March 1, 2017
[5:06] Dr. Michael Smith
[8:34] Dr. Smith's Heritage
[10:37] The Four Puberties
[11:03] The Medicine Wheel
[13:54] How Dr. Smith Got Into Medicine
[16:16] How Going Vegetarian Caused Dr. Smith's Crohn's and Colitis
[20:40] Returning To An Ancestral Diet
[30:05] Why Dr. Smith Asks His Patients To Blow On Their Medicine
[34:46] Quick Commercial Break/Away Travel
[37:52] Continuation/Neurosomatic Therapy
[49:03] Bloodletting In Dr. Smith's Practice
[56:37] Acupuncture and Pain Management
[59:44] Dream Interpretation
[1:13:10] Pulse and Tongue Diagnosis
[1:23:27] Finding A Practitioner Like Dr. Smith
[1:27:09] End of Podcast
Ben: Yo, yo. What's up, everybody? If you can hear the ocean behind me, it's because I'm in Kona, Hawaii right now. I just got done with eight and a half miles of crawling, and climbing, and stalking sheep down here on the big island where I'm used to going to race the Ironman triathlon, but this year I'm here hunting. I'm actually pretty, as my friends over across the pond would say, knackered right now, but I wanted to get on to get this show out to you because it's actually a pretty cool show. It's about drinking your own urine and why you should do that. No, there's a lot more than that, but part of it really is about, I'm serious, drinking your own urine. There are other things though that you can do to your body that are far better than urine. For example, mushrooms. I have this stuff that I use pretty much now every day. I've talked about chaga extract before and how I dump it into my morning cup of coffee, I've talked about mushroom coffee and how I dump that into my coffee, and I've talked about all sorts of different blends, like Reishi and green coffee. And this week, while I'm in Kona, I have the fantastic Kona coffee available to me, but it's about two miles down the road at the local ABC Store and I have to go buy it. So this morning before I headed out to hunt, rather than opting for the freeze dried coffee crystals that were here in the cupboard, I took two packets of the Four Sigmatic Mushroom Coffee with lion's mane and chaga, I dumped that into my mug, and I've been hunting for the past 12 hours with pretty much that, and avocado, and a papaya. And that did the trick. So you can get this stuff too over at FourSigmatic.com/Greenfield. That’s FourSigmatic.com, FOURSigmatic.com/Greenfield. And when you go there, you can see all of my own personal favorite coffee blends that I use, and you can use coupon code BenGreenfield to get 15% off. That's code BenGreenfield to get 15% off of any of their fantastically flavored coffees.
This podcast has also brought you by something I should've done this morning because I use it for wakefulness every morning along with my coffee, but I rushed out of the condo without it. So it is something that travels with me all over the globe in my pocket. It's just like having the sun shine in my pocket. Basically, you have the ability to suppress melatonin and to block your body's feeling for the need of sleep, making you think you're less tired. And there's this thing called a HumanCharger that does that. It's this little device that interacts with proteins similar to those found in the retina of your eye, except these ones are on your brain. They're photosensitive proteins on the surface of your brain. You put these things, they're like headphones, and they're white light that passes into your ear canals. You put it on for 12 minutes, and it basically does everything that the sunshine can do even when you don't have access to the sunshine. It's good for shift work, it's good for jetlag, it's good for low energy, and you can grab one for 20% off over at HumanCharger.com/Ben. HumanCharger.com/Ben and you use code BFitness to save to 20% off. So now that you have the sunshine in your pocket and some mushroom coffee, it's time to go learn how to drink your own urine. Let's do it.
In this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Show:
“My primary focus is complex chronic autoimmune disease. So if you're referred to me, that's because you now have more than one autoimmune disease. So I tend to deal with some pretty complicated stuff.” “Once you go backwards through the Industrial Revolution, it's gonna be homesteading. And if you go back more through time, it's gonna be hunter-gathers. And if you go back more through time, it's gonna be primates living at beaches during ice ages, trying to learn to swim.” “If you just give your liver and kidneys at least a liter of water in that first two hours, not only are you gonna be peeing like a champion, but you're gonna be getting rid of all that water soluble tissue waste as quickly as you can.”
Ben: Hey, folks. It's Ben Greenfield, and I guess it was a few months ago that I had the SEALFIT 20X at my house, which was basically like a 12-hour beat down where a whole bunch of people from around the globe showed up, and myself, and Commander Mark Divine, and some other Navy SEALs took them all through a crazy workout that lasted 12 hours, and that was designed, as the name implies, to make you 20 times stronger. One of the attendees for that event, a guy named Scott, who've I've gotten to know a little bit since that event, he told me about a physician that he knows and that he's worked with up in, of all places, Nelson, B.C. Nelson, B.C. is actually where I used to go drink when I was under age. It's like five hours north of my house, and I remember when me and my buddies were 16, 17 years old, we'd drive up to Canada so that we could drink even though we were under age. And it turns out that there is more to Nelson than simply under-age drinking from American boys who have hopped the border. There is medicine up there, and in this case medicine that's relatively unique, fringe, and that pushes the boundaries that is practiced by my guest on today's show, Dr. Michael Smith.
And Dr. Smith is from the First Nations up in Canada, that's where he hails from. And while up there in Canada, I know that he grew up on the diet of his indigenous ancestors, doing things like eating wild organ meats from the animals he hunted and feasting from the wild salmon that he caught. But he's kinda gone above and beyond just some of the medicinal traditions that I know he learned in the First Nations, and instead he's also studied martial arts, he's taught Canadian military self-defense techniques, he in his practice does everything from neurosomatic therapy, which we'll talk about today, to, from what I understand, bloodletting, pulse diagnosis, tongue diagnosis, all sorts of kind of interesting fringe medical tactics that I thought it would be really fun to dive into because he also seems to be practicing what he preaches. He's an athlete, he's a professional martial artist, he's an author, he's a speaker, he himself also has a podcast called Fusion Health Radio, he has a book called “Returning To An Ancestral Diet”, and he has a website called Integrative Health Solutions. Don't worry, if your head is spinning with all that, I'm going to keep show notes on everything that Dr. Smith and I talk about if you just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/chinesemedicine. That's bengreenfieldfitness.com/chinesemedicine because, as the name would imply, Dr. Smith also has some pretty vast experience with traditional Chinese medicine. So Dr. Smith, it sounds like you could both kick our (censored) and also heal us up afterwards. So, welcome to the show.
Dr. Smith: Thanks. Let's hope it doesn't go that way.
Ben: Yeah. Seriously, I'm glad we're on Skype. So I'm curious about the uniqueness of your upbringing. So can you explain what it is that you experienced when growing up there in Canada and being involved with the First Nations, what the First Nations is first of all, for people who aren't even familiar with that term, and then kind of like how that influence you from an ancestral health standpoint?
Dr. Smith: So I think the word First Nations basically is just the indigenous people of North America, specifically my people, or the Dine’ people, or the Hashtl'ishnii Dine’, a people which would be the Mud Clan of the Navajo Nation.
Ben: The Mud Clan? Why are they called the Mud Clan?
Dr. Smith: Yeah. I know it's kind of embarrassing. It could be like Eagle clan, or Bear clan, or some bad ass name, but no. We're the Mud Clan. The word Hashtl'ishnii actually means undifferentiated, like the primordial, I guess. And that particular tribe or clan is the story keepers, storytellers, wisdom keepers of that nation.
Ben: Interesting. Okay.
Dr. Smith: And that people, that language, the Athabaskan language goes from Tuktoyaktuk, which is way, way up north, all the way down to New Mexico, which is where the Navajo people, or around Arizona.
Ben: Okay. Got it. Now when you were growing up with the Mud Clan, what does that mean? Like were you actually part of the Mud Clan? Like what's your actual genetic heritage?
Dr. Smith: So I'm a mixture of, again, Dine', which people call Navajo in that part of North America. Up here, we're just called Dine'. Then I have some Sumi, some Scottish, some Irish, and, believe it or not some, English royalty.
Ben: Wow. That's great.
Dr. Smith: Yeah. Quite the cocktail.
Ben: That is a cocktail, for sure. What is it that you learned when it comes to the First Nations in terms of medicine? Because I'm familiar that they have something called like a “medicine wheel”?
Dr. Smith: So the medicine wheel is basically the way we would organize traditional teachings around what you would look at, very much like a compass. So there's the four directions, and then there's what's above you and below you, and then there's what's within you. So it's like seven directions. But most of the teachings are kind of compartmentalized into the north, east, south, west way of seeing the world. I think, probably the most common thing that I end up talking to people about in that sense would be what we call “the four puberties”, which is about every 15 years, people tend to become somebody else, which is kind of weird to go through if you don't know what's happening.
Ben: I've never heard of that or been familiar with that term. Every four years, you go through a puberty.
Dr. Smith: No. There's four puberties in life. So about every 15, give or take…
Ben: Okay, every 15 years.
Dr. Smith: Yeah. You suddenly shift gears. I think in Western astrology, they call the second one a Saturn return, 'cause it's like around 28, Saturn goes around the sun once or something, and then you become your second puberty.
Ben: Okay. Interesting. And so how does this medicine wheel actually work?
