The Melanie Avalon Podcast Episode #51 - Joe Cohen (Self-Hacked)
Joe is a well known biohacker and founder of Self Hacked, which provides thoroughly-researched, evidence-based health and performance information that reaches 2 million visitors each month. He has a quite fascinating background, and as he likes to say he ‘won’ the genetic lottery of bad genes. As a kid, he suffered from inflammation, brain fog, fatigue, digestive problems, anxiety, depression, and other issues that were poorly understood in both conventional and alternative medicine which embarked him on a journey of self-experimentation and starting Self Hacked. Joe is also the founder of SelfDecode, which lets people get personalized health recommendations based on their genes.
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3:45 - IF Biohackers: Intermittent Fasting + Real Foods + Life: Join Melanie's Facebook Group For A Weekly Episode GIVEAWAY, And To Discuss And Learn About All Things Biohacking! All Conversations Welcome!
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6:10 -FOOD SENSE GUIDE: Get Melanie's App To Tackle Your Food Sensitivities! Food Sense Includes A Searchable Catalogue Of 300+ Foods, Revealing Their Gluten, FODMAP, Lectin, Histamine, Amine, Glutamate, Oxalate, Salicylate, Sulfite, And Thiol Status. Food Sense Also Includes Compound Overviews, Reactions To Look For, Lists Of Foods High And Low In Them, The Ability To Create Your Own Personal Lists, And More!
8:45 - Joe's History: Why There's No One Right Answer For Health
12:30 - Starting SelfHacked
16:15 - The Role Of Genetics And Lab Testing
17:50 - The Format Of SelfHacked
18:50 - Conventional Vs "Natural" Medicine
20:00 - How To Stop Cherry Picking
21:20 - The Timeline Of Using Genetics To Get Healthier
22:30 - Addressing MTHFR
23:00 - Genes Affecting the Gut Brain Axis: Oxidative Genes, Food Sensitivities, Gut Health, Cannabinoids
25:30 - How Fast To See Changes?
27:10 - The Hiring Process
29:10 - SelfHacked -> SelfDecode - > LabAnalyzer
30:30 - Creating The World's First Personalized Health Blog
31:40 - FOOD SENSE GUIDE: Get Melanie's App To Tackle Your Food Sensitivities! Food Sense Includes A Searchable Catalogue Of 300+ Foods, Revealing Their Gluten, FODMAP, Lectin, Histamine, Amine, Glutamate, Oxalate, Salicylate, Sulfite, And Thiol Status. Food Sense Also Includes Compound Overviews, Reactions To Look For, Lists Of Foods High And Low In Them, The Ability To Create Your Own Personal Lists, And More!
32:40 - TH1 Vs TH2
34:00 - Website Censorship
38:33 - Cannabinoid Receptor, CBD, etc.
39:40 - BEAUTYCOUNTER: Non-Toxic Beauty Products Tested For Heavy Metals, Which Support Skin Health And Look Amazing! Shop At Beautycounter.Com/MelanieAvalon For Something Magical! For Exclusive Offers And Discounts, And More On The Science Of Skincare, Get On Melanie's Private Beauty Counter Email List At MelanieAvalon.Com/CleanBeauty!
42:00 - How To Use SelfDecode Reports
43:45 - Imputed Phenotypes
47:00 - Joe's Favorite Reports (Gut Health, Mood, Longevity, Etc.)
48:30 - How Genes Affect Weight Loss
49:55 - Genes Affecting Your Cannabaninods, And CBD Oil (Inflammation, Mood, Gut Health, Etc.)
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56:10 - Dosing CBD
1:00:45 - CBD Anti-inflammatory Role In the Gut
1:01:10 - CBD And Weight Gain
1:02:50 - Genes And SSRIs
1:03:15 - Low Dose Naltrexone
1:04:20 - The Most Profound Biohack
1:04:50 - Supplementing With Butyrate And Resistant Starch
1:06:25 - Biohack Regrets And Lab Result Improvements
1:07:30 - Iodine Reactions, Antibacterial Effects, And The SOD Gene
1:09:15 - Methylene Blue Supplementation (Antibacterial And Mitochondria Effects)
1:10:40 - Sensitive Butterflies And The SOD2 Gene
1:13:45 - Thyroid, Hashimotos, Autoimmunity, Inflammation
1:17:10 - Lumen: Take Charge Of Your Metabolism With This Breath Analyzer Which Tells If You're Burning Carbs Or Fat! Get $25 Off A Lumen Device At MelanieAvalon.com/Lumen With The Code melanieavalon25
1:18:30 - The Lab Analyzer in Self Decode
1:20:20 - The Diet Report
1:21:30 - Low Fat Vs Low Carb Diets
1:23:30 - The Covid And Respiratory Infection Report
1:26:50 - Go To Get.Selfdecode.com/melanieavalon For 10% Off With The Coupon Code melanieavalon
1:27:20 - Intermittent Fasting And Early Vs. Late Night Eating
1:29:40 - Cold Exposure
1:30:00 - Sauna
1:32:50 - The Placebo And Nocebo Effect
Melanie Avalon: Hi friends, welcome back to the show. I am very excited about the conversation that I am about to have. So, story for listeners. When I first started this show, way back at the beginning, I actually made a list of a lot of dream people that I wanted to bring on, doctors, authors, researchers. And on this list, I had the founder of my favorite website, and now here we are with that person. His team actually reached out to me, which was a very wonderful, surreal, exciting moment. For listeners, friends, I have been a huge fan of a website called SelfHacked. Since then it has grown bigger into SelfDecode as well, which we're going to talk about. I've loved the website, SelfHacked. It is a wealth of knowledge for all things biohacking. I cannot tell you how many nights I have found myself in tangents of research rabbit holes on this fascinating treasure trove of information. I am so grateful for it. Super excited to be here today with its founder, the brilliant Joe Cohen. Joe, thank you so much for being here.
Joe Cohen: Thank you so much for having me, and thanks for the kind words.
Melanie Avalon: I am really, really excited. We were talking before the show, I was saying that on this show, I have a lot of very specific episodes on specific topics, but I haven't really brought on a self-identified biohacker really, maybe like Siim Land, I think he might consider himself a biohacker but most people don't really identify as that. But there are so many topics that we can talk on. I know something near and dear to your heart is genetics and the implications, interpretations, and amazing things that you can learn from that. So, we'll definitely dive deep into that. But before going into all of that, I was wondering if you could just tell listeners a little bit about yourself, your background, your history, what brought you to where you are today?
Joe Cohen: Sure. So, growing up, I basically had a ton of health issues. They weren't the health issues that could be helped by conventional medicine, I would go to doctors. I knew there's something wrong with me, that I wasn't optimally healthy, but I didn't have any serious diseases or disorders. I would go to doctors, and they wouldn't really know what to do. They would just send me home and say, it's like, “Hey, my sleep is not good. I have insomnia. I'm tired all day. I brain fog. I have gut problems.” Basically, they could just say, “Oh, you have IBS and that's that. There's really nothing to do about it.”
I had mood issues and it's like, “Okay, go to a psychologist.” I went to one, there was nothing to do. He just tested me and said, “I can't really help you, but your mood is just generally--” He called it dysthymia, which is like a low-grade depression. Brain fog was the biggest issue, motivational issues. It was just a whole gamut of issues that I was having. It just didn't seem like I could get help from the conventional. I wasn't a huge fan of the alternative either, just because it seemed like, if you would go to a specific person, they would always just say the same thing. You've got leaky gut or something, adrenal fatigue or chronic Lyme. And then it's like, “Okay, well, what do I do for all that?” It just seemed very woo-woo. And I'm a very scientific person. Right now, there's a lot of people who like that, but just personally just didn't vibe with what I was interested in. I wanted the data. Where are all the studies to back this up? How do you know-- all these questions?
So, I started to look at other blogs and see what people were talking about. It just seemed the general attitude was, what works for me is going to work for you. I realized very early on that wasn't the case. I tried things that other people were doing and it just didn't help me that much.
I also just realized that everyone has a different opinion on everything. Everyone's super confident about what they're saying. The plant-based vegans are like, “Yeah, we're 100% sure this is the best diet for everyone.” The paleo would be like, “We know this is the best diet for everyone.” Everybody was saying this is the best for everyone. Whether it's keto or-- now there's carnivore. I just realized that can't be the case. You just speak to 10 people and you'll see that everyone does well on something else. I just knew that anyone who's too like, “This is a cure for everything, just follow this--” I tried it anyway, but I just realized that I have to figure out how my body works. Not only how my body works, I want to understand how the body works in general. So, this way, I could figure out what's good for me and then I could also figure out what's good for other people, if I do that. If my body works in this way, then this is good for me. If your body works in that way, then that would be good for you.
