If you begin thinking about the human body as a system, where inputs directly cause outputs, you'd become more mindful of the one input we put into our bodies every single day: Food.
Episode 38 features James Colquhoun, the filmmaker of some of the most internationally acclaimed food documentaries (Food Matters, Hungry for Change). After being driven to explore nutrition in order to save his father's life and seeing the results of a changed diet, James became inspired to spread the knowledge and change the lives of many others. An early contributor to the biohacking ethos by pushing people to be more thoughtful of the food they put into their bodies, James has devoted himself to arming people with the knowledge they deserve to live a healthy and prosperous life.
Geoffrey Woo and James discuss the importance of not being dogmatic about diets, how certain practices from the past are making a comeback to modern society (i.e. feast and famine periods), and the influence nutrigenomics (as well as nature-based philosophies) have on each individual.
Geoff: Hey, thinkers. Welcome to this week's episode of the Thinking Podcast. I'm excited to have James Colquhoun, who's the founder of Food Matters. So he runs one of the largest online communities talking about food as an input in the human system, and has produced a couple of big documentaries around the food and how that affects our health and lifestyle. So an early contributor, I would say, to the broader bio-hacking movement around getting a lot more thoughtful about the inputs into our system that really drives the outputs of how we function as human beings. So excited to have you here with us.
James: Hi, Geoff. Excited to chat. This is the topic of our time, isn't it, really?
Geoff: Absolutely. So you're dialing in from Australia, and that's an interesting country, because I feel like obviously U.S. is probably leading in terms of a lot of the new ideas and also just the grass-roots growth, but Australia is a big pocket of interest in our community. So curious to hear your take on how you got involved with the broader sort of empowering individuals with their own health movement. Especially how that reached over across a couple ponds to Australia.
James: You know, Australia certainly has that image of being fit and healthy. We still have our struggles. Statistically, we have childhood obesity issues. We're still connected to the western world when it comes to our health challenges, so I think collectively, there's a desire to want to be healthier. If I think about your question, how did I sort of get interested in this ... It was really a personal catalyst. All of us have family. We do. It's the nature of humanity. And a lot of times family members might be going through a particular illness or a struggle. We try to ... If we have some insight or information, we try to sort of pass that on to somebody. "Hey, have you seen a naturopath? Have you considered some sort of detoxification processes? Have you considered changing your diet to this? Have you considered excluding this?" But that conversation is not always easy to have. Just like we have in the country, we have differing political and societal views about what constitutes the right diet for the human species. Even if you sat around at a particular dinner table with probably 10 of the leading integrated functional medicine doctors in the world right now, they're gonna have their own spin on everything. This is what drives, essentially, a huge amount of confusion in the health and wellness space. You've got an eager and hungry group of people like myself, and our community, and your community. They're like, "Look, I want to make the best choices for my health." Then you go to the market, and it's like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, hang on. This guy's saying eat this and you'll live forever, and this guy says if you eat that, you're gonna die."
Geoff: I think there is very definitely just very dogmatic schools of thinking. Absolutely.
James: Yeah, and I think one of the challenges is that when you believe in something, you tend not to be open to something else that contradicts that. And that's the challenge with learning, because you need to be open to everything in order to fully learn, and you need to actually almost read on the topics that you don't believe in, in order to become more rounded and more crafted in your knowledge base in whatever specific field you're in. But this is more so true with nutrition. So my dad was unwell. He was a typical middle age ... I call it burn out middle age professional syndrome, or BOMAPS basically, you know, hit 50, 55 years of age, wasn't eating well, had poor sort of techniques in order to be able to handle stress and overwhelm. Basically, it came to a head, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia. He was put on multiple medications, because that's just who he trusted, his health to the medical profession, and started to get sicker and sicker and more overweight and sicker. It was a really sort of dark spiral that lasted like five years. Our passion to want to sort of try to influence him was thwarted because we didn't have a lab coat. I didn't have a double degree in biomedical science and I wasn't an MD. So he was like, "Look, I have to trust my doctor. I can't ... I love you guys, but ..." whatever. And that was a huge challenge for us, so we really thought how can we help? Because of the huge mountain of research out there about nutrition and natural medicine and how effective these therapies can be, in many instances, they're better than pharmaceutical medications, yet how is that not available to the everyday person? What's happened in that industry in order to stop that from reaching people? So we decided to go and interview a lot of people that we'd been studying and researching, put it together in this documentary, and bring it to him, and put it on the TV. Because we tend to believe what's on TV, and we thought well, if we could just get this information on TV with doctors and high-level people, then maybe this could be the answer to shifting his belief system around this, and helping him make the changes, so that he could get better. That was how the Food Matters film came about. That's how this whole movement came about, and thankfully, within three months, he was off his meds, lost 50 pounds, and was back to normal, after five years. It was just a miracle, really. He's been better ever since. It's a huge success for our family, so that's a really personal win for us, and that's inspired us into getting this to more people.
Geoff: Wow. That's an inspiring story. So how did it go from sort of a N=1 project on your dad to, "Hey." It eventually got distribution, I guess the film and the documentary, and a movement was created around it. I'm curious. How did it go from ... What was the turning point for you when it was like, "Hey, we're starting to talk to all these people, we're rolling it out, we're learning a lot, maybe this knowledge could be disseminated to tens, hundreds, millions of people."
