Speaker 1: Welcome to the Gladden Longevity Podcast with Dr. Jeffrey Gladden MD, FACC, founder and CEO of Gladden Longevity. On this show we want to answer three questions for you. How good can we be? How do we make 100 the new 30? And how do we live well beyond 120? We want to help you optimize your longevity, health, and human performance with impactful and actionable information. Now here's today's episode of the Gladden Longevity Podcast.
The Gladden Longevity Podcast is provided for informational purposes only, it does not constitute medical advice. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. The use of any information and materials linked to this podcast is at the listener's own risk.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Welcome to this edition of Gladden Longevity Podcast, I'm Dr. Jeffrey Gladden. On today's show, we're going to have a conversation with Dr. Doni D-O-N-I Wilson. She's a naturopathic physician, and has a real interest in stress and its effects not only on health, but I think you're going to find this conversation incredibly interesting. Because not only do we go into stress and different ways to measure it, but we're going to talk about some psychedelics, we're going to talk about resetting the entire stage, if you will, relative to stress and how it's managed and actually mastered. She's written a book called Master Your Stress, Reset Your Health. And I found this to be a really fascinating conversation, I think you will too.
Welcome everybody, to this edition of the Gladden Longevity Podcast, really happy to have with us today, Dr. Doni Wilson. Doni is a naturopathic physician that has a lot of experience with stress, anxiety, depression. She's written a book that's been quite helpful to a number of people, it's entitled Master Your Stress and Reset Your Health. I know she's been recognized for this and been on many podcasts, and seen a lot of different places. Doni, it's great to have you here, why don't you walk us through a little bit about how you came to write that book?
Dr. Doni Wilson: Thank you so much for having me, Jeff. I'm glad to be here, and I'm so glad to get to share this book with your audience. The thing is I became interested in stress, actually at a pretty young age. Now looking back at it, of course we can see looking back with 2020 vision, the stresses we experienced in childhood, which most all of us experience stress of some sort during our childhoods. And the way it showed up for me, was actually all the way when after I had finished my bachelor's in science and bachelor's in nutrition. Then I decided to go to naturopathic medical school, I went to Bastyr University and graduated in the year 2000. While I was getting my naturopathic degree, I also decided to become a midwife, and part of my midwifery training, so I'm doing home births in the Seattle area. We had to do a thesis, a research project, and my thesis-
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: There's no stress involved with that? So I can...
Dr. Doni Wilson: No, sir. I think already I was like, "Okay, let me get two degrees, and let me..."
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Yeah. Let me get three degrees, and then let me have your baby at home. So I can just do everything. Yeah. Okay.
Dr. Doni Wilson: So what I was researching was how does stress affect women in labor? I mean, most all of us have a fear of labor to some degree, because we're walking into the unknown of what's going to happen. But I wanted to understand how, especially women who had a history of stress early in their life, how did stress affect them in labor? And what I found-
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: So let me ask you a question here, because I might need to clarify this. Are you asking the... We know that labor itself is incredibly stressful. So is the question you're asking, how does going through that stress affect them? Or are you asking if they're under a lot of stress, are they a stressed individual and then they're going through labor, how does that affect them? Is that the question you're asking?
Dr. Doni Wilson: Both. I was really asking both. Yes, how do we go through a stressful experience like labor, and in particular, is it different for someone who had a very stressful past? And [inaudible 00:04:36] I found most interesting for women who had a stressful past, and for women who didn't have as stressful of a past. What was interesting is that for labor to progress most effectively, we actually need an optimal amount of cortisol and adrenaline levels, which are stress hormones, right? It’s interesting that, because sometimes we would think that we should be stress free or that we should have zero cortisol, right? A lot of times I think we get confused about, what are we really aiming for here?
And so researching labor, I saw that actually we need an optimal amount of cortisol and adrenaline, for the body functioning to happen most efficiently. If women have too much stress, too much cortisol and adrenaline, labor comes to a halt and more interventions are needed. If women don't have enough cortisol or adrenaline, labor doesn't happen well either, and they need something to stimulate their stress hormones. And so after I graduated and finished my residency, I moved to Manhattan right after 9/11. So I landed in Manhattan in November 2001, which was the-
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Let me guess, just because wherever there's stress, you feel this magnetic attraction, that's what I'm getting, right?
