[00:00] Introduction/About Evan Brand
[05:43] What Happened To Evan When He Moved To Austin
[09:58] What Evan Used To Do At Onnit
[12:02] Evan’s Big Tactics To Lower Cortisol
[24:59] Plant Alternatives To Help With Cortisol
[33:45] Herbs That People Don’t Talk About When It Comes To Controlling Cortisol
[46:52] The Use Of Marijuana
[53:21] What Evan Did To Become A Nutritional Therapist
[58:29] End of Podcast
In this episode of The Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast:
“The NK killer cells and these anti-cancer proteins, they were increased for more than seven days after time spent in a forest.” “This big stressor, that is EMF and magnetic field specifically is just a huge stressor that’s causing people to get sick.” “If you’re going to go to a party, you could take a couple hundred milligrams of Phenibut as opposed to just getting trashed on alcohol.” “I was out in the forest all day and my recovery was great, my stress levels were low, and every time I drove back into the city after a work day, I felt my stress come back on.” “You can use a vaporizer or you could just simply smoke a pipe. I don’t know. You may be even able to roll like a joint of an herbal smoking blend.”
Ben: Hey, folks. It’s Ben Greenfield. And if there is one renegade, rogue, pesky little hormone/molecule that I have had to deal with over and over again in my life, and that a lot of my clients and the athletes who I work with have also had to deal with, and that you’ve also probably had to deal with at some point or another, it is cortisol. And it can be not only intimidating, but also kind of mysterious to figure out what it is that could keep your cortisol levels elevated, how it is that you could mitigate stress when seems like you’re doing everything that there is to do, you’re doing everything right but your cortisol doesn’t seem to go down. This is a topic that’s not only near and dear to my heart ’cause I spend so much time around like Type A, hard-charging people, and I kind of fall into that category myself sometimes, but it’s also near and dear to my heart because literally this past week, and I’m working on a blog post about this right now for bengreenfieldfitness.com, I had a lot of my blood markers retested and I am pretty close to perfect if I don’t say so myself on my bloods except as has been shown in the past and other blood tests that I’ve done, my cortisol just stays up no matter what.
Well, my guest today is a real expert when it comes to stress and nutritional therapy for things like cortisol. He’s not only written a book on deep sleep called “REM Rehab”, he also has an entire program that I just went through and it’s fantastic, on stress, and that program is called, I’ve got the full title of it here in front of me that I’ll give to you before I give him his official welcome here. But the name of the book is called “Stress Solutions: Hack Your Stress, Calm Your System, And Take Charge Of Your Life”.
So my guest’s name is Evan Brand. I first met Evan down a day Paleo f(x) event in Austin, Texas, where he lives now, where he moved to, and we’re going to talk a little bit about what happened when he moved to Austin and how that may have been a bad thing potentially. And he is a nutritional therapist, he is also a brand new featured coach at Greenfield Fitness Systems where you’re going to be able to work with Evan on things like stress, and sleep, and lifestyle. And you can also access everything that we talk about today at bengreenfieldfitness.com/evan, that’s bengreenfieldfitness.com/EVAN, and you’re going to want to remember that URL because we are going to take the deep dive here into cortisol, and stress management, and all the little underground techniques that Evan has discovered to lower cortisol and stress. So Evan, thanks for coming on, man.
Evan: Hey, Ben. I appreciate it, man. That was an awesome introduction. And yeah, stress is brutal and I’ve pretty much destroyed myself with it, and so I think the best teachers are the ones that struggle first and then come up with the solutions.
Ben: I know. It’s kind of funny. It’s like the people out there who have gone through things themselves and messed themselves up are often the very people that you want to be working with. And it’s kind of ironic ’cause you’d think that well you’d want to kind of work with somebody who seems to have everything figured out and has completely eliminated stress, or better yet has figured out how to hack life so they never get stressed. But I think it’s better to work with someone who’s had to take a serious amount of time in the trenches and really fight this issue themselves, and I know that both you and I have been there. That might be a good place to jump right in here, Evan, is you have an interesting story about what happened when you moved to Austin, Texas and the kind of cortisol bomb that exploded in your body during that time.
Evan: Yeah. And I wasn’t really aware that anything was happening until I kept stepping on the scale and the weight kept going down. I was probably close to 170 pounds when I first moved to Austin, July 2013, and my weight just slowly started sliding down. And for some people that may sound fun, but for me it wasn’t because I wasn’t trying to lose weight and I was still lifting weights, but maybe not as much, maybe I wasn’t eating as much, I just kind of brushed it off and thought, “Oh, well. The stress of moving and all that, it’s just kind of, oh it’s whatever.” And then I kept dropping more and more pounds, and then I ended up close to 140 pounds. So you’re talking 20 or 25 pounds dropped in less than two years. And if that’s not intentional, that’s a lot of weight.
Ben: A lot of people say that, and you hear this I guess more from women, that they’re concerned that cortisol might be causing bloating and weight gain. Do you find or have you discovered in research or anything like that that the one common cause of stress and excess cortisol is actually that type of weight loss that you experienced?
Evan: Yeah. I mean you see both sides. For me, what I figured out, I haven’t actually had bloodwork to verify this but what I’m assuming that’s happened now that I’ve talked with some other people on this is that my cortisol just went out of control in relationship to DHEA. So I’m sure you’ve talked about DHEA, but it’s sort of the antithesis of cortisol. And this guy, Dr. Justin, he’s one of the experts inside of the program and he says that…
Ben: Is that Justin Marchegiani?
Evan: Yes, it is.
Ben: Okay. Yeah. He’s been on our show before, talking about injuries, not cortisol, but yeah. What was it that he said?
Evan: Yeah. Well he just said that you want to have a ratio of 6:1 for cortisol to DHEA. And like I said, I haven’t measured mine with a blood test, but I would assume that mine was way above 6:1, and so I really think that’s what started to eat my results. But yeah, to answer your question, definitely both sides of the picture I’ve seen both sides of the picture for women struggling with weight loss, they can’t lose the weight, or they’re losing too much weight. I mean it depends on the person.
