Psalm 23 Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIrS3h7cH_A
BOOK: The Survival Paradox https://amzn.to/3AkKkOL
Modified Citrus Pectin https://amzn.to/33xG02N
Medical Center, Amitabha Medical Clinic in Santa Rosa, CA: www.amitabhaclinic.com
Dr. Isaac Eliaz is an integrative medical doctor that focuses treatment of cancer and chronic, degenerative conditions. He founded Amitabha Medical Clinic and Healing Center. In this episode, he talks about The Survival Paradox.
Hello, true health seeker and welcome to another exciting episode of the Learn True Health podcast. I am particularly excited to bring this episode to you because the topic of healing cancer and other complex illnesses is near and dear to my heart. If you’ve been a longtime listener, you know my mom died of cancer—even though she was the healthiest person I knew—and my dad died of heart disease. I have conquered several major illnesses myself. I’m on my own personal journey, on my road to healing, and so are you. We’re all looking to become healthier, stronger, and the best version of ourselves.
I share in this podcast that health is not just physical, that it’s mental, emotional, and spiritual. If we don’t nurture all these aspects of ourselves, then no matter how much we exercise or eat healthy, if we’re lacking in our spiritual health or spiritual growth, if we’re lacking in our emotional health, emotional growth, mental, or energetic, there are so many other aspects to just physical health. If we ignore those, then we can create a state of stress in the body that leads to poorer and poorer physical health, even though the root cause might not have begun in the physical. That’s one of the messages our guest shares today.
Right before I started editing this show today to post it, I was talking to a dear friend of mine and he brought up a Psalm. We were discussing a Psalm in the Bible and it just hit me. I’m going to see if there’s a really good video on it and I happened to find a different video on a different song, but I was called to it. You know when you’re called to something, maybe you’re called to listen to this podcast, I had to hear it.
I was like, okay, well, this is only a 4-minute and 40-second video. I can totally listen, and it really blew me away. It’s great. I’m going to put it in the show notes of today’s podcast so you can click on the description and you’ll see the link there. It talks about Psalm 23, which everyone’s heard of. It’s usually read at funerals, and it talks about how the Lord lays us down in green pastures as if we’re sheep and he’s our shepherd.
Of course, you’re probably imagining—as I did my whole life—that green pastures were these beautiful rolling green hills. If you’re a sheep, you’re just getting mouthfuls and mouthfuls, there’s no worry in the world, and the Lord is our shepherd. We’re just happy little sheep eating up all the alfalfa and we don’t have a care in the world. That’s what I imagined, right?
Because I’m from North America, there’s lots of green grass. This one video, which you can totally go check out if you want to, it’s going to be in the show notes. It’s actually a man standing in Israel in the surrounding area. He explains what it was like back then and what it is now. You hardly see any grass. It’s very, very, very little. But the shepherds know where to take the sheep just to get one mouthful here and then one mouthful there, but if you look to the untrained eye, it doesn’t even look like there’s any green. He said, this is what it means by green pastures. Then he said a quote from a rabbi, “Worry is dealing with tomorrow’s problems on today’s pasture.” And then it clicked, right?
So we often will worry about all the things that are coming up in our life, but we’re thinking about the resources we have today. For example, let’s say there are bills or there are some events that are coming up in the future and we’re worrying about them because they’re in the future and we’re not prepared for them with today’s resources. That’s the message that I wanted to share from a spiritual perspective because my guest shares how he helps people to heal disease by turning off the stress response.
I think a lot of times, our worry or anxiety, focusing on a future we don’t want to happen because we’re so worried because we don’t have these resources today. In the Bible, it talks about that in Psalm 23 that the Lord is our shepherd and he lays us down in green pastures, but these green pastures are not green. There are tiny little bits here and there, but the shepherd knows where to take the sheet so that it gets fed.
So it’s not saying that life isn’t going to be a struggle, but it is saying that you have the resources today to get through today, you do. And focusing on that instead of focusing on all the things that could go wrong in the future, which is what we often do. We often focus on all the things that could go wrong, and that creates huge anxiety and stress in the body. That puts our body in a state of inflammation and disease.
I teach a technique on eliminating anxiety, so if you haven’t heard me do it, please just internet search my name Ashley James and the word anxiety. I’ve been interviewed on so many, dozens of other people’s podcasts teaching this technique. I’ve also taught this technique on my show, Learn True Health, so you could also go to learntruehealth.com and type in anxiety and you’ll find where I teach this technique. It’s a very quick technique. It takes like 30 seconds, but I teach you how to turn off the stress response in the brain.
Now, our guest today goes several steps further and teaches you that there’s a way to turn it off on a biochemical level as well. But if you keep doing the thinking, the anxiety thinking that constantly creates worry and puts the body in the state of stress, then you’re constantly creating that state of disease. So we have to address it with our thinking.
I hope you can just take a little bit of time to reflect on this message that worry is dealing with tomorrow’s problems on today’s pasture. God gives us enough. It’s not like everyone wins the lottery, right? That’s not what enough means. It’s that you’re given the resources for today. Be in today and focus on today. Focus on doing what you can to be healthy today. Focus on doing what you can to love yourself, love your neighbor, and love your family today. That ultimately, being in the now, being in a state of love is the highest form of healing, both spiritually, physically, and emotionally.
If you’re thinking about the worries, concerns, the what-ifs and the what-ifs and the what-ifs for tomorrow, and you’re lamenting on that, then you’re creating a state of disease in the body. Meditate and pray on love for yourself, for your body, for your God, and for your friends and family today.
Enjoy today’s episode. You’re going to love it. This doctor is awesome. He has so many degrees, my head was spinning. I just love that with all the medical training, he really does see that there’s a connection between our spirit, our body, and our mind, that it’s one, and we need to address it. He also takes all this wonderful information about the biochemical aspects of our meat sack that our soul is living in and how to take care of it on all these different levels. Enjoy today’s episode.
Please join us in the Facebook group, the Learn True Health Facebook group. We’ve got so many wonderful listeners helping each other and answering questions. I answer questions there, and many guests also come in and answer questions, so it’s a really supportive community. Thank you so much for sharing this podcast with those you care about. Have yourself a fantastic rest of your day.
[00:08:38] Ashley James: Welcome to the Learn True Health podcast. I’m your host, Ashley James. This is episode 473. Today we have on the show with us Dr. Isaac Eliaz. I’m very excited because what he teaches is the key. It is the key. You could be doing everything else right and still be sick if you don’t do the things that he teaches. I’m just so excited that he has taken what I think is the foundation, the fundamental foundation to true health and he’s put it in a book. It’s so, so, so monumental. I’m very honored to have you here today.
Your website is survivalparadox.com, and of course, the links to everything that Isaac does are going to be in the show notes of today’s podcast at learntruehealth.com. Welcome to the show. I’m thrilled that my listeners get a chance to learn from you today because I think what you teach could be the key to so many people ending their suffering.
[00:09:43] Dr. Isaac Eliaz: Ashley, thank you so much for inviting me. I’m pretty excited about this podcast. What you’re saying, there’s a lot of truth to it because The Survival Paradox really offers a new, fresh, and deeper paradigm shift in our understanding of what health is and how we can improve it.
[00:10:07] Ashley James: Can you tell us about what happened in your life? In terms of going to become a doctor, what happened that made you want to become a doctor, and then later, what happened that led you to discovering and writing the book, Survival Paradox?
[00:10:26] Dr. Isaac Eliaz: Yes, of course. So this book is really a culmination of my life journey and my medical journey. I started my interest in the healing art really as a teenager when actually, my hobby was raising bees. I was like the youngest beekeeper in Israel. Just watching the bees, I made a deep connection with nature and understanding how bees cope with nature? And then at age 15, my father was a civil engineer and we traveled to South Korea. I got to learn and practice taekwondo with the Korean National Team because I had to learn English. So I was very fortunate to get trained, really, by, at that time, all the world champions. And I learned yoga and martial arts.
When I went to medical school in Israel, which is a seven-year process, I already knew I’m going to do holistic medicine. It was really very early on like 1981 and I became a yoga teacher. I taught in yoga teachers’ courses. I learned shiatsu. I created a [inaudible 00:11:31] acupuncture school, so I can learn acupuncture, and I learned herbal medicine. Then I had a successful center for integrative medicine as a physician who does also Chinese medicine, but I felt it was too early for me to be successful. There’s much more learning I have to do, so we moved to the North Bay to Northern California where I obtained the Master of Science in Chinese medicine, became a licensed acupuncturist, and then, later on, got my medical degree here, my medical license.
Throughout this journey, my focus medicine-wise was on integrative oncology, on how to improve on cancer treatments, and how to cure illnesses. I’ve learned, as part of my journey, classical homeopathy and a lot of naturopathic aspects.
And so parallel to this, I developed a research career where I made a lot of the discoveries of the importance of blocking Galectin-3, our survival protein. So I had this interest in integrative medicine. I had the research part, but then I got also very deeply engaged in meditation practices and I spent decades learning and training in meditation. I spent 10 years doing a half-day meditation and 20 years going to the mountains for about 2 months a year. Some of my patients were really the most legendary meditation masters in the Himalayas.
This all came together, my inquisitive mind, being an innovator, and spending time to really observe the fundamental principles of our health. I came to the realization after really learning a lot of esoteric practices of meditation and combining them with different medical methods and decades of clinical experience, I realized that the key to healing is having an open heart is love and compassion. And really, what prevents us from connecting with this infinite healing potential is our imbalanced survival response. This is really culminated with the book The Survival Paradox because it is a paradox that what makes us survive is the same mechanism that makes us sick, shortens our life, and causes a lot of suffering, pain, and illnesses, both acute and chronic.
In the book, I take people through the journey of understanding what The Survival Paradox is, how it is driven biochemically, how it affects metabolism, circulation, and how to block Galectin-3 with Modified Citrus Pectin with PectaSol. Then the end of the first part or the chapter called The Heart of Survival where I really introduce the key concept that the survival of the heart is to allow us to heal and break free of The Survival Paradox. And then I go through different illnesses, organs, and systems starting with cancer, which is of course something I focus on through my career, and then talking about the heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, metabolic diseases, neuroinflammation, microbiome, and immune responses,
It’s been an eye-opener on how to look at our health and our organ systems in a different way, and then I bring to the three last chapters really the solutions—detoxification, healing our scars of survival, and transforming the survivor paradox. And through the book, the book is full of stories of patients, really my heroes, inspiring stories of patients that really didn’t really change the expected outcome and how they did it, so the book is full of real-life examples.
[00:15:47] Ashley James: Through your sharing of your life, I think it’s so funny that a little footnote is, and then I became a medical doctor because some people that’s the highlight. The highlight of their life is they became a medical doctor, and that was sort of like one of the footnotes. You’re like, and then I got my medical degree. I wish every doctor was like you. I wish we could clone you. I wish every doctor had as much background and experience in all the different modalities that you’ve specialized in to really have a deep understanding of the human body and how it heals. That we’re not just meat sacks. That there’s so much more than just a physical body, and that our emotional, mental, spiritual, energetic—everything that happens in our life—affects the meat sack, and we have to see that this whole life affects the body.
Now, I really want to know, what happened in your life that made you want to focus on cancer? Was there a specific decision or moment that made you want to go down that rabbit hole?
[00:17:00] Dr. Isaac Eliaz: No, it’s very interesting. I had an interest in it early on. My grandfather that I’m named on after—Isaac, his name was Isaac—he was a Holocaust survivor, and his story is in my book in the chapter about healing the scars of survival. I’ll talk a little bit more about the topic of healing scars of survival later, and he died from cancer at an early age, at the age 50. And then, towards the last year of medical school, my father got cancer. We jumped to integrative treatments, he was one of the first patients in the world to get immunotherapy and his cancer disappeared. Then he died from a side effect of a treatment in 20 minutes 3 years later. But he died really in good health.
When you treat cancer, you really treat everything. People who have cancer are in a crisis and the crisis where your whole reality—everything you believed, everything you expected, you had planned and suddenly, you really see death in front of you, it’s very impermanent. And it really gives a profound opportunity for deep change. So it really fits my approach, and there are so many ways that you can help cancer patients from support, to after treatment, to maintain their good health for a long period of time, to supporting them in their dying process. It’s all part of the journey. It’s all part of healing.
So I had a deep interest and I made some very important discoveries about the development of oncological nutritional support that are very important, the main one being PectaSol Modified Citrus Pectin, which I developed over 26 years ago and has over 70 published papers. So it’s a field that I’m really deeply involved in. A lot of the integrative treatments that I use today, I mean, some of them have been developed by me in my clinic, but as I got more experience, my interest shifted more and more into a deeper understanding. Because, the deeper our understanding of who we are of our health, the better we can help ourselves and others with less aggressive tools.
And it’s all about the right integration, for the right person, at the right time. And about being humble enough to recognize that we don’t know everything. What we believe in may be right and may be wrong. That’s a key thing that doctors have to remember, sometimes we forget. So that’s a little bit of an issue.
[00:20:02] Ashley James: So as you dove into oncology and helping patients heal when they have cancer, what surprised you? What began to surprise you in terms of helping patients heal cancer?
[00:20:18] Dr. Isaac Eliaz: You know, it’s a big question, of course, what helped. I think that if we look, again, we really can’t understand cancer patients unless we have cancer in one level because as one of my students told me, you are the best person who understands cancer who actually didn’t have cancer. But I still don’t know, it’s not my direct experience.
It’s to see how vulnerable a cancer patient is to the system, how sensitive they are, how every word makes a difference, how much power doctors have when they come into treating cancer. It’s just important for us, the health providers in us, to really understand the responsibility of supporting people who are really facing death and a big change in their life, change in their dreams and plans, and how we can support them in a genuine, honest, but optimistic way because there are always choices. There are always options no matter what is happening.
It’s about allowing the patient to make the right choices. When we are stuck in an automated survival response, which is a reactive response that is automated and immediate, we can’t really make the right choices. We can’t see our options. This is part of the value of recognizing the issue of imbalance survival response.
[00:22:08] Ashley James: I think that leads perfectly into what is The Survival Paradox?
[00:22:13] Dr. Isaac Eliaz: So, to really look into the survivor paradox, we have to first recognize the principle of the survival response. So, if I take a step back before I explain it and look at medicine and health, there is a greater recognition that inflammation drives every chronic disease and every acute disease. I mean, COVID is an example. It’s a strong inflammatory cytokine storm response. It is something I’ve been working on for decades, then people get organ failure and die.
But if we look at inflammation, it’s often pointed out to be the cause of many illnesses. It’s really not the cause. It’s really a process. What drives inflammation, what drives inflammatory response is our survival response. So the survival response is innate and built-in to each of us from the beginning of time—our ancestors, animals, every living being. So if we look at the survival response, if it’s so innate in us, it has to be automated, we can’t really control it and it has to start on its own.
So The Survival Paradox really demonstrates the same mechanisms that help us survive is the same mechanism that causes us to shorten our life. It causes chronic and acute diseases, and it will eventually also kill us earlier than expected. When we want to understand it and we understand how innate it’s in us, then we come to look at how it operates in our body. There is this automated system that it operates with, which is our autonomic nervous system. So our sympathetic response is automated.
We can’t control it, our pulse goes up, our breathing gets faster, our heart works harder, the [inaudible 00:24:20] constriction so more blood can get to where it needs to be so we can run away. The basic response is fight or flight. We run away or we fight, and the running away is physically running away and it’s also hiding, isolating ourselves. So this is an automated response and it’s built to really start within seconds and it’s also built to stop very, very quickly. So this is something that is within us.
And then, on the second level, Ashley, there is a biochemical response. The biochemical response is really governed by a protein that we call alarmins.
[00:25:21] Ashley James: Can you spell that?
[00:25:24] Dr. Isaac Eliaz: Alarmin is like alarm.
[00:25:26] Ashley James: Oh, alarmings.
[00:25:28] Dr. Isaac Eliaz: Yeah. And the main protein that I’ve been researching for 26 years, Galectin-3. I call it the survival protein. So this protein really drives our survival. So in our embryogenesis when we are in the uterus, it helps to produce healthy organs. When we are in life, it protects us from injury, from stress, from danger. The mechanism it uses to protect us to reduce inflammation, fibrosis, dysregulations, immune dysfunction, cancer, autoimmune diseases, practically every disease, every organ. Why? Because it’s so fundamental in us.
So when we understand this and we understand that there is this biochemical alarm clock that never turns off, we also understand that it can be turned on by different things—by traumas, by infections, by heavy metals, by toxins, by genetic predisposition, by epigenetics. We get a deeper understanding of what drives it and then we get a better understanding of how we can actually change the outcome.
[00:26:49] Ashley James: I have written down a quote from you. “Your body has an innate ability to heal from a disease as long as your fight or flight survival response doesn’t stand in the way.” So, I’m a little bit confused about this survival protein because it sounded like we need it for some things, but then when we have too much of it, it causes disease and early death?
[00:27:13] Dr. Isaac Eliaz: Exactly. So one thing is having too much of it and the other thing, it gets activated for too long. So for example, we’ve done fascinating research. I just published two really important papers on acute kidney injury, on injury to the kidneys from an acute illness, either from infection from sepsis or COVID. Forty percent of hospitalized COVID patients have AKI and 50% of them will die. So we have kidney damage, it kind of makes us deteriorate fast due to either sepsis or problems in the circulation. We showed that Galectin-3 spikes much earlier than any of the other cytokines like Interleukin 6, which is talked about a lot. And when we block Galectin-3 in these very well-established animal models, then we can change the outcome, we can improve the outcome.
So our ability to survive is innate in us, it will always be there. So Galectin-3 will always turn on when it’s needed. The problem is either we have too much of it, or it turns on too much and it doesn’t turn off, and this is when we get in trouble. So that’s the paradox. The reason why you say I can’t understand it is because it’s a paradox. But through the book, one comes to the understanding of what drives the survival response, what drives the survival paradox, and how to change it.
Our survival response is truly automated on an autonomic nervous system, and then it moves to the biochemical system, which is much more serious because we know if we have a sympathetic response and our breathing goes up and our heart rate goes up, when we just go outside, we just gaze at nature, we take 10 deep breaths, or sit for a few minutes and relax, we’ll feel relaxed because we’re able to turn off the autonomic nervous system very quickly.
But when it’s a biochemical response it’s a little bit more difficult, it goes a little bit deeper. It started many, many pathways, what we call downstream proteins, downstream cytokines, downstream molecules, downstream pathways that already start a cascade of events. In many ways, Galectin-3 is what starts the waterfall. So if you can shut down the waterfall from the top, there will be no waterfall. Once the waterfall falls and hits the bottom, you want to stop it, it’s not so easy, right?
So we often chase the symptoms instead of understanding what is the origin. So The Survival Paradox offers us a window into the origin of illness and the origin of how to transform our health. That’s really the deep message of the book. That’s the feedback I get from people. It really shifted my understanding of my health and about my life.
[00:30:26] Ashley James: That’s fascinating. It’s been something that I’ve been focusing on with my clients for years is getting them out of that extended or period where they’re in sympathetic, they’re in the fight or flight too long and helping them with tools to change the way they think because the body listens to our thoughts. You can actually think yourself into anxiety.
Just like we can sit and watch a zombie movie and if we hooked ourselves up to machines, the machine would notice that our heart rate has increased, our respiratory has gotten shallow and faster, that we have a cortisol spike. We’re safe. We’re sitting in a living room watching a TV, our body isn’t under physical stress, but watching a scary zombie movie, our body’s listening to that, listening to our thoughts, watching it as if it’s real, as if it’s happening to us. So our body is reacting to what it thinks is a stressor, and this is the real kicker is that we’re not just a physical meat sack. What is going on inside of our body, our body responds to. And then like you said, there’s the nervous system response, but then there’s the cascading waterfall of physiological biochemical cascades that occur.
One time I was working with a client and I noticed that so many of her habits were triggering her into a state of stress. I’d given her homework to do throughout the day to help alleviate that and she wasn’t doing the homework. I asked her, I confronted her, and I said, you’re doing everything else. You’re eating healthy, you’re doing everything, but you’re not doing this. Why is that? She goes, well, I don’t feel stressed. And I said, that’s right, it’s not an emotion. People often who are in a long term state of stress don’t even know it or if they grew up in a very rough environment, their norm is—
[00:32:42] Dr. Isaac Eliaz: It’s a great example, and I just talked about it in another podcast earlier today. It’s a great example, Ashley, because if we are caught in a continuous chain of stressors and stress responses, we don’t have the space between the thoughts, the space between our automated actions to connect with how we feel. So one of the first things that happen, for example, in meditation, when people start meditating for the first time, they feel, wow, really. Either they fall asleep or they feel very, very restless. Why are they feeling restless? It’s not because of meditation. They always felt restless. They just were not connected with it. Now that they slow down and they took a step back, they start noticing the stress.
Actually, I get to this level of mind training in the last chapter of the book once the whole journey is complete. I have a diagram of pebbles. You make a distance between the pebbles, things start surfacing—feeling, emotions, insights, traumas—and we connect with our stress, we connect. And then of course, what we are interested in from my perspective is not what we experience, it is our response to the experience. Do we have a survival response, or can we have a transformative response? Our body, our physiology is built to do both. We are built to have a survival response, obviously. But we are also built to have a transformative response. We can talk about it when we talk about the role of the heart in healing. That’s a key role of the heart.