Dr. Doni Wilson: I know, it is like I have to wonder, okay, here I go again.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Yeah. Let me go look at ground zero and see how this is working. Okay.
Dr. Doni Wilson: And so I decided, let me apply this information to all of my patients, men, women, children, do we all need an optimal amount of cortisol and adrenaline, in order to optimally get through stress. Because a lot of times stress happens, things that we have no control over, right? How can we maintain optimal health and longevity, which is your favorite topic? How do we actually optimize longevity? And so my question then was, is it about having optimal cortisol and adrenaline? And I'm asking this back in 2001, so now it's 21 years later and this is what I've been testing, researching, implementing clinically with my patients and myself over the past couple decades.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: So when we think about it in the longevity space, it's a really interesting point that you're bringing up here. The way that we tend to think about stress is there's bad stress, chronic stress, right? Or a stress that's greater than we can physiologically or capable of handling, right? That's a bad stress. But a hormetic stress, which is more of a physiologic stress, fasting, saunas, exercise, and even psychological stress to some extent. It stimulates the body to actually get stronger, and it activates longevity genetics, and it actually helps us to cope and to have resilience if you will. So is that what you've been learning here? Or tell us more, what have you actually learned.
Dr. Doni Wilson: Yeah. And I do correlate it with what we now know Hormesis, which is to say that a certain amount of stress and stress hormones is actually good for us. We need a little bit of cortisol and adrenaline, to even just if we think of exercise, right? We need to create a little stress in order to build muscles, and challenge our heart and all of that. But even something that's good for us if we overdo it, it goes from a good thing to a harmful thing.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Well, it's interesting too, because there's a lot of push for us to do things that lower stress, because everybody seems to have too much of it. And I think, but really what you're arguing is that there's actually, it's a Goldilocks kind of thing, there's just the right amount of stress. And if we were to sit and necessarily meditate for the rest of our lives, that may not be the healthiest thing. Simply because we wouldn't be exposing ourselves to some elements of psychological stress that we need to, in order to activate certain parts of the brain, et cetera, et cetera. Is that what you're saying?
Dr. Doni Wilson: Exactly. And I think that Goldilocks concept is, first of all, I love that you're bringing that up, it's a perfect way to explain it. And it's also a very hard concept for us humans to embrace, because we're used to extremes, we're used to pushing ourselves harder, and longer, and doing it better. Even we would push ourselves to, like you're saying meditate all day, or I'm thinking on the beach behind you. A lot of people say, "Well, do I need to go on vacation in order to recover from stress?" And I would say, "I mean, yes, we want to build in some breaks for sure." But I'm thinking we need to build in our breaks into our day to day life routine, not just wait until we can only go to the beach for a week.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Yeah. No, I think that's exactly right. I think that in my own experience, I've been able to get to a point where I go through the day, there are stressful moments that arise, but they're compressed into moments as opposed to extended periods of time. And part of that for me has come down to understanding the concept of safety. I feel like when we feel stressed most of the time, ultimately when you peel back the onion on that, we don't feel safe for some reason, right? Certainly I've never and never will go through labor, but I can imagine going through something, that's going to be something I've never gone through before, that I realize is going to have a lot of pain associated with it. Let's say you told me you're going to pass a kidney stone tomorrow, it'd be like, "Okay." That's going to be stressful, right?
But I think the idea is that, I would not feel safe thinking about that, it's like, what's going to happen. And so I'm sure for somebody going through labor or anything else, 9/11, you don't feel safe, right? You get a bad financial market report, whatever it is, it's just so many things that don't make us feel safe. And so I think really one of the foundational things is, how do we actually navigate an unpredictable world, and yet manage to give ourselves safety, right? And realize that when we're not feeling safe, we're feeling stressed, is that where you've ended up too?
Dr. Doni Wilson: Yeah, definitely. And we think about it, the amygdala in our brain, really they refer to it as our primal reptilian stress response system. And that's one of the main things it picks up on is safety, it picks up on danger. It's going to start telling our whole nervous system, which then communicates with our whole rest of our body, that there's a stress going on. And sometimes this is where PTSD, what we call PTSD comes in, is when that amygdala even is getting triggered into a full stress response, even if it's a relatively minor stress. Because it loses track of what really is a safety issue and not, and sometimes we have to take a moment, this is where I think meditation and mindfulness can come in. Is it allows us to take a second with our cortex, our conscious brain and say, is this really a safety issue or is everything okay? And I can take some deep breaths, and I can reset my nervous system in this moment.
