Hormones, the Thermo Diet & Micronutrients With Christopher Walker

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Katie: Hello, welcome to the “Wellness Mama Podcast.” I’m Katie from wellnessmama.com and wellnesse.com. That’s wellness with an E on the end, my new line of hair care, toothpaste, and hand sanitizer. I think you are really going to enjoy this episode. I’m here with Christopher Walker, who is the CEO and Co-Founder of Natural Health Products brand, UMZU. He’s also the author and creator of the Thermo Diet, and the first person to graduate from Duke’s Neuroscience program in just three years. We talk about his incredible story in this episode, from performing surgery on a patient at age 16, target age 16, his own brain tumor diagnosis at age 19, how he recovered from that, and everything he’s learned along the way. He now helps millions of people recover their health naturally. He also at one point with his brain tumor had testosterone that was down to 11, and he got it back up above 1,100. I’ve gotten an increasing number of questions from you guys about husbands and significant others having low testosterone, and we address that in this episode. He also makes a really fascinating and compelling case for a lot of the common dietary and fitness information that you would get on the internet or from even experts being problematic. I think a lot of you already know some of these things because you guys are pretty astute but I think he makes a really strong case. I think it’s a fascinating episode, and I’m really curious to see what you think of it. Without further ado, let’s join Chris Walker. Chris, welcome. Thank you for being here.

Chris: Thanks, Katie. Glad to be here.

Katie: I’m excited to chat with you. I’ve known you in social circles and kind of the business world for a while, but I don’t think I’ve ever gotten to delve into your story. And in researching for this, I read a fact, I’m gonna want you to elaborate on, which is that you did surgery, I believe, at 16 years old. Can you walk us through that?

Chris: Yeah, I did. Yeah. I don’t think it was entirely legal, but I did it. And it was in Mexico. And, you know, I don’t think I understood, like, how cool it was at the time, but I thought it was really cool, but I didn’t realize I guess that 16-year-olds don’t usually do that. My uncle was a doctor. And when I was 16, like, I always wanted to be a surgeon. So, he basically brought me down to Mexico on a mission trip with a group of doctors. So they’re all from, like, the Northeast. And so, you know, he worked in Lebanon, New Hampshire. So there was, like, people with him in Dartmouth College, and then a couple of Yale surgeons, and I think a Georgetown guy. And then we all just basically went down there, and I could speak Spanish, so I was the translator. We were basically in the OR for, you know, probably 16 to 18 hours a day. And, you know, they were getting tired after a couple of weeks. So one of the Yale surgeons, he basically was like, “Hey, Chris, you wanna do this one?” So, I scrubbed in, you know, the nurses, like, showed me how to scrub in and get sterile. And then it was a Bladder Stone removal. So he basically just took out a sharpie, and this guy, you know, probably late 50s, early 60s guy, needed a Bladder Stone removal. So he was just laying on the table unconscious from, you know, the anesthesia. And the surgeon took a sharpie, drew a line, and showed me how to do it. And I did the surgery, took the bladder stone out. It was pretty wild. Very cool. Like, you know, just cutting in with a scalpel, really, and then seeing the different layers of tissue, and going into the fat, into the muscle, and then opening up the main cavity there.

And he showed me where the bladder was. He was basically, like, “Put your hand in there and find the stone.” And then I found the stone and gripped around it, and then he just cut the bladder in, you know, one clean line with the scalpel, and then I took it out. And I started sewing it back up, but I let him finish it because I had gone to, like, a medical symposium at Georgetown the year prior because Georgetown offers this, or I don’t know, if they still do but they did back then. For kids that wanna be surgeons, they have, like, a symposium for a week where you go and, like, surgeons, teach kids how to do it, you know, like, you know, a bunch of different medical stuff on campus. And so I learned how to suture a banana, but I didn’t necessarily feel super confident in suturing a person at that point. But I did take the stone out and I got all the way in there and did the whole surgical part, but I let the guy finish up the suturing.

Katie: Wow, that’s pretty amazing. And I also read that you are the first person to graduate from Duke’s Neuroscience program in three years. How did you get interested in neuroscience?

Chris: That was mainly for personal interest because, you know, I went to Duke just… In the first year, they have you enrolled for just pre-med, or pre-engineering, or whatever, pre-law. And so I was pre-med. And then after my freshman year, I had a lot of problems. Like, I had all these issues, my senior year in high school and then my whole freshman year of college, I had a lot of health issues. And one of which was, you know, I had, like, a really more acute health issue with ulcers, but that didn’t really play into it as much, but I had an issue with what I found out was a brain tumor after the fact, you know. I had to take my sophomore year off, and they ended up finding the brain tumor during the sophomore year. So, that really… When I went back for my junior year, that, like, spurred the neuroscience obsession essentially because I wanted to figure out how to solve the issue without using drugs or surgery because I had a friend at the time in college who, interestingly enough, had the exact same tumor, and she’d gotten it surgically removed. But her personality was different afterward. Because it’s pretty invasive surgery, you know, like, they go straight in your nose and, like, through the base of your brain, essentially, the part that’s… Because it’s in the pituitary gland. So that’s the part that really communicates with all the glands in the body. So it kind of spooked me that her personality was different after the surgery, so I didn’t wanna do the surgery. And then I had been on certain prescriptions, like leading up to the diagnosis. Before they even found it, they put me on different things. And then afterward as well, and I just didn’t like how I felt on those prescription drugs. So, I was like, “I don’t wanna use any more of those and I don’t wanna do surgery.” So I went back to school with kind of this hell-bent attitude about fixing it myself, naturally. And that was where the neuroscience came in.