[00:34:32] Ashley James: How do we help people then if we go outside? We tell them, go outside, breathe in, be part of nature, ground yourself, do meditation. That’s helping them stop the waterfall at the top, but now we’ve got, like you said, your body’s still in that state of stress from a biochemical standpoint. What can we do from a biochemical standpoint to help regulate the survival protein so that we don’t exacerbate it, we don’t have too much of it, and end up creating disease and early death in our body?
[00:35:16] Dr. Isaac Eliaz: As you said, we are not just physical beings. We are an integration of the physical aspect, an emotional aspect, the psychological aspect, the mental aspect, and the psycho-spiritual aspect. It’s all within us. This means that all of these levels are also becoming doors to heal ourselves. Changing our lifestyle, changing our diet, changing our way of thinking, working with ourselves psychologically—all of these will have an effect. So on the physical level, the one thing that we do have to do is we have to block Galectin-3. That’s why it’s such a great value of PectaSol, of Modified Citrus Pectin because it blocks Galectin-3.
So if we look at over 70 published papers on PectaSol, they cover so many different health conditions. How is it possible that it can be such nutritional support for so many conditions? Because it addresses this upstream molecule.
So the first step is understanding the survival paradox, and then understanding it really affects our inflammation and it affects fibrosis. It creates fibrosis, it creates organ dysfunction, tissue dysfunction. And we understand this and we understand how the heart is the door to changing it, then we can start taking action. The actions are many different methods and I go a lot through it in the book, of course, but right now, within this discussion, if we allow ourselves to destress long enough, it will affect our physiology.
When you do a one-hour yoga lesson, Qi Gong, or meditation, there are at least 100 different genes that open and close, and that’s the power of epigenetics. So we are made from endless people who have made us over multiple generations, and I talk about it in the chapter about healing this scar of survival. Our scars of survival are from this life, but also, we carry the scar of our ancestors—both their genetic scars, scars that affected their genetic makeup and were passed on, and even more important, the epigenetic scars. Epigenetics like above genetics because it’s very hard to change genetics, but we have a choice if a gene will express itself or will not express itself.
One beautiful Talmudic Hebrew saying says, [Inaudible 00:38:07], which means, everything is predetermined yet we have a choice. The predetermination is our genetics. The choices are our epigenetics. So we have to recognize that how we feel, what we do, and how we respond is not always because of what we did. It’s often because of habits and traumas that we carry on through our ancestors.
In my book, in the chapter about healing the scars of survival, I tell the story as the grandson of Holocaust survivor of my grandfather Isaac who I’m named after, my grandmother, a little bit my mother, and then me. I always, from a very early age like the age 11, 12, had this upper back pain, but the pain is the center of my chest in my sternum. Whenever I would touch it, I would jump. It would be very painful, and I carried it all my life. I knew it had a deeper meaning. When I finally connected with it through meditation, through deeper work, I realized I’m carrying the Holocaust trauma of my grandfather. When I healed it, I just opened up. A few years ago, like 50 years later, my chest is open, my posture is open. But interestingly enough, my grandfather is not alive, but it affected my mother without her knowing that I did this work, and that’s a multi-generational healing power of changing these very, very deep patterns. Galectin-3 is our biochemical driver, but our heart is really what allows us to change and to shift from a survival-based unhealthy response to nourishment, love, and compassion because of this physiology of the heart.
[00:40:11] Ashley James: That is so fascinating. I’ve heard that they can actually take like yourself, children, and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, that they can see in bloodwork higher cortisol, and they can see a higher state of stress just genetically passed down. There are other studies I’ve seen where they did trauma to mice or rats, and that for up to five generations, they could see the epigenetic expressions of chronic stress
[00:40:51] Dr. Isaac Eliaz: Completely. So it’s interesting. For me, my grandfather died at a very early age. He came to Israel with my grandmother and my mother. They escaped through Romania, and miraculously, they made it to Israel and he died in 1950, maybe 1952 at age 50—very, very young. He died from stomach cancer. And then my grandmother who saved the family in the Holocaust lived to 98, overcame two cancers, and died, as I said, at the age of 98, like in 2000, whatever. Around 2008, I think.
So, just on her graveside, my mother told us as a small comment, your grandfather, five out of his eight siblings, and his parents were killed by the Nazis. I never told this, so it was never spoken and he held his trauma in his stomach. That’s where he got his cancer. I could feel that I’m holding some of his trauma. I did before healing when I could feel my connection with him. But when I really released, when I released my trauma and my negative emotions around the Holocaust in a transformative way, and I gained this ability of freedom, my mother could never watch a program about the Holocaust ever. And then suddenly, two months later, like the day of the Holocaust remembrance, suddenly she turned on TV. Now she goes to ceremonies about [inaudible 00:42:40], about the Holocaust without her knowing what I did because by me healing the epigenetics that came from my grandfather, it affected his daughter, which is my mother.
That’s the power of multi-generational healing because time doesn’t go just forward. Time goes backward and forward. We just can’t see it because we are stuck at freezing time. That’s really the root of the Survival Paradox is holding two things—not understanding that everything changes all the time. Once we start shifting in this direction, then instead of having a life that is just goal-oriented, we start living the journey, we start living the moment, and we start not holding even to the moment because everything changes all the time.
This leads to one of my most favorite sayings, not everyone will be a miracle, but anyone can be a miracle. And why? Because everything is changing. Everything is changeable. Nothing is permanent. That’s the absolute truth that nobody can argue regardless of your belief system. It’s a fact. Now we understand this, we can look at the physiology of our body because if survival is so innate in us, it will be reflected in us. When you look at our body, we have, I’m rounding up, about 50 trillion cells. Trillion means a thousand times a thousand is a million, then a million times a thousand is a trillion times 50.
Each of these cells can have up to 1 million reactions a second. Ashley, it’s incomprehensible, okay.
[00:44:31] Ashley James: It is.
[00:44:32] Dr. Isaac Eliaz: Fifty trillion cells having a million reactions a second, and we all work in harmony. Why? Because we are all working together for the greater good, for the good of our whole body, right? We are holding, we are identifying with our body, with our being, with our ego as an independent entity and we want to support it. Every cell knows it’s going to be created, it’s going to do its work, and then it’s going to go away through apoptosis. But when a cell goes into an inappropriate survival response and doesn’t want to die, how can he do it if the body’s telling you it’s time to die? It has to change its biochemistry just to change its environment.
That’s the same like the flight, running away. It creates a microenvironment by surrounding itself with a lattice formation made out of Galectin-3 that binds to different inflammatory compounds, and this environment now has a different metabolism. It’s no longer as responsive to oxygen. It doesn’t communicate anymore. And when it stops communicating, it becomes its own independent entity, and then it starts to proliferate, to grow, and it wants to take over. How do we call it? We call it cancer. Or it wants to attack other organs, how do we call it? Autoimmunity.
So these diseases are a reflection of an abnormal survival response. When we understand it and we apply this principle to health, maintenance, and to treatment, if somebody has cancer, we naturally will get better results.
So if we look at our body, if we look at our cell, our cell is a membrane, which is like the skin of the cell, and the membrane decides what comes in and what goes out. So the cell will take in what it needs and will release what it doesn’t want. It detoxifies and it nourishes. And in the membrane, you have to exchange the transformation. So the cell does it this way, the tissue does it in this way, the organs do it in this way. I don’t want to take too much to describe too many organs, but it’s a vital principle that organs take nourishment and let go of venous dirty blood. This is how the system is maintained because it’s being balanced by the heart.
The heart works completely differently, and that’s why open heart medicine is so powerful. That’s why the healing power of the heart is so powerful. What the heart does as part of its survival, the heart has to get dirty blood. The heart does not get clean blood. It gets venous blood. It gets all the stuff that the body doesn’t want, all the stuff that comes from the perspective of the heart from the past because it was released from the organs and tissues earlier on and it arrives into the heart. What does the heart do? It doesn’t say, no, no, I don’t want to take it. The heart accepts everything. It connects with the universe through our lungs, through our breathing, exchanges, releases carbon dioxide, volatile toxins, absorbs oxygen, and then the heart gives blood without discrimination.
The aorta, the main artery that comes from the heart, is a rigid artery. It doesn’t contract. It gives blood everywhere. And who does the heart nourish first? The first organ that the heart nourishes is itself through the coronary arteries. So that’s the beauty. Our heart nourishes itself in order to nourish others and as part of nourishing others. That’s why from this approach, self-love and self-compassion come as part of love and compassion for others, very different from narcissistic focus. And if we look at the heart, one of the things which are kind of mind-blowing and again, for some reason, nobody has made this correlation until I came up with this image, but it’s obvious to me. The heart nourishes itself only after it finishes its work, only when it finishes accepting dirty blood—releasing the carbon dioxide and oxygenating the blood. Now it’s giving it to all the body only then, as really as a selfless organ, it also takes care of itself.
Physiologically, anatomically, the coronary arteries could have been in the right, in the left atrium, in the left ventricle. There’s already clean blood there. But no, the heart takes care of itself only when it’s done with serving others. It’s done with sending the blood out. That’s a selfless survival power of the heart that allows us to transform our health, and that’s the transformation of the survival response.
So how will it be, for example? So it’s done anyway even if we are anxious and we respond to everything with a survival negative emotion, the heart physiologically does this otherwise we won’t be alive. But because it’s done physiologically, it’s easier to take a ride on it and make emotional, psychological, mental, psychospiritual changes in a genuine way. So when you start applying it in different levels, when a situation in life comes, instead of responding with it with anger or fear, we respond to it with an open heart, with love, compassion, and empathy and it changes our physiology because the electromagnetic field of the heart is the largest electromagnetic field in the body. It’s 100 times bigger than the brain’s electromagnetic field.
So the electromagnetic field of the heart at any given moment reaches every cell of our body and reaches the people around us. We are connected heart to heart. So just like cells are connected to each other and the heart is the glue that keeps everything together through the circulation, so we as people are connected to each other right now, and of course from a genetic point of view realizing how many generations made us, there is no way that each person have had a mutual parent, sibling, child, or relative at one time in the past because we have been made out of an infinite number of people. So this gives us a little bit of a different perspective about health and life, right?
[00:51:10] Ashley James: The analogy of the heart is so beautiful and so perfect. It doesn’t discriminate. It brings in the old and the past and it connects to the universe, detoxifying, bringing in the nourishment, and then nourishing itself first before other organs so that it continues to nourish other organs. It loves itself so it can love others. I think that it is beautiful, perfect, and so needed. We have to remind ourselves that self-love and compassion are how we’re going to have the most love and compassion for those around us. I love it.
You talked about apoptosis program cell death, and another thing I’m interested in is autophagy, which is the body’s mechanism for digesting pathological tissue. I think combined with triggering apoptosis and triggering autophagy, that’s the cleaning mechanism to ensure we don’t develop cancer out of control. Does Galectin-3 turn off apoptosis and autophagy? Does it affect it in that way? Does it affect the mechanisms the body uses to prevent cancer?
[00:52:34] Dr. Isaac Eliaz: You know, Galectin-3 will speed apoptosis of normal cells, which we don’t want, but it will prevent apoptosis of cancer cells, for example, because they will move into glycolysis. Autophagy is really a repair mechanism of the cell and of the body. As you said, it’s a cleanup mechanism, and it’s often disrupted when we have an abnormal glucose metabolism. When we have normal glucose metabolism something called AMPK, adenosine monophosphate kinase, in the cell that produces energy from glucose by working properly with the mitochondria. When there’s not enough oxygen or when another pathway called MTO1 turns on, then you get abnormal metabolism, the mitochondria shuts down, the cell goes into a survival response.
It moves into glycolysis. Why? It can produce energy 100 times faster but at a heavy cost. Only two molecules of ATP from one molecule of glucose instead of 36, and a lot of nasty byproducts—lactic acid, et cetera. So autophagy is key to clearing the system because it will reduce the activity of this MTO1 and will restore the activity of AMPK. And yes, Galectin-3 will have a harmful effect and when we block it with modified citrus pectin and we block Galectin-3, indeed it will support healthy autophagy. And of course, I talked about in the book in detail, what really supports autophagy is intermittent fasting.
[00:54:27] Ashley James: Yes. That was next question was about fasting. This is great.
[00:54:31] Dr. Isaac Eliaz: I talk about it a lot in the book. So intermittent fasting and how long you have to fast depends on what food you eat. If you eat a lot of sugars, you have to fast longer because you have more glycogen. If you have less carbohydrates, then even at 13, 14, 15 hours, autophagy starts, and that’s why intermittent fasting is a very valid way of eating used by multiple cultures because you think in old times, it was too late. You would eat when it was early on, easy to cook, easy to prepare food. There wasn’t light, and then you went to sleep. You ate at 5:00 PM, 4:00 PM then ended the day. Then the next morning you wake up, you will do your stuff, and then you will eat once you do some activity like at 8:00 AM, 9:00 AM, 10:00 AM. So you had 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of eating.
So, really, intermittent fasting is a good strategy on a long term basis. It’s different from the ketogenic diet. It’s worthwhile mentioning it because when the ketogenic diet became very popular in cancer, I remember I was teaching at A4M in the integrative oncology module like certification, I was one of the teachers. When people got excited, I warned them. I told them, look, don’t overuse it because the ketogenic diet is a survival diet. A ketogenic diet allows us to survive on a long term basis. But if the ketogenic diet was our ideal diet, it wouldn’t be our alternate diet. It would be our day-to-day diet because the body is smart.
The ketogenic diet is very useful on an intermittent basis. So for example, for my patient who will go through chemotherapy or radiation, I will use a ketogenic diet intermittently during the cycle, not all the time. But intermittent fasting is something that we can really adapt into our diet on a daily basis. You can do a longer fast, one day a week, every two weeks, or two days a month, but it really gives a break to the glucose pathways and it allows us to clean them up, to fix them. Meanwhile, if we need, then yeah, the fat ketogenic metabolism will kick in and things will be okay, and then we go back when it’s cleaner and it gets erased. It’s like giving a break. It’s like changing the oil on many levels. That’s really what it is.
So it’s important to really recognize this very important role of intermittent fasting. It’s also important to recognize because I have a fascinating chapter on detoxification in the book, and really, honestly, it’s like a topic of its own because everybody talks about detoxification and detoxification, but detoxification is really something we do all the time. Our body is a balance between detoxification and nourishment. Where if we look at our lungs, the big detoxifier, the lung naturally contracts, when it contracts, it lets go of air, it releases. The exhalation is twice as long as inhalation, which means we detoxify longer than we nourish.
When we come to this world, the first thing we do is we cry, we let go, we detoxify. The lungs let go. The last thing we do before we leave this world is we take an exhalation. So detoxification and letting go at our basis are innate to us, but we have to recognize that when we are detoxing, it’s a process and we’re going to get rid of things that we may have been hiding in certain places in our body, in certain boxes like I call it in the book. So when we open the boxes, when we throw everything from the closet on the ground, it’s going to be a mess. So we have to be equipped to clean the mess, and that’s part of what we do on a daily basis. For example, intermittent fasting is an example, right? The cleanup just like you mentioned that’s why I’m elaborating. Then when we do more concerted, longer, targeted seasonal detoxification all-around treatments and diseases, then it requires more support. But when done properly, it is effective and almost universally side-effect free, if done properly.
[00:59:11] Ashley James: How about longer fasts? Three- to five-day fasts or 21-day fasts. Is there any harm in doing a longer fast or do you find them to be helpful as well?
[00:59:26] Dr. Isaac Eliaz: No, there are a lot of spiritual traditions that use longer fasts and water fasts, and when we peel off, it’s a catabolic process. We break a lot of tissue and when we break a lot of tissue, we also break and release a lot of the toxins, a lot of the trauma that has been in the tissue. And if we clean them in nature with good food and clean water, it definitely can have a profound effect, but we are not built to shut down our system. If you look traditionally like in different religions, most of the fasts are one day or you’ll fast during the day like in Islam, which is for a month, which is pretty much intermittent fasting, right?
So from a health perspective, it’s better to drink a lot of water when you fast so you can help the clean-up. But fasting has a profound effect because it really turns off our maintenance activities so our body and our being can tune into deeper things. I’m personally not a supporter of long term fasting. I don’t think it’s physiological. It’s much better to do it in a moderate way through intermittent fasting with a one-day fast with water. We just peel off gradually. The more we do things gradually, the more we create a gradual change, the more sustainable it will be.
[01:01:04] Ashley James: I’m all about making sustainable, gradual, healthy changes instead of trying something really big, blowing up on our face, beating us up, and then going back to our old habits that were hurting us, right? It’s good to do small steps that then get solidified into our daily habits.
[01:01:23] Dr. Isaac Eliaz: Yeah. In The Survival Paradox in the chapter of detoxification, I really map the process of detoxification from preparation to exposure of what you want to detoxify, to binding the toxins, to processing them, to supporting the system, and I explain the phases and how to do it. So afterward, either it’s a health provider helping others or it’s somebody doing it, there is a better understanding of what’s happening. And then in the appendix, I provide a very detailed detoxification protocol. It’s about 80 pages in the appendix of multiple protocols, supplements, how to do, and when to do it. But the book itself is more about changing the journey. It’s about a really deeper understanding than the appendix that I give the different details.
[01:02:22] Ashley James: I hope that everyone that reads your book will take this as a life guide to helping them in the long term and integrating what you teach in the long term. This isn’t like one of those magazines that say 30 days to lose 30 pounds. It’s not a get quick, do something for only 30 days, get a result, and then go back to your old habits. This is something that is life-changing and you have to integrate so it takes time to integrate these changes. Can you give us homework? Give us some things we can start today, some habits we can change today to make a difference.
[01:03:07] Dr. Isaac Eliaz: So the first thing is to start by doing small changes. For example, try to make sure that your room is really dark when you go to sleep so your melatonin level goes up. Unplug electronics from your surroundings, especially your cell phone, put it away. When you wake up in the morning, start your day by drinking two glasses of water so you will hydrate. This is a simple thing also before bedtime. And then find the time for yourself to unwind in whatever way works for you. Whatever your belief system is, in whatever method you want.
If you have a very busy life, then start it for a few minutes in bed before you get out of bed. Sit in bed and meditate for a few minutes, and then before you go to bed, sit for a few minutes and meditate. Just allow your mind to expand, allow your breathing to slow down, and then open your heart to yourself into every other living being that wants to be happy. Everybody wants to be happy and then go to sleep with this energy.
The other part is actually, believe it or not, read my book. It really takes you through a process. And then when it comes to the clinical part from chapters 7 to 13, I mean, if somebody was really interested in medicine, in health, and specifics, it’s okay to skip it also. It has a lot of inspiring stories. The book is full of dozens of inspiring stories of patients, my heroes. But really, it will give you an understanding of how life is inseparable from our health and how intertwined, interdependent things are, and it gives us the power back to own our health, to own our well-being, which is so needed. I mean, self-empowerment is really not overly available these days. In a manipulative, divisive survival response, and negative environments.
One thing why certain things are so important now is because when it’s very dark, one small candle can be seen really well. When there’s a lot of light, when the sun is shining, you can turn on a candle, nobody will see it. But when it’s dark, every small light will shine far away. That’s really the value of understanding what drives us and that we have the power to change it, we really do.
[01:05:49] Ashley James: We talked a bit about healing the scars of survival. Do you have specific tools? What tools did you use to heal that emotional pain that was showing up as physical pain near your heart and your body? Do you have any recommendations?
[01:06:09] Dr. Isaac Eliaz: Yeah, of course, of course. So part of what I do, I teach meditation and healing retreats. I teach it very extensively in Israel where I have a few thousand students. But now with the book being out here, I’m going to have a one-week masterclass about transforming the survival paradox sometime in the second quarter of 2022. Then I’m going to actually have a summit about it with different guests in November of 2022. But when I do these few days of retreats, it’s what people go through profound healing, profound.
But in general, we really have to address our being on these multiple levels and really find places where it’s relatively easy for us to change. Don’t be hard on yourself. I mean, life is not always simple, unfortunately.
[01:07:14] Ashley James: I studied a lot of these different modalities and my favorite one for getting to the root cause and healing unresolved negative emotions that are stuck inside us is Time Line Therapy, and I highly recommend checking out timeline therapy. It was created by Tad James, of no relation. I love him but we’re not related. We have the same last name. And then also, Emotion Code I’ve had really good experiences with as well. I’ve studied Time Line Therapy and done it for many years with clients, and I’ve seen huge results. Those are the two methods that I have seen help people resolve the root cause of negative emotions, but also release them from the body like when it’s trapped in the body physically.
[01:08:03] Dr. Isaac Eliaz: Right, right. So let me expand on this a little bit. In the clinic setting, we addressed the scars with healing, with acupuncture, with different supplements, but I also specialized in a procedure called Therapeutic Apheresis, which is similar to dialysis. I’m really a disruptor in the field even on a global level where I use an Apheresis device. It is FDA approved. And Apheresis is similar to dialysis. It’s a fancy procedure where you take the blood, you separate the cells from the plasma, and you filter the inflammatory compounds, the [inaudible 01:08:42] lipids from the plasma. And what happens, you allow the body’s opportunity to recalibrate. That’s on a physical. That’s on one end. Most develop in our special column that will remove just Galectin-3. It’s a medical device project I have with some NIH grants.
But on a healing level, it’s exactly what you talked about. It’s understanding the multi-generational and timeline events. The way we respond now is a result of things that happened in our past, happened in the past of our ancestors, and to make things really complicated, it’s a result of what happened in the future because the future goes backward just like time goes forward. I have a diagram when I present it and teach it usually in the context of retreats, and then I use a lot of scar injections where I will inject a scar with Procaine, it’s called neural therapy, with different homeopathics. Universally, scars will get smaller.
