[00:01:33] Podcast Sponsors
[00:04:03] Guest Introduction
[00:05:42] Water Fasting
[00:10:05] Losing Over 50 Pounds in A Year
[00:19:10] Weight Loss Biohacks / Technologies
[00:24:08] Balancing Multiple Business and Raising Six Kids
[00:31:48] Testing and Researching Info
[00:35:43] Podcast Sponsors
[00:39:00] Problems with Your So-Called “Healthy” Toothpaste
[00:45:01] Our Household Products
[00:51:54] Wellnesse's Future Products
[01:02:49] Up and Coming Health Trends For 2020 And Beyond
[01:14:20] Closing the Podcast
[01:15:37] End of Podcast
Ben: On this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast.
Katie: Rage therapy was interesting because I don't yell and they finally got me to yell, and it was like all these emotions came out. I lost my voice from yelling and I shook then too, just like of actually having felt all of those years of anger and hurt and emotion come out. Whereas at home, I was trying to manage eventually all eight of our schedules and everything involving the household, and the children, and school, and their emotional health all in my head, which meant I had constant open loops and things always felt through the crack and I felt like it all fell on me.
Ben: Health, performance, nutrition, longevity, ancestral living, biohacking, and much more. My name is Ben Greenfield. Welcome to the show.
Alright, folks. I got a chance to sit down with my friend Katie today, Katie, the Wellness Mama, a wealth of knowledge on all things holistic wellness. She's even just launched this new company with these wonderful toothpastes and shampoos and conditioners called Wellnesse, which I'm probably mispronouncing as I did multiple times during this podcast because it's spelled with E, like Wellnesse. Anyways though, Katie is amazing and we had a great discussion about weight loss and home care products and trauma. We went all over the place. So, I think you'll really dig today's show, and Katie is just a really special person.
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Alright, folks. As promised, I have on the show today a super mom, a superwoman. She has six children and she also, at the same time that she's juggling, educating those six children and being a doula, a speed-reader, baseball lover, a scuba diver, and the owner of multiple companies, as well as an investor in health and fitness. She has one of the most popular websites on all of the internets in the realm of health and wellness. She is known as the Wellness Mama. You've probably been to her website before at wellnessmama.com. And her name is Katie Wells. She also just launched a brand new personal care product company, which I'm super stoked about. Hopefully, we get a chance to talk about a little bit of that in today's show as well. And as I just learned as we were chatting before we started today's show, she's just began a water fast to bring in the New Year. So, everything that we talk about you can find at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/wellnessmama. That's BenGreenfieldFitness.com/wellnessmama.
Katie, welcome to the show, and how's that tasty water treating you?
Katie: Thanks so much for having me, Ben. It's so much fun always to chat with you and it's good. I think I've broken into the ketosis phase of water fasting. So, at least my brain is on, even though my stomach is a little hungry, but it's actually not too bad.
Ben: Alright, so walk me through this. Why are you doing a water fast?
Katie: It's become a regular part of my life over the last several years. And I first–doing research on alternative cancer therapies and how they were using fasting both as a complementary to traditional cancer treatments like chemo, and then also on its own, and just really delving into the research about autophagy and everything that goes along with water fasting and realizing that every major religion includes some form of fasting. And so, I just really started looking into the research, started very slow doing just basically time-restricted eating, and then eventually 24-hour water fast and 3-day water fast. And now once a year, I do a 10-day water fast at the beginning of the year and it has a lot of physical benefits that we can definitely talk about.
For me, it's really the mental benefits more than anything. I feel like anytime you take away so much of the normal part of your day, it's a good reminder and a mental reset. I also, during this time, reread “Man's Search for Meaning from Victor Frankl” and “The Four Agreements,” and just as a mental way to start the year with gratitude and realizing how much we have and how grateful we should be for everything in our lives.
Ben: Yeah. There's nothing like taking away food to wind up being more grateful for food, although you're going to have to figure out the water peace. I don't know how you're going to hack being grateful for water with as much water as you're drinking now. It's the dry fast is what you do if you weren't doing water, right?
Katie: Yeah. The longest I've done dry fast is 24 hours. I'm a little bit scared of anything longer than that. I know people do it for much longer. I just haven't tried it.
Ben: Yeah. But a lot of people will do that for SIFO or for fungal issues just because the bacteria or the fungus tend to thrive in a wet environment, and dry fasting is a strategy some folks in the alternative health sector will use for that. I actually am curious, you mentioned some other benefits of water fasting and why you chose to do it, what are some of the things that you think are the most beneficial from a health standpoint for water fasting?
Katie: Yeah. So, I think it depends on the length of the fast to some degree. There's some studies that look at even as short as a three-day water fast. So, 72 hours can have a really profound impact on the gut when they measure gut health before and after. And probably, they are the idea just being you're giving your gut a rest and letting it have time to kind of replenish itself. Beyond that, I think five days is another benchmark where I've seen the studies show that it increases autophagy in the body, there are some benefits related to age-induced inflammation and lowering that, and also looking at oxidative damage before and after.
For me, I had nodules on my thyroid when I had Hashimoto's, and so I was trying to actively get rid of those and used fasting as part of that protocol. There's immune benefits also in that five to seven-day range and lowering NF-κB activation and a lot of stuff beyond there. But I think really the big benefits for me go down to reducing inflammation and oxidative damage, which that's correlated to so many health problems.
Ben: Yeah. And do you get concerned at all–just from a female standpoint, you're talking about how you've done some of these longer fasts, how you introduced, I think you said a fasting-mimicking diet, and I wasn't sure if you said intermittent fasting as well, but there's a lot of chatter in the health circles right now about it, especially for active females, whether or not the longer fasting period, particularly going longer than about 16 hours could be deleterious to fertility or especially when done frequently, LH, FSH, hormone production, et cetera. Is that something you're concerned about or that you test and track it all or have looked into?
Katie: Absolutely. Really, I tested it really extensively over the last three years of doing this. And I think the research is divided. Definitely, it seems like a controversial thing. There are sources that say women really should never fast longer than 12 hours or 16 hours, and then others that say women can do it safely as long as they are watching their hormones. I think like so many things in health, it really is a very personalized thing. And so, I would say as women especially, we do need to be really careful of testing for this and making sure our hormones are not taking a hit.
But I test before, during, and after every fast, and I'm working with a doctor on that. It's not something I would encourage or do recklessly at all. It definitely can mess up your hormones. For me, I've noticed only positive benefits from it, but I did start slow. I didn't jump into a 10-day water fast and I made sure my body was handling it as I went. Like you said, I have six kids. I'm not in the phase of trying to get pregnant right now, so I would definitely approach that differently if that was something that was on my horizon right now.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. That makes sense. And I do want to get into your children as well and how you happen to manage all that. But staying on the fasting and weight loss journey piece of things, you've actually lost a remarkable amount of weight in the past year, haven't you?
Katie: I have, and I actually get over 50 pounds now as of last week.
Ben: Wow. Okay. So, get into your strategies for that because we have time. What has been some of the biggest ones for you?
Katie: Yeah. It's interesting. It'll probably actually get relatively personal if that's okay to be put on your show.
Ben: Yeah. No, it's fine.
Katie: In some ways, I feel like my weight is something I have fought pretty much my entire adult life–looking at my genes and knowing my family history, it's not really surprising that that's something I would have really struggled with, and then also having thyroid disease hit, and having six pregnancies, those were all factors that made it something that I had battled for a long time. The interesting thing is I always discounted the mental and emotional side of things figuring like I don't need emotions and I can just–I'll deal with that later and focus on the physical side and the research because that's just where my brain goes.
The irony is I feel like I fought my body for so, so long and ate like, by the book, spreadsheet tracked perfectly clean diet. I was exercising. I was following all these strategies. I had tried pretty much every protocol by every expert out there, and it wasn't until this past year when I was willing to actually go deep and deal with the emotions and the mental side that I actually saw any changes. So, I didn't adjust to any extreme diet. I didn't increase my exercise. In fact, during the really intense period of weight loss, I didn't exercise as much. I was just resting quite a bit. And so, it goes against everything I thought I knew for a long time and made me really appreciate just how much our emotions are a key point and so easy to ignore, or at least for me, I ignored them for a long time.
Ben: So, do you mean like your emotion's causing you to make poor dietary choices or your emotion's causing you to identify with being someone who is overweight? Or what exactly do you mean by emotions?
