So, for instance, in Mexico, I found that Wal-Mart's terrible actually here. I have never been to in the US, but here, I really can't find much to buy.
Ben: Depends where you go in the US. Actually, some of the Wal-Mart's have pretty decent, okay foods, and you can eat pretty gourmet from a Wal-Mart. They ever sponsor the “The Master Chef”, Gordon Ramsay's Master Chef competition here in the States. They eat really gourmet. My issue with Wal-Mart, again, is kind of like the source of the actual food. Like if I don't know where the meat's coming from, I just don't get meat and primarily I get fruit and veg, and wash it really well, and do some seeds, and nuts, and stuff like that. But Wal-Mart, it depends.
Damien: Right. Well, that's an interesting point, actually. Because before I go to a place, I basically plan where I'm going because some places will be really, really difficult to find any decent food and some places going to be easier. One of the factors that influences that is kind of the population wherever you're going. If there's a reasonable population of people with a high standard of living, then you're more likely to find these kind of, these things in the supermarkets. So, like you're saying, like Wal-Mart's in every place aren't the same. In Mexico, they have Mega, which is the one I've found to be the best, and each Mega is different. Each city, Mega is a bit different. You can find some pretty cool things in the Mega here in a good town like this one. So, you've got grass-fed butter, Anchor, which is, as you've heard me bring up already, is kind of one of the big things in my diet. I make ghee out of it to take the milk solids out of it.
Ben: You make your own ghee?
Damien: Yeah. It's very, very quick to do. You can sort of…
Ben: You were probably about to explain why, or explain how, but go ahead. Tell us how you do the ghee.
Damien: Alright. So, the how is basically you walk into just a local pharmacy and you ask for a few medical gauzes, these cost nothing. They'll give you a little packet of those. And then you just heat it, heat the butter in a pan, and then you filter out through the gauzes, you put a few of the gauzes on top of each other to make a filter, and then you just filter it into a container and you put it in the fridge, and then you got your ghee.
Ben: Very cool, very cool. So, you've got these types of strategies that you use when you're traveling. Now when you walk into a restaurant, let's say you're eating at a restaurant, I know that a lot of third world restaurants might be a little more difficult to do this in, but do you have specific go-to items if you're at a restaurant when you're traveling that you look for on the menu?
Damien: Yeah. The first one I mentioned is guacamole and avocados in general. Japan as well, Japanese kind of restaurants, the kind of avocado thing going for them as well, you see different things. Lamb is one thing but I tend to go for just because it tends to be more grass-fed and a bit cleaner. Obviously, I'm trying to go for things with less sauces and just with less treatment basically because the more treatment they have, normally it goes in the wrong package, I find. Sardines, you mentioned earlier. That's another thing I'll order in a restaurant sometimes 'cause it's a bit easier to deal with.
Ben: And when you're at a grocery store, you're able to find those canned? Like canned sardines, canned anchovies, that type of thing?
Damien: Yes. Right now, like I'm in Mexico City, so they have ones from Europe, from Spain and Portugal, and they have some from Mexico. I find the ones from Europe a little bit better in quality, but this may not be much of difference.
Ben: Yeah. Gotcha. Yeah. Portugal, I think, is the very best place in terms of sardines. If you can find sardines off the coast of Portugal, from what I understand, that's the very best. But, yeah, those are all, that's interesting. Our dietary strategies overlap at restaurants, it seems. I also look for avocados, sardines, fish, but I'm always looking for the source as well. And that kind of leads me into my next question. You mention a guy like Dave Asprey, for example, who I know travels with, he talks about how he travels with activated charcoal to leach or absorb some of the toxins that he might get when he's eating meat from which he doesn't know the source, and I do the same thing. Do you have supplements like that that you travel with, or other supplements that you use that you found to be particularly helpful for you when you're traveling and trying to feel really good and stay healthy while you're traveling?
Damien: Totally. This is actually pretty important as well. So, activated charcoal, you mentioned, is pretty key. I carry that around with me just like Dave does now, and he actually me switched on to that. Another thing I was playing around with before was bentonite clay, which is similar, I don't know if you heard about that. But the thing with that is that it's more difficult to carry it's in these bottles, whereas the activated charcoal is just these capsules. So, they're a lot easier to carry. So, I don't really use the bentonite clay anymore, although you could argue maybe one's better than the other or whatever. Then something else which I've found, a really key thing is grapeseed extract liquid. What you can do with that, that will clear up worse things like, if you get food poisoning from bacteria and stuff like that, basically as soon as you feel a bit bad after a meal, I'll take some activated charcoal and some grapeseed extract, and you put a few drops of this liquid into the water and you take a glass of water with it. And that normally fixes you before it hits you, basically.