Universally, scars from laser, from surgery that have been there for 20, 30, 40 years and you put Procaine, the scar gets numb for 45 minutes and then it gets smaller and smaller by 10%, sometimes smaller and thinner by 60, 70%. Now what’s mind-blowing, it will never come back. How is this possible? Because the scar has a relationship with the nervous system where there is a message coming to the brain that there is a scar, that something is not functional there. When we numb it, we cut this ongoing automated response, which is part of a survival response on a neurological level. And then we allow the body to relearn, to create a new memory, what we call memory reconsolidation. It’s really a psychological system. It’s not my system, but I use it on a physiological level. So this healing of the scar, I do it on a physical level, and I do it with acupuncture, healing, and visualization, so it’s a little bit more powerful. But we also do it emotionally or with different systems like you described. But they all come to allow us to be ourselves. At the moment, as much as possible, without having all these strings to our past mainly that make us react in a way that is really not how we would react if there was no past that was affecting us.
[01:11:23] Ashley James: I love it. That procedure where you filter the blood, I want to do that. That sounds fascinating. How can we do that? Do we have to come to you in California or other places?
[01:11:36] Dr. Isaac Eliaz: No, no, no. That’s actually a very specialized procedure that I specialize in. It’s really what I do. It’s usually done more in hospitals for people with genetic hypercholesterolemia, but I specialized it for inflammatory purposes and I have a lot of publications in the field. And yes, it’s done in Amitabha Medical Clinic. But important is to do this in a larger context just like you and I talk today.
[01:12:10] Ashley James: Right you can’t fix it by going and getting a machine to filter it because if you don’t change your lifestyle, you don’t do the emotional healing, and you don’t change your habits it’s just going to come back.
[01:12:20] Dr. Isaac Eliaz: Sometimes if you are in really bad shape, the machine will give you a chance to recalibrate because people try to heal and try to heal and it just gives you a break. You just get a moment where something else is doing the work for you and then suddenly, you finish the treatment and your blood is a way towards when you were like 18 years old, and then suddenly, the tissue can let go and changes can happen. That’s the power of the procedure.
[01:12:49] Ashley James: How can we measure that what we’re doing is working? So I know heart rate variability is a good way of measuring if the body is under stress. But that’s not measuring the cascade effect, like you said. Is there a way to measure or would you give us some examples of how we know the changes that we’re making from your book, right? Like I’d say we start integrating these changes. How do we know it’s working? How do we know we’re reducing our Galectin-3 and that we’re getting our physiology back into a state of healing?
[01:13:28] Dr. Isaac Eliaz: So the first thing that we see that we know is we just feel better. We’re not as tired, we are more spacious, we’re not as reactive, we are happier. We smile more. The same interaction doesn’t bring up negative emotions. We are more tolerant. That’s one thing. Our inflammatory markers go down if you’d see reactive protein or fibrinogen activity, et cetera. We can also measure Galectin-3, which is an FDA-approved inexpensive test that is done by all labs. It’s supposed to be paid by insurance, almost always is. If not, if you don’t have insurance, it’s one of these things where people who pay without insurance pay 10 times more than insurance, which anyway, I won’t get into this. I can’t solve it, unfortunately.
But when you look at Galectin-3, you have to be careful about relying on the level of Galectin-3 because of genetic differences, people can still have a damaging effect of Galectin-3 with low levels. But if you think that you are healthy, you do a blood test, and your Galectin-3 is elevated, then this can be like a wake-up call that something is going on in the body. And then following Galectin-3 is important.
So one of the basic things and why this is my number one recommended supplement is the PectaSol Modified Citrus Pectin, not because I developed it. If you look at my programs 10 years ago or 15 years ago, let’s say, yeah, some of my patients got it, but not all of them. Now it’s the first thing I did, why? Because it blocks the Galectin-3, it helps to stop this damaging process. At the same time, it removes heavy metals, it regulates the immune response, and supports the microbiome. So it has this amazing benefit. So that’s why just like the starting point, you can take as little as 5 grams a day for maintenance, or if you have serious health problems, you take 15 grams a day, either powder or capsules.
That’s a basic thing that we want to do. And then our pains get better, our memory improves because it’s all driven by the same inflammaging. This undercurrent of subclinical inflammation is not evident but it’s causing damage and rapid aging. Yes, so it’s a combination of how we feel and changes of course in our blood test also. It changes our perspective of life because when we are more tolerant, when we’re not as reactive, then some of our life dramas just go away because some of it, unfortunately, is objective difficulties that so many people have. It breaks my heart. Some of it is our reaction to our life, right? People can react to the same thing in different ways and shifting from reactivity to tolerance to what we call loving, compassionate, responsiveness instead of reactivity. It really shifts our physiology and our being. These days, Ashley, it is so critical to go to these places for all of us.
[01:16:57] Ashley James: You said inflammaging like inflammation and aging, and oh my gosh, that hit me so hard. I say this all the time on the show. If you want to be a statistic, live like everyone’s living. Go eat the same food everyone’s eating, go watch TV until one in the morning, binge on Netflix, or vape whatever everyone’s vaping. Just go with the mainstream flow, Hollywood, just follow what everyone else is doing and jump from fad diet to fad diet. Do what everyone’s doing and eat a ton of candy, drink a ton of alcohol, and you’re going to be a statistic.
But if you don’t want to be a statistic, and right now, the statistic is one in three people will have cancer. One in three people has diabetes or a prediabetic. Heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are the three top killers. Stroke is the fifth, I believe, top killer. That is your future and early death is your future if you live like how everyone else is living. We have to be a salmon and completely go against the grain and stop the inflammation and the early aging, right? Inflammaging, I just love that.
[01:18:16] Dr. Isaac Eliaz: Inflammaging is very much driven by Galectin-3, by the abnormal survival response by the survival paradox. In the book, I just show how it’s driven through all diseases.
[01:18:30] Ashley James: But it’s never too late. Do you have any success stories you can share of people who were in their 60s, 70s, 80s and they turned themselves around and gave themselves a healthier living experience?
[01:18:44] Dr. Isaac Eliaz: A lot and a lot of stories about cancer patients. Of course, the book is full. Every chapter is between one and five stories. So there are dozens of stories of healing, absolutely. I mean, I share my own story of healing, absolutely. As I said, everything is changeable because nothing stays the same, everything flows, right? The moment the heart stops contracting and blood stops flowing, we are dead. There’s always a flow. There’s always a movement, nothing freezes. There’s a difference between ice and water, right? Everything flows.
So as long as things are changing, everything is possible, and this is really the key for tapping into our infinite healing potential [inaudible 01:19:39]. That’s why I mentioned already in this podcast, my favorite saying, not everyone will be a miracle but anyone can be a miracle. Because when we change our habits, we change our biochemistry, we change our physiology, and we change the outcome. That’s the beauty of the infinite healing power that each of us has.
[01:20:05] Ashley James: You brought up scar tissue and I think it’s really fascinating because every cell in our body is different within seven years. Every atom, every molecule of our body is new every seven years, right? We renew our body from the earth, from what we eat, we renew it from what we breathe, and yet, our body can remember to hold on to a scar. But I have actually seen people do emotional healing work and scars disappear. They no longer hold on to the memory of the scar and the body lets go.
[01:20:40] Dr. Isaac Eliaz: Absolutely. That’s the idea, multi-dimensional. So you do the emotional work, you do the psychological work, you create space in the mind, and you do the physical work. That’s why amazing things can happen. That’s why anything and everything is possible.
[01:20:56] Ashley James: I love it. I love it. So I definitely encourage listeners to read your book, the number one most important book. We should be buying this for Hanukkah, for Christmas, and for the holidays regardless of what you’re celebrating. December is kind of the time to buy presents for our friends and family and those we love, and I just think your book, Survival Paradox, is a wonderful gift for those we love who we want to help them stop the inflammaging and live a healthier, happier life balancing all aspects of their life. Regardless of how long you’re going to live, it’s all about quality of life. Let’s increase the quality of life now and extend life but extend the quality of our life, and I think that’s so important.
And of course, all the links are going to be in the show notes of today’s podcast at learntruehealth.com. Thank you so much for coming on the show. This has been wonderful. I’m really looking forward to hearing the feedback from my listeners as they dive into Survival Paradox and begin to incorporate these practices into their life. Is there anything that you’d like to say to wrap up today’s interview?
[01:22:05] Dr. Isaac Eliaz: Yeah. First of all, thank you so much for having me and being interviewed by somebody who understands what I’m talking about makes it easier, of course, and I really appreciate it. It’s a process. I mean, the book is a guideline, but if you’re really interested, use the opportunity. I’m going to start teaching more, in classes more, and offering more of these. It’s like offering my heart. You can get a sense even in a recording, I’m coming from my heart, and I’m sharing decades of studies and experience. It’s not something that I just came up with after a few months. I’ve been in the healing arts for almost 50 years, so there is a lot of experience, a lot of fun observation, and multicultural different parts of the world. Like a sponge, I absorbed and absorbed. Now I distilled it and I really want to offer this important healing advice to as many people as possible. It’s my third act.
[01:23:15] Ashley James: Well, I’m looking forward to your fourth and fifth, and I definitely want you to come back on the show when you have more to share and when you have more to teach. Your summit in 2022 sounds fascinating. I’d love for you to come back and continue to share with us. Thank you so much for coming on the show.
[01:23:28] Dr. Isaac Eliaz: Thank you so much for having me. Have a great day.
Check out the sample class from IIN visit LearnTrueHealth.com/coach
Jim Curtis is the Chief Revenue Officer & Head of Brand at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN). Before joining IIN, Jim helped develop WebMD, Everyday Health, and Remedy. He is also the author of The Stimulati Experience. In this episode, Jim shares what’s new at IIN and what you can gain from studying at IIN.
Hello, true health-seekers and welcome to another exciting episode of Learn True Health podcast. Back when I started this podcast, I had come really far in my healing journey but I wasn’t done. And you’re never really done, are you? But I had accomplished reversing type 2 diabetes, chronic adrenal fatigue, chronic infections, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and infertility, and that’s a lot. And I’ve been working on myself to get to a point where I’ve considered myself to have optimal health. I’m not there yet, but I am way closer to my goal than I’ve ever been.
So when I started the podcast, I had already accomplished all that, and I was still working on solving some of my health issues, right? I did not know what health coaching was when I started my podcast. I was actually doing a lot of coaching with clients for years, but I didn’t really have a strong grasp on the definition of what it is to be a health coach. I kind of wrote it off as something froufrou or something really superficial like probably someone who tells you to go for walks and drink water. I didn’t respect it because I didn’t understand it.
But as you know, if you’ve been a listener for a while, I am the most open-minded skeptic. I’m going to think critically, but I’m going to give things that maybe I just write off or just dismiss, I’m going to give them a chance. I’m going to have an open mind and try things on even if they go against my belief system because I want to grow. I want to grow outside of my own belief system, I want to learn things like the things you don’t know you don’t know.
That’s the realm of possibility where you’re so open to learning about the unknown. You see, there are things we know we know, right? We know we know how to tie our shoes. We know we know how to drive a car, and there are things we know we don’t know. I know I don’t know advanced calculus or I know I don’t know how to fly a plane. Just taking the stuff you know you don’t know and learning it is only about 5% of your life. That is not nearly as fun as being open. Opening your mind up to the things you don’t know you don’t know. You don’t even know there’s this whole world out there of possibilities. You don’t even know they exist and you don’t even know you don’t know them yet.
That’s where I like to live. And especially with my podcasts, I like to have guests that show me a world I didn’t even know existed and show me that it’s possible. It’s been through holistic medicine that what I didn’t know I didn’t know came to light. I didn’t even know there was this world where I could reverse disease naturally. That my body was deficient in nutrients that could reverse disease because I was raised in that same system you were where we waited to get sick, then we went to the doctor, and we were put on drugs to manage something but never cure it, never reverse it.
I was, for many years, told by an endocrinologist and doctors that I would always have these conditions, always have these issues—diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and infertility. I was told I’d absolutely never have kids. That’s the reality that most people live in. But there’s this whole other world you don’t even know exists. And of course, you’re listening to this podcast so you do know that there is holistic medicine and that the body can heal itself. But there’s this whole other world that is waiting for us, and that’s 95% of reality out there is what you don’t know you don’t know. That’s the exciting part. So open your mind and let the unknown come in and show you that there’s another way of being that allows you to transform your life.
With today’s guest, it’s a little bit different. I had Joshua Rosenthal on the show back in episode 106, so that was quite a while ago. Joshua Rosenthal is the founder of IIN, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and that’s a great episode. You should go back and check it out, episode 106.
When I first started the podcast, I had no idea what health coaching was. I looked down upon it because I didn’t respect it, I didn’t know what it was. And I had a health coach on the show. This was very early on, probably in the first 40 episodes. He told me about the school that he graduated from, IIN, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and he said that it’s an online program. It’s been around since 1992 and they’re the world’s first health coach training program, also the world’s largest, and the most organized.
So I looked into it, I spoke with them, and that same day I enrolled. I went from being completely skeptical, but you know, open-minded, to just absolutely feeling that this was my path, that this was the next step for me. I learned so much about myself and about how to help people through that program. What I loved is that health coaching is not just eating apples, drinking water, and going for walks. Health coaching, most of it, is actually emotional counseling. It’s helping people to peel back the layers and really help themselves to bring joy and expression, love and vitality into every single area of their life, and to help balance every area of their life with that experience of joy.
The fun part about health coaching is that you help people—by asking the right questions—to uncover their joy in each area of their life. Even though you do learn 100 dietary theories in the health coaching program through IIN, most of the time you’re not even talking about food because so much of it is about our habits, behaviors, beliefs, and emotions. And so health coaching really is about helping someone achieve the goals that they set out for themselves.
What I like about IIN is that they are the most authentic company I’ve ever met. What they teach they also practice. So behind the scenes, I’ve actually had the CEO on the show as well. I’ve had a few of the staff members on the show, kind of just getting a glimpse, pulling back the curtain. I kind of love doing that, pulling back the curtain and seeing what goes on behind the scenes?
Well, today, we have another staff member who is high up in the company, and he gets to pull back the curtain a bit and show you what it means to have a truly holistic company. If you are a business owner, imagine how you can shape your business so that your employees and you have the most healthy experience. Now, they have a very low rate of attrition. They have a really profitable model because they actually invest in the health and well-being of their staff. And that’s really exciting because I see that they’re modeling something that is the wave of the future. If you can imagine every single business truly being holistic and taking care of their staff, how beautiful and how healed this world would be.
So enjoy today’s episode as you listen from the perspective of imagining this world, imagine a futuristic sci-fi where every single company treated their staff like IIN treats their staff, how neat that would be. And then if you’re interested in adding tools to your tool belt, I highly recommend checking out the free sample class. So you can go to learntruehealth.com/coach. That’s learntruehealth.com/coach, and there you’ll get a free sample class and you can check out IIN yourself. We do talk a bit about the program. They have a 6-month program, they have a 12-month program. It’s a 12-month program, you can do part-time or full-time.
They also have smaller classes. They have newly adopted smaller classes, a few week-long classes if you are looking just to not become a health coach but looking to grow yourself. I love the health coach training program. About half of the people that go through it every year go through it just for their own personal growth and to help them become healthier and help them help just their family and friends. So that’s definitely something to check out. I highly recommend it.
And of course, IIN gives the listeners a really great price. So when you do talk to them, you can mention that you heard it from me, Ashley James, the Learn True Health podcast. And also use coupon code LTH most of the time when I interview someone. I asked them to get us a coupon code LTH and give the listeners a discount. And when you do, mention my podcast. They do give all the listeners a really, really great discount.
Awesome. Thank you so much for being a listener. Thank you so much for sharing my podcast with those you care about. Come join the Learn True Health Facebook group, we’d love to see you there. Check out the IIN, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition sample class. It was quite moving. I thought it was awesome. It’s free. Check it out. Go to learntruehealth.com/coach. Enjoy today’s interview.
[00:09:58] Ashley James: Welcome to the Learn True Health podcast. I’m your host, Ashley James. This is episode 472. I am so excited for today’s guest. We have Jim Curtis on the show. Now, you are the Chief Marketing Officer, the Chief Brand Officer of IIN, is that correct? Is that how I say it?
[00:10:23] Jim Curtis: Yes. I handle the business side of things. So marketing, sales, community. I wear many hats here.
[00:10:32] Ashley James: Now, why that excites me to interview you is because this is a health podcast. We’re approaching 500 episodes. I’ve had many of the teachers that teach the students of IIN, IIN being the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, the school that I graduated from a few years ago. I graduated in 2017 I think it was. Time kind of flies. All of a sudden you look back and it’s been years and years, but I have interviewed many of the teachers that have made videos for the students of IIN. We’ve had actually hundreds of my listeners, either they already are graduates of IIN or they signed up and became students of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition after hearing my podcast, so it’s really exciting.
What I love about IIN is I walked in thinking I’m just going to learn a lot about nutrition and I learned so much. That was just such a fraction of the piece of the pie. I learned so much about myself, about creating really true happiness, and balance in every aspect of my life. There’s so much more in terms of fulfillment, emotional, spiritual, and mental health. Doesn’t that just really make so much sense when it comes to health coaching, right? It’s not about how many carrots you eat and how many glasses of water you drink. At the end of the day, if every other part of your life is falling apart and you’re miserable but you’re eating healthy, you’re still not achieving health.
So I love that I learned from my IIN how to help myself, my family, my clients, and my friends to find the things in each area of their life that they want to enrich and all the tools that I gained to help them do that.
What I was excited about having you on the show, I’ve had your CEO on the show who was so amazing. I had the founder of IIN on the show, who I’m such a big fan of Joshua, and then to have you on the show. And of course, I’ve had graduates and I’ve had other staff members who share fun stories like you guys have free avocados for your employees. There’s a yoga and there’s a meditation room.
Your company believes in that work-life balance, and I think that if every company on the planet modeled themselves after IIN, we would have such a happier world. Companies would save money because they wouldn’t have such a high turnover rate of employees. I want to know more about you and the branding and marketing side of IIN because this isn’t like Amazon where you guys exhaust and work your employees to the bones. You are a company of the future. You are a company that I want to learn from because you’re a company that models holistic health for your employees and for your customers, for the students. It’d be really interesting, from a health perspective, to look at how IIN markets itself, brands itself, but also, I hear really exciting things are coming in 2022. I’m so excited to learn from you, welcome to the show.
[00:13:52] Jim Curtis: Oh, it’s so great to be here. I love all those things that you said about the business. It’s particularly important to me because, for 20 years, I’ve been a coach, a wellness teacher, and in business. I think that goes hand in hand for everybody who’s listening to this too who are both trying to run a coaching business or another wellness business and be the teacher in that business. So IIN is kind of a great example, and I think I’m a good example of my own career, how I brought the two together, and how we kind of help our students to bring the two together.
I think that some of our employees would disagree with you about working them to the bone because we work people so hard here and they work so hard here. But what we know is that oftentimes, we’re sacrificing and working the weekends because it has such a profound effect on the health of people. We can see it from a one-to-one basis meaning we will get a story written constantly of a student or a graduate that we’ve changed their life so dramatically and had such an impact that the hard work, the sacrifice, the late hours, and the weekends are worth it. So that’s kind of what we’re doing.
And yes, we do spend an enormous amount of money on avocados, more when we are actually in the office more often. We do have a chiropractor and acupuncturist. We cater a delicious lunch for everybody every day that people are in the office now. We’ll just shut the office for a week around the holidays or we’ll take all the employees on a trip where you don’t have to do any work or even meet. They just go out and have dinner. The last time it was in North Carolina. There are a lot of lifestyle elements, and of course, everybody in the company can take the courses. That’s some of the perks of IIN.
[00:15:53] Ashley James: I love it. Because when I was first looking into IIN, any staff member I spoke to when I called were also graduates, and I thought that that was really neat. I know it’s not every single staff member is a graduate, but more often than not, you throw a stone in IIN and you’re going to hit a graduate. They’re health coaches as well. So talking to them didn’t feel like a high-pressure sales call, which is what I was really expecting because I’ve called other companies who do online education and it felt like they were trying to sell me used car insurance. But with IIN, the conversation was more about my goals, where I want to see myself, how would this help me, and how would this help me help others. So the conversation was more about the ripple effect and the fulfillment that IIN can bring as a student and as a graduate.
[00:16:50] Jim Curtis: The authenticity in business is super important to us. I have so many students and grads writing to me just talking about how they position themselves as wellness pioneers and coaches with authenticity. Over the last two years since health coaching has become so popular, there’s been a lot of schools that pop up. We kind of look and say, are they walking their own walk? Are their employees actually trained health coaches, or is it you just sign up online and then go take your videos type of thing?
Ninety percent of our employees are trained by IIN, and then when you come and start at the company, you can take the course, which most people do. And we really believe in a path to employment. When people graduate from IIN, our alumni services help get them and show them job opportunities. So we partner with companies like Wellory and many others so that IIN graduates get hired first, and then we hire our graduates.
We’ve hired hundreds of people who have graduated to be employees, and oftentimes, they don’t have the exact background that we need in business but we can teach them. We know that they’re amazing people and very well trained because they’ve been through our program for a year or in a very intensive six months. So that authenticity, that eat your own dog food type of saying is so true to us and important to us.
