Dietitian Rehab with Doug Cook RDN

Dietitian Rehab. Episode 003 with Jordan Fallis

Jordan Fallis 300x300 - Dietitian Rehab. Episode 003 with Jordan Fallis

Detoxing from dogmatic dietitian education and attitudes for a mind wide open

But first, “you must unlearn what you have learned” YODA

 

Being your best emotional, psychological and spiritual self requires you to feed your brain. What you eat and drink does affect your brain structure and function, which, in turn, has a positive effect on your mood and outlook. Good nutrition is crucial and, in this episode, you’ll learn about one man’s journey from a mental haze to one where he was able to eliminate his medications using diet, supplements and lifestyle strategies.

More about Jordan Fallis

For the past 10 years, he’s worked as a health and science journalist, and media and communications advisor in Ontario, Canada. I completed my Bachelor of Journalism from Carleton University in Ottawa, and I’ve written for the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, and the Canadian Pharmacists Journal.

 

He used to suffer from various chronic diseases, both mental and physical. In fact, he’s been sick for most of his life. Growing up, he suffered from depression, anxiety, allergies, asthma and acne, and these things followed me throughout high school and college.

 

Doctors didn’t help me other than prescribing powerful medications: inhalers, antibiotics, antihistamines, antidepressants, stimulants, benzodiazepines.

 

Eventually, he took matters into his own hands. He interviewed, consulted, and worked with more than one hundred medical doctors, health practitioners and leading researchers. And I spend a lot of time scouring medical research, writing about what I find, and putting the theories to the test on myself. I’ve experimented with a number of supplements, diets, devices, philosophies, and other lifestyle factors.

 

Jordan is the founder, lead researcher, writer, biohacker and citizen scientist at Optimal Living Dynamics.

Connect with Jordan:

Be sure to download his free Grocery Shopping Guide for Optimal Brain and Mental Health

 

Thanks for listening

Read the transcript

Participants:

Doug Cook

Jordan Fallis

Doug Cook:

Welcome to the Dietitian Rehab podcast where we not only challenge and inspired dietitian to think outside the traditional dogmatic education, training and attitudes for a mind wide open but also to challenge anyone to think differently about your own health. We’ll talk all things food, health and nutrition related as we explore points of view, evidence and strategies for better health that will allow you a fuller understanding of the hot topics that everybody’s talking and asking about.

 

Hey, everyone. Welcome to today’s episode. I’m really excited to have Jordan Fallis on. He is a brain health coach, nutritional consultant and the founder of Optimal Living Dynamics, a website that helps people improve their brain function and mental health. As a health and science journalist, his work has been featured in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Canadian Pharmacist Journal and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Jordan has also interviewed, consulted and worked with more than 100 medical doctors, health professionals and leading researchers. He spends a lot of time scouring medical research, writing about what he finds and consulting with his clients. So, let’s get going. Okay. So, Jordan, welcome to the show today. I’m really happy you agreed to speak to me today because you’ve got a lot of great stuff going on and I know the audience will be happy to hear that.

 

Jordan Fallis:

Yeah. Thanks for having me.

 

Doug Cook:

So, you’re the author of some really interesting resources, three of which are on your website. One’s called the Grocery Shopping Guide for Optimal Brain Health. Also, there’s Fuel for Brain Cookbook and Grow Your Brain. But you’re also the formulator of some really interesting novel supplements as well as some online courses which we’ll talk about in a little bit.

 

But before we dive into that, I’m just wondering if you could talk a little bit about yourself. So, specifically, your background, your personal health journey, your experiences with traditional approaches to care and how you got to the place where you are now where you’ve created this amazing business model using various evidence-based strategies that typically are not seen in conventional medicine. So, I’m just wondering if you could kind of talk to us a bit about that.

 

Jordan Fallis:

Yeah, sure. So, I’ll talk about kind of like where I’m at now and then I can get into the personal health journey as well. So, I’m currently like a brain health coach and nutritional consultant. So, I created the website OptimalLivingDynamics.com to help people improve their brain health and their mental health. So, I share a bunch of different tools and strategies to help people do that. But before all that and all this, I was a health and science journalist. So, I worked for the Canadian Medical Association Journal, The Canadian Pharmacists Journal, the CBC. So, I’ve interviewed and consulted with a bunch of different doctors, health practitioners and researchers. And then on top of that, I’ve spent a lot of time myself researching and reading medical research and then writing about my findings. So, then all my articles are on OptimalLivingDynamics,com.

 

But yeah what led me to all this is so back in 2010 so it was a while ago now, I had some serious concussions and then I had a bunch of concussion symptoms. So, they wouldn’t go away. I went to doctors. They told me to just sleep it off but that didn’t really work and the symptoms just hung around. I had dizziness. I had headaches. I also had depression and anxiety already before it but then it got a lot worse. So, I was eventually diagnosed with like post-concussion syndrome. But like I said that depression and anxiety were worse after the concussions.

 

So, I was given a bunch of like psychiatric drugs and sleeping pills and that’s all that was offered to me. And then to make matters even worse, I was living in a like a really old moldy home in Ottawa when I had the concussions. So, there’s a bunch of like black mold in my basement and in my room. So, then I had pretty severe symptoms due to that and the thing about living in a moldy environment, it’s not immediate. You gradually get worse over time. So, that’s what happened. My symptoms just kept getting worse and worse until I left that house. So, then, of course, the doctors just had no idea what to do because there was just all these issues overlapping and they just thought it was entirely psychiatric and I needed more pills and the pills just made everything worse. So, yeah, that’s my backstory essentially. That’s what happened.

 

And then I can get into I eventually got off the medication. So, what I did was I got off the medication, I moved away from that house, I did a bunch of research, I talked to a bunch of different practitioners and researchers. And then I did a lot of like experimentation on myself to get better and find a better way for myself. But I went through a lot. It wasn’t fun. It was a lot of trial and error. So, that’s my story overall.

 

Doug Cook:

No. It’s a very interesting story because one of the limitations as a health practitioner myself working in the healthcare system for 20 years and rightfully so, people don’t have any sense of their own personal health literacy. So, they don’t know how to navigate the system, they don’t really know what questions to ask, what to look for. So, whether it was because of your background as a journalist or not or maybe you’re just a critical thinker and you’re just the kind of person that would like to problem solve, it’s amazing for you to have had that fortitude or that like I said, that health literacy to have really taken matters into your own hands.

