Join us in this captivating episode as we dive into the fascinating world of functional mental health and neuroinflammation with Brendan Vermeire, a renowned Mental and Metabolic Health Scientist & Researcher and the creator of The Mental M.A.P.™️.
Discover Brendan's gripping personal journey that ignited his profound interest in the field of mental health. We explore the crucial role of microglial cells and the link between mental health and insomnia.
Brendan emphasizes the impact of lifestyle choices on our mental health struggles and shares the secrets to nurturing your fundamentals for optimal mental well-being.
In addition, Brendan unveils his own sleep habits, providing valuable takeaways for restorative sleep and optimal mental health. Take advantage of this informative and engaging discussion!
Brendan is a Mental and Metabolic Health Scientist & Researcher, Functional Medicine Educator, Writer, and Speaker. He is a Board-Certified Holistic Health Practitioner, Master Nutrition Coach, Master Personal Trainer, USAW Sports Performance Coach, and Crossfit Trainer.
He began his career as a personal trainer and nutrition coach at the age of 18 after disappointingly being medically discharged from the United States Navy Seal training pipeline due to an injury. After being exposed to the power of functional lab testing in the start of his career, he began intensely pursuing that as a career path which has led him to be widely regarded as one of the top leading experts in Metabolic Health and Functional Education.
He is the proud owner and founder of the Metabolic Solutions Institute for Functional Health and Fitness Practitioners and the creator of the Functional Mental Health Practitioner Certificate Course. He is also the founder of the Metabolic Solutions Research & Education Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation dedicated to ‘changing the way the world views mental health’ through advancing the science of Mental Health Dysfunction. He is also the creator of The Mental M.A.P.™, a cutting-edge Lab Panel for Mental Health.
When he’s not educating doctors/practitioners/professionals, helping clients overcome their most severe health struggles, or producing cutting edge scientific education, Brendan enjoys all things fitness and is probably working out. He also enjoys anything in nature and any activities that expand his heart, mind, and soul.
To learn more about Brendan, please visit: www.metabolicsolutionsllc.com
In this episode, we discuss:
🧠 What made Brendan interested in functional mental health and neuroinflammation?
🧠 Exploring the crucial role of microglial cells
🧠 Link between neuroinflammation and Insomnia
🧠 Insights into the sleep challenges faced by many Americans
🧠 Brendan addressed that lifestyle behaviors play a significant role in people's struggles
🧠 What are the foundational elements that coaches and practitioners should motivate their patients to implement
🧠 How to nurture your fundamentals for mental well-being
🧠 Objective assessment of brain cell dysfunction
🧠 Reinforcing objective data
🧠 Benefits of Mental M.A.P testing
🧠 What could we learn from Brendan's sleep-night routine?
🧠 Learn more about The Mental M.A.P.™️ www.metabolicsolutionsllc.com
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The information contained on this podcast, our website, newsletter, and the resources available for download are not intended as, and shall not be understood or construed as, medical or health advice. The information contained on these platforms is not a substitute for medical or health advice from a professional who is aware of the facts and circumstances of your individual situation.
Welcome to the Sleep is a Skill podcast. My name is Mollie McGlockin, and I own a company that optimizes sleep through technology, accountability and behavioral change. Each week I'll be interviewing world class experts, ranging from doctors, innovators, and thought leaders to give actionable tips and strategies that you can implement to become a more skillful sleeper.
Let's jump into your dose of practical sleep training.
You are in for a treat with today's guest. Brandon is a mental and metabolic health scientist, researcher, functional medicine educator, writer and speaker. He is a board certified holistic health practitioner, master nutrition coach, master personal trainer. U S A W, sports Performance Coach and CrossFit trainer.
He began his career as a personal trainer and nutrition coach at the age of 18. After Disappointingly being medically discharged from the United States Navy SEAL training pipeline due to an injury after being exposed to the power of functional lab testing in the start of his career, he began intensely pursuing that as a career path.
Which has led him to be widely regarded as one of the top leading experts in metabolic health and functional education. He is the proud owner and founder of the Metabolic Solutions Institute for Functional Health and Fitness practitioners and the creator of Functional Mental Health Practitioner Certification course.
He is also the founder of the Metabolic Solutions Research Education Foundation and Not-for-Profit Foundation dedicated to changing the way the world views mental health. Through advancing the science of mental health dysfunction. He's also the creator of the mental map, a cutting edge lab panel for mental health when he's not educating doctors, practitioners, professionals, helping clients overcome their most severe health struggles or producing cutting edge scientific education.
Brandon enjoys all things fitness and is. Probably working out. He also enjoys anything in nature and any activities that expand his heart, mind, and soul. I think you're gonna really enjoy this conversation because one of the things that we aim to unpack is, Is mental health and sleep, but also through the lens of neuro inflammation, some new ways of thinking about mental health, not just as something that's fixed or something that's in your genes, but as something that's dynamic and that we have a say in.
So I think you're gonna be really fascinated. I also really encourage you to. Follow him on social. He puts out tons of great material, and Optin is speaking to sleep and its importance in this entire conversation. So without further ado, let's jump into the podcast. If you've been listening to The Sleep As a Skilled podcast, you know how passionate I am about understanding the metrics that impact our sleep.
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Our guest today is really, really an exciting one. I know I say this often, and yet I really am very, very excited about today's guest for many, many reasons. And my challenge is going to be to condense this all into the time that we have together. So Brendan, thank you so much for taking the time to be here.
This really means a lot. No, Molly, thanks for having me. It was a pleasure to get to meet you. I think that was last year in Texas, uh, at Paleo Effects, and I've been a fan of your work since and I've been wanting to get to know you better and, and collaborate, so this is a great opportunity. I appreciate it.
Oh, fantastic. Yeah, there's so much synergy here and we. Kinda alluded to this and touched on this before hitting record and certainly you're gonna enlighten us on this topic. It's in from my vantage point, I really have it, that we can't separate mental health and sleep health really at all. It's, it's a real challenge to do that.
And even diagnostically, we can't see a single area in the realm of mental health that doesn't have some component of sleep or sleep dysfunction related to. So this is gonna be a very, very important episode. So just starting at the beginning, how did you find yourself being such an expert in this realm of mental health and neural inflammation?