Ben: Yeah. We actually had someone on the podcast last week, an Australian physician who does salivary testing for cortisol and DHEA, and he didn’t actually mention the exact ratios, but that’s interesting to know, that that’s what you found, is 6:1 is what you should be at for DHEA to cortisol to be at that ideal anabolic-catabolic balance.
Evan: Right. Anything over that and you’re headed into catabolic territory. So I’m going to guess mine was 10, 15, 20, 20:1. Who knows.
Ben: Did you get any type of blood cortisol measurements taken at that time?
Evan: No. I haven’t. I haven’t had any bloodwork done since I moved here. I probably should have.
Ben: Yeah. So you were under a great deal of stress. Were you quantifying that in any way or was it all just kind of like the way that you looked, felt, and performed, and what the scale was saying.
Evan: Definitely this second one. So I got engaged too right before I moved down here. So the stress of that, of course eustress for anybody, eustress is stress too. The body kind of registers that the same way, you’re still going to secrete hormones, and things like that, and sort of burn through your reserves with a eustress. So I got engaged, moved down here, got the new job, was still doing the podcast full-time, working full time at Onnit, ended up getting married, had to drive back to Kentucky 15 hours. So I mean it was just a whirlwind of things that were going on, but it just started to take the toll, man, and I felt it. I couldn’t focus, brain fog was there, my sleep, my mind was racing, I was waking up in the middle of the night with heart palpitations, all of these things. And I just let it get out of control and that’s my fault. So that’s kind of why I had to focus on how to fix it because it sucked.
Ben: I had forgotten that you worked at Onnit. ‘Cause I know a lot of our listeners, because Onnit has been a sponsor of this podcast in the past, and I’ve been on, for example, Aubrey Marcus, who’s the CEO of Onnit, I’ve been on his “Warrior Poet” podcast in the past. What do you do at Onnit?
Evan: I don’t work there anymore. But what I did do was just work for Aubrey. I was basically a one-man research and development team. So he knew about my previous history, and just love for herbs, and supplements, and vitamins, and he knew that I had a pretty scientific background, just loving to dig into research studies. And so when I first moved down there, I was just helping fulfill orders, and then he eventually pulled me aside and was like, “Hey, man. I’ve got an opportunity for you. Here’s what it is.” I said, “Absolutely. I would love to do it.” So I just kind of work behind the scenes to make sure things like Alpha BRAIN and the Shroom TECH Immune, to make sure the studies were there, to make sure that if we’re sending people to PubMed studies that it’s actually human studies, that it’s actually the dosage that we use for a particular ingredient. And then I also formulated a couple substances behind the scenes that I don’t know if they’re going to come out or not, I’d be happy to see what happens in the next year or so, but I did create some different formulations for products that may hit the shelves. You never know.
Ben: Nice. Put on your apron and your welding mask and just got to work welding together herbs.
Evan: Pretty much.
Ben: In the Onnit labs. We’ll link to Onnit in the show notes, by the way. They have some really interesting supplements and formulations. I primarily use their fitness gear like their sandbags, and their kettlebells, and stuff like that just because by the time I discovered Onnit, I kind of already had my own supplement regimen just about dialed in. But they’ve got some pretty cool formulations. And that’s kind of related to what I wanted to ask you. ‘Cause I know, and by the way if you’re listening in right now, this podcast is not all about just like the stuff you can go buy and pills you can swallow to lower cortisol. There are in fact a lot of other things that Evan talks about in the stress book and also that we’re going to discuss in this podcast that go above and beyond that for cortisol. And Evan I’m curious, and this is obviously going to segue a little bit, but can you delve into some of the big tactics that you discovered to lower cortisol and stress as you started down this road? ‘Cause I’ve heard you talk about some of them and they’re fascinating.
Evan: Yeah. Well so the first one for me, this is kind of a controversial one but you’re the perfect guy to talk to about this is just dealing with EMF. So on my podcast, I’ve had a guy named, a few guys actually, but of course Jack Kruse has been on there. But more interesting, there’s a guy name Dr. Samuel Milham, and he wrote the book “Dirty Electricity”. Now he’s a medical doctor who, he’s in his 80’s now, but he wrote this book called “Dirty Electricity: The Diseases of Modern Civilization“, and he talked all about how this big stressor that is EMF, and magnetic field specifically is just a huge stressor that’s causing people to get sick. And so I have a whole section where basically you can look at the sum of stress, and there’s a map from the World Health Organization, and it shows Alzheimer’s. Now I’m going to get back to how this relates in a second, but the World Health Organization has this map, and across the map you’re going to see darker sections, and the darker the section, the more rates of Alzheimer’s there is on the planet. And of course in the developed countries where all the technology is, Australia, New Zealand, United States, Canada, and some of Europe. it’s the darkest. So of course there’s going to be many things that are going to play into Alzheimer’s, a poor diet, chronic stress things like that, but something that seems interesting to me is that these are all the places that have cell phone towers, these are all the places that have electricity. And so there’s a couple research papers that I linked to where melatonin is decreased from EMF. And so melatonin…
Ben: Yeah. I saw those studies, you referenced them in your book.
Evan: Yeah. So…
Ben: ‘Cause I wanted to actually make sure that this wasn’t just kind of a smoking gun-type of hypothesis. But it turns out that the stuff has actually been studied, EMF and melatonin particularly.
Evan: Right. And I had to do that for my own sake just because it’s such a touchy subject for people. But I guess just to get to the actionable thing is basically you have to start mitigating EMF if you haven’t focused on it yet. So I mean if you just want to turn off your WiFi at night, that’s a good first start. But I’ve gone as far as even at Onnit, I talked to Aubrey about it and I said, “Hey, man. We need to put some dirty electricity filters in this place.” And so I basically went around with what’s called a trifield meter and measured the magnetic fields, and you do this first to make sure there’s nothing crazy. But if there’s a wiring issue, you’re going to find a big field. But of course if you go near a fuse box, you’re going to put off tons of milligauss there. You don’t want to be sleeping near a fuse box as much as possible. You don’t want any wiring issues. So anyway…
Ben: One of the things that I did in my house that I lived in prior to this one was I actually put a timer on the WiFi. I bought it for like, I think was like 15 bucks on Amazon, you can get one of these little timers that is an electrical outlet timer, and it will disable whatever you have plugged into that outlet at 10 PM and then automatically re-enable it whatever time you specify, like 6 AM, and I actually had my router plugged into that and so it would automatically turn off when I needed it to turn off. And now what I do in my bedroom, I don’t know if you and I have talked about this, Evan, is the one thing that I used to always have plugged in my bedroom even though I had everything else unplugged was my cell phone ’cause I like to have it in airplane mode, playing some nice soothing white noise, or sometimes I’ll do like forest sounds, or rain sounds, and stuff like that while I sleep, but it’s still plugged into the outlet next to my bed. So I bought one of these phone recharger boxes, and I just recharge that box during the day, and then plug my phone into that during the night. So now there’s nothing plugged in at the bedroom.