 

So, you raise a lot of interesting points because you have all these health conditions, you went to doctors, they offered what they could because that’s based on what they know and what they’re taught. And I’m not anti-doctor, I’m not anti-medicine and I don’t think you are either. But there is a limitation I think to a lot of what’s basically done. So, I just want to kind of back up a bit. So, the idea of that good nutrition could be crucial for health is a no brainer. I think everybody knows that.

And I’m sure if pressed or asked on some level, I think people would agree that nutrition’s essential for good brain and mental health. But in this story that you’re sharing and your personal experience in the healthcare system, would you say there’s more agreement or disagreement that nutrition whether we define that as food or whether we talk about targeted supplementation has a real impact on mental health? Do you think there’s agreement or disagreement on that?

 

Jordan Fallis:

Well, I think there are some doctors out there who probably would try to argue that nutrition is not really that important at all, maybe not at all but I think there would be some and not just doctors but just people in general would suggest it doesn’t play that big of a role. You would think it’d be a common sense that the food you eat affects your body including your brain so then it would impact your brain function, your thoughts and behavior.

 

But I still think some just don’t recognize it or even talk about it. And then there’s a lot of disagreement over what would be good nutrition for good mental health. There’s definitely a wide range of opinion of what people should be eating. So, then there’s a lot of disagreement there. Yeah.

 

Doug Cook:

Yeah. So, that’s interesting. No, that’s been my experience as well. So, I do know the tide is turning because there are a lot of MDS that are doing a lot of research. You can find them on social media. There are a lot of different organizations around the world where doctors—and some of them are psychiatrists—are looking at the role of nutrition which is good. So, you talk about what was offered, all these medications. What wasn’t offered? I guess everything that wasn’t medication but I mean is it just like this is what we should take? Take Abilify, take Ambien or rather Imovane in Canada. Was anything else suggested?

 

Jordan Fallis:

No. At first actually, I didn’t even ask about alternatives that much because I was just so desperate to feel better. I took what they told me to take. But it seemed like that was what they offered and that’s that and I really wish I was given other options. Knowing what I know now, I really wish I’d been told about certain therapies or treatments and it’s a shame because it made things a lot harder for me because I felt like it dug me into a deeper hole. So, there wasn’t much discussion. But then again at first anyways, I wasn’t digging or I wasn’t researching as much as I have now and I did. So, yeah, at the time, I was just focused on I need to go to a doctor and I need to do what they say to get better so I can continue living my life. And so, then that’s what I did. Yeah.

 

Doug Cook:

Yeah. And I mean that makes sense because that’s what we—of course, if you have some symptoms, you should still get them checked out. So, I guess I’m hoping that there would’ve been some even superficial or cursory advice besides just taking a sleeping pill. How is your sleep hygiene? Are you getting good quality sleep? What about your stress level? Even if it’s just awareness building around that kind of stuff.

 

Are you using alcohol before bed? Are you using caffeine before that could interrupt your sleep? Because all that kind of foundational stuff is going to benefit any kind of psychiatric. When I say psychiatric, we’re not talking psychosis and stuff like that. It still relates to anxiety and depression, that kind of stuff. So, in that sense, just by elimination those things weren’t offered. And so, concussions, the recommended advice was to just I guess get lots of rest?

 

Jordan Fallis:

Yeah. Rest, reduce your light exposure, screen exposure and then they gave me Amitriptyline which was for—they usually give a low dose for people who have concussion symptoms. It’s supposed to help with sleep and then at a low dose, it doesn’t really impact mood and stress that much. It’s just very low dose. So, and the side effects aren’t as severe as they would be if you were given a full dose.

 

But yeah, that was it. It was Amitriptyline and then yeah, don’t stare at screens for too long. Like ideally, they said sit in a dark room. Don’t have any light exposure. But then as time went on, I didn’t get better even if I did follow their advice and then things just got worse too. So, then at that point, they were lost. They didn’t exactly know what else to do other than give me a full dose of antidepressants, give me a full dose of anti-anxiety medication and that’s how it ramped up.

 

Doug Cook:

So, you bring up an interesting point because for people who may not be aware of Amitriptyline, in medicine doctors will use things off-label all the time. So, there might be medication that’s designed and researched for a specific issue but then they find it can quote-unquote benefit things that it was never designed to do. So, they’ll use it for various applications and it’s off-label because if you look at the label on the bottle, it’ll say for the following issues A, B, C, D. So, for people who don’t know what Amitriptyline is, it’s kind of used for major depressive disorder anxiety and less commonly for ADD or bipolar.

 

So, it’s interesting that they were giving it for concussion. I don’t not sure what the reason why. But yeah, I know that in medicine they’ll use things like antipsychotics for a sleep aid because if you or I or someone who’s naive took one at a high enough dose, we’d get woozy and basically pass out. So, fully admitting I don’t know the research on Amitriptyline concussions but I know I’ve looked into some stuff and for sure there’s inflammation and there’s a lot of nutriceuticals that could’ve helped. You probably found that in your research.

 

Jordan Fallis:

Yeah, overtime I did. I found that out but it wasn’t until later actually where I found all that stuff out.

 

Doug Cook:

So, at any point in time when you, in your kind of intro, your story, you were saying that there came a point in time where you stopped the medication and kind of did your own research, did you ever go back for follow-up? And the only reason I’m asking that is did you ever kind of bring up these other findings with your healthcare practitioners and what was their reaction? Or maybe that didn’t happen at all.

 

Jordan Fallis:

No, I didn’t really. I have. There have been instances where I brought up a little bit of what I was doing but I guess I learned over time that it wasn’t very beneficial for me to go on about all the different other stuff I was doing. So, and especially when I did come off the medications which I wouldn’t recommend actually.

