Written by Christopher Kelly
June 5, 2015
Christopher: Hello, and welcome to the Nourish Balance Thrive podcast. My name is Christopher Kelly, and today I'm joined by Robert. Robert is someone I've been working with for, I don't know, a few months now, and he's been getting some good results. He was just on the London Marathon, and I'm excited to get him on and find out how it went.
First of all Robert, thanks very much, and how did it go on the London Marathon?
Robert: Hi, Chris. Yes. It didn't go as planned. That had nothing to do with training or nutrition or anything that we've walked on. You'd be glad to know that.
Christopher: Oh, not my fault.
Robert: It's a bit of a schoolboy error in choosing a new pair of running shoes with an old pair of socks and developed a blister about eight miles in that was about the size of Mt. Vesuvius.
Christopher: Oh, no.
Robert: So had a bit of a struggle over the second half of the race. But that's certainly nothing to do with what we've been working on, you'd be glad to know.
Christopher: Oh, no. I'm sorry about that. I hate the way that these events that I always worry about that. You put so much time and effort into the training, the preparation, and then one stupid think like that can just spoil everything.
Robert: Yeah. You're absolutely right. I'm so annoyed with myself for choosing those shoes, but I really liked the color of them. So I said to go for those ones instead of the other ones I was originally going to run in, but never mind. These things happen. I still completed the race. I still managed to retain the Championship, the British Championship entry qualification time, so I can go back in the next two years and try again.
Christopher: Yeah. I should probably tell everyone that you're super fast, like, two-and-a-half hours fast, which is pretty flipping fast, right?
Robert: Yeah. Last year, I was a little bit faster than now, but I don't have the natural genes for that, unfortunately.
Christopher: So tell me, what was going on when you first came to me? What was the problem?
Robert: I think there were probably many other problems, to be honest with you. I think they had been going on for a number of years. It wasn't until I listened to you on the Ben Greenfield podcast which was at the very beginning of my own investigation of what I could do to try and improve things.
The training had gone from 100 miles a week easily, feeling good every day, feeling up for training every day, to basically dreading going out the door and dreading putting on my running shoes. Over five years, my performance has gone wash and wash. I got older obviously, but I was watching my peers get quicker and quicker. I thought, "Something must be wrong here, and I need to investigate it."
I originally looked at diet. I knew mine wasn't good. I had some severe gut problems. My wife could testify to that, I'm sure. Several things like bloating, gastro problems while running, severe stomach cramps during the day or while running as well. I think all of these things together just made me think I need to do something. That's just not how a normal person lives their life.
Those other things been going on as well like tiredness, I suppose, constant tiredness, so all these things together just, yeah, made me think, "I need to go investigate this. Find out what's going on." I started looking at diet first. I knew mine wasn't perfect. It was okay, typical Scottish diet, I suppose, high in processed foods, high in carbohydrates and processed carbohydrates, things like that. But not too bad, I wasn't eating typical deep-fried Mars bars that you get over here.
Christopher: Does anyone really eat that? I always think this is kind of a joke to make the people in the outside believe that they're really eating it.
Robert: I think it's a stereotype, but I have seen chip shops -- I don't know what you call those in the States but several chip shops that sell them over here. Yeah.
Christopher: They don't exist, like the traditional British chip shop just doesn't really exist in the US, I don't think. You get things like Burger King and those fast food restaurants, but nothing quite like what I think of as a chip shop in the UK. But I always think the Scottish eat a lot of potatoes.
Robert: Yeah. I have to say it still remains my favorite vegetable, starchy vegetable. I don't eat as many now. I've switched from the traditional white ones to more sweet potato, yam. Yeah, sorry.
Christopher: I was going to say, so you figured out some of the testing yourself, right? You had gone ahead and ordered some testing. The one I always start with is the saliva cortisol/DHEA which is almost quite telling. Your results showed what I normally say, although this wasn't my test, this was one by Geneva Diagnostics, and it showed the characteristic low cortisol and low DHEA. How did you even know of all of these tests?
