Matt Titlow on How to Know What’s Really in Your Supplements

Diana D


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Katie: Hello and welcome to the Wellness Mama Podcast. I’m Katie, from wellnessmama.com, and wellnesse.com, that is wellnesse with an “e” on the end. And this episode is all about what’s really in your supplements and how to know. I’m here with Matt Titlow, who has a lot of experience in this particular field. He’s a 17-year veteran of the nutritional supplement industry and he has, in that work, studied a whole lot of different areas of supplements and today he really goes deep on the process of what happens before supplements ever get to you, how to understand the labeling on supplements and what regulation actually looks like. Why he’s not a fan for gummies, as far as vitamins go, what to know about dosing and what’s actually in your supplements, his take on vitamin D and the research surrounding it, even more reasons to be a fan of magnesium, which I have been a fan now for years, and also not to forget about potassium. He talks about postbiotics like butyrate and how they work in the gut. The biggest areas to optimize for better energy, and then his personal 80/20 for health. We cover a lot of ground in this one, I think you’ll enjoy, so let’s join Matt. Matt, welcome to the podcast.

 

Matt: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

 

Katie: Well, I’m excited to dig deep and go into some maybe not well-understood things when it comes to supplements, there’s a lot of directions we’re gonna go when it comes to that. But before we do, I have a note in my show notes that you love languages. And you would love to, at some point, be an Italian language teacher. And I just would love to hear the story of that, and maybe like what sparks the love for languages?

 

Matt: Yeah, I think I just have a passion for just communication, like what we’re doing right now, I think has been shown, you know, over COVID, like, how important communication is. And I don’t think every good idea was made in English. And so I love to just not only just communicate, it doesn’t matter, it could be something as easy as a menu or something as, you know, philosophy…as meaningful as philosophy. So, I think it’s just about communication.

 

Katie: That’s a great answer. I’m dipping my toe in language learning now with Japanese and Spanish. And certainly Japanese is bending my brain in ways I didn’t know it could bend. So it’s been a fun exploration, for sure.

 

And I know what you’re well known for is your work in the supplement space. And I’ll admit, this is an area where I’ve done research and read quite a bit on “PubMed.” But I also don’t have any direct formulation experience or inside knowledge of that industry. But I do know that a lot of people listening take some form of supplements, probably on a daily basis, this is definitely a thing that tends to be more popular now. There’s so much information out there in marketing related to so many different supplements.

 

And I would love to just start kind of maybe learning from you how to decode and dissect different aspects of understanding supplements and what’s in them. It seems like from my perspective, the supplement world is still a little bit of maybe the Wild West when it comes to understanding it and even the way they’re made.

 

Whereas food has very strict rules about what’s on the labeling and I’m sure supplements do as well. But I feel like maybe consumers aren’t as well equipped to understand what the labels mean on supplements because you’re often dealing with scientific names for things, or trying to understand proper dosage and how much of what is in it is actually active versus not. So to start broad, maybe just kind of give us an overview of what’s going on in the supplement space in general.

 

Matt: Right, that’s a broad question. You know, I think the process might actually help if we just get context that might be interesting for the audience. So one is that when you look at a product, you’re just looking at something that is, you know, label, bottle, lid, etc. But what’s actually going on behind the scenes is that those raw materials are being imported, largely. So not just, you know, Asia, typically Spain, or China, but you’re thinking about like Europe, South America, etc.

 

So think of everything from vitamins to amino acid or protein. Proteins often do come from the U.S. So those come in and are tested, all right, the actual raw material themselves. Then that goes to typically a contract manufacturer. That contract manufacturer is the one who’s actually putting, let’s say, vitamin C in a capsule, for example, or a tablet, and then they put that in a bottle. Then they send that off to the marketer, that marketer is that brand that you’re accustomed to, right?

 

So it could be a Jal, a NOW Foods, you know, a Ritual vitamin, you know, these sorts of, you know, brands, Vital Proteins. These people are not manufacturing their product. In fact, they’re the ones who are actually receiving that from the contract manufacturer after all of those steps. I think that’s a little context that maybe not everyone fully is cognizant of. Start there, maybe?

 

Katie: Yeah, that’s a great point. And so it seems like there’s a whole lot of steps and a lot of them get pretty far removed before you’re even talking about the website that lists the ingredients that tells you about the supplement. So as a consumer, is there any way to know what’s happening in the steps of those process and if the ingredients are high quality or not?

 

Matt: Right, exactly. Okay. So once you’re there, like you have the actual bottle in your hand, you’re on a website or something like that, then you’re looking at basically credibility like you just said. How do I know what’s true or what isn’t, you know, and is the dose right or wrong? This is tremendously difficult, and so you’re going with reputation for the most part.

 

So things like, you know, just practicality. So like have they stood the test of time, you know? Have they been on Amazon for a while? Have they been in Walmart for a while? Have they been in Target for a while? You know, is their name like Nature Made, or NOW, or Jarrow, or Life Extension, you know, or Vital, or Ritual, you know, these are some of these brands who’ve been around for a while.

 

In terms of the dosing because…again, so just to go back reputation, in terms of the dosing, my gosh, I think I just maybe give a couple of resources. One is Life Extension Foundation, lef.org. So if you just go to lef.org, their magazine has a tremendous amount of info. You can just literally just type in vitamin D, type in magnesium, type in potassium. You know, it’s just a very good resource. I think Harvard has a couple good resources, examine.com has a couple of good resources. But again, it comes down to reputation.