Katie: I think an element of both probably. I mean, to get personal for a minute, I had sexual trauma in high school and I remember in the wake of that, actually, I'm making a conscious decision in my head because it was so traumatic that I would never be able to be hurt like that again. Literally, I felt myself like putting up physical walls and just shutting down my emotions. I didn't actually I don't think ever process that trauma or grieve or deal with it then. I got raped and then I never responded to that. I just shut down the emotions and I kept that inside for so long. And since then, I had been really unemotional and I had just poured myself into work or into academics or whatever it was at the time as my outlet and just felt like I was just going to ignore that and not have to deal with it. And as long as it didn't come up, I was going to be fine.
And I think reading books like “The Body Keeps the Score” and things like that, like realizing just how much our emotions can internalize in the body. And there are researchers who think that we can even actually store trauma physically in the fascia, and they have some interesting theories about that. But I think it was probably just hormonally existing in such a state of stress at all times that dieting didn't matter and even exercise probably was increased stress on the body because I was just always in sympathetic nervous system, always on alert, always like protecting myself from that trauma. And so, it wasn't until this year that I really made the decision mainly because I realized as a mom of almost teenage daughters now that it was a prison of the mind I was not willing to pass onto them, and I didn't want them to ever, as an adult, look in the mirror every day and hate their own body and deconstruct all the things wrong with them. And this whole thing I had created for myself, I wasn't willing to pass that onto them.
And so, in 2019, that was my goal is I will do whatever it takes to work through this so that it's not something that I give to my daughters. I pretty much tried a ton of alternative therapies. I wish there was a thing I could just say like we should all do this and it would work. And like you talked about it in health. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all and I think especially when it comes to the inner work, we really do all have to do our own experimentation and try different things until we find the one that's going to be our thing that helps us break down those walls. But I did, I tried all kinds of different therapies and bodywork and different modalities. Ended up doing one type of modality with a practitioner, and that involved being like–it was bodywork with Rolfing, but also a trust element of being like picked up off the ground, which I didn't think was going to freak me out as much as I did.
Ben: Wait, what do you mean picked up off the ground?
Katie: Manipulating your body, but while you're off the ground, so they like picked you up. And I had a thing against being picked up, partially because I felt like probably the weight aspect like I didn't want to be picked up because I felt like I was too heavy. But also, I always wanted to be in control, which was another thing I had to address this year. And so, I just started freaking out in that therapy and was like, “No, no, no.” And they're like, “Yeah, it's fine. It's because you have trust issues. Just go with it.” And like freaked out during the entire therapy. And when they finally put me down, I shook. Like if you've ever seen National Geographic, like when an animal almost gets killed and then they don't, and they have that adrenaline shake where all the emotions just come out?
Katie: I had never done that after the actual trauma. And after that therapy, it was like a dam broke, and I shook for two hours, just all that adrenaline coming out. And since then, I've been kind of just like–I joke that it's putting like emotional whack-a-mole, like so many things have come up since then and I've just been able to deal with them, and actually, I feel them, work through them, and let go of them since then. I'm still doing therapy and still working with practitioners in other ways. I just was skeptical for so long of the emotional side being a key and then just blown away this year, seeing how drastically it was.
Ben: Wow. Is that the same thing as a tension, stress, and trauma release therapy, this TRE therapy?
Katie: Yes, exactly, very similar, yeah.
Ben: Okay. And that's where you're actually using shaking or vibrating. I haven't heard of people using like screaming, howling, things like that to actually release trauma or to release pent-up emotions that are triggering a constant state of sympathetic nervous system activity.
Katie: Yeah, exactly. And for me, the shaking was actually totally spontaneous. It wasn't something I tried to do. But I also did a therapy around the same time that involved kind of that rage therapy idea and realizing ever since that point in high school, I had pretty much–people would always tell me like, “Oh, you're very quiet. Speak louder.” And I realized I kind of like muffled my voice with all of those emotions and I just kept everything inside. And rage therapy was interesting because I don't yell really ever. I don't yell at my kids. I don't yell and they finally got me to yell and it was like all these emotions came out. I lost my voice from yelling and I shook then too, just like of actually having felt all of those years of anger and hurt and emotion come out.
Ben: Wow. Okay. So, obviously to the physicists based, nutritionists, and dieticians listening in who are bent on the whole calories in equals calories out equation for weight loss, this idea that your body in a state of constant sympathetic nervous system activation might be resistant to something like weight loss is probably just like a complete foreign thought. But it's very interesting because you even see this. There's a book called “The Healing Code” that claims that every single chronic disease is actually linked in some way to constant sympathetic nervous system inflammation, which if you draw the biological corollary to the fact that that results in a net inflammatory state, or what's also known as a cell danger response, I mean, not only do you set yourself up for disease or insulin insensitivity, pre-type 2 diabetes, but even some of these things that often overtake the body when it's in that state like mold, mycotoxin, biofilm, Lyme, I mean, it's a bigger issue than a lot of people realize being in that constant low-level sympathetic nervous system, say, that sometimes you're completely unaware of.
Katie: Absolutely. No, I think you're right. Looking at the science side, because actually that's my default as well, is trying to understand the science and it didn't make sense to me at first at all that just changing emotions could have such a drastic effect. Obviously, I think those people would all know how bad stress is for the body, and we've all seen those studies come out recently, and we know that stress and lack of sleep are really horrible for us and can lead to all of these health problems. But I think for me, the emotional side, it's easy to discount how big that is for the physical effects of stress on the body. I think also for me, part of the key probably was until then, all of the eating healthy and exercise had been very regimented and it took willpower and control, and I was fighting myself. Like I could do that almost all the time, and for sure, like 90% of the time I was effective. But when you're fighting leptin and ghrelin and everything else, you will lose at times.
And so, for me, this was actually like reducing the stress made it where I wasn't having to fight to do any of these things anymore. So, in other words, when my body is full now, I cannot put any more food in it. It doesn't want any more food and I don't eat any more food. And so, I'm not fighting to lose weight anymore, if that makes sense. It's just something that I'm much more in tuned with my body.
Ben: Okay. So, surely though, you must have also–because I don't know how apparent this is on your website. I think you're probably viewed by a lot of people as the natural holistic blogging mother who's writing about things like how to make your own toothpaste or different natural remedies for the cold. But you also, I know you're interested in a lot of the technology, the biohack, some of the more advanced dietary or exercise techniques, like I know you weave in a lot of that stuff as well and I'm curious if you've found anything to be particularly helpful for weight loss, whether it'd be cryotherapy or anything in addition to the fasting that you've described and the release of trauma.
Katie: Yeah. Great question. I think sauna has been huge for me. We have sauna at our house, and that's something I implement multiple times per week. And I know the studies on that are super solid, both for the cardiovascular benefits, for weight loss, and for pretty much across the board, a lot of benefits. And the cryo as well, I implement that a few times a week as well. What's interesting, and I haven't even really talked about this on my website yet, is I probably have gotten much more relaxed with my diet than I've ever been in my whole life. And I think this would be the point that those trainers and nutritionists would probably understand better than I could and agree with me on. I probably, because of all the years of dieting, was in such a deficit for so long that my body wasn't responding well anymore. And so, now, I'm actually listening to my body more and eating more protein, more carbohydrates probably than I ever have. And also as a result of genetic testing, eating less fat than I ever have. Just realizing with a few of my genes, I feel much better that way. So, that's been really helpful. Sauna has been huge though. I absolutely love sauna use.
Ben: So, back to the genes, do you use any particular software or analysis to pair your diet to your genetics?
Katie: I've done several. The one I liked the most was Nutrition Genome because they actually explained in the report quite a bit of what your genes actually mean from a dietary and lifestyle perspective, and realizing ones like APOE and certain ones I didn't realize I had that I didn't need to be eating the saturated fat. Because that was when I started writing about health, we were in that phase where it was the, “Oh, fat is not really as bad as we thought it was,” and that was what everybody was talking about. And so, I got in the habit of eating a lot of coconut oil and eating a lot of butter and now realizing I still don't–I think those can be great for a lot of people. But for my body, I feel much better on a much lower saturated fat, much higher [00:21:13] _____ fat. And so, avocados and olive oil type diet.
Ben: Yeah. Do you recall that was the FTO gene?
Ben: Okay. Yeah. That's one that's pretty common. And I found that some people are responders and people like, “I'm homozygous for the FTO gene.” So, I'm double A, which technically means I should have a weight gain response to saturated fats. And I think that a big part of it for me is, as you know, I've just been involved in sports and athletics for so long and exercise to such a great extent based on that. That never really manifested for me, but it does point out the fact that you can do something as simple as look at the FTO gene or the APOE gene if you want to consider this from more of a brain health standpoint and make these simple dietary modifications that can actually manifest themselves in much better results than what you may have been getting by following or swallowing hook, line, and sinker, what the prevailing popular diet of the day might be. So, this Nutrition Genome, is this one that you can upload your 23andMe results into, or do you need to send your saliva into that company?