Robert: That's where listening to podcasts like yours, Ben Greenfield's and a few others had come in handy because they were all talking about these tests, and I thought, "Can I get these over here in the UK" You can order them and get them done. I looked at them, and I actually thought, "I don't know what I'm looking at here, whether this is good, bad or indifferent." That's essentially when I contacted you and said, "I've done these tests, help!"
Christopher: Right, right. What did you change -- I'm just really interested to know what happened. So, I got you to test your blood glucose, was one of the first things I asked for. What did you see?
Robert: Yeah. Well I had bought a small blood glucose monitor from Amazon. I think it cost about £12, $20. Immediately, the readings were all 6 milimols per liter. You're going to have to convert that to deciliters. I'm not sure what it is. Been 6, 7-something or so, 8. I could not get it under control. I thought, at the time, my diet was okay.
I think you have given me some advice on diet around carbohydrate intake and the fats that I should probably be eating. So I changed that quite dramatically. I wouldn't say I went fully Paleo or Autoimmune Protocol Paleo or anything like that. I didn't go to that extreme, but I definitely switched everything to just real food and a leniency towards higher fat content rather than higher protein or higher carbohydrates.
In two weeks, I was starting to see a level that remained around 5. In the mornings it would be under 5 and during the day, after lunches, dinners, things like that, it would maybe jump up to about 5.5 milimols and again, in the evenings, it will drop back down again. But I was quite happy. I monitored that for a day and then weeks, until I was happy that I could almost guess what I was going to eat, what would happen to my blood glucose.
Also at the same time, I don't know if this is due to changing diet alone or whether everyone's changing diet and getting onto the supplements that they get onto later, but I found an immediate increase in just energy throughout the day. It was unbelievable.
Christopher: That's awesome. So you just reduced the amount of carbohydrate, you increased the amount of fat, and then the blood glucose numbers just came into line by themselves.
Robert: Really remarkable, yeah. I was quite surprised by it. Everyone was quite surprised by it.
Christopher: It seems like such an obvious thing. It's such a cheap meter as well. It's not like an expensive test or anything. We're talking about £12. I think it's about $7 or something here in the US. It shows you how common the problem is, diabetes. I think carbohydrate restriction should be the default approach or the one you try first just because it's so easy, and it's so likely to work. That's fantastic.
Robert: The other thing is where I was even dropping carbohydrates because of the level of training I did. Actually, if I'm honest, I think I'm missing a [0:09:04] [Indiscernible]. But the fact that I can train for longer and recover quicker, a massive change has happened in the last three or four months with my recovery time. I thought, again, I'm getting older. I'm in my 40s now. Recovery time was getting ridiculous. One hard session was three or four days before I was able to train hard again but noticed I recovered the following day. I could train hard every day if my coach allowed me to do that. I told him obviously. But my recovery has such a turnaround, I can't believe it.
Christopher: That's awesome. That's absolutely awesome. Yeah. You're right. I follow a very low carbohydrate diet in general now. I see carbohydrates as a performance-enhancing drug, so on race day I don't have a problem with reintroducing them. Of course each event is different. Marathon running is not the same as mountain biking.
For me there are small or mini power-ups. I need to get over some rocks or something like that. I have to generate a lot of power quite quickly. I'm sure that I'm using glucose for that rather than fat. So I use supplements like UCAN SuperStarch, well just UCAN SuperStarch actually. The idea is that just kind of fills in the gaps of glucose and tides me over a little bit and gets me through that kind of high power-up with stuff.
I don't even know, like, with a marathon, maybe the last -- I don't know, when you start sprinting for the line in a marathon, but surely most of it is just very steady state, right?
Robert: Yeah, I think so, certainly under lactate threshold. Yeah, maybe the last 6 miles would be where you would be relying on more carbohydrate running rather than fat running. Of course I didn't get to test that out last time. I just had a couple of Honey Bees gels with me that eventually I've been asked to take because it was more or less staying under that lactate threshold for the whole duration of the race.
But a really a hard session tomorrow, I've got a really hard, hard session tomorrow and quite incidentally I am taking some UCAN with me beforehand, another one of your tips. I've been starting to use that when I have a really hard session coming up so that I can try and get that [0:11:39] [Indiscernible].