 

Katie: And you’ve directly worked in the supplement space from my understanding, right, with actually formulating these.

 

Matt: Oh, definitely. I’ve been doing this for 17 years. Our business has been around for 23 years. We are, along with the manufacturers, the backbone of the whole industry. So when something says like you jump higher, your skin is brighter, your immunity is boosted, those claims are largely coming from ingredient suppliers like us. We’re spending millions on those studies that allow you to say, good source of calcium, for example, or boosts immunity, and things of that sort.

 

So, yeah, we as ingredient suppliers and the contract manufacturers, putting it in the actual bottle itself, that’s the backbone of the industry. It’s the marketer who has the flair, right? Think of like the email marketing, think of like the video sales letter, think of like, yeah, that YouTube ad, TikTok ad, that’s not where we are, we’re the behind the scenes people.

 

Katie: So when it comes to the claims on supplement bottles, I know, at least from writing in the health and wellness world, there are pretty tight rules of what you can and can’t say, and I can’t say things prevent or cure disease, for instance. What’s the regulation side look like on claims on supplement bottles? What’s the process like before something can actually be put on the bottle as a claim?

 

Matt: So more or less, you can make claims around the structure, the normal structure, and function of the body. So, for example, we all have a gut, right? We have a microbiome, right? So you can say supports gut health, for example. Can you say prevents IBS? No. Because IBS is not a normal structure or function of the body, it’s a disease state. Can you say supports…I think it’s like seasonal conditions, right? Yes, you can say that, that’s a euphemism for allergies, for example. Supports healthy weight management, for example.

You see a lot of promotes, supports language, so that normal structure function like supports eye health, for example, those are normal. When you start saying things around allergies, or IBS, or yeah, anything, and to make an extreme example, flu, or cancer, or something like that, or COVID, that is 100% no, no, the FTC will come down on you with a hammer, it will be severe. You don’t want to do that.

 

Katie: Gotcha. And then I know in supplements, there’s at least a list of active ingredients on the bottle, typically. But I’ve read at least in passing that often there can be things like fillers as well, just to make the volume work, is that true? And do those have to be listed as well? Or if they’re inactive ingredients, could there be things we don’t know about in them?

 

Matt: They are typically at such a low percentage that it’s irrelevant. So those that are relevant are on the label, or let’s say should be. All reputable companies do put them on, let’s put it that way. And that’s under other ingredients. So just give you an example, let’s take a capsule. That capsule, let’s say might have let’s say flour, I’m just making a…all right. Let’s take something real, like vitamin C. Vitamin C doesn’t always flow perfectly well into a capsule, so you might have to add a little something called magnesium stearate. That’s a flow agent to help to actually physically go into the capsule.

 

That magnesium stearate is on the label under other ingredients. So you might have “fillers” like microcrystalline cellulose, MCC, silica, these are inactive inert substances that are largely benign, and they’re under other ingredients. They’re typically not, not ingredients that you do not know about on the label that would be irrefutable.

 

Katie: What about the capsules themselves, what are those typically made up? Because I know, for instance, I’ve met people who take dozens or even like hundreds of supplements per day, and I’ve always wondered, you know, that capsule…one capsule doesn’t have much of whatever that substance is. But when you’re talking about taking a lot, it would seem like you’re actually getting a decent-sized dose of whatever that is. So what are the capsules themselves typically made of?

 

Matt: I was listening to a podcast by Peter T and he said something like, you know, the dose makes the poison, right? So like a little bit of water is good, a lot, you drown, right? So, yes, if you’re taking hundreds of supplements, hundreds of capsules maybe that could be harmful. I’m not actually sure, to be honest. But yeah, usually beef gelatin, there’s also veggie caps, and you’ll see that, like they’ll advertise it, like beef for gel or vegan. But largely, and I’m talking like 99.9% benign because we’ve been taking these capsules for decades without adverse events. So largely benign by 99.9%. But sure, gosh, if you took 100 of these things, maybe you could have some GI distress.

 

Katie: That makes sense because I just think of terms, you know, we can take one capsule of Motrin and expect it to give us a result. And then we…so easy to ignore the small amounts of things added to food or added to supplements that might also produce a result in the body that would be unintended at large doses. So I’m glad we got to talk about that. Are there any typical like worst offenders or maybe supplements that are typically not high quality or things to watch out for within the industry?

 

Matt: I’d say gummies. So gummies, in general, are largely ineffectual because they don’t have enough stuff, you know, available, enough…physical material available to make an active ingredient work. So think of like vitamin D, that can work as long as it’s sugar-free. So you don’t want sugar. That’s the number one.

 

Number two, you want the dose of something to be effective. Well, there are very few things that are low dose that can fit in a gummy because you need few amounts of, you know, stuff, you know, active ingredients to fit in that gummy. Well, vitamin D can do that. But let’s say vitamin C, you can’t put a gram of vitamin C into a gummy. So you end up with a low dose that’s ineffectual.

 

So I’d say largely gummies are not the place to be. And I know that’s where everyone is going, so I know that might be a little controversial. But vitamins that can work in a gummy, vitamin D, that can work in a gummy. But minerals, there’s just too much, you need too many minerals, you need that in a powdered form. Hopefully, it kind of helps, that would be one place not to go is probably anything with sugar and anything with a larger dose and so it’s under-dosed in the gummy.

 

Katie: Yeah, like, for instance, one thing I take relatively often is magnesium, and I’ve noticed, you know, magnesium is used for so many different reactions in the body. I’ve noticed a difference when I take magnesium, to get that dose of magnesium and a gummy would not taste very good because magnesium has a pretty salty bitter taste.