Dr. Smith: Well, I don't know if it works. I actually use the term “medicine wheeling” because if you were to take, say, chakras from tantra or something like that, you could put it on a poster, give each one a special color, and a special crystal, and a special herb, and jam, or whatever, and it becomes kind of literal where when you look at medicine wheeling as just a natural process of reflecting on life given that there are four seasons, four directions, four stages in life, lots of fours, sometimes that can help you frame how to balance a situation out. So another one, I don't know deep you want to get into this specifically, but there's a thing called the four colors of time which describe different kind of mood states people are in. So let's say you're in what we would call black time, which would be a pretty bad place to be, and if I'm in red time, which is kind of a get up and go, workaholic kind of point of view, you and I are going to get along very well because you're going kind of dealing with a deep internal stillness issues and I want to run around and do push-ups.
Ben: Okay. Interesting. So it's less of like a way that you would diagnose disease as much as it is like a mental constrict for determining like what stage of life someone might be in?
Dr. Smith: I Think the last time I went through the entire thing, it took me 62 hours.
Ben: When you say went through the entire thing, what do you mean? What'd you do?
Dr. Smith: Did a year-long training where I just walked people through all the different teachings that I've picked up in my life from different elders and those people, and that whole thing took about 62 hours to go through, everything I had designed. So, yes.
Ben: Okay. Oh, wow. What was that recorded at all? Or where's a good place for people to learn more about the medicine wheel?
Dr. Smith: It's not something you're going to find written down with any kind of credibility because it's an oral tradition, it's very contextual. Like I said, you can't really literalize it and keep it in its own self-nature, I guess. ‘Cause once everything gets compartmentalized and the literalized in the sense of written, and because it's written, it's now true 'cause somebody else could read it and know the same thing as you, it kind of dies. I mean there's lots of, I don't know, new age stuff out there that borrows from medicine wheel teachings, but again it gets very kind of plastic, and solid, and it loses its, I don't know, its life force a bit.
Ben: Okay. Got it. Well, I'll try and hunt down a little bit more about this concept of the medicine wheel and potentially put some links in the show notes for those of you listening in. But from what I understand, you actually, you got sick yourself. You had to deal with things like Crohn's and ulcerative colitis, and I'm curious if that is what influenced your interest in getting into medicine, and if so, what you actually did to heal yourself using what you learned from both dwelling with the Mud Clan, which I just think sound sexier than First Nations, and also what you learned from traditional Chinese medicine? Like what's your story in terms of how you actually came into the interest in medicine?
Dr. Smith: So, yeah. I guess, I didn't really answer your original question. So I grew up in a hunting lodge up in Northern BC. So we grew up on roots, and berries, and mushroom, and all that kind of stuff.
Ben: What do you mean you grew up in a hunting lodge? Like in an actual lodge?
Dr. Smith: Yep.
Ben: Okay. What's the difference between a lodge and hunting lodge?
Dr. Smith: I guess lodges are where you would go to hang out and drink beer, and a hunting lodge is where you go to sleep, and then wake up at 3 in the morning, get on a horse, and go off into the bushes to shoot animals.
Ben: Okay. Gotcha.
Dr. Smith: Yeah. So I grew up basically trapping, and tracking, and hunting, and fishing and all that kind of stuff. We did have a school, but it was like a one-room school that was really far away and we didn't get there very often. But moved to the city, became an athlete, mostly a martial artist 'cause being mixed blood in this part of the world is a good way to get into a lot of fights. And both in my mid-20's, early-20's, one of my coaches had said that it would be better for me to be a vegetarian ‘cause of all these spiritual things. And I thought, “Well, you're a pretty impressive guy. I'll try that out.” And within about three years, I went from 165 pound professional athlete to 112 pounds, dying in the hospital.
Ben: So what happened exactly that you went to 112 pounds dying in the hospital?
Dr. Smith: Crohn's and colitis came along super, super fast. And I was actually in med school at the time, so I knew kind of what was going on, but at the same time I have to admit, being a stubborn guy that thought I could beat anything. I just kept trying all kinds of really, really wacky stuff to control it or to keep myself from getting sicker, and obviously that didn't work out so well. So I spent a couple of nights in the ICU and that was a hugely potent experience for me, being sort of at the time in my mind, a pretty tough, invulnerable guy, I'm lying in his bed in a room with these three old men that are in their 70's and 80's, and they're coaching me, and trying to inspire me to make it through the night while I'm begging the nurses to kill me because of the amount of pain I was in. So that was a big eye opener for me, like, “Oh my God,” I mean, “This is not working. I can't just be tough all the time,” and here I am, lying in bed and these old guys are trying to keep me just from freaking out.
Ben: Did you actually have like a genetic predisposition to Crohn's or ulcerative colitis, like something that you would have test with some kind of a lab panel? Or do you think that this arose due to stress from medical school or something else?
Dr. Smith: I think mostly it was just trying to be a vegetarian.
Ben: Okay. Got it. So how was it that trying to be vegetarian would've caused that to happen?
Dr. Smith: Well, I went from a diet of mostly animals, and plants, and fats to trying to eat brown rice, and tofu, and quinoa, and all that other fun stuff. I mean I'm sure you've talked this to the ground and back, but I mean with all the lectins, and phytates, and stuff, and whole grains, and beans that my body was not familiar with at all, I mean I basically just triggered an autoimmune process that was probably latent. I mean I'm sure stress had a lot to do with it at the time too, I mean med school, and I was in a weird relationship, and teaching like four to six hours a day for martial arts as well as studying all the time. So, yeah, it was a good combination of a big shift in diet, big shift in lifestyle, big shift in stress, which is usually what gets us all.
Ben: What'd you do? How'd you fix yourself?
Dr. Smith: Went back to basically eating stew.
Dr. Smith: I did. Yeah. (laughs)
Ben: Maybe stew has a different term, when I think stew, I think of like the big pots that my mom used to throw like beans and some nasty meat into, and a whole concoction of items, and the cook it up to create food that would last two weeks. I'm curious if stew for you is bone broth, or what stew is?
Dr. Smith: I think it's evolved a lot since that was like 22, 23 years ago. I guess since, and I've written a gourmet cook book, so I've gone from the kind of hellish stew that you're talking about to some pretty damn good stew. But yeah, literally two years after I got out of the hospital, I pretty much just lived on stew, and sausages, and salad.
Ben: Wow. Stew, and sausages, and salad. Like raw vegetables, or cooked vegetables, or…?
Dr. Smith: Yep. I've been doing a bit of both. I mean this is a Chinese medicine thing, and if this is, I think people, I'll TMI, just bleep it out, but basically in Chinese medicine, if you eat a lot of raw vegetables and you see the raw vegetables in your poop, then you've got to cook your vegetables.
Dr. Smith: So that was kind of my go-to thermostat for, or lab test for how many vegetables I should be eating every day.
Ben: Do you know what's going on there from a gut standpoint in terms of you seeing raw vegetables in your poo, like why that would be a sign? So you're saying if you see raw vegetables in your poo, like corn in your crap as fat bastard in Austin Powers would say, if you see that, you're saying that's a sign that you need to cook down those vegetables or you need to chew them better?
Dr. Smith: I think that would be a good start, and I'm trying to repress the urge to make weird choices, weird voices about feeding my belly anyway.
Ben: Get in my belly!
Dr. Smith: In my belly! There we go. Had to get that out.
Ben: I want my baby back, baby back, baby back, baby back ribs.
Dr. Smith: (laughs) Anyways, obviously if you have low stomach acid, low pancreatic enzyme concentration or rejection, if you're microbiome's all over the place, then you're not going to be able to break down the cellulose and the deep fiber in your plants, and then you're going to poop 'em out. It can actually technically digest corn, so I don't think that one counts as a meter for digestive health.
Ben: Yeah. That one inevitably winds up in the toilet bowl, the corn does. But that's really interesting about the other vegetables being a potential sign for low stomach acid or something of that nature. Now in terms of what you do now, did you, after going through the Crohn's Disease and ulcerative colitis, finish medical school? Did you do that during medical school, or what happened that launched you into the practice that you have now up in Nelson, BC?
Dr. Smith: Well, I actually moved to Nelson to start school we call Academy of Classical Oriental Sciences. So I came here to actually teach, and that was actually at the time in which I ended up in the hospital because I was still trying to be a vegetarian and I was working about 70 hours a week writing courses in translating things between French, English, and Chinese, and of all that. So that's actually when I ended up in a hospital, was during the first semester of starting a school, which is nice and humbling enough.
Ben: Yeah. So you started this school, and how long ago was that?
Dr. Smith: We started the school in 1996. That's about 20 years ago.
Ben: Okay. Got it. And you've basically been practicing up there in Nelson since then?
Dr. Smith: Yep.
Ben: Okay. Got it.
Dr. Smith: And I've also added like functional medicine, nutritional medicine, and I mean I guess I could call it ancestral or evolutionary nutrition now. I'm a learnaholic. I can't help it.
Ben: You wrote this book too, “Returning To An Ancestral Diet”. What is that about?