Katie: Gotcha. I feel like a lot of us in the health world kind of have a similar story of journey try to fix ourselves and figure out what was wrong, and that leading to a much bigger research path. And certainly, a brain tumor is probably on the extreme end of health problems that you can have. That seems like a pretty serious diagnosis. I’m curious what your early journey looked like, and what were the things that you tried that worked and that that didn’t work. Because my journey was with Hashimoto’s and trying to find my own recovery from that. I’m curious for you what those steps were.

Chris: Yeah, good question. So, at first, it was a bit overwhelming, which I’m sure you felt the same way. Like, where do you even start kind of thing? So, I ended up pretty quickly, just trying to strip away everything and, like, reevaluate everything that I was doing on a regular basis to figure out and just kind of rebuild from square one, instead of trying to navigate all sorts of different, you know, fads and trends. And you know how it is in terms of, like, everywhere you look, there’s some new health thing that’s going on. And instead of looking at those things, I started to just say, “Okay, what is everything I’m doing?” So I took a few weeks and just was kind of being more mindful of all the different things I was doing in different areas. And whether it was what I was eating, or stress levels, how I was exercising. At that point, I’d been, like, very heavy into endurance training. And I was racing triathlon on the national level, actually went to Nationals for Triathlon and Duathalon, the year that I was diagnosed. So I was training a ton in terms of, like, you know, pretty stressful cardio training. And I had walked onto the Duke Track team also. So I just started, like, stripping away everything, and then looking into and researching, like, what’s the actual best way to exercise, for example? What’s the actual best way to eat? I got really into water fasting at the time. And that was in 2009, I think 2010. So it was way before the fasting thing was getting, you know, as popular as it is now. And it was very fringe. But I was looking more in that sense of, like, what’s a foundational element of health? And I was trying to search for, like, foundational things and things that weren’t trendy, you know, some fad or some superfood or whatever. It was just more, like, how does the bodywork?

That was the main question was, like, how did my hormones work? Because, you know, having a tumor in the pituitary gland, the pituitary is the seat of your endocrine system. And it’s really like the master control panel of your endocrine system because it’s the direct communication from your brain to your thyroid, to your, you know, gonadal glands, depending on if you’re a woman or a man, and the liver. I mean, they’re all like… They have this interplay and this feedback loop there, right? And the gut, basically communicates up through the spinal cord via bacteria and hormone secretion, you know, in this feedback loop to the brain, and the brain communicates with those glands, and so on and so forth. So I started to learn about these feedback loops in the body. And that was what really kind of clicked in terms of thinking that I could actually solve this naturally because, you know, in all the textbooks that if you look around the textbooks, they have these arrows in the kind of cyclical arrows between different glands, in terms of the illustrations. And it’s a very simple way to, like, understand how the body works. Obviously, the mechanisms that triggered, you know, the cascade of events within those feedback loops can be very complicated. But, you know, especially scientifically, we know a decent amount about how they work, at least analysis in terms of leverage just thinking, like, what are the big things that can make an impact in that feedback loop? But there was, like, feedback, you know, that you can, you know, manipulate it. So that was, like, the turning point, I guess, in the health journey of understanding that there were all these different variables that I could control. And fundamentally, a lot of them just came down to certain things, like, you know, big stuff was micronutrient deficiencies.

And if I was deficient in things, correcting those deficiencies can have a pretty profound effect on facilitating positive feedback and rebalancing hormones. And then, you know, that kind of brings you into nutrition, where it’s, like, what’s the best way to eat to do this? And then moving up… You know, and I actually ended up building a pyramid about this. In my first book, I designed this pyramid, showing men how to do this in terms of… And I called it the Masculine Optimization Pyramid. But now with the Thermo diet, you know, it’s redesigned for both men and women. But it really just focuses on the base of the pyramid being micronutrients, nutrition, moving up, lifestyle elements. There’s a ton of stuff in lifestyle, that people do that, you know, it’s either productive or counterproductive into facilitating, like, you know, basically positive feedback, and then training, and then supplementation, which can kind of feedback down into micronutrients as well. So I started to kind of get clear on all this stuff. And I was really obsessed with, you know, figuring it out, and kind of have been for the last 10 years, really, maybe more. So that was essentially how I was thinking about the journey. I was trying not to fall into any traps in terms of fad diets and that sort of thing. And, you know, I’m not perfect, but I’ve seen over the years, like, even things that I believe before just aren’t necessarily true. When I re-examine those beliefs, it’s only because I wasn’t taking, like, a fundamental look at them. It was more like it was more popular at that point. But they come and go. So hopefully, that was a helpful answer.

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Katie: That was. I’d love to go deeper on a few of those points and understand them because I’ve certainly heard of the Thermo Diet and seen your work in this. And I love that you mentioned you broke it out with the differences between men and women. I remember from reading your story, if I’m remembering the number correctly, your testosterone was down to 11 at one point. Is that right?

Chris: Yeah, 11 nanograms per deciliter. And yeah, that was my initial pursuit in terms of hormones. Like, as a guy, I was, like, focused on that because that was, in my mind, like, a high leverage area. Because I knew if I could figure out how to increase it naturally and have my body produce more of it naturally, then that would take care of a lot of stuff because a lot of the symptoms are related to, you know, low testosterone levels in guys. And that’s a high leverage thing. So I ended up increasing it all the way to just under 1,200 nanograms per deciliter, naturally, within a year-and-a half of that first measurement.

Katie: What were, do you feel like, some of the biggest things that led to that change? Because my audience is largely women, but I hear from a lot of women who, their husbands are dealing with very low testosterone. And I’ve read, for instance, some of the statistics that men today, on average have much lower testosterone than even their grandfather’s generation. So, I’m curious, what were the things that were needle movers? Because the conventional wisdom seems to be that it’s hormone replacement therapy or some other pretty questionable things that you can try. What worked for you?