Yeah. Well I look forward to interviewing you on my show to ask the same question. Cause I kind of look at, you know, sleep as being a niche of mental health. And then of course with mental health it's like, you know, we can delineate a little bit, but you can't really segment mental health from metabolic health or just overall health in general.
Um, but for me, you know, just the condense cuz my story could easily take like over an hour in in itself. Yes. Cause it's like my background was nutrition and fitness and, and I will boldly say that I. You know, functional medicine is cool, but I, I really do think high quality nutritional behaviors and consistent exercise behaviors will outperform most functional medicine protocols and it will fix like 80, 90% of problems most of the time.
Uh, so that's why, you know, my background with Nutrition Fitness. Now, maybe that's my bias, right? Uh, sure. Because it's my background, but still there, there's a reason. It's, it's very potent. And now all the. You know, forward thinking, functional doctors are starting to say like, oh yeah, like, maybe we should build muscle and like, you know, yes.
Eat clean and stuff. And it's like, imagine the novelty. Yeah, I know. I know. When a white coat says it, it's legit. But if a knuckle dragging personal trainer says it, you know, there must be a fraud kind of thing. It's right. But. You know, it's a little kooky. Mm-hmm. But even when I was a young nutrition and fitness professional and in very physiology, science, metabolic science minded, I was always kind of the more technical minded dude.
Um, but I was really struggling with my mental health earlier in my career. And I went through this just hellacious journey that involved the suicide attempt and hospitalization in, in the I C U, getting my stomach pumped so I didn't die. And then a psychiatric ward and. All of the aftermath, and that's a very long, painful story.
There was also a, uh, very toxic relationship component and betrayal and trauma and suicide. And so it was just this whole horrible story that, you know, we don't have time to get into all the details, but that it was going through some of that in that toxic relationship, um, and her getting. This mysterious illness that nobody could figure out.
Hmm. That's really kind of what steered me into functional medicine of I was already very holistic, uh, holistic health and fitness oriented. But then I took it upon myself of like, I have to save her. Right. Because nobody else can. Right. So that's kind of how I then started digging into different functional medicine subjects.
And then there for a while because I to this day, believe mold illness was one of the things that may have been plaguing her amongst other things, unresolved trauma and T B I and all this other stuff. But then I got like excessively niched into mold for a number of years. Uh, I kind of became like the mold guy and my whole business and career was like very fixated on mold, mold, mold and you know, the microbiome mold thing.
Um, but I kind of got to this point a little bit of a crossroad to my career. I was starting to work on expanding and developing my own business. I'm like, well, I care a lot more about just mold and I wanted to develop, you know, a brand and a platform that it was everything. It was the fitness, the nutrition, the mindfulness, the microbiome, the mold touches, psychedelics, because why not?
Yes. So, you know, then here we are, fast forward, however many years it's been, Where now this whole functional mental health thing that I'm sort of pioneering, just functional medicine for mental health and what I think it should be. And so now that's, that's my whole career. We've got the institute, the practice, the, the research Foundation and, and it's just my whole life at this point.
So this will be a fun conversation cuz Yeah. You know, sleep being just such a core component of your holistic lifestyle that is directly impacting mental health. So I'm excited to dig in. Oh, fantastic. Well, thank you so much for sharing vulnerably, you know, about what got you here and certainly provides that passion.
You know, a lot of people that listen in here know some of my story of having gone through kind of the rock bottom as it relates to my sleep, and so I feel like those of us who have. Really been through the ringer on some of these things, have that drive and it's clear to me that you certainly have that drive to make that difference for people that are, you know, struggling in their own right and what they're dealing with and providing some of these tools.
And that's why I'm so excited for today's conversation too, because I usually, I leave this for the end, but. If for anyone listening, you must follow this man's multiple social media accounts, but certainly I'm following your Instagram and on, I feel like on a daily basis, just being left with just practical takeaways and that's really what will be committed to delivering in this conversation because I know that there's so much just a different angle and at this topic of mental health that you bring, at least it's uh, one of the things that I'm often left with in how you communicate it.
Of something that's happening, certainly on a psychological aspect, but from a physiological aspect, which I think for many people, even starting there is groundbreaking. So I'm wondering if potentially you can help us even begin at the very ABCs of neuro inflammation. Uh, how can we think about that, the definition and why that might be a new way of thinking about mental health?
Yeah, absolutely. It, I've, I've gotten kind of good at, you know, providing a succinct, you know, elevator speech cause Yeah. Uh, sometimes, you know, I think people have no clue like what I really do because, uh, it, it, it can maybe feel all over, but it's actually all. Very interconnected, cuz technically, you know, my main area of research is psycho neuroendocrine, immuno metabolomics.
Right? Like, that would be the technical nomenclature of, like, that is the field of study that I'm just immersed in. And that's the, the field of research that, you know, I'm dedicating my, my research foundation to, with the work that we want to do through that. Um, now as far as, what the hell is that and what does that mean?
I mean, it's, it's the overlap of so many different, uh, classically separated fields of study, right? Psychology, neurology, immunology, endocrinology, uh, metabolics and genomics is essentially what I just rattled off there. So all of my work, everything that I do. Really centers around one specific type of immune cell of the body, which is the microglial cell.
So our, our body, we've got our immune system, but our brain, the, the functional tissue or the part team of the central nerve system has its own immune system known as the glial system. And the main, you know, uh, cell that kind of steals the show in that conversation are the microglial cells. So they're really just the innate white blood cell of your brain.
So they are there. To protect your brain from foreign invaders to help use the cleansing fire of neuroinflammation to fight off pathogens or toxins or remodel tissues. So these micro cells, Have really become the focal point of all neuropsychiatric research neurodegeneration and neurodevelopmental disorders, which I think a lot of times people think of neurodevelopmental issues, mental illness, and neurodegeneration as three totally different things.
Sure. And it's really not like physiologically, it's a lot of the same. Stuff. It's just, are we talking about early life development? Are we talking where midlife, you know, mood disorders are arising because of some reason, or are we talking about more the chronic neuroinflammatory degenerative process that happens with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, so on and so forth?