Dr. Smith: So about the first hundred pages is just on evolutionary nutrition, basic nutrition science, the kind of do's and don'ts. I it's probably around like a great 10, grade 11 level, so it's mostly just like meant for patients to get their arms around the basic information of what they need to do, which is basically why I wrote it was just so my patients would have something to be able to access, and carry around, and take home, and show their spouse so they could make sure they could eat real food and have a good resource. So there's, besides about a hundred pages of basic technical information, then there's about 500 gourmet recipes from around the world.
Ben: When you say gourmet recipe, can you give me an example? I mean are we talking about like salmon in parchment paper, or some type of fancy California cuisine rabbit rib, or what exactly what would a gourmet meal be like for you?
Dr. Smith: For me, gourmet just means that it's a good balance between seasonal, local, fresh, and something your grandmother would have taught you on Sunday afternoon.
Ben: Like what?
Dr. Smith: Wow. I've got thousands of recipes in my head. One that comes to mind is sort of the most popular thing if people ask me to go to a potluck, it's salmon rillette roulade. So you take leftover salmon, you make your own mayonnaise, you throw in a bunch of spices and yummy things, and then you wrap it up in sliced lox, which is smoke salmon, and then you would sprinkle over that a little bit of chipotle and some squeeze lime. I mean it's…
Ben: That sounds really good. What'd you call it? Salmon what?
Dr. Smith: Rillette, which is the French name for anything that's basically rendered down into a fat. And roulade basically just means rolled up in something.
Ben: How do you spell “rillete”?
Dr. Smith: R-I-L-L-E-T-T-E.
Ben: Okay. Gotcha. I think I have seen that term before. So you call it salmon rillette roulade.
Dr. Smith: Yeah, yeah.
Ben: Okay. Got it. Now what, about when you say “returning to an ancestral diet,” we live in an era of 23andMe, and DNAFit, and all these services that will test your genetics. And then in addition to programming a diet according to your genetics, such as high carbohydrate, or low carbohydrate, or let's say if you had like the APOE3 4 gene, like a low saturated fat diet, or more of like a [0:23:00] ______ fiber rich diet, et cetera, we also are able to look at where our ancestors came from from a test like that, like sub-Saharan African, or Eastern Asian, or Northern European, or perhaps just like you of First Nations and royal English tribes. How do you actually prescribe a diet and say that it's ancestral when everybody's ancestry is different?
Dr. Smith: I mean I agree with that in one sense totally, 'cause I'm totally down with nutrigenomic medicine. I love getting people's reports back, and looking at their snips, and figuring out more specific details. But I think if we were to take a magic camera, or satellite in outer space and it has that magic power of going back in time, if you watch human history go backwards, you're going to basically bump into, once you go backwards through the Industrial Revolution, it's gonna be homesteading. And if you go back more through time, it's gonna be hunter-gatherers. And if you go back more through time, it's gonna be primates living at beaches during ice ages trying to learn to swim. So unless you're from another planet, and that's totally cool, by the way, if you're from another planet, that's your evolutionary history. So when we speak about ancestral diets in the loosest, most general term, you're either going to go back and eat a homesteader diet, which would include like oats, and maybe some rice, and millet, and lots of fermented foods to balance that out. Or you go back to what now call the paleo diet, which I have a couple of issues with. And then, again, you would go back to what I call an ice age diet, that's actually meant to make fun of the paleo diet, but human beings, intermediately between being primates and what we are now, as far as my research has shown, as well as some really old traditional stories, our biggest evolutionary pressure was during ice ages when we were living off mussels, and fish, and lobsters at the beach as primates. Profoundly healthy way to eat.
Ben: Okay. Got it. So you're basically looking at even back before humans would have spread to different areas of the planet, what we would have been doing at those stages?
Dr. Smith: Yeah. ‘Cause I mean the thing that really fascinates me, Ben, is that when you take people through what I would call epigenetic resets, evolutionary pressures around exercise nutrition, I mean basically everything you always talk about all the time, our epigenetic system says, “I think this is familiar and good things happened the last time we did this.” So if you were to live off basically raw fish and then fast growing green plants, you would have an epigenetic reset to what it's like to get through an ice age as a primate. The most common thing I ask my patients to do in general with respect to an epigenetic or evolutionary reset is to drink at least two liters of water a day, but to make sure you're getting that first liter in the first two hours of your day.
Ben: And why would you want to get the first liter in the first two hours of the day?
Dr. Smith: So with respect to human history, we've been migratory way, way more than we've been, in any way, kind of settlers. So and then you're a little bit of a bush guy, so you've got some experience trekking around out there in the boonies, the hardest thing for humans to do without technology is to move water over land. So it's been a pretty normal thing for migratory people to fill your belly with water so you can carry it around on a bag on the inside instead of trying to manufacture and then hanging on to a bag on the outside, or you'd be doing it a bit of both. So when you look at just a simple evolutionary hack or opportunity, just by doing that, your body resets a whole bunch of things back to that epigenetic or evolutionary opportunity.
And just in the common sense thing around tissue waste, you're sleeping, your body is trying to clean up all of the mess of your day, and for athletes that's a bit bigger of a mess, or for people who party too much, it's obviously a much bigger mess. Your liver and kidneys want to put all the stuff in a water soluble stage, and they spent all this time doing that, and if you wake up in the morning and drink coffee, I mean that's not going to really help you, so your liver and kidneys have to try and transpose a lot of these reactive oxygen species, and basically mild toxins and back into effect fat soluble intermediate state until you get enough water for them to flip it back over to water soluble so you can excrete it properly. So it's a super simple, almost no-brainer biohack where if you just give your liver and kidneys at least a liter of water in that first two hours, not only are you going to be peeing like a champion, you're going to be getting rid of all that water soluble tissue waste as quickly as you can. And I don't remember the countries in mind right now, but when I first got inspired to look into that a few years ago, at that point there was three countries in the world that, if you were in the hospital, they made you consume that much water that way. And the statistics in those hospitals was pretty profound with respect to positive results on those patients. So I thought that seemed like a good idea.
Ben: Do you put anything in the water like lemon juice, or baking soda, or anything along those lines when you do this this liter within the first two hours when you wake up?
Dr. Smith: For myself, yeah. I'm always sort of goofing around with experimenting with myself. So right now I'm using leftover chaga tea.
Ben: Leftover chaga tea mixed with the water that you drink, or you just drink a liter of chaga tea?
Dr. Smith: I just put out a couple of jars on the counter, fill them with water, and let them baseline to room temperature, and then I'll just pour a little bit of the leftover chaga on top of that. But again, I could be using lemon juice, I could be using apple cider vinegar, I could be doing, like you said, baking soda, pretty much anything that just seems like kind of an appropriate thing to enhance what I'm doing, but that's what I'd be doing.
Ben: Yeah. Interesting. I asked that just because I personally get a little bit bored with just regular water. And I spoke with someone on a podcast, I don't remember who it was, I think it was when I interviewed Hannah Crum about Kombucha, she touched on the fact that we actually see very little just pure plain water consumption when it comes to the dietary practices of many of our ancestors, and they'd be doing everything from watered down wine, to mead, to fermented beverages, like a Kombucha or a water kefir, to teas, to coffees, to all manner of different herbal blends, but very seldomly just plain old water. And so I guess I don't really feel guilty anymore about really, probably I drink the equivalent of one to two large glasses of just plain water during the day. And other than that for me, it's everything from sparkling, glass bottled Pellegrino to, I actually do some of that chaga tea like you just talked about, to lemons, to baking soda, and beyond. I just constantly like to put things in the drinks that I drink.
Dr. Smith: Yeah. And I think that touches on something that I'm pretty big on, which has to do with intention. So if I'm having pure water instead of something more exciting, usually I do that with a sense of intention. And this might be a little bit woo-woo, but it kind of touches on the First Nations side of things, I often ask my patients to blow on their medicine.
Ben: To blow on their medicine?
Dr. Smith: Yeah. So say you had how many capsules of nutritional supplements you take a day, but just imagine you've got your fist full of whatever you're going to be taking, and maybe you're actually really dealing with a health problem or you've biohacking experiment, but either way I think this would be appropriate, I would say put those little supplements in your hand, and then hold in your mind an image of what it is you see yourself attempting to do and that this stuff in your hand is your ally. So once you get that image really potently warmed up in your mind, then you would just blow on the medicine, or the herbs, or your chaga tea, or your clear water, and to kind of imbue those substances with that sense of cooperation and intention.
Ben: That's really interesting. Do you think that that, in homeopathy and also when you look at like Masaru Emoto, I think his name is, the guy who like pray or show that positive emotions displayed over water could potentially change like the crystalline structure of the water, and then in the case of homeopathy, there's this idea that when you have certain things in water, water remembers, like water is able to actually carry a signature of something that it's had in it, and I realize that some of this may sound a little bit woo to those of you listening in, and I will admit there's not a great deal of peer-reviewed clinical research behind it. But when you blow on water, do you think that there is some kind of an exchange between you, your breath, any molecules, or chemicals, or compounds that might be present in your breath and the water?
Dr. Smith: I don't think it's got so much to do with whether or not I've got great smelling breath or special molecules in my breath. I think it has more to do with entrainment.
Ben: What do you mean?