Chris: Yeah. So, if you look at that pyramid structure, in terms of the micronutrients, nutrition, lifestyle elements, exercise, and supplementation, there’s certain things in each category that are the big leverage ones. It’s kind of unfortunate that’s the conventional wisdom right now that people default to testosterone replacement therapy. And even same for women, like this… And that’s one caveat I wanna say is that this framework works for women. But, you know, women’s hormones are just slightly, like, the ratios are different, right? But the same things are gonna work to balance a woman’s hormones. So, in terms of micronutrients, there are definitely key micronutrients that are directly-measured, scientifically, just with a huge amount of research that correlate with testosterone production in the body. So, identifying those deficiencies is probably the first step, honestly, and it’s super easy to do, especially nowadays. Back then, they didn’t have all these, you know, micronutrient testing startups. And, you know, they’re all over the place now. There’s a lot of these different services that you can go to online that are just mail-order that you can do measurements and you can do different types, like saliva or hair or blood. And you can… You know, probably the most accurate way to do it is actually try, you know, both hair and blood, for example, and then kind of compare them, right? So, I would identify first, what the deficiencies are. And it’s as simple as just taking a deficiency test, and then work to correct those deficiencies. The big ones for guys for testosterone, that are, like, needle movers are magnesium and zinc. And then for… It’s similar for women because guys have a lot of thyroid issues as well.

But with the thyroid, the, like iodine, and selenium are also, you know, big players in that and it can give you good clues on, like, what your issue is. And Vitamin D3 is another huge one. It’s actually a hormone. But that one is… You know, most people are deficient in that. And then choline is another good one. You know, I mentioned earlier about, like, the three key organs that people wanna pay attention to are the thyroid, the reproductive glands, and the liver. And choline is a big one, especially in the liver because it helps your liver function properly. But choline is estimated at 92% nationwide deficiency in the U.S., for men and women. But it helps also methylene estrogen, especially for guys, but for women also, like, you don’t want excess estrogen. Estrogen is not really the female hormone. I’d say progesterone is, but estrogen is, you know, rampantly high across the population. And that’s really what’s gonna throw off hormonal balance, in general. So I would say just take that as the first step is just take a micronutrient analysis and actually look at, you know, the core vitamins and minerals in your body at the moment, and see what you’re deficient in, and then correct those deficiencies first, and work on that. And it’s a process, but it doesn’t necessarily need to take that long. I mean, and that’s where, you know, strategic supplementation can come in handy is if someone identifies that they have, you know, a pretty glaring magnesium and zinc and iodine deficiency or selenium deficiency, then it’s super easy to, like, find a very bioavailable source of those things, and just start taking them on a regular basis and then re-measure, you know, even once a month to gauge your progress in there.

All these vitamins and minerals are necessary for proper hormone production and balance between the hormones. Because you’ll find that, like, hormones are really… And I’m about to release a new episode. We’ve been doing this docu-series called “Think Again.” And I’m releasing one actually after this recording today on hormones. And it goes into a lot of detail about this subject. But the thing to look at with hormones is that you can’t really measure them without relation to other hormones. So they’re more helpful in terms of, like, ratio measurements, where, for example, for guys, like testosterone cortisol ratio is extremely important. Cortisol being the chief stress hormone, it acts antithetically to testosterone as a reproductive hormone in men. And you see the same thing in women with progesterone. So you wanna measure both of them if you’re gonna be measuring your hormones, which is also really insightful for people. A lot of times when a guy goes to the doctor and sees… You know, the doctor’s like, “Oh, you have low testosterone.” Typically, they’re not measuring cortisol, they’re not measuring E2 as the last dial. So, it’s helpful to know that the testosterone is low, but they don’t give you enough data points on these standard blood tests that, like, the average doctor is gonna order in order to figure out really what the cause of the low T is. And that’s where it gives you a more rich map of, you know, kind of action plan if you actually measure those other hormones at the same time as measuring your micronutrients. So you can see, I have low testosterone, but my magnesium is really low, my zinc is really low, maybe my calcium is really high, sodium potassium are low, you know, that sort of thing is gonna give you a rich map and a kind of an action plan of, like, how you can acutely start to attack that issue. Because it… And I think they do that specifically for the reason of selling those testosterone replacement therapies.

Because, the way that the whole pharmaceutical industry is designed in the medical establishment is quite genius but it’s, you know, beyond most people’s understanding or just because most people, you know, aren’t super interested in it so they’re not, like, digging in. But the way it’s designed is they give you a limited amount of data, and then they give you a prescription based on that small amount of data, not with the intention of solving the issue, but actually just for selling the drug. It’s not necessarily the doctor who knows even what they’re doing, but that’s just how they’re trained to do it. So, without measuring the other biomarkers, like estrogen, for example, is typically not measured in simple tests that would identify low testosterone for a guy, but the issue is that there’s a big risk in taking TRT, especially if you have higher estrogen levels, and if liver markers are off, for example. There’s a lot of research showing that testosterone replacement therapy over time can lead to prostate cancer and tumors growing in the prostate. So the tumors are actually highly correlated with excess estrogen levels. And when someone takes, you know, a bio-identical exogenous testosterone hormone like that, what happens is they’re not controlling the estrogen production and the estrogen is gonna compensate and ramp up production, especially because the basic core health of that person’s body is not in check at the moment, so the estrogen is far more likely to ramp up in terms of the production. And when used chronically that can lead to tumors. It’s pretty common to find that and it’s pretty well-known in medical research, but the tests that people do aren’t necessarily comprehensive enough to know if they’re at risk for that sort of thing, unless they go and get a more detailed test.