 

Matt: Right, yes, magnesium, I’m a monster fan. There’s that brand Calm, you know, from Natural Vitality, it’s a great product. I’m a huge fan of magnesium, it’s the second most efficient mineral in the American diet second to potassium. So you might actually have some viewers who are deficient in potassium, and that can be in powdered form in electrolyte drink. That has started to grow, potassium in a electrolyte drink versus a sodium.

 

So if you look at a typical electrolyte drink, it’s sodium-based, but there are very few of us who are, you know, getting after an Olympic level in which sodium is being depleted, right? So that electrolyte drink, that what’s called hydration craze, that should actually be potassium-based, meaning potassium above sodium, and it should be sugar-free.

 

Katie: I’m glad you brought up potassium as well. I feel like on days, even I do extremely long sauna sessions, and so I’m actually going through a lot of sodium, I still supplement with ones that have sodium, magnesium, and potassium. And I know there’s ratios that are optimal for that, but I don’t think that gets talked about enough is that potassium is a lesser-known one that makes a big difference.

 

And I’ve heard from people who when supplementing with potassium noticed a huge energy difference for one thing, as well as some other positive effects for that particular reason. And I know based on what I’ve read, our food supply is relatively depleted in specifically those. And so I always am a fan of getting things from food when possible. But I also feel like we’re in an environment at times where that is very difficult or not possible depending on a person’s diet. So that’s why it’s worth turning to things like this.

 

And I’m also glad you mentioned vitamin D because this is one that I feel like has been in the limelight the last couple of years because of the studies related to different viral illnesses. But I would love to hear your take on vitamin D and how to know if we’re getting a good one because like you said, it seems like this is one that can be extremely concentrated in a very, very tiny dose. But it also is fat-soluble, which to me means you also don’t wanna overdose on it so you need to be careful of that range. But let’s talk about vitamin D.

 

Matt: I think this has, like you said, been in the limelight a lot. And it’s like, “Oh, my gosh, do we need to talk about this again?” You know, maybe your viewers are like, “Oh, my gosh, are we doing this for the 822 times?” Yes, we’re doing it again, we’re talking about vitamin D. And because it’s almost impossible to overstate its importance.

 

So, back years ago, we used to think that 400 or 808 IU was where we needed to be, and that was 100% of RDI. And then we realized, oh, my gosh, we could take 20,000 IU and not overdose.

 

So, I don’t wanna say that there is no toxicity because, again, just like we mentioned in the other podcast is the dose makes the poison, right? So there are limits. I can’t remember how it’s measured. But you can go to your doctor and get a simple blood test. This is not hard at all. So next time you’re at the doctor, ask them to basically do your blood work, and just add on your vitamin D.And it should be 50, I think it’s milliliters per deciliter or something or milligrams per deciliter. I apologize I don’t remember the unit of measure, but should be above 50. That’s critical. And here’s why it’s critical.

 

One is just basic immunity, your immune system resides in your gut. 70% of your immune system resides in your gut. Vitamin D is helping modulate your gut. That’s unbelievably important, in other words, central to all human health.

 

Number two, I mean, immunity is health, right? If you’re sick, you’ll have one wish is to be healthy. So if you’re thinking about cold, flu, and then to be a little bit more, let’s say, on the extreme side, think colon cancer and other cancers, breast cancer, things of this sort, this is absolutely crucial, like unbelievably important, fundamental to all human health is vitamin D.

 

Then you get to think about COVID. There was a study I just read recently that showed when they looked at people who had vitamin D levels above 50, they did not die from COVID, there was zero mortality. And I think they had like 2500 subjects if I’m not mistaken, and zero mortality. Sure, you can get sick, sure, you might have a difficult time, but there’s a difference between sick and mortality. So if you’re thinking about a virus, if you’re thinking about gut health, if you’re thinking about just everyday immunity, almost nothing is more important to all human health than vitamin D.

 

Katie: Which, to me, has always made sense because as humans, we, in the past, were in nature much more, we were interacting with the sun on a regular basis. And we have a process in our body to create vitamin D that we are not using very often, or at least as often in modern times. And so I’ve learned I have a couple genes that don’t process oral vitamin D very well, but very efficient in skin. And so I’ve learned, for me, I still need to get some exposure, but also, especially in the winter, supplemental vitamin D can be really, really impactful.

 

And like taking vitamin D, we’ve got all these studies, if you look through “PubMed,” you can find thousands of them, that having that cut off of optimal vitamin D levels in the blood lowers your risk of all-cause mortality, it lowers your risk of a lot of different problems. And it’s a very, relatively inexpensive and easy one to supplement with and to monitor.

 

And like you said, I would also recommend getting the blood test from your doctor. Or now there’s places online like Everlywell where you can get a vitamin D test, just to make sure that you stay in that good range of I think 50 to 90 is the sweet spot for my understanding and not go too low.

 

Matt: Exactly. And this is good for kids too, right? So you can monitor your kids, you know, as well. But the number one thing is just having them be outside and play. After that, then, you know, you can supplement. But you can actually test your kids at the doctor’s as well, he or she can have a blood test as well, you know, same thing.

 

And I take…oh, you implied toxicity. So, I personally take at least 10,000 IU a day. For some people that might seem a little high. But you’ve seen at Costco, Walmart, etc., the doses rise to 5000 IU per little like softshell, for example. For most people, that shouldn’t be an issue, that 5000 IU a day. Most people are probably below that but I take far more than that.