But I definitely agree with you. I think, it's about understanding like, "Hey, this information that just came into my awareness, is it really something I need to respond to right now or not?" So I love this aspect where we can gain awareness for our experience. But also what I find, and this is again clinically, is that when my patients have more optimal cortisol and adrenaline levels, it's much easier for them to in the moment stop and say, "Hey, is this really a safety issue or not? How do I need to respond?" It's easier for us to have that awareness, when we have optimal cortisol and adrenaline levels helping us out with this situation, right? If our cortisol's too high or too low, adrenaline too high or too low, we're already in an imbalanced stress state.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Yeah. We're either stressed or we're depleted and it's more difficult to actually cope. So it becomes a little bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. So the question becomes, how do you actually get out of the circle where you're either hyper stressed, or you're so hyper stressed that you've become depleted? How do you break that cycle? So do you have techniques, or things that you do to help people break that cycle?
Dr. Doni Wilson: Definitely. And to me, it starts with understanding where your cortisol and adrenaline levels are, at this point in time. I mean, yes, both levels can fluctuate slightly day to day, and day in, and day out. But when I measure, because I've been measuring for 20 years, patients all adrenaline levels. What I find is that we have our own set point, my body when I'm under stress, it's going to tend toward certain cortisol and adrenaline levels, based on my genetics and based on my past stress exposure. And once I know where my body's going to go, then I can also anticipate that and say, "Hey, if I tend toward high adrenaline," which I do when I'm under stress. "I know that if I take magnesium, it's going to help my body metabolize that adrenaline faster, so I can get it back to optimal levels more quickly."
Or if another person tends toward high cortisol, they could take phosphatidylserine or ashwagandha to help bring their cortisol back to optimal more quickly. So we can adapt and respond based on our unique stress response. But the key is you need to know what your body's doing with your cortisol and adrenaline to begin with, so you know the right treatment for you. So many people guess, and so many practitioners guess or give the wrong herbs and nutrients, and then that's not really helping, that could be working against you. I would say better in this situation, better to know your cortisol, adrenaline pattern, so you can really become adaptive in the moment to optimize it. And then you can use all these other tools, and I talk about these two in the book, what I call stress recovery, activities, and mindset. That's so important to also use.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Before we jump to that, let's talk a little bit about the levels. So what we end up doing is mapping cortisol curves for people, right? Where we basically test them throughout the day, to see typically when you wake up, first thing your cortisol will be low. And people can relate to that because when you first wake up, it's like, "Oh, I don't feel that great," or "I don't feel like jumping out of bed." But 20 minutes later your cortisol is kicked in and it's like, "Oh, I'm feeling better. I'm feeling more normal." And that's your cortisol level rising really to its highest point in the day, to get you ready to take on the stress of the day. And then it progressively falls throughout the day, in the afternoon, in the evening, and at nighttime it should fall.
And for people that where it doesn't fall at night, they have a hard time going to bed, they have a hard time sleeping because their cortisol is still high, right? And cortisol and melatonin are inversely related, so melatonin won't have its impact if cortisol's high. So we think about mapping it out that way, and then treating people across that. And then one of the other things that we look at is looking at their genetics, how does their COMT gene, what's that configuration? Catechol-O-methyltransferase, how do they break down adrenaline, dopamine, right? Kind of the epinephrine.
And then monoamine oxidase, how do they actually break down adrenaline that way as well. So once you have a sense of that, then you know whether you can do certain things, when you're giving magnesium you're upregulating COMT to work better to break down the adrenaline. When you're giving ashwagandha, you're actually telling the adrenal glands to calm down here, it's an adaptogen to centralized things. So what you're doing really has this biochemical basis to it all. The question that you're asking though is, can an individual at home know what their cortisol and adrenaline levels are? Do you have a way for them to test that or to figure that out, or what are you thinking there?