Katie: I believe you can upload your 23andMe. Also, you can send your saliva in as well. And I think they're pretty comparable price-wise to 23andMe. They just give you so much more data. 23andMe may be better now, but for a while, they couldn't say a lot because of the FDA, I think. And Nutrition Genome, it goes through like because of this gene in combination with this gene, you probably have a higher need for magnesium, and then it talks to you on what form. And based on your genes, these are foods that are probably highly supportive for you, things like that.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. And this also surprised me how some companies say they can't release a certain number of SNPs or health-related data due to the FDA, but others just lay it all out on the table. I'm not quite sure if maybe 23andMe is held hostage by investors or they're looking at future acquisition and trying to play it safe or what, but it's kind of shocking how some of these companies will tell you everything and others will hold back a lot of the information.
Katie: Yeah, it is really interesting. I know that the 23andMe got FDA approval for something, and they're doing things like saying, “You have a higher risk for Alzheimer's.” So, maybe the health claim aspect there limits what they can say.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. So, eating according to your genetics, releasing trauma, doing a lot of this fasting protocol. What about from an exercise standpoint, anything in particular? You mentioned the sauna obviously, but do you participate in any flavor of exercise?
Katie: Yeah. That's kind of shifted as well. Even though I knew the science, I think I had gotten stuck in the mental idea of cardio just because I was a soccer player when I was younger. And so, my default was like, “Oh, from an exercise, I should go run or I should do cardio.” That definitely doesn't seem to be what works best for my body either. And so, now I do almost exclusively high-intensity and weights, and then I just move a lot. So, I'll go for walks with my kids or swims with my kids or paddleboard, but I'm not doing any extended cardio just of running and that kind of stuff, and I feel so much better and I've noticed big changes in muscle tone from that.
Ben: Yeah. Okay. Cool. Well, speaking of kids, you have this big beautiful family and yet you have this extremely popular blog that I know you devoted to and you spend a lot of time in. I know your husband is involved as well, Seth, who I love. I've gone hunting with Seth and get along great with him as well. I mean, you guys, you're just like a real couple who's also crushing it with a lot of this stuff, and at the same time, juggling six kids who–and correct me if I'm wrong, you're still homeschooling?
Katie: We are, yup.
Ben: Okay. So, you're homeschooling the kids as well. I would love to hear a little bit more about how–and this can segue or you can weave in where the family fits in as well, but kind of the evolution of Wellness Mama, how you actually started it, coming from your background in journalism, and then how you actually managed to make that work to build Wellness Mama and at the same time homeschool six kids.
Katie: Yeah, absolutely. I think that's the thing that surprises people most when I say that I have six kids and right now four active businesses and I'm almost never stressed anymore. It largely goes back to systems, but to answer your question about the genesis story. So, when my oldest who you've met was six weeks old, I was in the doctor's office for my follow-up appointment, and the doctor was running late because he was at another birth. And I read through pretty much every magazine in that waiting room. And the last one I picked up was Time Magazine and there was an article that said, “For the first time in two centuries, the current generation of American children will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.” It struck me so much because I was holding this tiny newborn baby and looking at him and how perfect he was and realizing this article was saying that his generation was going to face things even so much worse than our generation was from a health perspective. I didn't know it yet, but at the time, I was in really the tough part of having Hashimoto's [00:25:57] ______ actually diagnosed him to start working through that.
Those two things combined, and I'm a newly stay-at-home mom, I'm with this baby, I'm at home and I have my computer and just really started researching from both of those topics because I was determined that I didn't want that future for my kids and I didn't want that future for any of our kids. And I was also trying to figure out what was wrong with me at the same time. And with the background in journalism, my default was just to start researching. And as I did, I found stuff that was surprising to me and it wasn't as widespread. I mean, now there are so many great resources, thankfully, all over the internet, but there weren't at that point.
And so, I just started journaling essentially as I found this stuff thinking that there had to be other moms who were going through some of these similar things and just trying to simplify and make things easier for them. Because that's what I always enjoyed in journalism and in research, I have a background in nutrition as well, was getting to take complex information and distill it into a simple and actionable path. And so, that's how Wellness Mama began and eventually grew into a huge community, and I'm so grateful that it's become what it has and that so many moms are now involved and it's now led to other businesses as well. And the business side always was pretty easy because you can read the books, you can figure out the business side, you can make systems, and that part never really stressed me out. But when I had, I think my third, I got to a point in my personal life where I was so stressed all the time.
Ben: And you were already at that point running the blog, like Wellness Mama was a thing at that point?
Katie: Exactly, yeah. So, by the time three, four, and then five, and six came along, the blog was already a full-time job, and we had other projects on the table as well. We've done real estate investing and all kinds of things. And the business stuff never stressed me out, but at home, I was just always stressed. And I realized at some point, I'm like, “I'm not going to sacrifice my family for this.” So, that's got to be the most important thing. I considered deleting the blog for a little while because I was like I just can't do both of these things, and obviously, family is more important.
And in a moment of clarity one day, like literally crying in the shower, I realized–because I kept asking myself like, “Why am I so good at the business side and I feel like I'm failing as a mom right now?” And I realized it was because in business, I ran everything with clear KPIs, clear goals, clear systems. I know when everything had to happen, how it had to happen. And if other people needed to be involved to make it happen, all of that was part of the system. Whereas at home, I was trying to manage eventually all eight of our schedules and everything involving the household, and the children, and school, and their emotional health all in my head, which meant I had constant open loops and things always felt through the cracks, and I felt like it all fell on me.
And so, I basically, over the next six months, started running our house like I would run a business, not in a military sense, not like I was being any tougher on my kids, but just that everything started to have a clear system. There was a time and a place for everything, everything right on the schedule. And I made sure the kids were involved a lot more than they had been before. I realized just like in a business, we're all part of this as a team. And if it doesn't fall on me, we're going to be much more efficient. So, now our house runs extremely smooth. And whenever I have to travel, someone else can come easily fill in my part of it because it runs on a system.
Ben: Interesting. So, do you have like anybody who you use as an assistant? Like, for example, at our house, we have one gal who actually comes to our house each day and she helps with like checking mail, opening packages, meeting people there who might be coming over to repair things, almost kind of like a live-in daytime assistant. Do you guys use that a lot, like nannies, assistants, folks like that?
Katie: I have a personal assistant who helps with similar type things. I don't have a nanny because that was something I tried for several years and I would always end up in a dynamic where the nanny was taking care of my kids and then I would be like cleaning or–whatever. And then I would have this feeling of, “Wait, why am I not the one spending time with my kids?” And so, I stopped hiring nannies and I hire people to support the business side, but not me interacting with my kids. And we do have a couple tutors that help with the homeschool side now, which is great because then I have a couple hours a day to get work done while the kids are doing other subjects, but I don't have a nanny in that sense.
Ben: And how about your husband, how integral has he been in this process? Because from what I understand, he had his own job when you first started Wellness Mama, but then gradually became more kind of involved with Wellness Mama.
Katie: Yeah. He was running, and it worked out great, an SEO agency when I started Wellness Mama. And so, he kind of used the blog as a test ground for his paying clients. And then over time as all of that worked really well and Wellness Mama grew, it became much more a demand on his time, so he switched to focusing more on Wellness Mama. And he also runs our media company called Wellness Media and has been involved in Wellnesse, the new business as well. But he definitely concentrates more on the tech and marketing side, whereas I'm more content and strategy side.
Ben: Do you involve the kids in the business at all now?
Katie: Yeah, absolutely. The older ones are involved directly. In fact, our oldest is the environmental officer for our new company because he's so passionate about the environment and sustainability that he legitimately knows more about that than I do at this point. And they understand at a high level all of the businesses and they've helped out with, when they're young, small things like filing and balancing the checkbooks and understanding profits and loss statements and all that. But now as they're getting older, so our goal with them was that–we knew we wanted to raise entrepreneurs, or at least they'd have the opportunity to be entrepreneurs that they wanted to be, and so our goal with them was to finish their traditional schoolwork by about 13 or 14 and then create a business incubator in which we could teach that to them.
So, our oldest is finishing up his schoolwork at the end of this year. So, he'll have his high school done and then we'll work with him to create a business with–we have a contract with them that they have to have a profitable business for a year before they can have a car or a cell phone. So, he'll intensively move into that phase of creating and starting a business and running it. I actually hope that they'll have a couple failures along the way because I think you can learn much more from failure than from success sometimes. But it's been fun to watch them all start to think of those ideas as they get near the end of their school.