James: I think it was a culmination of taking that interest in nutrition, plus seeing that success with my dad, and then thinking about, well how many other people are affected by this, you know? At any one point in time, I think there's about an estimated 30 million people in the U.S. on SSRI anti-depressants or some form of psychotropic medication. I've seen a family member on that medication, and that ain't pretty. That is not cool. So if there's 30 million people taking that, and there's solutions for people to be able to get off that and actually address some of the underlying nutritional deficiencies, potentially some toxicity issues, and also some mental emotional issues they might be going through, there's techniques and strategies in order to be able to do that. It's safe, effective, and cheaper. Why is that not available? That question opens a big can of worms, because then you realize, well, it's actually, there's this huge economic interest in keeping that alive. But you know, that's another pathway. But then I think what inspired us-
Geoff: We should talk about that. I mean, it's an interesting discussion.
James: We can get there. We can get there. But what I think inspired us to want to take this to a lot of people, was that sense of ... I guess there's that altruistic idea that I think all humans have, which is they want to end suffering. Whenever they see suffering, they want to try and find a way in order to appease that. That's why when you see, you know, starving kids in Africa, you can contract and raise $100 million dollars in a couple of days, you know what I mean? Because we don't like suffering. That's why a lot of people go vegan, or they try to eat much more ethical sourced meats. There's just this ... I think collectively as a consciousness, we don't like to see people suffering. So there was that sort of feeling inside of us, like why are people suffering? How can we help that? What's the most effective medium to reach those people? Film just became an obvious choice, and yeah, then we sought out distribution, just took it step by step, and it continued to reach more and more people, which is something we're super grateful for. And happy to do every day, even when I'm not feeling 100%, as you probably can tell today.
Geoff: Yeah, no. So yeah, but apparently James has got the flu, but it looks like it's beautiful weather down in Australia, so you look super bright and healthy.
James: It's the middle of winter. It's a brutal winter.
Geoff: That's funny, because it's summer for us in the northern hemisphere, and it was pretty foggy this morning. So if that's winter ... I think it's always interesting that ... So I came from a computer science background, and I think there just seems to be a different level of I suppose respect or obedience to authority, when it comes to pharmaceuticals. But when you think about it from a systems perspective, a compound into your digestive system through a pharmaceutical pill, why is that any different than foods that one consume as an input on a daily basis? I think that that flipped the button for me, where it was like, all of these things are just inputs into the digestive tract, and if you look back on the history of medicine, Hippocrates, you know, the oath that all doctors say, you know, "Do no harm." Also, one of his best quotes was, "Your medicine is food, and food is thy medicine," which is interesting because I think a lot of what your thesis in Food Matters is that, yeah, the daily inputs of what we put into our body, very much do affect our performance and our health. And because we do it on such a consistent daily basis, it's almost just as important if not more important than a pharmaceutical routine. Why do you think that ... I'm actually curious from your perspective, as you talk about food as an interesting lover. I think there are the sort of old school folks like your dad, like, "Who are you to ... Why do you think you're smarter than my doctor, who's been trained, all this medical school?" What is your response to that? I mean, I think it's like, you know, we've all had our experiences in this community of self-educating, learning, measuring all our bio-metrics ourselves to get a real understanding of it. What is your experience been, in terms of responding to that kind of critique?
James: Well, I sort of love that critique, because my response to that is, "How's that working for you?" You know, "How's your fast food diet working for you? How you feeling?"
James: "How's your sort of unconscious process food laden diet working for you? And tell me the truth. How's that working for humanity? How is it working?" It ain't working. That's clear.
James: Then you look at pockets of this world where you have more traditional people eating a more traditional diet. How's that working for them? Great. They don't have the same levels of chronic disease that we have in our society. But if I think back to this idea that you just said about inputs ... measuring inputs and how that affects the body, and how a drug is an input into the body. A nutrient or a vitamin is an input into the body. A food is an input into the body. Breath and thoughts are inputs into the body. They can affect biochemistry in the body. There's so much research on that now. 15 minutes of meditation can make your blood more alkaline. I mean, we have all the data now to show us there's so much you can do to change your inner ecosystem.
Geoff: It's no longer fuzzy, hey this is intuitive, ancient wisdom. Sure, some of it may have been inspired from ancient wisdom, but this is actually being shown in clinical trials. This is not some BS woo-woo stuff. We're seeing measurable differences. Absolutely.
