Self-Experimentation for Optimal Health | The Hart of Health Podcast S1 E9
Joané & Jonathan: (00:02)
Hi, I’m Joané Hart and I’m Jonathan Hart. This is the Hart of Health. A show where we focus mainly on health and self-optimization. Here, we like to talk about our experiences and knowledge when it comes to health and biohacking. Hope you enjoy the show.
Hi everyone. On today’s podcast, we’re going to talk about self-experimentation in the quest for optimal health.
So, what is optimal?
Well, optimal is individual. I’d say for me, I love the idea of optimal health. It’s becoming the healthiest version of yourself. Getting your body to a state where it is functioning optimally. It has all of the nutrients it needs. You feel like a superhuman. You can do cool things. I don’t know. But, for me, I think it’s very individual. Like if I had to sit down and say: “What do I imagine the healthiest version of myself to look like” you know, it will be very different from what you imagine your healthiest self to look like. So, it’s hard to say what optimal health is. Because for each person, it is different. But, for me, I would define optimal health as my endocrine system functioning optimally. So, I have no hormonal imbalances; my cells have all the nutrients they need and there’s no unnecessary, crap in my body that my body has to deal with. I don’t have too much inflammation. My mind is very clear. Brain performance is one of the things I look at for optimal health; like if I don’t feel tired and fatigue, but I feel like I have enough energy every day. Becoming very flexible. Like if I had to picture the healthiest me and the optimal me, I just imagine myself being able to do really cool yoga poses and being very flexible. But, also having healthy skin and yeah, being at a healthy body weight, but optimal health is individual.
Yeah. Also, obviously, it can get very complicated very quickly because there are thousands of different factors that you can analyse, and, as you said, each person’s going to have their own things that they prioritise above others. I’d say you should just focus on being as optimal as possible. You have got to prioritise what’s important for you. You mentioned flexibility, which might not be as important for other people. So, just sort of knowing what your personal goals are and your list of priorities, sort of can help guide you onto the path that will make you as optimal as possible in the things you have. I could say like: “Oh yeah, if you change this and that about your lifestyle, you’ll get X, Y as a result from what you do. But, if that’s not really important to you, you’re not going to really feel any change in being optimal because it didn’t really matter to you.
Yes. Self-experimentation is definitely key here. One thing is that if you are on a quest for optimal health and you think, “I want to become the healthiest version of me”, you can’t really try and do what everybody else is doing and think, “Oh, the best diet for my friend is going to help me become my healthiest self”. And I think a lot of people compare themselves to others too much, and just trying to become the best version of you and the healthiest version of you is a lot healthier. And I think the idea of self-optimisation and aiming to become your best self is way better. And don’t just follow the latest diet that everybody is following. Say, okay, I want to experiment and try and see what way of eating will make me feel the best and will get my body to look the way I want to, to get my body to perform the way I wanted to. Whatever your requirements are, you might have to try a few diets. Self-experimentation is key, and that is what this podcast is actually about. And it can be really fun experimenting with everything like your diet, your exercise program, your sleep schedule, your habits before you go to sleep, anything related to health and wellness…your diet and exercise and lifestyle practices that are going to make you the best version of yourself is going to be very different to someone else.
Yeah. It’s like a lot of people seem to follow what celebrities are doing or, you know, these fad diets that are becoming popular. That’s cool if you look at it as an experiment and don’t see it as your new diet forever, especially when it comes to things that are very fad based, but you, as you said, you got to figure it out for yourself. So, if you look at anything you do as an experiment with the option of failure, so like, oh, you try this crazy diet, and it failed. Now you know that that one doesn’t work for you because you tried it fully, the experiment failed, and you can move on and try to find one that works a lot better. And this is all like a process of trying to figure out what is optimal for you. And you’ve got to be very mindful and objective of how you feel yourself. And that’s why I think you can’t do this without self-experimentation, especially today where there’s so much conflicting information and research is hard. So, you can go through a lot of information, but it’s very hard to know exactly what to trust and follow. One of the best things you can trust and follow is your own experience. So instead of waiting for a celebrity diet that’s going to eventually work for you, you can go out and actively try and figure out what’s optimal for you by actually trying new things and experimenting with different diets. Don’t get locked into any kind of ideology, you know, follow what makes you feel best. That involves a lot of self-experimentation. Like if you want to get to a certain goal, you have to change. So, like if you’re not getting to your goals, you need to look at making change. There are a lot of changes you can do in your last style to get you to optimal health. Diet is a big lever, sleep’s a big lever, and they are a lot of smaller leavers that can actually influence your lifestyle and health. But, it’s always good to sort of focus on the bigger leavers first, the ones that are going to make the biggest change; then start looking at the smaller leavers that you can pull to help your health a little bit to sort of fine-tune and get everything running as smoothly as possible.