Christopher: Awesome. Yeah, I know. That's fantastic. I'm just looking at your results here. Ah, yes, so yours was a really interesting one. So you did the Geneva Diagnostics Organix Comprehensive Profile. That's a urine test. Even though you're in the UK, you were able to do this, which I think is pretty cool that you sent the sample in. Probably cost you a small fortune to send it from the -- how much did it cost to send it from the UK to the lab in the US?
Robert: It's funny actually. There were two tests [0:12:08] [Indiscernible] that time. There was a stool test, the pathogen test, the urine sample one. One of them was free to send to the US. The other one I think cost me about £5 I think.
Christopher: Oh, that's not bad.
Robert: Not too bad. That's not too bad at all, no.
Christopher: That's good. That's good. What this test does is it measures metabolism. It doesn't do that directly. It does it indirectly using these things called organic acids, so that's what appears on the result. When you look at page 2, there's this blue stripe across. It says, "Summary of Abnormal Findings," and then it lists these funny-sounding words like cis-Aconitate and Icocitrate and Fumarate and Malate and Hydroxymethylglutarate.
Those are the names of organic acids and when they start to build up in the urine sample, that's telling you that there's a problem with the biochemical pathway that they're associated with. Those organic acids I just read out -- I won't do it again because I'm not that good pronouncing them -- those are citric acid cycle, or some people have heard of it referred to as the Krebs cycle or maybe the TCA cycle. It's a biochemical pathway that goes inside the mitochondria of every single cell inside your body, apart from your blood cells and a few others. Actually not all cells have mitochondria, certainly for muscle fibers. It's the way in which you produce energy.
For your tests, every single one of those organic acids was built up. You can think of this a bit like, if the biochemical pathway was a river then maybe beavers come along and built a dam. So in multiple different points, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 different points, I see the water is not flowing anymore because of a block. By far, the weakest link in this biochemical process is the donation of electrons to the electron transport chain and moving those electrons along the electron transport chain.
To do that requires this nutrient called CoQ10, Coenzyme Q10. Your body can't synthesize it endogenously, and some comes a little bit from our diet, not very much. Heart muscle meat is by far the densest source of this nutrient, but there's almost none in there really. You really have to be producing it internally quite well. So for you, I think -- did you take CoQ10?
Robert: Yes, I have been taking now, how long now, maybe three months. Yeah, three months I've been taking a daily supplement maybe around 300 milligrams a day.
Christopher: Okay, that's a lot of CoQ10. It kind of sucks that this is so expensive because that's probably, I don't know, here in the US that's probably, I don't know, it's probably over $100 a month to take that much CoQ10. But, I don't know, how much does a pair of running shoes cost, right, if that's what gets you --
Robert: Yeah. I've been taking -- I'm not entirely sure I'm seeing any results from that side of things yet. That's maybe one thing we maybe like to talk about on what we're going to do next maybe because -- I mean, I thought I had a lot of energy. I think it's starting to recede a little bit now. Certainly in the beginning it was being made for me. Yesterday I was fatigued all the time, the next day I wasn't.
I'm starting to find that I'm getting a lot of that more, the way I used to be before. That may not be just because, you know, holiday, I took a rest. Training after the marathon then went on holiday. My diet-sleep pattern, stress levels were normal, it seems. So that may be playing a part, certainly I've been thinking maybe that's also something. Back training for two weeks now, energy levels have not been as good as they were prior to the marathon.
Christopher: Okay. Whenever I see a problem like that, a CoQ10 deficiency -- and also on this test, we saw you had an inhibition of epinephrine, norepinephrine. What this means is you're not turning over adrenaline very fast. This is another sign and symptom of adrenal fatigue, if you like. Whenever I see this kind of pattern, I'm thinking why is this happening? There's got to be a reason. This isn't the only cause.
The cool thing about the Organix Profile is it just covers so much ground. There's a marker on that called D-Arabinitol. D-Arabinitol is a metabolite of the pathogenic yeast species called Candida. When I say very high levels of D-Arabinitol, it means that the person probably has a yeast overgrowth. You don't really know where it is, but the chances are it's in their gut.
So that's when I recommended a program that consisted of two supplements, the oregano oil and the Amazon A-F. A-F stands for anti-fungal. This is just a blend of botanical herbs. Did you do that? Did you notice anything change with your digestion when you did it?