But when you look at the common underlying physiology, it all comes down to the activity of these microglial cells, which are highly, highly dynamic. They help form the brain in early life. So it's the focal point of neurodevelopmental research. Uh, when it comes to mental illness, whether it's schizophrenia or bipolar or autism, doesn't really matter.
The activity of these microglial cells is absolutely essential for overall homeostasis in the brain, and they really, I like to call them the architects. In guardians of the central nerve system because they really do build and protect your brain in nervous tissue, uh, as well as, you know, maintaining the environment and, you know, if we need to like break down an old neural network that we don't need anymore, they regulate that.
So the two main mechanisms that these microglial cells use to essentially protect and nourish and heal your brain. Is neuroplasticity and neurogenesis. So the, the birth of new brain cells in the reformation of how those brain cells are wired together. And then neuroinflammation, which technically is supposed to be a very tightly regulated, you know, cleansing fire just like a farmer has to burn the field, right?
To recycle the, the dead brush and debris, recycle this nutrients to the soil so new life can grow. That's when neuro inflammation is supposed to be. But if it gets outta control, it's dysregulated because of abnormal physiological environmental conditions. Then you get like this outta control force fire in your brain, and it really is.
The neuroinflammation that is the main culprit behind all mental illness and neurodegeneration. You know, the, the, you know, low serotonin theory has been completely dismembered. The idea of it's just brain chemical imbalances. It's not completely like inaccurate. It's just a very incomplete model. So now the new model of studying neuropsychiatric disorders and neurodegeneration, it really is more focused on.
Uh, the cytokine theory in the neuroinflammatory aspect, as well as the neurotrophic activity. So our, our neurotrophin factors like BDNF and ngf, that these are the proteins that really help protect and heal the brain, and it's all regulated by these microglial cells. So everything that I study. Is somehow connected to how it influences the metabolic activity of these immune cells of the brain.
And then it becomes a very empowering, exciting conversation cuz then it's like, what do we want to do to change the activity of these cells? You know, big pharma, their agenda is to create fancy drugs that modulate the activity of those cells. You know, whether it's monoclonal antibodies or antibiotics or neuropsychiatric drugs, whatever it is.
But as holistic providers, you know, we can look at this and go, well, what. Environment and lifestyle and diet and supplementation, sleep, you know, to have a positive impact on these physiological processes. Wow. Thank you for kind of guiding us into, versus oversimplifying to mental health or just these physiological things and separating.
You're bringing these things all together and helping us to really navigate powerfully, and many people listening are showing up with some sort of layered concerns, but certainly noteworthy these sleep difficulties. So I'm wondering if you can paint my picture for us of. If you are encountering and working with individuals that are struggling with their sleep, my understanding is that you have certain diagnostic kind of tests that you bring people through.
That might even be news to many people struggling with their mental health in a particular capacity to be able to have certain things to be on the lookout for that I. I certainly another reason, another plug for people to follow some of your content cuz you do a fantastic job of breaking down these very complex ideas and concepts and helping it to be understandable of things that might have been either blind spots or just completely new.
I know you talk about histamine being possibilities. As impacting people's mental health and certainly sleep for one example of your many, uh, lists of things that people just might have no idea are in this story. So all that to say that if people are coming your way, can you walk us through how you think about helping to get to the root cause?
And I know this is very blanket question cuz there's many, many reasons, but what are some of the things, the alarm bells that go off for you? Yeah, no, I mean, you're spot on in, in the work you do, which I'm, I'm sure you know a lot more about, you know, the epidemiology and statistics of insomnia in America.
Um, you know, I don't have any magical statistics off the top of my head, but what we do see over and over is, you know, I would say the majority of individuals struggling with their mental health do report sleep issues and, and insomnia. And I would say that insomnia is probably one of the most common symptoms of elevated neuroinflammation.
Now, I think it's important to distinguish, like with neuroinflammation, it's not this like on or off, black or white binary thing of like you either have it or you don't. No, it's a, it's a spectrum of severity. So I like to talk in terms of like the neuroinflammatory load, right? So like if I ran my mental map lab test on like a 90 year old with severe Alzheimer's, progressed Parkinson's or something, you know, their results are getting look very different than like a teenage girl that struggles with anxiety and isn't sleeping super well.
It, you know, context matters, the degree of severity. You know, so if you kind of put like neuroinflammation on a spectrum of zero, like there's no measurable neuroinflammatory mechanistic activity at all, versus 10 being, you know, super severe, like where do they fall? And you know, we can quantify this. To some degree.
Obviously our serological lab testing tools are limited. Um, but we actually have some really, really great, you know, biomarkers in lab testing that gives us objective, tangible insight, and then data that we can track to see whatever intervention strategies we're employing isn't working. Are we moving the needle?
I mean, obviously, are they sleeping better, nor are their symptoms going down, but also, is their physiology stabilizing? Do we see the, the biomarkers trending in the right direction? Because like with neuroinflammation, I mean obviously melatonin being our sleep hormone. One of the big things with neuroinflammation is it completely disregulates our neurotransmitters.
Yeah. There's two key pathways that are expressed in various, um, brain cells, the neurons, the microglial cells, astrocytes, ligo, endocyte, so on and so forth. And these two biochemical pathways are both increased during inflammation in both pathways. I'm kind of cliff noting this, but both pathways disrupt our mono neurotransmitters, our serotonin, dopamine, melatonin, so on and so forth.
Nitric oxide, gaba, glutamate, get dysregulated. So you could in technically in the research. This is, it's, it's complicated. It's nuanced. But I don't think it's sensationalized to say that neuroinflammation inhibits melatonin production. Hmm. So, and I would, I would hand it, I mean, my whole body of work is kind of arguing this.
We really have a, a big neuroinflammatory crisis in America, which nobody argues that we have a chronic inflammation issue. But if you take that like one small step forward by saying, well, we have a chronic neuro neuroinflammatory issue, people are like, wow, what does that mean? And it's like, it's the, it's the same thing.
