Today we are talking about mental health with Sonny Blonstein-Dent, commonly known as the Ancestral Health Guy on Instagram! Sonny gives us a perspective from the younger generations on anxiety and the mental health struggles he went through and how he helped it. Read on to learn about the carnivore diet, intermittent fasting and giving your gut a break to heal, phone usage and EMF’s, seasonal eating and light!
Sonny’s Experience with Anxiety
I used to suffer from really bad anxiety and panic attacks for a long time. My anxiety was very bad in school and I couldn’t go to a class without having a panic attack. When a teacher would ask me a question I would have to leave the room. Even meeting with friends would trigger this panic response which prevented me from having fun and living a normal life.
I can think back to my own journey and the point where my anxiety struggle started as well. It was when I was about 15 years old and I went on this international trip with my parents to India. In India I picked up a shigella dysentery bug (which is very common) and I lost 10 kilos. I was like a skeleton when I came back and then the doctors put me on a massive course of antibiotics. I went from being quite a bubbly happy-go-lucky very popular kid in high school to being someone that was really dark, miserable, and gloomy. When I think back it was almost an overnight massive nuclear bombing of the gut with antibiotics and then a total 180 degree flip in personality. -Kriben Govender
I also felt very trapped which led me to feel a bit irritable in every situation. I felt like the next thing that happens is going to trigger something that's going to cause you to go crazy. And the more stress I added into my life the worse it got. My diet was horrible, I was getting takeaway food because you know what students normally do since you don’t have time. It was unhealthy food and binge eating because of stress. When you're stressed, you want to binge eat and then you get into this cycle of injuring your gut in every meal and then it snowballs into other problems that makes the original problem worse. Gut health was one of the most important factors for me.
I tried going to doctors, hypnotherapists, but I had to be hands-on to try and help myself when that didn’t work. So I started with diet and for me, a change in diet helped a lot. This led me to wanting to help other people and I found that there was a massive link between the gut and these feel good hormones that are so important for making us happy and motivated. So I wanted to help people with what I learned along the way.
What Led Sonny on His Anxiety Healing Journey
I was always searching for “how to heal anxiety” online. I'd see a video on something like drinking himalayan pink salt in water and try it because I just wanted something to help. One day I came across the ketogenic diet for panic attacks and anxiety. So I tried a keto diet and it didn't really help me that much for some reason. Then I stumbled across a video from Jordan Peterson saying that the carnivore diet helped him a lot. He was suffering from anxiety, panic attacks, and depression for a very long time so I thought I'd try the carnivore diet. At first I felt really sick but I just kept going with it for a while. It definitely wasn't like the tastiest of diets but I tried it for 3 months and after 2 weeks I did notice that my anxiety symptoms were decreasing.It could have been the fact that I was removing all of the bad things from my diet like the fast food.
The Carnivore Diet 101
There's the conventional carnivore diet which is basically steak and eggs. A lot of people when they do the carnivore diet or keto diet, do intermittent fasting as well. So normally you would skip breakfast and have a big lunch and a big dinner. Others may have only one meal a day. There is also the “nose to tail” carnivore diet that includes adding in organ meats. You’re eating the whole animal because the organ meats are the most nutrient dense part of the animal. That's where the animals store most of their nutrients because it's the most important function of the body. So there's two types of carnivore diets. I used the carnivore diet as a stepping stone because I've generally found that people with gut issues do really well on a carnivore diet with healthy grass-fed animals.
Once they have done their diet for a while then you can add in different foods. It's kind of like an elimination diet in a way. You can use it to find out your food sensitivities because it's really unlikely that someone's allergic to beef. So it's a really good place to start and then you can add stuff back in and then test to see if you have a pathogen. I use this diet as the first step in gut health recovery.
Why The Carnivore Diet Worked For Sonny
There are many nutritional benefits of organ meats. I highly encourage people to look at the “Root Cause Protocol” by Morley Robbins (and check out the post featuring him here!) Morley says that we all have too much iron in our bodies which causes a lot of issues like gut issues and mitochondrial function issues. Morley says that organ meats are very high in copper and what copper does: it has the ability to almost inactivate iron. In a way it would help remove it from the body. So that's one reason why the carnivore diet might be beneficial.
The second reason might be because it's low in deuterium. Animal foods are lower in deuterium. Deuterium is basically an isotope of hydrogen that's twice as heavy. If you want to learn more on about Deuterium Depletion check out this blog post with Dr Laszlo Boros or this one with Dr. Vas Shah. Meat and fat is naturally low in deuterium and carbohydrates, especially the C3 and higher chain lengths are more likely to have higher levels of deuterium.