Dr. Doni Wilson: Well, and I'm assuming when you're measuring also people's cortisol levels, and that's exactly it. We don't just test cortisol one time a day, we want to know what is it when you wake up, in the middle of the day, in the evening, and the bedtime. So we can do that in saliva or urine, and it can be done at home as a home test. By the way, Jeff, I hope somewhere in the next decade, that some investor is able to create an even more accessible way for us to be measuring cortisol. Because I think that will make all the difference to longevity, is to be able to measure cortisol the way we can measure glucose in the moment, right? But right now we need to do a saliva or urine and mail it out, and it's going to come back in two weeks. And so then at least we can get that, now you're not going to get it from the standard doctor's office. You're going to need to do a specialty lab, but you can do it at home, and it’s probably $300 or so.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Yeah. This is really smart what you're saying, I think. Because now you're talking about, what if we had a continuous cortisol monitor, continuous, right? Yeah, catecholamine monitor.
Dr. Doni Wilson: I would love it.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Right. Then it'd be a continuous glucose monitor. And the interesting thing in diabetes, is that the continuous glucose monitors are only half the equation, because you really want to be measuring continuous insulin levels also, right? That's the other-
Dr. Doni Wilson: [00:18:11]. That are we missing that.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Right. That's the other big driver of aging cells, is what are the insulin levels like? So anyway, I think we probably will be moving towards more sensors that have the ability to do this. And yes, there are home tests, but to your point, you get the results back in two or three weeks. And then you're left trying to figure out what did I feel like on that particular day? So interesting.
Dr. Doni Wilson: No, also, based on my research, I developed a quiz which is in the master stress book, and it's also, I made it into an online quiz. And it's based on symptoms that I've correlated with these different patterns of cortisol and adrenaline, and I call these patterns that I observe, I call them the stress types. So in this stress type quiz, you can get a sense for free of your pattern. But if you can, I would rather, you do the test so you can exactly see your levels.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: So let's walk into that for a minute because that's interesting, that's something everybody that could do at home. And we'll probably put a link to that here in the show notes for everybody. So if someone was going to do that, what kind of patterns show up?
Dr. Doni Wilson: Mm-hmm. So the five most common, because earlier you said a magnet to stress, I love that. Because the one is called the stress magnet, has high tends toward high cortisol and high adrenaline levels, part of the day or all day, but they tend toward this higher cortisol, adrenaline pattern during the day. Whereas the night owl as you also referred to, is the person who has higher cortisol and or adrenaline in the evening, or in the middle of the night, so it's more likely to disrupt their sleep. Well, the complete opposite of a stress magnet is what I call blah and blue, which tends to have low cortisol, low adrenaline levels.
And you seem to know when I'm referring to adrenaline, I'm talking about the catecholamine and norepinephrine. So it's low cortisol, low adrenaline is the blah and blue. And then there's the two that have the difference, like high cortisol, low adrenaline, I call sluggish and stressed. And then low cortisol, high adrenaline, I called tired and wired. And it's to show these, these are the common patterns that I see, and again, this is measuring thousands of these over 20 years.
I am always looking for patterns, and I was like, here's the most common patterns. Now, occasionally, I see a person who may have a combination of two, they might be blah and blue in the morning, and then a night owl at night, for example. And then what I did is, because I was trained as a naturopathic doctor, how to address the adrenal glands, but it didn't always work. And even though Hans Selye researched stress and adrenal glands early 1900, we didn't have a good clinical model.
First of all, for me to feel better, I had severe migraines for years, and I needed to get my patients feeling better. So I said, "I need a clinical model that actually works to help get this cortisol and adrenaline to optimal." And it was through a lot of trial and error over the years, that I figured out a three phase process of actually helping the adrenal glands fully recover. Because a lot of times I think people miss that, they either just keep taking an adrenal product that isn't really working, you know what I mean? They're taking it, and it's [inaudible 00:21:45].
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Yeah. No, I get it. So people can take this quiz, they can basically identify as one of the five types that you've talked about, or maybe they're a hybrid. But the majority of people are going to be in that five types, and those resonate with me, I understand those. And then based on the type that they have, then you're looking at really a variety. Well, it's actually two things, a variety of things that you put into the system, and a variety of things that you keep out of the system, right? Because there are things that will sabotage COMT activity like, Crocetin, or too much caffeine, or other things, right. So you've got to know how to play your hand, so you've got the system that focuses on what to take out, what to put in. And then there's probably got to be some mindset things in there as well, I'm thinking. Is that how that worked?
