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Dr Leland Stillman MD on How Light & Seasonality Shapes Gut Health

Dr Leland Stillman MD on How Light & Seasonality Shapes Gut Health

I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Leland Stillman. He is a medical doctor from the USA and has a fascinating message. He seems to be one of these guys that are into Jack Kruse’s version of the world and the way science works. We will be discussing light and the microbiome and a continuation of the blog post that we had with Jack Kruse last year. Read on to learn about polar bears and why comparing their journey to ours is relevant, how following Jack Kruse’s protocol can help you, and why you need to focus on light if you find other modalities aren’t working for you.

What is Your Background?

I’m 31, I was born in New York City, and I grew up in a very urban area. I ended up having all the same illnesses that a lot of young people have today, and they are signs that something is wrong. I grew up and I was never that healthy, and I ended up becoming fascinated by the fact that I was not as strong and fast as the other kids. My mother ended up taking us to a lot of alternative practitioners. I ended up gravitating towards a mentor who was a Naturopath and he told me I should go to medical school. I still had problems with medical school because it's not addressing the root of the problem.

I finished Medical school, I did my training in Internal Medicine at Maine Medical Center and since then I dove right into the world of alternative medicine. At age 15, I would read textbooks by professors and doctors. At that time, that was all that was out there, and you would have to dig to find alternative perspectives. Then I went to Medical school and started to get medical issues that I couldn't explain. It didn't respond to diet, vitamins, or supplements. I was so puzzled by this and I left my residency program and got a job at a wellness clinic in Florida. We saw a lot of very sick people. We did a lot of good and we helped a lot of people, however, there were some people that I couldn't figure out why they wouldn't get better. The way I can explain it to people is:

The human body is like a car; there are certain basic requirements, your brake pads need to have some padding on them, your tires need to have some tread, and your gasoline tank needs to be full. So, a lot of the nutritional biochemistry and the conventional approach to medicine is basically, fill up all the fluids and making sure there is tread on the wheels. What's interesting is that after that point the analogy in my mind begins to break down because we are so much more complicated than cars. What I saw in these young people who were not getting better, or who kind of hit a wall with their success with diet, is that they were all very tech-addicted people. They all lived indoors in a blue-lit microwave.

I was fascinated to see some people come into that clinic, and to this day I keep accumulating these stories and my experience and social interactions continue to confirm what I found then. This is that the older people who grew up in a non-technologically sophisticated world, were able to do better with the nutrients and the hormones that you gave them.

However, sometimes it didn't matter what young people who were living the blue light microwave life would do, they would just keep getting sicker. Then I dove into the work of Dr Jack Kruse who said it doesn't matter what you're putting into the tank, if the pieces don't fit together, you don't have harmony. So, I dove into this paradigm and it required a whole other level of information.

The Polar Bear Concept

One of the most enduring things that Jack told me was to “Live like a Polar Bear.” I went out and read about Polar Bear Physiology and how it changes across the seasons. Polar Bears gain hundreds of pounds of weight and develop insulin resistance and then they hibernate through the Arctic winter. Then they reverse diabetes and lose hundreds of pounds of weight in the winter. When you look at bear physiology, they are one of our closest cousins on the earth. There are only 3 groups of animals that are omnivorous mammals:

-Pigs

-Bears

-Primates

What's interesting when we compare humans to bears, is that bears live in solely high latitudes. Polar bears live at the highest latitude, the furthest away from the equator. So, they are an amazing example of how life with our basic metabolic machinery can thrive in an extreme environment. You have to understand that Alaska, the arctic is as temperate as the rest of the northern hemisphere in the summer. The rest of the world doesn't get near as cold in the winter.

What I found when I was reading about Polar Bears and Quantum Biology was that you have to take a ground-up holistic view of health. Life pays attention to the smallest scales of energy and matter. That means photons, electrons, and protons. My mission in Polar Bear Fitness is to explain to people how the smallest scales of energy and matter shape life, and then how you can integrate and still live a modern life while getting in touch with your wild side so you can stay healthy.

How Did You Come Across Jack Kruse's Work?