Evan: So are you saying, is that like an external battery pack?
Ben: Yeah. It’s one of those little external battery packs, yeah. And that produces way less EMF than having something plugged into the wall.
Evan: Yeah. It’s a great idea, yeah. I have one of those two and they’re super helpful, but I kind of jumped around on that topic, but basically what I’m trying to make, I’m trying to make the statement that EMF is one of those things that we’re still kind of waiting for the long term evidence to come in. I mean we’ve already seen that it’s decreasing melatonin, of course melatonin’s not just a sleep hormone, it fights cancer in many different ways, which tons of people are talking about that. But that’s sort of one of the biggest steps that I’ve taken just because even if a lot of your listeners, they’re already going to be pretty advanced in terms of reversing their insulin resistance with diet and things like that, but EMF is kind of the missing picture. And so at the warehouse at Onnit, there’s a cell phone tower right there at the base of the tower, and for some reason, I was the only one, I guess, I didn’t do a full survey, but my brain fog always came on as soon as I got to work. And the second I left, it got better. And I have to attribute it to that cell phone tower. It was right there at the base, and I mean there was 20, 30 different little power systems hooked up to it. So I don’t know how much it was pumping out, but it couldn’t be good for you.
Ben: I grew up under high voltage power lines. Me and my brothers used to be able to chase each other around the house, and when we’d touch each other, we could shock each other. That was the environment I grew up in from the time I was eight until I was about 16 years old was directly underneath these high, high voltage power lines. Looking back now, I wonder how much I screwed myself by growing up in that environment. But it’s pretty scary stuff.
Evan: Yeah. Well it’s definitely stronger for a younger skull ’cause your skull’s not going to be is developed, and especially, I’ve seen a couple, I didn’t put ’em in the book but I’ve seen a couple, I don’t know if they were MRI’s or something, but it was showing like a younger kid putting up a cellphone and it penetrated much deeper than someone who had a full-aged, hardened, and developed skull.
Ben: Yeah. Thinner skulls and more rapidly dividing neuronal cells. That’s actually why I used to think it would be really cool to bring my kids all over the world when they were young, and I brought them to like Chile, and Thailand, and flew ’em all over the US. And now I travel really minimally with my kids, even in terms of like airline radiation, and we drive, like we go see the great Northwest, the area around Seattle, and Portland, and all the cool things that there are to see, Montana, the area that’s around us that we can drive to, but I only fly with them about once a year now just because… And until they’re completely developed, I’ll continue to make that a strategy, just because of what radiation can do to kids.
Evan: Yeah. I think it’s a good idea.
Ben: So you also, you talk, and this fascinates me, this is one of the biggest things you do that fascinates me and something I’ve tried to start implementing more, Shinrin-yoku. Can you explain what that is? Is it Shinrin or Shirin?
Even: I call it Shinrin-yoku. It seems like that’s what it is, but yeah, so that’s just a cool little word that stands for “forest bathing” or the Japanese, it’s kind of translated into taking in the atmosphere of the forest. And I really had to put this in there because I used to work in Kentucky at a place called the Parklands, it’s a 4,000 acre park that’s still under construction, and my job was essentially to maintain and maintenance hiking trails, and so I was out in the forest all day. And my stress response was incredible, my recovery was great, my stress levels were low, and every time I drove back into the city after a work day, I felt my stress come back on. So I knew there was something to it, but I hadn’t seen any research until I started researching for this book. And so, basically Japanese researchers have used this as sort of a therapy. I mean it literally is a therapy, it’s not just something like in the United States where we just go out to the park because it’s fun, they actually use this in clinical settings.
And so there was one study that I put in here where the researchers take salivary cortisol measures, they looked at heart rate variability, which is obviously, this is a good sign of your parasympathetic nervous system if it’s engaged. So they took one group and put them in the forest, and then another group and put them in the city, and they made him each take a walk. And not surprisingly, you had significantly lower salivary cortisol in the forest group, you had an increase in heart rate variability, blood pressure was lower, pulse rate was lower. But also, even more important than that, the NK killer cells, and these anti-cancer proteins, they were increased for more than seven days after time spent in a forest. So I mean if you go…
Ben: Now was that compared to the group that spent the time in the city or was that using these people as like their own relative control groups? Meaning, I guess what I’m asking here is could there have been confounding variables in the city, like electromagnetic pollution, or exposure to immune system assailants, or something like that that simply made the forest a safer place to be, whether or not there were trees or fresh air there, or was it something about like seeing the color green in the actual forest that was making this difference?
Evan: Yeah. You make a good point and it’s sort of a combination of both because there’s another study that kind of goes beyond that where I’m talking about these little, I think they’re called, it’s kind of hard to pronounce, it’s phytoncides, but basically it’s like an airborne plant chemical. And so that’s kind of what you’re picking up, you’re not just picking up the sounds, and the looks of the trees, and things like that, but I mean you’re picking up these little airborne things, of course negative ions, you’re going to be picking up on those too. And so even where they took some guys and they put ’em inside of a hotel room, they use Cypress oil and put it in a humidifier. Now I don’t know why they said humidifier, I don’t know if that means that they’re using a cold air diffuser like what I recommend or not, but they used humidifiers. So I don’t know exactly what that means. But anyway, so they took a couple different groups of guys here and they used Cypress oil, and they just sniffed it. And that was still enough to boost their natural killer cells, and lower their adrenaline and noradrenaline. So I mean even if these guys are in a hotel room sniffing oils or you’re in the forest, no matter how you’re going to get the forest, if it’s in a little bottle or if it’s the real thing, there’s benefits both ways.