James: Yeah, absolutely. And I think underlying that, there's a core sort of thesis that exists in this natural health world, and it was taught to me by a lady called Charlotte Gerson. Her father was Dr. Max Gerson, and he got ... Well, it was suspected ... poisoned really, by some pharmaceutical interest, was how they believe he was killed. Because he suggested that ... And this was radical. I mean, there's been some people throughout history that have made some radical suggestions, which are now not so radical. One of the best examples of this is Linus Pauling, right? Two Nobel prizes. The only person to win two unshared Nobel prizes in history, one for chemistry and one for peace. When he started hitting about 70 years of age, he started to get into medicine. He was just interested in it. He's like, "I'm gonna get into medicine." And he started to come up with this idea that there's a currency that the body deals with, and it's called nutrients. Vitamins, minerals, et cetera. He had a theory that if somebody is unwell, or if somebody is sick or has a compromised immune system, that a certain nutrient could help with that. So he was the first to suggest, and this was radical at the time, and he got bashed by the medical profession. He was the first to suggest that vitamin C could help reduce the severity and length of the common cold. And they were like, "You cannot say that. That is, absolutely, you're out of your league. You shouldn't be playing in this. We're doctors, and you're a scientist. Get out." Now we're 30 years later, 50 years later, and it's common sense. Everyone knows that vitamin C as a nutrient can help reduce that. One of the things that this other theory I'm getting to now is this concept around chronic disease, that there is with most chronic diseases, and it depends on the disease, there's an underlying root cause, according to this philosophy. This was this Max Gerson gentleman who discovered this, and his daughter, Charlotte, who sort of continued the legacy. She's now 96, and lives in Italy somewhere. Probably escaping assassination. No, just joking. He suggested that, for cancer in particular, and most chronic illness, that it was a combination of deficiency and toxicity, so those two things. Any time you have something that's going on in the body, there's generally a component of a toxicity component, and a deficiency component. So you might have received toxins from the environment. If you own a dry cleaning mat, or if you use a lot of toxic chemicals, or if you eat a lot of toxic food or food additives. Or if you've put new carpet in your house and it's off-gassing. Or if you're using those Glade room sprays that automatically go "cccchhhht" every few seconds. I mean, all these toxins. We're just surrounded by toxins. Post World War II ... I mean there's a statistic about three years ago that said that we'd released about 44,000 different man-made chemicals into the environment since World War II. I mean, this is recent history. Now that number's up to about 70-odd thousand. All these chemicals, be it in the plastic Saran Wrap we use on our food to the ink that's printed on the docket when you go to the supermarket, impact our body, hormonally they impact our body's ability to maintain homeostasis and function normally. So when you have that element of toxicity and then you combine it with a nutrient deficiency ... So if you're eating foods that are devoid in nutrients. If you're eating too much cooked food. You're eating too much fast food. Or you're eating food where the nutrients have been adulterated. So take something that looks the same on the outside ... a piece of meat over here, just use meat as an example, just to give the vegans and the non-vegans, just open them up a little bit here, just as a case example. This is why meat is actually so toxic to people, but let's just ... Before I make any claims here. There's a piece of meat over here, right? This piece of meat has come from an animal that's been fed genetically modified corn, wheat, and soy, and because that animal's been fed corn, wheat, and soy, it gets sick, because that diet it was never meant to eat. So then they give it antibiotics. So you've got a sick cow on antibiotics ... and we've got this piece of meat here. When we have that piece of meat and we analyze it, it's high in omega 9 and low in omega 3. That fatty acid ratio means that it causes inflammation in the body. Inflammation in the body can lead systemically to many other chronic diseases, depending on your particular genetic weakness. This piece of meat over here, say is from maybe a wild animal or even the same animal. It's been eating grass if it's a ruminant animal. Or it's been eating whatever it eats as an adult naturally living in its environment. It's healthy. It hasn't suffered. It hasn't been given any medication. It hasn't been put into some feedlot situation. This product over here is high in omega 3, lower in omega 9, and it promotes an anti-inflammation effect in the body. So it's the same product. Totally different. But most of the world's eating the toxic product, and they're not eating this healthy product. So when you eat foods that are nutrient deficient, that are over-toxic, you develop nutrient deficiencies and toxicity in the body that can lead to ... not even talking about chronic disease. You know, if you're more our age ... still people experience chronic disease at this age, but things like brain fog, indigestion, rashes, psoriasis, things like that, fogginess, not being able to sleep well, waking up really groggy, having poor hormone cortisol levels in relationship to melatonin and sleep. All these things that can get out of whack through that toxicity and deficiency. So to me, this is basic knowledge that should be understood by every human, but it's not something that's really high on the priority list until we get sick, if you know what I mean.
Geoff: Yes, I think now people finally realize, "Hey, we can feel much better, be a lot more productive at work," on the enhancement side. I think maybe this is overly stretching it but I think there's more and more people, especially within like the trans-humanists sort of living forever crowd. Especially in Silicon Valley, where it's like, "Hey, we might be able to escape the ..." escape philosophy for life. That's the notion that if we can extend our life by a year, within a year, then maybe we can outpace the fact that we might need to die. So I think that might be on the extreme side, but I think most people realize that, "Hey," ... we have an intuitive feeling that, "Hey, by what we eat, what we do, by exercising, we can do and feel better on a daily basis. Get more out of our days." That I think this is the generation that is a lot more proactive on their health, whereas I would say previous generations are very reactive. I think partly due to the notion that, "Hey, we might be able to live forever," but also I think partly we actually have a lot more tools now to actually measure on a day to day basis, our biometrics. So one example that I like to make is that, you know, we have all these footstep tracking devices now, but if 10 years ago, we were talking about footstep tracking, it would've been like, "Hey, are you training for the Olympics? Why are you tracking your footsteps?" Now everyone is tracking their footsteps, even if we want to or not. It's just part of our jewelry now. And I think bio-hackers right now are tracking their blood glucose, their blood ketones, tracking all these like ... their metabolic panel very proactively, and I think with the R&D developments of optical glucometers into your Apple watch, where you can just get your blood sugar without having your blood pricked. Maybe get your ketone levels, maybe you get all of these things continuously. Now we can actually not just intuitively feel better, we can actually say, "Hey, I don't need to believe if I feel better or not. I can look at the data." I think we're a data driven generation, as well. So I think with those two combinations, I think it's like we're finally no longer needing to believe in some ancient tradition or cultural tradition, and be like, "Hey, we can actually look at the data, and actually one, feel better, and two, the numbers show it."
James: Yeah. You know, and I think what's led to this technological advancement in this space is that historically, if you look at humanity, health is something that we always took for granted. Like if you try going back, I'm talking probably 3-5,000 years ago, right, indigenous people ... The main threat to our survival was not chronic degenerative disease. It was a tiger, or it was an ecological disaster, some sort of storm or something, you know, it was real. Or a blood loss at birth. Some sort of trauma. An incident. So we never had to think about health from that perspective. Then as we've evolved to where we're at now, basically, we've got ... You can have friends in your circle of friends, that drop dead from a heart attack, and that's their first symptom. I mean, 50% of people who die of heart disease, their first symptom is death. Heart disease is the biggest killer in the modern world, right?