You think inflammation in your body, just like stay, you know what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. It doesn't work that way. Like the inflammation in your gut or your periphery is gonna directly impact. The inflammation in your brain, the neuroinflammatory status. So insomnia becomes a very common symptom of neuroinflammation, which most Americans have elevated levels of.
And again, it might be more severe or extreme, but you know, you're average American. That's, you know, Standard American metabolism, dyslipidemia, blood sugar issues, microbiome, leaky gut, despite, you know, malnourished, so on and so forth. You know, maybe on a scale of zero to 10, I would say most Americans are rocking like a three to six on the neuroinflammatory scale, so, mm.
So no wonder nobody can really sleep. And that's not even accounting for like all the, the stress. Yes. All the psychological psycho-emotional, perceived psychotic, sociological behavioral patterns going on these days. So, We need to put that on a billboard. Yep. Uh, a hundred percent. Uh, you're really fleshing out how nuanced this can absolutely get, and I, I hope that as people are listening, that one of the things that you're left with is that we can test for some of these things.
We can isolate and start to. Put ourselves on a path for healing, for improvement in that symptomology and down the road, be able to make a real measurable difference with this area, not just a fixed way of being like you are this way. And it's one of the things we deal with a lot with sleep is people will say, I'm a bad sleeper, I'm a short sleeper, I'm a night owl.
It's in my jeans. You know, all of these fixed ways of being, and I'd imagine. You might run into something similar of people. Well, mental health issues run in my family. Well, I've always been anxious. I've, you know, some of the, those labels and I hope that it leaves people with this opportunity that, while that might be a snapshot of how things are for us at the moment, that there are.
These avenues and people like yourself that can help us to uh, differentiate like really what's at play here and get ourselves in a program and protocol to make a difference with your specific difficulties as it relates to your results and certainly as it relates to results with sleep. So having said all that, then I'm curious, I'm sure, and I know I'm way oversimplifying things cuz I'm clear that there is a lot that we could dive into here.
But when you do think of. Sleep. And it sounds like you are hearing of insomnia being a complaint very often. Is there a particular kind of starter kit or a path that you would think that people should explore that they might not have considered or certain best practices? Kind of, how do you think about the, what's next for those people that are struggling?
Yeah. You know, honestly, Molly, it's like, as much as I love, you know, root cause medicine and everything, the biggest problem that I see over and over and, you know, my team and I battle in our, our practice every single day, uh, is really people are so fixated for they're, there's the paralysis by analysis.
They're consuming so much information and integrating and implementing very, very little. And getting really sucked into these like theoretical root cause rabbit holes, right? Yeah. They, they want to like, no, no, I'm a special unicorn. I'm really, really complex and there has to be some mysterious root cause and I just have to do, yes, the right root cause test, find that specific singular root cause and then what's the fancy, you know, pill protocol that poof makes all my problems go away.
It's like that's not how it works. The major reason so many people are struggling. Is the foundation of their lifestyle behaviors is, is dog shit. Like I'll just say it. Right. Thank you. Preach. You know, because like to enable that, that false ideology and keep selling them the root cause ideology. Sure. I think that's messed up.
You know, you're enabling their self-limiting beliefs and behavioral patterns instead of reflecting back to them. Like I was just, I was just working with a new client this week. You know wonderful mother that's like really, really trying to help her daughter. And she was like really kind of been outta shape about this kind of theoretical root cause subject.
Sure. And it's like, okay, that's not the reason why your daughter's struggling with her mental health. She's not moving, she's not active, she's not exercising, she's not putting good food in her face. She's not letting the sunlight, you know, kiss her skin ever. Like she's not sleeping. She's plugged into this mine poison all day, every day.
So, You really, you're, you're worried about the fish oil that I just recommended to you. Yeah. You know, let's put things losing the forest for the trees. Sure. Absolutely. So I just. A huge part of what I do is like, great, you wanna do some lab testing that brings objective data and, and the thing I love about objectivity Yes.
Is it helps show people, right? So it's like, okay, you can do whatever intervention you want, but is it working? Right? But the point being, it's the foundational things. It's the stress management, the sleep, the exercise, the time in nature. Meaningful relationships. So you, we have to, as coaches and practitioners, be motivational, interviewing people back to the foundation's, done well consistently.
And it's like, then if you're still experiencing some nagging symptoms, you can explore that and maybe refine that and try different supplements or hacks or whatever. But if your big rocks aren't in place, what are you doing? Uh, preach. Yes, a hundred percent. That's one of the things that we'll say and we, and purpose out of our programs put.
We call chrono pharmacology. So the timing of your drugs, and that can be as basic as you know, when you're drinking your coffee, your alcohol, your T HC to nuanced pharma, uh, pharmaceuticals, supplements, et cetera. We put that as the last module that we get to, much to the chagrin of most people with the argument that if we're not getting those first foundational components, then kind of, you know, good luck.
Now, of course there are. Those instances. And we do encourage people to test not guests and take certain, uh, informed action, but to just be looking for sort of that quick fix or be hearkening on that we're broken. That's a big theme in, uh, kind of sleep disruption where people think, well, something happened to me.
I used to sleep fine. And clearly now I'm just, I'm messed up for life. I'm the switch to be able to turn off my brain at night is broken and it's just stuck that way. And then we can reinforce our behavior. So I appreciate you pointing to some of these fundamentals. So when you think of these fundamentals, do you think in a pyramid analogy, is this a big portion of the pyramid when you're speaking to the things that can really move the needle?
So for the listener that says, well, I've been chronically depressed, anxious, et cetera, is one of the first places to begin with those fundamentals, and what do you see those to be? Yeah, absolutely. You know, for me, I, I think about, um, while I don't necessarily like specialize in sleep per se Sure. You know, on a personal level, I mean, My sleep is sacred.
You like, you could ask my girlfriend and I'm always harping like, you don't mess with, with my sleep. Um, because, you know, being somebody that, like I was diagnosed major depressive disorder and A D H D and you know, all the things that I do to manage my mental health, sleep is probably a, like, I would say sleep in my nature.
Walks are actually my top two. I would say nutrition and fitness are actually. Behind my, my sleep and my nature walks because like in order for me to feel good in my body, in my soul, like I need the quality restful sleep, and I need movement in nature and sunshine, I'm very, you know, sensitive to sunlight and sunlight deprivation.