Ben: Yeah. And by the way, for anybody, this is fascinating. If anybody wants to see this study, it was a 2009 study in the International Journal of Immunopathology Pharmacology, “Effect Of Phytoncide From Trees On Human Natural Killer Cell Function”. Amazing. Wow. That’s really interesting. So there was this increase in killer cells, but they also tested salivary cortisol, huh?
Evan: Yeah. Which is great ’cause that’s sort of kind of what you wanted to focus on, and I wasn’t surprised to see it go lower. I mean I felt like my muscle gains, they were much easier when I was in the forest 40 hours a week. When I was in an office all day, it was so hard to put on weight, man. I could eat a pound of bison a day and two pounds of broccoli, and even some white rice to try to add in some more carbs and things like that, and it was nearly impossible. And it’s still been impossible for the last, I mean I’m still here in Austin now, it’s still been tough to get my strength back.
Ben: Yeah. Now for people who may not have access to a forest, what about plants? I ask this question because my wife, I asked her if she could do an article for our Inner Circle on improving the oxygen availability and fresh air in households, and the inspiration for this came from a spa that we visited when we were in Israel where they had all these different plants around the spa. And they purportedly said that that would increase oxygen, and improve your oxygenation, and decrease free radicals while we were there. And we came home and my wife did some research and found that NASA has published all these studies on a variety, there’s like 12 different plants that directly increase the amount of oxygen that is available to you in the air and decrease pollution. She actually, I tried to avoid looking at the dollar signs on the bill, but she went out shopping, and came back with all these different plants, and just filled our house with, she found as many plants as she could from this NASA study and put them all over our house. And I’m curious if that could potentially also be having an effect not just on oxygen but on cortisol. Have you seen anything that looks into what happens if you’re unable to get into the forest but you kind of bring the forest to you?
Evan: Well, yeah. I mean that hotel study says it right there. I mean the guys who were using Cyprus oil, so of course this is an essential oil, so it’s going to be stronger than plants, it’s going to be you know an extract of course. But I would assume you’d have the same thing, but I haven’t seen any specific thing that says having plants inside is going to lower cortisol. I haven’t seen that directly, but I mean,man, it’s probably no question. I have a bamboo palm myself, I have a regular bamboo here, I also have a passion flower vine that I’m trying to grow. I don’t know if it’s going to flower out, but I kind of wanted to let it flower out and try to make my own tinctures, but it hasn’t flowered yet. Probably not enough sunshine. But yeah, people could get the peace lily too, we had a huge one of those at the office and I loved it, and it pulls out this little white flower, it’s kind of beautiful, and it’s got like a little comb on the inside of the flower, it’s real pretty. But yeah, I mean there’s tons of plants that people can have and I definitely recommend that. And a HEPA air filter just trying to make your indoor air quality clean ’cause I mean that’s an invisible stressor. There’s the visible stressor of traffic and pollution, but there’s the invisible ones inside your home too.
Ben: Interesting. By the way, I’ll put a link for those of you who want in show notes over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/evan. I’ll put a link to this study on the Cypress oil and the natural killer cells that Evan talked about, and I’ll also link to this NASA clean air project study. So in addition to some of those steps as well as making sure to take care of the air in your home, and that’s a great point, Evan, is making sure that you have some kind of a HEPA air filter. I actually put one in the central filter of my home, so all the filters go through this HEPA air filter. In addition to those type of strategies, another thing that you talk about in the book that I think also is more of like an underground method or things that people don’t talk about a lot is EFT. Can you explain how you discovered this and what it is?
Evan: Definitely. Yeah, I discovered it through Dr. Mercola. I remember signing up for his newsletter and he always uses these really strongly worded headlines. It was like, “You’re Going To Go Crazy If You Don’t Do This” or something.
Ben: Because I do a lot of those same things that I’m writing articles or titling podcasts or whatever, in this day and age when you have literally millions of articles hitting the internet every day, you almost have to write a headline that is attention grabbing, or in some way silly, or controversial, or occasionally even just blown out of proportion just to even get people to stop and read. It’s not quite fair, but you almost have to do that.
Evan: Yeah. I mean luckily we have people with attention spans that are hanging into this podcast. But I mean for me, article writing and headline writing, it’s a huge issue. But yeah, so anyway I found it through Dr. Mercola, and this guy named Gary Craig is the guy who basically proposed this idea back in the 80’s, but EFT is sort of a combination of different interventions. So you’re basically tapping on different points, and I’m sure people of heard of chakras, and acupressure points, and things like that. It sort of hits on those same ideas, but EFT is called the Emotional Freedom Technique, and this is super helpful, I actually did this because you were on a panel that I created at Paleo f(x) for hacking stress.
Ben: I remember that.
Evan: And that was a great time, by the way. But I actually did a little round of EFT right before we went on stage just to kind of calm my nerves a little bit. And of course there are studies about showing a 58% decrease in anxiety, a 49% decrease in depression, and a 24% decrease in cortisol. And this is from EFT. And they had another group of people that were doing just regular psychotherapy, and they only saw like a 14% drop in cortisol. So I mean EFT is super helpful from a scientific level. But if you’re on a school bus or you’re in traffic, you can do this any time. You can do it with one or two hands, but essentially what you do is you use your fingertips and you’re going to be tapping. You tap about seven times is kind of my favorite number, and you can tap on top of your head, and then you move down, you tap on your eyebrow, you tap on the outside of your eye bone, you tap under your eye bone. I’m doing it now as I speak. You tap right under your nose on the bone there seven times, you tap on your chin seven times there.
Ben: I’m trying it too as you’re talking.
Evan: Okay. So collarbone, seven times there, down on your side like you’re monkey, ooh-ooh, down on the sides, seven times there.
Ben: Yeah. Underneath your armpit.
Evan: Yeah. Underneath your armpit. And then your wrist, tap your wrists together.
Ben: You tap your wrist together? You don’t like use a finger to tap on wrist? You just take the wrist and tap them together?