 

But I weaned myself off them myself because I realized I had to, I don’t know, I felt like I needed to figure it out myself. And the thing is if you go to doctors often, they will—not all of them—but they’ll suggest coming off of them faster than you should. So, I realized okay, I’m going to have to come off them slowly anyway. I’ll wean myself off as quickly as I feel I can. Right? And so, that’s what I did. And then I just started implementing some of my own things because I realized if I was going to go to my doctor and talk about it, I wasn’t sure, it just didn’t seem like he would have much to offer.

 

I felt like I was on my own anyway. That’s kind of how I felt or I would need to find, which I did, other like-minded practitioners or like-minded doctors. But the conventional doctors had given me the medications. I didn’t see the point in really telling them everything I was doing. Sometimes they would come up naturally but I usually kind of kept to myself which I mean may not have been the best route to take but that’s how I did it anyway.

 

Doug Cook:

Yeah. So, I mean you made decisions that you felt were right for you. Not that as a disclaimer because we’re not making recommendations but just giving my experience working in a psychiatric hospital. Normally, when they do it, I mean the technical term, it really is a detox whether it’s a psychiatric med, antidepressant or benzos, it is really done in a stepwise manner because they do make changes to the biochemistry. So, the rule of thumb is really to do it in a structured kind of supervised way. But I’m not here to say you did it right or wrong. So, I don’t want you to get that impression.

 

Jordan Fallis:

I probably did it wrong. But it’s a good thing you’re saying that because I really do think people do need to be careful and they shouldn’t just come off their meds like that. I just I did and that’s how it went. So, yeah.

 

Doug Cook:

Yeah. And I think the only thing I would say to anyone is people own their own healthcare and they absolutely have a right, legal right to things like bloodwork and they have a right to discuss these things and hopefully it’ll receptive practitioners that will support assuming it’s safe and it’s indicated any kind of medication withdrawal. So, was there something in your particular journey that was that turning point? Where it was just okay, enough is enough because I’m just curious to know like what was that straw if you will that kind of broke the camel’s back.

 

Jordan Fallis:

Yeah. Well, it was multiple times actually. So, the first time, I was put on psychiatric medications after the concussions so around 2011 and I had really bad side effects from them. They did help somewhat with anxiety but the other side effects were unbearable plus I had a ton of other symptoms and health problems and they weren’t getting fixed. So, I started reading and learning about integrative medicine, functional medicine and I started seeking out doctors and practitioners familiar with that and ones who might be able to help me.

 

And I found that they did help me and I was able to get off the medications and I recovered. That was when I was really amazed and intrigued by integrative medicine I guess you could call it. But then the thing was then I went through a really stressful period and I had like a setback with my mental health. So then, I had to go back on antidepressants and that’s when things spiraled out of control because I was given more and more psychiatric medications beyond just the antidepressant.

 

I was they just kept piling them on. I was on four them and then you had mentioned Seroquel and that was actually another one they were going to suggest. And I was like okay, no, this is—it just got to a point where I wasn’t going down this path anymore. And then the thing was is my cognition started to decline and my personality was changing and I was really worried in a bad spot.

 

So, that’s when I realized something had to change because I could just see how it was going. It was likely going to get worse if I kept going down this path. And so, I decided to do something. And so, that’s when I mentioned I weaned myself off the medications and I replaced the medications with different like supplements and nootropics to support me throughout that process. And yeah, then I was able to get off them. So, there were there a bunch of times but especially when I was suggested to take another psychiatric medication and then mainly when I noticed my cognition was failing and that was scary. And then personality changes and something didn’t feel right and I just knew I needed to make a change. And so, then I just stuck to my decision to then to get off. So, yeah.

 

Doug Cook:

I’m just curious. Was this with a GP or with a psychiatrist?

 

Jordan Fallis:

The one who recommended the Seroquel was a psychiatrist. The other medications were through my GP. Yeah.

 

Doug Cook:

Okay. It’s fascinating because cognition, our consciousness, our mind, like we have this idea that the brain through the neurons and the firing, they create consciousness. Whatever that is, we can’t define. But it’s interesting to how we take this approach. Again, there’s a time and place for medications. How kind of just tweaking these levels is supposed to kind of help with whatever we’re feeling. It sounds like they’re treating these psychiatric symptoms almost like physical symptoms. Like I’ve got a sore knee or something like that. What was I going to say? I just forgot my train of thought. Was any discussion brought up about talk therapy?

 

Jordan Fallis:

No, surprisingly. Or I wish they had talked about even trauma-based therapies or talk therapy. It wasn’t really discussed when I was in university. So, when I had my concussions, there were counseling services and I remember going to them but I didn’t find them very useful and I just didn’t feel like that’s how I was going to get better. So, personally, I didn’t see great benefit in it.

 

But it wasn’t brought up by the doctors. It was through—so, also on top of the concussions and the depression and anxiety, I had problems with alcohol as well. So, I had gone to this counselor to try to reduce my alcohol consumption. And then so, she recommended this counseling group so I went to that. But overall, I didn’t find it very useful and doctors in particular, they never mentioned the counseling. It was through other I guess counselors or support people at university that were able to suggest that.

 

Doug Cook:

Got you. Yeah. It’s a limitation in the healthcare system for sure. We need more OHIP covered or Canada’s healthcare system covering that kind of thing. I think it will get there because there’s for sure awareness in mental health. So, that was very, very, very informative because I know there’s going to be people listening who have some variation in that story. I think it’s a common story.

 

There’s going to be threads that relate to a lot of different people. So, that was great. And I thought we’d just kind of switched gears to talk more about the work that you’ve done and some of the amazing stuff on your website. So, this is what I get excited about because my background as a dietician nutritionist—I call myself a functional nutritionist—I really like the role that nutrition plays in the biology and the anatomy and the physiology of our body even, in this case the brain.

 

But you’ve got this great ebook called Grocery Shopping Guide for Optimal Brain Health. So, you have a whole list of foods that you recommend as well as a bunch to avoid to improve brain function, support mental health and improve quality of life. Now to me working in addictions and mental health and being a nerd or a geek and nutrition are very obvious. They might not be obvious to other people. So, I’m just wondering if you could go through—I think there are about six main categories, why they’re important and more importantly why you’re recommending them?

