Improving Sleep, the Gut-Brain Connection, and Indisputable Health Tips – Ben Greenfield on The Portal, Hosted By Eric Weinstein

Check out The Portal Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • Three comprehensive markers for overall health:
    • Glycemic variability
    • Inflammation
    • Heart rate variability
  • Because there’s a constant interplay between the nerves of your gut and brain, gut-brain health is a package deal—caring for either requires caring for the other
  • To improve your sleep:
    • Sleep in a cold room
    • Cool your body down with a cold shower before bed
    • Wear heavy socks to bed (this helps cool the rest of your body)
  • Indisputable health tips:
    • Move throughout the day as much as possible
    • Frequently expose yourself to sunlight
    • Every day, make an effort to walk outside barefoot
    • Frequently expose your body to heat and cold
    • Drink enough good, clean water

Products Mentioned

  • The chiliPAD is a mattress topper that circulates temperature-controlled water (varying between 55-110 °F), allowing you to optimize your sleep environment
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  • The OOLER is Chili’s follow-up product The main difference? It’s app-controlled, allowing you to set a schedule that changes the temperature throughout the night.
    • For 15% off the OOLER, use the code “Podcastnotes15” at checkout
  • Taking CBD before bed can improve sleep
    • Podcast Notes Trusted CBD: Use the code “PODCASTVIBES” for 15% off at checkout . Why do we trust Sabaidee? It’s 100% Organic, American Made, and 3rd Party Tested (+ results transparently posted on their site) to ensure nothing else is in the CBD.


A Healthcare Revolution is on the Horizon

  • Image a future where people can self-test for biomarkers at home, and feed that data into an AI algorithm for specific/actionable health advice
    • Picturee a toilet that automatically analyzes feces/urine, and spits out data about your microbiome!
  • “We live in an era now where the type of self-quantification that would’ve been prohibitively expensive 10 years ago is now readily affordable and availableBen Greenfield
    • Ben expands: The ability to gather personal health data, and then decide what type of nutrition, exercise, and supplementation protocol would be most beneficial allows you to bypass a lot of the epidemiological data that paints with a broad brush

Three Comprehensive Markers for Overall Health

  1. Glycemic variability: how often, and to what extent, your blood sugar varies over time
    • Ben finds that the easiest and most effective method of reducing glycemic variability is full-body exposure to cold temperatures
  2. Inflammation: a stress response by the immune system to protect the body against foreign invaders
    • Currently, you can only test for inflammatory markers by getting blood drawn at a lab or clinic
    • One note: Be mindful of your inflammation test timing
      • For instance, after exercising, your body will show seemingly abnormal inflammation levels
  3. Heart rate variability: the inter-beat variation from heartbeat to heartbeat
    • The vagus nerve is a major cranial nerve that controls your heart rate variability and other aspects of your parasympathetic nervous system, such as digestion and breathing
      • You can tone the vagus nerve, and thus improve heart rate variability, through simple activities like singing, gargling, and breathwork
    • “I originally became interested in heart rate variability because it’s an excellent predictor of injury and illness in athletes. If you’re training a team or an individual athlete, and heart rate variability begins to drop, typically, you can predict injury or illness 2-3 days later with surprising accuracy.” – Ben Greenfield

The Gut-Brain Connection

  • Your gut has a nervous system of its own: the enteric nervous system (AKA the “second brain”)
    • “The efferent fibers of the vagus nerve feed from the central nervous system to a wide variety of organs. You have a pancreas to control insulin, kidneys to control blood pressure, and a liver & gallbladder to control bile production & detoxification.” – Ben Greenfield
    • “The afferent fibers travel from all of those organs, including the microbiome, back to the brain—there’s this constant interplay going between the gut and the brain”Ben Greenfield
  • Gut-brain health is a package deal—caring for either requires caring for the other
    • Examples:
      • A healthy gut biome improves cognitive performance
      • Reducing your stress levels aids digestion and metabolism

The Mediterranean Diet

  • The Mediterranean diet stems from Greek Orthodox religious practices
  • Ben believes the Mediterranean diet, properly practiced, provides the greatest benefits for the most people out of all the ‘fad diets’

How to Improve Your Sleep

  • Ben’s entire bedroom is lit with red incandescent lightbulbs; why?
    • Red lights don’t suppress melatonin (this is useful when flipping on the lights at night to pee, or when getting ready for bed)
  • Here’s what Ben finds improves his sleep the most:
    • Sleeping in a cool room
    • Cooling his body down with a cold shower pre-bed (this is especially important after a big meal or a late-night exercise session)
    • Wearing heavy socks to bed (it cools the rest of his body)
    • Taking CBD before bed
      • Podcast Notes Trusted CBD: Use the code “PODCASTVIBES” for 15% off at checkout
  • The only two things you should be doing in your bedroom: sleeping and having sex
    • (You don’t want your brain to associate your bedroom with anything besides those two)
  • “If you’re sleeping and your brain is convinced you’re in a safe environment, you sleep much better. This is why so many people struggle with sleep when they’re traveling.” – Ben Greenfield
  • Cooling your forehead is particularly effective for reducing sleep latency, the time it takes for you to fall asleep

Ben’s Take on Psychedelics

  • What concerns Ben most about psychedelics: the cultural acceptance of abusing them (and covering abuse up with excuses of spiritual discovery and self-healing )
  • Ben’s personal psychedelic usage:
    • He writes every Friday on a 20 microgram “microdose” of LSD
    • Ben and his wife undergo a guided couples therapy journey on a quarterly basis
  • Ben preps extensively for his psychedelic journeys and makes sure to supplement afterward to replete his neurotransmitters & counteract the neurotoxic effects
  • “I think we’re gonna see this strange hybrid physician-shaman type of model where folks are actually medically educated in clinical management, but also understand Amazonian and eastern medicine” – Ben Greenfield

Indisputable Health Tips

  • Move throughout the day as much as possible
  • Frequently expose yourself to sunlight
    • (The biochemical processes from photon interactions heal the body, strengthen bones, produce testosterone, and improve mood)
  • Every day, make an effort to walk in nature barefoot
    • (This helps balance your body’s electronegativity)
  • Expose your body to both heat and cold
    • “We know from Finnish longevity studies, for example, that sweating and being hot on a frequent basis is very good for the body. We also know that cold thermogenesis, cryotherapy, and cold showers—things like that—are wonderful for weight stability, nitric oxide production, blood flow, etc.” – Ben Greenfield
  • Drink clean water
  • Ensure your body has enough high-quality minerals

Additional Notes

  • Castbox is a podcast and audiobook app which allows users to search audio
  • To assess his gastrointestinal health, Ben gets a yearly stool panel from Genova Diagnostics
  • Ben wears a Dexcom G6 continuous glucose monitor
  • To assess his hormonal levels, Ben uses a urine test from DUTCH Testing