Evan: Yes. Tap both wrists together on the inside, and now you’re going to say an affirmation. So mine at the time was, “Even though I’m nervous about going on stage, I deeply love and accept myself.”
Evan: And that is enough. Most people will feel a cognitive shift in the first round. And if you do, that’s great, do it again. Do it a second time, do it a third time. Often times, you can feel a some sort of shift where I mean almost like you can breathe, like I feel like I can breathe better just after doing that one little round right now, and you could do it again and kind of amplify the effect. So if anybody’s dealing with sort of, I don’t know, a bad boss, or you have to go into a meeting, or you’re going to go on stage, or even for you, Ben, if you’re going to go do something intense, you seem to keep it pretty chill, but if you feel like now is a good time, do it and see what happens. I mean you may be able to shave points off your race times because you can quell the sort of pre-race excitement even if it’s not anxiety. So I mean this is something that is just really helpful and adding the affirmation is sort of the golden key. I mean you can simply just tap like if you’re in a situation where you’re embarrassed and you don’t want to be seen, you can still say the affirmation in your head. But I like to say it out loud, and you have to convince yourself even if you don’t believe it, even if you don’t love and accept yourself, that’s sort of the best second part of the affirmation. Even if you don’t believe that, just say it, and eventually your body is going to sort of feel that you do believe that.
Ben: Okay. So it’s top of the head, above the eyebrows, outside the eyebrows, underneath the eyes?
Evan: Underneath the eye bone.
Ben: Below the nose bone.
Ben: Below the chin, or on the chin bone?
Evan: Yeah. Right in the middle of the chin.
Ben: Got it. Both clavicles?
Evan: Yeah. Collar bones.
Ben: Or collar bones. Underneath the armpits, and then the wrists, and then you say, did you say top the head too right? I said the top of the head.
Evan: Yeah. Top of the head’s the first.
Ben: Okay. Gotcha. And then you say your affirmation. You can go through that a series of times?
Evan: Yeah. You could do it probably two to three times. I mean you could do this for if you’re depressed, you could do this for your fear, and fear like, “Even though I’m scared right now, I deeply and completely accept myself,” or “I deeply and completely love myself,” and just kind of insert your preferred or your current emotion that you’re dealing with.
Ben: Nice. Even though I have to go over to my mother-in-law’s for dinner, I deeply and completely accept myself. Is there a good book on EFT?
Evan: I don’t have any recommendations on that. I just send people to eft.mercola.com. He has tons of videos, and articles, and just a lot greater advice than we could fit in this podcast time.
Ben: Gotcha. I’ll hunt that down and put a link in it in the show notes for folks on this. It’s also called tapping, right?
Evan: Yeah. “The Tapping Solution”. I think that is actually a book or a documentary, one of the two.
Ben: “The Tapping Solution”. Okay. Got it. So you talk about EFT and I know you get into it in more detail in your book on stress, so that’d be another resource for folks, and I’ll put a link. Evan has a book on stress and he also has a book called “REM Rehab” on sleep. Really easy to read PDFs. I think that folks should grab those as well. But anyways, the other thing I wanted to ask you about and you’ve touched on this a little bit, Evan, about your history and interest in herbs and supplements, you mentioned how you have passion flower and peace lily as two plants in your home. What are some herbs that people aren’t talking about so much when it comes to controlling cortisol, things that you think are really effective but that tend to fly under the radar?
Evan: I would say scullcap is a pretty cool one. And I first found out about scullcap because there’s a lot of herbal smoking blends, I’ve seen those, that have damiana leaf and scullcap in ’em. I haven’t actually tried ’em out, but that’s sort of my first introduction to the words.
Ben: What do you mean smoking blends?
Evan: So you can use a vaporizer or you could just simply smoke a pipe, I don’t know, you may be even able to roll like a joint of an herbal smoking blend. But for military people that want to chill out and they can’t be tested positive for cannabis, things like that, they can go and smoke relaxing herbal blends. There’s tons of them out there.
Ben: Okay, this sounds like, I’ve used this stuff before, I don’t know if you’ve heard of this, Evan, it’s from this company called VaporBoost, and I have one of these vaporizers and it is passion flower, melatonin, l-theanine, and there’s one other in there that I’m blanking on now. And you smoke it, well you don’t really smoke it, you vaporize it and it gets absorbed through the mucous membranes in your mouth. And you’re saying that you would use something like skull cap in a similar manner?
Evan: Yeah. I haven’t heard of that. That must be a liquid, right?
Ben: This is a liquid. You add it to a vaporizer like an e-cigarette, and the one that I use is called Sweet Dreams. And it’s got this really kind of nice, relaxing smell, but I hadn’t heard of using scullcap before. Can you get scullcap in like a liquid? Do you know? Or is that always in kind of like a dry herb or a capsule?
Evan: Yeah. I’ve always seen in dry herbs. I mean some of these, that’s pretty funny. I’m picturing you just with blue blockers on in your bed just hitting a vape pen, but…
Ben: That’s funny ’cause I have a video on YouTube of me sitting in bed, wearing my blue blockers, hitting a vape pen.
Evan: Oh, god. But yeah, I mean I’ve only seen it in like little Ziplocs that you buy at the smoke shop. It’s sort of shady, but it’s like a little smoking blend. But scullcap is something that I would probably just take in capsule form, but I just put that recommendation in there under the short-term stress busters because it is something that affects basically your GABA receptors, and so you don’t want to down regulate them over a long term. So that’s one of the short-term solutions. But also California poppy. I have a tincture of California poppy that’s pretty awesome. If my wife or I, if we start just getting anxious or we can’t sleep and the other solutions aren’t working out, I’ll just go pop a little tincture of California poppy and that…
Ben: Does that work like an opioid would?
Evan: Yeah. Pretty much. I mean it’s definitely related to the opium poppy. It’s a relative.
Ben: One of the concerns about opioids is their addictive potential. Are you concerned about that at all with something like California poppy?