Dr. Smith: So we have this thing called the heart pores, 'cause if we're gonna try and to have this kind of conversation and still use our left brains in the sense of peer reviewed studies actually mattering at all, 'cause we're talking about something shamanic, and shamanic is way more right brain than left brain.
Dr. Smith: But if I was to park over in my left brain, the thing that makes the most sense to me would be entrainment, which is bioelectric, biomagnetic field that's emanating around our heart for about six feet, give or take on average depending on the mood, state of being, intention. I think if you're singing really intensely about something, which we do in our ceremonies, the intensity of that bioelectric field is going to entrain or influence someone next to you, and that could be a human being, it could be an animal, it could be a cup of water.
Ben: That's really interesting. Okay. Got it. That's kind of potentially the theory behind this concept of gently blowing on your water before you drink it?
Dr. Smith: Yeah. But if we were both to just take a little holiday and sit in our right brain, how does that feel?
Dr. Smith: ‘Cause I mean that's where I think 90% of the work I do in my practice, in my teaching, in my writing, in my day to day life is I've got a really really good brain, but it gets in my way because I stopped feeling, and using intuition, and being really, really deeply connected and present with things because I can bungee cord into my head and refer to like 900 books that I read or something like that, and it's a nice little escape for me because it's safe, it's easy, and I'm in control. But when I go over to that other side of the opportunity we have here as beings and just deeply feel what it's like to stay connected, and stay present, and be conscious of even the opportunity, even if it's only a 2% chance blowing on your pills is going to make your pills do something better, that 2% chance still feels 99% better than doing nothing.
Ben: How long do you blow on the pills or blow on the water?
Dr. Smith: I think just for me, it's just breathe in, breathe out. I just breathe in, 'cause I've been doing this since I was a kid, so I just hold in my mind that sense of, I mean we the word English, in English we use the word prayer, but it would be more appropriate to think of it as an imagination that has momentum. Like I'm imagining something, I'm imaging it, I'm hoping for it, what do they call that, the abundance factor thing where the more intention you hold towards something, the more likely it is to come into being. So it's more of just a deeply present sensual moment of affirmation. Honestly, man, if somebody proved how this worked or didn't work, it would make me sad.
Ben: Right, right.
Dr. Smith: ‘Cause it then just becomes another thing I know.
Ben: That might take some of the right brained spirituality out of it.
Dr. Smith: Yeah.
Ben: Got it.
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Ben: So you have, in addition to just like blowing on your supplements, you have quite a few therapies that you do there in your office. And frankly, this is one of the reasons that I wanted to get you on the show was because you're doing some things I've never heard of. For example, I mentioned earlier when I was introducing you that you are the developer, or one of the developers, of something called Neurosomatic Therapy. Can you explain what Neurosomatic Therapy is and how you would use something like that?
Dr. Smith: Well I think the easiest way to use the term neurosomatic is just mind-body.
Ben: You're just using a fancier title then because mind-body was already trademarked?
Dr. Smith: (laughs) Kind of. Yeah. But at the same time, well I'll tell you the story about how this happened. So it was about 2003, I was getting into is some pretty potent shamanic ceremonial things, which was bringing up a lot of stuff in my experience that I didn't really know that I had to deal with, which I don't know if people really need to know the details about that. But at the same time that I was starting to realize I had some pretty deep trauma stuff going on since I was a kid, no synchronicity of being what it is, I was at some party and somebody asked me, “What do you think would be the,” how did they say it, they said, “If you were in a hurry, how long would it take to make someone clinically relevant in some kind of emergency situation?” And we just sat around you know BS-ing about that, but I went home and thought about it, and I sat down, and it occurred to me, because of what I was going through at the time around trying to decompress some childhood trauma, that seemed like the most effective thing to do, because most people in a crisis would be dealing with trauma. So I sat down, and honestly I was smoked a joint, and thought about it, and spent three hours designing this entire curriculum for using a hands-on approach similar to like a combination of trigger point therapy, myofascial release therapy, Chinese massage, some real subtle tricky things, like from sacral therapy that I had picked up, and I just came up with this approach to decompressing trauma based on what I would call the eight layers of how human beings embody distress.
Ben: Walk me through what a typical session like this would actually look like.
Dr. Smith: So usually there is going to be an orientation first where I would walk a person through what those layers are, and then ask a person to kind of imitate the kind of deep instinctual gestures that human beings have, and I have mapped all that I out actually as a martial artist, because in martial arts your job is to make the other person flinch long enough for you to knock them down. So I mean having all that experience of trying to charge people up into that flinch response and all the different things that that's about gave me this really clear map. So again if I'm sitting in the treatment room with somebody, we're going to walk through that map in the first appointment so that they can give me and some cells a chance to really zero in on how much of their, I guess, vitality is held up in certain kind of postural habits, and a lot of these are deeply instinctual.
And then sometimes I'll get people to draw what's called a somatograph, which is basically just a stick figure of a human where you put a lot of symbolic drawing basically on that picture. And then I'll take that picture and put it next to the treatment table so that as I'm going through the process of that treatment, I have the map that you know, that I know, that you know is all about trauma. So if I'm working on you, say you're lying on your back, and I'm trying to release a lot of deep trauma and habit that's held in the back of your neck, which is something all of us do, as you're trying to release that with breath and I'm trying to help you do that with very subtle kinds of axial traction and stuff, you're not just lying there getting a massage, you're lying there trying to do your best to decompress the actual experience of trauma that we both can confirm you're holding in that part of your body.
Ben: Okay. Got it. What do people notice when they do this? I mean you get like a detox reaction? Do you simply feel as though like a muscle is less guarded if it was a certain muscle or injury that you're working on? What do you notice when you have it done?
Dr. Smith: I'd say about 20, 25% of the time, people just have a big emotional release. Lots of sighing, maybe a bit of crying, then a lot of sort of smiling and laughing because it's so empowering to know that you can tenderly decompress a whole bunch of stuff that you just don't know what to do with. So it's a big shift for people that way. I'd say maybe 5% of the time, I might have to tussle with somebody because they go into a kind of like mild but explosive rage. I'd say most of the time, people just start twitching like crazy.
Ben: Why would people go into a rage?
Dr. Smith: You ever heard of Oscar the Grouch?
Ben: Yes. The Sesame Street Oscar the Grouch?
Dr. Smith: Yeah.
Ben: Yeah. The guy who has the pet worm.
Dr. Smith: I didn't know about the worm, but…
Ben: I'm pretty sure he has a pet worm. I don't remember the pet worm's name. I'm sure one of our listeners does. If you do, go leave a comment.
Dr. Smith: It's now up to you, Ben. You have to put that in the show notes.
Ben: That's right.
Dr. Smith: Just kidding. So I use Oscar the Grouch as sort of a metaphor for people, because the reason why we all have Oscar inside of us is because we're trying to keep him in the can by pushing down on the lid. So if you spend the last 20 years of your life trying to run a business, raise kids, write books, and do anything else that you're kind of interested in doing, but at least one of your limbs, or at least one portion of your vitality is busy trying to keep that trauma, or that memory, or that weird urge you have, or whatever it is in a can, you're basically living with, say, 20% of your body's vitality and freedom basically stuck doing a part-time job to keep Oscar in the can. So one thing that I think it's important for anyone listening in to be mindful of is if you're strong enough to hold the can lid on top of whatever it is you're holding into yourself, you're strong enough to be with whatever's inside the can.
Ben: Got it.
Dr. Smith: For some people, that's the biggest thing, especially around addiction. Most people keep pouring, if it's booze or something else over whatever it takes to keep that lid down, once you come to the kind of conscious, at least possibility that you can handle what's inside the can and the lid is actually in the way of your healing, that's step one is just to pop the lid. And some people, when they pop the lid, Oscar comes out and he's really pissed off.
Ben: Yeah. It's kind of interesting. Whenever I'll do like a full body foam rolling session or get a massage, in many cases I will have some emotional releases. Or I'll get on like an energy high and feel very similar to as if I just had a good cry or something like that. And I know that there is definitely a link between fascia and neurotransmitters. I'm not sure that fascia actually produce neurotransmitters, however I know they contain neurotransmitters that kind of connect into the central nervous system through like a sheath around the peripheral nerves. So it's interesting that some of this might be based on actual chemical signaling from the fascia.
Dr. Smith: Definitely. I don't have the chemistry of this in my head 'cause I don't talk about this kind of thing very specifically very often, but if you imagine at the end of every peripheral nerve, if you can just imagine that that's what your body looks like on a certain level, at the end of every one of those nerves, especially the motor plate nerves, your body has the ability to hold catecholamines basically just before they're formed. So as soon as a certain signal of stress or trauma goes on, the nerves release one charge, and again the technical stuff is something I learned 20 years ago so it's not in my head right now. So if I was to do this in front of a room of people, usually what I do at this moment is I yell really, really loud. So I'm not going to do that 'cause I think the effect would be really, really weird for people, but…
Ben: Plus I've got headphones on, so spare me, spare my ears.
Dr. Smith: Yeah. But say I'm in a room full of people and I just yell really, really loud most people are going to jump out of their chair right?