Really, I was on a mission to try to find out why different things work for different people. That was really my main mission. SelfHack, I bought the domain in 2011, but I wasn't healthy enough to really make it into something significant. I didn't start the site until pretty much early 2014. I just wasn't healthy enough to do it and I was in school also for a time. I had motivational issues, mood issues, all these kinds of issues. I was not able to do anything besides taking care of my own health. I was basically just busy all day taking care of my own health. So, yeah, I already had the idea of SelfHack as in everyone is different, and you have to biohack yourself. That was the idea of SelfHack, is give people information to learn how you can biohack yourself, and you can make your own decisions about what works for you and what doesn't based on that information.
I always made the effort to be as thorough as possible in our posts, but also as simple as possible because there was a lot of websites that were thorough, but they were not simple. It was very complex. There were a lot of websites that were very simple, but they weren't thorough, or scientific, or rigorous in terms of the science. So, I wanted a combination of very rigorous science, very thorough, but also open-minded because a lot of the mainstream sites were just giving you what basically your doctor would tell you. And I wanted something that was, what is the science saying rather than outdated information from medical school. I wanted it to be very comprehensive as well. I wanted to post on all different kinds of topics.
But something I realized was that, it was all great, having posts on different supplements and just a whole bunch of different topics, but the issue was that, people, they still don't know what would work for them. The reason is because it was missing a lot of key elements. You can have a lot of information, but not everyone is going to read every single post on SelfHack. It is a very comprehensive site of information. So, we kept on trying to make it simpler and simpler and make sure that anyone can really understand it while also keeping some of the science so that people understand the mechanisms and why. There was still an underlying issue where people are not going to read 1200 comprehensive posts, and posts about biology and pathways and this, then the other. So, there was something missing in terms of personalization.
It was very clear from 2013 already, I started to use my genetics and I was doing that in 2014. I just realized that-- I started to do biohacking with my genetics and lab tests as well, but I didn't have any tools to help me and so it was a very cumbersome process where I had to look at individual SNPs and do all the research on my own, and it took a very long time. But I still found it was very interesting and helpful. It just was very, very, very hard to do and I realized that people, they wanted information that was personalized. So, what I did was I started to give consultations, but obviously, I'm only one person and I couldn't scale that. Even if I could, even when I was doing consultations, I needed tools to help me to make it more efficient. Because if you really want to do it right, it could take 10 hours for an individual. I couldn't charge for my time for 10 hours, most people can't afford that. So, I knew that I needed the right tools to help people personalize their health.
The big missing pieces, obviously, were genetics and lab tests, as well as looking at symptoms and whatnot, but genetics was a huge piece. Because for any given trait, it's caused by 50% genetics. If I talk about my inflammation issues, my brain fog, that had a lot to do with genetics. Same with the gut issues. My mom had gut problems, her mom had gut problems, and that's as far as I know back. So, I'm assuming someone back-- my grandmother's someone had gut problems, but I just didn't know about it because I never met them or didn't know about them. But essentially, it was clear that genetics was a huge factor in all these things. It was also clear that through genetics, you can understand better how to implement things and that you'll get better results.
So, instead of guessing, which I was doing for a while, just randomly taking or doing anything I could get my hands on, and then seeing what worked-- with looking at the science, of course, as well, there'd have to be some kind of plausible reason that it would work, but it was a lot of guesswork. I just thought I need something personalized, not only for myself, but for other people as well so that they can harness the power of their genetics, look at where they're weak, where they're strong, look at how they can improve their health in a personalized way. And that's where SelfDecode came along.
Melanie Avalon: Oh my goodness. Listeners, so now you can see why I'm obsessed. Yeah, so you're touching on going back to the format, for example, of SelfHacked. That was what I loved so much about it, was that it was so comprehensive. I can't even understand how you could have created all this content because basically, whenever I was doing research, I would google the topic and I would put SelfHacked in the Google search to pull it up on the site. The formatting has typically been all this information, with links to studies, but like you said, very succinct, very easy to follow.
Then, what I loved about it was, I never got any sense of cherry-picking, which is just such an overwhelming problem normally. I just felt very much like this is the information that we have. So, I found it very, very enlightening. But then like you said, there is this need to interpret that and what do you make from that. One other thing I wanted to comment on was, I love how you started this conversation talking about the tension between conventional medicine and being specialized and not really finding the answer anywhere, compared to more natural medicine, but applying this blanket label of leaky gut or adrenal fatigue. I hadn't really thought about it before, but in a way, I feel biohacking is combining the two and that it's taking the specialization of conventional medicine but applying it from a more holistic or at least a more nuanced overview of the body. I was just contemplating that while you're saying that, but I just started using SelfDecode as well, so we can hardcore go into that for listeners so they can learn what they can learn from that.
Before that, I'm dying to know when you had these health issues, brain fog, fatigue, digestive issues, the timeline of that, and then when you did start looking deeper and finding the genetic aspect of things, what did you learn about yourself? What steps did you take and then how quickly did you see changes?
Joe Cohen: Yeah, sure. Just to go back on the cherry-picking and I'll get to your question. The way I went about SelfHack is I hired scientists, and I told them to-- I basically oversaw them, told them to research the topic. The instructions were research it to death as thoroughly as possible, find every study you can that's relevant, and then write about it. These scientists, they didn't really have a background in health.
Melanie Avalon: No agenda.
Joe Cohen: No, they had no agenda. Basically, no one on the team had any specialized diets or anything that I was aware of, it was just like they were random people. They were scientists. The criteria was can you write science? We train them also in a way that the laypeople can understand, and we really drill down on making sure that it was understandable. But we really just hired scientists with no agenda. We made sure that it was simple and very thorough. That's why you didn't get a sense that there was cherry-picking because we didn't have an agenda. There was no agenda. We don't have any dogma. Whatever the science said is what they wrote, and that was that. We have the same policy with SelfDecode and Lab Test Analyzer. There's no dogma involved. It's just what the science says.
Getting back to what steps that I take, basically, how did I use my genetics to become healthier, essentially, is what you're asking. Yeah, I use my genetics and my lab tests to get healthier. What I did was for the genetics, I looked at, let's say, genes related to gut inflammation and I would go deep down into each gene and see what are the natural ways to counteract this genetic weakness. I knew a ton about supplements and how-- basically, I spent a ton of time learning how the body works and the biochemistry, so I was able to figure out pretty quickly, okay, this gene works through this pathway and that means that this might help me.
One example had to do with the cannabinoid receptor. There's many examples when it comes to these things, because each topic has its own examples. It could be a really, really long conversation and I keep on learning new things all the time. But one thing, let's say, I found in the beginning-- this was one of the earliest one, was MTHFR. I had the homozygous-negative variants for that and I realized I need to start making sure that I have enough methylfolate and get enough folate in my diet and whatnot. Now, that actually I didn't see any improvement on but I'm always aware about my intake of natural folates, and if I'm not getting enough B vitamins, I do take the B vitamins. That was one of the first things. But then I also saw I had genes related to oxidative stress like SOD2 and I realized I was more susceptible to that.
But then, one of the biggest eye-openers were early on was with this gene called CNR1. I knew that I was sensitive to a lot of plant-based materials, and I knew that it had to do with my gut, and I knew that it was genetic as well. Pretty much everything has partial genetic cause. I was like, “What are the genes that are most important for me with regard to this?” I saw that I had this relatively rare variant of the cannabinoid receptor. I also had some negative variants of the serotonin receptors, the 2A receptor. Both of these are actually really, really concentrated in the gut and the brain as well, especially the hypothalamus and whatnot. I knew these problems were very related to the gut-brain access. So, I started to dig into what are these genes doing. I started to realize that, okay, let me start seeing if I target these genes, if I can lower gut inflammation and improve mood and things like that. So, I started targeting these pathways, and the things that I did was actually way more helpful than what I was doing before.
I started to understand that “Wow, this is having a big impact.” Basically, it gave me ideas about what I should try, what I should prioritize, and that made a very big difference in my health. So, now my food sensitivities are less. I basically know how to-- I still have them, but I know what diet I need to have. I know if I do stray from my diet, what are the things that will help me. I also have a better idea of how to help my mood as well. If I would get inflammation or gut inflammation, it would also affect my mood, these things were very connected. So, these kinds of things, they gave me very good tips based on this kind of understanding, the genetic understanding, and I was able to dramatically improve my protocol and have a much more customized protocol.