Katie: That makes so much sense. And I’m glad you brought up the liver aspects. I feel like this doesn’t get talked about enough. And you mentioned choline, which ended up being a big needle mover for me. One thing I had to learn to navigate and I’d love your input on this, I also can’t tolerate eggs. It leads to kind of immediate skin issues for me. And that’s the most obvious source of choline dietary source at least. What do you recommend when it comes to supplementing choline as far as source?

Chris: Actually, like, liver is actually great. Like eating… It’s kind of interesting because glandulars aren’t super popular, but they are gaining in popularity. And it’s obviously really important to, like, the source of the glandular supplement is very important or not even a supplement, just if someone’s gonna eat liver, I wouldn’t recommend buying it, like, just, you know, standard chicken livers from the grocery store unless you know that they’re, like, really legit. Especially around here in Boulder, there’s a lot of local farms so it’s pretty easy to buy glands because typically the farmers just throw them away, so you can just ask them for it. But liver is a good one to consume, like, once a week, twice a week from a really high-quality source. Another thing is just isolated choline supplements. I’d typically use choline bitartrate. It’s not the most bioavailable one but cost versus bioavailability, it’s pretty good and, you know quite useful. And you can also use… There’s other ones like alpha-GPCs, citicoline, CDP choline. The supplements are pretty useful for that. The thing with eggs is… My first thought about that is probably just a histamine intolerance, which, you know, is pretty common. So if that would cause a skin issue, that would be the case. Is a skin issue kind of, like, hives type thing or itchy?

Katie: Yeah, and that was actually another question I had potentially on the list for you was anything potentially to do for histamine intolerance because that is one that comes up relatively often in my community as well.

Chris: Oh, okay. As far as I know, the histamine issues, like, a lot of it is gut linked. So, it would be something in terms of, you know, addressing any sort of gut health problems that someone might have, using a really good probiotic, but also monitoring really what they’re eating. I think, as far as I know, histamine intolerance is one that takes a while to overcome. So it’s not something that you can just, you know, take a supplement and immediately, you know, be able to overcome it, like, today kind of thing. But a lot of it is gut linked. And then with the liver, certain liver supplements can help with it, like an acetylcysteine is really good. Olive leaf extract is really good. Going back to basics, in terms of, like, inflammation issues, most of which comes from the gut, you know, it definitely does manifest and other organs in the body. So I would just focus on gut health as, like, the big lever on that. You know, I’ve had that in the past, too. I’ve had issues with histamine intolerance, like even to the point where I couldn’t drink orange juice because it was causing, you know, skin flare-up, which was crazy. But the more I focused on the gut health, the more that subsided, and I haven’t had those issues.

Katie: Fascinating. Okay. So, to circle back to the liver side, I agree that I think this is a huge key. What are some other ways that we can support the liver? I feel that is a common factor for a lot of people.

Chris: Yeah. So one point I did wanna make about the liver was, like… You know, I’m releasing my new book on the Thermo Diet in the new year, and I have a chapter in there about sugar, and how misunderstood sugar really is. And one of the issue is that, like, there’s a couple of factors in liver issues, and one of which is just chronic choline deficiency, in general. So, identifying the choline deficiency, I think is a really good first step because, like almost the entire population, you know, being over 90% of people that were measured in a couple of thousand, you know, subject group, having a choline deficiency is a big deal, because of the relationship with the carbohydrates in the way that they’re processed and delivered. So, sugar is blamed for fatty liver disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. And the actual culprit to it is a combination of… It’s not the carbohydrates themselves. It’s actually the combination of the choline deficiency with excess polyunsaturated fat consumption, which, you know, I just call it PUFA. Like, we all just call it PUFA. So, the polyunsaturated fats are so easily oxidized in the body, that what they do is they cause inflammation in all sorts of different areas of your body. But one of the big ones is actually your liver. So, when you have the concert of the choline deficiency and the polyunsaturated fat consumption in the excess, causing that inflammation in the liver, that’s actually what causes a lot of these liver problems in people. And it’s not, you know, fructose, which is what’s being blamed for the whole thing, like eating fruit is causing liver disease. You know, the number one big levers is correcting the choline deficiency and stop eating polyunsaturated fat, which, you know, comes from vegetable oils, mainly. That’s where people mainly get it in their diet, but also in nuts, seeds, you know, like just pressed oils, that sort of stuff.

Anything that’s not… It’s mostly plant-based oils are the ones that are full of polyunsaturated fat. And I know that’s not really conventional wisdom to be, like, don’t eat plant-based oils because plant-based is such a trend right now. But the animal oils are far lower or, you know, some of them have no polyunsaturated fat, but they’re far lower in polyunsaturated fat, and they don’t lead to that toxic level of that consumption. You know, a lot of people are eating foods, like every restaurant that I know of, unless I go in, and there’s some local ones where I can go in and be like, “Can you cook this in butter?” And they’re totally cool with it. Especially chefs love butter. I don’t think they really wanna cook with the canola oil, and grapeseed oil, and rice bran oil, and all that stuff, but it’s just what, you know, the owners of the restaurants really supply to them. So a lot of them will accommodate, you know, using butter. But I would say for liver problems, like that’s the easiest way to start healing your liver is just stop eating polyunsaturated fat, overcome the choline deficiency, stop consuming things like acetaminophen, Tylenol, is, like, very hard on the liver. And there’s been a lot of research in terms of hormones because when the liver is taxed with NSAIDS, you know, stuff like Advil, and Aleve, Tylenol, it actually starts to overproduce a hormone or a binding protein for hormones called SHBG, which is sex hormone-binding globulin. And that binds the active sex hormones in the body, the reproductive hormones that makes them so they can’t bind to receptor sites. So that can lead to alone a lot of hormonal imbalance issues. Whereas, like, the body might be producing enough of that hormone on its own, but the liver is actually mediating all of it and causing those issues downstream because of, you know, SHBG production in the liver.