The third reason why the carnivore diet might be beneficial is that you didn’t have any lectins. Lectins are anti-nutrient compounds naturally found in vegetables and when you consume meat there's no lectins. These anti-nutrient compounds that can cause inflammation in the gut. And since you are eating grass-fed organic meat, there is no glyphosate and no pesticides.
I think a lot of people don’t realize this but meat's not hard to digest in terms of just digestibility. I'm not talking about how fast it comes out of you, I'm talking about how well it's absorbed. When you have gut issues you need to eat food that is easily absorbed and doesn’t irritate the gut. Bone broth would soothe the gut with collagen, it’s like putting a cream on a wound. This all does depend on the person, everyone is different but you won’t feel bloated if you have a steak. But if you eat steak and potatoes you'll feel a bit more heavy.
Animal foods are generally more nutrient dense for humans. Not every nutrient (Vitamin C is better from plants!) but when people are suffering from gut issues, you want nutrients in the most bioavailable form. You don't want your body to be converting Vitamin A from beta keratin to retinol (which is the plant form) because your body will be doing more work. Animal foods provide nutrients in the most bioavailable forms so that's another aspect that could help people with gut issues or people that need to heal in general.
There is a place for a plant-based eating as well, so if people make choices based on religious reasons, sustainability, or animal cruelty there are options to heal the gut without having to do a carnivore diet. There's certainly no “one size fits all”, everybody's on a journey and everybody makes their own informed decisions based on the latest science. -Kriben Govender
I generally recommend that people start with intermittent fasting. I don’t think you need to fast to be healthy but if you are dealing with gut issues, you need to give the gut a rest. Fasting is a way to rest the gut. In the modern world we're constantly injuring our gut, we're giving our body more than it can handle. There was some crazy statistic that people on average eat about like 10-20 times a day. We're not giving our gut a break, we're constantly ramming our guts with foods that are not easy to digest. So fasting is a way to hit the brakes and give our gut the chance to recover.
We eat far too much in the western paradigm. I have breakfast in the morning and my dinner at three o'clock. Most days look like a solid 16 hour fast. Once your body's hormonal systems adjust (especially when you're getting some sunlight in the morning) then you are setting a cascade of hormonal production in the body. This leads to getting adequate levels of melatonin, and you find that you don't feel hungry as your body adjusts. This is akin to how we used to eat in prehistoric times. Food is so abundant now but back in those prehistoric times food would have been extremely difficult to acquire. We survived for millions of years because our bodies adapted to being able to fast and go through periods of starvation. It's built into the cells. I think there's also systems like autophagy, where the body needs time to clear out these old cells. Eating is actually a stressful process in itself with the release of cortisol so it's this vicious cycle where people might develop habits to deal with stress by eating but then the stress is then being exacerbated by the eating itself. -Kriben Govender
Phone Usage and EMF’s
In terms of our sleep, EMF and radiation has a big impact on it. In London, there is such a massive population in a small area so there are so many EMFs affecting you. Sleep is the time when our bodies can rest and heal so when our sleep is worse because of EMFs, bluelight at night, you are probably going to have gut issues. Say you sleep for 4 hours one night, you might notice that the next day your digestion is slow. You might have diarrhea or constipation issues. It’s so important for your gut that you are sleeping well. Looking at this holistically, EMFs affect our sleep, sleep affects our gut, then we have a massive meal during the day, we will end up having more injury to our gut which may lead to other problems.
Melatonin is the master antioxidant, it's a healing hormone that helps the body with replenishing the gut lining. The cells in the gut turn over within a couple of days. Which means you essentially have a new lining every few days. So imagine if the body doesn’t have time to replace this lining optimally. Then that snowballs into day after day and year after year. Their digestive issues did not just appear overnight, it's a culmination of lifestyle factors, environmental factors, food choices, they all damage the gut. So by the time you actually feel like you've got IBS or the discomfort, it's probably years and years in the making. -Kriben Govender
With gluten, bread has been modified to contain a larger gluten molecule within the past 100 years. So the bread that our ancestors were eating probably would have had a much smaller gluten molecule. It would be easier to digest since gluten is quite hard to digest in the bread. People were also making sourdough more often, (you can buy a kit here!). So I always recommend to people that want to add in bread or rice again to start with the quality of the bread or rice. Instead of eating brown rice (brown rice is super hard to digest) start with white rice. Then with bread, don't go to whole grain bread straight away. You don't want to eat whole grain bread because it has bran which is really hard to digest. So you can try sprouted sourdough. The devil's in the details when it comes to gut friendly foods. To make foods easier to digest you can also mash potatoes instead of baking them. This makes them easier to digest as well.