Evan: I definitely am. Which is why I put this under the category of short-term stress busters only. And I put in bold, this is safe for short-term and acute and cycled use only. Even things like valerian or cava, I know there’s some cava bars popping up, Phenibut, I had. We can go into Phenibut. I got a pretty funny story about that if you would…
Ben: I’d like to hear about that after, I want to hear about what you feel like after you use the California poppy. And I’d love to talk about Phenibut because that’s, are you familiar with Dave Asprey and the whole Bulletproof exec movement/website? He has a new supplement called GABAwave, and he sent some to me, and I’ve used it once and it’s like this little tincture that you put sublingually and has like this berry-like taste to it, but it has this big glaring label on it, I don’t remember the exact words so I’m hoping I don’t do injustice, but it says something like, “Don’t use this any more than three times per week,” or something to that effect. But finish talking about California poppy and then I’d like to hear your opinion on this Phenibut stuff, which is what that GABAwave is.
Evan: Yes, definitely. So California poppy, I take a little tincture of it. There’s actually a pretty cool local market called Lucky’s Market where I picked it up from, and it’s just an organic California poppy tincture, and you don’t feel altered cognitively, you just feel a little bit sedated physically. So if anyone’s had to have their wisdom teeth out and they’ve had to take the pain pills and things like that and you just feel sort of like physically a little bit heavier, that’s sort of the best way I can describe it. And that’s because I’m kind of an experimenting guy like yourself and I like to take a little bit more than prescribed just to see what happens, and I just felt a little bit more kind of sedated and heavy, but it’s definitely something that’s good for nervous tension and more stress anxiety. There’s so many forms of stress, but this is sort of the anxious form of stress that I recommend that for.
Ben: Okay. Gotcha. Interesting. So California poppy and you use that in like a tincture. Sparingly.
Evan: Very sparingly.
Ben: Okay. And then what’s your opinion on this Phenibut?
Evan: It’s a very scary substance.
Evan: Yes. And so if we have a couple minutes, I’ll tell a pretty good but a few minute long story.
Ben: Okay. Fire away. We’ve got time.
Ben: Okay. Great. So I used to work at Lexus, the car dealership, and there was a guy there that was always happy and I could not figure out why. And this was probably four or five years ago now. And he said, “Oh, it’s ’cause I take Phenibut.” I’m like, “What’s Phenibut?” And he’s like, “Oh, I’ll make you some right now, man. Don’t even ask questions.” So he makes me a little cup of it and it’s some powder, and I look it up on my phone real quick just to make sure it’s nothing crazy. And I see that in Russia it is a prescription. And I’m like, “Wow. This is crazy. Is this guy buying this off the black market or what?” But, no. In the United States, it’s an over the counter supplement or a vitamin, you commonly see it on nootropic websites. So whatever, I take it, and my stress level is gone, my endurance is extremely long, I’m working for 10 hours helping clean up cars and just tons of different random tasks, and usually I was exhausted at the end of the day. By the end of the day, I had zero fatigue, my colors were enhanced, all the cars’ paint jobs looked much more beautiful, people looked prettier, I was much more sociable, I mean I’m a pretty social dude but I was just talking everybody’s ear off, the music in the car even sounded better, man. I’m telling you, like this is something that you could take before a concert and the music is going to be like five times better. The bass was more clear, the treble was more clear.
I mean it’s a very potent substance and why it’s so risky is because it crosses the blood-brain barrier so easy. It’s basically a GABA molecule, which is supposed to be too big to fit through the blood-brain barrier if you have a solid barrier, but you add a phenyl group to it, phenyl-GABA, also known as Phenibut, and it sneaks right in. So this is why it’s so effective. But anyway, my friend, I end up finding out that he’s addicted to the stuff. He takes six grams per day. And for frame of reference, the normal dose is maybe 400, 500 milligrams max, and this guy’s taking six grams per day. He can’t sleep without it. And if his stash is starting to get low, he has to make sure that his UPS delivery is perfectly synchronized so that by the time he runs out of this other batch, he’s got a new batch at the door because he’s going to be having panic attacks, and having cold sweats, and shaking in the bed, and he can’t sleep.
So that’s the story of Phenibut, and it’s very, very, very, I don’t even know, I don’t want to call it fun ’cause I don’t want everybody to go out and run, and start popping it, but it’s a very interesting supplement and the perception shifted that you can experience from it is very, very, what do you call that, Ben? I don’t know what you call it. It’s sort of like going for the apple in the Garden of Eden? It’s very tempting. And once you taste it and you get a feel for how it actually affects you, you just want to take it the next day ’cause you feel so good and you’re so social. So it’s something that you’re going to see a lot on social anxiety forum websites and things like that, and it’s highly beneficial for people that just, they can’t talk with others, but also it’s one of those very risky, very short-term only supplements. But I have another fun story, but I don’t want to take up too much of your time.
Ben: No, tell it. Now I’m intrigued.
Evan: Okay. So my dad, he was having some brain difficulties, he just wanted to focus a little bit better at work, and so I turned him on to Peracetam, which of course is one of the oldest and most researched nootropics for cognitive enhancement. And I said, “Well cool, dad. Now that you know about Peracetam, let’s take some Phenibut together,” ’cause we’re going to go to this place called Huber’s, which is a winery in Indiana. And so we took some Phenibut, and we hit the road, and we were going there for a wine tasting. And so anytime you take any GABA antagonist and you mix it with alcohol, the effects are intensified like 5 to 10 times. So that’s for cava, anything that hits on the GABA receptors. So we start doing this wine tasting and it’s hilarious. So he’s taking just a little sip, I’m going to struggle not to laugh during this. So he’s just taking his little sips of wine, and by the end of it, I mean he just has this permagrin like Santa Claus.
So we walk out of the barn and we’re headed back to the little office where you can get some cheese, and sausage plates, and things like that, and my dad’s just like, “Evan,” he’s like, “This is hitting me hard.” And I was like, “Dad, I forgot to tell you, you’ve got to go easy on the wine ’cause alcohol and Phenibut don’t mix.” And it made for just a hilarous day. I mean we bonded so much, he was so sociable, he opened up and was telling all these stories, and, oh man, we were just dying of laughter all day. It was a memorable experience. And of course there’s no long term damage for that, but you can take it really too far really quickly and he would not be able to drive probably if he had taken any more wine.