James: So when you start to see that, then you start to see ... I had a friend of mine who I really respected deeply, and she passed away of cancer a couple years ago now, and she was in her late 20s, early 30s. You know, you start to see this more. You see kids with autism, you see friends diagnosed with cancer. I mean, so right now, our awareness about wanting to take action is based really on twofold. One, fear of chronic degenerative disease ... Although that's not huge for most 28 year old males with a beard and a man bun. They're like, you know, "I'm invincible. I don't care about that." But they're like, "How can I optimize performance?" The reason why I think optimize performance is such an important topic right now is because we're starting to realize that human experience is such ... This is my belief anyway. The human experience is such a precious gift. As you start to get that perspective on life where being able to have the experience of being human. Being able to make an impact, to have a start-up and bring something exciting to the world, or to help change how the world does X, or to help push this forward, or to help create something. You need to be coming from a place of abundance. Abundant energy, abundant mindset. Abundant in all areas of your life. You can't do that if you're 30-50 pounds over weight. You can't do that if your blood sugar's constantly going up and down, which causes massive mood swings, and you're flipping out on people, then half of your team leave, because they're like, "Oh my God, I'm working for a psychopath." You know, if you're not functioning at a high level, you're not able to make an impact anymore. And because the barrier to entry in so many different markets has dropped through the floor ... I mean, eight, ten years ago, to make a documentary, you either had to be Michael Moore or an Emmy award winning documentary filmmaker. Now, if you've got a camera and a YouTube channel or something, you can reach the world. You know, so because that has happened, we're essentially living in a more cooperative competitive landscape, and it's the person really ... I'm talking more to your perspective of bio-hacking, it's the person who can be the most effective and most efficient with their energy, with their time, with their mental aptitude, with how their emotional intelligence is ... that's going to be able to have the biggest impact and the biggest level of service in this world. That's why I think bio-hacking is such an important topic, because if you start to develop ... From a spiritual sense, a third person awareness about your behavior, so as you start to get more into esoteric practices like meditation and so forth, you become more aware of your behavior, of your influence, of your capability, and your ability to be more conscious about the way that you go about interpersonal communication or communication with your son or a child or an animal, whatever. As you develop that third person awareness, you start to catch yourself. When you catch yourself doing ... You're like, "Whoa. I just over-reacted there. I said this, and I didn't mean that." You start to think, "Well, why did I do that?" And then you start to look at science behind the real reason why people have anxiety or panic attacks, right? I interviewed a doctor called Dr. Alan Christianson the other day. And he has all this amazing research, I mean, so much amazing research. Even that food matters a bit, but not so much, compared to managing your hormones and your stress and your sleep. But one of the things he touched on was that what happens when someone has a panic attack or anxiety or an outburst or something, is there's a rapid drop in blood sugar. At that moment. I'm not talking about if you measure your glucose in the morning, measure it at night, oh, it's stable, it's fine. No, I'm talking there's a micro, like, bang, drop. Last there's anxiety or panic attack or an outburst or anger or aggression. These are sort of things that can get you into trouble in life. These are the sort of things that can mess up your life experience, right?
Geoff: Did you have an opinion of whether that was causative, or was that a ... a cause or a symptom? What drove what?
James: He says, well he thinks that, yeah. I said, "Chicken, egg. What's going on here?" He said, "No. The blood sugar drop is the cause of the change in the mental state." Because think about what the brain needs, fat, water, and glucose. So if you've got good fats and water, which most people don't have ... They're not hydrated enough. They're not getting enough good fat, which is ... You know, this organ is so important. You need fat. You need water. You need not to aggravate it, as well. Which means don't aggravate your gut, because there's brain-like neurons in your gut that are the same neurons that are in your brain, and when you eat foods that aggravate your gut, it can make you feel foggy and out of sorts. That's why ... I've met people that say, "I gave up bread and I became a successful entrepreneur." They put those two together. I'm friends with one of the best tennis players in the world. He's taking a six month hiatus right now. He gave up gluten, changed his diet, and six months became number one in the world and won Wimbledon and held that position for four years. He says categorically, it was down to making that minute shift in the diet. Because it changes your mind. And most of life is a mental game, you know, tennis, sport ... You have to be good at what you do. Most of life is being sharp within your own cranium, so to speak, on a high percentage of the time. But if you're experiencing blood sugar issues, which cause you to go into panic attack or outbursts or things like this, what impression is that gonna give to people around you? To a VC board or to investors ... Somebody'll be like, "I'm not working with this lunatic. Who is this crazy guy?" So to me, control over this human faculty, the body, the mind, our physiology, is such a critical component to being effective at whatever you do, whether it's a father, a mother, an entrepreneur, or whatever. I think that's why bio-hacking has become such a big topic right now, because people want control in an uncontrolled landscape, in an uncertain landscape, where there's so much variables out there in the world. There's pollution, and toxicity, and foods, and fast food companies, and pharmaceutical companies, all vying for your attention. We've gotta almost just shut that out and go what is most important now for me, and how can I improve who I am on a day to day basis, so I can be more effective at my craft, whatever that is.
Geoff: I'm actually curious, because you touched on no bread. And that probably rings a lot a bells to folks that are ... I know our listeners, as well as broader Silicon Valley. A lot of people are talking about trying ketogenic diets, low carb high fat diets, and that's very related to intermittent fasting, where we drain our carbohydrate or glycogen stores and elevate our ketone levels. You were touching upon ... I think it's interesting from a theory perspective around anxiety and panic attacks, where if you have drops in blood sugar, well the brain needs either glucose or ketones as a fuel. And if they're not ... usually if you are not fasted or fat adapted you're not gonna generate ketones that quickly. So if you just have a big drop in glucose, yeah, your brain's gonna freak out, because it makes sense. It doesn't have any fuel. It doesn't have any ketones or glucose to burn. I'm curious, given your experience, we've seen the ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting ... that is big parts of our community, really buoying the growth of our community. I'm curious what you've seen in Australia in your audience around these two sort of macro broader trends here.