Yeah, start with the big things first like sleep and for me what you enjoy also comes into play. Like I don’t think in the healthiest you as an unhappy you. So, if you’re forcing yourself to stick to a diet trend or do exercises that you really hate, that for me is not really optimal. Well, I like a joke that I’m the Thomas Edison of dieting cause I’ve tried to go on a diet 3000 times in my life and failed and I’ve, I’ve given myself so many challenges and then I don’t do them because I don’t enjoy them. I was always very hard on myself. But, I heard someone say that, you know, if you start reading a book and if two chapters in, you don’t like it, but you’re trying to force yourself to finish the book because you got it. You don’t have to finish the book if you really don’t like the book, life is short and there are a lot of books out there that are really good that you’re going to want to read instead. So, why waste your time finishing this book if you’re not getting anything out of it. So, then I realised some habits I just didn’t do because I hated them and I didn’t enjoy them and then that’s not sustainable. So, experimentation is really key. Some things I feel like, okay, no, maybe do try and stick it out for at least a month. But, if there’s one thing like a workout, like there are so many different exercises you can do, but if there’s like those hit workouts and everybody is doing it because some influencer made it up or I don’t know. And you just really hate it, you don’t have to do that challenge. Yeah, he’s tried to exercise regularly. That’s a good and a good challenge for you to do. But, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that specific workout that you hate.
Yeah. No one should be doing exactly the same thing all the time. Sort of like certain things work better for certain people and yes it does help to try and pick up if this is really not good for you, but there are certain things like you said where you should actually stick it out a little bit. Especially if all the advice given and says like, oh yeah, you’re going to go through withdrawal period or whatever. Cause you know, you could use that as a sort of reasoning for not quitting smoking. You can be like, well, you know, I tried quitting smoking and I felt like crap. It’s like, yeah, obviously if there’s any kind of withdrawal period, like if you go from a high carb diet to a low carb diet, you get a physical withdrawal. Like you actually, especially like sugar, sugar has got quite a strong physical addiction and it takes a while for you to get over that. So, with certain things it’s almost like you have to see what it’s like once you’ve gotten past the shitty bit; then you can almost like analyse this for yourself and say like, okay, so this is what it feels like to not have any, like we have very low sugar, it feels great or nah, didn’t really do much for me. And you can go back to eating more sugar. Like it’s, it’s sort of totally up to you and you have to, that’s where it becomes so individual. Like you said this whole time is that, you know, it’s very specific to each person so you can say like, oh yeah, I quit sugar for a month, got over the addiction of it and I prefer to keep going with sugar.
The grass is not greener on the other side.
The grass is not greener on the other side where for me personally, I quit sugar and then I was amazed at how much energy I had. Like I felt like I could just run forever. So I was like, I’m sticking to this because that was worth it for me individually.
Yeah. I didn’t feel that different after quitting sugar. Not at all. But, here’s my theory because I am anxious a lot and when your cortisol levels go up, your liver starts producing glucose. That even though I’ve been keto for long, my body has not necessarily been in a low glucose, low sugar state all the time. So, I wasn’t necessarily keto for very long cause cortisol can kick you out of ketosis. And I’m like, I’ll still get cravings for sugary foods that I haven’t had in years. And it’s weird cause everybody says, oh the cravings go away. But, I’m experimenting to try and see what will help me reduce my anxiety and help me, you know, with that, which is also a different thing. Everybody says, oh if you, once you reduce stress, do this, do this. Not all of those things work for me. You have to think, oh what helps me relax, what makes me stressed and address those things. And yeah, if you can reduce stress, that’s also one of the base things that you can do for your health. So, you know, when you are trying to get to the point of optimal health and you do struggle with some mental health problems, then that is a big focus area as well because you want your brain to function optimally obviously.
Well, your brain is quite key to who you are as a person. So, it should be on the high end of people’s priorities to keep optimal. And, so yeah, I mean obviously you want to keep your heart and your lungs and like there’s a lot of important body parts, but I think the brain is definitely the top one. A lot of people forget about the brain and a lot of people think that what they’re eating and drinking has zero effect on the health of their brain. Unless it’s alcohol. Everyone kind of knows all calls killing your brain. So, I don’t know why they don’t think that any other things that you eat and ingest can have the same effect.