Dr. Smith: Or at least startle a little bit. So part of the startle reflex is your body's ability to suddenly have the epinephrine side of your adrenal system, in every muscle at the end of every nerve in the two tenths of a second, it takes you to go from sitting on your couch to dealing with the fact a bear just walked in your house. So I mean there's no way for all those hormones to get to the end of all of those nerves and get embedded in the affective motor plate of all those muscles from your adrenal glands to every tissue in the time it takes for people to go from zero to startle.
Ben: Okay. Got it.
Dr. Smith: And I'm using that kind of loosely, but there's all these sort of, I would say kind of like capacitors or little charges of energy, neurotransmitters, catecholamines, and other stuff that are held in little kind of emergency packages, or whatever you want to call it, throughout the body. And as soon as a very specific change happens, which is more of an electrical change than a chemical sort of circulatory change, the entire system can shift metabolic status. So if we can see that just in the general sense, I mean it's kind of obvious that that's how things have to work, when you're working on the opposite direction, which is through touch, through intention, through awareness, trying to reduce the body's need to hold on to all of those trauma-specific kinds of chemistry in status, it's a huge shift for the person going through it. And this is where these conversations honestly get kind of hung up, because with those kind of practices, what's really going on has to do with deep profound conscious presence between at least two people. ‘Cause that's what it's really about. I mean I love geeked-out chemistry of how things can be explained, but when you're really in it as a patient getting that kind of an experience, the least thing that's interesting to you is what you can do with language.
Ben: Right, right.
Dr. Smith: The most interesting thing to you is that you can completely trust yourself in your body in that moment. And for some people, that's a huge shift of perception.
Ben: Yeah. Interesting. I'll the hunt down some videos of what neurosomatic therapy looks like too, so that if folks if you're listening in, just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/chinesemedicine and I'll hunt down a video so you can kind of see what this kind of stuff looks like. And by the way, Oscar the Grouch's worm is named Slimy.
Dr. Smith: Oh! Awesome. Of course.
Ben: Now you know. Like that little light and dark orange striped named Slimy. But we digress. I've also seen that you implement bloodletting, or I guess that would be called a phlebotomy, I suppose, in your practice. Is that true?
Dr. Smith: Not in the phlebotomy sense. I mean we do, there's a thing we do with little lancets in Chinese medicine where if a person has kind of a varicosity or other kind of congestion of blood serum in their body basically just wanted it to get out.
Ben: What's a congestion of blood serum?
Dr. Smith: So basically what we would call an ischemia. So there's a bunch of blood trying to get through an area of the body, but circulatory status is impaired because of injury, because of congestion, because of mechanical stuff. I mean obviously when you have enough congestion between your liver and kidneys, the blood return up from your lower body is going to be sluggish, which is going to produce like spider veins, varicose veins, and stuff. And from a Chinese medicine point of view, that kind of blood, as it gets darker and darker, is considered to be kind of septic or toxic, so the idea is just to get it out of your body as fast as you can instead of asking your body to clean it up.
Ben: So you don't use leeches.
Dr. Smith: Nope.
Ben: Okay. You use lancets. And how do you actually use those?
Dr. Smith: You just put some iodine on the person, and I usually ask really distracting questions as I jab them until they bleed.
Ben: Is there actual science behind this?
Dr. Smith: I think, I mean it just makes common sense to me, and if you've got basically dead or dying blood cells sitting in a little section of your vascular system and it's just going to be a lot of work to clean up the tissue waste that's there, it just seems like a nice idea if you will magically flush the metaphoric toilet and just get it out of your circulatory system.
Ben: How do you know if blood cells are dead or dying in that area?
Dr. Smith: Well, 'cause they come out black.
Ben: But how do you know before, like before you actually go in to lance them?
Dr. Smith: Well you just see a presentation of an enlarged vessel, or little bladders that happen on the vascular system themselves. It's like if you…
Ben: Almost like varicose veins?
Dr. Smith: Well in a way, but imagine if you're piping up a bike tire and you just decide you're really into the exercise part of it and you just keep pumping the tire, what's going to happen at the tire?
Ben: Yeah, you get a little areas where it starts to bulge…
Dr. Smith: Yeah, you get those little bladder bulges where it's the weakest in the membrane. So you can basically palpate and track that down, and that's where you would use a lancet is to just pop that little bubble because the body's stuck.
Ben: Interesting. And so you just do that once or is that like a practice that someone goes in for over and over again?
Dr. Smith: I think it would depend on the person. Some, especially I think older people who are a bit overweight, that would be something I think I would see that happening more regularly. Other people, like maybe just once or twice. I mean it's something I hardly actually ever do, so it's interesting that, the rumor mill has it that I'm doing phlebotomies, and leeches, or something.
Ben: I talked to that guy Scott who I mentioned earlier and he filled me on all sorts of crazy things about you. So there's more. Just you wait. Actually, that relates to the next thing I wanted to ask you, and that's like this concept of blood cupping. So we see the photos of like Michael Phelps from the Rio Olympics with the little cupping suction cup marks all over his body, but I don't believe he was actually doing blood cupping where you're actually like bleeding out through these cupped areas. Do you do blood cupping or any other forms of cupping in your therapy? And if so, how do you do it and why?
Dr. Smith: I do cupping mostly for really deep tissue trauma, like someone who's been hit by a car or something, and or someone with pleurisy, I think, would be the next most likely thing.
Dr. Smith: Fluid congestion on your lungs.
Ben: Okay. How would getting hit by a car form requirement for you to need something like cupping?
Dr. Smith: It's just a matter of getting the bruise to get as close to the surface capillaries as you can.
Ben: Okay. So you're talking about like blunt force trauma?
Dr. Smith: Yep.
Ben: Okay. So when your bruise, I know that, for example athletes, would do this to just like introduce more blood flow into an area for healing or removal of inflammatory byproducts, but when you're bruised, you're actually pulling the blood, I mean is the blood actually coming out through the skin when you do something like this?
Dr. Smith: You can do that. I mean it's kind of like a really, really overdone hickey, but you can do that.
Ben: Is that what you do?
Dr. Smith: I mean I can and I would if I had to, but that's not my objective when I use cupping. My objective is cupping is to just signal the body to focus more on increasing local blood circulation to just clean up a mess, or to charge up the lymphatic system. ‘Cause if you're doing cupping, you're going to get like minor little bubbles of lymphedema in the short term, and that excites the body to have to reregulate that. So in doing that, your body naturally upregulates, say, certain kinds of lymphatic recycling. And when your body starts to increase that process, you're going to see things like pleurisy or other lymphatic congestion problems get better.
Ben: Yeah. Now what about needling? Does needling work similarly? Because I interviewed, I believe and I think it was Dr. John Roosen I think who I interviewed and who does needling in his practice, like dry needling. Is that similar to cupping or similar to bloodletting in any way?
Dr. Smith: I think the easiest way to make this conversation really, really make sense for people would be say, that the term “Chi” that people use for Chinese medicine unfortunately gets stuck in the English mind as a noun. I know this seems like a bit of on a side, but when you're thinking about the term Chi as a noun, then you have to…
Ben: So you think of it as like life force or energy?
Dr. Smith: Whatever you do in English, you're basically stuck with a noun. So not to just bash English, but it's a really, really limited language. So if Chi is a noun, it needs its own distinct circulatory system, and hence the hippie version of the meridians being some magic plumbing that science is too stupid to figure out which causes all kinds of problems because chi doesn't actually you really get used as a distinct word in Chinese by itself. It can be, but it's really a rare thing. The term chi really just refers to the effect of circulation and the effect of communication of every system in the body. So if you have liver chi, as an assessment of the health of your liver, the chi just means circulation or communication with the rest of the body. So we're doing needling with acupuncture, the point's choices can be determined by a textbook, or by more intuition, or by lots of experience, but when you're needling people, your intention is to improve the circulation in that area, and the communication from that area to the other areas you're needling.
Ben: Okay. Gotcha. So is needling acting more on the neuromuscular system, in the cardiovascular system?
Dr. Smith: I think it's going to work on all systems and on the ones we don't have words for, yeah.
Ben: Okay. Interesting. Got it. So you do needling, you do cupping, you do bloodletting, and I also understand that you do some acupuncture, and I had a question about acupuncture. Because I had this fascinating video that I found of the use of acupuncture as anesthesia for, in this case, open heart surgery. They’re actually using this as an alternative to anesthetic medicine for open heart surgery, which has shocked me, but have you seen this? And if so, like can acupuncture be used for that level of pain management?
Dr. Smith: Apparently. I mean I've seen it on cow, I've seen it done on people. So the reason I bring up the cow thing is that for people who decide it's a mind over matter thing where “I just believe in acupuncture so much I'm just going to lie here and let you do your thing,” when you can see someone like take a lung out of a cow with just acupuncture for the anesthetic, you're like, “Well, I don't think the cow believes in acupuncture,” so maybe there is something going on here that's really, really quite deep. And I've never actually tried to use, well that's not true, I've done acupuncture anesthesia for dentist appointments for people, but I've never really tried to do that for surgery or anything like that.
Ben: Okay. Got it. But you do acupuncture?