James: Yeah, I think it's definitely a big trend. I think it's a strong trend. I think it's effective because it's essentially the antithesis of what is currently happening out there. So when you do that, you create change, and you create an effect in the body, which can be really positive. I think the intermittent fasting, training the body to burn fat, these are things that are really powerful, and that can help you improve brain function, help you improve your energy levels, help you improve your effectiveness as a human, help you improve your immunity as well. But I think I am a little bit more of a moderate, I would say, when it comes to this sort of dietary philosophy. And the reason being is that I think when you do a change of diet, you get what's called the honeymoon period, right? You're like, "Oh, my God." Well, in between, you get, "This is tough. This is tough." Then you get this honeymoon period, where like, "This is it. This is what I'm meant to be doing. I feel great." People a lot of the time get this when they go from a standard American diet or a standard Australian diet onto say X diet, Paleo, ketogenic, raw vegan, or whatever. All of them will experience, after a week or two, this amazing feeling, and for quite an extended period of time, two or three months, really good feelings. I call this the honeymoon effect. Then after that, there'll be some minor adjustments that maybe need to be made. I think what happens with all of those say, three elements, Paleo, raw food, or ketogenic, is that we tend to, after awhile, the best result will be when we sort of find that balance between what our personal genealogy or gene type needs, because I think it's important to understand our genes. Where are we from, from a heredity perspective? How is our particular genetic form evolved over the past 8, 10, 12 generations, for instance? And what have those people eaten? I think that really brings in a huge element of biochemical individuality into it. That's why I think the idea of a one diet fitting all doesn't work. The idea of moving from a diet that's generally not good to a better diet works for everybody. I mean-
Geoff: For most people. Yeah.
James: Yeah, exactly. I mean, you go from eating In-N-Out Burger and just going to junk food aisle of Ralph's, and then all of a sudden you go and do a raw food or a juice cleanse, or you go on a ketogenic intermittent fasting or ... you're just gonna be like, "Oh, my God. This is amazing. I feel unbelievable." But I think long term, there's elements of each of those diets that have an important place.
James: What happens is when you start to have that positive experience and then start to look at your genealogy, your biochemical levels of individuality, what do you need? What have you personally adapted to eat? Where do you live? What's your climate like? Then you start to devise something that's a lot more tailored to you. Excuse me.
Geoff: No, I think that's a great point, and I think that's something that I hope that, as part of broader bio-hacking, it's not just manipulating inputs, but actually measuring your biometrics, right? Bio-hacking to me is the engineering mindset on the human platform, and again. You know, if I eat a piece of bread, my blood glucose is gonna react very different to yours perhaps. Maybe they're the same, but probably not, right? I think the rules of thumb for a ketogenic diet, eat less than 20 grams of net carbs. Well, that's kind of a rule of thumb, but that 20 grams of net carbs might do a lot different to my blood sugar and my blood insulin than someone else's. I mean, I agree exactly what you're saying, which is use different diets, routines as frameworks. End of the day, we're gonna have variation. Just as much as environment, a big input into our outcomes, our genes are different, right? There are ... I'm a slow caffeine metabolizer. You might be a fast caffeine metabolizer. I mean, that's a very just basic one, but I think it's well understood that the same diet for different people are gonna have different outcomes. So a lot of these things that I think are rule of thumbs, I think we can different improve on the junk food, consumer packaged good, Cheerio diet or whatever. Not to hate on Cheerios, but like, the packaged food industry. All these things, I think you're saying is right. I think that definitely step functions better than status quo, but I think true Nirvana, if you will, is yes, measuring everything for yourself.
James: And I also think, true Nirvana, if that concept is going on ... It's a great concept. I want that. True Nirvana, I think, also involves a certain element of nutritional nature-based philosophy. I think that, you know, we can get stuck in this mindset of, "We need to have this, and this is important, this works here, I need this at this level." But then I also love looking at, alright, let's look at blue zones. I love this, because it really brings everything back to ground base level. These are pockets of people that are the longest lived people in the world. Sicilians, Abkhazians, Hunzans, Okinawans ... There's a handful of different tribes all around the world, and how they eat. What is so surprising is that there is not really much strong correlation between their diets, which is confusing as hell, because like, "What? No! I just want them to all eat the same thing, then it's easy. Then we can all just eat that." Then even look at different types of people, different tribes, I mean look at your Inuits, right? High fat, high animal flesh consumption. Then look at more, say a Polynesian tribe, living in the remote island of Tikopia in the Pacific. Roots, tubers, more carbohydrates, a little bit of fish. It's just like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a second. What's going on here?" But I think there is a lot to be said about finding the similarities in those diets, but also looking at where have you evolved from? I eat much more of a northern latitude European, that maybe has a strong history of cultured kaffirs, and things like that, and they work for you, and maybe you have more fermented traditional ancient grains in your diet, and that works for you. I eat from more of a tropical Polynesian lineage, where ... And that's where I think we you need to sort of ... You can't get a diet book that comes off the shelf and go, "Boom. That's for me." We really need to do our own work, and we need to pick something to start with, evolve from there. But I think we have to get back to nature-based philosophy, because the best studies are the people that have been doing this automatically, for a long time, and I think when you start to look at that research, realize that food, inputs, outputs, are very important. But the non-food elements are equally important. Potentially even more important. And they're a lot of the things we're ignoring these days. So I mean, sleep's getting a lot more attention now, which is great. But you know, I was speaking to Shawn Stevenson the other day. He wrote Sleep Smarter. And in his research, he discovered that the World Health Organization had listed shift working as a class 3 ... I think it was class 3 ... carcinogen. It's like, "Whoa. Hang on a second." So people who work at night, who have disrupted sleep patterns, that's now considered a carcinogen. Why? Because they're not making proper melatonin. They're not sleeping when it's dark. They're not in a circadian rhythm with the Earth, which means they're probably not barefoot, watching the sunset in the morning after seven, six, eight hours of sleep. No, they're just getting to sleep. So those elements, they're non-food elements. What about other non-food elements, like the Sicilians, for instance. Do you think that their lunch is a quick, 30-minute affair? Or do you think it's a 2-hour long lunch, and they sit down with family and friends? And sure, they drink wine every day, and they probably have coffee and bread in the morning. I mean, this is the most ... That blue zone, for me, is the biggest outlier, because if I look at their diet, I'm like, "That's not an ideal diet for the human species." Yet they've got plenty of centenarians, and they're healthy and they're happy, so it's like, well, so look at what are their non-food elements.