 

And if you’re in a…let’s call it a Z state or, you know…I don’t have a better word for that, just some sort of health compromised state. Yes. I mean, like my mother is in a compromised immune state, and so, yeah, she take 10,000, 20,000 plus IU per day to keep her vitamin D levels up.

 

Katie: I also love that you said get them outside to play first. I think that’s often not talked about, an underrated thing. And just being out in nature and interacting with our environment has a huge place in human health. I also, from my research, have read that you have done a lot with microbiome research and supplements related to the microbiome, and specifically what are called postbiotics. And I would love for you to explain what that is. I feel like most people are familiar with prebiotics or probiotics. What are postbiotics?

 

Matt: I think one of the things that I’ve tried to focus on my life is not getting so ultra-technical that we miss the forest and the trees kind of. So a postbiotic is best explained by fermentation. So think of like beer, right? So you ferment by simply having something like a bacteria or yeast, and then sugar. That bacteria or yeast grows or eats and ferments, you know, based on you know, eating that sugar source just like beer. Well, that thing that you make after having that sugar or yeast eat that sugar, that thing that’s leftover is a postbiotic. Okay. Let’s call it the alcohol, right?

 

Now, in the gut, it ferments as well, it is like a fiber, for example. So broccoli, it ferments in the gut, what’s that thing that’s produced? That’s a postbiotic. Now, the number one or most primary postbiotic is butyrate. Some people may have heard of that.

 

We have an ingredient called CoreBiome, it’s basically a butyrate derivative. It’s essentially what’s leftover after the fermentation of fiber in your gut. And that is regulating your gut permeability, the actual gut barrier. So the thing that is protecting your internal organs from the external environment is a one-cell thick lining. So think of like a stretched…I don’t know, a stretched trampoline, right, that is like your gut lining. And that is one cell thick and that is being mediated by butyrate.

 

That butyrate is that gut barrier protector that’s protecting those toxins, whatever it is. It could be environmental, like carbon dioxide, it could be from, you know, pesticides, or something that you’re eating on a vegetable or something like that. These sorts of like inflammatory sort of assaults, I guess you could say, to the gut, are being, you know, protected, are being rejected by your mucosal lining, so it doesn’t get in your bloodstream. Because once it gets in your bloodstream, well, then it’s getting into your whole system, that’s systemic inflammation, you don’t want that.

 

So that mucosal lining, that thick lining mediated by butyrate, which really means mediated by fiber, which really means mediated by vegetables. So, vegetables are the arbiter of all human health and that’s really kind of the foundation of, you know, gut health and human health.

 

Katie: And it’s a fascinating thing to study. I’ve heard it said, it’s not just what you eat, it’s what your gut bacteria eats. And why so much of human breast milk, for instance, is actually not feeding the child directly, it’s feeding the gut bacteria during that developmental phase of that mucosal lining. And so when they actually like break down breast milk, it’s fascinating to see the things you wouldn’t expect that’s not just direct nutrients for a human baby, but it fuels the development of that microbiome over time.

 

Matt: Yes, God bless breast milk. I mean, it is liquid gold. I mean, I can’t say it any better than you did. But yes, it’s everything. It’s amazing.

 

Katie: And I have a bunch of other questions I’ve jotted down for you as well, including one that you sent, which is what is a drugstore mullet? And I have to ask that one because I don’t even know what that is. I’ve never heard that term and I would love for you to explain it.

 

Matt: So my colleague came up with that. And it’s just something that is driving all of us crazy. And I know this has probably driven you crazy, you just haven’t thought of it this way. And that is when you walk into like a CVS or Walgreens, any drugstore, and you see just rows and rows of candy, it’s just unreal, you get Ho hos and Twinkies, and Ding Dongs right in the front. You can get diabetes in the front and medication in the back. It is just uncanny, I mean, it is just unbelievable, right?

 

The irony, it seems to be lost on the executives at these drugstores. And I just think to myself, gosh, you know, can we not go to a business school and say like, “Look, I need to turn this…like this space, this product in this space on this shelf X number of times. I need to make this much profit,” right? Can we somehow not be selling diabetes in the front and diabetic medication in the back? Can we not, like, have insulin in the back and some spikes in the front? It’s just, you know, so harmful.

 

And as parents, on top of it, not only is it harmful, but you have to fight off your kid going, what’s, you know, this animal, this advertising thing that is really catering to the child? Like you get to fight off your kid, you know, who’s wanting X or Y that shouldn’t even be there, right? We already have a hard enough time as parents, let alone having your child say like, gosh, can I have the Skittles right in the exact place that you’re getting medication. It’s just terribly ironic and humorously tragic.

 

Katie: Yeah, and there’s so much marketing surrounding those hyper-palatable foods. And I think the beauty of the human body is we’re amazingly adaptable, which is important for survival over the long term. But now we’re in this modern environment where all of these foods are available all the time. And we’re no longer in a place where maybe fruit was only available for a certain short period of time in the summer, and you actually needed to eat it then to refuel all those nutrients and also glycogen. And you were supposed to kind of indulge while the fruit was on the tree.

 

But now, like you said, it’s not the fruit on the tree or the honey from the bees, it’s the Skittles at every single aisle every single day eating them at every time of day and our livers don’t know what to do with that. And we’re seeing…the stats I saw recently are astounding, on the rise of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. And we’re even seeing it in children, which was not even…that was unheard of a couple of decades ago and now it’s rampant.