I get really bad. You know, seasonal effective, and obviously we could talk all day about the clock genes and circadian biology and how the sun sets all that. But you know, that's a part of that, that sleep hygiene. So when people, and don't get me wrong, like we can always do some intelligent allopathy, right?
People want the protocol, they want the test, they want the protocol. Ensure that can expedite, right? Because like learning and adopting sleep hygiene habits or lifestyle, nutritional exercise habits, it can take a lot of time. Right? So Sure. Like if we want to do the me, like my whole sleep stack, it is a whole thing.
And that can help cuz if we can just get them sleeping and get them more rested, ah. Now we have the energy and the cognitive function to now let's take a look at your diet and your exercise. Yes. And your self-limiting beliefs and your unresolved traumas and whatever else. Ah, amazing. Hi, you're my person.
A hundred percent. So from that place of getting those fundamentals in line, and again, cuz I know I keep harping on this, but I do just think that it's so huge for the listener because for so many people, this alone is a paradigm shift that. We are not destined. That there's not just in our genes, you're kind of speaking to more of this epigenetic kind of standpoint and this ability and this moldability and uh, neuroplasticity and all of these things that actually have us at the root of making a difference.
So versus that root cause paradigm, which important and yet versus being, seeking that out as much, knowing that we can really make a difference from the get-go. So. From that place. Now, if people are saying, well, I do want more of that objective data to verify, to validate my stance, that something is fundamentally off, what would that look like for them?
Do they go and get a blood draw? Is it in depth? Is there certain things that you just want every person you're working with to go through? What do you, what do you see there? Yeah, so full transparency, cuz I, my, my whole world really centers around lab testing. You know, everything I do is very objective data driven.
Yeah. Um, which I think is very powerful. So I, I am kind of a big critic, uh, with functional lab testing. Sure. The majority of functional lab tests are not FDA approved. A lot of the data doesn't have established clinical significance. Now, it doesn't mean that it's completely wrong or inaccurate or relevant, but we don't have the research on most of these functional tests to say, this is clinically relevant, or it's accurate, or it's reproducible or, You know, whatever.
Like I was just tearing apart Zo the zonulin marker, you know, on all the stool tests of like zonulin. It means you have leaky gut. And it's like, actually no, that's been completely disproven. It's not a reliable biomarker like at all for leaky gut. So you heard it here first, folks, you know? Yeah. And stuff like that.
Yeah. So what I did, And I'm very transparent about it. I developed my own proprietary lab panel that I called the mental Map. Uh, MAP stands for Microglial Activation Profile. And essentially my goal with that, because I saw the problems that all this like experimental, non clinically established functional lab testing, it seemed like it was creating more problems than it was solving because then you, you know, oh my God, you have some ochratoxin coming out in your urine.
You have mold illness, right? Like, That to me looks like malpractice in a lot of ways. So my goal with the mental map was, you know what? Biomarkers are very, very well established and studied and clinically significant and are relevant for assessing objectively, you know, the likelihood of, of, you know, brain cell dysfunction essentially.
So for example, one of the core markers on the panel that I created called Neurofilament Light Chain. Is a very well studied biomarker that's essentially a direct blood marker of brain cell damage. It's primarily been studied for like multiple sc uh, sclerosis for the past couple decades. It actually just became commercially available within the past like year or two.
Um, so like that's one marker that it's a direct marker of brain cell damage. So it's like, well, if we have all these inflammatory markers that can indicate. The likelihood of neuroinflammation and they're elevated and we see elevations in this marker of brain cell damage. Like we have a pretty clear, strong, objective picture that says you have heightened inflammation in your body and your brain and ma your gut.
Um, as well as like actual measurable damage to your brain cells as, as measured by this biomarker. So they're all very established biomarkers that give us a lot of insight into somebody's biochemistry, their physiology, their immune function. Um, so that way we can track over the course of time. But I find it usually with, with clients.
It's either gonna validate like, Hey, it's not just in your head. It's not just like a psychological or personality issue, like there is a tangible, objective, physiological explanation for your issues. But also sometimes it's the opposite where they think they're like, really messed up and I'm, I'm, you know, like, yes.
Well, I, I got covid and now I can't sleep. So I blame Covid for my sleep issues now. Mm. Sometimes depending on the test results, sometimes it's like, actually your physiology looks great, so maybe we're looking in the wrong place. Like you're trying to find something physiologically wrong with you. Maybe you're kind of spiritually bypassing some of the psychoemotional work that you need to do.
Maybe we need to take a closer look at your, your lifestyle behaviors, right? So this is where having that objective data, it can provide a lot of clarity. You know, where there was ambiguity. Uh, that's so, so important of a point too. And, and even that no matter what comes back there can be real powerful takeaways because if there is not that physiological component at play that we're seeing clearly objectively, then we can.
Then look in another direction to your point of those lifestyle, you know, kind of pieces. And then if there is something at play that can give us something to make sure that we're being responsible for, taken care of in the wake of making sure we have those fundamentals there. So all of that information really, really important.
I'm curious if you are seeing, so certainly many of the people that we're working with all have some sort of wearable data tracking, uh, component for greater or lesser extent. So meaning they are tracking their sleep in some particular capacity, consumer grade. And we do have one of the larger databases of Aura Ring users in particular.
And I'm curious if you. See benefit for people or have any concerns or call outs or any opinions on wearables in the wake of what people might be dealing with from a mental health component. Checking on that in particular, because I know I've seen many people dealing with chronic anxiety or depression looking to things like H R V to kind of monitor and get another objective daily standpoint for where they might be at.
Is that anything that you like to utilize? Do you have concerns about that or thoughts at all? Yeah, I have, I have a lot of thoughts, Paul, I'll keep it succinct. Um, okay. You know, I personally am not a gadget guy. Yeah. Um, I'm, I'm very much about just intuition, getting really in tune with your body. Um, and I, I personally don't like wearing gadgets and tracking stuff.