I mean a lot of people are saying now that you know, depression and anxiety, ‘re linked to brain inflammation originating in the gut. So, okay, if you do struggle with some sort of mental health disorder that is linked to brain inflammation, if you started experimenting with your diet, once again self-experimentation and you cut out inflammatory foods and you started doing other things that can lower inflammation like cold shock therapy, exercise, exercise. You know, your whole life might just change. You might feel so much better and it takes experimenting to know what will work for you.
Yeah, like a lot of people are cruising around with high insulin spikes and then they don’t say that it’s their body, you know, they always sort of like, no, I’m just lazy today. Or oh, I’m just tired today. They almost like blame themselves for how they are acting when their body is literally going through this roller coaster. Insulin and sugar drops your ride where, you literally your blood sugar levels go so low that your brain can hardly function and then your sugar levels go high and you have a lot of energy and you’re like, whoa, you know, I can kick ass now and dah, dah, dah. And then that crashes the game. So, that’s sort of just your reality. So, often it takes one experiment that you sort of like just say, okay, I’m just going to do one experiment, I’m going to lower my sugar, like we were talking about for one month and see what happens. Then you can actually see what your reality could be. Like. You could be like, wow, okay, so this is what it was like to have energy that you can sustain throughout the day without getting those like crazy crashes and you know, but it takes the step of the experiment to open that reality too.
Yeah. I’ve experienced that where I feel crappy and then I feel bad about myself. I’m like, oh, why aren’t you being so productive? You know? And, then I read an article saying, uh, if you have low progesterone, it can make you anxious, it can give you brain fog, it can make it hard for you to lose fat. And, you know, women are a whole other story. But, it just made me feel so much better realising, oh, it’s not me. Oh it’s me. But, it’s because of a hormonal imbalance that I’ve been feeling. You know, I’d say reasonably bad for the last few weeks and it just makes me know, okay, well if that’s the problem and this is why I’m feeling that way, if I can fix my low progesterone levels, then my anxiety should improve as well. My brain fog should improve. So, by experimenting, then I can maybe solve quite a few problems in one.
Yeah. I just though of a caveat; you do want to experiment, but I’d say be careful with like more synthetic experiments. So, like you mentioned now hormones, I was thinking that some people might see it as an option to experiment with taking exogenous hormones. That’s, I would not recommend that. I’d say if you can try and do it in a natural way, like rather try getting your sleep right, eating a cleaner diet and getting some exercise first before going to the doctor and saying, “give me a synthetic hormone” because the hormones especially can do a lot of damage and cause a lot of longterm imbalances that I wouldn’t recommend hormones to anyone myself, but obviously we’re not doctors, but we can at least ICU to just try journey so far. Yeah, I guess it’s a quite a journey.
Yeah. Well for me, my idea is not, uh, I have low progesterone let me go and buy a progesterone cream. It’s a, I have led progesterone. I know that if your cortisol levels are high, that can lower your progesterone because I’m any like the same precursor to make it or something like that.
That was a LinkedIn, like adrenal fatigue.
I don’t know, probably. But, cortisol steals progesterone. So, if your cortisol levels are high, your progesterone levels go down. And I know my body, I’m in fight or flight mode pretty much 80% of the day and maybe not. Okay. Not when I’m sleeping, hopefully not. But, I know then that is probably part of what is causing the progesterone to drop. So, if I want to improve that, then I’m going to have to reduce my stress levels because yeah, I can get a progesterone cream but I don’t want to rely on that for the rest of my life.
Yeah. Also, you don’t know what the longterm effects of using exogenous hormones are going to have. Because your evidence at the moment doesn’t look good.
And if you’re getting home runs from an external source and it has enough because of this external source, it’ll stop producing it because naturally, because if you’re getting a lot of exogenous progesterone thing, your body has no need to make its own. That happened to me years ago. I went on birth control and was like progesterone only and then my hormones just tanked off that.
And yeah, you could still be dealing with your body’s impaired function to produce progesterone because, of all those hormones you took years ago. So, yeah, it’s a dangerous thing to play with. So, experiment but try to stick to more ancestrally appropriate experiments. I’d say first. So, don’t go with the synthetic experiments first, I suppose like each to their own. But, hormones are a good example of how it can go badly. Even if you look at calcium supplementation studies, some of them seem to show negative correlations between taking calcium supplements because everyone thinks, oh, you know, I’m lacking calcium, so let me take them. And, you know, it actually could be doing damage instead of helping you. So, that’s why I’d always sort of say try go the natural way first before trying the more synthetic artificial method.
Yeah, I am definitely a natural first type of person. Yeah. Experiment with your skincare experiment with your morning routine. But yeah, there are a lot of experiments you can do. So, many experiments you can do and make it your own and maybe sit down and write down what is the healthiest version of you. Like if you had to picture, okay, what would the best version of you look like? Healthwise, and write that down.