 

Jordan Fallis:

Yeah, sure. So, I guess I’ll start with something everyone agrees on. So, vegetables. There are clearly a lot of vegetables on the list. So, green leafy vegetables in particular are my favorite. So, like spinach, lettuce, cabbage, bok choy. Urban studies show that eating leafy greens every day is associated with slower age-related cognitive decline. So, that’s one of the main reasons I recommend them. So, then there’s like healthy oils and fats. So, things like krill oil, egg yolks, olive oil, coconut oil.

 

So, one of the main things I’ve learned over the years is that fats have been I guess unfairly demonized in particular saturated fats and monounsaturated fats. And then, of course, omega-3 fatty acids are really good for your brain too. So, I really recommend using olive oil in particular because it has a bunch of polyphenols that can enter the brain and actually produce neuroprotective effects. Then there’s the MCTs in coconut oil. They’ve been shown to help people with dementia. So, what else? So, for protein I usually recommend grass-fed beef, pastured chicken and eggs and then wild-caught fish like salmon. So, they’re all high-quality sources of protein, full of nutrients and of course, more healthy fats that are key for brain health as well.

 

And then I believe I recommend some starches and healthy starches in fruit. So, I don’t actually recommend like a low carb diet at least not long-term. So, I tell people to eat plenty of healthy starches in fruit particularly sweet potatoes and berries. So, I think you want to make sure you give you body and brain enough carbs and there are definitely benefits to ketones but not long-term ketosis. That’s why I tell people to eat healthy fats including coconut oil and MCT oil but still make sure they get enough carbs at the same time. So, that’s like an overview of my food guide and why I recommend the things I do.

 

Doug Cook:

Yeah. There’s a lot of great stuff in here. So, yeah, the vegetables, green leafy vegetables, one of the things they have is something called lutein which I’m sure you’re aware of and zeaxanthin. Lutein is converted to zeaxanthin. So, what’s neat about that is what people don’t—why would they know this because this isn’t talked about and I think sometimes if we get a little more nuanced, people will see it as a prescription and maybe up their game.

 

But if you think of all the carotenoids like beta carotene, alpha carotene, lycopene, lutein only makes up about 16% of all the carotenoids in the human diet but the brain if it’s available, lutein will make up 66% to 77% of the carotenoids in the brain. So, the brain preferentially concentrates this carotenoid in the brain and as you say, there’s a lot of good evidence showing that it helps to preserve cognitive function, prevent cognitive decline. I even saw a couple studies where people had early cognitive decline and they used supplements and/or diets, a year, a year and a half later, their scores—they run a battery of scores, cognition, thought, speed, all that stuff—their scores come back like they’re 10 years younger.

 

Jordan Fallis:

Yeah.

 

Doug Cook:

So, that’s a really important one that you’re stressing here.

 

Jordan Fallis:

Yeah, the greens for sure.

 

Doug Cook:

Yeah. And then what I like about the oils is in Canada, we like to—so, everyone’s heard of the Mediterranean diet which is a misnomer because there’s no one Mediterranean diet. The oil in that region, the Mediterranean Basin, of course, is olive oil which everyone talks about. So, it’s high in monounsaturated fats. So, there’s a bit of move to kind of be patriotic with our oil choices.

 

So, they say well, there’s a perfectly good product in Canada called canola oil because it’s also rich in monounsaturates. But as you say, the olive oil, I like the really green sludgy stuff. It’s just chock full of these polyphenols which have been shown to protect the brain. So, for me that’s an important distinction in the list here. And then yolks, anything unique about yolks? I know what I’m thinking of but I don’t know if you want to expand on it.

 

Jordan Fallis:

I’m thinking choline.

 

Doug Cook:

Yeah.

 

Jordan Fallis:

That’s probably what you’re thinking too.

 

Doug Cook:

Yeah.

 

Jordan Fallis:

Yeah, so thinking choline. It’s pretty key and it’s such a nutrient-dense food. I feel like it’s so sad that people were throwing away egg yolks years and years ago. It’s ridiculous.

 

Doug Cook:

Well, I owe the world an apology and yourself included because I was one of those people. So, 20 years ago as a newbie, I just kind of followed the flow which was being talked about and I was one of those people that it was like get rid of the yolks and go low-fat and fat’s evil. So, on behalf of, I don’t know—

 

Jordan Fallis:

Humanity.

 

Doug Cook:

Fifteen years of like bad advice, I apologize. So, you’re right. It is a really nutrient-dense food and choline’s so amazing. So, yeah, we get about half of what’s required in the Canadian diet and one of the things I know it does is it helps to create the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. So, that’s a good one. And again, coconut oil, as you said, saturated fats have been maligned or kind of taken a beating over the years.

 

We’re now finding that there are a lot more neutral. I’m kind of like—I don’t worry about them at all. So, I call it the Loch Ness monster of the nutrition world because everyone thinks they’ve seen evidence that it’s bad. Trans fats, we like nailed down really quickly. Like they’re bad, the industrial stuff. But 70 years later, we’re still looking for some solid evidence that saturated fats are bad. Yeah, but coconut oil, as you say, has got all these MCTs which the brain loves to use as fuel as well. What else is on here that’s interesting? So, anything unique or special about the nuts and seeds you want to highlight?

 

Jordan Fallis:

I really can’t—

 

Doug Cook:

No pressure.

 

Jordan Fallis:

Yeah, I can’t remember much right now. I’m trying to think. I just know they’re rich in monounsaturated fats as well. They’re full of nutrients. It’s sometimes recommended to soak them because then more the nutrients are available. That’s another thing that’s just coming to mind. But yeah, I mean I guess that’s another thing that where if I speak to my grandparents, they’re convinced you don’t want to eat too many nuts because they’re fattening and they’re unhealthy. But again, it’s another one those foods where I eat them and I don’t worry about how much I eat because I know that they’re quite good for you. So, yeah.

 

Doug Cook:

Yeah. They’re not fattening. And so, if you don’t mind, the thing that comes to me is vitamin E. So, I think people who may have taken in vitamin E supplements probably are well aware of something called alpha tocopherol but there are a lot of different structures which are called isomers. So, walnuts are good because they’ve got gamma tocopherol. Almonds and other nuts are good because they’ve got alpha tocopherol.