Ben: Okay. Got it. Now, a big part of Wellness Mama is obviously this focus on a natural home, whether it's natural personal care products, or household cleaning chemicals, or DIY projects for wellness. And I'm curious about how your process goes, like how do you actually research this stuff, find things. Is your kitchen like a freaking test lab or how exactly do you structure your day in terms of how you're gathering and assimilating all this information and testing it and releasing it to the world?
Katie: So, my day is pretty structured and I actually only end up–I only do structured work for at most three to four hours a day depending on the day. I'm a big believer that we'll fill whatever time we give ourselves. So, if I gave myself eight hours to work, I would figure out ways to spend that much time doing the same amount of thing. But when the kids are in school with the tutors, that's my dedicated work time. So, on days that are related to product testing, it all did start in my kitchen. And for years, I've been iterating on all these products in my kitchen. For instance, my toothpaste has been through almost 100 iterations. And I started by researching actually like PubMed to see if there were any studies on different ingredients, either good or bad, running everything through the EWG database to see what the current toxicology or [00:33:03] ______ on that would be. And then —
Ben: The EWG database, meaning the Environmental Working Group?
Katie: Yeah. This can be database, which rates any ingredient. You can run any personal care products through that, or you can run any product in your house essentially through that and it'll give you a rating on a scale of one to ten, or it might be–they might have changed the numbering system, but it's like green, yellow, red of how safe or unsafe they consider it to be for your home or your skin. So, running everything through there. And my criteria always was I wanted it to be rated safe by the EWG before I would even consider putting it in a product. And then from the safe list to working within that to create products that were effective.
It's been really fascinating now doing this with a team of chemists and manufactures and formulators because they obviously have a background in this. They've been able to bring new perspectives to the table as well, and then also debating with them when they tell me something can't be done because–like for instance, they said, “You can't make a natural toothpaste without glycerin,” and we did, but it was a really long iterative process. And it's been fascinating really even learning the inner workings of that world even more because I've used DIY products in our home for 10 years. So, I haven't been as worried about what was in other products and I just wasn't using them, but realizing now as we're in this world and creating products that are going to be for sale, just how little oversight there is in this industry. I think people don't even realize how few ingredients are approved for safety and how many products —
Ben: You mean specifically in personal care products?
Katie: Specifically in personal care products. Food is a little bit more regulated. And I know you've talked a ton about all the problems with our food. So, we don't have to like go deep on that today, but the personal care stuff, I knew there were a lot of bad products out there, but it's blowing me away to realize how little oversight there is when you're actually creating products in this industry and how much people can get away with.
Ben: What do you mean exactly about that?
Katie: So, for instance, the FDA has very little power and actually being able to pull these products from the shelves and it takes a whole lot to do that. So, for instance, a really major company, I'm not going to name their name, was recently sued for using talcum powder in their baby powder because it can be potentially contaminated with asbestos and it has led to cancer for all of these people. There are now over 15,000 lawsuits filed against this company for this product, which you would think would mean that they would pull it from the shelves but they haven't, and it's still being sold, and there's not even any warnings about its safety.
Hopefully, not your listeners certainly, but a lot of people I think kind of think that the government or some regulatory agency is going to make sure that the things that they were using in their home are safe. And then if it's for sale in the store, it should be safe, and it's just completely opposite of that, especially for personal care products with the amount of harmful–ingredients are banned in Europe even that are found in American products and they're not even regulated.
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I would love to hear like what a typical–if you could choose like a toothpaste or a shampoo or conditioner, something that's common in someone's home that they might be surprised to actually learn has some of these ingredients even if they consider themselves to be like a healthy consumer and compare and contrast that with what like a true healthy product would look like in terms of ingredients. Would you be able to do that?
Katie: Yeah, absolutely. So, across the board, is there one you'd rather me focus on or just–
Ben: I don't know. Let's pick a popular one. What's a popular one? I guess some people use conditioner, some people don't. I think everybody uses a toothpaste or shampoo, for example.
Katie: Okay. Yeah. Toothpaste is a great one. And it's interesting because it does have some–certain toothpastes do have some FDA oversight because of the fluoride. So, there's two different categories depending on if a toothpaste contains fluoride or not. But most natural toothpastes don't contain fluoride, a lot of them don't, but almost all of them contain glycerin. So, there's this kind of hierarchy of ingredients. A lot of the conventional toothpastes that you're talking about, the big-name brands, they're going to contain things like surfactants, like SLS even, harsh detergents that can strip away the natural oils on your mouth, and antibacterial ingredients that can be actually dangerous. There are even some that contain microbeads of plastic, which those have been in the news lately because they're harmful for us and for the environment.
But the natural ones will often avoid those kind of ingredients, but then they'll contain things like glycerin or like other alternative types of sweeteners that don't necessarily support the oral microbiome. So, that's another thing people don't always realize is we've heard a lot about the gut microbiome, and I think now there's even a decent amount of awareness about the skin microbiome. The mouth has its own microbiome as well, and a lot of the ingredients in conventional, and a lot of natural toothpastes don't necessarily support that microbiome correctly.
Fluoride is certainly a controversial topic. I'm not trying to tell anyone whether they should or shouldn't use fluoride, but there are things like, for instance, hydroxyapatite, which is a naturally occurring mineral that has been shown in studies now to be more effective at supporting enamel than fluoride. So, to me, fluoride is a potentially questionable ingredient. And then we have a safe naturally occurring mineral that we can use in its place. That's an easy substitute to make. But as an example, a friend of mine years ago, her son, she thought he had ingested an entire tube of fluoride toothpaste, and it turns out he had dumped most of it in the toilet, but she called the doctor in the poison control center and they basically told her like at his size, if he's ingested that much fluoride, there's really not that much we can do and it could be really, really dangerous for him. And so, since then, I haven't used fluoride with my kids in my house just because I didn't ever want to have a scenario like that. But realizing that there are safe natural ingredients you can use now in place of that, that if your child ate an entire tube of toothpaste, it would really just be that they got a little extra calcium that day.
Ben: Okay. What would be compared and contrasted with that, an example, like from the toothpaste you're making for your family, what the actual ingredients would be that you would use in your own formula?
Katie: Yeah, absolutely. This has been through so many iterations. I originally had an oil-based formula kind of drawing on the idea of oil pulling and dissolving, but realizing that for a widespread use, most people prefer a toothpaste that does foam and that has that traditional toothpaste feel. So, we iterated on that a whole lot and built the toothpaste around the ingredients that I knew would support the mouth in the best way possible. So, starting with hydroxyapatite and calcium, another form of calcium, and a little bit of baking soda rather than a lot of the artificial forms of calcium or just plain calcium that are used in traditional toothpastes, which can also be quite abrasive.
And then to support the oral microbiome using things like neem and green tea, which target the strep mutans bacteria, which is the specific bacteria that's linked to cavities, but that don't disrupt the rest of the microbiome of the mouth so that we could hopefully target just the things that would cause cavities without affecting the oral microbiome completely. And it would be safe if someone was to actually swallow the toothpaste as well. And then from there, building around that with safe ingredients to get the texture correct. We also use xylitol, which I don't ingest, but there are really solid studies showing that it can be beneficial in the mouth, again from the oral microbiome perspective and fighting those particular types of bacteria without disturbing the rest of the microbiome.
Ben: Interesting. So, I didn't really realize toothpastes had such an impact on the microbiome. Are you talking about the microbiome in the mouth or the microbiome as a whole in the gut, including if the toothpaste is, for example, swallowed or someone that winds up getting into the digestive tract?
Katie: Absolutely in the mouth, but the research is really fascinating right now, and oral health has been kind of a nerd research topic for me for a really long time. The oral microbiome, we're finding, affects the gut microbiome so much more than we thought because logically, food starts getting chewed in the mouth and digestion starts happening in the mouth. So, the oral microbiome signals a lot of what's happening in the gut below that. So, it's not that you would have a direct necessarily correlation between the toothpaste and what it's doing to hit your gut bacteria, it's that supporting the oral microbiome can have a really beneficial effect on gut bacteria in the long term. And we know the oral health is really linked to health throughout the entire body, which is why people with certain heart conditions have to take antibiotics when they go to the dentist because stirring up that bacteria in the mouth can actually cause problems in the body if you're not careful. And so, it's more that if we optimally support the oral microbiome, we're improving digestion and we're improving that process down the line as well.