I was working at this wellness center and the average person who's educated and has some kind of funding goes to alternative doctors. The basic trajectory is that they fail the traditional therapy and want to try alternative. There are not a lot of traditional doctors can do for autoimmune disease. You show up and they say:

“Here, take this pill for the rest of your life.” and then you show up and follow up and say

“Hey this is not working for me, I really need a different medication.” and then they say “I’m sorry this is your treatment, this is what your insurance covers, that's it.” At that point people begin to branch out, they go to chiropractors, acupuncturists, so they branch out into the alternative medical world. Then they either:

Continue to get sick, which is generally what happens when they don't reverse the environment of the cause of the disease

OR

They get control, some regimen of drugs or supplements.

But eventually, they either hit the wall, or they get much worse and they start to exhaust the number of people in the alternative medical world in their town. I was working at this wellness center, and I was hearing about these very prestigious alternative medicine doctors. If you talk to these doctors, they attract people from all over the world. These patients become experts in their own right. They have these complex networks of people who have the same problem. This becomes this amazing network of people who know all of the names in the wellness industry and know all of the experts. These patients can teach me more than anything I can get out of any textbook. I would talk to these patients because their stories were incredible:

-I’ve talked to people who have given themselves fecal transplants at home

-People who have flown around the world and have professionally done fecal transplants

-People who have gone to Germany for therapeutic hypothermia

One of these patients that were struggling told me about Jack Kruse's work. I looked at this work and I thought that he had the missing piece to the functional medicine puzzle.

I have this paradox that I use: The yoga girl and the redneck paradox

I meet these people and they do everything right. They wake up and do yoga, then they drink fresh juice, then more yoga, and then eat a healthy diet. Sometimes you meet them and say that they are struggling with depression and Crohn's disease. What you find is that “people have a very nice facade”. You find healthy-looking people and you realize that some of them have less endurance and are less healthy than people that have no idea what “health” is. These people’s idea of a perfect Sunday is going into the woods to shoot deer, going to the store, and crushing a slurpee with a chilli cheese dog. I always thought in the back of my head, how can they do that? Jack put it together and found that the sun treats diseases and sunlight can have powerful effects on:

-Metabolism

-Type 2 diabetes

-Obesity

Jack is pushing people to get serious about what matters to them. With the work of Henry David Thoreau, he said powerful things about people and how to think about health and wellness. He said that “the price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” People don’t understand that technology entails some kind of risk. You need to take the time to understand what it is. It gives you convenience, but you may not realize that this convenience is giving you something you aren't willing to pay for.

These people are sick, and they are trying to find avenues on how to deal with their illnesses. They get to a point where they are joining communities online. Isn’t it interesting that technology has facilitated that. Technology has facilitated communities, sharing knowledge, and increases knowledge in certain fields. And all of these communities are forming due to technology. But it comes with a price as well. It's having an understanding of what technology can do from a beneficial point of view but also understanding the negative impacts of technology and having informed decisions based on that. -Kriben Govender

 

The Benefits of Technology

I still use and rely on a lot of technology. As I got deeper into Jack's work I realized that I would have never found Jack if it wasn't for technology. The way I look at technology now makes me think of the immune system. We are a superorganism. We are an organism system consisting of many different organisms because we know that when you raise mice without any kind of germs, they are weaker and more likely to get certain diseases. We are just as much the microbes that we carry around. This is why some people go into the third world country to get a parasite to get rid of autoimmune or GI issues. Just as we are a superorganism, the human race has this super organism like quality as well. We are all part of different communities and tribes, and within ecosystems, you see this as well.

We can share so much information, the problem is editing it down. Technology is going to be our saving grace because it allows for the most compelling message to get out. No matter what horse you have in any race on the internet you are seeing algorithms on google changing who is rising to the top of the search engine, but it has this organic way of going to the people whose messages are most compelling. I think that people will use technology to benefit their health and avoid disease and suffering.

People are getting advice from anyone that has a bright idea. Then you can use it for 6 weeks or so. You can say “ I am going to use Jack Kruse's ideas for 6 weeks.” I was blown away by the results from a few days and weeks of these practices. I am also blown away from the results my mother is getting from ice baths. She had back pains but now she does ice baths and is getting sunlight and feels a lot better. When you look at the immune system it is all about information. What information does the immune system have and how is it primed?

When you look at equations like E-Mc2, if energy is matter and matter is energy and they are interchangeable, then it is very hard and academic to disentangle what a calorie is. These are pieces of information that your body uses to make decisions. The disease of any organ system is a problem of information transfer and a problem of signaling through my environment. People are creating this social immune system. They are taking in all of this new information in order to change their choices, to try and get balance in the information they are getting so that their immune system can work.