 

But yeah, this is a potent antioxidant for sure. So, these are really amazing things that are going to fuel the brain which I think everybody understands is good overall, not just for brain health but if you want to have your best possible brain health, you got to start with the foundational stuff which is good. So, just want to ask you one question about avoiding dairy? Now just as a disclaimer, I always say to people that there’s no such thing as an essential food. We only have essential nutrients. So, we can get our nutrients from a variety of foods. So, there’s what? Some 25 vitamins and minerals, different fatty acids, protein, etc. So, I couldn’t care less if somebody drinks milk. If someone wants to include it, more often not I see it as a healthy addition if someone wants to.

 

But in terms of this whole brain health and everything that you went through when you’re talking about your story or your backstory, you’re recommending avoiding dairy at the very least as a trial for 30 days. So, could you just talk about why?

 

Jordan Fallis:

Yeah. I recommend it for 30 days to see how people feel without it. If they don’t feel better and they don’t see improvements, they can add it back in. I just find that a lot of people feel better when they cut it out particularly if they have any intestinal permeability. It’s just good to give your body a break from foods that may irritate the gut. But yeah, with my clients, I typically recommend they can add dairy back in like one by one. Maybe start with yogurt and see how they feel and then cheese, see how they feel. But personally for me I found that—so, I had really bad asthma and acne.

 

Well, the acne wasn’t that bad but I had really bad asthma and when I first cut out all dairy, I saw a significant improvement in my skin and then also in my breathing. So, for me, I realized it was a pretty big problem. But I should probably update my food guide now because it’s been a while. I actually eat grass-fed yogurt from full milk now. So, I seem to tolerate that fine and dairy still has a ton of nutrients and healthy compounds in it. So, I’m not claiming I’m totally against it but it’s one of those gray areas where the quality of the dairy matters I think and then also it’s individual.

 

So, yeah, it depends on the person’s current level of health and then I usually recommend people try to find out if they can’t tolerate dairy, it’s usually a sign that maybe something is wrong or they need to just cut it out for now and then later down the line, once they become more healthy and resilient, they may be able to add it back in. So, yeah, I’m not very dogmatic about my food recommendations. I see a lot of things as gray and not black and white. So, dairy, there are a number of great things about dairy. It’s just not for everyone I think.

 

Doug Cook:

Yeah. So, dairy is an interesting food because I think people have a sense that the majority the population—I can’t remember the statistic, 66% or 70%—once they’ve been weaned lose some degree of lactase persistent meaning they don’t produce the enzyme needed to break down milk sugar. And so, some people can’t tolerate it. Some people can tolerate in smaller amounts. Then I’ve heard this argument that the sugar becomes a prebiotic of sorts. So, it does selectively feed certain bacteria in the gut. And so, lactose intolerance is not necessarily bad.

 

So, that’s an interesting theory. I don’t know where the evidence is going to lie or fall or whatever. So, it’s funny that they would say like some kind of reaction because usually the lactose reaction if you’re intolerant is going to be like gas and irritation and everybody farts and all that kind of stuff. So, then I’m trying to about the digestive tract. It takes a beating. Like of all the parts of your body, it gets damaged a lot because of all the things that we throw down it whether it’s alcohol, food, artificial food, ingredients, medications like Advil, that type of stuff. It really, really does take a beating. So, it’s funny that—what’s coming to my mind is like well, if there’s lactose intolerance and there’s irritation, is that ultimately worse or is there a benefit to feeding these alleged microbiota?

 

The other thing that I don’t know if you came across which I think lends to a lot of the confusion around dairy, my dairy colleagues might not be happy with that but there’s I don’t know if you’ve heard the difference between A2 milk and A1 milk.

 

Jordan Fallis:

Yeah. So, most people who can’t tolerate cow milk can often tolerate goat milk. Is that where you’re going?

 

Doug Cook:

Yeah. Like all ruminants—I didn’t mean to cut you off—but like all ruminants used to produce something called A2 milk and the designations are relevant but they all used to produce the type of casein which is the main milk protein and then I think it was like, I don’t know how many tens of thousands of years ago, a certain progenitor or kind of ancestral cow lineage mutated and they produced something called A1. So, they use a different amino acid in the DNA sequence.

 

So, they get a different type of casein. And so, there’s evidence that some of the discrepancies between dairy studies or personal anecdotes might be because of the problem with the A1 milk. So, most milk in North America is 50/50 because they use milk from a variety of cows and just throw it in a big pot and put it in cartons. So, there’s about 50/50. So, you can buy a hundred percent A2 milk now from cows, specifically from herds that don’t have that mutation or you can get goat and sheep milk which is interesting because as you say, a lot of people who haven’t been able to drink cow’s milk find they could tolerate goat milk or sheep’s milk. So, it might be this whole thing with the A2. And then what about fermentation? Like what are your thoughts on yogurt and kefir in terms of this whole dialogue?

 

Jordan Fallis:

Yeah. So, I’m fans of them. I eat a lot of kefir from—well, I’ve been drinking recently coconut milk kefir. But also way back when I really focused on improving my gut health, I ate a lot of sauerkraut. Like I made my own fermented vegetables. So, I think it’s pretty important especially if someone’s like just starting to improve their health or they’ve got quite sick and they’re trying to get better. I see focusing on the gut and eating a lot of fermented foods can be really helpful. I don’t need to eat as many fermented foods now but earlier on, I ate a ton and I found it really helpful.

 

Doug Cook:

Yeah. Under the best of circumstances, those fermented foods tend to be digested better. So, somebody could do a bit of a—I hate to use the word cleanse—but they could stop dairy for a month or two and then as you already said, introduce some yogurt or maybe some kefir and see how that goes.

 

Jordan Fallis:

Yeah. The best place to start is with the fermented dairy.

 

Doug Cook:

So, that’s good news. That’s a really good starting point for people who might be listening who want to kind of get the ball rolling. So, again, just to switch gears, I find this fascinating because I know about this. My peers don’t know about this and it’s certainly not the peers I work with in the hospital. But in one of your blog posts, you’ve got a list of seven important nutrients that are depleted by psychiatric drugs. So, briefly or more fulsomely to whatever you want to talk about them, I’m wondering if you can just highlight some of those from the blog post.