What can they do? Can they run a mile? Can they climb?
Okay. Can you do an obstacle course? I was telling Jonathan, one of my challenges, if I had to picture the healthiest version of me would be to do the 10-kilometre obstacle course at the warrior race. For me being able to climb a rope without needing a man to help me, that would be pretty epic. Like being able to do a pull up on your own. Being able to do a pull up on my own, that’d be so epic.
So, yeah, there’s, and that’s, once again, it’s super individual. Like some people might want to be able to cycle or row or swim or play soccer or rugby or you know, like there’s just so many different things you can do; parkour, the list is endless. And I do think that pairing exercise with enjoyment definitely helps you stick to something and will definitely be more optimal because then you’re getting the fun with the benefit from the exercise. Yes. So, you know, gyms are cool and all, but I think it’s a lot more optimal to sort of do some sort of sport or discipline that you can get some actual enjoyment out of so that you can sort of get two birds with one stone. And obviously, two birds with one stone is way more optimal than one bird in one stone.
Yeah. Optimise. Yeah.
Optimise, and then you can experiment. You’re going to be like, okay so I’m going to go try and play soccer cause I’ve always loved watching it or I used to play it when I was in school or I’m going to go boxing cause I’ve always wanted to be a boxer.
Like you, you love hockey, field hockey.
Yeah. So, I’m really glad that I decided to go back into field hockey and it’s proving to be very fulfilling and it’s a crazy workout and I get to get enjoyment and a really good exercise all in one. So, yeah. Yeah. There are so many things you can do. I think hopefully, we’ve managed to give you a few ideas and a few examples of ways you can optimise your health through self-experimentation.
At least start the process. If you really want to speed up the process though, you could get a continuous glucose monitor or something or test your blood sugar every four hours. Then you can really see how foods impact your blood sugar very quickly. Or you can have a DNA test done.
Yeah, don’t be afraid to use technology like sleep trackers.
If you can see, well, if you have a sleep tracker, like a Fitbit or you know, whatever band or an aura ring, then you can see, oh, I’m not sleeping as well as I used to. Then you can start experimenting. Oh, take a cold shower before bed. See if that experiment improves your sleep. Make the room darker. You know you can use technology to help you.
Technology is almost like the measurement instruments that help you feel out what is good and what’s not really actually working for you.
And, to see what you can’t see otherwise because I had a DNA test done and I learned so much about that DNA test that has shown me, oh, according to my DNA, this is how I should live. These are changes I need to make. These are certain risks that I have. So, in order to be healthy in the future, I need to take this into consideration. It really helped me a lot.
Yeah. It gives you a good starting point, that’s for sure. Like it lays out a whole lot of information for you. You’re on your own individual genetics.
Yeah. You can get blood tests done. It can maybe fast track it a little bit for you. Maybe read books or listen to audiobooks about health. Educate yourself, knowledge is power. And listen to podcasts, which if you’re listening to this, you already doing that. But, where you can learn things and then you can learn, oh, this person did that, maybe that will work for me. You hear so many things.
Yeah. It is almost like trying, well not even trying, it is like exploring for experiments. So, it’s like you might have 10 experiments that you can think of on your own, but by listening to podcasts and stuff, it’ll expand your spectrum of things you can do. But don’t look at them as like, oh, this is me now and I’m now, red light therapy Bob, because I discovered red light therapy and now that’s all I believe in and that’s all that you need and that’s all you need to do. It’s like, no, I did red light therapy, I saw benefits; it’s really cool, and I’m going to continue to use it. Or I did red light therapy, and it felt like a waste of money, and I’m not going to do it anymore. Like you have to be objective and willing to just say, this worked for me or didn’t. And then there’s always another experiment.
So, yeah, have fun experimenting and hope you have a great week further.
Yeah, good luck on any experiments you decide to take on and some of them turn out to be a waste of time. But, those are the ones you actually probably learned the most from. So, not a waste of time. They might seem to be a waste of time.
Yeah, no, no. Always ask yourself, what could you have learned from this?
Exactly. So, you know, you might think like, oh, I went plant-based or whatever, and it went badly. Then you could say like, oh, you know, but I spent that whole month doing something that went badly for me. And, you think like, oh, you know, I could’ve been doing something else that would’ve been healthier. But no, you go like, okay, now I’ve learned a lot from this month. And that’s always the positive side of experiments. Even if they don’t go well, you still learn. And that’s sort of the whole journey.
And, you also learn about your preferences as well. Sometimes you don’t know what you like until you experiment for a little bit.