Dr. Doni Wilson: Yes. And I use this acronym CARE as in self-care, C for clean eating, A for adequate sleep, R for recovery activities, and E for exercise. Just to help people conceptualize, what are the things we can do on a daily basis, that are going to help us optimize our cortisol, adrenaline, our Vagus nerve, our hormesis, but it's really optimizing our hormesis based on your stress type. And this is why I went through hundreds of research studies, looking for, let's say, even something like doing a sauna. If you have high cortisol, adrenaline versus low cortisol, adrenaline, should your sauna therapy be different, different time of day, different length of time, maybe you should be doing sauna therapy if you have certain levels, right?
So there is some of that information in the research, and I'm asking researchers to pay more attention to this going forward, whenever we study any kind of treatment that should be helpful for stress in general. I think we really should be saying, we want to know how to do this activity based on our stress type and stress response pattern, because it's different, right? We need to modify our care based on our individual bodies.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Yeah. No, I think that's quite brilliant quite honestly. Are you familiar with heart rate variability, the [inaudible 00:24:03]?
Dr. Doni Wilson: Yeah.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Okay, because that's another window into stress, right? You're looking at the balance between sympathetic nervous system, parasympathetic nervous system. Sympathetic is the gas pedal, it's the catecholamine if you will. Parasympathetic is going to be acetylcholine, it's going to be the more Zen relaxing. We know that biology is an economy of balance, so it's really a question of cycling between these, being more parasympathetic dominant at times, and being more sympathetic dominant at other times.
But measuring heart rate variability, we found to be a good measure of body recovery, sort of state of stress. And it seems to be a reflective of not only physical stress, I just did a big mountain bike ride or something, but also psychological stress, something just happened and I'm thrown off, right? And you'll see heart rate variability go down, as sympathetic nervous system tone goes up. So do you factor in heart rate variability at all with your equations here?
Dr. Doni Wilson: I do. And I talk about it in the master stress book, especially you're saying it's a window, it's a way that we can... It's so cool actually, when you think about it, I don't know who exactly figured out, that based on our heart rate variability, we get a sense of how well we're both responding to stress and recovering from stress. And actually for those who may not be as familiar with it, it's that we want an increase, we want a higher heart rate variability means we are better able to both respond and recover to stress. If our heart rate variability is lower, it means we're stuck either in sympathetic or parasympathetic a little too much. And really it is this back to this balance, realizing that humans really balance is better for us, that's an overall message, right? It's like, how do we achieve balance? Even though balance is one of the hardest things for us to even conceptualize, let alone achieve.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Yeah. The way I look at it, it's not really a static balance that you're going for, it's more of a dynamic balance over time. So you will cycle, this will go high, this will go low, but it's balance over time, as opposed to, I'm trying to maintain a particular state all the time, that's impossible. And really quite honestly probably counterproductive. Well, that's interesting, so-
Dr. Doni Wilson: So just want to respond and recover. It's like, you want to have your knees bent, and you want to be able to go like this, not you're not standing stiff. But heart rate variability is really inexpensive way, relatively for us to get a sense of it. Especially if someone's just, who really likes to see an objective measure, to get a sense of like, "Hey, if I'm going to start say a program of meditation, or other stress recovery activities." Exercise and deep breathing or whatever it's going to be, "Hey, what are my levels beforehand? And what are my levels a week later or two weeks later?" So you get a sense of, "Hey, is this working." But also people can get a sense based on how you feel too.
