Are you looking for a list of tangible tips on how to improve your sleep quality and gut health? If so, this is a great article for you to dive into! I had the pleasure of speaking with Ben Greenfield today. Read on to learn about the top 3 health trends for the new decade, how to massively improve your sleep quality, and 3 great tips you can implement to improve your gut health!
What Is Your Background?
I am an exercise physiologist and a biomechanist formally. Along the way by being a pro athlete and consulting with a wide variety of people from sports teams to CEO’s, I have built my practice around helping people optimise all aspects of physiology. From digestion, the gut, hormones, sleep, performance, recovery, and fat loss. I tend to operate with the principle that I am open to modern technology and science and even bio hacks... but I tend to pair that with a lot of ancestral wisdom. Everything from traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, to everything I try to incorporate into my own life.
I try to live as naturally as possible. I hunt as much of my food as I can and I also love wild plant foraging. I do take supplements as well but I try to live life with one foot in the realm of ancestral living and one foot in modern science. For years I had operated brick and mortar with personal training studios and over the past decade, I have moved towards podcasting, speaking, authoring, writing, and advising.
What Is Your Biggest Health Challenge That You Have Faced?
Normally if you see a content producer hone in on a specific topic, in many cases that is what was bugging or bothering them at the time.. But there have been a few things that I struggled with the most:
How to naturally heal staph and recovery: I wrote about staph when I was struggling to heal the infection on my leg. Also, when I was competing in a lot of iron man and bodybuilding competitions, you would see me writing about recovery and the recovery tactics I used. From compression boots to infrared light.
Sleep and gut health: These are the top two that I struggled with the most. I found myself flying more frequently and traveling to different countries to give speeches. Because of the jet lag and time change, my circadian rhythm got a huge wrench thrown into it. I am always studying the effects of jet lag, increasing sleep percentages, sleep cycles, and to get as much deep restoration as possible while living in a hypermobile post-industrial era.
Travel and health issues: I ended up with a lot of different infections from parasites such as Giardia and Clostridioides difficile. I have always had issues with my gut health. I spent a great deal of my life eating a diet that I know produced a lot of inflammation in my gut including:
-Food groups: I had an immunoglobulin reaction to such as legumes and beans that didn't agree with my body
-Stress: athletic stress, especially in the heat! Many of the competitions I competed in were in the heat and that increased gut permeability.
Right now I am trying to keep my circadian rhythm aligned and I am dealing with a mycotoxin overgrowth that I have made myself susceptible to. It was likely the combination of leaky gut, stress, and travel.
With every smiling face and 6 pack abs on instagram there is a health issue going on behind the scenes. People aren't posting photos of them straining on the toilet or tossing & turning during sleep…..
It is almost like you are scratching your own itch. You are going through a challenge and then you are finding solutions. In the process of finding the solutions, you are sharing that journey with the world through your media, blogs, and podcasts. That is the same thing I am doing. My struggle was gut health, depression, and anxiety. Those are the things I most often talk about because they are struggles for me. -Kriben Govender
What Have You Found As A Solution To Help Improve Sleep Quality?
I know that there are a lot of books and resources on sleep and tips such as:
-Sleeping in a cool environment
-Sleeping in a dark environment
-Eliminating distractions such as work, computers, phones, in the bedroom
-Timing of meals and certain nutrients that help sleep
Body Temperature and Sleep
Almost everything that I have found that assists with sleep are variants of those sleep hygiene parameters. It is one thing to say “I know my body is supposed to be cool when I sleep”, but what does that look like when you move the dial? There are a few things I have found to help regulate the body's temperature for sleep:
-Whether it is a hotel room or my own bedroom, the optimal sleeping temperature based on research and experimentation is 64-66F (17 to 19 degrees C). I found many people are not getting that cool in their ambient sleep environment.
-The sleep surface is important. Use a mattress that does not hold a lot of body heat (I use intelebed, which remains cool). In addition, I have put a “chilli pad” on it which circulates 55F water under my body during sleep. This massively improves sleep cycles.
-A hot/cold contrast shower can give you similar effects. Rather than taking an icy cold shower before sleep (you will activate the sympathetic nervous system), a hot/cold contrast works very well to constrict the arteries and help assist with sleep. 20 seconds of cold, 10 seconds of hot. Do that for a 5-minute shower before you go to bed. That will help if you cannot optimise the bed to stay cool.
-Wear a good pair of wool socks! Having sock on helps to free up blood to travel to the core and other areas of the body to keep it cool.
General Tips For Better Sleep
-Finish up intense exercise 3 hours before bedtime
-Do not consume heavy meals within 2 hours of bedtime. You may change your lunch to be the biggest meal of your day. That is fine.