Robert: Not immediately, I have to say. It took some time. That has been another massive change. I don't think I want to go into too much detail on what those changes are, certainly from a toilet perspective, but it's such a good move because I no longer have any kind of gut issues, I can honestly say, that bothered me, whereas before, I had daily issues, daily issues with wind, daily issues with bloating, daily issues with runny stools.
The [0:17:48] [Indiscernible] test? I think it's called the [0:17:51] [Indiscernible] test. I can't remember the name of it.
Christopher: Yeah, the Scale, I know what you're talking about.
Robert: Scale, yeah. So I was at the worst possible point prior to the 60-day yeast counts. [0:18:04] [Indiscernible] see if number seven was the last time then I had number 1. It's been such a turnaround. I'm so happy with that because that was affecting training, affecting my life, to be honest with you. It's been a real change. It's excellent.
Christopher: I know, yeah, I know exactly what you're talking about. It sucks to be limited in your performance not by the rate by which you can consume oxygen or how tight your muscles are but by something else like pain in your stomach, is just -- that is the worst. It really, really sucks.
Here's the thing about the anti-yeast program. It's kind of a double-edged sword, in a way. The oregano oil is quite a broad-spectrum anti-microbial. I've got no doubt that you would have killed some good bugs that live in your gut, as well as the bad ones. So, the emphasis now should be on reinstalling a healthier population of bugs.
The question always comes up. How did this happen in the first place? Usually over-training is a large part of it. I know that yeast likes to eat sugar, right? It thrives on a carbohydrate substrate. So in reducing your carbohydrate consumption, feasibly, that could help with yeast overgrowth too. I think if you keep that change then I've no reason to suspect that it's going to come back.
Robert: Sure. Yeah.
Christopher: As we speak, I'm just updating your health plan. I've just put in here three prebiotic powders which I think you should be able to find locally. Those are acacia root, glucomannan and inulin. If you reintroduce those really, really slowly, I'm talking seriously slowly, then I think this is going to do a good job of encouraging the growth of the good bugs, things like Bifidobacteria is one species in particular which I think gets wiped out by oregano oil. So you can reinstall with this program. You should also combine -- have you been taking Prescript-Assist, the probiotic?
Robert: Yes, one a day during the last three or four months now.
Christopher: Okay. Yeah, that's a really, really good one. I think bifidobacteria is also important. So I put in here -- you have to do a bit of shopping around in the UK to see where you get this. I'm pretty sure the bifidobacteria is a really common one. So I'm going to update Prescript-Assist for -- this product's called Klaire Labs' Factor 4. I don't think you're going to find this exact product in the UK but, like I said, bifidobacteria is quite common one.
I think it's important to reinstall it. I think in general, with prebiotics, variety is good, so don't keep taking the same one just because you got good results with it. It's okay to switch up every now and again. I think that's going to get better results.
Robert: Are there any green or any natural foods that these can be gained from or does it all have to be supplements?
Christopher: I'm glad you asked because that's exactly what I was going to say next. No, it doesn't. It's almost certainly more important to get these prebiotics or food that the bacteria like to eat, from real food. I think that's the safest choice always. I might find out in six months time that glucomannan was a really bad idea, but I think it's very unlikely that I'm going to find out that eating a wide variety of brightly colored vegetables is a bad idea. Everybody has been agreeing on that being a good thing for a very, very long time.
I know that the UK has a fantastic culture of vegetables, and growing, so you shouldn't have any problem with that. Now, I don't really know about the Farmer's Market culture in the UK like I do in the US, but that's what we do. We go to the Farmer's Market and then just buy as many different types of vegetables we can possibly find. If you see something you don't know what it is, just buy it and then do a Google search for it when you get home, and find out how to cook it and just have some variety in that way.
Robert: Yeah, the Farmer's Market situation over here is probably much the same. I think they are only [0:22:33] [Indiscernible] ten miles of me.
Christopher: Oh, great.
Robert: Saturday mornings, so, yeah.
Christopher: That's great. Yeah.
Robert: Also, these companies that send out, weekly, organic vegetable boxes, seasonal boxes, so you get the summer fruits and vegetables during the summer, and you get the winter ones, so very local and very specific which is very good of course.