 

And I feel like the marketing side as well, it drives me nuts because I feel like so much of it is specifically geared at children. And they know that that’s an easy switch to push that the kids can talk the parents into it. But it drives me nuts that our food culture seems to assume from the very beginning that children are not capable of eating normal real foods. And they cater all these hyper-palatable processed foods specifically to kids, which is then developing their taste buds and their gut response to favor those particular foods.

 

Matt: Right. There’s this other podcast that just…oh, it’s about the guy who wrote “Atomic Habits,” and he was basically saying, make it easy on yourself. Like, if you’re trying to…you know, let’s say, you wanna just eat less sugar, for example, it’s best to just make it easy on yourself by not having the sugar around, right, make it a little bit harder to go get it. That’s why it’s so easy when you’re walking to, you know, CVS or Walgreens or another drugstore, you know, to have it, you know, right in front of you. So yeah, I couldn’t agree more.

 

About the ease with which we are eating sugar, and the ease with which children will eat anything that’s put in front of them. In other words, if you’re in Finland, for example, just randomly, you know, they’re going to eat what’s put in front of them just like if you had, you know, someone in California having something in front of them.

 

In other words, the Finish kid will eat the Finish food, the American will eat, you know, the American food, you know, it’s not like, “Oh, my gosh, I’m an American, I won’t eat Finish food.” We’ll eat what’s put in front of us.

 

But I also wanna say this one thing, and that is that we are more than the worst thing that we’ve ever done. And so…that’s from Bryan Stevenson from “Just Mercy” basically saying, hey, look, we’ve all had these things as parents, right, we’ve all had the child eat the cookie, right? My children ate cookies, they have ice cream, right? So I even say for all those parents out there, like man, I guess, give yourself a break a little bit. So, yes, less sugar 100%. Cigarettes kind of like the next cigarette, or, you know, sugar like the next cigarette. It’s just really detrimental to our health, that’s true, okay.

 

But at the same time, can we give ourselves a break? Like, we’re more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. And I ate trash growing up, I mean, I’m talking Ding Dongs, Twinkies, name it, bad cereal, etc. And I turned it around, I guess. So I guess I just wanna say, yes, sugar is detrimental. Number two, we always have a second chance. And we should be grateful for that second chance. Today is a new day.

 

Katie: And as a parent, I also try to avoid the hyper restrictive mentality that makes anything overly-forbidden or bad. Especially when it comes to food, I try not to assign morality labels to a food or make them feel bad about food because I think that’s its own host of problems. And just like technology, sugar is going to be widely available for them in their adult lives, and they’re gonna have to learn how to navigate that and interact with it. And I won’t always be their regulator when they can and can’t have sugar.

 

So I think as a parent, it’s walking that line of education and trusting them to make good choices and also helping like really just educate from a young age. And then not keeping it in the house to your point. So even if they eat it once in a while when they’re not home, it’s not a big deal because the majority of their food is real food.

 

Matt: Yeah, I’m so grateful of you saying that. Yes, couldn’t have said it better.

 

Katie: Okay. So I know you’re an expert in ingredients, so I wanna loop back to the supplement part. And most of the people listening are moms. I’ve said before, I think moms are some of the busiest people on the planet. And anything that helps moms with their energy levels or with their stress or with just their daily ability to get stuff done has positive ripples throughout all of society. So I would love from just your background, and expertise in ingredients if there are any things that moms can do maybe supplementally or even not supplementally that helps with energy and focus without harming their health?

 

Matt: I would say number one is water. I know that seems totally antithetical but being dehydrated will alter your cognitive ability, so number one is hydration. Number two is sleep. So, with sleep, it’s so trite. You might be thinking as a listener, “Oh, my gosh, here someone goes again talking about sleep, and I can’t do it and everything else.”

 

So how to approach sleep I think is by stress versus like sleep induction. So like, what I mean by that is like theanine, for example, L-theanine, which is a simple amino acid, things like GABA, theanine, apigenin, these are calming agents. So go with calming versus melatonin. So I would not use melatonin. I would go with ashwagandha, GABA, theanine.

 

We have an ingredient called TeaCrine. And TeaCrine is a dopamine agonist. So it’s like a mood enhancer. I think it’s…not I think, it’s unbelievable for energy, mood, focus, things of that sort. On the…let’s call it more energy side, yes, TeaCrine does that our ingredient, but also things like Yerba mate, things like coffee, things like tea. I’m 100% not against any of those.

 

And when you think about, you know, coffee, it’s often truncated to caffeine. But the fact is that it’s like a witch’s brew of a who’s who of polyphenols and a bunch of other things, just like tea. Like we said what’s in coffee? You’re like, aha. I can’t even tell you, there’s so much in there just like tea.

 

So I like Yerba mate, coffee, tea. And then from like an energy standpoint, like that’s maybe from like, let’s call it calming energy, things like magnesium, ashwagandha, GABA, theanine, apigenin, and our TeaCrine, those are probably…and we also have one called Dynamine that is fantastic. You might also think about, like, a natural caffeine, like Guayusa, those are also good. Hopefully, that didn’t confuse any listener, or maybe just put them on a wild goose chase. But I can truncate those to something maybe more specific or succinct if needed.

 

Katie: I love that you mentioned sleep and I love that that’s a recurring theme because I think often it’s easy to get swept up in the next bio-hack that seems really cool, or the next supplement that seems so fancy. But at the end of the day, it does go back to these core like hydrate, sleep, like realize that you’re a human animal and animals need certain things, do those things, and then it makes the supplements more effective.