Dr. Smith: That's mostly what I do is acupuncture, and I don't think I've been bleeding in the last two years, just in case someone runs up, like stares looking to get some bleeding done.
Ben: When you do the acupuncture, do you do the thing where were you electrify the needles, or you start them on fire, or anything like that?
Dr. Smith: (laughs) No, I don't set them on fire. I have a friend who did that and he got sued for it leaving big scars on people.
Ben: What about the electrical charge that you can put on the needles?
Dr. Smith: Yes. So depending on what you're looking at in terms of your patient, you're going to choose different kinds of, so there's the frequency, there's modulation, there's amplitude, and all that kind of stuff. So depending on what I'm doing, I would either be doing a slower and lower current for a longer period of time, or a faster and higher current for a shorter period of time depending on the problem or the result I'm looking for.
Ben: Okay. Got it. So when you electrocute these needles, how are you doing that? Is there just like a wire that you use, do you use like an EMS machine, or how does it work?
Dr. Smith: It's basically a very subtle version of an EMS machine, yeah.
Ben: Okay. Got it. Interesting. Okay, so acupuncture, and by the way, I've had a bit of acupuncture done. I have a local practitioner who I've interviewed on the show, he's actually a Chinese medical practitioner. When people ask me who my primary care physician is, I actually tell them it's Dr. Toby Hallowitz who's like the local Chinese practitioner, even though I don't really have much of like a primary care physician as much as, I bounce around practitioners based off of something that I might need to have done. I think it's kind of old school to have this idea of like your one single primary care practitioner, although my reasoning could be flawed.
Dr. Smith: Yeah, I think that's the best reasoning I've heard. I mean one of the first things I ask people to do if they're in serious trouble, and I don't know you've brought this up yet, but my primary focus is complex chronic autoimmune disease. So if you're referred to me, that's because you know have more than one autoimmune disease. So I tend to deal with some pretty complicated stuff.
Ben: Okay. So speaking of complicated stuff: dream interpretation. So I've looked into dream interpretation a little bit, like you can associate, for example, like teeth falling out in your dreams as a deficiency of kidney qi, that's one example that I came across. And I know that you being in Chinese medicine, you being involved with qi. You may have some thoughts on this, but do you do dream interpretation at all in your practice? Have you messed around with that at all?
Dr. Smith: Well there's a lot of classic dream reference in Chinese medicine. So there is maybe if you have this kind of dream, it means that, like you said, if your teeth are falling out in your dream, it's your kidneys that are weak. So there is sort of the classic stuff. And then coming from kind of a First Nations cultural background where dreaming is at least as important, if not more important, than just day to day stuff, I think I'd probably focus more on that side of my understanding with dreams with people because it's a bit looser, it's less literal, and it's more like a psychotherapeutic conversation than me telling someone what they should think about their dreams. It's more of a chance of kind of drawing out their deeper intuition as well, 'cause if you can come to some sense of consensus and kind of a renewed awareness of something you're trying to figure out, then it's easier to focus on it. I really find it hard to read the books that, here's a thousand dreams and what they mean exactly, so if you can memorize it, now you know, or not to bash Louise Hay, she's got lots of good stuff, but a lot of her stuff around, “If it's your left elbow, it's your dad. If it's your right knee, it's your grandpa,” or I don't actually know if that's what she means, but just in the sense that if you take any concept that's meant to be very subjective and then we try to make it very literal, what we're going to end up doing is having something you can read and remember, but it no longer really means anything.
Ben: Now what are some common dreams that people have? Like I'll dream sometimes that my foot hits the ground, and when I take that step I float way up in the air, like I'm flying/jumping really high as I'm running down the hill. Or I'll have the dream where I happen to be in a public place in my underwear, or nothing at all, whatever I happen to be sleeping in that night. And I think a lot of people have, in many cases, these common dreams. I know some people too will have the dreams about their teeth falling out. Are there other common dreams that people have that you think have common interpretations?
Dr. Smith: I think that's the choice kind of we would make consciously. And again, I'm trying to keep this, at least my perspective that, if like say, in Chinese medicine, if you're having those running, jumping, flying dreams, it's because, again from a literal Chinese medicine point of view, that your lungs are weak. Right?
Dr. Smith: And again, just because I said that and because it's traditional knowledge that we're all supposed to just agree with that.
Ben: Yeah. That makes sense.
Dr. Smith: I mean, and I'm not saying that's not right, I'm just saying, the point I'm trying to make is that when you're doing things like dream interpretation, the more literal you get, the stupider you are. The more intuitive and subtle you are with what's actually going on with the person you're talking to, the more likely you're going to get something that's going to be potent, and juicy, and useful.
Ben: Got it. So you don't have any like common dreams and their meanings that you run across with your patients?
Dr. Smith: Well I would say if you're going to do the ‘I'm running and then I get this weird impulse to see if I can leap and then I start swimming through the air’, I mean that's one of my favorite dreams that I have when I have them 'cause who doesn't want to fly, but from a traditional Aboriginal point of view, that just means that your relationship with the fundamental elements of life, you would say that your relationship with air is unbalanced, which means you could be spending too much time in your imagination, or not enough.
Ben: Okay. Got it. Yeah I've heard some interesting articles, like how being in your underwear, being nude in a dream might reflect that you have some kind of emotional or psychological vulnerability going on. Or if you're dreaming about like navigating through certain rooms in your house or certain levels in a house, you're coming across little bedrooms or little areas that might reflect areas in your life that you've been neglecting. Or for example, I know one other that I've seen is if you dream about like a vehicle, like a car, or an airplane, or a train, or a ship, whatever you're doing in that vehicle could reflect like the direction that you feel like your life is taking, or how much control you think you have over the path ahead of you. And it's kind of interesting. Even when I was in college, I used to like look up little books on dreaming 'cause I thought they were so fascinating.
Dr. Smith: Yeah. I think it's a super, super potent thing. I just would recommend anyone to stay as intuitive, and contextual, and patient. This is going to be a weird aside, but when we take people out for what, in English, you would call a vision quest, which we usually do in the summer for young people, if they have a really potent experience, and they're basically starving, sitting out there in the summer sun for four days, four nights with nothing else to do, so people tend to hallucinate 'cause you're dehydrated, the teaching is that once you come back from your vision quest, if you have had some potent thing, you're not allowed to talk to anybody about it for at least four more days.
Ben: Why is that?
Dr. Smith: So that you have a chance for the context and the meaning to settle or to sneak up on you in a way. ‘Cause if you have some hallucination, or dream, or vision and you take it really, really literally, and you decide you're super, super potent now, and everyone should listen to you because you had this really big dream, and now you're going give yourself some special name, and become an occult leader or something, I mean that's the danger of anything that's powerful is that it's powerful.
Ben: That's interesting.
Dr. Smith: So if you give yourself a few days, if you did like an ayahuasca ceremony and you had this really big experience, if you give yourself a few days to let it settle, it might come to a much more centered place in the way that you think of yourself and the way you think of that experience. ‘Cause I mean I've seen people come out of ayahuasca ceremonies, and I hope everybody listening knows what ayahuasca is, if not we can get into that, but they think they're Jesus Christ and want to basically spend the rest of their life taking all kinds of hallucinogens because that's what makes them feel cool now, instead of from a traditional point of view, people go to those ceremonies to heal and gain wisdom, to bring the wisdom back to the people. It's not this narcissistic thing about, “Oh, wow. I'm so cool.”
Ben: Yeah. It's kind of like that concept of for example, when you have a problem, you sleep on it and you do on it before necessarily trying to solve that problem right away. Or I know another common one is that I'll allow a buffer day after a conference that I've been to where I know a whole bunch of stuff will come across my plate as far as ideas, et cetera, I'll set aside a whole buffer day in my hotel room before I fly home just to go through all my notes and a kind of dwell upon and think about things. I think that practice in life can be pretty beneficial.
Dr. Smith: I think I'm going to borrow that hack.
Ben: Yes. ‘Cause it's like a lot of people be like, “I'm going to fly straight home my family,” and you fly home your family and think you're an asshole because you lock yourself away in your office, going through all the work that you have. I am of the mindset that I'll add that extra buffer day and pay the extra money for the one extra stay in a hotel room, and fly home after I've had like 10 to 12 hours to just digest whatever it is I need to digest, so when I get home I can be present for my family. That's kind of my MO when I go to conferences and things like that.
Dr. Smith: I think that kind of integration practice is super, super important, especially if you're going through a lot of change in your life. I mean I think a lot of people listening to us are probably going through a certain change, 'cause obviously they're reaching out trying to access experts and people like yourself. So if you're listening to this, if you're going through stuff, give yourself time to integrate it. Don't be in a hurry to figure it out.
Ben: Okay. So I'm going to kind of flip a 180 here. I know that in Chinese medicine, one of the things that you'll run across is urine therapy. Literally drinking urine. Is that something that you, as a Chinese medical practitioner, have come across, have implemented at all in your practice? What's your take on drinking urine or urine therapy?
Dr. Smith: I don't make people do that anymore.
Ben: Anymore? So you've done it?