Christopher: That's perfect. Of course, you add in this element of serendipity by having somebody else choose these things for you. No doubt, you'll get stuff turn up in the box. You're like, "What the hell is that?" You'll have to figure it out. So you could skip it as well. Skip the prebiotic powders completely and see how you get on. I see no problem with that at all. I've been talking to Dr. Grace Liu, and she's been using these powders with great effect. I think this is a good idea but, yeah, certainly the vegetables are more important, I think.
Robert: Yeah. I'll combine both. I think the supplements are certainly more convenient than the foods.
Christopher: Right. Yeah, I know. I think as an athlete, I'm a big supplement guy obviously. I don't make any secret about that. I do still take quite a lot of supplements, if I'm honest. I sleep like a baby, and my training's going really well. That's worth it to me. I don't really care. I do the whole food thing as best as I can too but, yeah, if there's an advantage to be had by taking supplements then I'm going to take it, frankly.
Robert: Absolutely. I'm with you on that.
Christopher: That's awesome. So, yeah, I should say we never found -- you did the 401H stool test, but that came back clean, didn't it? There wasn't anything on it.
Robert: I think so, yes.
Christopher: Yes, right. So I do this test, the stool test, and that looks for parasites. Also, I see a lot of this pathogenic bacterium, H. pylori, and we found nothing. So I think it really was just the yeast.
Christopher: So tell me about your sleep. How has that been?
Robert: My what? Sorry.
Christopher: Your sleep.
Robert: Much, much better. I would say I'm still nocking arrows every evening but certainly much better. I go to bed about 10:00 in the evening most nights, between 10 and 11, and I wake up around 6:00. I've got two young girls, one, four, and one, eight months, so sleep's been quite tough over the last [0:25:08] [Indiscernible]. But I think, yes, it's definitely better than it was.
I used to be awake at 2:00 in the morning and just getting up and going watching a movie or actually logging onto [0:25:20] [Indiscernible] or doing something like that because I thought I wouldn't get back to sleep. More and more now, if I wake up at that time, I just nod back off again. I didn't do that before, so my sleep is far better than it was. There are good days and days of having two to three hours of sleep, now, certainly six hours at least every night, which is great for me.
Christopher: Wow. Yeah. I know. If you're going to get the best results you could ever get, I'm sure that you'll have to get that up to eight hours. I'm certain of it. For me it's been a battle too that I was exactly just as you described, exactly the same. I used to get up and I wouldn't -- or it actually got to a point where I wouldn't go to bed because there wasn't really much point in it. That's a habit, and it's difficult to break habits. They're formed not easily but once they are formed, they're really solid.
Now, I sleep -- last night I slept nine hours. Eight to ten is pretty typical for me. I really notice it. If I get less than eight hours, I'm a wreck, compared to what I'm used to. It's only with hindsight that I realized this. You see what I mean? You have to know what good is before you can understand what bad is. Symptoms can be misleading like that.
Christopher: Do you find -- sorry.
Robert: If you're living with a baby in the house, it's plenty difficult.
Christopher: Yeah, I hear you. I've got an 18-month old daughter. She sleeps in the same room as us. If she decides that she's going to be difficult, she'll be really, really difficult. But for the most part, it's good. What was I going to say? Did you take 5-HTP at all?
Robert: Yes, I take it still.
Christopher: Okay. And did you find that helped with your sleep?
Robert: I have no idea. I took it maybe an hour before sleep. Yeah, I think it probably has. The problem is I've been taking that now since I started this program, and I haven't not taken it. The supplements, I've been almost religiously taking them. I don't think I've missed any three or any one of the supplement for four, five months, no. So that 5-HTP, I have been taking each night and, yeah, it must be helping, maybe along with all the other stress-reduction things also helping.
Christopher: Yeah. So I think now is the time you could experiment with that. I'm a big fan of getting to a place where you're feeling pretty good and then experimenting with removing some of the things that might have gotten you there. The supplements are a really obvious place to start.