We have created a hive mind where people can share information. I tried Jack’s protocols and they worked well for me. Then I told my mum about it since she has been suffering from a knee problem. I bought her a red-light machine and she uses it every night, we went to a health spa and my mom did a few cold plunges and she got incredible benefits. Her knee is almost pain-free, and she struggled with it for years. She has bought into the idea and you feel the benefits and you stick to it. That comes from the hive mind. -Kriben Govender

There is going to become enough of a consciousness about what is good for our biology. People are fooling themselves into the things that they think will make them happy. When you look at how human neurochemistry works, you are wired to find fulfillment via in-person relationships, you can't get the same kind of emotional response through a screen that you get in person. The benefit of the screen is that you can connect with people that are on the same wavelength as you. Thoreau has said that men have become the tools of their tools. This is what the social media giants have done with the way that they created a system where you are the rat hitting the button to get the cocaine. But we can use this positively, you need to do it in a way that is rewarding and fulfilling and that's the key.

People are going to find that they want to be in a deeply connected community where they can:

Walkthrough their terrain

Exercise on their way to work

Know who farms their food

Know their contractors

This is how people are wired to work. We have created this massive decentralized society where you can order on Amazon, talk to your parents online across the country, you can interact with all of your contractors online, you can work all day alone, and never have contact with another human being.

This is a massive experience of what happens to human biology when you are radically disconnected from nature. We know that even little things like shaking someone's hand can have an effect, it's biological. This gets into neurochemistry and how your immune system is run by neurotransmitters and hormones. These are shaped by light, circadian rhythm, and your environment.

I read this paper from Korea and it looked at breastfeeding and melatonin. They had some women watch a boring video before breastfeeding and they had some watch something funny. It turns out that when they watched the funny video, the melatonin in their breast milk was higher. Life pays attention to the smallest scale of energy and matter.

When we do our stool testing and give people recommendations on how to improve their microbiome one of the most important things is management of stress and human connection. These things matter when it comes to the microbiome. Even things like hugging, touching, making eye contact, they are helping to release oxytocin which has a big influence on the gut microbiome. -Kriben Govender

Microbiome Interest and Polar Bear Study

I think of the microbiome as being a colony of bacteria in our body that we can control. When things are out of balance in your microbiome, your body can just evacuate this. The amazing thing is that it can reconstitute itself and we can shape it. Your body is closely regulating it and your immune system is right there by the gut border. I think of the immune system as being the gardener of the microbiome. The immune system is trying to create a tool that the body can use to live well. Ultimately the immune system is being shaped by environmental factors.

Life is supposed to have skin in the game. It is supposed to be exposed to stress in its environment. It is optimized for that stress. We think of stress as bad but its actually what life orients its stress around. Without gravity, your bones fall apart, without sunlight on your skin your circadian rhythm doesn't train. There is this natural cycle in nature that you have to understand before you try to intervene.

We know that you need to get fat when resources are abundant, if you know that periods of scarcity are coming. At the equator, the amount of daylight is relatively constant all year round. You don't have this abundance vs scarcity aspect. The arctic is an extreme example. Mammals have had to survive ice ages and the mammals who survive these have an enormous amount of fat. Polar bears experience an ice age every winter. They put on hundreds of pounds each summer then lose it each winter. They need to get obese in the summer or they will starve or freeze to death in the winter. In mammals, this ability to gain weight and develop diabetes is a seasonal adaptation that allows us to thrive in the coldest environments on earth.

 

If you take your skin out of the game and you go into this artistically lit, artificially warm environment with tons of food that doesn't grow there, there is a complete mismatch on what you could be exposed to.

What Happens to Polar Bears During the Arctic Winter?

The definition of the arctic circle is the latitude above which the sun is visible for 24 hours on June 21st. The most interesting part of this is that you are constantly under sunlight. Melatonin is the hormone of sleep, rejuvenation, and without it, you fall apart. This is why shift workers that are exposed to light at night have a higher chance of every disease that you can think of. The polar bears fall apart.

Their testosterone also drops, this is part of the plan. If they don't mate in the spring and summer when they are their healthiest, the timing of the babies is off. They have to be specific on the timing of the delivery of their cubs because:

-If they deliver them too late the babies don't have time to fatten up to make it through the winter -If they deliver them too early it might be too cold, and the cubs won't be able to stay warm.