Dr. Smith: (laughs) Well, in my first internship was with this person in a place called Rock Creek, it's not far from Nelson. She built a center up in the Middleton Mountains and I thought that would be a great place to do an internship, so I'm going go there. She would actually make her patients pee into a certain container at night because she wanted to examine it, and she would, and then she would sneak it into their smoothie in the morning the next day 'cause she didn't want to argue with them about whether or not they're going to drink their pee. So that was my first introduction to the whole thing. But I mean when you look at the science sense to reintroduce to the top of your immune system what your body is dealing with at the bottom of your immune system, if there's a lot of informational substances in urine that are basically what you would say, from and I'm using this as an analogy, I guess, everything from your diaphragm down is going from what it was on the outside of your body to becoming your body or becoming waste.
Dr. Smith: So, and again, I'm using that as just easy-to-see image in your mind, it obviously doesn't really work that way, but if I have something that's coming out of the bottom of my body and I really need the rest of my immune system to know more about what my body is fighting it against, like say a low grade infection or something, I drink the urine, that tells the upper part of my immune system from the top all the way to the bottom, to work harder at that problem.
Ben: It sounds a little bit woo-woo, you describing it like that, like versus doing something like a like a blood or biomarker test to see what elements of the immune system might happen to be overstimulated versus just like, I don't know, drinking your own urine to see what happens.
Dr. Smith: Well I mean if I'm going to be talking about it from a traditional point of view, I just naturally decide that microscopes don't exist. But if I'm going to get into the microscopes, I mean I've been doing functional medicine since 2002, I mean I don't know how I would possibly operate in the world without all the lab tests and stuff that I get to do. I like that too it's just, I think it's, you kind of have to keep Chinese medicine, at least part of it, distinct from science.
Dr. Smith: It's not that it's better than or it's somehow escapes the rules of science, it's just very contextual and it's before microscopes. And honestly, man, I mean I'm a scientist, I got into engineering before I got into medicine, so I get science really, really well. What blows me away is that like for the last 5,000 years, Chinese medicine has been evolving without microscopes and they haven't missed a beat on how things work.
Ben: So when you're doing urine therapy, are you drinking like a whole bunch of urine of these, are these like little tiny tinctures, like homeopathic remedies of urine or how does it work?
Dr. Smith: Oh, I don't really do that anymore. So if I was…
Ben: If one were to do it, I guess I should say.
Dr. Smith: If one were to do it, you'd be going on a fast, you'd be drinking lots of water, you'd be waiting until your urine gets to a certain amount of smell, or foam, or cloudiness needs to go down. And then when once you got to about three or four days to where your urine is less cloudy and stinky, then you would just drink a small amount of the first urine you release in the morning.
Ben: That's really interesting. And I found one article on it that says that urine is, basically they say nutrient-filled blood passes through the liver where toxins are removed, and the purified blood then goes through another filtering process via the kidney where components for which the body has no immediate use are collected in a sterile watery solution, and for that reason urine is highly sterile consisting of 95% water and 5% nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, proteins, antibodies, and other beneficial ingredients. And advocates of what they call autourine therapy believe this combination can help to cure everything from the common cold, to cancer, to boosting energy levels, and sexual performance. And there are books with titles like “The Golden Fountain” that all extol the virtues of urine.
Dr. Smith: Yeah. I mean the thing that I guess I would focus in on would just be the antibodies really. I think there are just probably less weirder ways to get your macronutrients…
Ben: I mean, I'm a pretty open-minded guy. I do you know everything from coffee enemas to THC capsules up my butt for all sorts of [1:11:55] ______. I guess if I got the cold, I would be willing to try a few drops of urine just to kind of see what happens, I guess. But it's an interesting idea. And I had to run it by you know, that you're in Chinese medicine, and knowing that that does can have some of its roots in Chinese medicine. At least we know it's sterile, right?
Dr. Smith: Yeah. If anyone's thinking about that, I would again just say give yourself at least three or four days to max your hydration and really kind of clear things out. And you're only looking for a very small amount first thing in the morning. It's just like dogs when they wake up, they go to the bathroom, and then they lick their genitals, and then they get a little bit of the antibodies from their urine in their mouth, and then their immune system is just stronger in the way that it needs to be for them. But again, this is not what I practice. That's just…
Ben: Just to add one point in your life, have you ever drank your own urine?
Dr. Smith: Uhuh.
Ben: Okay. Got it. Interesting. I cannot say the same, at least not on purpose. So a couple other quick questions I wanted to ask you. Diagnostics, specifically related, pulse diagnosis and tongue diagnosis. I notice that those are things that are practiced in Chinese medicine. Do you do either pulse diagnosis or tongue diagnosis? And if so, how do those work?
Dr. Smith: I kind of have to do that because it's the thing that confirms pretty much everything you're getting from an interview with people. So let's say I've just spent an hour asking you a whole whack of questions, and that gives us both a sense of what's going on in the sense of symptoms, and signs, and all that. And then usually after I've got a really good idea about what seems to be going on, just in the sense of how medicine works, then I can look at a person's tongue, and depending on its size, its color, the coating, the relative engorgement of the veins at the bottom of your tongue, the health of your gums, your lips, I mean when you're examining someone in Chinese medicine, you're constantly basically just looking at them for micro movements, very, very subtle things from their eyes, to the colors of their ears, to just everything on their skin. So we're constantly evaluating people. But the tongue, obviously it's a muscle, as a muscle, it needs to be innervated. So if you're going to see certain neurological things on the tongue, the tongue needs blood circulation, so you're going to get a, it's almost like taking a zipper off of a person's biceps so you can take a really good look at the muscle body itself. So if I can look at a person's tongue and that gives me a really clear appreciation for how every other muscle in the body is doing for circulation, and, I don't know, innervation, obviously clearing of tissue waste, and stuff like that. Your tongue is basically like a big dashboard like for everything else that's going on inside your body. I mean the textbooks like 4, 500 pages…
Ben: So what could you tell, what's an example of something that you've done recently, keeping patients confidential of course, in which you've found something from someone's tongue?
Dr. Smith: Somebody came in, they were having some problems with their eyes, which seemed to be 'cause they were, before they saw me, they were in the hospital, so they were concerned about some mechanical thing. And I went through the usual interview process, and then I looked at her tongue, and the bottom of her tongue, the veins were super like engorged and they had, it was like these little bladder bumps, I was talking a little bit ago about pumping up inner tubes. So basically what that tells someone in Chinese medicine is that there is a significant amount of restriction and congestion in the portal vein system. We call it portal vein hypertension. So basically my thing was although her eyes did have a mechanical issue, that they were becoming more and more sensitive, and or weak because her liver health was getting more and more weak, and we didn't know why at that point, but it was very clear from her tongue that the clearance of blood between her GI tract and her liver was very, very slow. And on palpation of her abdomen, checking other pulses, other veins, it became very, very clear that this person was basically having really really restricted hepatic function. And as we got more and more into that, everything got better. Of course her eyes too, better within, how long ago, a few weeks. Her tongue became normal.
Ben: Interesting. What about pulse diagnosis? Do you also do that?
Dr. Smith: Yeah. That's a really tricky thing to… so the classic kind of perception in Chinese medicine, so if you're sitting here with nothing to do, just put your right hand in front of you like it's a mirror, and then take your left hand, wrap it around your wrist and put your first three fingers on your radial pulse, which would be just below your thumb. So if you're doing that, and I'm just trying to give people something to do while they listen to us talk, my index finger of my left hand is now closest to my thumb, and that would be considered the pulse for your lungs and large intestine. And then below that would be where my middle finger would be resting, and that would be the pulse for your spleen and stomach. And then below that would be for the kidneys, specifically what we call the yin of your kidneys. So there's those places, and that'd be similar to different organs, but similar things happening on the other arm. And then at each position of my fingers, there's three depths. So you have the pulse you can feel just at the surface, and then as you press your finger down about halfway into the volume of the vessel, you're going to have a different kind of sensation, and if you press a little bit more, then you're going to get, you're basically squeezing off the blood supply. So then you release the pressure just enough to feel the pulse that's actually happening up against that resistance, but at the deepest part of the pulse. So basically you have six different positions and three different levels.
Ben: Is this something that is used primarily in Chinese medicine?
Dr. Smith: Chinese medicine, Tibetan medicine, some traditions in Central South America. I think it's just kind of an intuitive thing too, so I'll just finish up what I was going to say, so if I've got these three positions, three depths just on the wrist, when you start playing with qualities, there's 27 unique qualities to the pulse in Chinese medicine, there's five or six in western medicine, that just tell you more about what's going on in the inside of the body.
Ben: Okay. Interesting. And most of the main sites when you're doing pulse assessment are in the radial arteries on the left wrist and the right wrist?
Dr. Smith: That's the most common thing depending on where you're trained, but once you have that, it's just for your general thing. You might also be checking distal pulses around your feet, your neck, other places just because it's a bit intuitive. If I was teaching a class on pulse diagnosis, and obviously I'd be probably speaking mostly Chinese, but no matter how hard I try and describe to someone what I'm feeling and how that makes it a slippery pulse, or a wirey pulse, or a thready pulse, the reality of that or the likelihood of that person actually being able to feel exactly the same thing and interpret it the same way, it's a bit messy. If there was a machine that would help people learn more exactly how to do this, maybe that would be cool. But I can't really imagine how that would work. But anyway, so it's a bit intuitive and what one of my teachers was really big about was the reason why you train that way to put a specific finger over a specific pulse for a specific organ is that your fingers become kind of like antennas, and over years, and years, and years of practice, you're kind of reaching into the space of their body and learning to listen for very specific things about that system and that organ, and you may be picking up some very tangible changes in the pulse, that again a machine might be able to figure out.