[00:18:35] Ashley James: You, before joining IIN, have been part of some major health brands that we would recognize. What was attractive about IIN that had you want to join and work for them? Because I think you could have had your pick of so many different companies.
[00:18:59] Jim Curtis: I was. I had started my own businesses and exited them. I’ve had a pretty successful career in business, and I could really choose where to go next. I was just a few blocks away in New York City from the IIN offices running a wellness center that I had started there with a partner, a med spa and a wellness center, and it was going well. Someone called me up and said this role is available at IIN and they’re interested in you. I was immediately interested because IIN is such a pervasive name and wellness for so long. They’ve created the health coaching field. They had all the major health influencers and leadership from the beginning and oftentimes built those careers, but they’re still relatively unknown. It’s kind of a niche thing that you get to know IIN when you get into that wellness world.
I had been in the world and I knew what a great brand it was. I had so many people in my life who had gone through the program that I immediately was interested. It was something that I saw that this could be a great project, and this could get very big under the leadership that was in place. Not only that, we could really expand upon that mission of changing the health of the world. I could see how it wasn’t just like a media company or another company that started that puts out information and then people read it. This is a direct contact with a person whose life you’re going to change. I wanted to do that for millions of people, so it was a really exciting project.
[00:20:52] Ashley James: So you joined IIN and then and then you took the course. You hadn’t yet taken the course. So while you were taking the course and working for IIN, what really surprised you about going through the health coach training program?
[00:21:09] Jim Curtis: Well, I thought that I was the expert, right? I was the speaker. I had started the business, I had done everything, and I thought that I was really the expert and that I wouldn’t learn much from the course, but I was very wrong. And also, I had known of the IIN brand, but I was impressed by it but not connected to it.
One, I learned firsthand that, okay, food really does change everything. I focused a lot on the mental aspects of wellness, the scientific aspects, or what’s trending in wellness in terms of devices or science or how do you change your mindset to be successful. I was what I thought was a healthy eater, but I started to cook more for myself. I started to incorporate far more whole foods, raw foods, and vegetables. I realized that I was eating out way too much. The oils that were inflammatory were a lot in my diet, and it just really changed everything in that respect for me. I started to really realize what food changes everything mean, so that really impacted me.
I started to realize that IIN can teach anybody something even if you think you’re an expert because it really taught me also how to hone my coaching skills. You can be an expert, you can be someone who comes to for advice, but it’s a whole nother ball game when you’re trained in coaching how to listen, how to how to actually lead someone through the coaching continuum where you leave with a result. That was really interesting to me.
And then I loved hearing Joshua talk about why the brand is the brand. What is integrative nutrition? That’s a term he coined. Nutrition is more than food. It’s everything that feeds you. It’s integrative from what feeds you spiritually, what feeds you in your relationships, what feeds you in your career, and how you move your body, what feeds you for exercise. And then, you start talking about what colors and foods are on your plate.
That was a huge impact on me. And even all the way to Joshua’s story about the color red and why IIN uses so much of it. How he was in India and he had traveled there for many, many years. He would study with the monks there and they all wore red robes. Red really signified one, the color of our blood and how everything that we consume becomes our blood, and how we all have the same color of blood. It’s an equality. We all have red blood. Our economic status or the color of our skin doesn’t affect our blood. It’s the equalizer and a connector.
He really wanted the red symbol—that is shaped like DNA, by the way—to be the hallmark of IIN and really stand for something. He also loved it because it was different. One thing IIN is always touted is fitting out. You don’t have to do what everybody does. Even though wellness is becoming much more accepted and much more mainstream, oftentimes, you’re kind of out there if you’re practicing Reiki and trying a new diet that only eats raw foods, vegan, vegetarian. He said it was important not to fit into the general society of the world that is pertaining to just one thing.
[00:24:55] Ashley James: I love that idea that the red represents what’s on the inside and everyone’s got the same thing. We’ve all got blood. I have a family member who’s in hospice right now and it’s having me really reflect on end of life and how none of us get out alive, right? Death is the real equalizer. It’s something that we’re all going to have at some point. What’s really important is how we live now. I think we get really caught up in the day-to-day minutia. We get dissociated from what’s in the now and we start becoming more like robots. They say human doings instead of human beings. And then all of a sudden we’re just highly unsatisfied.
The unconscious mind, that’s where most of us are stored. The unconscious mind doesn’t want us to just go with the flow, go with the motions day-to-day. Go to a job, pay a bill, come home, go to sleep, eat. Eat, sleep, eat, sleep, repeat. The unconscious mind, that’s where our values are and our desires are. Sometimes we stuff that down and what pops up is depression, sometimes physical pain. Physical pain can manifest in the body when we’re really just not living our path. It can feel so uncomfortable in the body. If we’re disconnected from it, it can become uncomfortable physically, but then uncomfortable emotionally and we don’t know where to put it, right?
Some people fall into illness because they’re not eating healthy and they seek out a health coach. And then if it’s an integrative nutrition health coach, that health coach is helping them analyze and look at all areas of their life and really listen to them. That’s what I love because it isn’t a program where you just are scripted and you’re just telling people what to do. You’re listening. You’re listening for the deepest layers of concern, right? You’re listening and you’re listening, and then you ask questions that help them dig deeper themselves.
It’s not about you talking at them. It’s kind of funny how as a health coach, how little talking we do. When you’re doing it really well, you’re asking the right questions that drill down and drill down and allow a person to see what’s beneath the layers that they themselves have, it’s been in their blind spot. Then they have their own aha moments and oftentimes they’ll even tell you what their homework is. When you’re really doing it well, all you’re doing is just being this amazing listener. You said that that’s a skill or a tool that you learned when you went through the IIN program.
I was so impressed with—before I did the program, I’m also a master practitioner and trainer of neuro-linguistic programming. I really feel like I’ve trained myself in listening, and IIN really had me slow down and listen even more, and listen even more, and listen even more. My husband who’s an introvert always says, God gave us one mouth and two ears so use them proportionally.
[00:28:15] Jim Curtis: Right. I love that. I mean, active listening is a real skill. You’ve almost become magnetic when you’re a great listener. When you’re listening more than you’re talking, it has more of an impact when you say something because people know that you’re really processing what they have to say, and that’s kind of what coaching is all about—learning those things.
[00:28:38] Ashley James: You said active listener. I’ve said in the show in the past (I think a few years ago), you know, some people have never ever actually been heard. And going to an integrative nutrition health coach, going to an IIN graduate may be the first time in their life that they’ve actually had someone truly hear them and truly listen without ulterior motive, without their judgments of their past. Just someone really authentically being 100% present to them. That in itself is so cathartic. It allows the person to slow down and really feel honored, respected, and heard as a human being.
I feel like growing up, we’re constantly comparing ourselves to others, comparing yourself to the Kardashians, whoever’s on Instagram, or whoever was popular in school. I think everyone has that in their mind, maybe the imposter syndrome, or maybe they feel like there’s always someone who is better than them and so they’re not good enough, right?
They’ve never felt like just being honored as an individual because it is an even playing field. We all have the same color blood, and we’re all going to die. It is more about how we live in the now. We can cultivate physical things on the outside like I can have a lot of material goods, but that doesn’t leave me with anything that I’ve cultivated on the inside. But the more we cultivate on the inside, that’s something that can never be taken away from us.
That’s what I love about the health coaching program because it’s like 99% of it was called feeding on the inside, and then 1% of it was here’s like 100 different dietary theories. I thought it was going to be the opposite. I thought I was going to learn just a bunch of nutrition stuff. Boy, was I wrong. I love the program and the impact that it has. What are some other skills that you were surprised that you learned like active listening? Were there any other skills that you were really surprised that you learned when you went through the program?
[00:30:46] Jim Curtis: There is something called bio-individuality, meaning we go through life getting taught that this is the right diet for you. This is the way you should eat, this is what a diet is, and then there’s always this pull between keto is right or vegan is right, and you have these two groups. What I love is that it kind of bridges the gap there. Diets are ways of eating. When we say diet, I mean nutritional diet, not going on a diet. Ways of eating that are right for many different people.
Vegan may not be right for one person, but it could be right for another. As opposed to, okay, there’s this belief that everybody has to be vegan or everybody has to be keto. That was something that I learned. I was really impressed with the concept of crowding out, meaning we put a lot of pressure on good and bad, right? I’m bad, I didn’t exercise. I’m good, I exercised. I’m bad, I ate a doughnut. I’m good, I ate broccoli. There’s no good or bad, right? There’s food.
You can start to crowd out foods that make you feel better or worse. Meaning, if you’re used to drinking 12 Diet Cokes a day, start to drink 10 Diet Cokes and 2 glasses of water, or 6 glasses of water and 6 Diet Cokes until you crowd out the food that is making you feel less good, right? Instead of getting really down on yourself for having the food, understand that you’re a work in progress and that what you’re consuming is just food and we put the good and bad on it, and that we want to consume more things that give our body and our cells more energy. I always really love those types of things, which I didn’t think of in that way before. I’ve always been, I feel guilty, emotional eater type of person, and that really set the stage for me.
The other thing I noticed with the program is that you don’t have to become a health coach, right? A lot of people are doing this just for them. Although I did some coaching and I’ve always been a coach, I did the program and it affected me profoundly as an individual and how I was relating to people. I didn’t actually have to go and be a full-time health coach. By the way, integrative means that you’re also life coaching. This is not just food. This is life coaching and health coaching in one, but you don’t have to do that.
A lot of people just do it to start with them. They’d use it to coach themselves, their families, or their friends. Some people write books. There’s a book in everyone, and some people say, I’m doing this so I can be more credible or have more information when I want to write my book, my health story. Some people nowadays even become health influencers. They start a content-driven media type of health influencing in the sense of they’re reaching millions of people on a massive scale or hundreds of people, it doesn’t matter how many people. It’s just how you’re reaching them with health information. That’s very much what you’re doing, which I’m impressed with. Those were all things that I learned very quickly.
[00:34:36] Ashley James: And hospitals are hiring health coaches, insurance companies are hiring health coaches. My insurance company offers me a free health coach through my insurance because they see it saves them money when someone is actively going through health coaching, they’re working towards achieving their health and wellness goals, and then they don’t end up going on a bunch of medications and costing them money. So they would rather pay upfront for preventive medicine, which is what health coaching can be because it can help us to go from feeling good to feeling great or feeling great to feeling awesome. But most people wait until there’s a pain point, and the pain point doesn’t have to be physical health. It can be dissatisfaction with their marriage, with their work, with their body image to be able to go to an integrative nutrition health coach and work on those areas.
You’re not allowed to call it counseling because of how they define counseling now, but it was once called counseling back in the day before they changed the rules of what you’re allowed to call counseling and not call counseling. But like I said, with active listening, you’re really just guiding that person and helping them to get to the root. I love that.
Take us to the environment of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and share with us what changes, what improvements have you made since you joined the team?
[00:36:25] Jim Curtis: Well, what can I say to that? The changes that I’ve really made since being here are accessibility, meaning we have provided a lot more content for free. People can come on our Instagram, YouTube, webinars, or lives that I do. So I’m constantly interviewing our visiting teachers so people can have access to them on a live basis, whether it’s a webinar, an Instagram Live, it’s a live event for the community, or it’s a special event for the community that people go to. So there’s a lot more access for people who aren’t students for free content. And then there’s a lot more community access for the graduates and the students so that they can interact, get information, and talk with me, so that’s one thing.
We’ve gone a lot deeper into business. The folks that are like, I’m really good at coaching or I’ve learned a lot and I’m ready to start my wellness career but I really don’t know the first thing about business, we do a lot to help people along the way. You can now just sign up online. You know what we’re finding is that a lot of people are younger that are signing up and they’re of the generation that doesn’t like phone calls. They just want to sign up online, not talk to anybody, and communicate via chat and email. We accommodate and do that now a lot more.
What has made the biggest impact here is that we’ve hired a lot more people at the company. The company’s size has grown so that we have a lot more touchpoints with alumni services, with student success. We are constantly creating new courses. We have two new specialty courses on Whole Person Health with Deepak Chopra and Detox Your Life so that we have more people to service the students more often, and we have more content that is either cheap or is less expensive and free. That’s the impact that I hope that I’ve made, that I’ve made it more accessible for many more people.
[00:38:48] Ashley James: Well, it sounds like there’s a lot more courses and content since I graduated. Back when I joined, there were I think three courses. It was the main one, you had to take the main one first, which was yearlong at the time. For me, I invested about 20 minutes a day, or if I got really busy in my life I would spend an entire Sunday afternoon once a week and Sunday afternoon evening going through and studying. But day-to-day, I could listen to the lectures in the car, while I’m doing laundry, while I was cooking. I was able to fit in the training for a whole year in my very busy schedule being a career mom and all the stuff I do.
So many people have asked me, do you think I could do this? I have a family and a career, or I’m a student and they have a family or whatever? I say, yeah, I think anyone who wants to do this could do this because you can do the training while you’re doing tasks as long as you can listen. You don’t even have to necessarily watch. Although there are slides and there’s a person on stage sometimes.
What I would do is I download the slides, I’d look at them, then I’d listen to the lecture, and then I’d go back and look at the slides. If I’m, for example, driving or exercising, I definitely do it while I was exercising like if I was on the machine. And cooking, I just have it on the speaker and then I’d go and pop my head over and look at the slide when they reference something.
It is available to people. It is accessible to busy people, and it was designed for busy career moms basically, who could fit it in 20 minutes or 30 minutes a day. And then you guys came out with—and there’s a few other courses. There was a write your own book course and I think there was like an autoimmune. There are advanced courses that someone who was a graduate could take. And then after I graduated, you guys came out with a six-month-long program basically condensing it so someone could be considered a full-time student. Although, I still think you could have a career and be a “full-time” student with IIN given that it’s in six months. So now you have all these other trainings. Are there training that people can take before they become an integrative health coach? Could you explain that, walk us through that?
[00:41:17] Jim Curtis: Certainly. You’re absolutely right. I mean, you did a great job balancing everything, and I think that we try to make the program so you can. But also so that you still have contact with over phone calls and now a lot more virtual Zoom type of stuff. And then live events, we’re still meeting in person less but still doing it. Now there’s a Spanish course. So if you only speak Spanish, there’s Spanish Assist, so there’s been a lot of enhancements.
You don’t have to go through the health coach training program anymore to say I want to take a course. We have short-form courses like Whole Person Health, which in over seven weeks you can learn from Deepak Chopra and others. It’s less than $500. I think Detox Your Life where you find out how to remove toxins from your food, from your home, and from the people around you, that is under $300. We also have courses on emotional eating, hormone health, gut health, and even business courses that you can take. Oftentimes, you don’t have to be a grad.
There is an advanced licensing course that oftentimes graduates take so that they can sit for the advanced licensing of a third-party accreditation. You do have to be a grad for that. But there are many courses now that you don’t have to be a grad of the 6- or 12-month course to take, and that’s part of the accessibility that we wanted to offer this to more people in the world.
[00:42:58] Ashley James: That’s really exciting. For those shorter courses that are more specific, do you find that people then graduate and then join to become a holistic health coach, that they see the benefit in continuing to study with IIN?
[00:43:13] Jim Curtis: In some cases, yeah. In some cases, people work on their wellness a little bit slower, so it’s different for everybody and that’s really apropos to what we’re all about. We want to deliver the wellness that is right for you. So in some cases, people will go on and say that was amazing. I want more, and they go on to take the health coach certification course, which is the health coach training program and they do really well. Others say, I like that but I’m going to go on to take the Hormone Health course, or I’m super interested in the Gut Health course because I have gut health problems. I see you’re working with a company called Seed. I love that probiotic. They give a supplemental course to that too so they go on and do it. It’s really what meets your needs, and that’s important to us.
[00:44:11] Ashley James: I love it. Now your background is in business and so you’ve obviously had an impact on the new business training that IIN provides for health coaches. That’s actually something I’ve seen in my past. I’ve been in this industry since I was a teenager. Actually, I took all the courses that I could with Landmark Education and became a coach through many of their programs, and then I was hired to be on staff in my early 20s with Landmark Education. Then I went on to study neuro-linguistic programming and did coaching through that until I found IIN.
One thing I’ve learned working with training coaches because I did that through Landmark and then also through neuro-linguistic programming, I saw that the biggest problem was that they didn’t know how to market themselves. They didn’t know how to grow a business. There’s a stigma around money, business, and charging people. They felt kind of like, I don’t know what to charge people. Their tools would change someone’s life, would completely change someone’s life. I mean, you can’t quantify that, right?
I mean, you don’t want to charge too little because they don’t take it seriously. You don’t want to charge too much. And then there’s a person worth, right? The health coach feels like there’s this, what am I worth? I don’t want to charge that much because I don’t want people to say no. They go through this fear because there are so many negative stigmas around money, charging, and knowing what you’re worth, but also creating a fair business model so that you have a mutual win-win. You really have to face a mirror and look at yourself, look at all the negative emotions and looming decisions around money when you’re getting into doing your own business. What kind of advice can you give health coaches when it comes to these kinds of concerns?
[00:46:13] Jim Curtis: It’s really common. First off, don’t feel like it’s just you. I did all the Landmark courses too, by the way. I love Landmark. I started with them when I was 19 years old and I moved to New York City. I took a year off of college because I was dealing with an illness and I moved to New York City and I started Landmark. It’s just, I mean, really wonderful and impactful. I can see how that would lead to IIN because it’s very much about rapid transformation.
When people go through this course and they start to say, am I worth it? Am I ready to be a coach? And then if I’m selling wellness, should I really be charging? How do you combine those two? Because oftentimes, people see sales as a dirty word and wellness as the good word so they want to give it for free. But here’s the important thing. One is you’ve been through the training, you’re there to help someone, you deserve fair compensation for that.
Sales is really a service. I mean, if you’re selling something that’s hurting people, if you’re selling cigarettes or junk food, yeah, I can understand you’re doing the marketing that is tricking people into something that’s not great for them. But you’re providing a service. Your sales is a service that’s helping people change and better their lives, and then better the lives of the people around you.
Knowing that your mission is really beneficial for the world is the first step. Knowing that you are uniquely positioned because one, you want to do it, you have a desire and a passion to do it, and because you’ve been trained to do it. But sometimes, you just have to go through the fear and know that you are the one, believe it, start to do it, and it becomes very real to you. And that you’re worth it. You need to be financially stable to make people financially stable. You need to be working on your finances and your health so that you can help other people with that.
I always lead people to Marianne Williamson’s book called The Law of Divine Compensation. And in The Law of Divine Compensation, it really talks about there are real rules around exchange of energy and receiving payment for the service that you’re doing. That’s a great book to read for anybody that’s kind of struggling with this, and that’s kind of how I approach it. We work with a lot of students. I particularly work with a lot of students on that because it’s common, and if you’re feeling that, you’re not alone at all and you can overcome it.
[00:48:56] Ashley James: Do you have to be an IIN grad to take business training, or do you have business training at any health coach they graduate from anywhere take?
[00:49:09] Jim Curtis: We have business training that any health coach who graduated from anywhere take. We have the Advanced Business course. We’re constantly updating our course. It’s been around for 30 years, but every year, we add new content, change things, and we have more business in the course now. Then I do a lot of free training. People can sign up for webinars with me. I, on Instagram, every Thursday do business basics where I answer questions. We know that having confidence and understanding your value and how you’re contributing to the world is an issue sometimes, so we do a lot to help train people on that.
[00:49:50] Ashley James: Now what I loved about the IIN program, back when I took it it was 12 months long. Within the first half, you’re learning how to do health coaching, but then you actually start working with people halfway through. The rest of the program is like fine-tuning that and teaching you how to grow your business. It’s not like IIN just teaches you how to be a health coach then throws you to the wolves like, okay, grow your business, bye. You’re actually growing your business. Something that Juliet, she was the person that helped me on the phone because that was before you guys had a robot on the website.
[00:50:26] Jim Curtis: She’s still here.
[00:50:27] Ashley James: Juliet’s amazing. I love talking to her. For those listeners who just sign up online, you should just give them a call just to experience it because I really had a blast talking to Juliet. She was so helpful and I called her many times asking her questions. She was always a wonderful resource. I really love her. She said, you know, the most successful IIN students pay off their entire program before graduating. I said, really? She said, yeah, because you start working with clients halfway through, and so then you’ve got another six months of growing your business and being trained to. You have IIN teachers to talk to and to connect with. You get to grow while there’s kind of a safety net because you’re still in the school, and I thought that was really cool.
Then of course, with your full time course, it’s after three months of doing it then you start growing your business for the next three months while you’re still in the program. I just like that IIN always creates a soft place to land while someone is completely changing their career path.
Now, I’ve heard something like 50% of graduates don’t go on to become health coaches. They did it purely for their own personal growth, which I can totally see doing that or to augment it or just bring tools to what they already do. So about half of the graduates do go on to become health coaches, and many of them then want to start their own business. There are so many mediums, like you said. You could become a content creator, write a book, do social media, work for a hospital, or work for a clinic. I know so many clinics now where they have a health coach with a chiropractor, with a doctor because it’s looking at the person as a whole.
There are a lot of opportunities out there, whereas I don’t think 15 years ago it didn’t even exist then, even 10 years ago. There are so many more opportunities now. I heard Joshua say about two years ago, he said that this is the number one growing field in the health space.