The polar bears can do this without going extinct by keeping their skin in the game because they are optimised to do this. The signals that they get from their light environment tells them what to do. So, what happens when you put human beings under light for 16 hours for a very long time? Their neurohormonal axis gets confused. Many diseases that people struggle with:

Chronic fatigue

Fibromyalgia

Lyme diseases

Autoimmune diseases

These diseases are all linked to timing issues in our circadian rhythm. When you live under natural light, you have enough melatonin that cleans up your cells and keeps everything on track. That is what the arctic winter does for polar bears. People now have the “ills of an endless summer.” All of these effects cascade down through these hormones and neurotransmitters and this changes what the immune system does. That is why the immune system is meant to upregulate and downregulate different seasons to adjust to the environment. A great example would be that the part of the immune system that is in charge of allergies, is also involved in the generation of fat which is what produces heat in the winter.

Immunity and metabolism in the polar bear are one in the same. If you think about the availability of food and the type of pathogens that you are going to encounter are going to vary depending on the light environment, you are in. We have different illnesses that we expect in the summer than ones we expect in the winter. How this comes back to the microbiome is that your neuroendocrine axis, which is driven by light, is ultimately going to have a profound impact on your gut microbiome. There was a study done on brown bears. They looked at the microbiome and took fecal samples in the winter and in summer and they were very different. I was not surprised to read this because years ago they took a mouse that was starving to death, and they put that microbiome into a mouse that wasn't starving, and it would induce starvation in the mouse.

You would give a mouse that has a good battery in its gut, give the juice from the bad battery, and all of a sudden, this mouse has a bad battery. We know that this happens because occasionally we have to give humans fecal transplants. We try to get the stool sample from a family member that lives with the patient. There have been interesting reports that the patients that would get these transplants from someone that was diabetic, they would get obese and diabetic. The levels of feedback in the gut-brain axis is amazing. This quote from John Muir is “when one tugs at a single thing in nature you find it attached to the rest of the world” and that is so true.

People are focused on what they put in their body in terms of how it will affect their microbiome, and all of this will lead to wonderful therapeutics. We will know that X or Y causes remission of this disease when we transplanted so we're going to have a bunch of donors who we pay regularly to donate their stool. We may not be at this point yet, but right now you can change your light environment and have a radical effect on your microbiome just as bears demonstrate every single year.

What Are Some Strategies that People Can Use Light Management to Influence the Microbiome in a Positive Way?

The number 1 thing I stress to people is that sunlight is good for you. Yes, it is possible to die of skin cancer, people that have pale skin, and they are built for a high latitude where you don't get a lot of sun. But in the USA 10,000 people, every year die of skin cancer and 2.8 million people die. Skin cancer is 0.03 percent of deaths. The bigger killers are:

-Cancer

-Heart disease

-Diabetes

-Respiratory illness

-Stroke

-Falls

-Suicide

The most deaths are heart disease and cancer, and these are linked to sunlight deficiency. Sunlight reduces the incidence of diseases in all of these scenarios. It has been shown over and over again. You don't want to get burnt through because then your chances of skin cancer go up. The bears have proved that the amount of sun in your environment changes the microbiome. Dr Jack Kruse has also seen results from people and their stool showing radical changes when they brought back the sun into their life.

The balance to the sun is darkness and sleep. People have to understand that not all sleep is created equal. My sleep was always good. Once I started working the night shift and evenings I was under stress and it was a nightmare. I use blue blocking glasses and red-light to help filter this light out after dark!

Light shapes the quality of your sleep. If you are not filtering out the blue light after dark, and before dawn, you are chronically suppressing your melatonin which increases your risk of almost every disease. People aren't getting enough sunlight and then they aren't getting quality sleep because their melatonin levels are suppressed. Their organ systems then fall apart. A big piece of gut health is training the gut to have the same circadian rhythm as the brain. This is because melatonin is released from the pineal gland, it is released around the body as a janitor.

The janitor can only work when everything is empty, if everyone is still there then he can't work. If melatonin shows up in the gut and the gut is busy digesting something, then the melatonin does not get to do its work. This is why we see a link between autoimmune disease, the gut, and artificial light.