Ben: So you combine the charcoal with the grape seed?
Damien: Yeah. Totally. I just hit it with everything.
Ben: Okay. Cool. By the way, for people listening in, I'm taking notes so that you guys can go to the show notes and check out some of the stuff. So, you do activated charcoal, you do grapeseed extract. Anything else?
Ben: I don't go anywhere without oregano oil, as an anti-septic and anti-viral, especially when I'm in crowded areas. That's good to know, that you use that as well. What was the other one you said? Caprylic acid?
Damien: Caprylic acid, it also helps. And specifically, I'm taking those, I got onto those specifically 'cause of the mold/mycotoxin connection, 'cause they're one of the things that, I guess with fungal and the mold world, there's less things that are powerful against them. It seems like the fungal species is a lot harder to deal with. So I've found that those are the things, and grapeseed extract, that'll work well with that.
Ben: Yeah. Caprylic acid is actually quiet commonly used among ketogenic dieters in liquid form to maintain elevated levels of ketones. But you're correct, it does have some of those anti-viral, anti-septic properties as well. Do you just take it in capsule form?
Damien: Yup. I take those in capsule.
Ben: Got it. Anything else that you use as kind of a staple when you're traveling?
Damien: Yeah. So I also carry iodine, Iodoral.
Ben: Oh, iodine. Yeah. We also use that. I was actually talking to my wife last night, 'cause we're getting ready to head off with the kids to Thailand, and three of the things that definitely go into our travel medical bag so to speak are oregano oil, iodine, and charcoal capsules. So, do you just do iodine as a daily when you're traveling, or do you use it for when you actually get sick in higher doses?
Damien: Well, as you probably know, there's some thyroid implications there as well. I was originally taking it for the thyroid and also for anti-viral properties, 'cause one of the first things before I had was a brain virus. But since then, I use it more specifically when I think there's problems. I can give you an example. Like my girlfriend, a few weeks ago, she woke up with three bites on her head, which looked like the nastiest wounds I've seen in a long time, and they didn't go. And for about a week, we didn't treat it, but then we started putting iodine on it. At that point, we were going to go to the hospital because she was starting to get these strange headaches and stuff. But we started putting iodine on it, just like daily, and it quickly cleared up. So, it's really powerful stuff.
Ben: Yeah. Absolutely. Okay, cool. So, I know that you're also into fitness, and I wanted to ask you a little bit about staying fit when you travel and if you have specific workouts, phone apps, books, things of that nature that you use or rely on for your fitness routine when you're traveling.
Damien: Yeah. So, this is really, for me, semi-dated information because I haven't been able to work out since I got Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I'm just starting to kind of like do some kind of exercises, but it's really low level 'cause my body can't handle it right now. But what I was doing before was I was pretty focused on a very, very time efficient body workouts because I was traveling. I lived on islands a few times, so I didn't have a gym or anything I could go to. So, I would be using things like press ups, bodyweight planks, step-ups. So, if you just find a rock, you can do step-ups, up and down, and that can be pretty effective. Just generally, it was pullups on trees. I really find, and I have to say that one of the times I got the biggest was when I was living on an island and all I was doing was these bodyweight exercises. There was nothing much to it. I was doing them two or three times a week, and that was it. And a lot of my friends will comment now, like, “Yeah, you were really big when you came from that island.” And all I was doing, I think also you have to take in the recovery factor, which I know you're into for the HRV and stuff. And obviously, I was very relaxed. Everything on that island at that time, I was just writing and working out, very relaxed lifestyle. So, I think that probably had a lot to do with it too.
Ben: Yeah. I've got two resources that I kind of use when I travel. One is this book called “The Fitness Explorer”, and it's kind of like a combination of parkour and bodyweight moves, and you can just kind of find a local park or playground. Looking at my hands right now, they're actually still kind of, they have these bloody calluses on them from a playground workout I threw down a couple days ago when I was down in California. But “The Fitness Explorer”, you don't necessarily have to work out until your hands are bloody. That's a good one, that book. That's written by Darryl Edwards. And then there's another app that I like called the SafariFit app, and that's kind of just like a bunch of animal-based exercises, like the lion, and the parakeet, and the wolf. And it walks you through about a 30-minute routine, again, that you can kind of throw down anytime, anywhere. So, that's a cool one, the SafariFit app. But those are a couple that I use for staying in shape. Now for you with chronic fatigue, are you experimenting at all with yoga, taichi, any of these kind of nervous system type of stabilizer exercises?