Melanie Avalon: One more quick question about that. What was the timeline on how fast you would see changes in yourself after making changes? A week, a few months, a year?
Joe Cohen: No, I would generally see change within a day.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, a day?
Joe Cohen: The same day. Yeah. What I would do is I would try something in a higher dosage, and I would generally notice the change that day or even a few hours later.
Melanie Avalon: Supplements or dietary changes?
Joe Cohen: Yeah, these changes, they help me out right away. I think they help people out-- a lot of times they help right away, but sometimes people don't notice it right away just because people are different in what their issues are. For example, if you have a skin issue, maybe it's eczema or psoriasis, it's not going to go away the next day, it's going to take time. So, that's something that would take longer. But for me, if I was fatigued or something or I had brain fog, I would notice differences that day. I would just notice my brain was working better. I had lower inflammation. This kind of biohacking really allowed me to propel to the next level. It really allowed me to take SelfHack to the next level, start up SelfDecode into a big company that is making a very big impact on the genetic space. Then, I also started up the Lab Test Analyzer, and now we're combining the Lab Analyzer with SelfDecode so that people can get both of them. They're already combined, essentially.
Also, I have another company as well. The other company is not related to health, and I'm still working on it. I've been working on that for a few years. Essentially, I found the hardest part about starting a company was hiring. It was just really hard to hire good people. It was a very high turnover in the beginning. Because you got to remember, when I started SelfHacked, I didn't have any experience with the internet, marketing world, or content creation, or WordPress, or starting a site, or starting a podcast, or doing anything really. And definitely not a complex company like SelfDecode. SelfDecode, there's a lot of software development. It's not a simple company because there's development related to privacy and security. Genome files are very big. I wanted to build a lot of features that were really good. There's designs. You have to make it so that the information is presented really in not a complex way. So, there's UI/UX challenges. It's not like building an app. If you look at it any bank, I always think who is creating these websites? They have to be completely deficient in UI/UX. It's so hard to use some bank websites. It's crazy. But that's a bank and that's tried and tested.
When you're dealing with a genetics app, you have to make sure that the information is accurate, and it's all the software, the backend, the frontend, the designs, the content creator, the scientists, the bioinformatics. It's a complex operation, and you really need to hire very good people. That was a very big challenge, so I created software just for that purpose, essentially, is to hire good people. I created tests and software. Now, that's its own company. It's like we vet people in a very good way because you really need the top people to move forward a company like this. It's not a simple company.
One of the biggest changes, of course, as I was biohacking, first, I was able to start SelfHacked in 2014, made very significant changes. Then, with the genetic changes and looking at my lab test, that allowed me to get to the next level, I started SelfDecode. Then, I started the Lab Analyzer, again, which we're combining in for the past three years as a side project, I've been doing this hiring software and tests. That's its own company. So, it's not easy to start four companies that each company's very significant on its own. Especially the hardest one, by far, is SelfDecode.
With all these companies, each one has its own challenges. So, before going into SelfHack, there's a massive basically nuclear bomb in the health world, as a lot of people who are really into the health world know, basically Google stop ranking any website that was not WebMD, Healthline, or the big hospitals or governmental organizations. No matter what your content was like, they don't care. So, they're basically shadow-banning content producers. We made SelfHack really, really good. We would be one of the top websites right now, if Google gave us the traffic, basically if Google didn't ban us. Anyone who goes to SelfHack, they'll see it's a really amazing resource.
But what we're focusing on now is actually something that I'm more excited about, which is the genetics and the personalized health because as great as SelfHacked is, it's not personalized. So, we took our expertise in writing amazing blog posts, and then my idea a bunch of years ago, and we already built it, we have a whole bunch of content on it, as you know, is to take our expertise with the content and software as well and genetics, and create the world's first personalized health blog, which never existed. You will not find a personalized health blog out there. You've read the articles, you see that a lot of the content is personalized to you as an individual. The same with the reports as well, it's very personalized. But essentially, that's where I've always wanted to go and so the Google updates basically just spurred me more in that direction. But essentially, these are complex companies and to really do a good job, it takes a really amazing team, which we have now.
Melanie Avalon: That is so incredible. I love how you found that other company just because it was something that you needed with the self-hiring. It's like with me, although this is in the health sphere, but I was always trying to figure out my food sensitivities and figure out which foods were high in different compounds, amines, histamine, salicylates, oxalates, lectins, gluten, FODMAPs, often referencing SelfHacked to research a lot of this, but there was never like one resource that would compare all of them. So, I made an app for it actually called Food Sense Guide, and it's super popular, but it was literally just because I needed it for myself. I was like, “I need this app.”
Joe Cohen: Yeah, those are the best because everything I've built, I needed for myself. I wanted this database, this encyclopedia of simplified information on SelfHacked. I wanted this genetics analyzer, the Lab Analyzer. And then, I also needed hiring software and tests to make it work.
Melanie Avalon: That's so incredible. Before we leave the SelfHacked world and move to the SelfDecode discussion, I will tell you probably-- because I can't even tell you the hours and hours I've spent on SelfHacked. If you're curious, my two probably favorite resources is the super nuanced overview of the TH1 versus TH2 discussion. The resource that, or I guess the scientists that you hired-- that's incredible, by the way. I love hearing that's how that worked. It's just so fascinating. Do you have any thoughts on that, by the way, the TH1 versus TH2 because I know you had mentioned sometimes in the posts, like your personal experience with things?
Joe Cohen: Basically, what happened was, in the beginning, the first year, I was the only writer on SelfHack. That was a post that I wrote. A lot of the posts that were very popular, I did write. The vagus nerve post, that post. So, it started out as a personal kind of blog combined with science of course and my personal experiences, as you know. You said you had your personal experiences. But over time starting, I basically hired a science team and I trained them and I oversaw them. So, it became less of a personal blog and more of a resource that was basically what I wanted, but it was a resource that was more unbiased, so those did not have personal opinions.
Now after the Google debacle, basically it was something-- they were penalizing any website that wasn't medical consensus. If you had personal opinions on it, they would penalize you. We actually separated that into SelfHack, without the “ed.” So, there's now a new site SelfHack. The idea was that if you type in SelfHacked, any post on SelfHack will also come up. But we did leave a lot of posts including the TH1, TH2 dominance on SelfHacked, but what we did was we had them like-- we took out some of my personal opinions, we put in a little more science, and then we also had them medically reviewed. We added basically skepticism to it, basically, “We don't really know what the deal is.” Essentially, some disclaimers, to make it medically compliant so that if a doctor sees it, a conventional doctor, they'll appreciate it. If an alternative doctor sees it, they'll also appreciate it. It'll be credible to both of them. That was one goal. But also, another goal was to basically get our Google rankings back, which didn't end up working anyway. Basically, the content is still stellar. It's still incredible. Just the level of the depth, the thoroughness, and comprehensiveness that you can get from it, even though there's a lot of information.
In terms of what I think, I think TH1 and TH2 are very significant. And that was a realization with me, for example, and there's genes related to that, of course, but basically the immune system is built in a few different ways. There's TH1, TH2, TH17. Each one has its pros and cons really. But if you're TH1 and TH17, if you're too much in that direction, they are kind of this balance, TH1 and TH2, where TH2 is more anti-inflammatory. But it also has some issues, you're more likely to have like peanut allergies, those kinds of allergies. Whereas TH1, your immune system is just more likely to be elevated and have autoimmune issues. Gut problems, autoimmune issues, brain fog, whatever it is. Whereas the TH2, those people tend to have eczema. They have hay fever, pollen allergies. They're also more prone to gain weight.
It was one thing that I noticed when I was doing a lot of research was like, “Okay, this is why people are reacting to different things.” And it turns out that all these supplements and a lot of things with the diet, basically bounced you in one way or another. If you're very TH1 dominant, I was taking a lot of supplements to reduce that. Whereas if you're very TH2 dominant, it's just a whole different supplement paradigm. So, that was one of the big lightbulb moments where I was like, “Okay, this is one way that people are very different. Depending on what you are, you have to try different things.” But again, these things can get complex knowing, “Okay. Am I TH1? Am I TH2?” And then you're something else. So that's where the personalization comes in, so that more specifically we tell you here's what you need to do based on your genetics and lab tests.