[00:52:39] Jim Curtis: Coaching is, if you look at the jobs report, one of the number one growing professions. We’ve transcended just health. It’s like, okay, coaching is something that people want to do, why? It’s because people are looking for a purpose in their lives. This allows you to make a great living while serving something greater than you, and that is other people serving a bigger purpose. That’s changing the health of the really sick United States. Although we’re in 175 countries, the United States is the most ill of 133 million people suffering from diabetes or obesity. It’s a place that really needs health coaches and so in demand.
We talk about all the different things health coaches can do, and I always say set up multiple revenue streams, meaning see some clients directly one-on-one. Work part time. There are so many tech companies now hiring health coaches like Wellory or Kensho, wellness centers like The Well or even hospitals like Cleveland Clinic. Mark Hyman says he only hires health coaches from IIN, same with Frank Lippmann hires IIN health coaches. There are many different ways, many revenue streams, we say, as a health coach that you can become really financially stable doing what you love and something good for the world.
[00:54:10] Ashley James: I love it. I love it. Are there any testimonials that you feel really connected to? You say that people write in all the time. Maybe in terms of the business training that you give, do you have a testimonial that you feel you’ve earned because you’ve had a direct impact on the lives of the students?
[00:54:37] Jim Curtis: You know, we have so many of them. I just read a three-page testimonial yesterday about a woman who started IIN during a really difficult time because her daughter was diagnosed with cancer. She was ill, she was having trouble with what she was doing and her finances, and she knew she had to make some changes. She wrote literally a three-page letter about IIN and how it really gave direction and opened the doors that she took that changed the rest of her life. I hear that so often. We put them up on our site and we have thousands of people commenting on Trustpilot and that kind of thing.
But even when I just interviewed some of these folks that have become superstars like Melissa Wood or the founders of Sakara Life, I could name even Bobbi Brown cosmetics, they talk about how IIN was really the jumping-off point that allowed their lives to change. They dedicated themselves to this study, and by opening that door, it opened up so many other doors. Whether it was in their career or in their health.
I wish I had them in front of me to read, but we have our admissions reps who are all IIN graduates and we go over every week, who did you speak with? Because we’d love to hear the stories. We have women that are grandmothers, they’re in their 80s. During the pandemic, their daughters and their grandchildren came to live with them and she took the course because she wanted to make sure that she was cooking right for them. She was into wellness, she had retired, and she wanted something to do. I love that story.
There was one woman who had diabetes and she lost her fingers due to diabetes. Her daughter had juvenile diabetes and she’s like, okay, this stops here. I’m not going to see my daughter lose her fingers. She started the course. And then sometimes you see families go in together like mother and daughter to take the course together. Guess what, we even have some guys now. We have a lot more doctors and a lot more people from sports. We have Olympic athletes, we have ex-NFLers, and we have a lot more men signing on. Before it was 100% women and now it’s about 90% women. Even guys are getting into this a little bit.
[00:57:18] Ashley James: That’s funny because the person I interviewed when I first learned about IIN, it was on my show. It was the first year I was doing my show and I interviewed a graduate of IIN. He was talking about how he reversed his ADHD that he had had since he was a kid with food. At the time, honestly, I was really skeptical of this title health coach. I thought it was hokey. I thought anyone called themselves a health coach. I had no idea, I had no concept as to what it was. I asked him in the interview where did he learn from? He told me about IIN and I signed up that day after the interview.
I talked to my husband. I mean, it’s a major commitment, right? For me it was a year-long commitment, it’s a financial commitment. But after that I called Juliet, I had a few conversations with her. I picked through the website—super impressed by all of the visiting teachers. I was like, oh my gosh, these are all the people I look up to and learn from anyway. I love these people. I read their books. I watch their YouTube videos. I talked to my husband, he was like, why are you still talking to me? Go, sign up. Start, do it. I was just in love with the program.
But it’s so funny how that morning I woke up and health coaching wasn’t on my radar. When I heard the word, I don’t know, I poo-pooed it because I didn’t know what it was and so I thought it was hokey. By the end of the day, I’m like, yes, I’m becoming a health coach. This is amazing. It was so funny.
[00:58:51] Jim Curtis: That’s awesome. At one time, chiropractic and acupuncture were considered hokey too, and then insurance started covering it, it became more accessible to people, and they saw the real benefits from it. That’s what’s happening with health coaching right now as well.
[00:59:05] Ashley James: Right. Has there been any traction in terms of insurance covering graduates of IIN?
[00:59:14] Jim Curtis: Well, it’s in the process. Right now, one insurance is called CPT Codes. It’s in the code process where they’re collecting data. They will make the case that health coaching increases health outcomes. And then from there, they submit for coverage. So that usually takes a couple of years and it’s been a year and a half in. IIN, unlike any other school, has lobbyists in DC that are working on healthcare bills and getting health coaching inserted into those bills, and we’re making real progress.
We’re, as a company, just trying to move it in general. We’re not setting up an online training with videos just so that we can make money. We’re trying to change the health of the world, and that includes hiring lobbyists and people that work for the company to represent health coaches in DC, in government, and move the insurance process forward. So it’s happening.
[01:00:19] Ashley James: I hope my listeners now understand. This is why I was excited to have you on the show because it’s not just a company that wants to make money off of you. When you look at other companies like I look at Amazon, you feel like they’re just like, give me your wallet. Just give me your wallet. You get convenience out of it, but there really doesn’t feel like there’s this huge humanitarian effort behind it. Whereas when you look at IIN, you guys want to change the world, and you’re doing it and you’re working on it.
I know that when I first signed up that night, I have a really clear memory of watching the first modules crying tears of joy. My mirror neurons were just firing. I felt the oxytocin and the sense of connection and community as Joshua was starting the whole year. There’s a huge audience. Even though I’m watching a video, I felt like I was in that audience. I’m brought back to that moment just crying because I felt like this is it. We are here to make a difference in the world. This is my mission and I am on this path with all these people.
Every graduate, whether they go on to be a health coach or not, they are part of that ripple that wants to make a difference in this world. That is so exciting to be part of this bigger picture together as a collective moving forward, having this common goal of helping people live happier, healthier lives in all aspects of their life. I would just love it if we could take the model that IIN uses and duplicate it for all companies in the world.
In closing, I’d love for you to share—you’ve been with so many companies. You started companies, you’ve been with major, major companies, and what’s the difference? When you first walked into it IIN, walked into the building, what is the sense, the ambiance of IIN versus all the other businesses that you’ve worked with?
[01:02:33] Jim Curtis: Well, people really feel a responsibility. Everybody feels a responsibility, meaning the content they create, the people that we partner with, everybody is really concerned with, does this fit the mission? There’s nothing that we launch, partner with, teacher that comes on, or even if we’re writing something that’s about staff picks because the staff may love some products and we want to communicate them. There has to be a group consensus, meaning, is this to the benefit of the people that we’re talking to? Does this give a holistic view of it? Does it pertain to bio-individuality?
People really feel that they can make a difference in the product and that their view matters because it does because everybody here has a health coach. So it’s really important that we’re living up to what we teach. It’s a business. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes we’re working really hard hours and we’re hitting deadlines. It’s for-profit for sure, so we have to be financially healthy just like our health coaches do. But what’s different here is that there is real care and concern, it’s not just a job, and that to me means everything.
[01:04:09] Ashley James: That is so cool. I love it. Thank you so much, Jim Curtis, for coming on the show and sharing about IIN. I know there’s a lot in the hopper, and I know that there’s a lot we can’t talk about, but is there anything you can talk about future projects that are in the hopper?
[01:04:25] Jim Curtis: Stay tuned. There’s more coming, that’s what I’ll say. There’s definitely more coming from IIN that will blow your socks off, just stay tuned.
[01:04:33] Ashley James: Yeah, I’m really excited and I’m bummed we can’t talk about it. But like you said, stay tuned, it’s happening soon. I’m very excited. Now, listeners can go to learntruehealth.com/coach. That takes them to a page where they can get a free module from IIN. They can check it out and get a feel for the training. I recommend listeners do that. Jim, is there anything you’d like to say to wrap up today’s interview?
[01:04:57] Jim Curtis: Well, I just want to say, thank you so much. I’m proud of you as a student that’s doing so many amazing things and inspiring so many people on the platform that you’ve built. It’s really impressive, and thanks for having me on.
[01:05:10] Ashley James: Awesome. Well, thanks for coming on. I know you’re super busy. You’re doing really great work. I’m very proud of IIN. Again, I keep saying that this is the model I wish all other businesses were, but could you imagine if all for-profit businesses looked at the ecology of their community, their customers, and the planet? Ecology means that it’s healthy, that it takes everything into account, right? If any company, if a farm, let’s say, said is this ecological for us to spray this on the food versus do a different kind of farming that doesn’t require any chemical. If every company really started with, is this an ecological decision for my community, for my employees, for the planet?
Can you imagine if Amazon took into account the health of their employees and the health of their customers, how different would this world be? And so I love that IIN really for me, yes, it’s a for-profit company and that’s exactly what I want it to be because I want it to be the example that all other companies should look to to see that there can be a profitable business that takes care of its employees and its customers and looks to make the world a better place.
Thank you so much for being part of this project, and I can’t wait to see what IIN can create in the future. I’m thrilled that you guys are shaping the health industry. There’ll be a day when insurance will pay for someone to see an IIN grad. And that level of satisfaction, growth, happiness, and balance that that person receives and it’ll all be because of the money that you guys invested in lobbying and that you guys invested in marketing. So I thank you for all the work that you’re doing now that’s going to have such a profound impact for generations to come.
[01:07:01] Jim Curtis: Thanks. I appreciate that.
[01:07:04] Ashley James: I hope you enjoyed today’s interview about IIN and looking behind the scenes, learning more about the health coaching training program. If you’d like to check out the sample class, go to learntruehealth.com/coach and check it out.
If you have any questions for me, feel free to reach out to me you can join the Learn True Health Facebook group. We have dozens of health coaches in the Learn True Health Facebook group, probably hundreds now. We’re almost at 4,000 members. It’s a really amazing group of holistic-minded people. You can come in and ask questions and get a lot of fantastic feedback from me and from all the other people out there as well, the community, the listeners have joined the group. Several guests actually have joined the group and like sharing and helping out as well.
But if you have any questions about IIN, you can ask it in the Facebook group, and not only will you hear from me, but you’ll also hear from a lot of listeners who’ve graduated from the program and have gone on to help their friends and family, have built careers around it. There are also people who are already in the health business in some capacity and used it just to grow their tool belt. You can use it as a launching pad to completely change your career path and start a new one, or if you’re already on a career path, you can use these tools to aid yourself.
What I love about this episode though is this idea that we could take this model and we could replicate it for every business to flourish, to grow. Imagine if every business’s number one priority along with income, along with profit, right? Every business wants profit. But imagine if they said, okay, we want to make a profit and we want to take care of our employees as much as we value taking care of our customers.
Could you imagine how better this world would be if profit, taking care of customers, and taking care of the staff was equally as important? Because the staff who feel taken care of then, in turn, takes care of the client, the customer better and takes care of the company better. Everyone’s healthier, everyone’s happier. I just think that this is such a needed thing. That’s why I love interviewing staff to learn more about IIN’s business model.
Thank you so much for listening to this show. Thank you so much for sharing it with your friends. Come join the Learn True Health Facebook group. I’d love to hear from you. And again, check out the sample class. It’s awesome, learntruehealth.com/coach. Have a fantastic rest of your day.
Go to TakeYourSupplements.com to speak with a holistic health coach so you can get on the right nutrient protocol for your needs and health goals!
Join the Online Addiction Reset Community: https://www.processedfoodaddiction.com
Free evidence-based handouts:
Food Addiction Books: www.foodaddictionbooks.com
Food Addiction Reset: www.foodaddictionreset.com
Dr. Joan Ifland is a food addiction expert and the lead editor and author of the textbook, Processed Food Addiction: Foundations, Assessment, and Recovery. She has helped thousands of people overcome their food addiction and recover from diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, depression, fatigue, isolation, and obesity. In this episode, Joan explains what food addiction is, how it affects people’s lives with food addiction, and what you can do to overcome it.
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[00:02:24] Ashley James: Welcome to the Learn True Health podcast. I’m your host, Ashley James. This is episode 471. I’m so excited for today’s guest. We have Dr. Joan Ifland on the show who has groundbreaking research in how to recover from food addiction. She’s designed a program that helps people with severe processed food addiction overcome that. What I really like, Joan, is that you mentioned that those who have food addiction have been severely disrespected in the media, even from certain therapies. It’s a not well-understood addiction, it has a really negative stigma, and people feel a lot of shame and guilt about their food addiction. I’m really excited for you today to unpack what is food addiction.
It’s such a strange thing to me because we have to eat, right? You don’t have to drink alcohol. You don’t have to smoke cigarettes. You don’t have to do heroin, but we have to eat. To have such day-to-day, moment-to-moment struggle with the internal desire for food, that hunger that never goes away, and all the body shame around that really eats the person alive. And then to feel like they can’t get any help because there’s such a stigma around it.
I love the work that you do. You’re making such headway in this field, and I’m looking forward today for you to share some tools and for us to dive into this. I think that there are degrees of food addiction and there are degrees of recovery. And so I hope that for all listeners who have caught themselves realizing that for whatever part of the spectrum they’re on in their recovery or in food addiction, that they’re able to gain a foothold, some healing today, and some tools that they can take away and continue to grow. So welcome to the show.
[00:05:00] Dr. Joan Ifland: Yay. Thank you. Wow, that was the best introduction. Well done. You’re very clear on the issues and the context in which these issues have developed. Well done. Well done.
[00:05:16] Ashley James: I want to start by saying that this topic is no stranger to me. I watched my father struggle with food addiction. I watched my mother and I don’t know what flavor of food addiction she had, but she definitely had body shame, body issues. She was always dieting. It was like the last 15 pounds to lose. My mother was never overweight, but there was a lot of control around food. Then she would binge red jujubes and that was her secret. She would eat almost nothing. She would have almost nothing and then she would maybe eat handfuls of red jujubes.
She believed low fat, so she bought into, okay, I’m going to grill a chicken breast and I’m going to have half a cup of broccoli and that’s my lunch. She believed that any starch was really unhealthy, so she would yell at me if we were at a restaurant and I ordered a fish with a side of rice. She did this one. She stood up at the restaurant and yelled at me. I was about 12 and she shamed me and yelled at me because I ordered rice. I mean, in her mind, she was so afraid that if you ate starch that you would get fat.
So I grew up in this very controlling, food was very controlled, and she had a lot of emotion and upset around it. And then my dad on the other hand, snuck food and was always up and down 100 pounds and just yo-yoing. And then for me, I really have seen that food, and I don’t gravitate towards processed food because I’ve learned it’s so not healthy for me and for anyone, but for me, I have worked on the emotions around food, around binge eating, overeating, and food addiction. I’ve been working on that for years.
I’ve seen people who are sort of worse off than me and people who are better off, and like I said, that’s what I feel it’s a spectrum. I feel that even someone who seemingly looks healthy could have a food addiction. Just like any addiction, in my experience—I’d love for you to fill in the details—we go towards an addiction, for that dopamine, for that sense of control, and that sense of relief. It’s a stress relief that dopamine in the brain. It is a coping mechanism, but it’s also like our blanket, our Binky, something that comforts us when we’re in high stress and it gives us that relief.
What I’d love to dive in and find out, what starts food addiction? Why do some people go towards heroin and don’t have a food addiction and other people have food addiction? What is it about the people that end up with food addiction, why didn’t they end up with heroin addiction? It’s such a different thing.
[00:08:48] Dr. Joan Ifland: This is a really, really great way to start the interview. I do want to say I’m sorry for the modeling and the behavior of your parents. But it does answer your opening question, which is how the heck do we get this? You got it from your parents, the processed food industry, the health industry, and the diet industry. They all contribute to the development of processed food addiction in different ways.
But let me start out with mechanics. So what is actually going on in the brain? This is a great gift that brain imaging technology has given us is an understanding of what’s going on in the brain. Because prior to a clear understanding of the mechanics, these brain cells are hyperactive, these brain cells are not active. Prior to that, people made up stories about addictions. This person was weak-willed. If they just had more willpower, they’d be able to conquer it. They don’t like themselves, they lack self-control, or they’re even immoral.
So all these stories about addicted people have sprung up, and none of them are true. None of them are true at all. It’s simple in concept and thousands of complexities in implementation for recovery, but the concept is quite simple, and it happens in stages.
So step one is the reward system brain cells are taught through Pavlovian conditioning to explode with feel-good neurotransmitters. How do you teach a cell to explode with feel-good neurotransmitters? You ingest substances that cause those cells to explode. Literally flood the brain with enough craving neurotransmitters to control behavior, and that is the key to everything. Once we have addicted brain cells and they are putting out this flood of neurotransmitters, that alone is capable of controlling behavior.
So those neurotransmitters go over to the motion center, the behavior center in the brain, latch on to the behavior of brain cells, and you are going to get the substance. So here’s what is not happening is the frontal lobe which is where rational thought lives—
[00:12:03] Ashley James: Yeah, where’s the frontal lobe in any of this?
[00:12:07] Dr. Joan Ifland: So the blood flow has been pulled off to the addicted brain cells and the frontal lobe is not firing. It’s literally not firing, so all the good things that you’ve learned, the determinations, all that stuff is not available. It’s like that part of your computer has crashed. There’s no data in, there’s no data out, and there’s certainly no control.
Well, here’s the next step then. Anything associated with those substances is actually more powerful in being able to trigger the addicted brain cells. Maybe you have a friend and you go and you get addictive substances with that friend. That friend is now what’s called an associative cue, an associative trigger. That just seeing that friend can set those addicted brain cells off to creating this flood of cravings.
In the case of processed foods, there are so many different substances that all four of the major feel-good reward pathways have become addicted. So that’s dopamine, serotonin, opiate, and cannabinoid. This is one of the reasons why this particular addiction is so hard to give up.
And then the other piece of it is that the processed food industry was really taken over by big tobacco in the mid-1980s. They have an addiction business model. They deliberately train those feel-good pathways to become reactive to cueing, so you associate processed foods with everything because they’re everywhere. They’re at your school, they’re at your faith organization, they’re at your workplace. They’re all over your house. Hopefully not anymore, but they’re on the road. They’re on TV. They’re everywhere.
You are constantly, by association, being stimulated to release those craving brain chemicals. If they build up enough, they will get control of behavior. That’s how you get an addiction. This substance is ingested, the substance causes this eruption, and then you begin to get the cued eruption. You’re not using the substance, but you have an association with it, and that starts setting off this flood that controls behavior. Let me just stop there. Does that help?
[00:15:15] Ashley James: That’s great and I have questions. When you said there’s an associated person, but that’s like the Pavlovian trigger, the anchor. It could also be a location. It could be smells. It can be marketing like you see the brands, you see the logo, or the box. o for me, location. I think back to a location where I would have ingested a substance that causes all of the feel-good or chemicals to go off. Then just even thinking about being back in that location for me.
It could be music if music was playing at the time of the heightened—so maybe not everyone knows what the Pavlovian response is. It’s when you’re at a heightened emotional state and there’s another stimulus around, your brain will then anchor those two together. A song is playing when you’re in a heightened state, the next time that song plays it will trigger that heightened state, not as much but it will trigger it enough for you to think back and maybe start wanting that again.
My husband said something very interesting. He goes, the first time you do—I’m just going to say substance because it could be drugs, alcohol. Whatever the substance is, the first time you do it is not as good as the next time or the time after. He did a substance, let’s say it’s a chocolate chip cookie or whatever the substance was, he did it and he loved it so much. Then he did it 20 more times throughout a few months trying to chase that high and he said it was never as good as the first time.
Can you explain why is it that the first time is amazing and then we tend to try to chase that high of maybe in our memory it feels like it’s so amazing and then we get disappointed? I ate a chocolate chip cookie and it’s like, wow, this wasn’t as good as that other time. I’m going to keep trying to find the chocolate cookie that brings back that first time.
[00:17:38] Dr. Joan Ifland: You’re asking a super excellent question. Let me elaborate on the first part of what you just said, and then I’ll go into the kind of diminishing return. Why is it that the brain so easily picks up these associative cues? People, places, things, time of year, time of day? Why?
It’s because if you believe in evolution, every time a human for 7 million years found food, the brain would mark every, every, every, every detail of that moment because a year later with no ability to record anything, just relying on memory, that human would have to find that place again at that time of year and maybe even at that time of day. If for example it was maybe an egg and you needed to go up and get the eggs when the parent birds were off foraging.
The brain timestamps every, every, every detail, and this is also true for addictions because these foods are not food. The sugar, flour, gluten, excessive salt, dairy, processed fats, caffeine, food additives, the brain is not registering those as food. They’re registering them as addictive drugs, but addictive drugs timestamping works the same way.
If you were a human a million years ago and you found food, your brain would timestamp every, every detail of that moment. The weather, the plants, the mountains, the path, the location of the stream, the time of day, who’s with you, the terrain, the soil, every, every detail so that you could find it again in a year with no ability to record any detail of it. So it’s every detail.
I mean, you may think, oh, it could be a color, it could be anything, the brain will just look at every, every detail. And then, of course, the food industry exploits that by putting those associative cues in front of people all the time. Okay, so I just wanted to reinforce exactly what you were saying.