Dark Environment And Sleep
Also, make sure to sleep in a dark environment. Blue light produced by LED monitors or screens can disrupt sleep cycles. You can use THESE blue-blocking glasses to help you at night. Two things that I have also found to be helpful are:
- Since your sleep cycle is initiated earlier in the day, do not limit your light exposure early in the day. You would not want to wear blue light blocking glasses or dim the lights early in the day. From the time you get up until to 2 in the afternoon get as much exposure to sunlight or bright light spectrums as you can! Nothing replaces natural sunlight so get as much as possible on your skin and eyes. It will help with your circadian rhythm especially if you have a hard time falling asleep earlier in the night or you want to shift your sleep cycles so you can fall asleep earlier in the night. It all starts with the amount of light exposure in the day
- Replace your bedroom and master bathroom lights with red light bulbs. This is similar to the firelight or torchlight that our ancestors used. This will allow you to see at night but not disturb sleep cycles with blue light spectrum.
Sound Pollution and Sleep
Sound pollution is also a big factor in sleep. I put in foam earplugs when I sleep. You can plug these into your phone on airplane mode. They studied all different forms of noise (white noise, brown, pink) It turns out that pink noise does the best job in putting you into a deeper sleep state. The app I use is SleepStream. I use pink noise on airplanes and in hotel rooms. I also use a Mindfold sleep mask. It blocks out all ambient light. The mask paired with a good set of headphones and does a great job in reducing sensory stimuli that might disrupt your sleep cycles.
Supplements For Better Sleep
From a nutrient and supplement standpoint, I use two. During travel, I use a high dose of melatonin. The best form of melatonin is a sublingual form that you can dissolve under your tongue (I use this one from QuickSilver Scientific) The second supplement I recommend is CBD.. If you don't feel much when you use CBD to help you sleep, it is because the dosage is too low. Most of the dosages for CBD that improve sleep are around 100-300mg and if you look at the average dosage of a supplement it is closer to 5-10mg! You have to 10x the dosage on the bottle and when I do that and I find that it is great for sleep after a stressful day. Targeting the endocannabinoid system helps a lot with stress.
How Do You Deal With The Wifi And Dirty Electricity At Home?
I don’t have WiFi. Everything is ethernet so I don’t have wifi signals all over the house. You can also put them on a digital wall timer that you can plug the WiFi router into. It allows you to dictate the times of day that you will want that outlet to disable anything that is plugged into it. Plug your router into that and set it to have your wifi shut off from 10pm-6am or a time that best suits your lifestyle.
Some companies make devices that scramble a wifi signal or produce more native EMF signals. EMF signals that you would get from planet earth that will override a lot of those wifi signals. two companies sell devices that you can travel with. Both devices operate on different principles.
- Somavedic: Generates more of the native EMF signals that cover up the wifi
- Blushield: Wifi scrambling device that uses an energy field to scramble the wifi to keep it from doing damage to your body.
You can use these for travel as well!
Grounding And Inflammation
Grounding and earthing are great for inflammation. Not just going outside barefoot but also using grounding mats. This company sells mats that you can travel with or to use under your sheets. This will keep you grounded to the earth. They also have a wrap for your stomach. There is a lot of research on the effects of using the natural signals emitted from planet earth to decrease inflammation. You plug the wrap into the grounding outlet in your home and you put it on like a back support belt. It bathes your gut and lower back in these negative ions. That would help with EMF and inflammation especially in gut health.
Red light panels are also great for inflammation. I have them in my house and have them pointed at the front of my body in the morning and the back of my body. You can use it for 20 minutes in the morning if you are unable to get outdoors in the day.
What Solutions Have You Found For Gut Health?
As athletes, the things you do are very pressurising and stressful on the gut. So I am not surprised that you have had those challenges. -Kriben Govender
These are great for healing your gut or maintaining a healthy gut:
- Coffee Enema: Great for gallbladder, liver function, and gut peristalsis. You will hear a lot about this in Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine. I do this once per week or if I have been traveling a lot I will increase it to 2-3 times a week. I find them to be a staple in my weekly gut health routine. I do these in the morning and lay on my left side for about 20 minutes. Use a good organic coffee.
- Colostrum: This is most often released by mother mammals in the first part of their breast milk to help to heal the lining of the gut of a newborn mammal. They normally have these zonulin proteins and they keep the gut lining open which can be useful for some compounds when a mammal is in the womb but once born you want that to heal quickly. That is why that breast milk is meant to do that. Colostrum also works in adults very similarly. It has been used in athletes to reduce gut permeability and gut discomfort that would arise after vigorous exercise. It can be used to heal leaky gut that was brought on by an inflammatory diet or the use of antibiotics. Most colostrum is sold in a capsule form and it is the saliva that activates the growth factors in colostrum so having it in powder form (like this option here) is the best way to consume it. Make sure you are getting grass-fed sources. Use this on an empty stomach.
- Bone Broth: I normally have 2-3 cups every day. When I don't, I notice a big difference in the integrity of my gut and the consistency of my bowel movements. If you do not want to take bone broth you can use collagen peptides as well! Or even a genuine gelatin supplement.