Ben: Yeah. Even coronary artery calcium scores, I know that those are now linked to the mouth microbiome, and also the gut microbiome to a certain extent, and biofilm accumulation. I think it was Dr. Jeffrey Nash, who I recently heard speak about this, and how there's such a link. He'll actually, with his cardiovascular, high-risk cardiovascular patients, actually go after the mouth microbiome, the gut microbiome, and the biofilm rather than say, using a statin or some other popular method for reducing cardiovascular disease risk. So, it's a pretty big link that I think a lot of people don't think about.
Now, if you were to walk into someone's house, so toothpaste aside, let's just imagine the average–even the so-called healthy consumer, right, somebody who might be listening to this show. Let's say you were to walk into their house in your Wellness Mama superhero outfit and you were to have access, to open their kitchen cupboard or walk into their shower or their bathroom and choose a few products that you think are just notorious for being big issues, what would be some of the lowest hanging fruit that you would go after in addition to toothpaste as far as the things that you think most people would need to clean up?
Katie: That's a great question. So, from just general household perspective, I think laundering is an area where a lot of people resist making the switch because they don't want their clothes to smell bad or not be clean. But from the personal care side, toothpaste is definitely one of the big offenders. Beyond that, I noticed this with my friends, actually. I would have friends who would eat completely organic. They would cook from scratch at home. They made a lot of their own products, but they were still using conventional toothpaste, conventional shampoo and conditioner, things like dry shampoo and sunscreen because they worked, and they weren't willing to sacrifice the quality and the effectiveness of that. They weren't willing to have their hair not look good, especially their hair. Hair is a big one for women. They weren't willing to have their hair not look good in the name of being healthy, so they would do–and they would be using conventional shampoo, conditioner, and especially dry shampoo, which is in an aerosol can and has absolutely horrible ingredients.
And so, I realized that there were tons of conventional products that worked in these categories. There were also a lot of natural products, but none of them seem to perform at quite the level of the conventional products, and that people weren't going to be willing to make the switch until that happened, which is why I actually started with those particular products because I think they were the toughest ones to tackle first. And we are going to be releasing things like sunscreen and dry shampoo this year as well. But those are the ones I see almost across the board. It might be different for guys. My audience is definitely more women. But from women, those are the products that they can use everything else natural. But when it comes to hair care, skincare, and oral health, they weren't willing to sacrifice.
Ben: Okay. So, you've got the laundry room, you've got obviously the bathroom as another area. What about like cleaning products, for example, like popular cleaning products that you think a lot of healthy consumers are still using?
Katie: Yeah. So, this one I think we've actually seen a little bit of movement, even in the mainstream community as far as people starting to understand that a lot of cleaning products can be bad. And I know statistically, people are moving away from the really harsh ones like actually just using bleach and things like that. But there's a lot of even just greenwashed products that the people still think might be actually safe that are still full with artificial fragrances or antibacterial ingredients, and I've written about this, I think you've talked about this as well, is so many of those products, they contain substances that are antibacterial, but there are things like triclosan, which has now actually been banned. But that changes the surface of the microbiome of your home as well. And if you're putting them on your skin, they can have really negative effects.
So, a lot of cleaning products can have those that you have to watch out for. A lot of them just have really harsh surfactants, fragrances, and detergents that are not good for the body. They're also not good to breathe. So, people don't realize, even like fabric softener and dryer sheets, things that make your clothes smell good when you put them in the laundry, and a lot of people use those for the smell. That smell that you're smelling for all those hours after you put your clothes on are actually a really specific type of VOC. It's called SVOCs that are–they can linger on your clothes. They're designed to be long-lasting fragrances, but your skin is then getting long-term exposure to that. And by wearing it, your lungs are getting long-term exposure to that. And there are studies about that being linked to asthma, potentially to autoimmune disease.
So, there's a lot of emerging research about this, but I don't feel like it's fully caught on in the mainstream. And we're not doing cleaning products yet, but there are great ones like Branch Basics that you can use, and it's a concentrate, and you can make almost every cleaning products you need for your home from that with almost zero waste and with no VOCs and no harmful chemicals whatsoever.
Ben: What's that one called, Branch Basics?
Katie: Branch Basics, yeah. If you're not familiar with them, it's great. Obviously, the zero waste movement has grown lately and it's exciting to see people moving away from single-use plastics and from dangerous plastics. But Branch Basics, it's a concentrate. So, one bottle can make what you need for your laundry, for cleaning, for bathroom, for even hand soap across the board for months and with only one package. And so, then you can use the glass bottles for everything else and reduce your exposure to plastic and to harmful chemicals. And that one is even gentle enough that you can use it diluted on a baby as a baby shampoo even if they have eczema. So, it's extremely gentle.
Ben: I need to ask my wife about that one because I don't recall if we use Branch Basics. Like, she does a lot of our own products with lemon, with essential oils, uses borax sometimes, vinegar, et cetera, but I don't know if she uses Branch Basics. So, I'm going to write this down and ask her when I get back because this one sounds like a really, really handy product. The other thing is, I found–I was kind of shocked the other day. I found a bottle of this Suave shampoo in our shower where my two little boys, who are 11, take their showers. You probably have seen some of the studies.
There was one in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine that came out. It was a small study looking at a handful of kids, but it found that these cosmetics and also shampoos are a huge source of exogenous estrogen. And that particular study even looked into the potential for early onset of puberty in females and the development of female characteristics in males. Almost like we see–I think this is an issue. I read about this elsewhere. It may have been in nature about how frogs are developing, like male frogs are developing into females from the amount of pharmaceutical or estrogen-like products in contaminated water.
The same thing could be said for kids, especially. I found that shampoo when I walked out because I've been gone for a while. I'm like, “Where did the shampoo come from?” And apparently, her relatives that come over and stay at the house and I brought that shampoo with them or something like that, like it's not a usual purchase for us. Of course, I threw it out right away, but I mean, this stuff especially in growing children absorbed through the scalp, through the skin, like it's a big issue.
Katie: Absolutely and we are–statistically, we're seeing early onset of puberty in both boys and girls, but especially girls. And I have received letters from people who their daughter started experiencing that at seven or eight or nine, which is unheard of through most of human history. And so, you're right. These are filled with estrogenic compounds and people are getting so much exposure, they don't even realize from all these sources, and cumulatively, that can really make a drastic impact on our kids, especially when this is starting as babies with baby products, and baby shampoo contains this kind of stuff. So, yeah. And we're seeing it in aquatic animals now and what they're predicting for kids and for future generations is really staggering.
Ben: Yeah. It's sad. Okay. I want to get into how you've systematized the process of taking what you're mixing up together in your own kitchen as you've alluded to. You're now working with this team of chemists and beginning to make what you've been blogging about for so long available as an actual line for personal care products. So, I'm curious, how that company has come to be, and I also want to know some of the products that you're particularly focusing on right now and your approach to actually taking what people are having to read your blog and whip together in their own kitchen and just make that available for them too if they don't have the luxury of time to be able to make it themselves, so just like get from you.
Katie: Absolutely. I realized most people, including me at this point, you can make all these things from scratch. Most of us don't have the time or necessarily the desire because —
Ben: And if I could jump in there. I tried to make the sunscreen from your website forever. I went through like a whole year when I was racing Ironman where I'd make the sunscreen from your website, but it's a pain in the ass. I think it was like zinc or titanium and you got like a double boiler set up in the kitchen and makes this huge mess on the calendar. And then I had to fair what kind of container to put in and it worked and I was guilt-free out of my bike rides in the sun, but I was always just wondering like there's got to be a better way to do this.
Katie: Absolutely. And to be honest, I got tired of making them in my kitchen and realized if I'm going to make them anyway, why not make these in the system and make them in a lab so that everybody can buy them–to make them ourselves. And starting with the premise, a lot of people now understand the idea that a lot of what we put on our skin passes through our skin and enters our body. In fact, the majority of what you put on your skin will be absorbed by your body in some way. And this is the reason that newborn babies are now–they are identifying–I think it's 280 something chemicals in the core blood and in the blood of newborn babies because all of these things pass through our skin, get in our body, and then they can stay there and be mobile in our body.
And so, taking that is the premise. I realized I didn't want to just make products that were safe, of course, that was the bare minimum, but if things can pass through your skin, why not put beneficial things in the products that actually pass through your skin and support the body from the outside in. So, that was kind of the premise we started with Wellnesse and wanting to tackle the things that were the most time-consuming and difficult and costly to make on your own, and that we could hopefully now through economies of scale make and have available to families. But for me also, there was the environmental key. So, it was given that everything had to be human safe and family safe because that's so core to everything we've ever done with Wellness Mama. But I also wanted to make sure that everything we did was environmentally safe and sustainable and it would help move metrics forward in that realm as well because there's obviously so much right now about all the environmental challenges that we're facing.