Damien: I'm just starting into yoga. I've done yoga before. I'm actually looking into kundalini yoga 'cause it's more related to the nervous systems. So, you're right. There's a focus of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and what it does your body, it's about the nervous system. So, I'm more focused on the benefits there. It's not really from the exercise perspective, and kundalini is more focused on that aspect than other types of yoga. But with respect to exercise, the other thing I'm doing, a specific problem with chronic fatigue is low blood volume. So, when you exercise, you basically have to lie down 'cause your body's strained when you're standing up because you don't have enough blood and it's trying to push it around, but there's not enough of it. So, that's basically a stressor just in itself. But if you lie down, if you're doing planks, if you're doing push-ups, you're pushing things off the ground, it's a lot easier for your body to handle. So, that's kind of the way to start. But I guess that's relevant for anybody, right? Anybody who's sick or they're maybe feeling a bit more fatigued or they need to recover more. Those kinds of exercises are probably less strenuous.
Ben: Yeah. You're right. I wanted to also ask you about, because I know you probably look around you and you see a lot of other people when you're traveling and living this nomadic lifestyle. What do you think are the biggest mistakes that people make when it comes to eating healthy or when it comes to staying fit while traveling? Do you consistently see people kind of messing up in the same areas over and over again?
Damien: Yeah. When people go traveling, a lot of the digital nomads, they get kind of enamored with the fact that they can go to, it's cheaper in places like Thailand and in China. It's cheaper to go out eating. And there's a lot of street food. Like I've seen a lot of the paleo bloggers who go to Thailand and they talk about how great Thailand is for paleo foods and for street food, but I don't think, they're not really looking at the oils they're using.
Ben: That's exactly what I was just going to say. There's a heck of a lot of vegetable oil, heated, oxidized oils that get used in Thailand. That's my biggest complaint. ‘Cause I go over there a lot, and that's one thing I have to be really careful with.
Damien: Right, right. So, the street food. I mean, honestly, like you're walking along the street, the oil will hit you in the face 'cause they add spices to it, and it's really, really harsh stuff. And the other thing I'd say is parasites and just general bacteria. The number one is like hygiene, like laxing your standards on where you're eating, like eating cheaply. You're always going to pay for it, in my mind, if you're paying these lower prices. And a lot of my friends have had some kind of infection, parasites. I've had to test myself, and as I was going through this whole process, and I found a bunch of parasites that I probably had since I was in China, which is going on 10 years now. It can take quite a while to get rid of these things and they drain your energy. I've been suffering with energy issues for years. So, that's one of the main issues, I'd say. You just really want to avoid those types of infections if you can by maintaining some kind of standard and not going to cheap-cheap, and streets, and this kind of thing.
Ben: Yeah. One other thing that I'm really careful of, well, two things I'm careful of in something like Thailand. One is that a lot of these inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids that you get from vegetable oils, those are adhering to the same receptors as like an omega-3 fatty acid. So, you can use, if you're able to manage to keep it cold and at a decent temperature when you're travelling, higher dose fish oil when you're traveling can help out quite a bit to take up some of those receptor sites and keep the vegetable oils from causing as much damage. Like I take a fish oil called SuperEssentials, and I'll double up on that when I'm traveling if I'm able to actually keep it in my carry-on bag. I don't get it in the belly of the airplane 'cause I know it'll get hot there. So, that's one thing. And if you do know that the fish that you're eating is from a good source, you can also just eat a ton of fish if you know you're also going to be eating some street pad thai or something like that just because fish is going to be a good source of those omega-3s as well. And then the one thing I'm really careful with is there there gung, or their shrimp. Shrimp is notorious for being really laden with a lot of nasty chemicals, and heavy metals, and toxins, and stuff from the ocean. That one tends to be a big issue. Even if you had to do chicken, which is often chock full omega-6 fatty acids, it's still a safer bet than shrimp. Those are a couple of things that I'm careful with when I'm over there.
Damien: I lived in Thailand for a bit and there's issues with certain type of fish there. So, I think it's kind of local with fish. You have to be aware of it. As you say, the porn is pretty much everywhere. You have to be really careful. But depending on where you are also, you can kind of learn about it. I mean one of the things I tend to do now is if I'm ever having fish, I'm taking chlorella as well, which doesn't remove all the nutrients, it's better than activated charcoal like that, but it can remove some of the bad stuff. So, that's a useful thing to carry around with you. I hadn't heard about that omega-3 thing. That's a really useful tip. So, is this krill oil or is this some kind of…?
Ben: The stuff that I use, it's a cod liver oil that's mixed with triglyceride-based fish oils. And it's packaged with astaxanthine. So, it stays relatively free of oxidation. That one's called SuperEssentials. It's not the least expensive of the fish oils out there, for sure. It's like 50 bucks for a bottle of it. Actually, I think it's 40 bucks. But that's the one that I use, in these black capsules. And I'll take eight a day when I'm travelling. And that comes out to about eight to 10 grams of fish oil.