Melanie Avalon: I was just so fascinated by all the information that you compiled. I remember trying now, one of them really resonated with me. It was probably being TH1 dominant, I think. I have to revisit. But then I remember looking at one of the pages about supplements and dietary practices and such that affected them and it just really resonated with me, like I said. But there is that, you said, the caveat of you can have all this information and make generalizations, but there is still that specificity that is likely very important based on one's individual genetics.
I will say real quickly the other posts which, now hearing your story about the evolution of that website, I'm guessing this was probably the same case as the TH1, TH2. One of your original posts was your take on the lectin avoidance diet, because there's a lot out there about lectins and all of this stuff. But, A, your post on it was amazing, and, B, it just so happens the diet that really worked for you is the diet that really works for me. That's when I was like, “Oh my goodness, this is incredible.” We just might have similar genetics, I don't know.
Joe Cohen: I would check out your CNR1 gene.
Melanie Avalon: What does that one do again?
Joe Cohen: That's a cannabinoid receptor. Cannabis and CBD are what interacts with the cannabinoid receptor, mainly THC. But essentially, the cannabinoid system is quite complex and there's a lot of things that actually interact with it. A lot of supplements. It's really a very significant system in the body. People know it based on cannabis. But when you're not smoking cannabis, it has a lot of things that it's doing. Your body has its own natural cannabinoids and has its own machinery, the receptors, different enzymes. So, that system is very important to determine whether you're TH1 or TH2 dominant. If your cannabinoid systems are not working as well, you're more likely to be TH1 dominant. So, that's why genetics is a very important factor, extremely important. Basically, the main thing whether you are TH1 or TH2 dominant, or TH17 dominant.
Melanie Avalon: So, when I'm in the SelfDecode platform, how would I pull up specifically the CNR1 gene?
Joe Cohen: You can do it in a couple of ways. Basically, people don't necessarily know what gene they want to pull up. Generally, the way I recommend it is you look at a topic. The CNR1 gene is in the brain report, the cognitive enhancement report, it's in the mood report. So, generally someone has a worse mood or they want to improve their brain function, it's also in the gut report. So, these are some reports that you would look at. It's in the weight report as well. The weight report will be released once this podcast is out, but essentially, it's in different reports.
We have a particular blog post about lectin sensitivity and that gene just to make it easier. So, if you just type into the personalized SelfDecode blog, lectin or something, lectin sensitivity, it'll come up with the posts.
Melanie Avalon: I pulled up my mood report. For listeners, I hadn't looked at the mood report yet. This is so interesting.
Joe Cohen: Well, there's a lot of information. I wouldn't expect you to look at it basically because you could only do one-- basically the way I do it is I'm focused on one topic at a time, whether it's mood or something else. But if you just look in the SelfDecode blog, the personalized blog, and you type in lectin, you're going to find the gene that has to do with CNR1.
Melanie Avalon: I actually would love your thoughts on this. It was called Genes for Good is what it was called. What was really interesting, and this is what I love your thoughts on was, there was the file that was more limited and then there was another file that they said was the “complete file,” but it was, I guess, them like filling it in, based on what they thought it would be. Does that make sense? It was based on other trends. I was like, “That's weird. I don't know that I would want to use that.”
Joe Cohen: You talking about they did some kind of imputation where they--
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, it was imputed versus not.
Joe Cohen: So, what you put is the limited file?
Melanie Avalon: Yes. What would the other file be?
Joe Cohen: We're doing imputation as well on our files.
Melanie Avalon: Okay, so what does that mean exactly? I didn't understand what that meant.
Joe Cohen: First of all, our chip is a lot better without imputation. So, we're testing I think it's about 800,000 SNPs or something, and it's a very good chip. I find it's better than 23andMe's. But with the imputation, that should go up to one and a half million or something. It basically just means that with all the data-- based on the variants that you have, they could predict with 90-- you can basically choose a cutoff of certainty. I don't know what certainty they chose, but let's say it could be 98%. 98% probability that this is your variation based on the other SNPs that you have.
Melanie Avalon: I'm going to check actually because I have it right here.
Joe Cohen: If you only had one post show up for lectin, probably just means it's a limited file and the imputation is also limited. I would recommend getting an additional file. It's pretty cheap.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. It says, for example, they estimated genotypes at an additional seven million positions by comparing your directly measured genotypes to a set of 2500 people whose genotypes have already been determined and filling in the best guesses for your DNA on ones that we did not directly measure.
Joe Cohen: Right. That's imputation.
Melanie Avalon: I was always wondering what that meant exactly.
Joe Cohen: Yeah, it just means they're guessing based on-- we're doing the same thing. We haven't implemented it yet, but we're doing it. It'll be automatic also. So, if you upload the file, it'll automatically impute and give you the expanded information. I think I would get another file anyway, just because it seems like this one's limited.
Melanie Avalon: Awesome. For listeners, like I said, I did have my genetic data from that, the Genes for Good. I had run it through various services like Promethease, which is really fun, but very overwhelming, and then other various decoders, but they were always basic and didn't really give you that information. I just got the SelfDecode platform and, like I said, it is the coolest. It's really well done, which should come as no surprising as how well done your work is in general. It's organized by category and then very clearly notated and you can see how you can learn a lot basically about yourself. What is your favorite out of all the reports?
Melanie Avalon: It's a good question. Would probably say the gut health just because I'm most interested in it. The reports that we made more recently-- more recent that we made them, usually the better just because we are always learning and making them better. We're updating the whole report system. We're making a lot of changes. But the gut health is really good. I like our COVID and respiratory infection report. Our longevity report is interesting. The mood report is very interesting. Mood and gut health are something that I'm always interested in, so I look through those.
I also look through the categories on the blog. The blog has categories. You can just press “gut health” and it'll automatically sort them based on the posts that you have some risk in. Let's say, if we're talking about in any given topic, there's usually around 50 genes that cause some kind of effect, somewhat important effect. Same with weight. With weight, there's about 50 genes that are important in determining your weight. Something with weight that's actually quite interesting is that the variance in how much of it is genetic is person by person. Some people, it's estimated that it's as little as 21%, but it goes up to 24% to 81%. In some people, it's, it's up to 81% in terms of like that's how much your genetics is influencing your weight.
Now, the thing is that we also know that with any of these traits, you could always do a lot of stuff to-- even if someone has genetics that make them overweight, if they know the right protocol to do, they can manage their weight and be relatively thin or they can be thin.
I love the SelfDecode blog. The reason I love the report is for the prioritized recommendations and to get some overview like a risk score of your likelihood of different things, but basically, they'll prioritize recommendations based on your genetics and I find that most useful for that because that takes in all the genes into account. But when I want to read about each gene, I'll look at the blog, and I'll see, okay, here are the genes that are most important for me, and I'll read that from the top. And that's very, very interesting for me.
Melanie Avalon: So, one little question because I can't let it slip before we move on while we're still talking about the CNR1 gene. Does that affect whether or not people respond to CBD oil, for example? Because some people say they don't respond at all and some people say it's amazing for them?
Joe Cohen: Yeah. There's actually a couple of reasons for that. Number one is some CBD oils are not good.
Melanie Avalon: Okay, so assuming a good-- Feals is the brand I adore.
Joe Cohen: Yeah, assuming that people are using a good brand, it has an impact on other genes as well. One gene that would have an even bigger impact on is FAAH, which basically is this enzyme that breaks down your natural cannabinoids in the body, and it inhibits that enzyme. So, then you have more cannabinoids in the body. This is why also it makes a difference in knowing your genetics. One thing that CBD oil does is it doesn't activate the cannabinoid receptor, it actually inhibits it. I find when I take CBD, it doesn't help me right away from my food sensitivities, but it'll help me the next day. I would not realize that if I didn't understand what my genetics were and what CBD was doing. So, that's exactly what this platform is able to tell you. It's telling you here's how your genetics are working and here are the supplements or lifestyle factors that can enhance, make you better in a certain way.
We basically take a holistic approach. A lot of companies are only looking at genetics. What we do is we make sure that it also is good for the underlying topic. We won't ever tell you do this because it's your gene. Let's say if you want to improve mood, and we know that CBD helps mood, but if CBD also particularly helps a gene that's related to mood, then it would go up in the priority list, especially if it's helping multiple genes. So, that's essentially how we're using SelfDecode, and how people use it is, with CBD, there's multiple genes that it'll have an impact on, and multiple genes within mood, within other categories, inflammation, and you want to see if how it's helping those categories. The best way to do it is look at the category that you're interested in, and it'll show you all the genes that are increasing your risk for something. And then, it gives you the recommendations at the end of the post about how to improve that and it gives you all the research as well. So, that's what I would recommend doing.