And so, to do that with Wellnesse, people have told me in the business world to do products for years and I didn't want to do it until I felt like could really do something that was unique and that would innovate and change the industry. And so, with Wellnesse, we are a public benefit core and we're in process of getting certified as a certified B Corp, which means that we don't have to just look at profit with our board members and with our shareholders, we can also look at the environmental and the human impact of our products and not create any products that are not going to be good across that. And I fully believe that a well-run business, an ethical well-run business can change the world.
And so, that's what we're hoping to do in the personal care world through Wellnesse by having radical transparency in our ingredients, listing them all on the website so people can see them and see their EWG rating. And we're getting all of the products EWG verified as well so that there's that extra layer of just trust that people can have knowing that we are getting independent third-party testing on all of the products. And my goal within the next couple of years is to be able to replace all of the personal care products that would be problematic in your home. So, everything from haircare and skincare and oral care to baby products, sunscreen, bug spray, pretty much any product that you would put on your children or use with your family, creating an alternative that's not just safe and non-toxic, of course, it will be that, but also that has beneficial ingredients that are good for you.
So, for instance, the shampoo has herbs like nettle and lavender, which actually are supposed to increase the growing phase of hair. So, it can help your hair stay thick and healthy at which I'm —
Ben: Wait, wait, I'm going to stop you there because I've seen this in the internets before. Doesn't lavender cause boys to also become little girls? Isn't that like a thing?
Katie: That's a great question. I'm so glad you brought that up. So, there are different strains of lavender and some can–lavender essential oil is the one you want to watch for with boys especially because it's so concentrated. So, the corollary they're being, using even a few drops of lavender essential oil is so much more concentrated, you'd have to use a ton of actually just lavender as the earth —
Ben: Right. It's like oregano if you're actually using oregano [00:56:39] _____ through your skin?
Katie: Exactly. And so, making sure we're well within the safe doses of what can be used on children, but in very small amounts, it can be very supportive.
Ben: Okay. Got it. So, you were saying you have lavender and rosemary in there?
Katie: Mm-hmm. Also, vitamin–[00:56:55]_____, which is vitamin B. Then we have keratin, and then including we've really gotten to innovate with some plant-based things that have been really fun, like tomato fruit extract and using extracts of quinoa. So, even if you don't eat quinoa, certain proteins in quinoa could be really good for your hair. So, pulling from all of the different studies that I had come across and using all of these beneficial ingredients so that–like you have nettle, for instance, which increases the growing phase and is shown to make hair thicker. So, you're using that in your shampoo or conditioner or your dry shampoo, which for women is actually sitting on your scalp. So, rather than just avoiding the harmful ingredients, you're actually getting something beneficial that's going to help your hair look and perform better over time.
Ben: Okay. Got it. And by the way, you're saying Wellnesse, but you spell this W-E-L-L-N-E-S-S-E?
Katie: Yeah. So, Wellnesse, almost like finessed back in the day.
Ben: Right. Okay. Wellnesse. Why'd you call it that?
Katie: Just I wanted to speak to the–I didn't want to stick with Wellness Mama for the products because these are not just for women, certainly, they're to be used by the whole family, but with the idea of the whole body that Wellnesse approach of supporting things from the outside in, as well as the inside out.
Ben: Okay. Got it. And so, in addition to doing a shampoo, and I think you said a toothpaste, what else are you rolling out with?
Katie: So, by the time you listen to this, we have two types of shampoo and two types of conditioner. So, one for all hair types and one that's more specific to thick, curly or dry hair, and then the remineralizing toothpaste. Those are all there at the beginning. And then in pretty short succession after that, we will have dry shampoo, soap, skincare, sunscreen, bug spray, and a baby kid's line and a whole roll out beyond that.
Ben: Okay. Got it. Tell me about the conditioner.
Katie: So, again, using only safe EWG ingredients and then adding other nutritive ingredients. And so, things like shea butter and argan oil and jojoba oil, which are great for the skin and the hair, and then adding in some of those same herbs because conditioner especially stays on the hair a little bit longer. And so, to support the growing phase of hair and to support the scalp with vitamins, and then just by not having sodium lauryl sulfate and some of these really harsh detergents at all. It's not stripping the natural oils out of your hair as much, and so people notice much thicker, silkier hair from that as well.
Ben: Okay. Got it. So, it's basically shampoo, conditioner, and the toothpaste?
Katie: Yes. Those are available right now. And then the others will be releasing every few weeks —
Ben: Oh, wow. So, you're going to roll stuff out pretty soon. What else are you looking at?
Katie: My goal is to have sunscreen, especially for summer, and that's a big need for families. And like you said, it's a pain in the butt to make. So, that one's a big one. And also, being able to pull like the natural scents from this because this was another thing I realized, for women especially, a lot of the natural products either didn't have a scent or they smelled like patchouli. And so, making products using natural scents still smell really good. And so, the sunscreen will smell like you would kind of expect a sunscreen would smell with that coconutty tropical smell, but safely. But sunscreen is the one I've been developing the most and it's been pretty complex because you do have to get approval because it is considered–you're making a health claim by saying it's a sunscreen essentially. So, that was one of our tougher ones to tackle and I'm really excited to release that one along with bug spray for the summer, and then the baby and kids' lines, and eventually cosmetics as well. That one's been really fun to play with.
Ben: Okay. Got it. So, you said the packaging. I'm curious like what this is like, this packaging. Is this something that's biodegradable or does it look like a traditional plastic bottle when you get it or how do you actually get over the packaging piece?
Katie: Yeah. This is when we did so much research on and I think this will be a constant area of innovation for us and for so many companies right now. So, we're using a sugarcane-based polymer that is recyclable and that has much less of an environmental impact than regular plastic wood or petroleum-based plastic, and it breaks down much more safely so it's not going to be harmful to the ocean. It's actually carbon beneficial. It's more than carbon neutral in how it's manufactured, so it doesn't have the same environmental cost as plastic wood.
Ben: Okay. Got it. So, in terms of the way that this works with the chemists, et cetera, are you just coming up with these ideas as you're researching then turning to them and saying, “Hey, we want to have this product made, this is the type of whatever fragrance that we want, or this is what we want to smell like, these are our stipulations as far as what we can or should not have in it,” or the chemists themselves well-versed with the environmental working group, and so you don't have to do a lot of that, or how does it work in terms of working with the team to do this versus just doing it all in your own kitchen?
Katie: Yeah. So, even with a cold commitment to being like human environmentally safe, we're working with manufacturers who are aware of a lot of these environmental issues when it comes to this and who are aware of the environmental working group requirements, which has been wonderful. I'm going to them with a formula that I've gotten pretty close to the final formula in my kitchen, and then they obviously know the world of what kind of testing we have to pass and what kind of shelf-life and all of that. So, they're helping with that part, but I'm going to them with–these are the ingredients. In the percentage, they're helping adapt it for large-scale production and make sure we're going to meet all the testing. And then together, we're going through that environmental working group process and the B Corp process to get the independent verification for everything.
Ben: Okay. Got it. Now, turning to the way that people would get their hands on this stuff, I think you're going to arrange some kind of like a code or a discount or a link for my audience, and I'll put all of that over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/wellnessmama, or I'll probably just get a link straight to it if you go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/wellnesse. How am I supposed to pronounce it again, Wellnesse?
Katie: Wellnesse, which is Wellnesse with an “E” on the end, basically.
Ben: Wellnesse. I keep wanting to throw a little European flair on it. So, Wellnesse.
Katie: I like it.
Ben: Yeah. So, Wellnesse with an “E”. So, if you go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/W-E-L-L-N-E-S-S-E, I'll have a link there, or you can go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/wellnessmama. Now, I don't want to end the show yet because Katie, I'm curious if there are other kind of like–because you travel around a lot of these health conferences, I know you're in a lot of the same ones that I'm at, et cetera, and we delved into hacks, technologies, new things a little bit earlier, but I'm curious if there's anything on the horizon that you think is going to be a big up-and-coming health trend for 2020 or something that you're just not trying or like some new toy or gadget you want to get and try. Like, are there some things that you're particularly excited about now when it comes to health and wellness in 2020 since we're recording this towards the very beginning of the year?