Yeah. On a daily, uh, maybe that's my A D H D I don't know. But I do think there's a lot of value in the H R V or continuous glucose monitors. I look forward to the day that the CGMs can basically track your blood chemistry in real time. Yeah. Because like, that'll happen. It's just a matter of time. Yeah. Um, but H R V is great now.
Certainly, you know, I know that there's some nuance to. Like the accuracy of whoop band and or ordering. Yeah. And, and whatever. But on in general, H R V is a very useful data point. Like there's a lot of research on, you know, individuals with P T S D have a lower H R V score and that's kind of part of their, you know, nervous system dysregulation, H P A issues.
Um, you know, something that I kind of tease about though is like, sometimes you'll be talking to somebody and they're like, Well, my AA ring said I didn't sleep well last night. And I'll ask them, how do you feel about how you slept last night? They're like, well, I thought I slept great. And it's like, well, okay, so are you gonna let the, the sort of experimental data convince you that you didn't sleep well when you do actually feel like you slept well?
Yeah, a hundred percent. There's that fine line. Yeah. But I do think that H R V has value, like there's a strong correlation with like vagal tone in H R V score. Sure. For example. So, um, I, I think if we're using the data to reinforce healthy belief systems and behaviors, absolutely. And I'm all about using objective data to get people more in tune with their body.
Right. Because even with like a blood draw, what, you're only gonna do a blood draw, like what, every two, six months? Depending on how neurotic you are. Yeah. So like, you know, we, we need some data to reinforce. Um, you know, behavior modification, right? Our neuro limbic system is evolved to discourage anything that doesn't get us the results for our effort, right?
Mm-hmm. So if we're trying so hard to lose weight or trying so hard to sleep better, if we don't have some sort of accurate, sensitive, objective data point that basically proves to our neuro limbic system that, hey, this new behavior that I'm trying so hard to do is working, our brains can be like, stop doing it.
Like it's a waste of time and energy. So it's important to have accurate data to encourage that. Ah, so well said a hundred percent. Now I'm very excited to learn about how you are managing your sleep, but before we get there, cause I, I'm clear that you've thought deeply about so many of these things and I like that, you know, kind of intuition by which you're managing your life.
And I'm very curious to see how you're putting that into practice. But before we get there, Is there anything that you wanna make sure that you speak to or say, or do you think we hit on some of the major pieces as it relates to how you're thinking about sleep and your line of work? Yeah, I think I just want to, I mean, we kind of.
Mapped it out, but I just wanna reiterate that I would really argue mostly issues, sleep disturbance, insomnia is generally gonna be like a, a symptom, a side effect of some sort of like neuroinflammatory, neuroendocrine, immunological dysregulation. So especially when you look at how. The more brain inflammation somebody has, the less melatonin production they're really gonna have in, in the brain.
Yeah. And that's, that's just biochemistry is, is what it is. Um, you know, so there's a whole conversation be had around like the gut brain axis and h p a axis Yeah. And all that. But I will just simply say it's really hard to have quality sleep when your brain is on fire. And in order to really objectively assess neuroinflammation, that's what I designed the mental map for.
Um, and then, hey, you know, if that, if that looks good, then you know, maybe we're looking in the wrong place. Like, You know, maybe we need to look at some of the other environmental and behavioral aspects around it. Hmm. I love how you put that. The brain's on fire really difficult to sleep, and I think a lot of listeners can relate to that and just have that intuitive sense that something, there's a lot of activity up there.
I. So in the event that they go through the process of running a mental map, they see that they do have those results that indicate that kind of brain on fire, so to speak, is there then guidance thereafter and kind of the protocol by which they can take to put out that fire? Yeah, that's what I, I love about the practice that we've built is it's kind of like, I feel like it's kind of a, a good combination of, of really good health coaching and really good, you know, functional medicine principles because, you know, behavior modification, overhauling somebody's lifestyle, diet and sleep hygiene and, and fitness.
I mean, that can take years and decades of, of evolution and behavior modification. And the behavior modification is secondary to belief system modification, which, Hey, to create new belief systems that takes a lot of neuroplasticity, which neuroinflammation makes it really hard to build new neural networks, which means it's hard to learn new behaviors and learn new skills, right?
So a lot of times it's almost like if, if there is more neuroinflammation, it's almost like we have to put out the fire in the brain before we can even really modulate the belief systems and the then the behaviors. Mm-hmm. So that's what's really cool about it is, you know, if some of these mental map results come in, And they have like a lot of evidence of neuroinflammation and suppress neuroplasticity and excitotoxicity, which is kind of this other mechanism we didn't really get into.
But yeah, very much plays into anxiety and sleep disorders with the N M D A receptors. Um, it's nice because then we can create more targeted protocols using, you know, for some, like we could talk all day about like just a zinc insufficiency and how that completely dysregulate somebody's sleep, you know, or magnesium or different botanicals.
So I think it's really empowering cuz then we can have more of a precision protocol that will move the needle pretty quickly and that puts 'em in a more stable, coherent place. So then be able to do more of that coaching and integration work. Yeah. Thank you for touching on some of those other areas because I think this, it just points to how big of a topic this can be and to have people that can really break it down, guide us through what, what are some of the best practices if you are dealing with that versus it just goes to show, you know, maybe the ineffective current model of just.
Going to Amazon and buying a bunch of supplements to try to get this sleep to come to you or whatever the person might be dealing with, versus taking a more targeted approach and really understanding what's really is at play. So I really appreciate that. So for yourself, certainly you have devoted your life, or at least I get the sense of devoting your life to one, helping to educate people on these topics and two, Making sure you're living an example of what's possible.
And that's one of the things I'm left with with you of sharing your story and now living this healthy and fully self-actualized life. So curious how you're setting things up as it relates to seriously. So the first question we ask for everyone is, what is your nightly sleep routine looking like right now?
What could we learn from how you're thinking about your evenings? Yeah, you know, I, I definitely, you know, walk the walk. I'm, I'm kind of a private person, so I don't like, you know, show a lot of my life or lifestyle on, on Instagram. But if people actually did see into like a, a day in the life, I mean, you know, I, it's clear I've got my regimen down to a weird level.