Geoff: Maybe those are overpowering the diet component.
James: Complimenting it, you know? But they still have a lot of fresh vegetables, they have a lot of healthy fats, things like sardines, really good for brain health. They have wine, fermented foods. I mean, traditionally, fermented beverages and foods have been part of our culture for as long as we've been farmer, hunter, gatherers. Even before that, really, with mead, fermented honey. So why aren't we having those foods in our diet anymore? Those traditional fermented foods that have been a mainstay. Every one of those cultures has fermented foods. We have ketchup now-
Geoff: We're trying to reinstall it with probiotics, but yeah. If you just eat the fermented stuff, that's your probiotic right there.
James: Totally. Exactly. But think about all the things that were fermented, that are now no longer fermented. Ketchup that people use on french fries, used to be fermented tomatoes.
Geoff: Hmm. I didn't know that.
James: Now, it's tomatoes-
Geoff: Very sugary.
James: ... concentrate. High fructose corn ... Exactly. But it used to be fermented tomatoes. Things like chutneys, pickled vegetables, sauerkraut, kimchi, kaffirs, kombuchas. I mean, these are-
Geoff: I'm fasting today. You're making me hungry.
James: They're making a revival. And so they should, because they've always been a part of our diet historically. So to me, I think the more we can use a dietary intervention like a ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting, or juice fasting, or cleansing, or water fasting. I mean, three days of water, you can start to regenerate stem cells. You can start to really change your body, dump the load out-
Geoff: I don't know stem cell data, but I know they're a strong leader on immune system.
James: Yeah, immune system, human growth hormone can go up. You know, stem cells maybe take longer than three days. There's different studies out there-
Geoff: Yeah, but HGH ... yeah, rises at day two.
James: Yeah, now look at that from a nature-based philosophy perspective. What happens when an animal's sick? You tell me, Geoff.
Geoff: Yeah, they don't eat. They fast, essentially.
James: Oh, my God. What do we do? We go to a hospital and eat shit food. I mean, come on. This is just so unbelievable. And to me, that's why I think we need to work nutrition with the head and the heart. We use the head to go, "Hang on. This is wrong. I need to do something. I need to intermittent fast. I need to measure these inputs." And you do this, and you get the change, and you're like, "Oh, my God. This is amazing." But then you also need the other component of, what have we done as a species? How have we evolved on planet Earth? How has our dietary philosophy evolved? Where am I from? Is my father Irish and British? Or am I Polynesian or am I Japanese or am I Hawaiian? How could that potentially influence me? Do I need to be introducing more of that? Because you take a Japanese woman in Japan, eating a traditional Japanese diet, and they have one of the lowest incidences of breast cancer in the world, you implant that Japanese person into America, and they start eating the American diet. Their rate of getting breast cancer goes up. So there is a genetic and a localization and an understanding of how we've evolved to eat as a species, that we really need to be taking a lot more care and attention to. I think that's the future of nutrition, is actually looking forward and going back. It's like, David Wolfe says you know, the biggest advancements that are gonna happen in the world are gonna be Stone Age technology that's gonna be brought into the future. You know what I mean? So I think this is where analyzing your DNA helps you to determine more of who you are and where you're from and how your body reacts to different stimuli or food inputs. That's just telling you your genetic lineage. We've just got a modern tool in order to be able to do that. So to me, this is the future of nutrition. This is the future of health.
Geoff: No, I want to reflect on that. I think you've brought up a really good point. Nutrigenomics, right? How does our genetics apply to our nutrition? And I think that's ... If you actually look at ... I think that's part of the reason why all the nutrition and clinical trials are so conflicting. There's not a lot of consensus. If you just look at ... There's just as much dogma around ketogenic diet being the best thing ever, and other people being like, "No, low fat is the best thing ever." And maybe everyone's right. In some sense. I mean, there's different ... People have different responses. And for better or for worse, most of the clinical trial data is done in America. That's where most of the funding is. And most of the population are Caucasian, usually men, because women have a lot of variance with their hormone cycles, so researchers tend to focus on men. So you're focused on essentially white men in a reasonable age demographic as being the primary population being studied. For better, for worse. That is just the facts. And as you're saying, that kind of genetic similarity is gonna be very different in terms of how does that data apply towards an Okinawan population or an Inuit population? Right? Yeah, the Sicilian example, I think that's been ... A lot of the ... If you look at Twitter, there's so many culture or like, yeah, like political parties around nutrition, where it's like, "No. Look at Sicilian diet. They eat wine. They eat bread. They're awesome." Then you'd be like, "Oh, Inuits are awesome. They just eat fat and whale meat, and they're awesome." And everyone's just arguing about like, "Hey, this is my data set. This is your data set." Everyone's just like not talking to each other. I think it's like ... Well, I think there's truth in both.