 

Jordan Fallis:

Sure, yeah. So, one of them is CoQ10. So, that plays the key role in energy production. So, antipsychotics and antidepressants are most likely to deplete CoQ10. So, I usually recommend supplementing with CoQ10 if you’re taking these medications. That’s what I did near the end of when I was taking them. And I would get Ubiquinol so the active form of CoQ10. Then there is magnesium so that’s depleted by SSRI, antidepressants and then also stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin.

 

So, some good forms of magnesium are like magnesium glycinate is a good form. One that’s good for the brain, there’s some research suggesting it’s better at crossing the blood-brain barrier. I’m not too sure. I need to look more carefully into it. But it’s magnesium threonate. So, it’s a good form of magnesium for the brain. But even magnesium glycinate is good or magnesium malate’s good if you’re looking for more energy, if you find that you’re on SSRI antidepressants and they’re making you tired or sleepy. That’s another good form. And then so, melatonin. So, I’m sure a lot of people know it’s consider the sleep hormone. It’s critical for deep sleep. So, there are a bunch of medications that can disrupt melatonin production. So, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications so benzodiazepines and then any psychotics as well.

 

So, in the long run they actually can worsen your sleep and that’s often a side effect that people complain about when on medications. Their sleep can be disrupted and that’s obviously the opposite of what you’d want if you have a psychiatric illness. So, you can supplement with melatonin if you want or you can wear—like this is what I do now—is I wear blue light blocking glasses at night to block out all blue light. So, then by blocking out the blue light, it increases your body’s own production of melatonin.

 

So, that’s ideal. You want to try to support your own body’s processes as much as possible without having a supplement. But if you don’t find that helpful, you can supplement with melatonin. And then there are a bunch of B vitamins as well. So, vitamin B2 is depleted by antipsychotics and mood stabilizers and antidepressants or these drugs inhibit the absorption of B2. And then there’s plenty of research showing that there are lower levels of B2 in people with depression. So, again these medications in a way are actually digging people into deeper holes I think.

 

So, you can supplement with B2 though if you’re on one of those medications. So, there’s B6 as well. So, B6 helps produce neurotransmitters like serotonin and gaba and dopamine. So, there are the others antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds that they increase your need for B6. So, that’s another B vitamin. Now you can take them individually or you can take them just as a B complex. And so, yeah, there’s also B12 and folate that are depleted and again, people with depression ought to have low levels of folate and B12 in their blood research shows us. So, there are four main B vitamins. So, yeah, it’s a good idea to take a high quality B complex if you’re on one of these medications.

 

And then also if someone’s thinking about going on medication, it’d be interesting to check your homocysteine levels before taking the medications and see if they rise since these medications do deplete B vitamins, particularly B12 and folate. You may see your homocysteine levels rise. But then again, if you’re listening this and you haven’t taken medications yet, then you might be better off just taking a B complex and taking the B vitamins and then not worrying about homocysteine. But anyway. So, that’s what the medications can do. I don’t want to freak people have too much.

 

Doug Cook:

Well, no. Yeah. So, well, to your point since you brought it up, there’s a certain theme in healthcare where—I’ve never been this person, I’ve never practiced this way—but there’s this idea of like you don’t want to shock people. You give some motherhood statements because  give them too much information, you’ll overwhelm them or freak them out, etc. But how do they make an informed choice if they don’t know this? Why I find this very interesting is there are a couple of data sets that the government runs based on surveys of what Canadians are eating. So, there’s the Canadian Community Health Survey and the Canadian Health Measures Survey.

 

So, it’s updated I think every five years or whatever. So, coast to coast to coast, Canadians are not getting the recommended minimum intake of—you can name the nutrient. If it’s vitamin Dan:, 96% of us aren’t depending on the age category, could be 30% to 40% aren’t getting enough zinc. The bottom line is we’re not even meeting the minimum wage if you will when it comes to nutrients.

 

So, this idea of just follow a healthy diet is moot because nobody does. The other thing to consider is Canadians are—well, the people in these surveys, they admit that they’re taking supplements. Dietician peers—I don’t know if it’s because their career is food focused—they’ll always say oh, just eat food, just eat food. Food first is always the way to go but then the majority of dietitians also around 70% are supplement users which is good. But what I’m trying to get at is when you think of the RDA, the recommended dietary allowance for magnesium, it’s about 320 for women, 450 for men. It’s estimated that we’re getting about half of that. Then you layer on something that could deplete magnesium like metformin for diabetes or one of these psych meds, it becomes problematic. And what you know and hat you talk about on your site and in your resources and what I know is that no amount of medication can make up for a crappy diet.

 

So, unless you address that foundational stuff, you can’t be your best emotional psychological self until you get the biology working. I mean the two can go hand-in-hand. If someone’s really depressed, I can’t say to start or not to start an antidepressant because I’m not a doctor. But you cannot get the best return on your investment without addressing these things. And it’s interesting about those blue glasses, those blue blocking glasses because I don’t know if people—people may have heard of melatonin but I know serotonin is converted to melatonin and I guess historically throughout our evolution as the sun sets and the night time increases, the body ramps up melatonin production.

 

So, here we are with these screens and lights and computers and then 11 o’clock, we turn off the light thinking we’re going to go to bed and our body probably still thinks it’s 7:00 at night because we’ve had our face in front of a screen. So, I’m not familiar with the research. That doesn’t mean that there wasn’t research out there. Have you looked at research and/or anecdotally? Do you find them beneficial, those glasses?

 

Jordan Fallis:

Yeah. Well, there is one study where they used it on people with bipolar disorder and I forget how long they used the glasses for. But a lot of them, their symptoms banded. Like they weren’t considered having bipolar disorder anymore. I mean it was ridiculous. Like the circadian rhythm is really underappreciated. There’s a ton of research into how your circadian rhythm affects your entire body and your brain.

 

And so, I mentioned the blue light blocking glasses but combining it with just getting outside in the morning some time before 10:00 a.m. and just getting light into your eyes too or you can get one of those light boxes that they use for SAD. But when you combine those two together, that’s when you can see some significant improvement. It’s not it’s right away. It takes some time. Right? Like over the course of weeks, you’ll end up feeling better and healthy and you’ll likely wake up feeling more energetic. But yeah, I think that’s another huge part of the puzzle I guess.

 

Doug Cook:

Yeah, we’re not evolved to be exposed to so much light. So, out of curiosity, what’s your routine? Like when do you start wearing them? What time of day?

 

Jordan Fallis:

Ideally is actually as soon as it’s dark. But in the winter, right, it’s dark at like five. So, it’s often I just can’t pull it off. But at least two hours before bed I try to wear them. And the interesting thing is—it’s kind of weird—but I also have red light bulbs too in my room. So, I just I block out all light. So, there’s none even, no blue light or green light even shining on my skin. So, then on my actual screen too, I use something called Iris. It’s a program that blocks out all blue and green light and there’s like a sleep setting.

 

Anyway, so you can just do the glasses and that’s probably good enough but I go kind of extreme and I make sure there’s no blue or green light in my environment at all. And I’m not perfect with it. It probably sounds like I’m perfect with it but some nights I’m busy with other stuff, I forget. But ideally, if you just want to start with the glasses, at least two hours before bed can make a big difference. Yeah, it’s not just the food. It’s also how the environment can definitely affect your brain as well.

 

Doug Cook:

So, jokingly, I’m now thinking how awful the holiday season is if we’re stressed out, not sleeping, going to parties and then we got all those damn Christmas lights which are blue and green. So, no lights. I’m just kidding. So, when you wear them ,do you still watch TV or look at your phone?

 

Jordan Fallis:

Yeah. I still watch TV and I’m on my computer because the main thing is you don’t want the light shining into your eyes. But yeah, like I said, I go even further and try to actually stop the light from shining on my skin too because I found this amazing research where there’s actually some photoreceptors in our skin that can actually pick up on—it recognizes the light in the environment and then your circadian rhythm can be affected by that. But it’s mainly the retina, the eyes that are picking up on the light in their environment. So, yeah, I do everything I usually do.

 

Doug Cook:

Is it like looking through a bottle of Rose or something?

 

Jordan Fallis:

Yeah. So, you can get orange—it’s really funny. So, I have these red ones. So, they block out blue and green lights. So, they’re even more advanced. But yeah, it looks—some people won’t like it. Like it’s kind of annoying. So, I would suggest starting with, there’s orange glasses. You can get Uvex glasses from Amazon and they just block out blue light and that’s usually good enough for most people.

 

With the orange ones, everything just looks orange and with the red ones I have, everything looks yeah, like rose, red. So, two hours is enough. You don’t want to be doing it for pretty much longer. Then there’s fashionable ones that you can get for when you go out. But I just don’t do that. If I’m going to go out, I’m not that strict about it. I’ll get exposed to some light. That’s fine.

 

Doug Cook:

You got to draw the line somewhere.

 

Jordan Fallis:

Yeah. It’s either I wear my weird looking glasses and I look like a nut and I’d rather not do that. So, I’ll just go out like a normal person for a little bit.

 

Doug Cook:

So, yeah, save your favorite TV shows for when you’re not wearing them because I wouldn’t want to watch Star Trek wearing orange glasses because I’d want to see all the colors.

 

Jordan Fallis:

Yeah. It kind of ruins—yeah, you’re right. It does kind of ruin some shows and whatever you’re watching because the color gets all screwed up. You don’t want to be like a web developer where you’re doing some like work.

 

Doug Cook:

Yeah, no.

 

Jordan Fallis:

If it requires lighting, then that’s a problem too. You’d have to do that earlier in the day. But yeah.

 

Doug Cook:

Good. Got you. So, when I’m thinking about the last four here, there’s roughly depending if you call choline and inositol—anyway, it doesn’t matter. There are roughly 8 to 10 B vitamins. So, what people may not know or they should know is these are water soluble meaning we don’t have any ability to store them in adequate amounts like we do a little bit more with vitamin A or D or K or E that can get stored in—it’s found both in our blood and water but it’s also found in our fat cells.

 

So, it’s interesting because you need to steady supply these everyday. If you’re anxious, if you’re depressed, if you’re sleeping, you’re not eating, so your stores are low and then we layer on these medications that can deplete them further. So, it’s just a recipe for disaster sounds like. Would you agree?

 

Jordan Fallis:

Yeah. For me, I wish I’d known that the medications I was I was on for so long were depleting these nutrients. But yeah, because a lot of people like you said are already low to begin with and then you’re adding in these medications and you’re just digging people into deeper holes I feel like. But yeah, it’s unfortunate.

 

Doug Cook:

And then the other point I want to clarify for listeners is you mentioned something called homocysteine. So, for people who might not know this stuff, homocysteine is just in simple terms it’s like a byproduct of protein metabolism. It’s normal. We all have in our blood. That’s not a problem. Certain things can cause it to rise. It’s a risk factor for cardiovascular disease because it drives inflammation. But what people don’t appreciate and this goes at work and everybody I work with at the hospital I work at is we’re now looking, there’s a lot of research that suggests that depression, some degree of depression manifestation is really looking through a model of whole body inflammation.

So, it’s this whole idea of getting immune system involved and there’s immune-psychiatry and there’s a whole bunch of different fields of study. So, if homocysteine is elevated, it drives inflammation which can at least aggravate depression. Whether or not it’s an independent risk factor I guess is still to be debated. But two of the things that keep it down is B12 and folate because they basically help drive this metabolism to keep it in a healthy range. So, yeah, we won’t test homocysteine routinely with bloodwork because OHIP isn’t going to pay for it but you could look at B12 status and folate status and get an indirect marker of what your homocysteine level might be.

 

And then there’s a really interesting research that just optimizing B12 and folate improves treatment resistant depression and B6 works with those too. So, that for sure has a role in that homocysteine. So, it’s good that you highlighted that because it really reinforces that kind of synergy between all the nutrients. Did you want to say something? I’m kind of promulgating that.

 

Jordan Fallis:

No, I agree with what you’re saying. Yeah.

 

Doug Cook:

So, one last talking point here which I found fascinating again you’ve got on your blog post, a post called The 25 Best Natural Supplements Proven to Reduce Depression. So, some people may have heard about fish oil, may have heard about some research with magnesium and vitamin D. But there’s one that you’ve mentioned that I’ve never heard of called sarcosine. I’m saying that right I hope. And so, what the hell is it and how does it benefit depression?

 

Jordan Fallis:

Yeah. So, sarcosine is a natural compound. It’s worth supplementing if you have either depression or schizophrenia. A lot of people online take it for schizophrenia and they see great benefit from it and I wish I knew about it before going on the medications. So, it’s a metabolite of glycine and it works by inhibiting a transporter that takes up glycine into the cells. And so, it actually increases levels of glycine in the brain.

 

So, there’s one study I came across and they compared it to the SSRI Celexa and it improved mood faster than the SSRI. And then people taking the sarcosine were less likely to drop out because there are less side effects. And so, again there’s just one study and I think they took it for I believe it was eight weeks if I recall correctly. But anyways, I’ve taken it on and off and I just find it helpful. It seems to reduce stress and improve mood, helpful if you’re like going through a stressful period or you just want to feel a little bit happier and feel good. And the key thing is when you stop it, there’s no severe withdrawal. It just seems to be a really good substitute for antidepressants and I recommend it to some of my clients and they’ve benefited from it as well. But yeah, it’s not very well known but it’s a useful tool at least.

 

Doug Cook:

So, if it helps to maintain glycine levels, I’m just curious, how does the glycine help with mood?

 

Jordan Fallis:

I think it affects, if I recall correctly, it affects NMDA receptors. I don’t know if I’m saying that correctly. But it affects certain receptors in the brain and I’d have to go back and look into exactly how that ends up translating into improving mood and reducing symptoms of schizophrenia. But if I recall correctly, that’s the main mechanism.

 

Doug Cook:

Okay. Yeah. No, I’m going to check that out and read up more about that because I find that interesting. I take glycine for other reasons but I never thought about this as a nutraceutical to consider. And just as we wrap up, is there any non-food or supplement therapies you’ve come across in your research that you’ve tried or found effective? You mentioned the red glasses. Was there anything else?

 

Jordan Fallis:

Yeah. So, I found neurofeedback really helpful. So, it’s a therapy that essentially shows you your brain activity in real time and then it teaches you how to self-regulate it. So, a practitioner will put like sensors on your head and it measures your brain activity and then you get feedback. So, for example, when I did it, I was looking at a screen and I would see like Pac-Man eating up dots on the screen. It was funny.

 

Doug Cook:

I shouldn’t laugh. I’m not sure how this is going to go.

 

Jordan Fallis:

But then when your brain starts to wander or worry and you get anxious, the Pac-Man fruit will freeze. So, it’ll stop eating the dots and then what happens is over time, your brain recognizes that the Pac-Man is freezing every time it goes into a certain negative state. So, then your brain starts to regulate itself back to a healthier, more optimal state. Another thing is you need a practitioner to put together a protocol for you. Right? So, that like, for example, maybe your beta brain waves are really, really high.

 

So, then theoretically let’s say they’re at 11 and then the practitioner will set it so that we want your beta brain waves to get down to 7 instead of 11. So, then when your beta brain waves are at 7 or 6 or 5, then the Pac-Man just keeps eating up the dots. But then once it hits 8 or 9, then it freezes and your brain starts to recognize okay, I’m anxious and your brain is looking for rewards. It wants the win, right? So, then it gets that feedback and then over time, essentially it’s neuroplasticity. You start to shape your brain into a more healthier, more productive or beneficial state. So, that’s one of the most helpful things I did.

 

And then there’s red light therapy and photobiomodulation. So, you can shine red light on your brain and it can stimulate the production of energy in brain cells. So, that’s another helpful therapy. But I would say neurofeedback is probably the biggest one especially if you’ve had any sort of concussion or brain injury or any sort of trauma like emotional trauma or childhood trauma, developmental trauma and mental health problems. Neurofeedback is really, really helpful.

 

Doug Cook:

So, it’s more than just grounding and self-talk. It really is kind of resetting the connections if you will.

 

Jordan Fallis:

Yeah. It’s like fixing the software I guess you could say. Yeah, it doesn’t involve talk therapy at all. You stare at the screen and it’s pretty amazing. It can also help with—I don’t want to pump it up too much or anything—but I mean it’s helpful with ADHD too. So, kids with ADHD, I know there are a lot of different like parents and mothers that take their kids to do neurofeedback and they see good results. But again, I do want to stress that I think nutrition is a solid foundation before doing neurofeedback.

 

If people have nutrient deficiencies and they go and try to do neurofeedback, they may find that it doesn’t work as well. There are certain things in my mind that need to be done first before it. And going through everything I’ve gone through now, I can see what needs to be done first and second, then third to get the best results. So, yeah, but in the right circumstance, in the right stage in a person’s recovery, it can be really, really great.

 

Doug Cook:

That’s cool. So, I think that’s a great overview that we’ve talked about today. So, it’s going to give a lot of people tons to think about. So, I just want to thank you for your time in sharing your expertise and your journey and all the research that you’ve done. So, where can people find you and learn more about your amazing work?

 

Jordan Fallis:

Sure, yeah. So, people can check out my work at OptimalLivingDynamics.com. You can just Google my name and then the website will come up as the first or second result. As we discussed, I have a free food guide you can download. You can join my email list. You’ll get content and tips from me sent out weekly.

 

And then I provide consultations with people who want to improve their brain function and mental health and try to help them navigate through all the different options out there, try to suggest where they should go and what they should do and I do some specialized testing with people too and guide them. So, yeah, they just go to OptimalLivingDynamics.com or just Google my name and things will pop up.

 

Doug Cook:

Good. Well, again, I just want to thank you for your time today. It was a fantastic and fascinating discussion. I thought it was really, really interesting and I know others will too. So, again, thank you for your time. Good luck with everything you’re doing and perhaps we’ll talk again soon.

 

Jordan Fallis:

Yeah, thanks for having me. This was fun.

 

Doug Cook:

Hit subscribe and get ready to expand your nutritional world, your perspective and gain confidence in a way that you didn’t know you could. And be sure to check out my website DougCookRD.com.

 

 

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Doug Cook RDN is a Toronto based integrative and functional nutritionist and dietitian with a focus on digestive, gut, mental health.  Follow me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

 

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