I highly recommend people to explore a time-restricted eating protocol. Where you have your dinner earlier in the day and allow sufficient time to have digestion take place. Then when it is time for sleep, you have a long period of fasting and then you are fasting throughout sleep. In terms of the microbiome and what we know between the link between gut microbiome composition and sleep, is that we do see an increase in Akkermansia, and other bacteria associated with better cognitive abilities, gut barrier function, which are all linked to better sleep as well. With metagenomic sequencing we can get a high definition picture of the gut and we can also tell you at a species level what is in there, and we can also predict gut metabolites, things like short-chain fatty acids, tryptophan, IPA, LPS, vitamins etc. Very important molecules that are key to a healthy individual. From that point of view, it is very useful! -Kriben Govender

What Supplements Do People Use to Radically Reshape Their Microbiome?

Once you have a picture of what is going on in the gut then you can use precision-targeted prebiotics. A lot of these prebiotic compounds are found in whole foods. An example of this is raw cacao. It has all of these polyphenols that can feed Akkermansia. You have things like blueberries, acacia fibre, FOS (in beans and legumes), and we can give people very specific advice to increase certain species of bacteria. This will also reduce species that are associated with inflammation. This is where the science is at and it is rapidly advancing.

One key point that is missing in dietary advice around the world is the impact of the light energy that is stored in the food. These days you go to the supermarket and most of the products are imported, even fresh fruits and vegetables because you can import and preserve them. They look fresh but they are coming from halfway across the world and they can be a year old by the time you eat it! That light energy is still stored in the food product which can confuse the body.

One of the things that blew my mind from Jack was that every biochemical reaction from nature has some component of light. What happens when one electron falls from one level to another? It emits a photon. We have all been focused on this biochemistry because it was what we were able to know. Getting down to the level of photons, protons, and electrons has taken so much work. We have to think about “wait, if I’m digesting food in my gut and all these biochemicals reactions involve some emission of light, then a component of what we are eating is not just eating a chemical bond here and energy over there but how much light was emitted by the microbiome into the body?” This is why I used the analogy earlier about the battery.

The microbiome has a profound effect on cell metabolism and physiology. If you told people that stool transplants could take someone from thin to fat before they did it, they would have said that was total insanity and nonsense. But we have done it and it is very exciting to think of in terms of therapeutics.

Studies are suggesting that you can take the fecal matter from someone that is depressed and put it into a non-depressed person so there is this mental health impact as well. The gut microbiome is fascinating because it is an organ of microbes and where the science is headed in the future is the advantage of knowledge in the quantum biology space. There is a whole big gaping lack of information when it comes to the quantum realm. I think that the microbiome is a huge part of this story and that will unfold as more research is done. -Kriben Govender

These studies are easy to do. You just need 10 people with the same diagnoses (Crohn’s, IBS) and have them use red light therapy and get as much sun as possible on their gut in the morning too and see what happens.

Traditional Chinese medicine, ayurvedic medicine, shows that the food you are eating in this season is the remedy for the energy you are exposed to in that season. The more we learn about the seasonality of diet the better we will be. Food is a powerful cue and if you only make food available to bears at night, they will flip their circadian rhythm. When you are making food available at night you are flipping your whole body's circadian rhythm. The more I learn, I subscribe to the idea that you are supposed to eat food from your zip code in its proper season.

There is also a lot of literature out there that microwave radiation has a significant impact on the biology around us i.e. EMF radiation like Wi-Fi . Blue light in the environment has a huge effect on insects and wildlife populations. One of the silver linings about how bad technology can be for humans is that it gives us a better reason to limit this technology because it saves our ecosystems as well. We are going to live an integrated life in our ecosystems because it makes us happy and healthy.

When people are degrading the environment, they are doing so because some authority has set up a power structure. For example: The American agricultural system has a big impact on our gut and the only reason that we are engaged in the big business model is the government props it up because it has control. If the government had no control on agriculture and they were done on a local scale and were controlled by small groups of people in their communities, then you wouldn't be seeing big corporations that treat people the way they do. You would see more farm-fresh food. The government and corporations are trying to make it more economical….

There you have it, all the amazing reasons to incorporate light into your life. There are many reasons why we should go back to focusing on the right light. Your health being the biggest one. Make sure to use your blue-blocking glasses, eat seasonally and locally, and keep up on the research that is coming out. Read the blog post interviewing Jack Kruse and take advantage of his protocol! Share this with a friend that could benefit from this knowledge!

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