I talk about checking in on five, it's a daily self-check, check in on your energy levels. How's my energy during the day to do the tasks that I want to get done? How's my focus? How well can I focus on tasks versus brain fog or distraction? How's my sleep the night before? How well am I sleeping? How's my mood, is my mood feeling again, balanced and motivated? Or am I feeling down and unmotivated. And then also check in on your body, are you getting hard palpitations? Are you in pain? So we can check in these five areas to give us a quick check of, how am I doing related to my stress exposure? And based on that and say heart rate variability, then we can make adaptations. We can say, "Well, maybe I am little bit overdid my exercise," or "Maybe I went a little too long in the cold water. Maybe I..." How do we tweak it and adapt.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Yeah. That's right. It's about being adaptive. It's really about being adaptive, not prescriptive, it's about adapting, it's really all about adapting on a day to day basis, I agree with you completely. So let's say somebody goes through and they take your quiz, they figure out which of the five types that you are, or they are. And then they basically, let's say they have a heart rate variability monitor, a Whoop, and Oura ring, and Apple Watches, whatever they're using, Biostrap, Garmin, whatever. And so they have that information, then do you have what kinds of things do you prescribe for them in terms of, you talked about clean eating. But are there things specifically that you have them take out of their diet, or put in their diet, or are there supplements that you specifically recommend or don't recommend?
Dr. Doni Wilson: Definitely. I mean, I've been also researching and analyzing IgE and IgG food sensitivity results for more than 22 years. And so I find it if... And I have one lab in particular that I trust and know as accurate, and know that if my patients follow those test results, it's going to make a difference. Whereas definitely I know when it comes to food sensitivities, there's a whole spectrum of labs that it may or may not give accurate information. But when I get accurate information about food sensitivities. What I like to clarify is that to me, yes, it's about understanding which foods are most inflammatory for that person. But to me, I'm looking at it as what is the degree of leaky gut that's going on here, because we know that stress causes leaky gut. As humans, we don't have stress, we're going to have some degree of leaky gut.
But to me as a practitioner, I want to be able to know, is this person at a mild, moderate, or severe degree of leaky gut, and how can we then motivate around a protocol to help improve the degree of leaky gut? And so that's how I use a food sensitivity panel. And it can help also people who may be wondering like, "Yes, you could do an elimination diet." And just decide to avoid the most inflammatory foods like, dairy and gluten, for example. But if you do a food panel that accurately shows you, if those foods are inflammatory for you, you can really individualize it.
So I use that food sensitivity panels to help me with clean eating beyond like, avoiding sugar, for example, and avoiding some of these oxidized and high oxidative stress type foods. I also do a lot of work around blood sugar balancing, which you mentioned earlier is huge, right? We know of course, stress disrupts our insulin function and disrupts our blood sugar, we have to manage and we have to master our insulin and blood sugar levels, to really master our stress. And so a lot of it is around those two areas, blood sugar balancing, and leaky gut inflammation addressing that.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: And they go hand in hand when cortisol goes up, your blood sugar goes up, right? Insulin levels are going to go up, to follow that. So and to your point, leaky gut plays a role here, it's interesting putting all those different pieces together. So there are some probiotics that can actually help with leaky gut, some of the spore probiotics and things like that.
Dr. Doni Wilson: We got to look at the gut bacteria-
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Butyrate production.
Dr. Doni Wilson: We know stress disrupts the gut bacteria, and butyrate is going to help the large intestinal cells, right? So we got to help the whole gut, including the gut bacteria recover from stress. Because if we miss that, now what I think of it as when the guts, all imbalance bacteria, the cells are not healthy. Now we have an internal stress, right? Essentially the gut becomes internal stress, it's working against us, and bogging down all those metabolic processes you just mentioned earlier too, we have to solve for the gut too.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Yeah. It is interesting. I want to ask you which lab you use for your food sensitivity testing, which one do you like?
Dr. Doni Wilson: I know it's actually, I'm very lucky to be working with a private lab. That's not-
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: That's not commercially available. Okay.
Dr. Doni Wilson: It's not. It's available to me and just a handful of other practitioners. That's the one I have been using for a number of years, and I'm just, yeah-
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Do they have a plan to commercialize it, or what's the story there?
Dr. Doni Wilson: I don't think so. They are happy to stay small, so I don't think they're planning to go bigger. But to me, again from analyzing these food sensitivity results for more than 22 years, I know what I'm looking for and I know which lab is going to give me the information we need.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: You know what's interesting is that when we're under stress like this, it also has epigenetic implications for our genome, right? And so I think most people are aware of the fact that, let's say there's clear study in Holland of pregnant women that were carrying children when the Nazis invaded. They were under tremendous stress, tremendous amount of unsafety, uncertainty, right? And the kids were born and they basically, those kids had shorter life expectancies, more chronic illnesses, more age related illnesses, because the stress that their mothers were on. And then we also know that the kids of those kids had additional changes, right? So I tend to think of the epigenetic changes, is almost like the blockchain of genetics, right? Where if your grandparents were under a lot of stress, it modified the way their genes are expressed which then modified your parents' expression, which then modifies your expression.