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And another issue with the liver and why you wanna keep it really healthy is for thyroid reasons because T4 is sent from and produced in the thyroid gland, but sent, you know, to the liver. And the liver is where the tyrosine is kind of cleaved off of it. So it becomes active thyroid hormone T3. And if the liver is not functioning properly because of certain things like this, like the polyunsaturated fat consumption, the lack of glucose in it, the lack of choline in it and, you know, consumption of regular, you know, pain relievers and other things that are gonna…or a lot of alcohol, things that are gonna tax the liver are gonna basically hamper that conversion to T3, and then it’s gonna be producing too much SHBG. So, it’s a pretty simple way to look at it. Very, you know, fact-based, but I just don’t think a lot of people really know about it yet. And, you know, hopefully, that’s a good starting point for people that are listening to this.

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Katie: I’m so glad you brought that up. I wrote years ago about the problem with vegetable oils and polyunsaturated fats, and took a lot of heat for it. I’m guessing you have people that probably don’t agree with you on that as well. But truly, like my stance has always been, our body doesn’t really know what to do with these oils, like you said, and they’re relatively new to our diets. I’ve also seen some data implicating them in a lot of other problems. But that’s just liver health. So I’m so glad that you talked about that. What are some other myths that you think are related to a lot of the common dietary dogma? You mentioned the sugar aspect and the polyunsaturated vegetable oils. Are there other areas that you think are commonly started this diet advice that really it’s poor advice?

Chris: Yeah. So, when it comes to the micronutrients, I think a big myth, going back to, like, you know, a lot of plant-based dogma is… And this kind of transcends plant-based, in general, but just looking at, you know, the basic, healthy eating dietary advice that people are gonna just throw out there and regurgitate without questioning it is, a lot of it causes micronutrient deficiencies, even foods that people think are generally healthy. Things like nuts and seeds, like I referenced before, even more so than the polyunsaturated fat aspect to them is the anti-nutrient aspect. And anti-nutrients are interesting because they are, you know, essentially these charged molecules that will bind useful minerals in your body. So, a big one that I think is pretty common and talking about it with, you know, like, the Paleo world especially, has been phytic acid. And the fact that phytic acid can so easily chelate minerals out of the body. I read a study that was a big review on all the, you know, available research at that time on phytic acid. And in the opening section and the introduction of the review, the researchers pretty much blatantly claimed, like, they believe that phytic acid consumption is quite possibly the biggest reason why across the entire world people are deficient in a lot of different micronutrients, just because it’s being chelated or all these nutrients are being chelated by this anti-nutrient. And that’s an interesting way to look at it because one of the biggest things that I think most people don’t ask themselves when it comes to health, and I think that’s why a lot of people kind of go down these rabbit holes, in terms of trends, is the fact that barely anyone ever defines what health is. And, you know, the World Health Organization defines it as the absence of disease, which is completely unhelpful, right? That doesn’t really tell you how to thrive. It just tells you, like, if you’re healthy, if you don’t have a disease. Like, that’s kind of ridiculous in my mind.

But, you know, as far as I’ve seen over the years and just studying all this stuff, it comes down to really two things, you know, one of which depends entirely on the other, being micronutrient deficiencies are the biggest cause of dysfunction in health. They’re also the easiest thing to solve. And then that leads to hormonal balance. So if the hormones are unbalanced, which implies, you know, the ratio aspect that I was talking about earlier, in relation to one another, then you are gonna be healthy. That’s what real health is. I think that’s the biggest misunderstanding, in just general population of people, is that, it’s really quite simple when you start to think about it that way, you know, and then you can make decisions about the foods that you wanna eat, or the supplements that you take, or the exercise that you do, all based around that really simple definition of what health is being healthy… Being healthy is not having micronutrient deficiencies and having balanced hormones. So it’s a lens that you can see all of your decisions within. And you can start to make positive choices. Like the way I frame it when I talk about is usually activators and blockers. So things that are activators are things that you can do at any time in the day that’s gonna bring you toward that state of health, and then blockers being something that you do or consume, that is actually taking you away from it. It’s causing hormonal imbalance or it’s causing inefficiency. So, it’s really radically simple way to think about it. And that starts to inform, like, the truth about these dogmatic things that people believe, for example, like the nuts and seeds thing. When you look at all the data on nuts and seeds, they’re not very healthy foods at all, when looked at in that sense. Like, they’re full of polyunsaturated fat. They’re also full of anti-nutrients. And on top of it… I read this review on nuts, for example, and they looked at all the different types of nuts that people typically eat, almonds, walnuts, you know, etc. And they found that the only one that the human digestive system can actually get access to bioavailable minerals within it is walnuts and it’s magnesium.