James: Totally. Which is more confusing, but then I think one of the things I like to talk about, Geoff, is I like to really encourage people to divorce nutritional dogma. Because I believe as we become too attached to an ideal or an ideology, we become more and more closed off, and we miss stuff. I mean, this is also the idea behind a reticular activating system. When you buy a red Ferrari, all you see is red Ferraris. Before that, you didn't see it. So what happens is, we are, as humans, NEPD were professional development work ... You realize we're meaning making machines. We make meaning and purpose out of whatever we want to make meaning and purpose out of. And in diet, it's true for that. The problem is that, I think we need to move from the dogma of high carb/low fat, low fat/high carb, high fat/ketogenic, lacto-ovo vegetarian, breathatarian, you know, whatever ... into being this idea of more of equalitarian. Why I like this is I think that one of that gets missed in a lot of these studies is that we're not looking at the quality of something. So if people go, "Well, if people consuming meat get sicker at this level," and it's like, "Well, hang on. What type of meat were they eating?" Like we said before, was it a sick meat or was it ruminant, domesticated animal, or was it a wild animal that was hunted? What was it? You look at salmon. You got farmed salmon and you got wild salmon. They're not the same animal, at all.
Geoff: Yeah, you make the three continents very different. I think you touched upon that earlier. It's different in terms of nutrition quality.
James: Same with grains, though, as well. This is the perfect example. I'm doing a lot of work on grains right now. We're doing a third documentary. So we did Food Matters, Hunger for Change, working on a third film. It's gonna have a lot of mind component to it. But we're doing a deep dive at one part of the film on wheat. Because it's just ... As one of the guys says in the film, "This is the ring leader of all the grains." You know what I mean? The thing about wheat, and the thing about most foods that we're eating today, is they've changed a lot in the last 50 years. It used to be a two, three meter high stalk, a wild grass. Now it's a very short stocky variety, and it's called what David said, it's like a semi-dwarf variety now of wheat. But what's happened is, that-
Geoff: By Monsanto?
James: Yeah, that modern wheat, this was actually made with techniques that predated genetic modification. So they were actually just splicing stuff in, and trying to find different varieties through really rudimentary processes. It's a lot more dangerous, actually, according to Davis, actually, than genetic modification, because you can actually with GM modification you can dial up certain characteristics, but with this, you couldn't.
Geoff: More precisely, sure. Yeah.
James: So we developed this really short stock wheat, but then it's also resistant to the use of these pesticides so they can be sprayed more. They even spray pesticides as a desiccant, to help dry it so it doesn't go moldy before they harvest it. So you look at the glycophosphate, which is a pesticide residue in wheat, as gone up through the charts over the years. Is the wheat causing the issue? Is it the gluten? Or is it that it's got these huge amounts of pesticide residues in there now? Is it both? Probably is both. But then you've got cultures that have traditional grains, ancient grains, they're fermented. Like all grains have been at a time. And they're eating them, and they're thriving, and they're not getting sick. So maybe it's not the grains, maybe it's what we've done to it as well. So to me, there's so many layers in this, and when you say, "Wheat's bad, or bread's bad," it's like ... well ...
Geoff: It's super coarse.
James: Yeah, yeah. It's coarse. It's coarse. And I think there's so many different levels, which is why this idea of being a qualitarian, it's like, "Well, is cheese good or bad?" It's like, "Well, great cheese can be okay at some levels." Are you dairy intolerant, and do you not do well ... well, don't eat it then. You know what I mean. You know, there's so many gray areas, and I think that's why developing a sense of biochemical awareness and really acknowledging your individuality, and using a particular dietary lineage as a framework in order to be able to build upon is the starting point for your nutrition journey. That will help you evolve faster than being stuck with something. Test, measure. Test, measure. Test, measure. And be aware. And have a foot in the past. A foot in understanding where you're from, and I think that'll serve you really well.
Geoff: Yeah, and I want to touch on one thing. I think that the historical sort of the nature part. I think it's interesting, right? Yeah, nature is a good range finder, right? Like we evolved in this particular way, and we're optimized for our environment in some way. So yeah, evolution is not perfect, but it's a pretty good algorhythm. We'll put it that way. That should be ... I think it's a good way to think about it, right? You know, we've evolved to go through feast and famine situations. We're not constantly eating. So maybe intermittent fasting is relatively in the right range of what we should be closer to be doing. I think that's exactly I think how you talk about nature. It's like yeah. Nature should be a pretty good range finder to get a sense of where in the zone should we tweak for our own personal protocol?
James: Yeah, precisely.
Geoff: Yeah, so what an exciting projects that you're working on. So it sounds like you're teasing a little into the third documentary. What other projects do you have going on, as we wrap up here?