Ben: Do you know if it’s metabolized by the liver at all? Is there any concern there? ‘Cause that’s like the concern with something like valium for example, is not just the addictive potential and its ability to create neurotransmitter imbalances, but also the fact that it’s tough on the liver. Do you know anything about that in relation to Phenibut?
Evan: I haven’t seen any studies on it, but I haven’t looked for ’em either. But I do also mention that there was a guy who was addicted to Phenibut, and basically they had to pull him off of Phenibut and put him on Baclofen, and I actually had to take Baclofen in my past when I injured my back, my L4, L5, I was taking Baclofen, so I was very familiar with the effects of that, which is another GABA antagonist. And so basically Phenibut is so powerful that it’s a vitamin and you can buy it right now on Amazon, it’s more powerful than Baclofen, which is a prescription muscle relaxer that you have to get from your doctor, and they had to take him off of Phenibut and put him on Baclofen to taper him off and reduce his addictions. So I mean this stuff is highly, highly dangerous in my opinion. But I still have some in my supplement stash…
Ben: Right. It’s kind of, again what was your term for using things sparingly? You called it temporary stress reducers?
Evan: Yeah. I just call it just an acute and cycled supplementation use only. So like if you are going to go to a concert once a month or once every six months, this would be something that is going to enhance your experience and you’re not going to have as bad of a hangover as you would with alcohol. So if you’re going to go to a party, you could take a couple hundred milligrams of Phenibut as opposed to just getting trashed on alcohol.
Ben: Wow. Interesting. That’s a cool little hack. Not that I want to overuse the word “hack” which we tend overuse anyways on this show, but that is interesting. I may have to try that at some point. And hope I don’t fall asleep with my face on the table. Speaking of which, I also wanted to ask you, I know we’re starting to run short on time here, but I want to ask you about marijuana. It’s becoming legalized in so many places. It’s legal where I live in Washington State, it’s obviously legal in Colorado, and there are multiple other states enacting marijuana legalization, and a lot of people using that for stress, for anxiety, whether by vaporizing it, or smoking it, or using edibles. Do you have any opinion on the use of marijuana for cortisol, or do you know of any direct links between like marijuana use and salivary cortisol levels, or anything like that?
Evan: Specifically on that, no I don’t. I haven’t seen anything. Of course you hear the joke about guys that smoke get man boobs, but I think that’s more of the dietary aspect.
Ben: Right. The cannabinoid induced munchies.
Evan: Right. So I really don’t think that there’s a direct link there, but I haven’t seen it either. So we’ll just leave it at that. But I think it’s a great tool. However, I haven’t been able to find anything, I’m kind of a guy where I like to have a specific study that talks about this, but sort of in the research, it’s kind of…
Ben: Actually, here we go Evan. I just checked on PubMed. Sorry to interrupt you.
Evan: Yeah, go ahead.
Ben: 2009, it looks like there was a study in The Journal of Psychopharmacology that looked specifically at tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, and it looks like they hypothesized that it would produce dose related increases in plasma cortisol levels, and decreases in plasma prolactin levels which actually wouldn’t be all that great for your testosterone. But their results were, oh, it looks like THC raised plasma cortisol levels. That’s really interesting.
Evan: Did it say about how much?
Ben: Well, it probably would if I were to delve in and read this entire study, which would probably be bad podcasting. What I would be interested to see though is what the CBD component does. Because I do happen to have a friend who’s in the CBD oil industry, or the cannabidiol, not like the psychoactive THC component, but the more, what would be considered the more relaxing, anti-inflammatory CBD component. And I know that that has a beneficial effect on stress, on inflammation, that it is good for relaxation without inducing the psychoactivity. It would be interesting to see an actual study on the CBD oil rather than just the THC, you know what I’m saying?
Evan: Yeah. And that’s exactly what I was going to say too is that if you’re going to be doing an edible or you’re actually smoking cannabis flowers, the buds itself, then that’s something that’s beneficial for the short-term. But if it’s going to be raising cortisol, that’s probably something you don’t want to be doing every day. But I also have a little bottle of the CBD drops, and I’ll keep those with me, and especially if I’m going to go on the airplane, I’ll take a full dropper-full of CBD drops, just the pure cannabidiol, and that’s super effective for stress and anxiety, and you’re not going to be getting obliterated because it’s not going to have THC. But that’s just another option for people. I think it’s the Dixie Botanicals, they make probably some of the best stuff.
Ben: Yeah. Interesting. When you think about it, anything that has a strong anti-inflammatory or immunosuppressive effect, I guess when you look at it something they say like CBD has that effect, they say the same thing about curcumin, and you think about the fact that when you want to decrease inflammation in a joint for example, you would get a cortisone injection, you would get like an injection of a derivative of cortisol. It does kind of make sense that potentially something that acts in an anti-inflammatory way could actually cause a slight rise in cortisol. I guess the question is is that rise in cortisol anything significant compared to what you’d get from being overtrained, or overreach with your training, or being extremely stressed out, or something like that because it’s not, we’re not saying all cortisol is bad, correct?
Evan: Definitely. Yeah. And that was something that you kind of hinted at in the notes. You were asking about if you have super high cortisol in the morning. Well I’d rather you have high cortisol in the morning than high cortisol at night. And hopefully you do have relatively normal, or maybe even slightly high cortisol in the morning so you can get up and get your stuff done. Commonly people are going to have just poor cortisol in the morning and they’re dragging to get it going. I guess the last thing on cannabis, THC, CBD in general, whatever your choices, any of those are going to be a far safer choice every single day as opposed to someone taking valium, lorazepam, some of these more addicting sort of, whether it’s an anti-depressant, whether it’s an anti-anxiety medication, these are always safer. And if anybody hasn’t seen Dr. Sanjay Gupta, he’s got two documentaries now called “Weed” and “Weed 2” where he’s documented a couple kids, several kids actually, where they’re having hundreds of seizures per day and they get put on a very highly concentrated CBD, so no THC but a highly concentrated form of CBD oil, and they’ve gone from hundreds of seizures a day to like one or two seizures a day. So in my opinion and what I hope to see is that cannabis becomes one of the number one medicines on the planet like it was in the 1800s before Big Pharma came along.