Light and the Microbiome
Dr. Jack Kruse made some big calls based on work that came out of a scientific study on the Hadza tribes and how the environment is a big factor in terms of shaping the gut microbiome. There has been another study that came out on mid-day sunlight and how it impacts the microbiome composition. Light is so important if you have gut issues. I am not saying go out in the sun and get burnt, but even going out for a short period of time especially in the morning, getting light in your eyes and on your gut is beneficial. I go out and meditate with my shirt off. If you haven't spent a lot of time in the sun, make sure you are slowly building up that solar callus. I do a transcendental meditation and then eat some herbs or lettuce that I have in my garden in my jocks and get sunlight. Sunlight has the ability to produce beta endorphins when it shines on the body so there is a huge mood boosting impact on the body. -Kriben Govender
Sunlight on the gut can help kill candida as well. Red light can go down quite deep into the gut and modulate some organisms there. Make sure that you are wearing blue light blocking glasses at night (read this post here if you want to learn more about light and magnetism!)
Eating for Your Local Environment and Seasonal Eating
Eating for your local environment is important because light varies from season to season. You wouldn't be able to eat some fruit in England in the middle of winter. You wouldn't be able to eat some high carb foods so maybe doing a more kind of ketogenic style approach in winter could also be good from a mitochondria point of view. When you’re in ketosis, you're using your mitochondria for energy. So during those winter months, when the harvest stopped, you might be burning off fat if you didn’t have enough food. Then spring/summer came and we start eating more carbs again. Then because carbs get burned outside of the mitochondria, this gives your mitochondria a break which can be very beneficial for a limited amount of time.
Your whole environment can affect how well you metabolize certain foods. For example, eating honey in the winter. Honey is a high deuterium food and in winter you will metabolize this high deuterium food a lot worse than in the summer. Because in summer, with the UV light and eating carbs, it will be a lot more beneficial for you. Globalism is a double-edged sword because now you can access food from across the world any season. Seasonal eating is a really simple hack because you're eating foods that are almost programmed for your environment. Because when the light shines on a plant there's a programming happening. That light energy is stored in the plant so what happens when you're eating something that's NOT in your local environment, it's very confusing to the body. There's a mismatch in the programming happening so if you're eating asparagus from Peru and you're sitting in England the body is confused. But if you are eating from your local farmers market the programming makes more sense to your body. This is why eating in season and locally is so important.
Circadian Rhythm, Glucose, and Diabetes
Your circadian rhythm affects how well you metabolize things like glucose. Even when you sleep, your pancreas helps to regenerate your insulin levels. So this link between diabetes and blue light at night is very interesting. The mix between the blue light at night and the carbs together are a driver of metabolic diseases. But if you sort out your circadian rhythm, then you'll be able to handle the glucose a lot better, there will be less sugar stuck in the blood, and you'll be able to metabolise the glucose better,
I was always wondering “if carbs cause diabetes, how come my great grandparents were eating bread all the time and they weren't getting diabetes?” If you look at the Weston A Price book, you know all those cultures were eating grains at every meal yet they weren’t getting diabetes. There's lots of things that are missing from the puzzle. We need to start combining nutrition and light to get some of the full picture.
Scientists can often get caught in our own little sections. If you're a neuroscientist, you’re focusing on the brain, if you're a food scientist you're focusing on food, if you're an environmental scientist you’re looking at pollution, and if you’re a building biologist, you're looking at EMFs. That's the beauty of the internet, all the researchers out there like Dr. Jack Kruse, like yourself, can have all of this information at their fingertips. At the end of the day, it's just putting all those little pieces together. You can also try different modalities like blue light blocking glasses, getting sunlight in your eyes, cold thermogenesis, infrared sauna, or red light therapy. There's so many modalities that people can try to deal with any health issue whether it's the gut or even if it's anxiety and depression. -Kriben Govender
Sonny’s Top Gut Health Tip
You need to take “care of it” when you break that down, the word cura in Latin means to take care of. So in order to cure ourselves from disease, from mental illness, or physical illness, we need to take care of bodies. It’s not that we do a diet for a little while and then go back to a “normal” diet, it’s that we are making choices to take care of our bodies all of the time. Whether it's to eat easier to digest foods, waking up for sunrise, or going to bed a bit earlier, having good health is all about taking care of your body and making it as easy as possible for your body to do its functions.
Make sure to get sunlight every day, wear your blue light blocking glasses, eat for your local environment, and take care of your gut health with Sonny’s tips! And share this post with a friend that could benefit from this information!