If I typed in FAAH and it shows me I have an orange face, which is not ideal, but it's not particularly bad. And this is as it relates to ARDS which is related to coronavirus. That's what the complication is with coronavirus. Whether how predisposed you are to inflammation after you get a respiratory infection or something like that.
Melanie Avalon: Gotcha. I'm so eager now to upload a fuller genetic profile. The genetic tests that you guys provide, how long-- because I know a lot of times the turnaround on that takes a while. How long does it take to get the results for that?
Joe Cohen: I believe it's around six weeks.
Melanie Avalon: Okay. Yeah, it's a spit test, I assume.
Joe Cohen: Yeah. So, the reason we provide our own kit is just because a lot of people don't want to go with 23andMe just because they don't want it to be sold to pharmaceutical companies. And it happens to be that our kit is also a bit better.
Melanie Avalon: I just have one last follow-up question about the CBD. You were saying that it inhibits the receptor. Inhibits it for everybody or only for certain people? What's the individualized aspect of how you react?
Joe Cohen: No. It's going to inhibit it for everyone. The thing is that it inhibits it, it blocks it. Doesn't inhibit it, it blocks it. The reason why you might feel benefits the next day or later on, is because it increases the receptor. By inhibiting the receptor, by blocking it, it upregulates it, it increases it, so there's more receptors that then come online. At the same time, it's also increasing your internal cannabinoids by inhibiting this FAAH enzyme. So, it's helping someone in the short term, but it's also helping in the long term. You might not notice an effect that day or something, but if you take it over a long period of time, it could help you-- Generally, if you're taking a full spectrum CBD, you might notice effects right away, just because also not through the cannabinoid receptor, it does inhibit inflammation in the short term as well. So, regardless of the cannabinoid receptors, it does inhibit various cytokines and inflammatory pathways, inhibits TH1 and TH17.
Melanie Avalon: So, for CBD specifically, it has a pretty quick and potent effect on me, anxiety-wise. For example, a few weeks ago, I was broken into, which was really traumatic. They stole all of my electronics. Have you been broken into before, by the way?
Joe Cohen: Never actually.
Melanie Avalon: It's crazy. You get back to your place-- you just can't comprehend it. You're like, “Wait, what?”
Joe Cohen: What did they steal?
Melanie Avalon: They stole my large iMac, my huge TV, my laptop, my hard drive, everything attached to my computer. It was terrible, especially because it was during quarantine COVID and the entirety of my podcasting, blogging, writing, everything is from my computer. I lost everything and Apple Stores aren't really open. So, I had to drive to Alabama like three hours the next day because it was the closest Apple Store open to get a new computer. Saved two interviews that week. But I learned a lot. Home security. Everybody get home security. Here's my PSA. So, now I have home security. I love SimpliSafe, that's what I ended up going with. But, oh yeah, why am I talking about this?
Joe Cohen: It improved your mood. You find that improves your mood. The thing is that something like CBD can have a lot of impacts. A lot of things have a lot of impacts, like exercise. A lot of natural stuff, they have very broad-ranging impacts. Now, CBD might improve your mood. It might help you in some ways a lot, it might not help you in other ways a lot. It depends on the topic. It could be very helpful for mood, for example. Yeah, it does good things related to mood partly by increasing cannabinoids, the endocannabinoids, which is your natural cannabinoids.
Melanie Avalon: Would you recommend because I'm really trying to get it worked out because I know it works for me. Like I said, for listeners, if they're curious, I use the Feals brand. I think we have a discount for listeners 50% off at feals.com/melanieavalon. It has a very profound effect on me. But I find myself reaching to it when I feel the need for it. If my anxiety feels off, if I'm not sleeping well, I'll take it. Or like I said, when that robbery happened, I think I took like half a bottle and I went from like bawling on the floor to laughing. But I'm wondering if there's more therapeutic route to it. Should I be taking a little bit of it every day? It's really interesting hearing what you were saying about how it might have lingering effects later on.
I was reading something on-- I don't know if it's SelfHacked or the book that it sends from your website and you're saying how you supplement with CBD-- Do you find that if people respond well, they should be taking it on a daily basis or more on an as-needed case-by-case basis? I'm just trying to tackle the CBD issue. We get so many questions about it.
Joe Cohen: By the way, just for me, personally, it does not help my mood whatsoever. It goes to show you that, like I said, it could help your mood because there's something specific about your mood. In our mood report, I think we have 90 genes or something, I forgot the number of genes, but we really have a lot of genes that we're looking at. There's a lot of genes related to mood and out of those genes, there could be, let's say, 20, that are most significant for you. Those are the ones you really want to focus on because you won't have the negative variations for some of them. There's going to be 20 or whatever number, it could be 15 that are very important for you. You want to look at those and look at the recommendations and see what comes up, and then try some of those things.
Let's say for mood, CBD has multiple impacts on mood as well. I can't tell you every one of them offhand. I know FAAH and the cannabinoid system is one of the significant ones that can increase your mood. And if it's helping with your mood, it probably means that you can strengthen your cannabinoid system. So anytime you see genes related to the cannabinoid system that are not working so well or increasing your risk of some kind of mood issue, you want to focus on those even more. Like I said, CBD does a lot of different things for different people. Does not improve my mood. [chuckles] But apparently it improves your mood. It is good for inflammation for me if I'm taking the right kinds for food sensitivities, but I also find that it helps overtime as well. So if it's for food sensitivities, I recommend taking it every day, or if you know you're going to be going to some place in the night, you could take it in the morning and then also you could take it at night as well. But the point is, I would take that-- if I know I'm breaking my diet a lot, I'm going to take that even when I'm not breaking it so that it's having that kind of long term effect as well.
By the way, that's why naturally CBD is often found with THC and that's why it's recommended you take it together. So, small amount of THC, a good amount of CBD. Basically, the THC is activating the cannabinoid receptor. But if you just take THC, the next day, your cannabinoid receptors are going to go down, meaning the THC basically just is activating all your cannabinoid receptors, and then the body's response is to decrease them. But if you take CBD, your body blocks those receptors so it doesn't have the full impact, and it kind of doesn't downregulate them the next day. That's why they're very good to go together.
This was one thing that I realized also based on my genetics because I had tried THC and I didn't like the way I felt. But once I saw that it was important for my genetics, the cannabinoid system and for food sensitivities, especially, I started to take small amounts of THC, and I ingested it. And if you ingest it a small amount, it doesn't have the same impact as when you smoke it. When you smoke, it's like this flood. Whereas if you ingest it, it has effects over 24 hours. In particular, it's digesting in your gut, it's activating the receptors in your gut. With CBD, it's a great combination. If you're finding a lot of genes related to the cannabinoid system for different topics, then that is the system you want to look into more.
Melanie Avalon: Awesome. So, it can have pretty anti-inflammatory potential in the gut?
Joe Cohen: Oh, yeah. THC, yes, it's very good anti-inflammatory in the gut because your gut is really loaded with those CNR1 receptors, so is your brain, your hypothalamus. Everything is really interconnected also. Because this cannabinoid system works with the inflammatory system, it decreases inflammation, it improves your mood. One of the negatives is that it can increase weight right now. You seem pretty thin, I think, based on a picture I saw, but essentially, people who are overweight are more likely to have a better cannabinoid system just because it actually causes you to gain weight if you think about it. A lot of thin people are deficient on the cannabinoid system. Think about when someone's a stoner, they gain weight. You'll gain 10 pounds if you start smoking a lot of weed. It's because it's related to the cannabinoid system, and they developed drugs that inhibited the cannabinoid system and people lost a lot of weight. But then they had depression [laughs] and mood issues, yeah.
So, it just goes to show you that it's a very important system and for specific people, if you're TH1 dominant, if you're thin naturally, you have high levels of anxiety or mood issues, it's something you want to pay attention to especially if you have these kind of variants that you'll find in your mood report, or if you're looking at the personalized blog. But, yeah, we have CNR related to weight, it's related to weight, it's related to mood, it's related to food sensitivities, inflammation. It's really related to a lot of things.
They work in different ways also. Meaning, if you're trying to fix a mood problem, you want to increase it. If you're trying to fix a weight problem, you want to decrease it. Not to the point where you're causing negative effects. If you have a weight problem and a mood issue, it's probably not a good idea to do that. But that's where all this personalization comes in.
Melanie Avalon: Speaking to that, what are your thoughts on SSRIs and how people respond all over the board to those?