Despite the fact that all these nuts also, they contain a lot of minerals. Problem is that there’s no compatibility with the human gut. So your gut can’t actually get the minerals out of them. And they’re full of anti-nutrients, which are gonna bind minerals that are already in your system. So they’re a net negative in terms of how I’m looking at that. And that’s why I would say that nuts and seeds aren’t healthy. Same with certain things like vegetables. If you define vegetables in the sense, of, like the stems and leaves of plants, they contain a lot of anti-nutrients and goitrogens, things that block iodine uptake into the thyroid gland. So, you know, when you look at all the available data on them, it doesn’t seem like they’re extremely healthy. And I did a video on vegetables a couple of years ago on YouTube. And, you know, got a lot of hate for sure, but also a lot of people were, like, really interested in that idea. Because I basically said that vegetables aren’t necessary to be healthy. And then I also, you know, showed different research showing that there’s potentially, not necessarily but there’s certain aspects of them that might be causing health issues in the human body. So there’s a lot of random stuff but I think the most helpful thing for people to grasp from this and take away is that if you define health as not being deficient in key micronutrients and having balanced hormones, then it helps you to make choices about, you know, all the different things that you eat, all the different things that you do in your lifestyle, for stress management, for sleep, etc., and then like the way you exercise, and the type of supplements that you use, and that sort of thing. It’s just like a very simple way to look at it. But very accurate. So, high leverage.

Katie: I will put some resources in the show notes link to the video you mentioned at wellnessmama.fm for all of you listening. But if someone is new to the idea of avoiding phytic acid, you kind of explained all the sources of vegetable oils and polyunsaturated fats. What are some of the main key places you wanna avoid phytic acid? You mentioned nuts. What other things do people wanna be cautious of?

Chris: Beans. So, like, beans is an interesting one too. And that was another controversial thing that I’ve done. I’ve done plenty of videos where I talk about this stuff that people don’t necessarily receive it very well, but beans is one of them. And I know that’s kind of hard for people, especially in certain cultures, like, beans are kind of a mainstay in those cultures. But there’s, you know, beans and then stuff like brown rice because the… And that’s something else that’s a bit against the dogma. But brown rice has a lot of phytic acid in it, as well as certain heavy metals that are, you know, very commonly tested and found in brown rice, like lead, and arsenic, and mercury. And it’s because the bran of the grain… And, you know, the same is true of other grains that are, like, these whole grains that have the bran still intact on the outside of the grain. They find that the bran of the grain is highly concentrated in these in these things. But then when you, you know, chuck the grain and, like, are consuming the grain or the bran of the grain itself, it’s more of just a pure starch, like white rice, you know, something like jasmine rice, just more pure starchy. So, there’s actually a study that showed that… And I know this isn’t popular for vegans and vegetarians, you know, in terms of what they would wanna hear, but there was a whole study on it, that demonstrated that vegetarian diets because they’re so high in these phytic acid-containing foods, like nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains, that they’re actually at, you know, very high risk for nutrient deficiencies, specifically iron, zinc, and trace minerals, like iodine.

So, those are the main things that I pay attention to, in terms of phytic acid. And another issue with phytic acid is that it actually causes a… It’s like an inhibitor, essentially of different enzymes, such as trypsin, and pepsin, and then amylase-alpha. And so these digestive enzymes… And that’s why a lot of people, when they consume a ton of these foods, they start to have digestive issues because the enzymes aren’t actually working properly because they’re being inhibited by the phytic acid itself, and it’s in such high quantities. You know, pepsin itself is the main digestive enzyme in your gut. An, you know, there’s plenty of research showing that phytic acid directly inhibits it. So, not only are you not able to even get access to a lot of these nutrients, but it’s messing up, you know, just a balanced gut function, in general.

Katie: Yeah, exactly. I’m so glad you talked about that and it certainly does go against a lot of the common wisdom that vegetables, beans, and brown rice might not be the best option. But you’re right, I’ve seen that data as well. And certainly, you can do things… I’ve read like pressure cooking reduces phytic acid. It doesn’t fully eliminate it. Like, there are ways to reduce it. And I know a lot of vegetarians and vegans who are trying to be conscious of that. But to your point, those do affect the body in a pretty serious way.

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To flip it on the positive side, so you made a case for some of the more common foods to avoid. And you talk about the Thermo Diet a lot online and you’ve mentioned it here. What are some of those core foods that are good to focus on that are high in micronutrients or high in the things that our body needs?

Chris: Yep, good question. So, the main ones I like to just… Like, a simple way to remember it is just fruits and roots. And our friend, Michael Lovich actually coined that term. Because I was telling him all about Thermo stuff and then he was like, “Oh fruits and roots.” So that’s just an easy way to remember it. The fruits themselves, like if you think about, and this goes back to, like, the vegetable issue, if you look at the definition of a vegetable being just, like, the leaves in the stem of the plant, they have a lot of protective mechanisms built-in and these micro toxins that are released to protect the plant, but the root itself is a very nutrient-rich part of the plant. And that’s really what fuels, you know, the entire growth of everything. The roots are great for nutrient levels, very easy to digest in terms of, especially if they’re prepared properly. And something, like, people might think about, like, you know, with potatoes, for example, oxalates, like, or the easy thing with potatoes is you just boil them. And when you boil them, there is a study showing that boiled potatoes, all the oxalates actually go out. And if you boil it in saltwater, they go out into the saltwater. So they leave the potato. It’s easier to digest. You know, other roots being like sweet potatoes, yucca, you know, just easy starch. And then if you cook it well, then it’ll be easy to digest and get access to those nutrients bioavailable. I’ve even seen people in, like, the Rapey community discussing certain things about if you boiled potatoes, and then leave them, you know, in the cold overnight, it basically, like, creates this really good prebiotic starch that is easier to consume and easier to digest. With fruits, fructose is a great fuel. Glucose is a great fuel for the body. The nutrients in the fruits are extremely easy to digest and are bioavailable. Fruits logically are just meant to be eaten, really. The seeds themselves are the aspect that people can’t digest, right? So, if you look at it in an evolutionary way, it makes total sense very logical that, you know, a fruit, it is going to ripen. And if it gets overripe, it falls off of the tree or the vine or wherever it is.