Yeah, I already got that sense from you just in our, in our interactions. So yeah, it's really nice to see too because it can, I mean, this can feel at odds when you're going to, uh, professional and it feels as if they are not living this, whereas you clearly, if both visually and based on everything I've, kind of all my interactions with you are passionate about bringing these, uh, principles into your life.
Yeah, I think it makes a big difference. I think authenticity and passion are very palpable. Yeah. And very like high vibration. So, You know, my sleep hygiene, you know, I'm sure there's all the basic stuff that I'm sure everybody says over and over, like I do the, um, I don't know what brands my blue blockers are.
Yeah. But they're like good ones. Like the $120. Yes. Like a aviator orange glasses. Totally. Um, so it's like I do that, put those on about two hours before bedtime. I unplugged the, the wifi router before I go to bed. Nice. Nice. Keep I I got it. I have to have it cold. Yes. Like I need a very cool bedroom. I can't sleep hot.
Um, very dark blackout curtains. Obviously, you know, the soothing activities. Don't do anything stimulating leading up to bed. I, I'm a morning workout kind of guy, but I will say, like when I, um, I do a lot of yoga, uh, two to four days a week, usually in the morning. But I will say like when I do it in the evening, Amazing for my sleep.
Like if I do a, an evening vinyasa class. Yeah. I mean it's very sedative in, in itself. Um, I do a lot of supplements too. I mean, I, I take a lot of magnesium, lot of five H c p take melatonin most nights. Uh, inositol glycine. Um, I take a lot, a lot of supplements. So in between kind of the, the sleep hygiene and the supplements, I generally sleep really, really well.
You know, I'm like a nine hour night kind of guy for the most part. Every now and then, like stress. Really messes me up if I'm like really cranked up on stress. But that's like the general gist of it. Totally get it a hundred percent. Great. Okay, and then so for your morning sleep routine with the idea that how you're setting up your days, could I impact your nights?
What might we see there? Yeah, well, I'm, you know, fortunate I've, I've worked hard and, you know, worked for myself, so it means I get to n I never set an alarm, you know, like I, I wake up whenever I wake up and yeah, I'm a very early morning kind of guy, so I'm usually like in bed asleep by like eight 30 or nine, and then usually I'm waking up organically.
Somewhere between like 4:50 AM and 6:30 AM You know, it, it just, whenever I wake up, right? Yeah. But as soon as I'm done with that REM cycle, I'm awake and my brain just starts going, um, you know, I'm really big on morning sunlight exposure, and fortunately my apartment faces, um, east, so I, I get a really nice.
Morning sunlight and I like to just soak it in while I sip my coffee or mud water, whatever I'm drinking there. Yeah. And I got my morning supplements, so whereas like I take a lot of kind of sedative, you know, supplements in the evening. Sure. I'm taking more kind of stimulant things in the morning. Lot of methylated B vitamins, dopamine support from I D H D, vitamin C.
Um, along with, um, I'm not huge on caffeine, like, you know, I, I think caffeine people need to chill Yes. Quite a bit. So I do like half halff coffee and, and tea. Yes. Stuff like that. Yeah. Nice. That's kinda the morning routine. Amazing. And I know you mentioned your hikes. Is that something where you, how often do you bring those in?
I love that. It's very inspiring. Yeah. The nature walks. I do. Oh, nature walks. Yes. Yeah. Hi. I mean, yeah. You know, it's, I live in Kansas, so we don't have mountains, so Yes, totally. I mean, I love hiking, but uh, it's more of like a shim to walk through the woods kinda thing. Get a, get some hills here and there.
That's most days. I mean, unless I'm too tired or unless the weather sucks, but it's, sure. Most days of the week, usually nice. Two miles if I'm kind of tired, four miles, if I'm feeling a little bit. But that's like my walking meditation, you know? Love that. 60, 90 minutes of brisk walking, uh, aerobic base training.
Get the sunlight at the pseudo commens as the microbiological world. Um, clear my head, meditate, breathe. Um, but yeah, I, I actually like my nature walks are, Almost more sacred to me than, than my exercise regimen, which I never really thought I would say, but I would say so. Ah, I'm so right there with you. I feel like walks have become this level of therapy for me and just, and I love what you said, the meditation piece.
Ugh. It's really incredible. And then the third question would be, what would we see on your nightstand or if you're, you know, kind of traveling, maybe proverbial nightstand, the apps, gadgets, ambiance. Not much. I mean, like right now I'm thinking of my literal nightstand and it's like I have a lot of weapons in my, uh, nightstand drawer.
You know, it's like probably five magazines in a Glock, but, uh, and a big old knife. My girlfriend always tells that shes can, like, cut my throat in the middle of the night. I'm, wait, try No, I mean, you know, I honestly though, like, I, I usually keep my melatonin and like binder, like some kind of activated charcoal or something because I'm, you know, big on like, if you're gonna take a binder before bed is a good time.
So, you know, I got the melatonin, got my glasses, my orange glasses, you know, got like a spiritual daily devotional book. Um, But yeah, you know, nothing crazy. I like it. It's interesting too cuz um, in doing all of these, it's been so cool to hear everyone's like the, get a visual of what is in their space.
And it is interesting how there is this theme around the minimalist kind of approach. And I think there can be something to be said for, there's really not much on there, a glass of water or whatever, you know what I mean? And it's interesting, I've seen. Some of the people that have so many things also be the very people that are still kind of struggling with their sleep.
So I think there's something, some wisdom there. And then the last question would be, what would you say has made the biggest change to your sleep? Or said another way, maybe the biggest aha moment in managing your own sleep. Honestly, it what immediately came to mind, I think back to like when I, I was doing a lot of personal training.
And I was doing split shifts, you know, so I was like waking up at 4:00 AM and it, it's pitch black outside and I'm training like a 5:00 AM client, 6:00 AM client seven, eight, you know? And then you get that mid, mid-morning midday lull where nobody's coming to the gym or the studio or wherever I was at the time.
And then you got your evening clients. That sucks. Yeah, like that sucked so bad. You know, my sleep was so off and then it's like I'm passing out in the middle of the day, you know, from exhaustion, but then I have to like perk up and go back to the gym and then try to fall asleep again. I do not miss those days at all, and I remember.