 

And I’ve said over and over, you can’t out supplement lack of sleep, you can’t out supplement a bad diet, you have to get those core ones too. And in the 500 plus experts I’ve had on here I’m yet to have one single person say sleep is not important, you can just…you know, it’s fine, you don’t have to sleep. So I think that’s a really, really important one.

 

I also on a personal level found I have some very choline-specific genes, and usually, we can hopefully get choline from diet, but I for a very long time had to avoid eggs. So without realizing it I had become pretty choline-deficient with all of these genes that were hyper-dependent on choline. When I started supplementing choline noticed a massive change in my focus and energy levels, which makes sense in the brain from the way choline works. And I know now there’s a lot of choline supplements available. Have you worked with any of those or any guidelines related to choline?

 

Matt: Yeah, I think choline is great. I think there are several…I mean, I think simple is okay. Like, people can I think go a little crazy with like Alpha-GPC, Alpha-glycerophosphocholine. I think that’s great. But I mean choline bitartrate, there are several, DMAE, yeah, any of those cholines, I think are super functional and are great for focus.

 

Katie: And I also have a note from you to talk about the dairy industry and you saying it’s kind of basically stuck in the 1980s. And I would love to hear your explanation for that.

 

Matt: Yeah, so it just feels like…let me go back actually. Your listeners might be interested in knowing this, that there was actually a researcher back in, you know…gosh, it was at the ’70s. It was a while ago, ’60, ’70s. And his name was Ancel Keys, A-N-C-E-L and then Keys. And he had a study called The Seven C’s, or Seven Countries Studies, something like that. And he basically showed that fat makes you fat, right? Well, he manipulated the data.

 

So we went on four decades of fat makes you fat. So we took out fat and put in sugar. So think of all in the ’80s, right, all those like, low-fat yogurts and things of that sort. Well, it couldn’t have been more wrong and that’s what spurred the diabetes epidemic. So there isn’t just some nebulous how did we get here thing with diabetes. It’s actually Ancel Keys. There is a foundation to this in manipulating a study to show that fat made you fat, it doesn’t. It does not. Fat doesn’t make you fat, sugar does.

 

So what happened is the dairy industry just got stuck. So if you look at the dairy industry, it’s totally insane. You look in, it’s like, let’s say 2% fat, it’s skim milk, it’s low fat, you know, there’s all these monikers instead of just putting whole milk in the darn dairy aisle and just saying drink it like, don’t complicate this. The yogurt, just make it from whole milk and just call it yogurt. We don’t need to complicate this.

 

So it just led to just decades of misinformation that now people think, “Oh, my gosh, I need to take low-fat yogurt or something like that.” Well, what is best is to look at the yogurt say how much sugar is in there. So you look at brands like Chobani have those like low sugar…less sugar sort of monikers, that’s the foundation of good health.

 

Number two, in the dairy aisle, you’ll see also it’ll say like, you know, protein, so splash like 20 grams of protein or high protein or something like that and then they’ll have 19 grams of added sugar. You don’t wanna have diabetes with good muscle tone. This is ridiculous, right? This is not good for us, nor our children. So that’s why the dairy industry seriously needs to just wake up and just, I don’t know, just use milk.

 

Katie: Well, a friend of mine, JJ Virgin says “Your body’s not a bank account, it’s a chemistry lab.” And I feel like the fat is bad came from the idea of like, oh, it’s just a simple math thing. And so if we can just reduce the thing that’s the highest in calories, we’re going to be fine. Except for our bodies are chemistry lab and we instead introduced all these chemicals that are sending all these signals to the body that are not healthy.

 

And to your point, then we replaced it with sugar, which has a whole host of biochemical consequences, especially in large amounts, if you’re not using it. Carbohydrates aren’t bad, our body needs those, we use them for fuel. In excess, they’re bad. Or when we combine sugars and fats in high amounts, that’s when we get like a rise in triglycerides and all kinds of problems.

 

And then we also, because of those same studies, brought in all these vegetable oils, which I’ve talked in-depth about how we’ve replaced natural fats that come from nature with chemically processed deodorized methane like hexane excreted fats that our body doesn’t know what to do with. And so now our body is trying to do what it’s supposed to do and build a healthy body with the wrong building blocks.

 

And I love that about the dairy industry as well, I think there can be great sources, but also I feel like that marketing around, “Oh, you need calcium and you need protein,” I’m like you know what else has that? A can of sardines, and you’re not gonna get that good stuff, you know. That’s an unpopular opinion but I’m like, so eat a can of sardines a couple of times a week, you’re gonna get more calcium anyway.

 

Matt: Yes. I think we’ve missed the whole food part of this. And so yes, I couldn’t agree more. And hopefully, in time, that we’ll just say, gosh, let’s limit the sugar, and let’s use all the macros. So can you imagine the opposite? Katie, can you imagine if we actually said the opposite? Like, we have these macros like fat, carbohydrates, and protein, and we say, gosh, you know, we don’t need one.

 

How random would that be that we have on Earth? We have these three macros, and then randomly someone says, “Yeah, we don’t need one, or one of those is bad.” It just doesn’t make sense, right? There’s gotta be some sort of balance there just naturally, it just makes a lot of sense. And then scientifically, it also makes sense. So take carbohydrates, fiber is a carbohydrate. Obviously, we need fiber.

 

Katie: Yeah, I think there’s been a lot of misinformation and demonizing of entire macronutrient groups. And I think that there can be some things done in healthy ways within healthy guidelines of that to manipulate and eat, like, different ranges of those, if anything, because Americans typically are over-consuming, especially processed carbohydrates, and processed fats and under-consuming whole food sources.