Now, why are there diminishing returns? This is called tolerance or progression. There are two easy things to understand. One is when the brain has had a big an over like an abnormal amount of anything, there is a counteracting emotion. When the feel-good pathways have had this extraordinary flood, the counteracting motion is for the stress pathway to release stress.
It’s called the corticotropin-releasing factor pathway, and it sends messages to the adrenal glands to release cortisol, create some stress, and put the brain back into balance. That part of the brain also gets trained to respond, and it will respond sooner and sooner and sooner as it picks up the Pavlovian conditioning. That’s one reason why there is a diminishing return.
The other reason is that the way two neurons, two brain cells communicate is across a gap called a synapse. The way it works is cell number one releases the neurotransmitter. Cell number two has a receptor. In the case of the reward pathways, the receptor is a C-shaped receptor, so the neurotransmitter actually hits like a ball into a C.
What happens over time because those receptors are not designed to maintain that level of bombardment, the first time it happens, all of the neurotransmitters hit the receptors and the pleasure is transmitted through the nervous system. But the second time, the body is saying no, no, no, no, we cannot tolerate this amount of excitement, pleasure. We’re not designed to do that.
The brain will start to shut down receptors to prevent that surge. Over time, it just shuts down more and more and more and more. This is why you don’t get the pleasure from it, but you continue to pursue it because if you stop, then only the stress pathways are active and it hurts. It hurts to stop. That is withdrawal. That’s how we know that this is drugs.
People continue to use processed foods. This could take months or years. At some point, you’re not getting any pleasure out of it at all. There are so many receptors that are shut down. We actually see this on PET scans, Positron Emission Tomography scans, where a healthy person has these bright red dopamine receptor fields. Obese people don’t have them and cocaine-addicted people don’t have them. It’s one of our strongest pieces of evidence that this is drug addiction, and it doesn’t really have anything to do with eating.
Just like the tobacco industry hid nicotine in cigarettes and addicted people by hiding the addictive substance. Once tobacco came into processed foods, they hired a consultant, Howard Moskowitz, to hide the maximum amount of sugar, fat, and salt in foods before people could detect it. It’s just diabolical, but none of it was our fault.
In the progression, you feel worse and worse and worse, the depression and anxiety are increasing, but it’s increasing in response to the substances, to the mechanical almost like an allergic reaction now. You have this big flood of neurochemicals being released. There are fewer and fewer neurotransmitter receptors to send the message and you’re still having this stress reaction. So people’s emotional profiles just fall apart.
[00:24:43] Ashley James: A few years ago I was reading a study that talked about these PET scans. The TLDR was people who are not obese don’t think about food, they don’t really get pleasure from thinking about food or planning it, but when they eat, they actually receive pleasure. Those who had obesity or food addiction spent a lot of time thinking about and planning their next meal and planning their next snack and really getting stimulated. The pleasure center’s getting stimulated over thinking about it. But then when they went to eat, it was so disappointing.
Kind of like porn addiction, fantasy is better than reality and I thought that was fascinating. Is there a way to reverse it? Is there a way to reverse it so that those who have a food addiction and also cocaine addiction that those centers of the brain aren’t lighting up anymore? Is there a way to heal the brain and come back from this?
[00:25:55] Dr. Joan Ifland: Yes. What you have to do is give the whole system a big rest. You have to stop stimulating it. Now if for alcohol or cocaine addiction, you avoid the cues. So you avoid the people that you used with and you don’t drive past the crack house, find another way. This is part of the complexity of recovering from processed food addiction is it’s everywhere.
You have two pathways. One is to avoid the cueing and two is to neutralize cues. You can rewire the brain to associate the substances with pain and people are more driven by pain aversion than they are by pleasure-seeking. This is great research coming out of the economics field.
In our programs, we encourage people to come into the program and talk about a lapse so that they can then immediately associate the pain with it. There’s a lot of pain from processed foods—physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral. It’s quite destructive. It’s just as destructive. It looks very different, but it’s just as destructive as any drug addiction.
The name of the game is to train the brain that when you think about that food you think about the headaches, stomachache, screaming at your children, fatigue, not able to sleep, racing thoughts, intense cravings, breaking out of the skin, stomach ache, asthma, inflammatory properties, infections, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Processed foods attack cell function in eight different ways. There are 144 conditions associated by research with processed foods. It’s not hard to come up with a very long list of things that go haywire when you eat processed foods.
Let me go back to something that you started out saying, Ashley, we have to eat. That would be saying to an alcoholic, well, figure out how to use alcohol because you have to drink. No. We all know how to divide the world of beverages into safe and alcoholic, non-alcoholic and alcohol, and then there’s really a third category, which is the druggie sugared beverages.
We do the same thing with food. We have safe unprocessed foods and then we have addictive processed foods. It is the processing that concentrates natural endorphins in the food to the point where they’re strong enough to train these reward centers to release craving neurotransmitters.
[00:29:13] Ashley James: Is there a particular diet that helps us heal the brain faster or the fastest diet that doesn’t overstimulate the pleasure centers?
[00:29:30] Dr. Joan Ifland: Yeah. If it’s okay if I mention a website.
[00:29:35] Ashley James: Sure.
[00:29:36] Dr. Joan Ifland: Processedfoodaddiction.com and just sign up for the free information and you will get to two lists. One is the excluded food list. This is based on research. I wrote and edited the textbook for the field, Processed Food Addiction: Foundations, Assessment, and Recovery. I wrote the whole food plan chapter in that textbook. It’s based on 250 studies. We know—the research is clear—that there’s a whole range of addictive substances that have been added to our food or just presented through advertising that they are food. They’re not food, they’re drugs.
It’s just like the tobacco industry was able to persuade us that cigarettes are sexy. Cigarettes are disgusting and repulsive. Cigarettes are rebellious. No, they’re killing you. Or that they’re sophisticated, they’re modern, or any of those things. They’re none of those things. So these are fantasies that the tobacco companies created in order to get people to use the addictive substances often enough to create the conditioning of the reward centers.
They’ve done exactly the same thing with these drugs. They’ve created the delusion that they are food. They’re not food. They’re just not food. We do have the excluded list, and then we have the clean list. Now inside our programs, we teach people a rotation method to figure out which foods on the unprocessed list are harmful to that individual.
There’s not a food plan. My food plan is completely different from anybody else’s food plan. I’m 70 years old. When I was 44 almost 26 years ago, I had a completely different food plan. The commonality from all these food plans is a highly individualized personalized food plan is they don’t have drugs in them.
Step one is to get the drugs out of your food and step two is to use a rotation method to see if you’re allergic to any of the unprocessed foods. I can’t eat the nightshade group, I can’t eat the citrus group, and I can’t eat the gourds—the melons, zucchini, and squash. I can’t. Those are just three groups. I have had lifelong asthma and they kick up my asthma, so I don’t eat them.
[00:32:34] Ashley James: And for others, the symptoms might be not as obvious. Figuring out your food sensitivities is a fun game. You could benefit from working with an experienced naturopathic physician or functional medicine practitioner. There’s also evidence that suggest that leaky gut syndrome, which of course we can definitely develop from eating processed foods and particularly gluten, grains, barley, wheat, rye, and even oats, which contain gliadin similar to gluten. That causes leaky gut syndrome, which increases food sensitivities and the body overreacts to certain foods.
Healing the gut and also the microbiome, and I have several episodes on that. Listeners could go to learntruehealth.com and use the search function to find them, but several interviews on healing the microbiome of the gut and healing leaky gut syndrome. There are ways to support the body in overcoming some food sensitivities, but then others are baked into the cake like for you, you’ve noticed that nightshades do not complement your physiology and so you avoid them.
I think it’s really important to also listen to the body because problems with sleep, problems with concentration, mood swings, and even skin problems all can be from foods that we’re having sensitivities towards. But my big thing is whole foods. If it came from the ground or if it’s the whole form it’s not processed, and therefore, it’s much more likely to not trigger the hyper response that processed foods are designed to like designer drugs, right?
[00:34:30] Dr. Joan Ifland: Yes, exactly, exactly, exactly. This is a business model that is used by alcohol, marijuana, vaping, tobacco, and processed foods. Even the pharmaceutical industry used it to start the opioid epidemic. The way they marketed it to doctors, very deceptive, were hidden addictive properties to the product, which they did not tell the doctors about so the doctors prescribed it freely and people became very addicted. It’s very, very sad. It’s very sad. Our government just stands by and lets it happen.
[00:35:13] Ashley James: No, the government actually invests in it but through food subsidies. We’re subsidizing crops that directly benefit the processed food industry. Not only that, the processed food industry lobbies so that these foods are fed to prisoners and to children in schools. I cannot even begin to wrap my brain around when you look at what public school children are fed, the amount of processed food they are fed, the amount of sugar, and then they’re given drugs for ADHD. It is just like the perfect storm.
Big food and big pharma got together and said, let’s both work together to lobby to increase our profits. Let’s fill children with sugar and with artificial dyes, and then we’ll create a drug that they need because they’re going to be so hyper off the wall because their brains are being put on a barbecue. They’re putting them in the deep fryer, basically. Their brains are so hopped up on all these excitotoxins and all the neurotransmitters that are so hyped up it’s like they’re on cocaine and then we’re going to have to give them drugs.
When I was a kid, in a classroom of 30 kids, there’d be one kid with ADHD. One kid was on Ritalin, and now it is so much more common. These children’s brains are still developing and to put them on these drugs will affect them for the rest of their lives. The long-term devastating effects of being put on Ritalin or Adderall is incredibly harmful to a growing child. Food is the main culprit.
[00:37:06] Dr. Joan Ifland: Processed foods.
[00:37:07] Ashley James: The processed foods, I apologize. Yes, processed foods are the culprit that is creating this. I have several episodes on ADHD and overcoming it, healing the brain, healing the body, and correcting the diet for ADHD. We have to get the 30,000-foot view and we have to study the history of the last 100 years to really understand the amount of marketing, the creation of what we live in today.
I’ve said this on the show before, so I grew up in the ‘80s. I was born in 1980. I’m 41 years old, and I grew up in Canada. So a little bit different than the states, but not much. I remember watching Kellogg’s commercial, “Milk does a body good,” watching Tony the Tiger, and all these different childlike characters for all the different cereals and it made me feel good. Now, I never ate any of these cereals because my mom wouldn’t let any sugar in the house. My mom was very controlling of our food. It did have its benefits.
Once a year, on my birthday, I was allowed to eat whatever I wanted and you bet I ate cereal. I ate Honeycomb even though it tore my mouth up. I remember that. But once a year I was allowed to have Pizza Pops and whatever junk food, but the rest of the year there was no junk food. That’s a good thing. It’s a good thing, but I think that there needs to be a balance to teach a child how to make their own choices so they don’t rebel when they’re older like I did.
I remember watching the marketing and then going into the grocery store and seeing it on the shelves. You know what it instilled in me although I never ate them? It instilled in me a sense of safety. I remember because I grew up with all this marketing and then I walk past all these cereal boxes. Oh, the familiar faces. Look, there’s that rooster. There’s that little ghost character. There’s Tony the Tiger. It was like all these familiar faces, the branding.
You see these companies, the tobacco companies, they don’t just mark it for the next 5 or 10 years. They are generational marketing. They plan on paying for marketing so that a four-year-old will buy their products when they’re 40. When you said that we have to take ourselves away from the stimulant and choose foods that aren’t going to create that stimulant but also just walk into a grocery store alone, you’re bombarded by all the logos even from your childhood.
[00:40:04] Dr. Joan Ifland: We have innovated a very, very new approach to this particular addiction. We get it deep, deep, deep down on the inside to spend three years full-time developing, editing, writing, and researching the textbook. There are two things I got out of doing that. One, we’ve never had such a severe addiction on the face of the earth because there are so many different substances, because we’re being bombarded with cueing because the illnesses to develop are so debilitating.
But you hit on the thing that’s never really happened before. Once high fructose corn syrup was introduced to the market, the drugs could be cheap enough to be marketed heavily to children. So if you are born to parents using processed foods, the very first DNA replication will be of an addicted DNA strand, and you’d never have one minute. If your mother’s eating sugar, the sugar’s coming through the breast milk. If they’re not, then the baby formula industry has loaded sugar into baby formula, so it starts at a very young age.
There are many complications of that. The blood flow is being pulled to the addicted brain cells and away from their frontal lobe. So all the major frontal lobe functions are now impaired, and that includes being able to pay attention, learn, make decisions, control impulses, and remember. So you see these epidemics of impairment in those areas.
[00:41:54] Ashley James: Can we pause for a second? Can you go back? I think that just really is something that needs to be underlined. What are the functions of the brain that are impaired?
[00:42:05] Dr. Joan Ifland: The whole frontal lobe is not getting blood flow. The very highly specialized cells in the frontal lobe that distinguish us from animals are things like the ability to pay attention to something for a long time. That’s not getting any blood flow. That’s an attention deficit. Learning is in the frontal lobe. This is very different from just mechanical Pavlovian conditioning of the midbrain or the primitive brain, so you have learning difficulties.
Here’s the thing, if I’m going to assert that this is a very, very widespread addiction, then you have to show things. You have to show an agent who’s creating the addiction. Okay, we have the processed food industry and we have the complicity of the government. You’re absolutely right if you say big pharm. You have the blood flow being pulled away from the frontal lobe where you have attention paying. You have decision-making, and this is different from the reflexive behaviors that come out of the midbrain.
The frontal lobe is able to create conscious behavior if those cells have blood flow, but in the addicted brain, the blood flow is going back into the addicted brain cells, the stress pathways, and the locomotion pathways.
If you don’t have good decision-making, which we see rampantly, you don’t have impulse control and you don’t have memory. Those are all frontal lobe functions, so you have an epidemic of Alzheimer’s and you have an epidemic of poor impulse control. I know I went into kind of the “online basement” of the US Department of Agriculture to write. Our research team published the first description of refined foods in addiction in the Academic Press. We got to name the disease.
But for that article, I said, I’ve got to show exactly which substances were increased in use through the obesity epidemic. I think I went to like 1970 and 1997, and these substances that were increased in use were high fructose corn syrup, gluten-containing flour, high-fat dairy, and potatoes, so frozen potatoes, french fries, fried potatoes. Beans did not increase, red meat did not increase, none of those real foods increased.
They’re always trying to point, oh, see, carbs are bad or red meat is bad. No, no, the consumption of those did not increase in between those two years. If I’m going to say that processed food addiction is behind these cognitive impairments, this mental impairment, I’ve got to make all those pieces fit together and they do. The research is just incredibly consistent. If you say, well, these foods are causing the problems, then you better be pointing at epidemics of those problems.
At that point, in 1997, people were eating a pound per person per day of sugars, gluten-containing flour, high fat dairy, and fried potatoes. That was then. As we were just talking, the progression, the tolerance eating more of the substances over time, that data is from 20 years ago. Now we have new research actually coming out of Canada, showing that adolescents are eating 67% of their calories in these processed foods, and that probably doesn’t include dairy. People don’t know to include dairy in the category of processed foods.
If you’re going to say that processed foods caused these problems, then you’re going to have to point to epidemics of those problems at that consumption level, and there they are. There are the epidemics—diabetes, heart disease, stroke, obesity, Alzheimer’s, dementia, learning disabilities, attention span, poor decision making, poor impulse control, memory loss, and then all the rest of them you would have to see gut disorders. You would have to see inflammatory diseases, and they’re all there. They’re all epidemics.
[00:47:34] Ashley James: Everything that you mentioned makes them feel worse. This is the catch 22; this is the cycle, right? They feel bad because they have those conditions, and then they need that pick me up because they feel bad, so then they reach for one of these foods.
[00:47:52] Dr. Joan Ifland: It’s the insanity. It’s the mental illness aspect of it. You also have all the emotional disorders because of the downregulated—it’s called downregulated when those feel-good receptors start collapsing. They look like the head of a dead [inaudible 00:48:13]. Now you cannot process quick feelings. You see this very minuscule but very disturbing not yet statistically significant increase in suicides across all ages but among children.
[00:48:33] Ashley James: Yes. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among children today.
[00:48:39] Dr. Joan Ifland: It’s because their world, all the pathways in the brain that would bring reasons for optimism or some kind of future, has collapsed. It’s a mechanical problem, and so you have depression. Now you have all this extra adrenaline because remember, the stress pathways are compensating for these surges of euphoria. You have extra adrenaline, which is anger and anxiety. I got into this field 26 years ago because I got off of sugars and flours to solve a weight problem and my raging went away. I wasn’t expecting that.
The sinus infection went away. The bloating went away. The weight was coming off easily. The cravings went away. The brain fog went away. All that stuff went away and I was thrilled. The allergies went away, fatigue. It was amazing. It was like I was winning the lottery every day. But when I got to the third week of that program, I realized that I hadn’t raged at my husband or children. I hadn’t yelled, I hadn’t criticized, I hadn’t found anything wrong with them. I got a new career.
I was a Stanford MBA. I had a corporate career, which I had to let go of because I was too sick, too allergic to go back to work, too tired, too brain fog. But instead of going back into the corporate world, I began looking for research. That was 26 years ago. The impact on the personality of these drugs is horrifying.
[00:50:28] Ashley James: Sorry to interrupt, you describe my mom. Ninety percent of the time she ate so strictly because she had to keep her figure. But then she would sneak these jujubes, she’d sneak these chocolates, and then she’d just rage at us, just snapped.
Like I said, she stood up in a restaurant and started yelling at me because I ordered a dish that had a side of rice with steamed vegetables and a grilled fillet of fish. I purposely made this really conscious effort. I really wanted to impress her with making a good choice on the menu and then she just stood up and screamed at me. She would throw things. She would just snap and start raging. That does really describe that.
She had huge problems concentrating. I remember she couldn’t follow movies. She was wonderful as a businesswoman. She owned her own business. It was incredibly successful, so she had a lot on her mind. She admitted that when we went to plays or musicals, she couldn’t follow the plot. We watched movies, she didn’t really follow the plot, and she read all the time. I found her to be incredibly intelligent, but her concentration and her raging, I mean, I wonder if that was linked to her own food addiction.
[00:51:55] Dr. Joan Ifland: Totally. These are drugs. These are characteristic behaviors of people with cocaine addiction or alcoholism, these really vast mood swings. On top of the elevated adrenaline, these processed carbohydrates particularly get into the bloodstream all at once. They’re pre-digested, there’s no breaking down process. So you get these glucose highs, and then the pancreas can be conditioned to anticipate this surge of glucose in the bloodstream, which is deadly by the way.
If your glucose is too high, your brain goes out, so it’s deadly. The pancreas is on red hot alert, oh, it’s coming, It’s coming, it’s coming. It’ll start releasing insulin before the glucose even gets there so you constantly have these highs. And then in the crash, it’s the adrenal gland that goes back over to the fat cells and pulls glucose out so that you don’t die from low blood sugar.
There are two danger zones—the high blood sugar and the low blood sugar—and then there’s the safety zone in between. So when you are crashing, the insulin has been released and your blood sugar is falling, you totally lose control of behavior. Eighty percent of violent offenders in prison have hypoglycemia, not enough, so it’s unstable blood glucose. And then on top of that, you lay on the caffeine.
Caffeine works by blocking a calmness function on the nervous system. The part of the nervous system that is designed to emit messages of calmness, peacefulness, contentment, caffeine blocks that function. You can’t feel calm. Caffeine doesn’t work because you’re more alert. Caffeine works because you’re less calm. It’s a nasty combination.
[00:54:15] Ashley James: It blocks the part of the brain that tells you you’re tired. So your body is tired, but your brain’s not going to tell you you’re tired. It’s blocking the tiredness. I mean, that is just such a great example of our entire food industry, our entire processed food industry. It’s like, we’re going to jack you up. You wake up and you’re tired.
Okay. Dr. Molly Niedermeyer is a naturopathic physician. She was the Dean of Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University. I think she was one of the first deans. She’s been practicing for well over 30 years. I had her on the show and she said a 5% reduction in hydration leads to a 25% reduction in energy production. ATP can’t be created as well if we don’t have enough water. So we wake up dehydrated and what do we do?
We’re tired, we’re cranky because we had a bad night’s sleep because we’re rolling on the sugar highs and lows and all the stimulants from the processed foods, and so then we reach for caffeine. Caffeine dehydrates us further and blocks the ability for us to even recognize and get in touch with our body and feel that we’re that tired. Then what you said is it blocks the calmness in the brain, so now we’re more agitated, then add sugar to that and we rage.
[00:55:46] Dr. Joan Ifland: Exactly. It impairs, it just makes painfully dysfunctional every system in the body.
[00:56:01] Ashley James: We don’t have access to the logic centers of our brain anymore, so we can’t think critically. And then we go around our life reacting to things instead of planning and controlling our behaviors. If we control our behaviors, we control our outcomes in life. If we don’t have control of our behaviors, we don’t have control of our outcomes, we feel out of control, and then we reach towards substances that allow us to, at the moment, feel like we have control, which furthers the cycle.
[00:56:28] Dr. Joan Ifland: Feelings drive the whole thing and feelings are now being controlled by the substances. But can I offer your listeners a ray of hope?
[00:56:38] Ashley James: Yes. I’m glad we’ve painted the picture though. I think it’s really important to really understand that someone who is involved in food addiction and possibly even their parents, their grandparents, this could be generational. It’s not because, like you said, they’re weak-willed, they don’t love themselves enough, or there’s something wrong, bad, and shameful about them. Their brain chemistry has been hijacked by an industry, for some people, since birth.