Somewhere in those, I think it was like 2016, I did uh, a four point salivary cortisol test and it was so funny looking cuz first off, I mean, you know, adrenals were spitting out smoke. Yeah. But in the middle of the day, my cortisol was like non-existent because what's kind of cool about like your cortisol diurnal rhythm?
It'll synchronize itself with your schedule. Right, right. It, it's not so much that, you know, so if you're active at a certain time of day, the cortisol will rise to match that, to sort of fuel that, you know, activity at that time of the day. So if you work a lot in the evening, your cortisol's probably gonna, you know, get synced up with that and vice versa.
Um, but, you know, having control of my schedule, like when I went fully into virtual entrepreneur work for myself mode, which was 2018, that's when everything changed. That's when like literally everything about my life changed for the better. You know, having the control, the sovereignty over my schedule. I decide when I wake up, I decide when I go to bed.
I decide what hours I service clients or when I'm working or when I'm not working. And you know, obviously there's a lot of like self-accountability and, and stuff, but I wouldn't have it any other way. So I, I do really, um, empathize with people that maybe don't have the same degree of flexibility, for example.
Sure. Night shift for nurses. Oh, I can't tell you how many night shift nurses I've worked with and you know, I always have to. Educate them. I'm like us. The sooner you can get out at night shifts the better. I don't know what else to tell you. Yeah. You know, you're probably gonna be struggling for as long as you're doing these night shifts.
It just, we are, we are not nocturnal creatures. Exactly. So, yes, it's not. Yeah, no, you draw such an important point there and I think there is, it's important for people to understand what they're up against and not to kind of sugarcoat that end. For anyone listening that might be working shift work.
Certainly there are things that we can do to help support, but there's a reality. There's a reality that there is some of the concerns of the World Health Organization that shift work being listed as a possible carcinogen. There is just some of those clear. Pieces to point to that we are these diurnal creatures and not nocturnal, as you pointed to, and I do think makes all the more of an argument for someone that is on a abnormal shift or managing their life.
And I see a lot of people that are not even. Working any sort of shifts, but they can create their own schedule and unfortunately are choosing to create a schedule that is like a shift worker. And that can be problematic in and of itself. So the more we can educate, the more we can help people make really informed decisions.
And if they are shift workers, set themselves up powerfully to at least create in a full way, which is never what we'd like to first, you know, choice, but still create that two-part system to the day, the day mode, and night mode very clearly. So really, really important points, and I'm clear. That we just scratched the surface on all the amazing information that you put out.
So how can people follow you? How can they learn more about you? How can they participate in the mental maps or some of the programs that you run to educate? Tell us all the things. Yeah, I mean, first off, I, I really appreciate you, Molly, and the, the work that you're doing is, is equally important, so I can't wait to, uh, have you on my show.
We can, you know, keep, keep the conversation going and I really, I want to get all the functional trends together. You know, all, all of us, biohacker babes, you all, all the others, all of our mutual friends, so we got a. Manifest some kind of get together so we can all hang out again, but, um, oh, I'm down. Let's do it.
Yeah. Yeah. I've been, I've been chirping about this for a while, but you know, I think I need to just step up as leader, like pull the trigger of like, all right guys, we're like, we're meeting up this date, this, you know, oh my God, I can be your. Renee, we need to make it happen. The ladder. Oh yeah. We're, we're in.
Yeah. See, let's put the, let's put the heavy lifting on Renee. Yeah. Unfortunately. No, we love you Renee. Yeah. Yeah. But, um, this is honestly just been such a, a fun conversation, but it's easy to find me. I'm at the Savage on Instagram and that's the main platforms where we put everything out. And honestly, my link tree that's in the profile bio, like that's more valuable than my website cuz it's just all the direct links that you need.
Mental mat become an F M H B, become a client. Like download all my free stuff. We have a lot of free stuff, you know, and it drives me crazy. I know you can appreciate the Molly. Yes. But it's like, you know, we put so much effort into our posts, you know, the imagery and the verbiage. Yeah. And the captions.
And then people don't read it. And they're like, so what do I do to fix this? Or like, how do I get help? And it's like every day, like follow the instructions that's in the post you paid by numbers. Go download it, the the free 10 page guide and like implement it. And if you're having a hard time implementing it and give us the opportunity to help you, like, yes.
You know, I think there needs to be in our world, uh, more candor, more direct communication. Because I think when we do this dance of like, oh, you know, it's okay, maybe it's because of fill in the blank with root cause. We're enabling people's self-destructive behaviors. Yeah. And if we're gonna be effective coaches and practitioners, you have to hold people accountable.
You have to shoot straight and be direct. Like if somebody's working night shift. Like, don't sell them some expensive protocol and promise it's gonna make it all better. Like, no, how do we get you out of night shift? Like, yes. Yes. My goodness. Thank you. Because it's so important too in a world where people wanna be able to still do the thing that's not serving their body, their mental, emotional, or spiritual health.
And kind of have the cake and eat it too. And there are certain moments where you need to make hard choices. I mean, I live in Austin, Texas now and had been in Manhattan for a big part of my life. Uh, I grew up in the, uh, northeast and uh, it was very clear that even just the choices around health, geography are gonna make that difference as far as how you feel sometimes you have to make these choices that might not be convenient or what have you.
And yet they can be for your greater good. So I so appreciate that candor in speaking to what's really going on there. Okay, well this was fantastic and yes, I'm so down to do the podcast. I'm excited. So everyone listening, you've got the podcast coming, which is exciting. And then if certainly download all those freebies and go through those steps and then be able to implement some of those things that are available to you right now.
And then if you still find yourself struggling, then certainly taking those next. Steps to get some support, uh, from people that have really devoted their life to these topics. So really fantastic. So appreciate you and yay for our in Real Life Meetup. That will be amazing. Absolutely. Absolutely. Such pleasure and I'll look forward to our next conversation.
My friend, you've been listening to The Sleep Is A Skill podcast, the number one podcast for people who wanna take their sleep skills to the next level. Every Monday, I send out something that I call Molly's Monday Obsessions containing everything that I'm obsessing over in the world of sleep. Head on over to sleep as a skill.com to sign up.