 

But that’s one guideline I’ve noticed in my own life, you know, we got so sucked into the whole calories idea, and just how many calories am I consuming? And my point has always been, we actually need to be looking at how can I get the maximum nourishment for the same amount of calories? Because if you’re just looking at calories, you’re gonna eat these foods that are devoid of a lot of nutrients but are low-calorie. Whereas if you’re saying if I’m gonna eat 2300 calories today, how can I maximize the amount of nutrients, micronutrients, fiber to your point, protein, all these things I need in those calories, versus just deprive myself of calories?

 

Matt: Right. Yeah, it’d be nice if we just get back to that intuitive eating, not everyone has it because we’re so far away from it. But yeah, just whole foods, right, if we can. And then also some listeners are like…they’re super busy and they’re like, “Oh, my gosh, you know, I have to go through a drive-through. I gotta, you know, warm up a meal or something like that.”

 

And so, I know that there’s stress and reality, right, like we’re talking in super idealistic terms. But yes, if we can just get closer, just 1% closer, I think perfect is the enemy of good. So just get better, right? We’re all trying to get better. So don’t like beat ourselves up for every little like, you know, let’s say a nutritious meal, not beat ourselves up every time, you know, we or our children have pizza because all we’re trying to do is just get a little bit better.

 

And eating all those macros, you know, just having some vegetables, and some fruit, and some meats, if you go that direction, or you know, if you like beans and nuts. If you don’t like, you know, meat and you’re vegan, perfect, right, you’re just getting a little bit better. Maybe just one vegetable more per day, or one vegetable, you know, per week, you know, just better, not perfect.

 

Katie: Yeah, I love that quote that perfect is the enemy of the good. And also to the point in the beginning, the human body is very adaptable, and it’s not being perfect. It’s giving it just the most number of good factors that we can and knowing that it’s there to take care of us too.

 

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If you were to pick one area of health to focus on to maximize human potential, what would it be?

 

Matt: Your consumers or your listeners are like, “Oh, my gosh, here it goes again.” But the gut, I mean, you cannot overestimate how important the gut is, it is the foundation of all human health, period. So your immune system resides there, your like serotonin and dopamine are being produced in the gut, the whole connection of like your gut to, and then name the axis like your brain is connected by the vagus nerve.

 

So you’re thinking about, let’s say, gosh, like, I can’t focus, let’s just say, that focus, that mood, that focus, that mood, that actually starts in the gut. You’re looking at your skin health like, “Gosh, you know, I’ve got a rash, I’ve got this, you know, or whatever it is,” blemishes, let’s say on the skin, that starts in the gut. Let’s say your heart health, that starts in the gut. Just keep on going like your immune, like your immune system it’s not vitamin C. That’s nice, Vitamin C is great, we should be taking it. It’s nice to take vitamin C, but your immune system largely resides in your gut. It’s your barrier to your internal organs.

 

How is anything more important than your skin and your gut? Because your skin is obviously guarding…you know, if we didn’t have skin, obviously, we’d be super, you know, penetrable, right, all the toxins from the environment would get in. So your skin is obviously of primary importance, and your gut lining is second. So I would focus on the gut to answer your question.

 

Katie: In somewhat related question, realizing that perfect is the enemy of the good and we’re never gonna get it perfect, what is your personal 80/20 of the things that you feel are like parts of your normal routine that have the biggest payoff when it comes to health?

 

Matt: I try to eat as many vegetables as I can. That’s probably A1, number one. I supplement vitamin D, I try to get out in the…wow, this is gonna be a little bit random. Pardon me for the randomness of this. I try to see the sun with my eyes, not out a window, in the morning before I look at my phone. I try to get vitamin D through the sun. I supplement vitamin D as well because I’m 45 so I’m older and that declines with age.

 

I eat as many vegetables as I can. I’m not a vegan, and I do eat meat. But I try to not eat a ton of it, you know. What else? I try to sleep. I’m not very good at that. You know, I try to sleep, you know, as best I can. What else? I take our own CoreBiome, which is butyrate, essentially. Yeah, what else? I try to…I’m not very good at this either but I try to drink water. And that’s the only thing I do drink by the way. So when I do drink, I only drink water, that’s it, period. Hopefully, that gives you a few top line. How about you? I’m interested in yours. Can I flip that script? What do you do, Katie?

 

Katie: I’m so glad that you also mentioned the morning sunlight one because I feel like I’m often the broken record saying this. But truly, like, it’s free, it’s super impactful for your health. We know that light is one of the biggest regulators of circadian rhythm, which affects your hunger cues, which affects all of your other hormones. Cortisol is a master driver there.

 

And that is one thing that you’re gonna be awake in the morning anyway, go outside and do whatever part of your morning routine you wanna do outside. And it will make a big…I’ve seen it in my lab work actually. I’ve seen the cortisol changes, I’ve seen my progesterone, and my other hormones change in response to getting light in the morning, which leads to also better sleep at night. Because when you get that bright light on your receptors in your eyes in the morning, it sets that clock for melatonin production at night, which many people especially moms struggle with.

 

So that’s definitely one of my core ones as well. I’m personally a huge fan of sauna use, just because I have one at my house. And the metadata is pretty amazing on the reduction in all-cause mortality and heart disease risk from regular sauna use. So I’m very fortunate to have one of those. I think also, for me, I do cycle quite a few supplements, and I cycle different macros, depending on my training and what I’m doing. But I’m a big believer, nourish the body with whole foods whenever possible first, supplement when needed.