Joe Cohen: Oh, that's genetic, yeah. A lot of genes in the mood report, you'll find that if you have this gene, you respond better or you respond worse, depending on your variations. So, it's just something that is genetic thing. Some people really respond to serotonin, some people don't. It's a genetic thing.
Melanie Avalon: Super random question. Do you take low-dose naltrexone?
Joe Cohen: No.
Melanie Avalon: Do you have any thoughts about it?
Joe Cohen: There's variants related to the opioid system. OPRM1, I believe, if you have negative variance in the opioid system. If we don't have a blog post on it, or a report, number one is you want to download the report, you want to look at the blog post. If we don't have it, we have a massive database that you could just look it up and you could find out information in the SelfDecode database. But I do know that we have one post on-- I actually wrote it. It actually has to do with relationships, believe it or not, to something like--
Melanie Avalon: Oh, the post?
Joe Cohen: Yeah, but there's a lot of posts that have to do with--
Melanie Avalon: Maybe autoimmunity.
Joe Cohen: No, I'm talking about-- even relationships. There's a whole category of opioid receptors, they have to do with mood and so do the serotonin receptors and oxytocin. They actually impact how you function in a relationship.
Melanie Avalon: It's incredible. Super random question, what is maybe the most profound biohack that you discovered for yourself, based on all of this that you implemented, that you saw massive changes from?
Joe Cohen: Figuring out various variants that were impacting my gut and in my mood. CNR1 was one, the serotonin receptors, but also, I found that, for example, butyrate was critical.
Melanie Avalon: I was going to ask if butyrate was one of them.
Joe Cohen: Oh, yeah. No, it comes up for me a lot.
Melanie Avalon: So, you supplement with butyrate specifically?
Joe Cohen: Oh, yeah.
Melanie Avalon: To that point, actually, what are your thoughts on people generating butyrate naturally from their gut bacteria from fiber versus supplementing versus butyrate from butter?
Joe Cohen: I do both. Butyrate from butter is not going do anything. I take the supplements, and I also take resistant starch, quite a bit of it. I find the resistance starch-- they're both effective for me. They have a significant effect. I also find lithium orotate is good. I have a GSK3 beta gene that is related to my mood. These have helped me a lot. I would not be anywhere close to where I am today if not for these things. I don't know how I would get by, to be honest.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, for listeners, butyrate, it's a fatty acid. It can be generated by our gut bacteria from fiber and it's super important for supporting the lining and energy of the colon. Recently, I don't know, I've been contemplating, I should look through the report and see-- I've recently been craving starch, which I never have, and I feel in my gut has been out of whack. I was just contemplating, and I was like, I wonder if this has something to do with butyrate? I've never supplemented with butyrate.
Joe Cohen: Download your gut and mood report. But, yeah, you might need a better file also because if it's a limited file, you're not going to have enough SNPs. But the file that we offer is very good.
Melanie Avalon: I'm definitely gonna have to do that. Has there been any biohack experiment that you've regretted or you had a really intense reaction to?
Joe Cohen: Maybe in my early days, I was a little reckless. I actually found that once I started doing it based on my genes and labs, I was less aggressive about it. Because in the early days, I would take something until I felt it very strongly. I was doing any random experiment I could get my hands on. But once I was doing more of the personalized stuff, I was just a little more confident that certain things-- I didn't feel I needed to do some mega-dosing experiments. I was just taking things that were based on my genes and lab results. From my lab results, I was able to see improvements. You could see that based on your lab results. You could take a before and after. Obviously, your genetics are not changing, but you can change your genetic expression. But overall, whatever I focus on, I find that I have improvements.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, I love that. I tend to go extreme with my-- I'm probably like that earlier version of you. [laughs] I tend to go really extreme with my experiments for better or worse. The only supplement I've experimented with where I just so strongly reacted that it scared me was iodine actually.
Joe Cohen: Did you take the Lugol's iodine?
Melanie Avalon: Yep.
Joe Cohen: So, the thing is I also reacted very negatively to that
Melanie Avalon: Oh, really? My eyes turned bloodshot red. I was like, “What is happening?”
Joe Cohen: My whole body was freaking out from that. I actually think that has to do with SOD2 gene, the ability to handle superoxide because it basically causes a very significant, intense increase in superoxide and if you can't handle it, your body's going to freak out a little bit. The thing is I took it once, I freaked out from it, like you did. I haven't taken it since. But I bought it just because if I ever have an infection, it's a good thing to have that rush of superoxide actually.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, that's interesting.
Joe Cohen: Yeah, but I would try to do it in a little bit of more-- I wouldn't take as much maybe?
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. I feel it didn't even take that much.
Joe Cohen: I didn't either.
Melanie Avalon: Because normally you can react to things and you're like, “Okay, I think I'm reacting to that. I don't know,” but this was just like, “Oh.” Clearly reacting.
Joe Cohen: 100%. Lugol's iodine is intense.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, people post my Facebook group, they'll be like, “Iodine, try supplementing.” I'm like, like, “Hold the phone. Proceed very slowly."
Joe Cohen: No, if you want iodine, just take some Nori sheets or something. Lugol’s iodine is not to get iodine. That is if you have a serious infection that you can't get rid of. For me, if I got COVID, I might take a little bit of it or something.
Melanie Avalon: Have you supplemented with methylene blue?
Joe Cohen: I have. Yeah, I've tried that out a bunch of times.
Melanie Avalon: Did you have any good response to it?
Joe Cohen: Yeah, pretty decent.
Melanie Avalon: It's another one of those ones that I've experimented with, you get like scared doing it because you have to dilute it so much. [chuckles] And you're like, “Am I gonna kill myself?”
Joe Cohen: That's so funny. [chuckles] We're very similar. I reacted to it when I was taking a higher dose, but I found that the micro-dosing of it was not bad, actually. Taking very, very tiny doses was pretty decent. But you need to take very tiny doses because it does cause oxidative stress also. It's like Lugol's iodine almost if you take too much. I'm seeing people taking 5 mg and I'm like, “Holy crap.”
Melanie Avalon: So, for listeners, again, methylene blue, it's very blue. What is it? They use it to clean fish tanks.
Joe Cohen: It's an antimicrobial essentially. They originally used it for malaria or something. But, yeah, it's an antimicrobial and it also can improve mitochondrial function. But you don't want to take too much of it. It will cause oxidative stress, and I think I'm susceptible to that. I'm more sensitive to the Lugol's iodine and methylene blue than I think normal people or just maybe some other people, but it seems we're equally sensitive.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, no, I'm super-- I'm like a sensitive butterfly.
Joe Cohen: Check out your SOD2 gene.
Melanie Avalon: It comes up under longevity score. It's a frowny face.
Joe Cohen: [chuckles] Okay, there you go. Let me check out mine. Yeah, I also have the frowny face. That's the one, yeah. It's increased. I told you. You see, I knew it. Yeah, I've got the frowny face as well. So, that one is particularly for longevity, but it's for oxidative stress as well, but we do it based on the topic rather than oxidative stress because that's what the science is on.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, so for listeners, if they had searched for this, what it came up with was-- the one I clicked on was, can antioxidant defenses increase lifespan? Then, it says SOD2 and it says, based on SOD2, and then my frowny face here. Then, there's a lot of information. It's much more nuanced than that.
Joe Cohen: It's like your personalized gene summary based on the variants. We looked at your SOD2 gene, is not associated with exceptional longevity. Your extracellular antioxidants may not be functioning optimally. Diet rich in manganese may help support SOD2. And then it gives you other recommendations as well.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, yeah, it does. Like diet, lifestyle. It's so interesting. Oh, my goodness, I could be on this platform for hours. New favorite website after SelfHacked.
Joe Cohen: Well, it's the world's only personalized blog. Basically, imagine reading a health website but it's all personalized to you.
Melanie Avalon: All to you, yeah. Is TH1 and TH2, does it have that?
Joe Cohen: We don't have a particular post on TH1 or TH2 dominance. We do posts based on the topic. So, there are posts that have to do with TH--
Melanie Avalon: STAT3.
Joe Cohen: STAT3 is TH1. Basically, that's a TH1 dominant protein. So, if you type in STAT3, you'll see what comes up.
Melanie Avalon: I have a smiley face.
Joe Cohen: The thing is, is that we have six posts come up for me. So, if you only have one post come up, it means your file is very limited. I have one related to autoimmune thyroid disease and that one is bad. I have one related to inflammation. That one is IBD and we know I have gut issues. That one I had, so that one was actually orange face. Then, there's ones related to diet, like weight gain, and that's smiley face because I'm actually naturally pretty thin. All these things make sense right now if I'm looking at this. There's another one related to weight. That's smiley face because, again, I have no issue with that gene as it relates to weight. It's really interesting.