"Is this 5-HTP really helping with my sleep? I'm feeling pretty good. I've stopped taking the 5-HTP. Did it make any difference to my sleep or my moods in general?" If it doesn't, maybe you fixed the problem with the diet and lifestyle stuff. That means that you don't need the 5-HTP anymore. Or maybe it never did anything in the first place. That's possible too.
I really like this idea of just, let's just do everything. I can see all these problems on the lab work, and I know that if I make these changes to my diet and I prioritize sleep, I'm going to get better. Once I'm feeling better then we can mess around with things. Rather than making changes one at a time which just takes too long. You don't want to be messing around with this thing five years time.
Robert: Absolutely not. It's a pretty expensive thing as well to be keeping, so I'm quite happy to experiment. Start removing some of the supplements.
Christopher: Yeah, I would do that. Tyrosine is a precursor of dopamine, and 5-HTP is a precursor to serotonin, so you can think of the dopamine as, in the crudest sense, like a gas pedal and the serotonin like a brake. The two of them go together. I wouldn't take either one of them for a long period of time without the other. You can create imbalances that way because they're broken down by the same enzyme. So I would cut them both out at the same time.
Christopher: I'll put a strikethrough on your health plan document here so you know what I'm talking about. But, yeah, just see what happens.
Christopher: Hopefully, nothing.
Robert: Exactly, yeah. That would be good.
Christopher: Yeah. It will be a really interesting experiment. I know this test, the organic acid is quite expensive, certainly, $400, but if you could redo this test, that will be really interesting. The way to do it would be to back off of all the supplements for four days. Don't take any supplements for four days and then do the tests and then we'll look at this all bare-naked you, if you know what I mean. I don't want to see the supplement-assisted version, but I want to see the -- that will give you a really good idea of what supplements you might still need.
Robert: Yeah. I'm thinking that's probably the way to go. Yeah.
Christopher: Excellent. Well I'm really delighted to hear this. Thank you so much for coming on and recording this with me. I'm really delighted about that. It's so fulfilling, this work, compared to what I used to do. I used to sit and program a computer at a desk all day long. No one really cared what I did really. This is really fun in comparison.
Robert: It's been much help. I'm quite enjoying the act of self-discovery as well. I'm a computer programmer by trade.
Christopher: Oh, of course.
Robert: So these kinds of things go together. "Something's wrong. Okay, what's causing it? This root cause analysis as it's called in my line of work. It's been very interesting.
Christopher: Our way of thinking is similar in a way. In Computer Science you call it debugging. Certainly when you're doing an engineering-type support, usually you know that something has changed. If this worked yesterday and now it doesn't work, your job is to figure out what it was -- what changed, broke this thing. Sometimes that line of thinking works quite well for solving a problem here with your health stuff too.
Robert: Yeah, absolutely.
Christopher: Excellent. Well did you have any other questions, Robert?
Robert: No, I don't think so. It's good to know we're on the right path, and it's good to have a target to go for again. Get the Organix done again, and see where we are.
Christopher: You're up for doing that, are you?
Robert: Yes, absolutely. I think I'd like to know where I've come in the last four, five months, and what we still need to do, absolutely.
Robert: I see this as a long-term project.
Christopher: Yeah. I think it's something everybody who's involved in competitive sport should be doing. You're doing something extraordinary. Running marathons is not normal for humans, I think. Maybe they can do it once a year. But when you're doing it more often than that then it's a bit strange. It's the same with mountain biking as well. What I'm doing is not normal, two hours of exercise every day. Yeah, it makes sense to stay on top of it with a testing.
Robert: Yeah, absolutely.
Christopher: Excellent. Okay, sounds like we've got a plan. So you're going to redo the Organix. You're going to cut back on some of the supplements, especially the tyrosine and the 5-HTP and then you're going to find a wide variety of vegetables especially those containing inulin, so anything that looks like an onion or a leek, more variety is better with the vegetables, and then maybe try the prebiotic powders as well. I put all this in your health plan. Oh, and then I put the bifidobacteria probiotic as well which you'll have to do a little bit of shopping for. So, yeah, it's all in the plan.
Christopher: Sounds good. Thank you very much, Robert. I really appreciate your time.
Robert: Thanks very much, Chris. I'll see you later.
Christopher: Cheers! Bye-bye.
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