 

But then I think so much of it goes back to mindset. And this is a piece that isn’t talked about enough. And so I’ve been really for the last couple of years consciously curating my mindset to be supportive of health as well. And things like a daily meditation practice and gratitude and focusing on the present moment and the things that are actually within my control and learning to let go of the things that aren’t, which doesn’t seem like a direct health tip, but it really drastically changes stress levels.

 

Matt: Yes, I couldn’t agree more. And that presence is something that I’ve struggled with for so, so long. And, you know, I’ve just been driven, as you know like you own businesses, and you end up going, “Okay, you know, I’m supposed to listen to my child’s story right now, right, I’m supposed to be present in my child’s play, in my child’s song, in my child’s…” you know, whatever it is. And that presence, I think is, you know, what makes life worth living. And it’s something I’ve struggled with, and thank you for that reminder.

 

Katie: And a couple of last questions I love to ask toward the end of the time. The first being if there is a book or a number of books that have had a profound impact on your life, and if so, what they are and why.

 

Matt: So that’s a good question. It’s so hard to pinpoint because there are…I think for all of us, there are just times in your life when you read a certain thing where it impacts you more than another. So in business, and one that kind of covers health, and what we’re talking about is “The Psychobiotic Revolution.” It’s one of the best books ever written in any category, in my opinion, period. Like, it’s just brilliant.

 

And I’d say the one that’s a little bit more approachable, that I’m so grateful for this woman, and I wanna write her a letter, and just say like, “Oh, my gosh, you are really everything that we’ve been trying to synthesize for the last, you know, a couple 1000 years.” And that is the mother tree, “Finding the Mother Tree” from Suzanne Simard. And she basically summarized a spirit of cooperation.

 

And we all notice like, the human species has basically survived because of cooperation. And when you look at Earth, it’s surviving because of cooperation. But we have this mentality of competition, right? So if I grow soybeans, I can’t have corn, right, because one is gonna compete with the other for water, sunlight, etc.

 

But the fact is that nature has been surviving in forests with so-called “competing species.” And then we raise that force, and then only have, let’s say, I don’t know, oak, we’re only gonna have oak trees because we don’t want to have another tree because it’s gonna compete. But the fact is that she discovered that that force is actually in cooperation, that these “competing species” aren’t competing, they’re actually giving each other carbon back and forth. They’re surviving in this cooperation, and the human species survives this way and so does our gut microbiome.

 

And this is what our philosophers have been talking about, for a couple of 1000 years, Yin Yang, hot, cold, Eastern medicine, balance, Aristotle’s golden mean. This notion of balance has been summarized by this woman in this book in the form of like, ecology, “Finding the Mother Tree. And it’s such a beautiful story about cooperation and such a beautiful story about the mother. And the symbolism of the mother tree and the mother itself in life, it just…yeah, I’m grateful for that woman, Suzanne Simard.

 

Katie: Actually, both of those are new recommendations on this podcast, I’ll make sure they’re linked in the show notes. And the mother tree seems especially relevant to the many moms listening. So I love that you recommended that one. I’ve just put both in my cart, so I can read them as well.

 

Matt: Yes, I think it’s for “Finding the Mother Tree.” I had it on Audible and I stopped it and wrote down entire pages so that I’d be able to go back to them because there was, you know, certain poignant moments, I think three-quarters of the way through the book. So yeah, I just highly encourage people to read that and also just think about it. And that we are far more cooperative than we ever really consider. Like, you’re going to talk and I’m going to listen, I’m going to talk and you’re going to listen.

 

This cooperation is taken for granted and it shouldn’t be. Like we’re cooperating as we speak, we’re cooperating when we’re driving. And when we cooperate with the environment, yeah, it’s better for all of us in the human species.

 

Katie: That’s beautiful perspective. And for all of you guys listening while driving or exercising, I will link to all of those in the show notes at wellnessmama.fm so that you can find them. And any parting advice you wanna leave with the listeners today, could be related to what we talked about or entirely unrelated?

 

Matt: I’d like to get that from you more than from me. Parting advice. I think there’s some…as you get older, I think you start thinking of one is balance, right, what we just talked about, I think in cooperation, balancing all things. I think like we said earlier, we’re more than the worst thing we’ve ever done so let’s give ourselves a little bit of a break.

 

Know thyself. So kind of thinking about what makes you tick, and what makes you happy I think is supercritical. Yeah, eat some vegetables. The value of whole foods and vegetables as the foundation of all human health I think is super poignant. And knowing that supplements are just that, supplementing the whole food diet I think is critical. Yeah, parting advice.

 

Katie: I love it. And I love how much in life and the research continues to support goes back to things our grandmothers knew and have said for years, eat your vegetables, go to bed, get sleep, play outside. It all goes back to the things I feel like there’s been wisdom in humans knowing for so many years, and now we just have the research to back it up. But Matt, this was a really fun conversation, we covered a lot of ground. I’m really grateful for you for being here today and for sharing.

 

Matt: Yes, thank you. Thanks to you and thanks to all the mothers out there for making it all happen. I think we are eternally grateful, you know, for you know, the leadership, you know, in our country, in our families. And so I just wanna say thank you.

 

Katie: And thanks as always to all of you for listening and for sharing your most valuable resources, your time, your energy, and your attention with us today. We’re both so grateful that you did, and I hope that you will join me again on the next episode of “The Wellness Mama Podcast.”

 

If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.





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