The variants that cause you to have inflammation also can cause you to lose weight. That's why a lot of TH1-dominant people are thin. The one that is related to psoriasis, I come up with a positive face and also one related to multiple sclerosis, smiley face. It really makes sense because the ones where I'm not smiley face have to do with IBD and thyroid. Thyroid is very genetic. My mom has Hashimoto’s, and I'm definitely susceptible to it, but I've just counteracted it, so I don't have Hashimoto’s.
Melanie Avalon: You have the opinion with Hashimoto’s, for example, because I've been speaking with lot of thyroid specialists recently and the two that I recently spoke to were both of the opinion that basically all hypothyroidism almost is Hashimoto’s.
Joe Cohen: No, I don't buy that. I had hypothyroidism, but I didn't have Hashimoto’s. I don't think it was Hashimoto’s because I didn't have the antibodies. But I think eventually-- my mom didn't get Hashimoto’s when she was my age, she got it in her 50s. It takes time. It doesn't mean you'll get it right away. But I know that if I don't do the right things, I'm going to get it when I get older because I got her genes with her gut and her thyroid.
Melanie Avalon: So, my nuance on that is, is it possible that because we know that autoimmune conditions take stages and take so long-- actually the episode for listeners that I released this week, although not this release, but literally the week that we're recording right now, was with Dr. Will Cole who just wrote Ketotarian and The Inflammation Spectrum on autoimmunity. I'll put a link to that in the show notes. But my nuance on that is, so say based on your genes if you didn't address your genes, your diet, your lifestyle, you think it's possible that down the road, you might get Hashimoto’s. So, would it be possible that any symptoms you have, you have hypothyroidism now or did have, were still connected to Hashimoto’s?
Joe Cohen: I think it's more connected to general inflammation because when I reduced my inflammation, my thyroid hormone levels went up. Literally, I was checking my thyroid hormone since I was 18 just because I've been into this stuff for a long time, and I saved my labs too. I was saving my lab since I'm 18 because I knew I had issues. I'm like, “I just need to save these for the future.” I was taking them for a long time, and they were 2.6, my free T3, every time. Until I reduced my inflammation and now every time it's 3.3 to 3.4 or something. It's got a narrow band of what the results are. But I stopped taking it, because I know what my results are now. I uploaded all my labs to the Lab Analyzer and SelfDecode now. It was really very interesting. You could upload a whole bunch of labs, and you see exactly which labs are suboptimal. You could track them over time and see what to do, how to make it better.
Melanie Avalon: Well, keep them all on one platform?
Joe Cohen: Yep. The Lab Analyzer is its own--
Melanie Avalon: Because I have so many labs.
Joe Cohen: Yeah, it was its own company, but what we decided is that people-- based on the feedback because people really want them in the same platform. We want to make it that this is your one-stop guide for personalized health. That's why we're also going to, if you're part of SelfDecode platform, you also get access to SelfHacked, which we're going to make into a paywall since Google is not a thing anymore for us.
Melanie Avalon: So, you said the lab part has not launched yet, but it will by the time?
Joe Cohen: It's on the testing side. We're just testing it out now. We're making sure that there's no bugs or anything like that. It has its own site. If you go to labtestanalyzer.com, you can get it, but there's no reason to if you just get the SelfDecode. We're basically phasing that out because if someone just gets labs, we feel you're missing the genetics. If you just have the genetics, you're missing the labs. And we don't want two different platforms that people are using. We have a lot of people who are subscribed to both actually, but we just want everything to be in one platform for simplicity. One sign in. And then we can also connect all the data, so that when you download a report, it's also going to be labs. We just think that having them combined is way stronger than having them individually.
Melanie Avalon: Awesome. Is it going to be like when people sign up automatically, that's the only option is to get everything, or do they choose?
Joe Cohen: No, the only option is to get everything because it's really important. Honestly, even though I knew a lot of information from it, when I uploaded my labs, I made a lot of changes and that were beneficial. I was able to track it through the labs. Some of the changes, I didn't necessarily feel better on, but I noticed that my labs were better from it. And that's an objective indicator because you might feel okay on something, but the labs will really show you what is going on. So, I think you need everything. You need the genetics, you need the labs, you also need something that's going to handle symptoms, and just all of your health information. We're really trying to make something that's a personalized search engine, if you will, for your health.
Melanie Avalon: Did you say the diet one is coming soon? The Diet Report?
Joe Cohen: The Diet Report is coming soon, yes. That won't be out right when this launches. I don't know when this launches, but it'll be out end of July probably, early August. But right now, if you go to the diet section, you'll see quite a few posts. Yeah, we have quite a lot of posts on it. There's a lot of information you'll get on diet right now. It's just that we like to make everything really comprehensive, and then that's when we get a report on it. Then, that's when it makes more sense of all the information combined. But right now, you could go to each post individually and see which ones are how to improve your diet based on your genes. A lot of them have to do with weight by the way, because that's what a lot of the research talks about.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah. For example, if I type in diet, some of the questions I see are like, do your genes favor the Mediterranean diet? How do your genes respond to dietary fat? Should you avoid the keto diet? Can high-protein diets help you lose weight? I love it. Well, the Diet Report, I know probably one of the biggest questions is like, “Is a low-fat or low-carb diet better for me?” Will it talk about that, I'm assuming?
Joe Cohen: Exactly. It'll answer those questions.
Melanie Avalon: The next book I want to write, which I'm really shocked that nobody has written this yet, just putting it out there to the universe is, I want to write a diet on why both low-carb and low-fat work if practiced correctly. There's all these dietary wars about low-carb versus low-fat, but I think so often low-carb isn't low-carb enough, or low-fat isn't low-fat enough. So, I want to do like a comparison, a really nuanced non-cherry-picked comparison of the literature because it's such a war.
Joe Cohen: We're doing a lot of posts on that right now actually. A lot of it has to do with your genetics, to be honest. There's a lot of studies that show, if you do a low-fat diet and you have this variation, you're more likely to lose weight. If you're a low-carb diet and you have this variation, you're more likely lose weight on a low-carb diet. It goes both ways. It really has to do with genetics.
Melanie Avalon: So huge.
Joe Cohen: We don't know all the answers right now. With all these topics, there’s always new information coming. What we do is we constantly update the reports and the blog, new posts come out. With weight also, there was a new gene that they discovered that had a significant impact on weight, like a month ago. So, there's always new information coming out. That's why we try to have posts every day, a bunch of posts every week basically, on the personalized blog. You're always getting updates on-- just these daily updates basically on your genes.
Melanie Avalon: I love it. You mentioned it briefly, but you guys just put out a COVID specific one based on your genes, which is really interesting, showing your potential susceptibility and implications of COVID. What genes is that based on?
Joe Cohen: The COVID and respiratory infection report. Basically, the biggest complication of COVID is this respiratory distress that people get, this inflammation overload. There's genes related to how easily COVID can get inside your cells, that has to do with ACE2 and TMPRSS2, and some other genes. There's genes related to your blood type, which there's a lot of news that came out right now. We're actually updating the COVID report just because there's new information that's coming out essentially. Like I said, we're always going to be updating these reports. A lot of genes have to do with inflammatory cytokines actually. I have a gene that causes TH17 dominance and a lot of autoimmune issues, but guess what? It also causes inflammation. It can cause a cytokine storm, contribute to a cytokine storm if someone gets COVID. These are genetic risk factors.
You really also want to look at the totality of other information, which is why we have a COVID Risk Assessment, because something like age is going to be way more important than any gene you have, to be honest. But, yeah, we take a holistic approach. We're looking at the immune system, we're giving recommendations based on that. We're giving recommendations based on the genetics, but also you can look at the risk assessment to put in different information, you'll get risk of being hospitalized or dying from COVID. But if you're young, you'll see your risk is pretty low, especially if you're female. Because testosterone actually increases the risk, estrogen decreases the risk. So, that's very interesting.
Basically, there's a lot of genes that have to do with the inflammatory cytokine storms and then, like I said, there's genes that have to do with the entry into your cells. But also there's genes that have to do with your antiviral responses as it relates to COVID and other respiratory infections. If you're not worried about COVID, it turns out that-- and this is something that I just realized as I was doing research on COVID-- is that respiratory infections and infections in general is one of the biggest killers in the world, in the developed world as well. There's tons of people who die from the flu every year. There's other respiratory infections. It's actually one of the top 10 killers. It's just something that I think is important. COVID, even if you don't think that it's that dangerous for you, it's just something that I think should be on your radar in terms of respiratory infections. My dad actually died from a respiratory infection.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, wow. I'm so sorry.