[00:57:07] Dr. Joan Ifland: Since conception. There’s one system in the brain in the body which works no matter what. No matter what else is going on, this one system continues to work, and the fact that it continues to work will either kill you or save you. I am talking about mirror neurons.
They’re quite a recent discovery. It was discovered in a monkey lab in Italy. What they do is they copy. They copy the behavior of the people they see the most. They’re the second most powerful system in the brain. The most powerful system in the brain is the autonomic system, which is making our heartbeat and our blood flow. Then there is, under one particular circumstance, the fear of famine brain, the food-seeking brain will become more and more powerful than mirror neurons. There has to be a pretty severe famine going on for it to take precedence over mirror neurons.
So mirror neurons are the second most powerful system in the brain for a very good reason. For seven million years of human evolution, if you were accepted into a tribe of 7 to 12 other humans, you lived, you survived because they could find food, find shelter, protect your children, and protect you from predators. If you’re the kind of person who likes wandering off by yourself, well, the predators were waiting for you.
The evidence on this is kind of shocking. But in prehistoric hyena caves, anthropologists and archeologists have found human bones in the bone piles. So we know that at least hyenas ate humans. In evolution, if you had really good mirror neurons you would live. So in the evolution of humans, mirror neurons take just increasing precedence in the hierarchy of the brain.
Now, the food industry knows this tragically well, and this is why you will see commercials on TV that feature people sitting on sofas watching TV. When you see one of those commercials, your mirror neuron says, oh yeah, that’s my tribe. I’m going to the kitchen because I need something to eat.
The opportunity to get free of all of the brain malfunctions, all the brain dysfunction is to find a tribe of 7 to 12 people that you are going to spend most of your time with. This is the breakthrough that we have incorporated into our online community. We offer 15 hours a day of live programming. There is a real trained person on that Zoom screen. Because you can just pop in, you can pop in for five minutes, you can pop in for an hour, you can pop in for all 15 hours, and then you can fill in the gaps through the day with videos from our video library that we have made ourselves. And it’s pretty cool. I mean, it’s just so cool.
So hopeful is what a short period of time it takes for mirror neurons to swing away from the unhealthy people in our lives over to the healthy people. We are seeing that screens work perfectly well. Only 2% of the brain is the frontal lobe. The frontal lobe is teensy, teensy, teensy tiny. The frontal lobe cannot win in any kind of competition with any other nodules, nodes, cortexes in the brain. It’s too tiny. It’s way too tiny. But what the frontal lobe can do is it can control the messaging that reaches the other 98% of the brain, and that’s the hope of the world.
[01:01:53] Ashley James: Fascinating. So throughout the day, if someone is struggling or catching themselves in the middle of a food choice, they could login. What does that look like? They log into the group video chat. What does that look like?
[01:02:13] Dr. Joan Ifland: It’s a Zoom Room. We have a Zoom Room for those 15 hours. One of those hours is a conference call because then we can record the conference call. We don’t record anything on Zoom for confidentiality, but we do record the conference call. They can listen to that conference call then any time of day.
The idea for this came from writing the textbook. There are 11 specific signs for addiction and I wrote a full chapter on how present those signs are in overeaters. There are 11 chapters in the textbook describing each one of those diagnostic criteria as they manifest in overeating. They are criteria that are adapted from diagnosing the existence of alcoholism, so they’re adapted to overeating. That’s also on the processedfoodaddiction.com website.
Once I got that, oh, it’s a severe addiction. Oh my gosh. And people are severely traumatized by having had it, the addiction itself alone would be traumatizing. It creates so much pain. But then you get all this insanity out of the health industry. The diet industry is working away to wake up your fear of famine brain. Now you have fear of famine on top of the addiction. It’s another reason why it’s so severe. Well, I’m in the middle of researching what do you do for severe addiction?
You go to residential treatment for a couple of years. You go for a fully committed year and then you go maybe on a work-release program where you go to work during the day and then come back to the facility at night. And then maybe you go to a halfway house for another couple of years. We’re not doing that for the hundreds of millions of people who are addicted to processed foods.
The next level of treatment is something called intensive outpatient (IOP). Well, hospitals don’t have a clue and hospitals are profiting from this, so they don’t want to fix it either. I mean, they do, but the pharmaceutical industry has got their claws into the medical community. They’re trained to believe anything outside of the pharmaceutical is quackery, so they’re not going to be supporting this.
But right at that time, Zoom came along. Literally, I turned in the manuscript for the textbook in May of 2017. I was already doing a daily phone call, which wasn’t working. A daily phone call was not nearly enough to rewire 100 billion brain cells. I mean, I’m serious, you need to rewire every friggin’ brain cell, and there are 100 billion of them. Zoom came along and I thought, wow, I wonder if this would work.
We did a beta the first week of January 2018. These were people who had been on my daily phone call and they were all eating clean by the end of the week. They had not been able to get to eating clean going through withdrawal from all these different substances, maintaining the elimination of these. They hadn’t been able to do it with a daily phone call for two years. But boom, within one week, they were all eating clean.
I had scheduled a pay the public week the following week, same thing, same friggin’ thing. Even at the end of day one, everybody from the outside—so we had the people from the beta who were on and that. I didn’t know about mirror neurons at this point, but the fact that there were people eating clean from the week before, you need at least five people to fully engage brain cells. The more similarities between the people the better this works. But by the end of the first day, I think we had 7 or 10 people from the outside, they were all eating clean. I was shocked.
Ashley, at that point, I had spent 22 years looking for a reliable method. I’m going to start tearing up here. Twenty-two years looking for a reliable way to get people off of processed foods. I mean, I started out with a handout. I’m sure that once people know they should eat this and all that they’ll just do it. No, no, no. I went through 14 different really highly committed efforts to get people off of processed foods, and there it was. It was probably January 7 or January 8, 2018. There it was. After 22 years of looking, there it was, the mirror neuron engagement.
[01:07:24] Ashley James: So the mirror neurons don’t engage when it was just auditory, it needs to be visual as well?
[01:07:31] Dr. Joan Ifland: So you can get some mirror neuron engagement from auditory, but getting the visual, the eye-to-eye. When you think about how these brain cells developed over seven million years. For 7 million years until humans developed language capabilities, everything they saw was true, so that’s why in 98% of the brain, there is no filter. The brain absorbs messaging and files it away as if it were true.
This is how the food industry has made—they kill a million Americans every two years. A million Americans die of diet-related diseases every two years. The epidemic of COVID would not have happened unless it was coming in on top of processed food addiction with compromised immune systems.
How is the food industry able to do that? How was it able to persuade those reward system brain cells to accept this messaging? It’s because only this little tiny frontal lobe, 2% of the brain, has the ability to tell the difference between something true and something not true. The only reason that capability developed is because language developed. Until you had language, there was no way to lie or deceive another person.
Once you stop bombarding the addictive brain cells and the blood flow stops being taken up by the addicted and stress pathways, it will return to the frontal lobe. It’s the coolest thing. I mean, people think losing weight is the coolest thing, no. Getting your frontal lobe online is really cool.
People have been told, for example, that they’re stupid. They’ve been told that they’re slow. They’ve been told that they’re dumb. Boom, the frontal lobe starts getting blood flow and they’re brilliant. These are the kinds of very, very cool fun things. This is why it is worth it. It is worth it to get off the processed foods and get off the messaging. Get off the cueing, get off the triggering. Train the brain to go to the pain rather than the deceptive pleasure. Retrain the brain.
It’s like learning a language, and it takes years. This quick weight loss thing, all it does is to fire up the fear of famine brain.
[01:10:25] Ashley James: Right. They certainly know how to market us to keep us cycling through this endless loop. We really need to step back from the dieting industry, the food industry, and all of the marketing and messaging. I think it’s so good to go back actually closer to 150 years. Go back and really understand the history of modern medicine and understand the amount of marketing and it’s generational marketing. Understand Edward Bernays and the history of propaganda. Since your grandparents, it has been in place and it’s a machine. It really is akin to The Matrix, isn’t it?
We are plugged in, you are doped up, and you are plugged into a matrix where it is designed to keep us as cattle. We are fighting amongst ourselves. When I came from Canada to the United States and saw the difference in our political systems, I’m not saying that a parliamentary system is any better or any worse, but I am saying that is just a new perspective as an adult coming into the United States going, oh, okay, two parties. That’s interesting. Two is not a choice. Two is a dilemma. When you’re only given two, it’s a dilemma, right?
What I really clearly saw was that the way they set up the two-party system is it’s moral- and value-based arguments so that they keep us, the 99%, fighting amongst ourselves because how do you control a population when there’s less than 1% of the people controlling us? You keep fighting amongst ourselves. How do you control the cattle? If they constantly keep up abortion, and I’m not saying these issues aren’t legitimate issues. But the way the politicians fight on camera and then go behind the scenes and shake hands and they’re all buddy, buddy behind the scenes, it’s professional wrestling.
We need to use that very small 2% of our critical faculty of our frontal brain and we need to get the 30,000-foot view of how the entire society is set up to control you, to suck money out of your wallet, and to keep you sick and suffering. Not to do that to depress you but to free you. When you see the matrix you can free yourself from it.
Another point is you touched on the autonomic nervous system, and one thing that happens when our body goes into fight or flight, which is a sympathetic response, is that it shunts blood away from the logic centers of the brain. We think, oh, well, I’m not in fight or flight.
I had a client once tell me, because repeatedly she would do all my homework except do the homework that surrounded calming her nervous system, getting her out of fight or flight. She wouldn’t do that homework. I thought it was really interesting. She’d eat a pound of broccoli, but she wouldn’t take five deep breaths, go for a walk, meditate, or whatever.
After five sessions I said, there’s a lot of stress in your life. Why aren’t you doing this homework? She said, I don’t feel stressed. At the time, her mom was dying of cancer, she had a very busy job as a manager, then she came home and she had a daughter and a husband to cook and clean for, and there’s a lot of symptoms that she was expressing were unmanaged stress-related. Physical stress, her body was in the sympathetic nervous system response.
I said, I’m glad you said that because stress isn’t an emotion. Your physiology is switched over into emergency mode. Certain enzymatic processes stop happening so your body is not healing. Your body shunts resources. The analogy I like because I’m a big sci-fi fan, if you’ve ever watched Star Trek, Captain Picard will say when they’re under a Borg attack they’re really losing, that he needs to shut down the floors that are in use and divert all energy to the shields. That’s what this is.
So being in stress mode, your body is shutting down anti-cancer properties, immune properties, healing the lining of your stomach and your intestines. All these properties that aren’t essential for immediate survival get suppressed.
[01:15:36] Dr. Joan Ifland: They’re deprived of blood flow. The blood flow is going to the muscles.
[01:15:41] Ashley James: Yes, so that you can fight, flee, or survive in some way. The problem is people think, well, I wasn’t in any “stressful situation” today. I wasn’t in a car crash, I didn’t fight a bear. Yet what people don’t know is that you could be sitting here listening to this podcast and already be in fight or flight because your thoughts can trigger it, the processed foods you eat can trigger it. There are so many things. You don’t actually have to do anything external to trigger your ancient mechanism of survival.
[01:16:22] Dr. Joan Ifland: It can be habitual.
[01:16:25] Ashley James: Yes, habituated to it. Right.
[01:16:26] Dr. Joan Ifland: All your glands and organs are trained to be in that state and you might not even be aware of it. But it’s just what you’re saying.
[01:16:37] Ashley James: What do you do to help turn that off, get us out of sympathetic nervous system response, get us back into parasympathetic nervous system response of rest and digest, and get the blood flow going back into the frontal lobe so that we can begin to really make behaviors consciously?
[01:17:04] Dr. Joan Ifland: The big thing about our program is called the Addiction Reset Community. The very first stressor that is vastly relieved by coming into the program is isolation. You immediately get oxytocin releases, so those systems in the brain, that feel-good systems in the brain aren’t working too well. But being among a community releases oxytocin, and oxytocin will help the dopamine system start to work again.
Immediately, the fear of being eaten by a predator, which has been instilled for over seven million years, is gone because you now have people around you, and 98% of the brain doesn’t know that those people aren’t right there. Ninety-eight percent of the brain does not understand screens.
It really does believe that those people are right in the next room or they’re right in front of us, but they’re in our house. They’re a couple of feet away. So immediately, the stress of isolation, and not just physical isolation, but processed foods cut off our ability to connect to other people. We have brain fog, we have cravings, we have shame, and we have a body shape that people are eyeballing disdainfully. We are raging, we are anxious, we are making up stories about how they don’t like us. We’re not connecting.
You come into the ARC, the Addiction Reset Community, and people in the ARC, the managers are trained to let the members know that we understand what’s going on with them. We also have been through periods where we have lost control over food, where we have this deep depression. Just almost immediately, that mirror neuron engagement, oh, this person is like me. They understand me. They’re not telling me to push back from the table for heaven’s sakes.
Now, why is that so important? Go back. Go back to the 7 million years of evolution and if you were able to communicate to another person, if you could look them in the eyes and make enough sounds to say there is a tiger behind that bush you would live. If you went to that person and you signaled with your eyes and your fingers that there was something wrong there and that person just said, oh, calm down. Let’s see. Oh, you have hyperexcitability. Let’s give you some medication for that, then you would die because the tiger would pounce.
The ability for another person to see exactly what is going on with you, acknowledge it, affirm it, and agree that it is a huge relief.
From there then you get into the complexities of changing your food. What we’ve learned over these 26 years is that there may be other problems that have to be solved before you can start eating in a different way.
You might have emotional, mental, or physical abuse going on in the household. You may have to work on relationship boundaries before you can even begin to go grocery shopping. You may be subjected to cueing, you might be working in a food environment, you may have a saboteur at home, or you may be too tired or brain fogged and it may be that somebody else is going to have to get on and order some groceries for you. You may have to start with sleep because fatigue and sleep deprivation are huge cues.
You may have to start with turning off screens earlier and earlier in the evening before you can have enough mental clarity—because screens are there to also scramble your brains—that you could actually put in a chicken breast and some broccoli. We give people the option to use starches or not just to make a meal. Get a couple of scrambled eggs going. You may have to solve other problems before you can even start on the food.
But the thing that’s so cool is no matter how deep the cognitive impairment, the brain fog, the confused thinking, and the cravings, mirror neurons will take you there. The whole rest of the brain can be just so badly addicted and the cognitive impairment can be so severe you cannot think. Inflammation because these foods are inflammatory and they inflame the brain. The inflammation cuts off the ability to think. But through all that mess, through all that fog, mirror neurons are working.
People would just be so surprised. I ordered groceries and I made clean meals. I have been trying to do that for 20 years. I did it today. I’ve only been in here two or three days but I did it today. I made clean meals today. I’ve been trying to do this for 20 years. What happened? Oh, see, you were on the Zoom. You were on the ARC all day Monday and Tuesday and so Wednesday you made clean meals. It’s just so incredible.
It’s like you’ve been swimming in these rough cold seas for your entire life. And finally, the lifeboat came along and threw you a life preserver and somebody on the boat instructed you to grab onto the life preserver. When you got dragged over to the side of the boat you decided to get in. It’s so incredible, Ashley, now I’m crying here but it’s amazing to be able to get somebody to safety in just a few days.
[01:23:51] Ashley James: Yes. I’ve heard this quote several times from different people so I don’t know who came up with it originally, but whoever it is, mirror neurons describe it. You are the summary of the five people you spend the most time with.
[01:24:08] Dr. Joan Ifland: Yes, that’s exactly right.
[01:24:10] Ashley James: JLD is a podcaster, Entrepreneur on Fire, and he was one of the people I modeled learning different technical things about podcasting and editing. It was about six years ago when I was studying. It was six years ago so it’s December, so it has been six years. I started studying how to do podcasts and I looked to him as well as Andrew Warner of Mixergy. Those are my two biggest models. JLD, with almost every episode, would say, you are the summary of the top five people you spend time with, meaning it can also include the podcast you listen to, it can also include the content you are consuming, right?
As I’ve been listening to you, I’ve been thinking about reflecting on the last few years of my life because as I said in the intro, I’m on my own journey of overcoming my negative relationship with food and healing my body. I’ve healed my body from a lot of things. I used to have type 2 diabetes, chronic adrenal fatigue, chronic infections for which I was on constant antibiotics for, and I had polycystic ovarian syndrome. I was told by an endocrinologist after a battery of tests that I would never have kids, that I’ve conceived naturally twice. I don’t have diabetes anymore and don’t have chronic adrenal fatigue anymore.
For the last several years, I do not have polycystic ovarian syndrome, but I just got my blood work again because I do that bloodwork once or twice a year with my naturopath. Sure enough, there’s zero evidence of polycystic ovarian syndrome and yet it plagued me for over 20 years. If you go to an MD or an endocrinologist, they’ll say you have it for the rest of your life. It’s a falsehood just like diabetes, you don’t have to have those things.
What I’ve been working on is weight loss and my problem has been my liver. I couldn’t figure out why every time I went to do—I have done over 30 diets my entire life, and I’ve shared this on the podcast before. That has definitely negatively impacted my body and I’ve learned from that and learned about how it harms the metabolism, the body goes into freak-out mode.
But even with healthy diets, when I started to lose weight healthfully, my liver would become inflamed and would stick out and become distended. You could actually see it pushing out. I went and got ultrasounds. What I finally figured out is that my phase two of liver detox is so gummed up, I have some genetic SNPs like MTHFR. So for me, in the last three or four years, I’ve been really working on heavy metal detoxification and lots of interviews about it.
But since I started the podcast, my mirror neurons have really benefited from these interviews. They’re not video interviews, but I have found myself after an interview about food addiction or about healthful eating, eating to nurture the body, and eating to bring stability and balance to hormones or to emotions, I’ve always found myself making better and better choices and then celebrating those choices.
What really also helped me, because I’m just seeing this now, is that I did take a yearlong health coach training program through IIN, Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where it was videos but they were recorded videos of the audience and of the lecturer. Then they would break out and they would show the audience. I always felt like I was in the audience. I’d cry with everyone, I’d laugh with everyone. I felt like I was in the community and they were recorded videos.
My food choices and my health choices like going to sleep at a better time or removing certain things that were not healthy, adding certain things that gave me vibrance, joy, and health, and activities that improved my health. All these little steps, every baby step I felt like was definitely easier. I felt like I was celebrating it with this community as I’m watching this video.
It makes so much sense that your Zoom calls live would create that sense. I can feel this warmness in my stomach, I can feel it even now in my body.
[01:29:07] Dr. Joan Ifland: Yes. You’re getting an oxytocin release.
[01:29:10] Ashley James: Right. Last year we had such a hard time, everyone did with COVID, but we have a child who is such an extrovert. He craves other children’s attention, and so I found a small community of moms—like-minded, very holistic. I called us crunchy moms with very holistic organic eaters, gluten-free, and all that kind of stuff. They all have kids and they all wanted to create a community where the kids can play freely in the parks.
We’ve been doing that together for a year and a half now and I noticed that I’m almost addicted to going to the park and doing our weekly meetups because I feel so good in their presence. We just gab about whatever, give each other ideas, and share with each other.
But that sense of that oxytocin, that sense of community, there’s nothing like it. It’s just wonderful. I can totally see why your Zoom calls would be so quick to help people start to make better and better choices.
Okay, so they step into the Zoom call, their mirror neurons are firing. It really does help them overcome the withdrawal, the physical withdrawal. Can you walk us through more of the biochemical or what’s happening in the brain when someone is stepping into these Zoom calls?
[01:30:38] Dr. Joan Ifland: So the dopamine is working better. Oxytocin actually works by supporting the dopamine system. If your dopamine system isn’t working at all, you get an oxytocin release that you will feel better for sure. Withdrawal avoidance is one of the reasons why people can’t get off particularly of the refined carbohydrates.
But one thing I hope all of your listeners know is that withdrawal from refined carbohydrates—so sugars, flours, and sweeteners—is four to eight days. People will get to day three and maybe their cravings intensify. Day four, their cravings are still just unbearable. Hang on because that is going to go away. We also encourage people to take that list very slowly. It might take a couple of years to get off of the seven major categories of addictive substances because they are affecting four different pathways.
The other thing to remember is that it only takes about three weeks for the dopamine receptors to open up again. People feel better within a couple of days because the pancreas is no longer pumping out vast amounts of insulin which is driving down blood sugar, which is releasing the adrenaline. So the anxiety levels start going down and getting better within a day or two or three or four. So people do start feeling calmer. They’ll say that. They’ll come on day two and say, wow, I can’t believe this just happened and I didn’t blow up. They begin to like themselves more. There’s a lot of self-hatred, self-blame, self-stigmatization.
We use a lot of science to explain to people what happened to them and disengage them from the mythology that the recovery industry, the therapeutic industry has created. Because when therapists can’t get on top of this addiction in their patients because they’re not giving the patient enough immersion recovery. I think there are 167 hours in a week. One hour versus 167 hours, you are not going to retrain 100 billion brain cells by that approach. You need hours and hours and hours per day. You need a residential level of recovery.
Mirror neurons are watching other people get off of sugars and flours. We do have a pretty sophisticated method for managing the headache, the lethargy, the depression, the anxiety that comes with withdrawal. We know how to manage those and make it not quite so painful. It’s very important that withdrawal not be painful.
[01:33:57] Ashley James: Right, then you’re training the brain to not like it, to not like being off of those things like you said earlier. That makes so much sense.