Ben: Yeah. And the problem right now, and I know don’t want to turn this into a full-on CBD podcast, but most of the oils and capsules out there, pretty much all of them on the market, if you look at the absorbability, it’s extremely, extremely low. When you have like a CBD oil especially in the absence of like the THC component, which is not good for kids, I mean like kids can’t use it, and athlete’s can’t use it, and so that’s one of the big issues. And really one of the big, I guess you would almost say like market potentials here from a supplementation standpoint, would be some way to make CBD oil more absorbable because it’s almost like, what’s another good example here, curcumin would be another example. Most of the currcumin that’s out there, even though it’s a great molecule, it’s really good for inflammation, and it’s really good for your stomach for example, it’s not very well-absorbed, curcumin isn’t, and that’s another one that there’s lots of good things to say about it from a molecular standpoint, but once you put it in the human gut, there are some pretty significant absorbability issues. So yeah, it’s going to be interesting to see where this entire industry goes in the next 10 years as things become more legal and as the ability to research it becomes a little bit more PC and mainstream.
So Evan, you are a nutritional therapist. What does that mean? Can just anybody be a nutritional therapist? What did you have to do to become a nutritional therapist?
Evan: Yeah. So I’m still in the process of getting my official credentials for it, but it’s through a schooling called the Nutritional Therapy Association. But I’ve been doing what I consider nutritional therapy on my own long before I started this schooling process for a few years. But I can officially represent this title here in just a couple months. And basically it’s sort of focused on like a Weston A. Price-style foundational diet where you’re going to make sure that you have your blood sugar in check, you’re going to make sure that you have plenty of all of your minerals, that’s a kind of a big component of it, making sure you’re getting all your micronutrients, your vitamins, making sure that you’re just getting a good foundation. And I’m sure you’ve talked about Dr. Weston A. Price before, but just some of the spark notes of him. He basically was a dentist who travelled the world and discovered that there is no one primal, or paleo, or whatever diet. There’s so many different diets out there depending on what part of the planet you live in and what resources are there, but that there were some commonalities and that there was healthy animal protein in every diet. He never found a healthy vegan culture. So that sort of message in his teachings are sort of the foundation of the program. And basically there’s a second half of it that’s all about functional evaluation. So I could lay you down and palpate some different points, and check out your HCL point. You have an HCL point that’s on your rib. So if you reach down…
Ben: You mean hydrochloric acid.
Evan: Yes. Your hydrochloric acid point. So you can basically test for the status of your HCL function by, you basically reach down where your sternum is and sort of on your rib, on your low, right rib bone there, you can press there. Of course it’s hard to do on yourself, but if you’re going to detect sensitivities there, that means something’s off and someone may have a low stomach acid for example. So that’s just like one of the functional evaluation things that I can do. And then I can also check your different points around your belly button and test for your small intestine, check out, see how your liver’s doing, if I kind of get up in that area, your liver, gallbladder. So it’s sort of, I don’t know exactly how you would classify that, but I love the dualistic nature where I can do the nutrition stuff, but then if I see people in person, which I’d still currently do here in Austin, that I can do the physical part of it too.
Ben: Okay. And you also work with people like via Skype, via phone, that type of thing?
Evan: Yeah. Definitely. And that’s probably 90% of what I do.
Ben: Okay. Gotcha. Well, like I mentioned in the introduction, based on the discussions that we’ve had in the past, Evan, and me being impressed with your holistic approach to nutrition, and to stress, and to lifestyle management, you’re one of the coaches that we have available for people to work with through Greenfield Fitness Systems now. So at the time that you’re listing to this podcast when it comes out, you are going to be able to find Evan over at Greenfield Fitness Systems. And you can get over there, and you can also access Evan’s book, “REM Rehab” on sleep, his “Stress Solution” book which actually has way more than we even got a chance to talk about today when it comes to stress, the studies that we discussed today, the documentary on weed, “The Tapping Solution” book, I’ll link to all of this stuff over in the show notes. So you just go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/evan, that’s bengreenfieldfitness.com/EVAN, and you’ll be able to access all of that so that you too can go out and get overdosed on Phenibut, and slam a bottle of wine, and see what happens. So if you learned one thing today, there you go. So Evan, thanks so much for coming on the call, man.
Evan: Yeah. Definitely, Ben. Thanks, man. And you’re one of the guys, the few guys who I would love to spend like two or three hours on this podcast. I felt like an hour is just not enough, man. We have way too much stuff to talk about.
Ben: Yeah. Well let’s smoke some weed, and have some GABAwave, and do that sometime. Alright. Well we should probably stop there before this thing spirals out of control and the feds knock down our doors. So folks, this is Ben Greenfield and Evan Brand signing out from bengreenfieldfitness.com/evan. Check out the show notes. Have a healthy week and remember not to stress out too much. Later.
The nefarious, notorious hormone cortisol is a molecule that is near and dear to my heart. Both myself and many of the athletes I’ve worked with have struggled with high blood and salivary cortisol levels no matter what we do to try and control it or lower it.
So in today’s podcast, myself and my guest Evan Brand – a Nutritional Therapist at Greenfield Fitness Systems – take a deep dive into underground, little-known methods to lower cortisol levels, including methods I’ve never talked about before on the podcast or in my books and articles.
In this discussion, you’ll learn about:
-The enormous cortisol bomb that exploded inside Evan’s body when he moved to Austin, Texas…
-The ratio of cortisol-to-DHEA that would be ideal…
-Why I rarely bring my kids on airplanes anymore…
-How you can use Shinrin-yoku, A.K.A. “forest bathing” to decrease stress and cortisol…
Get The Low Carb Athlete – 100% Free!Eliminate fatigue and unlock the secrets of low-carb success. Sign up now for instant access to the book!
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-The concept of EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) to lower cortisol…
-Evan’s crazy story of phenibut, and whether you should actually use phenibut…
-Where marijuana fits in…
-And much more!
Resources we discuss during this episode:
-The Tapping Solution Book for EFT
–VaporBoost Sweet Dreams
–The Nutritional Therapy Association