Damien: Cool. Have you tested your FAs? I'm just interested.
Ben: Yeah. I did an omega-3, omega-6 index about a year ago, and I tested really high on the omega-3 fatty acid levels. I don't actually do that as a regular test for the blood panel that I do every three months. But what I do keep an eye on is my hs-CRP levels, just as a general marker of how well I'm doing from an anti-inflammatory standpoint. And the last time I tested hs-CRP, is was below 0.2. So, it's just, it's rock bottom, which I'm very happy about, considering I'm beating up my body with Ironman training, that kind of thing.
Damien: Yeah. That's amazing. I'm at that level too. And at first I was a bit worried about it. I thought the tests were going wrong. My FA levels are about 1.7, I think, now, omega-3 to omega-6. So, I've actually stopped taking fish oils and everything 'cause I figured with my clean diet and everything, I don't really need to get too omega-3 overladen now.
Ben: Right. And then the other thing I should toss in there, if folks want even a more stable source of omega-3s, there are chlorella and spirulina, like 100% organic cracked cell wall spirulina and chlorella sources that you can travel with. If I had to choose one food to take with me to a desert island, I would probably choose chlorella. Like just in terms of having the complete spectrum of really good nutrients on board. That's why I always travel with a bag of chlorella tablets as well, just in case. Those work out really well. Again, I’ll just munch on it and you're like me and you don't like to fast on the airplane. I just don't have that amount of discipline. So, this has been really interesting. Now, as far as your website, biohacked.net, Damien, is there anything else that you've found on there that you've put on there that you want to point people out to? Any extra advice you want to give out, things that I haven't had a chance to ask you or things that you want to bring up to the audience as far as travelling or living this nomadic lifestyle?
Damien: I think we've kind of done the tour. For me, it's just a hobby. It's not a professional site or anything. It's just a site where I'm putting up new things that I discover. I'm constantly trying to learn and improve myself. So, when I find something, I'll put it up there. It's more like a hobby for me.
Ben: Yeah. Gotcha. Well, it's kind of cool. You do have, like I mentioned, a lot of your results from your hs-CRP and this visual sensitivity scale test that you do and everything tracked over there, so I'd invite people to go to your website at biohacked.net and click on the tab that says “Biomarker Reports”. And Damien also has shown his cumulative health investment as far since he got sick with chronic fatigue last year, kind of what he spent on lab tests, and devices, and travel, and shipping, and all that jazz. So, you can kind of get an idea if you travel a lot what kind of expenses you're looking at as far as your investment in health and some of the other things. And he also some good articles. He has an article called “Eating Paleo in Thailand: Where to Get Hard to Find Items”. He has an article called “Getting Blood Tests in Bangkok: Private Labs versus Hospitals”. And he also has a blog post there for those of you who are also dealing with chronic fatigue called “Treatment Strategy for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Work in Progress”. So, a lot of interesting articles. Another one, “Eating Paleo in Mexico”. So, go check out biohacked.net.
And I would also invite you, if you're listening in and you have questions that you want to ask myself or Damien, leave them in the comments section for this podcast over at bengreenfieldfitness.com, where I'm also going to put resources to everything we talked about, from nascent iodine, to that online visual contrast sensitivity test. I'll put a bunch of links over there for you if you want to go and dig in more to some of the resources that we talked about, as well as the book brought to you by audiblepodcast.com/ben, which you can get for free. It's called “Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long Term World Travel”. So, Damien, thank you so much for your time today and for coming on the call.
Damien: Thank you! It's been a lot of fun!
Ben: Alright, folks. This is Ben Greenfield and Damien Blenkinsopp signing out from Ben Greenfield Fitness.
Meet Damien Blenkinsopp (pictured below), from Biohacked.net.
Damien is a digital nomad who changes the country he lives in every 3 to 6 months. So he doesn't really live anywhere and certainly doesn't have easy access to the latest tech or modern amenities of life.
Nonetheless, he's hacking and optimizing health and fitness at an extreme level and making it work. He even does things like test his blood, stay ripped, and eat Paleo in places you'd never think possible.
In today's podcast interview with Damien, you're to learn exactly how he pulls all this off. Topics we discuss include:
–How you can live a nomadic lifestyle…
-When you travel, what kind of things should go on the airplane with you…
-How to shop at the grocery store and eat at restaurants when you want to stay healthy…
-A healthy traveler grocery shopping list…
-How to know which restaurants to go to and what to order off the menu…
-What nutrition supplements are best for travel…
-How to get blood tests around the world…
-The biggest mistakes people make when it comes to eating healthy and staying fit while traveling…
-And much more!
Resources from this episode:
–Chlorella from EnergyBits.com (Use 10% discount BEN)