So you can wake up with certain genes, and yet the expression of those genes can be a little bit different, depending on how stressful your ancestors were, right? So when you're looking at this, you almost have to look back through the ages, how stressed was grandma, how stressed was my mom, my dad, right? And then factor in your current stuff, your own patterns. And so there's an element of being able to go back and heal that entire situation, which ultimately I think comes down to be able to give yourself safety. Because there's nothing external to us that will ever provide safety, quite honestly. There isn't anything you can have that can't be taken away from you, right? Including your health. So how do you actually give yourself safety in an uncertain world? I think this is one of the most important questions for any human being to come to face with, really.
Dr. Doni Wilson: It's such a good question. I mean, to some degree we create illusion sometimes. I mean, and I think this is when a lot of people turn to spirituality, to find some sense of faith, or safety, or even if you're turning to quantum physics, or even if you're turning to energetics of whatever type. That's what I think when we start to try to understand our place in this world, you mentioned earlier purpose, what is our purpose? Why are we here? It eventually comes to that question, right? And we can find a way of understanding our existence.
I think sometimes that gives us some sense of safety, and also just feeling okay with whatever happens. It reminds me of, last year I went to Peru, I spent quite a bit of time in Peru in the past year, working with a shaman. But what I also did is learn about the Incas, and the Incas had this sense of three levels. They were working on their own self-understanding and awareness, that was a big piece of it is how to understand myself and take care of myself. The next level was how do I relate within my community, which we know community is also very important for stress. And the third level was an understanding of how do I relate in the universe, and they were looking at the stars. How do I relate in my human existence? And isn't that amazing, how here we are now asking these same questions that the Incas were asking back then.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: And generations prior to the Incas, right? I mean, this is really a part of our tradition, right? Is the question of meaning, and the question of purpose, and the question of safety, and how do I fit in, and how do I actualize my gifts. So interesting that you were spending time with the shaman. So it sounds like there's some ayahuasca in your story here.
Dr. Doni Wilson: Yeah. I'm happy to talk more about that. One of the things that people find with ayahuasca, is more comfort with the concept of death and dying. And I think this is also what you're... Because the other side of longevity is death, right?
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Yeah. That's right. When I think about longevity, I'm not driven by longevity from the standpoint of fear of death, right? People wonder about that, is it just what you just have this massive fear of death and that's why you're into longevity. It's like, "No, if I die tomorrow, that's actually fine." I don't really fear death, what I fear is decline. I really fear ending up in a nursing home, ending up with dementia, ending up with whatever, that bothers me. And so my concept of longevity is essentially to live young for as long as I can. And then-
Dr. Doni Wilson: Pull the life.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Yeah. And then pull the rip cord or however that is constructed, right? But it's not about a necessarily a fear of death, I think that's a doorway, quite honestly, we're just going to walk through. So I'm fine with that.
Dr. Doni Wilson: No, I'm so glad you're sharing that. It's a good point. Because when I work with patients who now have parents who have dementia, and they're in a situation of seeing day in and day out, what that looks like. They come to me and they're like, "Dr. Doni, what can I do now to prevent dementia? Because I don't want to have to go through, what I'm seeing my parents go through."
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Yeah, absolutely, a 100%. And I think in all the people I've spoken with, which are thousands of people I suppose. That's really the biggest concern, is people they don't fear death as much as they fear decline, and so I think that's really important. It's really interesting, I think the other interesting thing is that nobody that's had a near death experience that I'm aware of. And I've known a couple of people personally, when I was going through my medical training that had near death experiences. And I would talk to them shortly after, like the day after or something like that, it happened a couple of times in my cardiology training. But I've never met anybody that had a near death experience, that didn't have a greater sense of peace, and a greater sense of comfort, and a greater sense of safety, and a decreased sense of fear.