James: Sort of three key projects right now. We've got our streaming TV channel, which is something we're putting a lot of effort and energy into. It's essentially a Netflix for health and wellness, so we have documentaries, meditation, yoga, exercise classes. We have a lot of expert interviews in there, and also guided programs. We've just launched a ten-day sleep and stress program. We've got like a 21-day gluten-free program. So different guide to programs for people to follow. That's a big focus for us. Watch for it on Amazon Prime soon, and on Apple, their platforms and everything, so that's something that excites me. Because I think education is really the starting point. Like what you're doing with this podcast. If you're not aware, you can't tweak. You can't change. You can't measure. You can't evolve. So awareness is the ultimate, for a step. And we've always had that, you know, going back in history. We've always had that. It's the fireside chats. it's the grandfather that's passing down his knowledge. Now we just lock up old people in old folks homes. We don't communicate to our neighbors, so we need to get our information from somewhere. And look, CNN and Fox News are not ideal sources of information gathering. So that's why we sort of created it a separate channel. Then also because you have to be conscious about what you feed your brain with. You turn on the news, and I guarantee no matter what time you turn the news on, it's gonna be death, pain, fire, destruction, terrorism, or politics. What is that actually doing for you? Nothing. I mean, honestly. Does it ... Do you need to know all of this superfluous information? Even all the ... I turn on the news here, and I've got a young child in the house, so thankfully my wife has been like, "No news," which has been great. Actually last few years. It's been such a detox for my brain. But this person got stabbed here. This amber alert, this child's missing. It's like, okay. I don't really need to know that. Sure, I feel empathy for them, and it's not nice.
Geoff: It's sad. It's unfortunate. But yeah, it doesn't affect your day to day.
James: Rule that out and input good stuff in. So that's my biggest movement that we focus on. Next we're doing another film, so that's super exciting. I really want to move nutrition forward and beyond nutrition. You know, I want to look a lot at what's happening in the breath work space. Cold exposure space. Mental rehearsal space. These sort of things are getting more and more on the radar now, and I think that when you've got people that are able to rebuild their spine with their mind, then you're like, "Well, how does that happen?" Then, it's just like there's some stuff happening out there that ... Or even simple breath work processes that can increase the oxygenation of your brain stem and things that can cross the blood brain barrier. There's so much that's to be explored there. But mental rehearsal is a big one, I think. The esoterical words of visualization and manifestation and that, but stop that. Mental rehearsal, this is a tool that everybody uses. Tiger Woods, he's not in a great spot now, but Tiger Woods used mental rehearsal. Carl Lewis used it. Jim Carrey used it. All these people used it, and they got a certain result in their life. Why aren't we using that more? Because I don't know, we just think it's woo-woo, but there's more and more science and data supporting it now.
Geoff: Yeah, I think that's interesting. It could be selection bias. Maybe that's the only reason that we hear about them is because they went in their woo-woo kind of work. Or there's actually something there. I think regardless, it's worth looking into, and I think that's right. All the best athletes do talk about visualizing their moves. Visualizing their play. So there seems to be something there.
James: Yeah, so whatever it is that you're doing. How can you apply that in your particular field? Then there's a third thing we're doing. We're working on a ... It's a bit of a super secret hydration product right now. You know, I've done a lot of research in that space over the last year and a half. Hydration is actually so important, right? That really, when you sweat or when you're dehydrated, you need to just drink your sweat, minus the toxins. So what is sweat. I mean, it's salty water. So yeah, we need salty water, that's great. But then what's the best way to deliver that to your cells, so that you have proper hydration? It's not Gatorade. They're just products that have been manufactured in a lab. They've created electrolyte minerals in a lab, basically in a chemical environment. To me, the body can't work with that. We need to go back to one of the most natural sources there are. We found some pretty unique ingredients in order to bring that to the world. Yeah, so that's another project.
Geoff: You've got a lot on your plate, but all very exciting.
James: Yeah, it is. It excites me and drives me every day, to get out of bed, even when I'm not feeling 100%, like today.
Geoff: Yeah, awesome. I think ... absolutely. I think the cornerstone is ... I think a big part is educating and bring more and more people up to speed, because I think I've just seen it with myself in just our community. It sounds like there's more and more people there are excited to learn, and learn from a better sources that aren't as conflicting. I like the attitude that you bring, which is like, "Hey, I'm not gonna tell you dogma. Yes, there's certain frameworks I want you to consider, but at the end of the day, it needs to be spoken. What I think personally is-
James: Yeah, cool. I'm glad you agree.
Geoff: I think there's too many people there saying, "Hey, dude. This magical ABC plan. You're gonna lose a lot of weight and live forever. There's enough BS people out there, and I think it's like, "Hey, let's arm people with knowledge and offer them potential tools, and let people explore." I think that's when it's most powerful, most authentic, and hopefully, it works the best for people as well.
James: Yeah, that's the plan. So really great that you're on board with that. That's awesome.
Geoff: Alright, cheers James. I'm sure we'll have Zhill, our producer, link to all the exciting initiatives and shout that out to our community when those launch.
Geoff: Love to stay in touch and continue the conversation when some of those things rolls out.
James: Yeah, great. Thanks for the time, and it's great to chat. And yeah. Keep on rocking, guys. Any way we can support you, what you're doing. Keep us in the loop. Yeah, be cool.
Geoff: Yeah, cheers, James.
James: Ciao, bye.
Geoff: As always, that was a great episode. I liked for a lot of influencers and thought leaders, it's easy to just give simple ABC, 123 plans, and I like how James is refreshing in the sense of, "Hey, let's educate people and arm people to best optimize themselves." Yeah, keep the awesome in-bounds and questions coming. We on our team always love answering and figure out how to incorporate your questions and content into our pieces here. As always, find us on Google Play, Android store, Apple iTunes, YouTube, and SoundCloud. Until next time. Peace out.
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These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. Our products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
© 2020 HVMN Inc. All Rights Reserved. H.V.M.N.®, Health Via Modern Nutrition™, Nootrobox®, Rise™, Sprint®, Yawn®, Kado™, and GO Cubes® are registered trademarks of HVMN Inc. ΔG® is a trademark of TΔS® and used under exclusive license by HVMN Inc.