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And it has a seed in it, and there’s a bunch of seeds, and they just kind of replant. It’s like the circle of life. But even if it’s consumed, the animal can’t actually digest the seed inside of the fruit and then ends up, you know, defecating, and it finds its way back somewhere and then, you know, can grow again, right? So I would focus on fruits and roots, and then I would focus on animal products, like, from good quality sources. That’s really the caveat with really everything. The quality of the source, especially with animal meat is very important because, like, if you buy meat or animal products that are…if the animals are mistreated, they live in, you know, high cortisol, you know, lifestyle, if they’re injected with different hormones, if they have high estrogen levels, if they’re not being fed, what they actually should be eating, for example, if they’re being fed, you know, soy and different things that are just completely unnatural in order to fatten them up and create more estrogen, then that meat’s not very healthy for humans to eat or in that milk, or whatever animal product it is. But if the animal is treated well and actually, you know, matures in a normal, natural environment, then it’s extremely healthy because it’s already… For example, you know, grass-fed beef, like grass-fed cows or grass-fed, whatever bison, game meat, that sort of thing, it’s just eating its natural thing, its natural diet, and it’s got the, you know, stomachs… These ruminant animals have multiple stomachs. And they have enough capacity to actually digest all the grass and do it properly. So the human eating the meat is actually the right step in that sequence of events, not the human eating the grass because we can’t digest those leaves, and they are highly anti-nutrient-dense. So I would focus mainly on fruits and, you know, high-quality meat really or animal products. So it’s quite simple.

Katie: And I know you have a Facebook group about that as well. And you mentioned your book, I’ll make sure those are both linked in the show notes as well. Are there any specific differences or considerations for women if they’re starting out with this as compared to men? Obviously, it worked drastically well, for you with testosterone. Are there any special things women need to be cautious of?

Chris: In general, there’s not much difference, in terms of…because it’s such a foundational look at how the body works. And it’s just that the ratios are slightly different in women in terms of the hormones. But that doesn’t mean… Like the way that women’s bodies, actually, you know, function with the endocrine system, if you’re consuming, you know, similar things, it’s going to naturally balance the female body in the way that it should. I would say a couple of things that women specifically should pay attention to would be, you know… And you mentioned dealing with Hashimoto’s. I think thyroid issues are much more common in women. I think it was like 1 in 8 women have a thyroid problem or potentially even higher than that. So I would focus on what could be possibly causing that thyroid issue in the first place. And then holding that up against that lens of the definition of what’s healthy and what’s not. And, like, a lot of women, actually end up focusing more on eating leafy greens and eating things that are potentially goitrogenic. Like kale, for example, is found to be highly goitrogenic, especially when eaten raw, where it blocks the iodine uptake in the thyroid, which is gonna lead to, you know, basically compromised T4 production from the thyroid gland. So, you know, kind of taking a second look at, if a woman is dealing with thyroid issues and take a look at what could potentially be causing those thyroid problems in the first place, in terms of, like, daily habits, nutrition habits and deficiencies, you know, in that, like, if someone’s iodine deficient that they eat a ton of leafy greens and, you know, potentially causing that problem for them. And then just focusing on things that are going to help with progesterone, which, again, is very similar for men and women. It just manifests itself slightly differently because, you know, the endocrine systems are favoring different hormones really, between the two genders.

Katie: Got it. And then this, I’m sure could be its own entire podcast topic. So definitely, we can just cover it briefly. But you also talk quite a bit about fitness online. And I’m curious… I know, there are also a lot of misconceptions when it comes to the best things to do for overall fitness, just as you mentioned, first of all, probably defining that term, like we do with health. But what is some of the common advice that you give related to fitness?

Chris: Usually, like, with fitness, I guess, the most blanket one would be… And this was the biggest realization for me because, like I mentioned, I was focused on doing a lot of endurance training in the sports in that aspect. And I thought it was healthy, but then I realized that really, it’s not at all. So, that really informed how I started to think about fitness was is, am I doing a blocker or an activator, you know? And a lot of fitness for people causes excess cortisol, specifically, endurance training, cardio training, when it’s done, you know, I guess chronically is the right term for it. That came a term with chronic cardio, right? So, it’s something that will chronically elevate cortisol levels, which chronically suppresses at the same time, reproductive hormones and, you know, testosterone, progesterone. So, I would re-examine the volume of cardio training that people do. And if they’re having problems with their reproductive hormones and their sex drive libido, and they’re training a lot in doing endurance training, like normally, then I would re-examine that. And what was interesting was that I started looking at, especially for guys, but I know the same is true with women is, you know, there’s different muscle groups in men and women that can actually increase receptor sites for different hormones. So a lot of dogma with guys, in terms of, like, if you look at bodybuilding as an industry, if you look up on, you know, bodybuilding.com or Tea Nation or whatever, it’s like, how do you increase testosterone with different training? You’re gonna find a lot of stuff about squatting and deadlifting, which, you know, it’s not inaccurate, but it’s just heavily focused on that. However, the legs… And they say it because it activates a lot of muscle tissue at once, which is also true. But the problem or I guess, it’s not even a problem, it’s just the overlooked aspect of it, is that I started looking into it, and certain upper body muscle groups can actually express more androgen receptors over time with training.