And I think some of these drugs, ayahuasca, or psilocybin, or DMT, or whatever, have the ability to elicit some of this in the brain, for people without going through a near death experience, where people come back and it's like, they do have a completely different perspective. And so it's interesting that, that is biological beings, that somehow our psyches are aligned with something like this, to where if we're spill this spiritual connection, we feel this eternal presence across our lives and beyond. That all of a sudden everything else makes sense, and we actually deal with the stresses in such a different manner, right? And I think this is a key piece, as doctors we don’t typically talk about the spiritual side of life, but I think it's such a key piece. And the people that have a spiritual belief, you're probably familiar with this too. They all do better, they heal better, they get better, the people that pray for them, they get better faster than the people that don't. I mean, it's remarkable, the data's there, all you have to do is Google it.
Dr. Doni Wilson: We can't ignore it. We can't.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: Yeah. You can't deny it, right? So it's interesting stuff.
Dr. Doni Wilson: And I would say, I mean, because now this past year I've been in 50 ayahuasca ceremonies. So I had the opportunity to... And a lot of people do fear that because again, it's the unknown what's going to happen. And because of my interest in research, and also for my own self, for my own health, I was going through a health situation myself, at the time that I chose to go to Peru. And I was at the point of saying, "I need to find other solutions." Plus I was in the middle of writing this book. So I'm like, "Okay, let-"
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: And I know you know chapter in the book. So I think I'll take some ayahuasca, so I can write about it.
Dr. Doni Wilson: Yes. And so the thing was is that, what you're saying, what I can say is that after... And you don't have to be doing, people don't need to do as much ayahuasca as I have done. But what I can tell you is from that experience, I definitely have a much different way of experiencing stress and managing, and mastering, and being with stress in my life today.
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: So tell us about that. How is it different today than it was? Tell us about that.
Dr. Doni Wilson: Well, I experienced ayahuasca as a major Vagus nerve reset. So we do a lot of the activities that we talk about meditation, and deep breathing, and even spending time in nature. And even when we're trying to improve our heart rate variability, it's about trying to help our Vagus nerve, get better at switching from sympathetic to parasympathetic. And what my experience with ayahuasca in the middle of it, I said to myself, "This is working on my Vagus nerve. I could feel that it was healing the way my Vagus nerve functions." And to some degree, to the point-
Dr. Jeffrey Gladden: So just so people understand that, so you're saying your Vagus nerve is activated. So what that would feel like would be a sense of peace, a slower heart rate, deeper breathing, a sense of calm, a sense of relaxation. That's what you're describing, just in case people are wondering, what does that mean that my Vagus nerve is activated?
Dr. Doni Wilson: Well, there's also the part in it where there might be parts where my heart's going faster. And I'm experiencing like, oh, wow, I might be having to breathe more consciously, I'm having to sip water, which is sipping water is one of the things you could do today to stimulate your Vagus nerve, right? Like just taking sips of liquid or taking deep breaths. With ayahuasca that became like... All I could focus on was taking deep breaths and sipping water. So it's like you're in a very concentrated focus of, let me signal to my Vagus nerve and let it reset. And again, to your other point, why was my Vagus nerve even needing that? Well, besides my day to day stress of just doing what I do in my daily life, there's also to the way you pointed out, not only childhood stress, but stress from generations before me, and that genetics.
And so how do we heal both our genetics and hereditary exposure to stress, and our current stress. Well, I see, I experienced ayahuasca as helping my body reset in a major way from all of that. And it also then gave me the thing with psychedelics in general. Because I have also taken other psychedelics, is it gives us this chance to get a bird's eye view on our life. What you and I, and are talking about, where we can get this perspective of who am I? What is my purpose? What's really important here? What do I want to do with my life? You get answers to these questions, that you wouldn't maybe get in your normal conscious day to day life.
We can get these answers in a psychedelic experience. And I think that's why we're hearing more and more about psychedelic therapy and the benefits of it, because people are getting pushed to that point. People are getting to the point of saying, "Okay, what am I supposed to do in this highly stressed state?" And I think that's why we also see more... Increase numbers of suicide, or increased numbers of pain medication use, increased use of other substances, because humans trying to deal with the stress. But I'm saying-