Katie: Yeah. I think for me, one of my words this year is simplifying. I feel like I finally figured out the things that are working from the dietary and fitness side and just sticking with those. And I'm curious, I would actually love your feedback on this. One area that I've been researching a lot and that is a focus for me right now is heart rate variability and things that affect that. And it's been really fun to see because I feel like that's a positive metric versus like when you're trying to lose weight, you're trying to make a number go down and there can be that deprivation. This to me is like you're trying to make the number go up and it's fun to see what has an impact on that. So, I've been experimenting with different types of ways to improve heart rate variability. Obviously, the basic ones of optimizing sleep and movement, but things like all the apps that are supposed to help with that. There's a new device called the Apollo that has an impact on HRV for me.
Ben: Yeah. I'm super stoked. I don't know if my interview with the folks who developed Apollo is going to be out by the time this comes out. But folks, just wait because that thing is extremely cool. I've been wearing that thing almost every day. It's amazing. I can test my HRV and it jacks up my HRV significantly just by putting this little ankle band on. So, yeah, I agree, that's a cool one. And of course, I use the Oura Ring, which does the 12 different five-minute measurements during the night. And then for real-time measurements of both sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system activation, I use the NatureBeat app, which requires you to put like a Bluetooth chest rate or a chest strap on, like a heart rate monitor when you're using it. And then when you've done your five-minute laying down measurement, you just take it off. But that one's a really good metric for tracking in real-time. I've also heard people talking about this other one called the Biostrap, which I haven't looked into. Have you heard of that one?
Katie: Yeah. In fact, I've been for about the last two months running a side by side with the Biostrap and Oura Ring because I was curious. I know that some people are wondering if Oura can be that effective just on the finger, and they are extremely close. Like my HRV is almost the same in both. The Biostrap does track a few things that Oura Ring doesn't. But I'm not a huge fan of bracelets or having anything on my wrist, so I prefer the Oura Ring just because it's much more compact, but I feel like Biostrap is a good alternative, especially if people don't mind having something on their wrist. The data has been extremely similar for me with both.
Ben: Yeah. And that's really relevant to the sympathetic nervous system piece that we were talking about earlier. I think a state of high heart rate variability is definitely conducive to things like not just weight loss, but productivity, operating a less stressed state. It's a metric I began tracking purely for performance and recovery pieces because it's what kind of trickled down in many cases from professional sports into the general health and wellness and biohacking sector years ago. But now, it's been proven to be useful for so much additional tracking. And the clients who I work with, we pretty much track movement, nutrition, HRV, and sleep. Like aside from the quarterly lab tests that they send to me, those are the prime metrics I track with the people who I work with. Anything else in addition to HRV that you think is interesting or exciting for 2020?
Katie: I always go back to sauna use. That's one of my simple ones that–it's always on my list to do four to seven times a week just because the data is the most solid about that. I think I've been through this journey over the last couple of years. I've realized more and more beyond those things, like you just mentioned, beyond sleep and stress and some things like sauna that seemed to work for pretty much everybody. It gets so personalized when you get beyond that that I've gotten more hesitant to make any kind of blanket recommendations whatsoever. I think it's about finding whether it'd be based on your genes or whether it'd be based on just testing what the individual nutrients and foods you do and don't need are and then working within those. It's amazing, even within my own family, how drastic that is for some of my kids or between my husband and I. So, I'm hesitant to give any kind of blanket recommendations beyond there. And I also think if you can dial in those basics like sleep and like HRV, you have so much more leeway in every other area of life.
I'm curious, Ben, are there things you've done that you've seen a really dramatic increase in HRV? Because I've been able to almost double mine in the last year, but I'm curious if–and with being an endurance athlete, you probably see bigger changes and stuff. Are there things that have made a big difference for you?
Ben: And when I say sleep, I mean, I have some pretty hefty episodes on sleep, but I still find a high dose CBD at night to significantly impact sleep quality in a beneficial manner. And if you look at all the studies on CBD, they're all like 100 to 600 milligrams, which obviously dictates that whatever you're using for CBD, if you look at the label and it says 10 to 20 milligrams, you're probably going to need a pretty hefty amount of that dosage for sleep quality. But yeah, sleep absolutely for HRV. And then yeah, meditation and breathwork. My meditation right now is something I'm doing with the family each day. We actually have this really cool practice now where we do a gratitude journaling, but then we also read a passage from scripture, and then we all close our eyes in the living room and we meditate together for five to ten minutes after we read the scripture. I lead the family in breathwork, and then we usually finish with a prayer and sometimes like a group celebratory song.
I have so much time in the day, and sometimes I'll be able to get off and do my own breathwork routine or my own meditation when I travel. That's certainly the case, but that's like a non-negotiable for me right now is that morning gathering that just–it sets up like a flavor and an aura in our house the rest of the day that's really positive. And when we miss that, which has occasionally happened over the holidays, when things are busy and the kids are gone and we're all trying to figure out each other's schedules, you just notice like a slight upregulation of stress during the day. So, that's one big one. And then the breathwork is just having the breathwork tools in your back pocket that you can reach for when you're stressed, for me, it's alternate nostril breathing at night. It's 4-7-8 breathing, four-count in, seven-count hold, eight-count out. And then especially during or after workouts, like during recovery periods or directly after the workout, box breathing, four-count in, four-count hold, four-count out, four-count hold, because I think a lot of athletes and exercise enthusiasts neglect getting themselves back into a parasympathetic state post-workout and I find that box breathing, and a lot of times I'll do that in a little bit of cold post-workout, which I don't do a ton of. Like once you exceed about 10 minutes of cold, it's going to blunt some of the hormetic response to the exercise session, but like a brief bout of cold combined with box breathing, I really like that to finish up the workout, and also to get the HRV back up because it kind of plummets when you're in that sympathetic workout state.
I also wanted to ask you if you found any ways to make the sauna experience more beneficial like any topicals you use, any essential oils you use, any modifications you've made to the sauna or aside from just getting in the sauna and sweating do you do anything before during or after to kind of upgrade that experience?
Katie: Yeah, and I know that the studies look at the heat and the kind of the cut off of how to make it the most essential. I think you've done this as well but we kind of rigged our sauna in some ways that were not on the way if they told you to set it up so that it would get hotter than it was supposed to. And so, our sauna can hit like 200 even now if we like pre-heated enough so I've done that because I feel like the heat is the most beneficial aspect of that experience and so increasing the heat as much as possible.
I love to use like different wood-based essential oils or sometimes peppermint in the sauna I just use them in small doses and diluted because they will definitely they seem very strong when the heat hits them. I love to listen to different meditation apps in the sauna at times. So whether it's brain.fm or some of those and just try to breathe and relax in the sauna. And like you mentioned with the meditation with your kids, I feel like sauna time can also be a really amazing bonding time as family. Definitely, what age let the kids [01:11:32] _____ parental discretion. But when I was in Finland earlier this year, their philosophy is pretty much let the kids until the kids want to get out and their body's going to tell them when they need to get out. And so, our kids will come in for a little while with us sometimes and that means some great conversations just because it's a quiet more meditative environment to begin with.
And then we have a cold plunge as well. We don't use the cold with the sauna every time and I feel like there's almost three categories, like sauna on its own has certain benefits, cold on its own has certain benefits, and then when you combine them, they seem to even have their own different set of benefits. And I know there's all the data about how cold can blunt the exercise response. You don't necessarily want to use cold every time, where a sauna post-exercise is great. But I feel like sometimes adding in the cold with sauna and doing the back and forth contrast therapy can be really beneficial. At least for mental clarity, I love doing the cold with the sauna.
Ben: Yeah, yeah, I agree. The hot-cold contrast is amazing, and there is a lot of research behind that. I had a podcast on it recently and the idea of going back and forth between cold immersion and heat immersion or sauna and cold immersion is just incredibly beneficial on a variety of inflammatory factors. So that's a regular practice in our house as well. As a matter of fact, for the kids, because they're training for their first jiu-jitsu tournament right now, I've got them doing little workouts that I give them each day in addition to their jiu-jitsu sessions. But Sundays, they always have like five different options for recovery, like they can go in the hyperbaric chamber, they can do a round of meditation and breathwork. And then one of their sessions is they can do hot-cold contrast therapy where I have them doing a minute in the hot tub, three minutes in the cold pool, and going back and forth five times between the hot tub and the cold pool. Or their other option is to do 15, 20 minutes in the sauna and then finish that up with five in the cold pool.