And they can, you know, basically express more of these receptor sites, as opposed to the legs being more limited in increasing the expression of the receptor sites. So that got me interested in that in terms of androgen receptors. You know, and that’s why you also see, like, in certain guys that end up having higher testosterone levels and then even guys that, like, when they start taking steroids, you start to see this expression of more muscle volume development in certain muscles groups, and it’s because of that. And those muscle groups for guys, it’s like the traps, the shoulders, upper back, upper chest, the arms, but those are things that can be trained, you know, naturally to express more of those receptor sites, so they can actually bind more testosterone. You can grow more muscle in those areas, which, you know, in the case of guys, like, you know, that’s what a lot of people look at, a guy that’s got, like, big traps and shoulders it’s like, oh, like a manly guy, right? It’s kind of coded into our genetics, in our evolutionary biology to like to see that because it looks strong, right? With women, it’s just different muscle groups that are… It’s more expressive of other hormone sites that can help, you know, shape, like, a feminine body being more, you know, in the hips. And it’s usually also correlated with areas in, like, tissue areas that express more estrogen storage. So, like, for guys, a lot of estrogen storage happens in the gut or, like, in the stomach area and the hips. And then same with women, a lot of estrogen storage is also in those areas, in the hips, but also in, like, the glutes. So those areas, though, can be trained to have more favorable, like, less estrogen storage but also, you know, more expression of anabolic hormones, naturally. So they start to shape the body. So once I started to realize that, that was how I started to look at fitness, it’s almost an evolutionary biology lens of fitness of, like, what muscle groups are actually preferred, in terms of training those to have a better hormonal effect.

And that got me on to, like, neuromuscular training, specifically, where it was… And this is the same for men and women. You can create more of that just by doing more explosive type training, shorter bouts, less, like, chronic endurance training, so that the cortisol… You know, anytime someone, physically trains, cortisol is going to elevate, but it’s really about the ability to recover from the elevation of the cortisol and take advantage of the anabolic impact of that, you know, weight training or explosive training, like maybe sprinting or box jumps or something, so that the body actually starts to favor that and build those muscle groups up to support that sort of activity. And over time, it starts to really become noticeable. It’s easy to see when people are training that way, versus, like, if you think about, you know, people that run marathons and everything, like… Unless you’re an elite level marathoner, like most people, they don’t actually end up having very good shape of their body because there’s a lot of cortisol that’s being produced by the body that’s very stressful and breaks down muscle tissue. And there’s potentially a lot of also estrogen storage that is not being, you know, gotten rid of. Like, methylation is an easy way to get rid of estrogen. And then just supporting the positive feedback loop with more favorable reproductive hormones, which can be done through nutrition, obviously, and supplementation, you know, micronutrients, but also through training.

Katie: Got it. Yeah, I’m excited. I was just about to embark on a fun experiment for myself. I’ve talked about this on the podcast before, but I grew up with the filter that I wasn’t an athlete that was largely from my parents, just because they wanted us to focus on academics. And as an adult, I’ve developed a love for different types of athletic activities, and especially realized I have really high fast-twitch. And so, I’m gonna be training with some local track athletes doing sprinting and pole vaulting, which are very explosive movements, and I’m excited for that. But that makes sense when you explain the way that that impacts the body so directly. And you made a really strong case of challenging a lot of the common dietary and fitness dogma out there. If someone wants to keep learning from you and wants to kind of start on this journey, where’s the best starting place that I can send them?

Chris: So, I would say, like, I think… So we have a few Facebook groups that are great. So the Thermo Diet community on Facebook is a great one. It’s just, you know, a free group. A lot of good interaction there, a lot of discussion. People are talking about stuff. We just started a fitness platform called UMZU Fit. And so if people just go over to umzu.com, and just search for UMZU Fit, you can find it over there. But, you know, for people that are really interested in learning about all this stuff, UMZU fits great because we have all of our courses in there, and then we also have a community in there. So it’s like a hybrid basically between, you know, a forum kind of, like, Reddit, and Facebook group, but then you also get access to all the courses. And at the moment, at the time of recording this, we have 16 courses in there, including the Thermo Diet, as well as different fitness courses for both men and women. And, you know, it’s pretty fun community so far. So, I would just have… You know, if you’re interested, just check out umzu.com, and then check out the Thermal Diet group on Facebook.

Katie: And I’ll put those links in the show notes at wellnessmama.fm for those of you who are listening while you work out, or drive. You can find everything there. And I’ll make sure we link to UMZU as well because you mentioned your supplements in passing, but you have a whole suite of amazing supplements. My husband’s on quite a few of them for testosterone and has seen great results, so I’ll make sure we link to all of those as well. A somewhat unrelated question I love to ask at the end of interviews, selfishly, because I’m always looking for new reading material is if there’s a book or a number of books that have really impacted your life, and if so, what they are and why?

Chris: Oh, yeah. Yeah, definitely. I love reading. So I have tons of books. I would say that my favorite one… I have a favorite author, Baltasar Gracián. And so he was a Jesuit monk, very wise dude, like, very, very smart. And the way he writes is in kind of, like, aphorisms or, like, little nuggets of stuff. And a good one that I would recommend is “The Art of Worldly Wisdom.” It’s just like a great read. You can sit down and, you know… He’s the kind of writer where you read… He’ll write, like, two or three sentences of, like, a smart observation that he made. And this was hundreds of years ago. This guy’s, like, long gone, right? But he writes these little, like, just a couple sentences, but you could chew on that for months. It’s, like, super packed with wisdom. So I love reading his stuff. And it’s just kind of good rules for life, rules to or they’re more principle base, you know. So I’d recommend Baltasar Gracián.

Katie: That’s a new suggestion. I’ll have to check that out. I’m excited. And thank you so much, Chris, for being here, for sharing. I have gotten an increasing number of questions about the Thermo Diet recently, and I know that it’s definitely getting more and more popular right now. You’re helping thousands of people. I’m excited that you shared so much of this with us today. And I’m appreciative of your time. Thanks for being here.

Chris: Thank you, Katie. Yeah, I’m really glad to be here. Thanks for letting me share.

Katie: And thank you as always for sharing your most valuable asset, your time, with both of us today. We’re 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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