90% of the people I talk to that have gut issues have some sort of bacterial overgrowth. Whether it is:
-Overactivity of fermenting bacteria
-Small intestine bacterial overgrowth
-Something that causes gas and bloating which can lead to constipation since it is sitting on the ileocecal valve
Because of this, anything that can help control the growth of that bacteria can almost help people overnight. One of the best ways to do this is a low FODMAP diet. Eliminate highly fermentable compounds such as garlic and onions. I encourage all of my clients to use a low FODMAP diet chart. If you eliminate those foods that are highly fermentable for at least 4-6 months, you will have most likely starved off those bacteria.
At the same time, use substances that help to kill that overgrowth of bacteria. Many compounds are encouraged for this. Oregano and uva ursi are very helpful. Some peptides can help as well. Peptides are small amino acid sequences administered via subcutaneous injection (similar to how you would administer insulin.) The two you would want to look into are:
LL37- Anti-Bacterial & anti-fungal
These can work wonders for the gut. BUT don't buy them yourself off the internet, you can locate a doctor that can assist you HERE.
Milk Kefir is also loaded with peptides. There are more than 20 peptides and some that can actually kill other bacteria as they are antibiotic in nature. They can also modulate the immune system. -Kriben Govender
What Are Your Thoughts On Fermented Foods?
Milk kefir is great but it is sour by nature. Some people have told me that they love the taste of it and that they love their blueberry kefir…..then you look at the label and it has 40g of sugar. You need a good, unadulterated kefir that doesn't have sugar in it. The best way to get it is to make your own!
In Australia, most of the “Kefir” sold in stores are yoghurt cultures that are being called Kefir. The only way to get it is to make it yourself. The problem is the alcohol content that is produced. In the USA and in Australia, the alcohol regulation is 0.5 percent. No one can produce a Kefir that is lower than 0.5 percent that is authentic. The cultures used for commercially made kefir are being produced in a lab and are not real kefir.-Kriben Govender
What Are Your Thoughts on Deuterium Depleted Water?
Deuterium is similar to hydrogen but it is much heavier. Any metabolic reaction that uses hydrogen in the body (most notably the electron transport chain which utilizes hydrogen to generate ATP) can be disrupted by high levels of deuterium. We are finding that due to EMF radiation, the use of pesticides, and higher sugar & carbohydrate intake, there is a build-up of this deuterium in the body. And when you are burning glucose for energy instead of fat, you don't produce a lot of water via the process of beta-oxidation.
When you are producing your own water, that water is naturally low in deuterium. You are creating your own deuterium depleted water. You can also get deuterium depleted water here! There is a lot of research of the health effects of deuterium depletion. Particularly when it comes to metabolic function, decreasing the overall levels of inflammation, and even a reduction in the rate of cancer growth. You need to eat as organic as possible, avoid EMF radiation, and keep yourself in a state of fatty acid oxidation as much as possible. Your breathing can also affect deuterium levels. If you want a manual on how to breathe in a manner that retains simultaneous levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide, read this book. And if you want to learn even more, about deuterium read this blog post!
There are certain types of bacteria, primarily lactobacilli, that have been shown to reduce deuterium levels in the body. Some probiotic supplements may come onto the market that are claiming to reduce deuterium. Australia has one of the highest deuterium levels in our drinking water in the world (153ppm). We are sitting in the pocket of a lot of deuterium -Kriben Govender
Top 3 Health Trends That We Will See In This Decade?
- Increased use of photobiomodulation therapy: Use of red light for cranial treatment, full-body treatment, infrared sauna, and devices for the head. They have such a good effect on mitochondria.
- Cryotherapy and cold thermogenesis: In the future, most health-conscious people will have some sort of an ice bath, ice tub, or a chiller system on their showerhead where they can get very cold water on their body every day. This is great for vagus nerve function, the nervous system, and inflammation. There are many benefits of cold thermogenesis!
- Use of grounding and earthing practices: Go outside with no shoes on, use grounding mats, grounding shoes, and other grounding devices.
These are things that our ancestors would be doing. We are in an era where we are faced with a so-called “evolutionary mismatch” and we are now realising the benefits. Back in the day when they were camping they would jump in a cold lake, lay in the sunshine in the morning, and sleep on the ground. You can now have a light panel, a cold shower, and a grounding mat to get the same effects anywhere!
I think that mitochondrial health will be a big topic as well. We know the mitochondria have direct communication systems to the gut, immune system and our genes. This will be a massive area of growth and development.-Kriben Govender
What Is One Thing You Can Do For Your Health?
This is out of the box but think of anyone in your life that you have a relationship with where there is friction. Figure out a way to go to that person or people and admit how silly it is to live life with regrets, bitterness, pent up emotions, or little differences. Sit those differences aside and be authentic and happy in all of your relationships. We know that one of the regrets of the dying is that they didn’t maintain relationships and they weren't authentic with their feelings. Especially with their friends and family. Despite the supplements and hacks, the one thing you should do for your health is to make sure that all of the relationships in your life are happy and optimised. Mend old relationships and make current relationships more deeper and loving.
Remember these incredible tips on how to improve your sleep quality, your gut health, and overall well being. Share this with a friend that could benefit from this information!