But more importantly on again, the level of intuition, and this is about as woo-woo as I think I can get away with here, let's just say that we're all mildly psychic, or we all have a really good sense of empathy or intuition, and over years putting my finger on this spot on people and listening really, really deeply for what is going on in that specific organ or system in the body, given that I already have a pretty good idea what's going on from talking to the person, it just gives me a subtle sense of confirmation, and I'm still listening with a part of my attention on, “Well I don't know for sure, so I'm going to keep listening.” And I don't know for sure, but I'm to keep listening. And I think more than anything, that just gives a person an applied kind of empathy or an applied kind of intuition 'cause you, I mean after years, as soon as you, every one of my fingers, it's like it knows its job. As soon as it touches that pulse, I've got 20 odd years going, “And how are your lungs doing right now?” It isn't a science in the sense of didactic, rational, measurable, labelable thing, which draws a lot of people a bit bonkers, but I mean I've seen guys sit down, take a person's pulse, I mean these people are like in their 80s and they're experts in every possible way, and they'll tell you your life story.
I mean there's this amazing book called “The Heart of Listening”, it's a craniosacral therapy book and, I don't know, if people wanted to, it's a pretty big book, but there's a really beautiful story in that book about the Dalai Lama's personal physician going on rounds in an industrialized hospital, I think in New York, or LA, or something like that, and this little you know Tibetan guy goes and he's taking pulses of all these people on like the surgical floor of this hospital, and the doctors that are all white coat kind of science guys who seem to know everything, they followed him around to just like smirk, and giggle, and watch this guy in a robe take people's pulses. And then he sat down in one of the hospital beds, or next the bed, took this woman's pulse, and he was just sitting there perfectly still for like 20 minutes, and he looks up and he says, “When you were born, there was a hole in your heart.” And the doctors all take a step back and go, “Oh my god. That's crazy 'cause we just figured that out like two weeks ago.” This woman was born with a heart defect and eventually it just got enough damage that it became apparent and she had all these problems her whole life, but no one came to that conclusion until she was in that hospital and this little guy sat down and within 20 minutes said, “Well, you were born with a hole in your heart.”
Ben: That's fascinating. And I'll put a link to that book, by the way, in the show notes. “The Heart of Listening”. I'm also a big fan of craniosacral therapy, by the way, as well. I've started to do a little bit on my kids, I'm not a massage therapist, but I just have them lie down on their backs and then kind of go through their skull, and their ears, and their jaw, and the back of their heads, and they absolutely love it.
Dr. Smith: I bet. I was going to say if like either of your kids, and you've a beautiful family, man. Holy cow. If your kids ever have a fever, you can drop the fever by two degrees with a simple craniosacral release. It's called a still point release. It's really easy to do.
Ben: A still point release? Okay. Cool. I'll look it up. We've talked about a lot today, and a lot of this stuff, doctors don't do. Obviously you're in therapy, but pulse diagnosis, and tongue diagnosis, and needling, and cupping, and a lot of these things. If someone wanted to find someone in their area who does some of the things that you do, is there some kind of a directory online? Is there some kind of place someone can go to find someone who's well-versed in Chinese medicine or who incorporates some of the tactics that you incorporate into your practice?
Dr. Smith: Yeah. I think if you just looked up a local acupuncture licensing body, like every state, every province has its own licensing board for Chinese medicine for acupuncture. Functional medicine doesn't have any kind of credential kind of set up yet…
Ben: Is there like a national certification or international certifying body for acupuncture?
Dr. Smith: Oh yeah. Yeah, for sure.
Ben: So do they have like a directory or something like that people could go find?
Dr. Smith: Yeah. That's what I'm saying is if you're looking for a Chinese medicine acupuncturer, the fastest way would be to just you know call your government and say what's the College of Acupuncture's phone number, and they'll have a list of all the licensed practitioners. And I think, obviously, it's best to go with somebody who's licensed 'cause at least somebody's sure they know what they're doing.
Ben: Right. Would a functional medicine practitioner's directory, I believe it's, what is it, functionalmedicine.org. Is that the website for functional medicine? I'm asking if someone were to go to a website like that and look at their directory of practitioners for like the Institute of Functional Medicine, can you also hone it down and filter it by, for example, functional medicine practitioners who also practice Chinese medicine? Like do you know if they have that?
Dr. Smith: I don't think anybody has that, and because there's about four or five different branches of functional medicine now, I think if you're going to be looking for a practitioner, you just have to go to whichever system of functional medicine that person studied in, and then that's where you're going to find those lists of practitioners.
Ben: Okay. I'll try and find a few helpful directories or links for folks and I'll put them in the show notes for all this stuff over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/chinesemedicine, that's bengreenfieldfitness.com/chinesemedicine where you can also check out Michael's book, his website, his podcast called Fusion Health Radio, and plenty more. So Michael, thanks for coming on the show today and sharing all this stuff with us. If anything, you've at least gotten me to think seriously at some point in the near future about tasting, possibly drinking my own urine.
Dr. Smith: Mission accomplished.
Ben: It took an hour and a half, but I just might do it. Anyways though, but thank you seriously for coming on the show and sharing all this stuff with us. I love some of the stuff that you're doing.
Dr. Smith: Yeah. It's a real honor to be on your show and thank you so much for what you're doing, Ben. I mean what you're doing is making a lot of people's lives much, much safer and better. So thanks a lot.
Ben: Yeah. And people all over the globe now will start blowing on their water before they drink it. There we have it.
Dr. Smith: If nothing else, that's a win.
Ben: Alright, folks. Well, this is Ben Greenfield and Dr. Michael Smith from Nelson, BC signing out from bengreenfieldfitness.com. Have a healthy week.
My guest on today's podcast, Dr. Michael Smith, hails from the First Nations in Canada, grew up on the diet of his indigenous ancestors eating wild organ meats from the animals he hunted and feasting from the wild salmon that he caught. He learned many of the medicine traditions and the “Medicine Wheel” of the First Nations people. He studied Martial Arts and taught Canadian Military self defense techniques, and along the way, his Martial Arts teacher took him aside to say to tell him that he was “more of a healer than a fighter”.
His teacher then began to teach him the Oral Tradition of Classical Oriental Science, or better known as Traditional Chinese Medicine. Michael is now a huge pillar in the healing community of Nelson, BC. For example, restaurants in the Nelson area will produce a special menu at certain times of year when he holds the event of cleansing season. He's helped with bringing Medical Cannabis dispensaries to the city and produces supplements paired with Cannabis Medicine sold there. You often see him ushering in folks at open public sweat lodge ceremonies with burning of sage.
Michael is an author, speaker, professional martial artist, teacher and clinician, and a respected integrative medicine pioneer with over 20 years experience. In his Nelson, British Columbia practice he combines functional medicine and evolutionary nutrition with the ancient wisdom and vast experience of Traditional Chinese medicine. His primary focus in medicine is complex chronic auto-immune diseases (as a patient, Michael had lived with both Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis for well over 20 years).
He is a co-founder of the prestigious Academy of Classical Oriental Sciences, the first five year full time doctorate level training program in TCM in Canada. He is also the primary developer of Neuro-Somatic Therapy, a hands on approach to reducing the way people embody distress, illness and trauma.
As a Martial Artist, Michael has been training for almost 40 years. He has had the good fortune to train with some of the highest level teachers in the Western world, including a teacher of the late Bruce Lee. After training prison guards, police officers and members of both military and paramilitary organizations, Michael decided to leave traditional martial arts and develop his own approach to resolving physical violence. He has taught this approach, called Applied Combatives, for over 20 years.
During our discussion, you'll discover:
-The fascinating ancestral health, Dr. Smith learned while growing up in a hunting lodge with the “Mud Clan” First Nations…[9:55]
-How Michael got Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis that lasted for well over 20 years, and how he fixed himself…[14:40]
-What your body is telling you if you can see vegetables in your poop…[18:00]
-Michael's mouthwatering “ancestral” recipe for salmon rillette roulade…[21:30]
-Why Michael believes you should drink one liter of water within the first two hours upon waking…[25:45]
-The fascinating concept of gently “blowing” on your water before you drink it…[29:45]
-How Michael developed something called “neurosomatic therapy”, and why some people go into a fit of rage after having it done…[42:40]
-How Michael implements blood letting, needling and cupping in his practice…[48:50]
-The shocking way that acupuncture has been used during open heart surgery for anesthesia…[56:05]
-Michael's thoughts on dream interpretation (e.g. associating teeth falling out in dreams as deficiency of Kidney Qi)…[59:15]
-Whether drinking your own urine is really a component of Chinese medicine…[67:20]
-How pulse diagnosis and tongue diagnosis work? [72:45]
-And much more…
Resources from this episode: