Spoonie Radio Ep 02: Damien Blenkinsopp

Listen to Ep 02 where Damien Blenkinsopp and I talk the Quantified Self movement, mold, practical & affordable ways to biohack chronic illness, how to find easy wins against CFS, and more...

Full Text Transcript:

Dr. Craig: Hi everyone you’re listening to Spoonie Radio I’m your host Dr. Courtney Craig. Today I’m joined with Damien Blenkinsopp. Damien has a deep interest in data and analytics since the early 2000s and he’s passionate about the potential of data to revolutionize health management. He has worked as an Analyst and Strategy Consultant and help devised corporate strategies around published research on the use of data analytics in business. As an internet entrepreneur he came to rely heavily on sophistical analysis to manage his companies. He then turned his interest in numbers to body data and health optimization. He’s been an enthusiastic supporter of the Quantified Self Movement since its inception and collects data on many different body functions. He attributes this practice to his recovery from chronic fatigue syndrome. Damien holds a MBA from the London Business School, speaks 4 languages, and has lived literally across the world. His commentary has been featured in prominent press such has the Financial Times and Business Week and he has been a frequent speaker at top business schools, industry conferences, and corporate annual meetings. Welcome to the show Damien.

Damien: Thank you very much.

Dr. Craig: Now before we get started I know a lot of the listeners out there probably aren’t familiar with this idea of bio-hacking and the Quantified Self Movement so if we could start just kind of explain what is bio-hacking? What is quantified self?

Damien: Alright I’ll start with quantified self it makes more sense in that order. Quantified Self is a community--a bunch of people which is gathering a bit of momentum. It’s getting more publicity and there are more people joining. They organize conferences around the world, they organize meetings around the world. So for instance, I organized one in Bangkok while I was there and you know 10 people would get together and we talk about tracking data on any aspect of our life. It’s called quantified self because it could be anything, it could be your performance, your work productivity, often it could be health things, health problems that people want to try and understand cause they’re not getting fixed by conventional medicine or something like that. So that’s quantified self, it’s basically learning how to track data by yourself that can help you make a decision or understand if you’re getting better or worse at something to improve your life.

Damien: So the bio-hacking aspect is really using data and basically experimenting with something that’s going to improve your biology in some way. So it could be your mind, it can be your physical performance, it can involve all sorts of things. There’s lots of technology out there but it tends to be a bit more edgy than conventional traditional things so it can involve supplements...and often what people are doing is they are looking PubMed and places like that where there is research and they’re checking out what the latest research says about some supplements or some device or whatever it is and then they’re going to try it with themselves at home. We’re going to experiment. They’re going to track the data and see if it has a positive influence for them as well and it fits with the research.

Dr. Craig: Yeah, this is really exciting. And you mentioned this is going to change the way that health is managed; the way that health is given. How did you use these tools then to devise a treatment strategy for your chronic fatigue syndrome after you were diagnosed?

Damien: Sure, I just want to talk about chronic fatigue syndrome quickly. Because from my perspective so that we’re clear, it’s not really a disease or anything as far as I’m concerned. It’s just a category of people where there their bodies aren’t working as they should be. They’ve been overloaded with stress. I wouldn’t call it a disease or in the way we look at most things. It can happen from many kind of different stressor--a bunch of different things could happen to you. You just get out into this big box where basically a few of your body systems aren’t working and you know you’ve got some typical symptoms but often I think there are lots of different subgroups within CFS is my point. And in the future people will subdivide these into different areas. At the moment it’s just this big thing that no one understands really so that’s why it’s this big group.

Dr. Craig: Hi everyone you’re listening to Spoonie Radio I’m your host Dr. Courtney Craig. Today I’m joined with Damien Blenkinsopp. Damien has a deep interest in data and analytics since the early 2000s and he’s passionate about the potential of data to revolutionize health management. He has worked as an Analyst and Strategy Consultant and help devised corporate strategies around published research on the use of data analytics in business. As an internet entrepreneur he came to rely heavily on sophistical analysis to manage his companies. He then turned his interest in numbers to body data and health optimization. He’s been an enthusiastic supporter of the Quantified Self Movement since its inception and collects data on many different body functions. He attributes this practice to his recovery from chronic fatigue syndrome. Damien holds a MBA from the London Business School, speaks 4 languages, and has lived literally across the world. His commentary has been featured in prominent press such has the Financial Times and Business Week and he has been a frequent speaker at top business schools, industry conferences, and corporate annual meetings. Welcome to the show Damien.

Damien: Thank you very much.

Dr. Craig: Now before we get started I know a lot of the listeners out there probably aren’t familiar with this idea of bio-hacking and the Quantified Self Movement so if we could start just kind of explain what is bio-hacking? What is quantified self?

Damien: Alright I’ll start with quantified self it makes more sense in that order. Quantified Self is a community--a bunch of people which is gathering a bit of momentum. It’s getting more publicity and there are more people joining. They organize conferences around the world, they organize meetings around the world. So for instance, I organized one in Bangkok while I was there and you know 10 people would get together and we talk about tracking data on any aspect of our life. It’s called quantified self because it could be anything, it could be your performance, your work productivity, often it could be health things, health problems that people want to try and understand cause they’re not getting fixed by conventional medicine or something like that. So that’s quantified self, it’s basically learning how to track data by yourself that can help you make a decision or understand if you’re getting better or worse at something to improve your life.

Damien: So the bio-hacking aspect is really using data and basically experimenting with something that’s going to improve your biology in some way. So it could be your mind, it can be your physical performance, it can involve all sorts of things. There’s lots of technology out there but it tends to be a bit more edgy than conventional traditional things so it can involve supplements...and often what people are doing is they are looking PubMed and places like that where there is research and they’re checking out what the latest research says about some supplements or some device or whatever it is and then they’re going to try it with themselves at home. We’re going to experiment. They’re going to track the data and see if it has a positive influence for them as well and it fits with the research.

Dr. Craig: Yeah, this is really exciting. And you mentioned this is going to change the way that health is managed; the way that health is given. How did you use these tools then to devise a treatment strategy for your chronic fatigue syndrome after you were diagnosed?

Damien: Sure, I just want to talk about chronic fatigue syndrome quickly. Because from my perspective so that we’re clear, it’s not really a disease or anything as far as I’m concerned. It’s just a category of people where there their bodies aren’t working as they should be. They’ve been overloaded with stress. I wouldn’t call it a disease or in the way we look at most things. It can happen from many kind of different stressor--a bunch of different things could happen to you. You just get out into this big box where basically a few of your body systems aren’t working and you know you’ve got some typical symptoms but often I think there are lots of different subgroups within CFS is my point. And in the future people will subdivide these into different areas. At the moment it’s just this big thing that no one understands really so that’s why it’s this big group.

So I just kind of wanted to put that out there. Someone gave me the CFS denomination based on raised antibodies for Epstein–Barr virus that’s where my definition for CFS started. But pretty quickly I realize that there was something that wasn’t the same as other people. I had some commonalties. So you have to kind of be careful about the denomination and make sure you understand what are the commonalties and what’s unique about you. And focusing about what’s unique about you is actually one of the things that I found helped me the most. Because if you focus on what’s common, then you tend to be put in this big, big pool and no one’s really going to give you something specific that’s targeted at your specific stressor--whatever is was that pushed you over the edge and caused you to decline into CFS into this area where a bunch of your systems aren’t working. Eventually you’re going to have to resolve that and find out what that was.

Dr. Craig: Right, now a lot of these ideas of this whole notion is very outside the box, it’s kind of based on a functional medicine model. These things are popular outside the U.S. So how did you find the resources with this approach to get accurate testing, to find supplement that aren’t widely available in some of the places that you’ve lived?

Damien: Well I’ve lived outside of the Western world for a long time and I’ve lived in Asia for a long time, China places like this, so I’m already a bit used to accessing things in the West because that’s where early information tends to start. The U.S. is the biggest market and everything for most things in the world whether it’s business, or whether it’s health, or whatever. Most things are going to originate over there just because it’s a bigger market and that’s where the resources are so I’ve kind of been used to accessing and getting stuff shipped from the U.S. for a long time. There are ways to do that efficiently, get it past customs and stuff because that can be a bit tricky. So that’s the first things just supplements, and what you learn to do is look at the information and there is a lot of it now which is available online. There are a lot of people that are now coming out and they’re talking--they’re being very transparent, so there are physician are being very transparent about what they are doing. They’re putting all of the information out there for you to understand what you are dealing with rather than I think the typical model was you go to someone and they tell you what to do but they don’t tell you why, they don’t answer all the “why” questions. So this kind of something new where these people are saying you should understand your own, you should be responsible for this, you should understand it yourself and that’s a great movement because no matter where you are in the world this information is online: on blogs, in PubMed in the research you can check that out that’s all available online. There are lots of books about functional medicine now and there’s people standing up.

You have to be a bit careful of who you’re looking at of course. There is a bit thing about quality of information and that probably is one of my biggest things I’m very careful about the information I’m looking at and the quality of it. Is it published in research or does it look like they have an agenda or is it very transparent? So transparency is very important for me in the way they do it so I can think of some people who are very transparent like Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker he puts all of the research out there, he puts all of the biomarkers he’s using, the lab test, he explains how the lab test are, he puts video out to explain. There is just so much detail which is probably overwhelming for a lot of people and I have to be honest I’ve watched his physicians DVD’s probably 5 times because it’s incredibly complicated. He’s spent 20 years doing this so of course it’s going to take you a while to get your head around it but the information is available and it’s all really thanks to the internet. One way or another it’s because of the internet that all of this is available today. I think the idea is like go to the internet and start to find out where to get quality information sources and maybe go to books and stuff as well. On Amazon you can buy them electronically now so I don’t have to worry about getting it shipped to me either.

Dr. Craig: Now let’s go back to Dr. Shoemaker, for those who maybe aren’t aware of his work he’s very influential in testing for mold and treating for mold and you mention on your website that addressing the mold issue was really critical for you. I get a lot of questions from patients about this like how do you figure out if mold is a problem for you, how do you get tested, what do you do about it. So how was mold critical for your recovery?

I never accepted the CFS definition for myself and I knew I had to focus on different areas to fix myself.

Damien: It’s been one of the biggest changes for me and I never accepted the CFS definition for myself and I knew I had to focus on different areas to fix myself. So this was really one of the big breakthroughs for me and it came from just being open and reading around everything just keeping an opened mind. Because honestly a few people said mold to me and the first thing you think is “mold is everywhere how’s that going to affect me?” Often now I can I can explain this to people and everything, that’s the first response I get and the first thing to realize is toxic mold versus the normal mold. There is only some species of mold that are dangerous for us and there is a ton of research behind these. A lot of people have heard of Afalatoxin, there’s tons of research on that on how it gives you liver cancer. And then there are others as well. So you know there’s a lot of research on this. First of all there is toxic mold so it’s a subset of mold but the nice thing about this is Shoemaker has put a lot of information out there so once you got an idea that that could be and I think everyone that has put with CFS should definitely get this checked, why? Because it’s super high impact and it’s really, really cheap to find out, it’s actually free to find out if this could be an issue for you and I’ll tell you how.

So one of the discoveries that Shoemaker made is that what happens when you have mold illness or biotoxin and of course it use contrast sensitivity in your eyes. Actually what happens is your blood is getting a bit coagulated so less oxygen in it so this affects the capillaries in your eyes. It’s kind of a funny thing about the biotoxin illness but it’s really good it means that you can look at a screen and can do a test that will test your contrast sensitivity and it will give you a negative or a positive. And what happened to me was I eventually read Shoemaker’s book because I was reading everything and one of the case studies reflected all of my weirdest symptoms which I’ve found, I couldn’t find people with my weird symptoms so I was like whoa that’s interesting that guy’s got weird symptoms like me. So then I took the VCS test, there is a free one of this right now at vcstest.com a guy call Brian Gortney has developed and put it out there so that great. You can go and do this for nothing, you just log on and you take your test and it will give you a score, you sit there for about 5 minutes and you run through. The first time I did this I had a score of 40 out of 80, you need 80 to be healthy control: 80 or higher. I couldn’t see anything basically I was looking at this and I was like, “is there actually anything on the screen?” Now I can see virtually everything so it’s a huge difference in the way your eyes operate. So that’s a free test which enables you to tell if this could be an issue. After that the next stage is to get some labs done, some blood labs which are going to show you specifically…that cost a bit of money. My thing about toxic mold is that there is a free way to identify if it’s an issue for you.

Dr. Craig: Interesting, yeah I will post a link to that once this goes online. Now mold was a huge issue for you and you made this beautiful infographic on our website which I will also post a link to (above) that really presents more of a theoretical model of CFS as this multifactorial thing where you’re either exposed to things like mold, or toxic metals, or there is a genetic predisposition, or the diet is lousy, and it creates this vicious cycle of symptoms. Now if someone is looking at that where would they know to address first? How could we narrow down what’s going to be the most important factor?

So you have to really think about what’s the easiest win I can get right now to make myself a bit better so that I can do more.

Damien: Sure, Well this is what a good doctor would do: you have to think about where this all started. That is a really, really important indicator. I think the last guy I heard say this was Dr. John Chia he focuses on enteroviruses but he made a very good point, if you want to figure out where this started from you have to think about the context. For me it was pretty easy because I was in Bangkok during the floods and I got really, really sick there and floods are linked to mold growth and stuff like that so it all kind of made sense. So first the thing is try keep that in your head, figure out when did this start, and what was kind of unique about that situation that could help here a lot in trying to figure out that. Then to start what you have to already do I think is, CFS the thing about it is you have low energy, your fatigued, you have brain fog, you have emotional instability which makes it hard to get things done to focus and just to operate basically.

So you have to really think about what’s the easiest win I can get right now to make myself a bit better so that I can do more, I can work better on this. Because that already happened with me and I think if you’re really far down like I couldn’t do anything at one point, can’t really walk around the block, I had headaches all day so I couldn’t really think properly, it’s very hard to get anything done an I was struggling but I managed to get a couple of little things. The first thing is if you have something like mold or something in your environment which is affecting you negatively if you can just avoid that, eliminate it that makes a huge difference because you haven’t got this thing constantly coming in so in this case you can do the VCS test but if it’s something else that you think is in your environment like some people have got CFS because they were poisoned. I know a guy he was poisoned by chemicals, biochemical spilled and it was known in the area. Get away from it. This is constantly going into your system and you’re never going to get it out. So that’s the first thing if you can avoid whatever the situation is.

You really have to take big steps pretty quickly if you figure out you have this to put yourself in the right environment because if you do go down you’re actually losing more of your power to get out....

I travelled for many, many years in third world countries and I have parasites and all sorts of stuff going on in me that I have discovered so if you’re in that type of situation and it’s kind of obvious you’ve been in third world countries a long time you should probably go back to a Western country. The other thing I’d say you have to be extreme about this, one of the things I did pretty early on is be pretty extreme and aggressive about this because I had a very high standard for the way I was living. I was like. “I’m not living like this, there is no way I’m going to waste years of my life like this.” So as soon as I started I was thinking, “I’m getting out of here, should I do this? Should I take this? I’m just going to go to the most extreme.”  You really have to take big steps pretty quickly if you figure out you have this to put yourself in the right environment because if you do go down you’re actually losing more of your power to get out because you’re losing more of your energy and your focus and everything. So you have to think about that. Most people go steadily down and down and down and worse. And you don’t want to get in that position where you’re not able to work. If you’re still able to work that’s great. You want to keep that going and you want to keep you energy and start to focus so you can fix it yourself.

So those are the couple of points, another thing I think is relevant to everyone is methylation. It’s also pretty easy to work on that if you look at it. There are 2 people you should read about: Richard VonKoynenberg, PhD, unfortunately he is deceased but he has a ton of posts and information he made available and studies with a very simple protocol to help you support your methylation to get that better. Because everyone’s going to have deficiencies I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone who doesn’t have deficiency in methylation. That process is responsible for so much in your body that you’re not able to fight or do anything against the stressors if that’s going wrong so it’s really important to have that resource in place.

Another person who’s got great stuff and you mentioned her to me is Dr. Amy Yasko. She’s got all this free information, transparent. And what you don’t want to do with Amy Yasko is get into it really deeply. She goes really, really deep into the complexities of it. But what you can do is she now has this simplified methylation protocol which you can get started on and start making you feel better. Because if you’ve had CFS for quite a while your brains not going to be working and to dig into her stuff I think most people they get so confused and overwhelmed and it is pretty complicated with all the mutations and everything. I think what you really want to do is focus on that simplified methylation protocol, just get that rolling and get this going because it will start making you feel better and manage your symptoms. So before I found out the mold thing I was working my methylation, getting this right and it managed a lot of my symptoms. I had less headaches. I had better energy. So that got me moving I was able to keep studying, keep looking at things and keep moving.

Dr. Craig: Now you describe yourself as a digital nomad you’ve lived in so many different exotic places. Most people with CFS can’t travel at all and these dramatic changes in things like diet, you’re exposed to many different things like parasites, different time zones…any of those one things can certainly trigger someone back into relapse. So how do you avoid that--living this digital life as a nomad?

Damien: To be honest it’s a struggle. I won’t say it’s easy, it’s my lifestyle. I’ve been living like this for a long, long time. It’s not ideal however it does have some advantages for me. So I’ll give you an example: a couple of months ago I was going to move to Budapest with a friend of mine--a work buddy. I landed there and it was terrible. I have a weakness for biotoxin illness, mold at the moment. I think eventually you get that resilience but it’s been very recent that I’m still dealing with this and I have to stay away from that stuff. Budapest is not the place for me. It was very difficult to find any hotels or anything that didn’t have water damage which is basically the problem with toxic mold; which causes it. So I had to leave there within a week that’s what happened to that place. So you do have to be careful where you go. The other thing I have to be very organized because I need certain things at the moment as well to keep me well, things like supplements, I need access to lab tests because I want to keep progressing.

I’m not 100% there yet, I’m about 80% and it’s a lot of work for me still to do especially if I want to build up some resilience so this doesn’t happen again. You hear about a lot of people they get better after a while, a fair amount of people, but a lot of people go into remission again. My belief is that if you don’t work on the issue to rebuild your resilience--rebuild your body--so that this won’t happen again. If you do that and you monitor it, I think that you have to accept that. Either because you’ve lived a bit of a silly lifestyle in terms of picking up chemicals, pathogens...I lived in China for 7 years and I’ll tell you it’s one of the most polluted places in the world. I’ve got a lot of stuff in me. I’ve got a lot of tests, parasites as well and I had a lot of health problems starting from there even before I got CFS. So it depends on what you’ve done in your life, and also your genetics and your epigenetics of course, but you have to kind of accept where you are. You may have to monitor some things for the rest of your life.

I think it’s also interesting…so it’s been very beneficial for me. I would say now I have access to greater happiness in my life than ever before because I didn’t know that my brain wasn’t  working properly and I’ve got more clarity as well. I have a few genetic and epigenetic weaknesses which had been effecting my whole life and I didn’t realize it. So it’s been kind of a great discovery in a way and it’s something for sure I’m going to monitor for the rest of my life and keep improving on because it just means you’re going to have a great life quality. And we’re a subgroup, people have had some kind of CFS experience but I think on the whole, everyone has been in this kind of situation. It’s just that we’ve got down to the bottom. Everyone’s been losing a little bit of their healthy.  Everyone has got chronic issue. I’ll tell you what: when you start talking to people, your friends, or anyone they say, “Yeah, I’ve got this issue or something similar.” Everyone has this little bit of chronic health issues its just you managed to get down pretty far into a position where it’s hard to get back up again. Whereas they’re somewhere up here and they’re not living a high quality life, maybe they are a little bit less happy, maybe they got more moody or anxiety or there are all sorts of things that are going unnoticed. So I would look at it sort of positively like that and what we can get back.

The digital nomad thing: I have to be very, very organized to make sure I stay on top of it. I have systems. I have things written down. I do research before I go to a country. I make sure everything is there that I need. Right now I’m in Malaga in Spain. It’s great here. It’s a pretty ideal environment. There are a few issue with getting my labs organized and stuff but you learn to work around it and once you got a system down, it’s just about finding my system and then it’s just repeat and do it every single time. So I’m getting there. I had a few little bumps along the way but it’s becoming manageable.

Dr. Craig: That’s great, now another thing that I’m sure people are already wondering: this sounds very expensive. On your website you put up expense reports and have nice graphs. Now this is no small chunk of change to endeavor on this biohacking journey. Is it really feasible for a lot of people financially? It also takes a lot of mental energy. How can we get started on this if we have limited funds, limited resources, limited energy and brain power?

Damien: So definitely you got to focus on easy wins. My cost so far: I’ve spent around $35,000 to date. If you think about it compared to contemporary medicine costs…I saw about 10 traditional doctors when I first got into this and I got no diagnosis or anything apart from you have CFS. And I spent a lot of money in that. That counts for a big part of my expenses actually although it was the shortest amount of time it was about 6 months. So I think you keep that in mind and the second part is 23% of my cost so far have been travel and shipping. It’s because I’m not in the U.S. If you’re in the U.S. you can just forget it you don’t need that. Because I’ve been all over the place…so it’s my fault. So you can reduce those cost a lot and then you have to focus on the easy wins like we were talking about earlier.

There are low cost things to do, its low risk. So like the VCS test in that example. The methylation supplements aren’t that expensive. If you focus on the simplified protocols that are there then there isn’t that much mental effort. I would say you do if, pay attention to the details of these things. People tend to not get results they’re not going to implement the protocols exactly as they’re out there. So I know with the Shoemaker protocol when I first started that it was kind of difficult for me to really, really get it down because it had a lot of compliance in it and I didn’t get better as quickly as I could of. So me, anyone--if you’re doing one of these just focus on the details, try to execute an exacter to plan and you’ll get the results. So the methylation plan and if you can find some kind of avoidance thing, these things pair off quickly. The thing with the Shoemaker protocol for instance, it binds the toxins so you just take a cheap Cholestyramine and that will take the mold toxin out of your body, the biotoxins. You get quite a bit better just based on that. That didn’t cost much money at all and also my whole approach to this has been very aggressive and I’m spending a lot more money than most people. I have consultations, I keep a very open mind. I’ve had consultations with all sorts of people.

Some theories I don’t really believe but I still want to take a look at them because I don’t want to spend much time like this so I want to get better as quickly as possible. I’ve done a lot of experiments that didn’t work out as well that you probably wouldn’t do, they’re a bit more experimental. A while back I took something called C60 with olive oil. That didn’t work out for me but there was some research on it that said it could of…you know it cost me a bit of money. I would focus on the things that are really proven to work for most people, like methylation, and if you can figure out what is being the kind of trigger for you that would be helpful too.

This is a very personal illness, everyone has their own unique situation and you have to be careful of that.  A lot of other treatments out there seem pretty focused on this is your specific problem. I don’t think that’s the right approach to CFS. I think you have to start with the general stuff--we all have oxidative stress which is really high, we all have a methylation issues--if you can fix those it’s going to be a cheaper way to get into it and then you will have move energy to final hunt down what that root cause is and those pathogens or whatever they are and eventually get them. But that take more specialist help and it could take more money and stuff so it’s probably better to stack that towards the far end.

Dr. Craig: Now if we’re going to start collecting data on ourselves what sort of biomarkers should we use and measure over time? What have you found most useful? Which things can we modify?

Damien: This is like an expensive part too and I’ve spent a lot of money on specialist tests. I’d actually say that I’m doing better now but I was spending a bit too much money. You only want to do test when they’re either going to monitor you status: am I getting better am I getting worse? Or is it going to help you make a decision for a treatment: am I going to do this? Is it working? So for instance I was doing the Shoemaker test too often. It was costing me a lot of money. I got a little bit more information but actually it was probably not worth the cost because it was thousands of dollars, that’s kind of an example.

But there are very cheap things you can do. I track a lot of things daily now to make sure that nothing is going on because just going around your life with my issue biotoxin illness I could walk into a building and get exposed to mold and that would be affecting me and it could cause a crash or something. So I’ve got to monitor things on an ongoing basis. Every morning I take the VCS test just to make sure that’s clear. I use an app called Luminosity and this basically is tracking many of your brain function so I do that every morning playing a few games for 5 or 10 minutes. And whenever I have an issue this will start declining and it’s pretty interesting. For me it’s always the attention and the problem solving areas. If you research CFS, these are the places which are most affected.

So that’s very important for spotting when there is a problem. And then there is another thing which is cheap to do is heart rate variability tracking. So you get a band, a wireless band, you put around you I think they cost $40. Then you get an app on your phone which is a couple of dollars. That will allow you every morning just to track your heart rate variability. What happens is when you get more stress that’s going to go down. When you got more stress to your body in general, and you’re not coping it’s going to go down and you need to recover. I’ve been testing this for a while and any time it starts going down I really need to take a day off because I’ve been going around, hiking, and pushing things lately and trying to rebuild myself. As soon as that starts going down, you have to take a day off just chill around the house, just don’t do anything. Wait until it goes back up. So that’s really, really helpful and it cost you $45 just to track that every morning. It’s a very important piece of information I think. It’s been extremely useful for me to make sure I don’t go backward and I keep going forward.

So those are a few things and if you want to get into labs, the methylation labs are pretty important. The genes are O.K. I think it’s a bit too complicated to understand for most people though so I would say the most useful thing straight off is to get the biochemical ones which is the methylation pathways panel by HealthDiagnostics. This tells you what is your SAMe, and various components of the chemicals in your methylation process and they’ll tell you if you’re under methylated, if over methylated, tell you if you’re lacking antioxidant enzymes like glutathione. So you can really kind of see where the situation is at because the genetics are good but it’s not an exact science in that you could have a genetic mutation but you may be coping with it alright. Your enzymes might be going fast enough because typically these are fixing enzymes in methylation and could be too slow, for example. The way it works out is that part is actually ok so it’s not an exact predictor, it’s nice to look at the biochemicals and you can say, “ah today it’s at this place.” I know for instance I’ve had very low SAMe throughout so I’ve had to rebuild that so I supplement with that and it’s given me a lot more energy, sorts out the headache problems, all sorts of things. So it’s a very useful piece of information. And it also allows me to track my status, take that every few months and I can see if I’m improving. I can see the status of my methylation: is it getting back up to where it should be? back into control? So that’s a pretty useful test.

Dr. Craig: And could you tell me the name of that test again where we could find it?

Damien: There is a lab in New Jersey; they have another laboratory in Europe as well if you want to do it in Europe and the Netherlands. It’s called HealthDiagnostics, this was the lab recommended by Rich VonKoyenberg and he was using it for all of these test. You’ll also find he’s written a lot, he’s also analyzed people’s results online in forums so you can actually learn quite a bit about that test as well because of the fact that he was working very transparently which is pretty nice about it. What I also like is glutathione: it splits it between oxidized and reduced. If only reduced is working for you, for instance I have very high oxidized. If I took a regular test it would say you have high glutathione but actually the case was I had a lot of oxidized glutathione and not so much reduced, and reduced is the stuff we need. It gives you that detail it gives you a pure picture and it’s pretty useful for methylation.

Dr. Craig: Now through this whole experience over however many years you’ve been doing this, what is the major lesson that you’ve learned, the life lesson? What’s a good take home message from your experience?

Damien: There have been many life lessons. They say you can deal with anything. I’ve been in pretty bad places like most people with this so I’ve had really, really, low days and places that I thought I would never get out and stuff. But you learn that if you can get out of this you can get out of anything. Keep working on it so that would be the main thing. I think from now on I’ll go through life and honestly not much is going to be a big deal anymore compared to having had to dig out of this taking so long, being so painful. I used to call it the prison of pain on my bad days because you can’t get out of it. It’s like the worst prison in the world. You can’t walk out, you can’t do anything--it’s you and your body. So that would be like the biggest take away from all this.

The second one is you have to be responsible for yourself. You can’t expect anyone else to do this for you.

The second one is you have to be responsible for yourself. You can’t expect anyone else to do this for you. I think the old system of relying on your doctor for everything...but ultimately no one is going to care as much as you are. No one is going to have as much time so you have to use doctors and consultants and stuff. Use them for their expertise, go to consultation, get their advice, go away and then study yourself. Record the consultations with them and revise it, study it 3 times, so you understand all the stuff that they explained to you. I see a lot of people online they’re like, “yea I didn’t really understand half the stuff the doctor said to me. “ That time you paid for, advice you paid for, that could be invaluable to you. I think a lot of people would even forget some of the stuff they heard from a doctor or a consultant. So record it, and study it, and make sure you know it and use it and apply it.

Dr. Craig: I think that’s great advice, I’ve had similar experiences you just have to take what they give you and build on to it and just keep learning as much as you can to get better. Now how can we find out more about your work and what you’re doing on your website? Where can our listener go to find out more?

Damien: I’ve got a couple of places right now I’ve got this site called biohacked.net. You’ll find a bit of information about whatever experiments and a bit about what I’ve done with CFS on their, also how much money I’ve wasted on it. I publish that monthly because I think it’s important to be transparent about this. Like I said, transparency is changing the world so if more people could be transparent it would be a lot easier. That’s one place. Then I’m working on a podcast right now. I’m going to launch it in August and that’s going to be called The Quantified Body podcast at thequantifiedbody.net. That’s all about helping people get past all the opinion. If you look on the internet today one of the biggest tasks is understanding the information quality. Fortunately I was an analyst; I had an analyst background. My job was to decide what was good quality data, what was bad quality data. So I had a head start. But 90% of health, fitness, anything related to the body out there…information on the internet is opinion it’s not very data based. Often people have agendas, often they’re selling you stuff. It’s very complicated and it’s very time consuming to sift through it. So my idea of the podcast is to have experts and other people talking about the data, the biomarkers, and the devices. Like we were talking about…cheap ways of getting data on your body so you can make better decisions; whether it’s for health, performance, longevity, whatever your goal. This new world of information being available…in the form of labs more accessible, or the form of all of these devices which are tracking different parts of us…I think it’s going to revolutionize everything. So I just want to help spread the word about that and get some good quality people who understand what these metrics and stuff are how can they help us and get the word out about that.

Dr. Craig: That sounds great we will all check that out in August. Ok, Damien I want to thank you so much. This has been very informative and we look forward to hearing more about your experiments in the future. So tune in next time here on Spoonie Radio.

Damien: Thank you very much for having me Courtney, enjoyed it a lot.