Joe Cohen: It was number of years ago. I didn't understand it then. It didn't make sense. I thought they misdiagnosed him or something or they didn't know what was going on. But it just turns out there's a lot of people that die from respiratory infections. You're more susceptible the older you are. So, if you're young, it's not something you have to worry about so much. But as you get older, you got to make sure your immune system is strong. Even if you're young, some people are immunodeficient and it makes a difference, especially with something that's more dangerous than the flu like COVID.
Melanie Avalon: It's so fascinating. Then, in the reports, it provides so much information, and at the end, it gives you practical takeaways. Very implementable. It's just really, really incredible.
Well, this has been absolutely amazing. Listeners, if you're interested in getting started with the SelfDecode platform, I cannot recommend it enough. It is my new obsession. It's absolutely incredible. You can go to get.selfdecode.com/melanieavalon. I'll put a link to that in the show notes and that will give you 10% off, which is super awesome. Super grateful for that. Before I let you go, rapid fire question. I just have to get your thoughts on some of my favorite lifestyle biohacks. Do you practice intermittent fasting?
Joe Cohen: It doesn't work for me. [laughs]
Melanie Avalon: No way. You're more of a grazer type or constant small meals?
Joe Cohen: No, I eat big meals. But intermittent fasting just does not-- I eat two big meals a day. And maybe I'll graze on something a little, but mainly two big meals a day, but I need to eat in the morning. If I don't eat, it's a big problem. It worsens my mood a lot. I just have a lot less energy. Motivation goes down. It's really not good for me.
Melanie Avalon: So interesting. So, you do a breakfast and a dinner?
Joe Cohen: I do a big breakfast. I eat something. If it's a small breakfast, I'll eat a lunch. If it's a big breakfast, I eat a big breakfast and then I eat a big dinner.
Melanie Avalon: Okay, gotcha.
Joe Cohen: But my intermittent fasting is I try not to eat three, four hours before bed.
Melanie Avalon: See, that's something I can't do, but I want to do. I'm a late-night eater.
Joe Cohen: Oh, that's not good. Yeah.
Melanie Avalon: I tried it. But that's what works for me. That's what keeps me functional and feeling good, which is--
Joe Cohen: Because it probably helps you sleep better.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, it does.
Joe Cohen: Same thing with me, but I try to do it not too late. So, three hours is still good for me. It's kind of you have to find that balance. You don't want to eat right before you go to sleep, obviously, even an hour or even an hour and a half, two hours. Three hours is a good balance. You should try that and see if it works.
Melanie Avalon: I have, it doesn't work really.
Joe Cohen: It doesn't work, it doesn't work, that's it. You know what you could try? You could try eating more in the day.
Melanie Avalon: I have. That's why it really doesn't work. That's why I have to do intermittent fasting because if I start eating during the day, I just eat all day. [chuckles]
Joe Cohen: You've got to do what works for you. Everyone's different. I came to that realization a long time ago. You can see it right here.
Melanie Avalon: I know, exactly. That's why it just drives me crazy that people are always fighting and saying like, this is right, or this is right. I'm like, “Maybe it's all individual.” And people are always asking me, “What do you do so I can do it?” I'm like, “I'll tell you what I do, but that doesn't mean that's what you should do.” So, yeah, I love this. My other two favorite "biohacks" are cold exposure. I love cold.
Joe Cohen: Cold exposure is amazing. I love that.
Melanie Avalon: I'm such a cold fan. I'm bringing Wim Hof on soon. Have you ever talked with him?
Joe Cohen: I haven't talked to him. No, but, yeah.
Melanie Avalon: I'm so excited. He's such a character. I'm kind of fangirling so much. And then sauna, I love sauna.
Joe Cohen: Sauna is great. I'm a big fan of sauna and cold exposure.
Melanie Avalon: Okay, awesome. Do you have any other favorites that you would throw in lifestyle-wise or lifestyle practices?
Joe Cohen: Sun as well.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, yeah. Do you do a tanning bed during the winter?
Joe Cohen: No, I just live in warm location. [chuckles] I can't live in a cold place. Yeah, I've got to live in a place that sun throughout the year.
Melanie Avalon: Where do you live?
Joe Cohen: I moved recently. I was in Southern California, Newport Beach.
Melanie Avalon: Oh okay, I just moved from LA.
Joe Cohen: Yeah. Okay, that's interesting. We should have met if I would have known before. But, yeah, if I'm in the US.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, where are you now?
Joe Cohen: So now, I decided to go for a year to Tel Aviv and try it out.
Melanie Avalon: Oh, wow. And how is that?
Joe Cohen: So far? It's very good. Yeah, it's got some negatives, but it's very good. I like it.
Melanie Avalon: Was it a spontaneous decision or?
Joe Cohen: Yeah. [laughs] It's got the beach. I'm right next to the beach, which is great. It's got an amazing beach. I love volleyball, so it's got that. The Mediterranean is really nice to swim in. I swim in it every day now, or most days of the week, so that's really good. It's cool. You get a bit of cold exposure, but not too cold. But, yeah, I like it. I like the people in Tel Aviv a lot. It's just everyone's different. Everyone's very open-minded. You could say whatever you want here and nobody just blinks. You could just say whatever you're thinking and that's the type of person I am. I just say whatever I'm thinking. Doesn't go down in California very well, but in Tel Aviv, it goes down well.
Melanie Avalon: It's so funny. I want to move to Alaska, spontaneously. I might for the cold, actually.
Joe Cohen: For the cold. Wow. So, you like the cold?
Melanie Avalon: I do. I really do. I'm so happy when it's really cold. I don't know other genes related to that and longevity. I just feel it's literally the most healing thing for my body. My body's just like healed.
Joe Cohen: As you look through different reports and different blogs, you'll see cold as a recommendation just because it actually impacts a lot of genes for the better. As we're building out the weight report, there's a lot of genes that are impacted by cold. Like the UCP genes, the uncoupling proteins. It has obviously very wide-ranging effects. There's a lot of genes related to cold and how it relates to weight loss, longevity, bunch of mood, a bunch of different things, cognitive function. It's something that you could see if you have the genes related to each topic, and I think you're going to find that very interesting.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, I feel it's just me. I love it. Probably on the flip side of the spectrum, the genes related to vitamin D, it's probably huge. Love it. Last rapid-fire question. What do you think about people's placebo and nocebo effect with their genes?
Joe Cohen: There's a lot of genes that actually impact that. [laughter]
Melanie Avalon: Oh, gosh. Oh, my goodness, the amount of meta that's in that is just too much?
Joe Cohen: There's genes related to COMT, MAOA. I know there's other ones. I want to say the opioid receptor, I'm not 100% sure. I think the serotonin receptors as well. But, yeah, essentially, that's also impacted by your genes, of course.
Melanie Avalon: Oh gosh, my brain almost can't handle the implications of that.
Joe Cohen: Look, at the end of the day, like you're saying, mindset, if you believe something that can have a very positive impact on your mood and your mood can have a very positive impact on your whole body. That's why we talk about the gut report, mood is very important for how your gut functions and inflammation and all these other things. So, that's why I really like the mood report, just because I find mood is a basis for a lot of things.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, it's so important. So, to that point, the last question I always ask is, what is something that you're grateful for?
Joe Cohen: Oh, that's a good question. I'm grateful for a bunch of things. I'm grateful that I have my health. I'm grateful that I have these companies that I can create a positive impact while also supporting myself. I never wanted to be like a lawyer where there was a zero-sum game, you win and someone else loses. I always wanted that with my health and my companies, those are things that I think are unique that I'm really grateful for.
Melanie Avalon: Well, that is incredible. I am so grateful for your work. Like you said, I've been following it for years now because you asked me at the beginning, when did I start reading it? And you said you launched the site in 2014. And honestly, I do think because 2014 is when I really started going on all these research rabbit holes, and I feel I’ve been on your site probably that long. Now with the SelfDecode thing, it's just so amazing, so I'm so grateful for it. Again, for listeners, if you'd like to get on the platform yourself, you can get that at get.selfdecode.com/melanieavalon for 10% off.
Yes, well, this has been absolutely amazing. We'll have to stay in touch and maybe bring you on again in the future.
Joe Cohen: Awesome. Great speaking to you.
Melanie Avalon: You too. Thanks. Bye.
Joe Cohen: Bye.