And so, even my kids are using that for recovery and it's just wonderful to see my boys trudging through the snow to go jump in the cold pool covered in sweat from the sauna. It's amazing to have the kids a part of that, too. And then I've personally found that there's a few things, drinking black pepper tea, I sweat buckets when I take hot water and put a few grinds of black pepper in there prior to the sauna. That one really opens up. I found a topical made by a company called ATP Science. It's called Prototype 8 and you smear that on your body before you get in the sauna. And that one also just brings a bunch of blood to the surface. And then the other one is Clearlight now sells what's called the Halotherapy unit, which puts micro-crystallized salt into the air while you're in the sauna, and that just draws a lot more water out through the pores just because the air that you're in is more humidified. It's more salty. So those are a few things I've found to just amp up the sauna experience even more.
Katie: Oh, that's awesome. I haven't tried that salt one. I have to try that, too.
Ben: Yeah. That's called the Halotherapy unit. Well, we've obviously covered a lot of stuff today and I am super stoked. I think my package—I'm on the insider list for Wellnesse and I'm going to be getting my package this week. I think this week or next week, so I'm super stoked to try these products out. And I will of course link to those and everything else that Katie and I talked about if you just go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/wellnessmama. If you haven't yet gone to Katie's website, add it to your to your feed list. I mean, there's just tons of good information on a regular basis from that one. It's wellnessmama.com. And Katie, finally, thanks for being such an inspirational superwoman, somebody who obviously loves her family, who values family, but you also have been a real crusader in the industry and I'm super grateful for everything that you do and hoping you just have a ton of success with this new company.
Katie: Thank you so much, Ben, and thanks for having me on and for sharing with your audience. I feel the same about you. I'm so grateful for all the work that you do in the world and I love that even our kids have gotten to hang out by this point and I'm just honored to call you a friend.
Ben: Yeah, word. All right, folks. Well, I'm Ben Greenfield along with Katie Wells signing out from BenGreenfieldFitness.com. Have an amazing week.
Well, thanks for listening to today's show. You can grab all the shownotes, the resources, pretty much everything that I mentioned, over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com, along with plenty of other goodies from me, including the highly helpful “Ben Recommends” page, which is a list of pretty much everything that I've ever recommended for hormone, sleep, digestion, fat loss, performance, and plenty more. Please, also know that all the links, all the promo codes that I mentioned during this and every episode, helped to make this podcast happen and to generate income that enables me to keep bringing you this content every single week. So, when you listen in, be sure to use the links in the shownotes, use the promo codes that they generate because that helps to float this thing and keep it coming to you each and every week.
A mom of six with a background in journalism, she took matters into her own hands and started researching to find answers to her health struggles. Her research turned into a blog and podcast, and she’s now written over 1,500 blog posts, three books, and was named one of the 100 most influential people in health and wellness.
When she’s not reading medical journals, creating new recipes, or recording podcasts, you can find her somewhere outside in the sun with her husband (who she met walking across the country) and kids or undertaking some DIY remodeling project. Obligatory additional unrelated randomness: doula, speed-reader, hates bananas, loves baseball, scuba-diver, INTJ, highly experienced in answering the question, “Why?”.
Her new company Wellnesse is her debut line of high-quality, all-natural, and clean personal care products. It is based on the DIY creations she has been making in her kitchen for years and is set to launch in January 2020. Cruelty-free, GMO-free, and paraben-free are important personal care product qualities for Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, award-winning blogger, author, podcaster, and real-food crusader.
The first products in the Wellnesse product line include:
- Whitening Toothpaste
- Cleansing Shampoo for All Hair Types
- Smoothing Shampoo for All Hair Types
- Nourishing Conditioner for Wavy, Curly Hair
- Enriching Conditioner for Wavy, Curly Hair
Katie spent more than ten years researching the personal care market and perfecting her own recipes using safe and natural ingredients. Unable to find commercially-available products that lived up to their clean and green labels, she developed a mission to bring simpler, safer personal care to the homes of families across the country with Wellnesse.
During our discussion, you'll discover:
-Why Katie was doing a water fast at the time of recording the podcast…5:41
- Begin w/ time-restricted eating; progress to 24-hour water fast, eventually a 10-day water fast
- Every major religion includes fasting as part of their lifestyle
- Katie does it for the mental benefits, more so than the physical
- Book: Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
- Book: The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
- Benefits of water fasting:
- Give the gut time to replenish
- Increase autophagy in the body
- Lowering age-related inflammation
- Immune benefits
-How Katie has lost over 50 pounds in the last 12 months…10:10
- Tried doing it “by the book” to no avail; saw real change when she dealt w/ the emotional elements of weight gain
- Suffered a sexual trauma as a teenager, and did not properly address it emotionally at the time
- Hormonal distress; sympathetic nervous system always on alert
- Therapy that involved being picked up, learning to trust others, adrenaline shake, etc.
- Similar to Trauma Release Exercise (TRE) therapy
- What is TRE® | Tension, Stress and Trauma Release : TRE®
- Book: The Healing Codeby Alexander Loyd
-Biohacks or technology that are efficacious for weight loss…19:10
-How Katie balances multiple businesses while raising 6 children…24:09
- Wellness Mamabegan with the simple desire to provide a better life for her newborn children
- Background in journalism sparked a desire for research in topics that weren't well-known at the time
- Became excessively stressed after the 3rd child
- Business was easy; implement and execute systems
- Family did not have as much continuity
- Began running the family like a business (systems, schedules, etc.)
- No nannies, personal assistant for business, a tutor for homeschool
- Children are involved in the business (working to their strengths)
- Children need to have a profitable business before they can own a car or a cellphone
-The process of testing and researching info that's published on Wellness Mama…32:03
- Structured work 3-4 hours per day
- Kitchen is a test lab for new products
- Environmental Working Group
- Concern over lack of oversight and accountability in personal care products
- FDA has little authority to pull products from shelves
- Major brand facing 15k lawsuits for using talcum powder in their baby powder
-Problems with your so-called “healthy” toothpaste…39:00
- Most natural toothpastes contain glycerine, alternative sweeteners that may harm the oral microbiome
- Ingredients to be found in a toothpaste made by Katie:
- Experimented w/ a paste that mimicked oil pulling
- Baking soda
- Meme and green tea
- Xylitol (beneficial for oral microbiome)
- Oral microbiome affects the gut microbiome more than we thought before
-The household products that are notoriously unhealthy and need to be swapped out right now…45:03
- Laundry detergent
- Conventional shampoo and sunscreen
- Many “Green” cleaning products contain harmful ingredients
- Fabric softener and dryer sheets can be linked to asthma, autoimmune disease
- Branch Basicscleaning products
- Children may experience early onset of puberty as a result of these products in the home
-Some of the products that Katie's company is focusing on in the next 12 months…51:54
- The majority of what you put on your skin will be absorbed by the body
- Make the products w/ beneficial ingredients that will be absorbed
- Focus on the most difficult and time-consuming home-made products on the Wellness Mama blog
- Wellnesseis a certified B-Corp.; don't need to focus primarily on profits to be successful
- Be careful when using lavender essential oil on boys (smaller amounts can be supportive)
- Two types of shampoo and conditioner
- Remineralizing toothpaste
- Sunscreen and bug spray
-Up and coming health trends Katie is excited about for 2020 and beyond…1:02:48
- Heart rate variability (HRV)
- Oura Ring
- Nature Beatapp
- Bio Strap
- Sauna therapy
- Ben's biggies for HRV:
-And much more…
Resources from this episode:
– Book: The Healing Code by Alexander Loyd
– Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine – Hormone-Containing Hair Product Use in Prepubertal Children
– Book: Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
– Book: The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
– Morozko Forge ($150 off the retail price for any Forge)
–Kion: My personal playground for new supplement formulations, Kion blends ancestral wisdom with modern science. Take advantage of Kion's President's Day sale, and save 25% off any bundle of products, and 15% off site-wide when you use discount code: SAVEFORABE
–Seed Daily Synbiotic: A formulation of 24 unique strains, each of which included at their clinically verified dose, to deliver systemic benefits in the body. Save 15% off your order when you use discount code: BEN15
–Vuori: Activewear and athletic clothing for ultimate performance. Vuori is built to move and sweat in, yet designed with a West Coast aesthetic that transitions effortlessly into everyday life. Receive 25% off your first order when you use the link Vuoriclothing.com/Ben
–BiOptimizers MassZymes: MassZymes is a 17-enzyme full-spectrum formula with 5 different kinds of protease. Plus, it contains all of the key enzymes needed for optimal digestion. Right now you can get a bottle of MassZymes for FREE. All you need to do is pay a small shipping fee and there’s no catch. Click my link to order your FREE bottle!