[01:34:04] Dr. Joan Ifland: The cueing is so intense and the addictive brain cells are so sensitive, if you have a lapse, you want to be able to go straight back into withdrawal. You don’t want that lapse to drag on for days or even years. You want to have a lot of confidence, okay, I’m really good at managing withdrawal. I’m going to put the rest of this down the disposal and get back into withdrawal.
So yeah, it’s part of the training. I feel like the Addiction Recovery Community is a training community. What happens when children are born addicted is that they’re trying to get life skills through an addicted brain—an inflamed brain, a craving brain, a brain that’s impaired cognitively, and it just doesn’t happen.
I remember I said, oh, you know what, I’m going to start trying to describe all the skills that we teach in this community. The spreadsheet got longer and longer and longer. Finally, I sat back and I said why? Oh, it’s because it is one of the tenets of addiction that when the addiction starts, personality development stops. So if you started drinking at age 13, you have a different recovery than somebody who starts drinking heavily in their late 20s. You’ve just missed 15 years of personality development. Well, we never get any.
I’ve been in New York now for four years. I have a very, very traumatic upbringing. I had that raging mother, I had a raging father. I had a raging older sister. This is in the 1950s and already women were being positioned, oh, modern women use convenience foods. We had Crisco, cake mixes, Tang, juice concentrates, jelly, white bread, and Velveeta cheese. We had all those processed foods already in the 1950s. Now, we were skinny as rails because we didn’t have the 15-pound packages of potato chips in our house, but we had personality disorders. We were always fighting, all five of us.
I didn’t get life skills. Now, in the ARC, we lead with compassion. We lead with gentleness. We never tell our members what to do. We’re using a form of communication called motivational interviewing where we are listening carefully to the person’s strengths, the member’s strengths, and then we’re really discussing in detail their strengths.
What’s happening there is you are literally rewiring the part of the brain that says I can’t do this. You’re rewiring that part of the brain that says I can do this. Look, everybody around me is doing this. I can do this of course, and you’ve got the cooperation and the collaboration of the mirror neurons to do that. It works like gangbusters. It is shocking how well it works.
Four years later, I’ve thrown off I don’t know what percentage of my parent’s’ negativity because their own self-confidence, self-esteem were so low they were using caffeine, sugar, processed foods, alcohol, and cigarettes every day—typical 1950s. He was a corporate executive, a Ph.D. biochemist, and a commander in the Navy, so he was a very authoritarian person. And then my mother was always drinking caffeine and sugar and she had that totally wacko emotional profile where you never knew—she could go from calm to belting you in 60 seconds.
So growing up in that kind of a traumatic household, I was carrying a tremendous amount of fear, self-loathing, and self-doubt. But over four years of being in the ARC, we do a lot of what we call ARC exercises where we rewire a brain and it’s so simple. It’s so incredibly simple.
So an example would be what we call the because card. Because of ___ I used to ___, but now because of ___I ___. So when you say because of ___ I used to ___, you are opening up the synapse between two memory cells. And when you do that, you can put new information in there so that if the memory comes up, it doesn’t control behavior anymore. The new information controls behavior.
So if I say because I was addicted to processed foods I used to rage, but now that I have eliminated processed foods, toxic media, toxic behaviors, and toxic people I am calm in all circumstances. So if something should happen to trigger a memory of raging, instead of being pulled back into raging, no, there’s new information there. I am calm in all circumstances. It works. It’s incredible. It’s so simple.
None of us are therapists. We’re not providing any therapy. We’re providing peer support, a structure, an environment, and a community in which people can get back in touch with how wonderful they are.
So the way advertising works is it wants to persuade us that we have a pain, there’s something wrong with us, and we need to buy a product to fix it. None of that is true. We are incredible. We’re spectacular. We have incredible resources inside of us. We need very little. We need shelter, transportation, clean food, and good company. It just works, but that is how you do it. We have members all over the world. It’s a 24 hour a day operation. That 15 hours of live programming is extended over 24 hours.
[01:40:47] Ashley James: I love it. Oh, it’s so exciting that you’re having these results. The question that’s been on my mind is because we talked about your recent work and all the work that led up to these breakthroughs. I’m really curious though, what was your thesis when you earned your Ph.D. in addictive nutrition?
[01:41:05] Dr. Joan Ifland: So it was to validate the DSM, that’s the Diagnostic Manual for Mental Illness. Addictions are considered a mental illness. It was to validate the DSM for diagnostic criteria for alcoholism, for overeating, and we did it right out of the box and went to go with a really small sample. I’m teary because I remember, I had to go to school for new fields to get that Ph.D. I went to Union Institute & University in Cincinnati. The way it works is you have to collect faculty from other schools because you’re in a new field so there’s no existing faculty.
I got the greatest people to work with me. Yeah, it was only 64 people. We got statistical significance, no problem. These characteristics of alcoholism are running rampant in overeaters.
[01:42:16] Ashley James: Where would the food addiction field be if it wasn’t for your work?
[01:42:26] Dr. Joan Ifland: Oh, Ashley. Oh, dear. It would still be in the dark ages. I have to tell you this little story if you don’t mind.
[01:42:41] Ashley James: I’d love to hear it.
[01:42:46] Dr. Joan Ifland: I have to think about how old I was, but mid-60s, how in the world do I carve out three years full time to research and write? The textbook is 240,000 words. It’s built on 2000 studies. I wrote 70% of it and I persuaded other scientists to write the other 30% and I edited the other 30%. I persuaded food addiction practitioners to co-write the chapters on behaviors. It was just such a confluence of factors.
My dad died in 2014, the same year that CRC Press came to me and asked me to write the textbook. One of my failed attempts to get other people to recover was a prepared meal company. There I was in Houston spending my divorce settlement to run this company. I thought, just give people clean food. They’ll feel so great they’ll want to continue, which is like saying to an alcoholic, oh listen, I’m just going to give you this nice clean water. Just drink this water in place of the alcohol, you’ll see how great you feel, and then you’ll just want to do it.
[01:44:10] Ashley James: I love your intentions, though. I think they were the best of intentions, but like you’ve outlined, it’s not that simple. It’s not a matter of just making good food choices. I mean, that’s like saying to all the people that have a food addiction, why don’t you just eat healthy? You know what to eat, just eat fruits and vegetables. Just go eat healthier.
[01:44:32] Dr. Joan Ifland: Why didn’t I think of that?
[01:44:34] Ashley James: There’s so much, like you said, stigma and shame around it.
[01:44:41] Dr. Joan Ifland: There’s all this mythology.
[01:44:42] Ashley James: Mythology, yes.
[01:44:44] Dr. Joan Ifland: All this insanity, this confusion. People have made up stories about what’s going on for they’re not—I’m not going to say this. I was going to say for their profit. But I know my daughter, my MD daughter, I have a daughter who’s an MD. She’s also an MBA, fortunately, because she finally said to me one day, mom, I cannot fix people in an eight-minute office visit, and I’m not going to spend the rest of my life trying. She has now left practice. She’s now a full-time consultant. She’s a well-intentioned person, and she left behind in her clinic well-intentioned doctors. The whole system is set up so that the only thing that doctor can do is be a marketing person for the pharmaceutical industry.
[01:45:40] Ashley James: They’re trained drug dealers, and like you said, MDs are not bad people. Inherently, they’re good people. The system is corrupt that it has been since its birth, and that’s why it’s so good to go back and study the history of the modern medical system and see that from day one, the universities that teach the medical schools, the pharmaceutical companies have been funding them and have been controlling what they can do.
All of that is designed to keep out real cures. Doctors who’ve come up with systems that have actually cured cancer more successfully than the cut, burn, and poison method have been run off to other countries basically time and time again.
You’re not allowed to have a cure. One of my mentors, he’s in his late 80s. I’m not sure how old exactly, but I think it’s 86. Thirty-five, 40 years ago, around then, he worked at Yerkes Primate Research Institute. He has multiple degrees. He’s a pathologist. He’s a veterinarian. He’s a naturopathic physician now, but he started out as a large animal vet and then was into the research. He’s written many papers.
He discovered by accident the cause and cure for cystic fibrosis. Other pathologists confirm his findings. He brought it to the Yerkes Primate Research Institute, and they fired him and blacklisted him from the research field. He went back to his alma mater and was going to be a professor. He was unpacking and the dean came in and showed him a letter that said that the university would lose all their funding if he would remain there because he discovered a cure that basically, in one generation, we could completely stop and never again have cystic fibrosis.
Get this, it’s a selenium deficiency in utero, just like neural tube defects are caused by folate. Well, we know that. He also discovered, at the moment of conception, zinc deficiency causes Down syndrome, and selenium deficiency can also cause muscular dystrophy, it depends. It causes one or the other. A lot of his research was around nutrient deficiency in utero and the diseases it causes, but all of it was completely suppressed. He fought and fought and fought and fought and all the doors were closed because that would have cost the pharmaceutical companies billions.
Now, your daughter, the MD, is not taught this. She’s taught how to prescribe drugs. She’s not taught that there’s a cure and that there’s a way to prevent these illnesses in the first place because MDs are not trained in this.
[01:48:39] Dr. Joan Ifland: She’s taught that everything you’ve just described is quackery. It’s very bad out there. Well, anyway, my dad died and CRC Press appeared at the same time, and he left me enough income. My stepmom was living in Cincinnati, so I moved from Houston back to Cincinnati to get her through the end of her life. I walked into the first apartment I looked at—a beautiful little tiny apartment overlooking the Ohio River.
Three years, I turned in the manuscript and my stepmother died, and I moved out here in Seattle. But it was just like the universe cleared out three years of my life where I could sit full time and write and edit that textbook.
Today, anybody who says, oh, it’s so controversial. They are lying. You just open the textbook and there are 2000 citations. Why is there so much research on this? It’s because of the amount of research on obesity, eating disorders, and drug addiction. We have brain imaging technology, we know exactly what an addicted brain looks like. Overeaters’ brains are addicted brains. All that obesity and eating disorder research is actually describing aspects of the addiction diagnosis.
The addiction diagnosis is 11 behaviors. Its unintended use, failure to cut back, time spent, cravings, unfulfilled roles, relationship problems, activities given up, hazardous use, use despite knowledge of consequences, tolerance or progression, and its withdrawal. All of those things are used to diagnose alcoholism and they are all rife. They’re everywhere in overeating.
[01:50:51] Ashley James: One thing I’d like to clarify because we use the term overeating. Like you said, you guys were skinny when you grew up, but it would have been considered food addiction. Some people overeat and are obese, but my mother was never obese. Sometimes she’d say she’s 15 pounds overweight. I think she was five. She’d point to her tummy and she had a little tiny pooch that could not have been more than the size of a kitten. She was always a size six, just a very, very fit woman. She did step classes. She was kind of addicted to exercise and really controlling food. And then, like I said, she then had these side projects of sugar that she had to dig into secretly.
And then there was alcohol every night socially. My parents would split a bottle or two of wine. So there were these things, which also leads to the sugar going up and down. A lot of times, there are similarities between bipolar and sugar spiker. It’s really important to understand oneself and also one’s partner in life.
My husband, and I’ve said this on the show before, he gave me permission to say this. We noticed that every single argument we’ve ever had—I mean, I’m not perfect. In arguments where he’s being irrational and I’m calm and he’s freaking out, I’m like, why are you doing this? We figured out it was low blood sugar. That’s when we really started to dig into—this is 2014.
I said, okay, but at the time, he had chosen to be a vegan. He’s now a vegan, but back then, so let me scramble you some eggs and then let’s talk in 20 minutes. He’d eat some eggs and two minutes later and he’s like, I don’t know why. He said to me, I feel like Jekyll and Hyde. I’m watching myself and I can’t even control myself being that way, being so nasty, and he’s not nasty. He’s a very sweet and loving person, but when he’s low blood sugar, watch out.
[01:53:01] Dr. Joan Ifland: That’s exactly why I got into this field 26 years ago. It’s personality.
[01:53:09] Ashley James: I think the term overeating is people go, well, I don’t overeat. I don’t overeat at all. I’m not fat. Maybe you could just distinguish the difference between overeating, emotional eating. There’s binge eating, right? There’s binging, but they all fall into the category of food addiction, is that correct?
[01:53:33] Dr. Joan Ifland: Yes. I think the American Psychiatric Association, which is the author, of course, of this Diagnostic Manual, they cannot get their brains wrapped around the idea that processed food addiction exists, so they’ve tried to describe other syndromes.
Let’s just take binge eating disorder. It’s very interesting but binging is not a requirement. The word binging does not appear in any of the diagnostic criteria for addictions for any kind of addiction. How did the American Psychiatric Association decide how to diagnose an addiction? It’s through behaviors.
So when you don’t have your frontal lobe and the addicted brain cells are controlling behavior, very specific things happen. You have relationship problems. You start dropping activities because you’d rather go home and use. You have relationship problems for the reasons that you just described. You have this Jekyll and Hyde personality. You can’t fulfill your roles because you’re too tired, drunked, drugged up, or passed out from processed foods, so you have behaviors.
As it turns out, the first four criteria are things that are going on inside the person. You have a plan to use a certain amount and you don’t follow the plan. That’s unintended use. You’ve tried to cut back, and this is again where you see prevalence. So over 70% of Americans are overweight or obese. They don’t want to be that way. They’ve tried to cut back and failed. This is something else you would have to see. We’d have to see really widespread prevalence.
Time spent. They might stop at three fast food places on their way home from work. And then when they do get home, they might go back out in the evening and get more grocery items. Cravings, everybody has cravings. Cravings are so prevalent that people don’t even know that it’s possible to not have them. You have it starting inside the person with those first four, and then in the next three, you have it affecting their behaviors—failure to fulfill roles, relationship problems, and activities given up.
And then the last four are measuring progression. It’s getting worse. You are getting sick from it. You use in spite of knowledge of consequences is a very common manifestation of addiction. You know you shouldn’t be. You start to say it, I know I shouldn’t, but, and then you go and use it. That’s a sign of an addiction. Eating more of a substance, you see that over the years and the manufacturers are just making larger and larger containers of these substances.
And then withdrawal. You’ll see people using processed foods, not because they’re hungry, it’s because they’re tired, they’re irritable, they’re anxious, they’re depressed, or they’re foggy. Those are withdrawal avoidance. They have a headache, they have a stomachache, they’re lethargic, they’re bored, or they can’t think. Those are withdrawal avoidance.
This is how you decide, and you’re right, I say overeaters, but they’re people who are using processed foods in those 11 ways. You’re right, 20% of diabetics are not overweight. Twenty percent of people accumulate fat around their organs and not under their skin, you can’t see it. But the way the American Psychiatric Association trains psychiatrists and therapists of all varieties to tell whether the person in front of them is suffering under an addiction, they ask those 11 questions. That’s how you know, and it’s not a weight issue.
In fact, thin people who have food addiction are more traumatized in some ways because they have sought help from the health professionals and the doctors or whoever just look at them and say, you don’t have a problem. Get out of here. They are being traumatized right in front of their very eyes.
I don’t know if your listeners would relate to this phenomenon, but I call it the robot. The remote control robot phenomenon where your frontal lobe is screaming, no, no, no, no. But the addicted brain cells in the midbrain have control over behavior. Like a robot or like a zombie, you are walking to the kitchen, out to the car to go for fast food. You’re two different people. It’s terrifying to have that experience, and thin people have that experience.
[01:59:24] Ashley James: I’m so excited about your program. The more I think about how someone could plug themselves in and get those mirror neurons firing, get the oxytocin of community firing to their advantage to help them overcome it is amazing.
Little things that I’ve seen work for me is I order my grocery. Now, I love going to the grocery store like picking up my own fresh produce. It’s not that I don’t like going to the grocery store. But what I noticed is I’ll add a bunch of stuff to my cart online, then I’ll stare at the cart, and I’ll ask myself with each item, do I really need this? I get to slow down. I kind of have that internal dialogue. Because what you described that robot, for me it’s more like a possession, right? It’s like an entity, like a satanic possession trying to force you, overcoming your own consciousness to do bad to you.
So I look at that list of foods and I’m like, okay, I’ve got my vegetables there, and then, oh, wait, okay. I’m going to say cookies. I don’t add cookies, but I can’t think of something bad at the moment. Okay, there are those cookies there. I’m like, do I need that? Do I really need that? How am I going to feel after I eat that? Does that really serve me? Does that really help me and my family? Because whatever I’m buying everyone’s eating. And then I hit the delete button.
Then there’ll be that, no, wait, you’ll… And then the fear of missing out, that FOMO kicks like, you’ll feel bad if you don’t. You’ll regret not having it in your cart. You’ll regret it. It’s like a conversation I have with myself.
[02:01:08] Dr. Joan Ifland: It’s a battle.
[02:01:09] Ashley James: It is, it’s a battle.
[02:01:10] Dr. Joan Ifland: It is a battle between the addicted brain cells and the frontal lobe. People don’t realize that different cortices of the brain can battle each other. And that addicted cortex, it does not want to give up control, and it’ll keep coming back. It sleeps with one eye open, and it will never go away. That programming is there permanently. This is something that we have to protect ourselves against for the rest of our lives.
The thing is, it’s not just food addiction, it’s screen addiction, and it’s porno addiction. The addiction will happily slide over to some other source—shopping, addiction, gambling, whether it’s a behavior addiction like a process addiction or whether it’s a substance abuse like alcohol, prescription drugs, or any of the other recreational drugs, it’ll happily slide around. This is something else that we’re very aware of in our community. We are creating a very fundamental foundation of self-regard, self-respect, and from that self-caring, self-likings, self-loving. From that comes the urge to protect ourselves. So we’re starting in the right place.
[02:02:27] Ashley James: Your work is tremendous. If it wasn’t for you, we would be in the dark ages still, like you said, with understanding food addiction and understanding what’s going on in the brain and really acknowledging it, and taking the stigma away. There are so many people needlessly suffering.
We need not look farther than the statistics of disease. In the United States alone and every other country tends to follow. We’re the worst in the United States. We really are, it’s unfortunate. The United States spends the most money in the world on “healthcare” and yet it’s the worst for many outcomes.
We have to acknowledge that this system is broken and we need to take ownership of our health. That’s why you’re listening. Anyone who’s listening is taking ownership of their health, not waiting to get sick, and then go to a doctor to be given a drug. They’re taking ownership of their health. If it wasn’t for you, we would still be stuck in the dark ages when it comes to understanding how processed food, there is an addiction. It is designed to be addictive like cigarettes.
Literally, the cigarette companies went, well, how are we going to use addiction in other places, right? It’s just phenomenal. So thank you for the work that you do. Thank you for the groundbreaking work that you do. I’m so excited for our listeners to check out foodaddictionresources.com, which is your website. It provides free evidence-based handouts, and then you have foodaddictionbooks.com as well.
[02:04:13] Dr. Joan Ifland: Hang on. The best place to go is processedfoodaddiction.com. That’s the hub of all of our other websites. Go there, take the self-quiz to see if you’re experiencing the signs of processed food addiction, then sign up for the free information, and just get on our email list. Then you can start to consider the programs that we have.
[02:04:41] Ashley James: Awesome. I’d love to have you back on the show at some point to continue sharing. It sounds like you’re constantly learning. You’re tapped into the research when it comes to the brain and all the latest research. Your community, which started in 2018 and it’s just taken off, and you’re seeing that people, within three days of being in the community, are able to finally start to cook healthy foods. Just that oxytocin in that community is helping them overcome the four- to eight-day withdrawal period. So I’m very excited about that. It’s processedfoodaddiction.com. Everything that Dr. Joan Ifland does is going to be the show notes of today’s podcast at learntruehealth.com. Is there anything you’d like to say to wrap up today’s interview?
[02:05:33] Dr. Joan Ifland: Yes. This is not your fault. These are things that were done to you for profit. This is not your fault, not the weight regain, not the loss of control, not the hiding, not the binging, not the weight, not the diet-related disease, none of this is your fault. It requires a lot of skill-building and training to get out of it, but it’s not your fault. It’s not because of your child’s issues. It’s because you have an addiction to substances.
[02:06:11] Ashley James: And through Joan’s program, I’m very excited that she’s getting results, and you can get results too. I love that there’s a supportive community that can help you. I’m excited to check it out as well.
I like to say, keep your mind so open your brain can fall out, right? I’m an open-minded skeptic. Try everything. Try everything. Obviously, you have to go but try everything. I’m all about growing. It sounds like your community helps people to learn new life skills. If I can figure out where my personality stopped developing because of addiction, I don’t know what age. I’ve seen it in others, but we have blinders to our own self, right? So it’s easy to see in others, we can’t see it ourselves. But if I could learn more new life skills to grow, I’m all for it. Thank you so much for coming on the show.
[02:07:06] Dr. Joan Ifland: Thanks for having me. This was amazing. Truly amazing, Ashley. You’re a gifted podcaster.
[02:07:13] Ashley James: Thank you. I really appreciate that and I can’t wait to have you back.
[02:07:16] Dr. Joan Ifland: All right, take care.
[02:07:18] Ashley James: Awesome. That’s a wrap. How do you feel it went?
[02:07:21] Dr. Joan Ifland: Oh my God. This might be the best interview I’ve ever done. I don’t cry very often during interviews, but there’s something about your understanding and your own knowledge that made it safe for me to feel my emotions in this situation. We are saving lives.
[02:07:44] Ashley James: You’re saving lives. You are saving lives.
[02:07:47] Dr. Joan Ifland: Yeah. And saving people from really, really painful lives. We’re not just preventing them from dying. We’re also preventing them from missing out on their lives.
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