The Melanie Avalon Podcast Episode #64 - Siim Land
Siim Land is an author, speaker, and content creator from Estonia. He talks about optimizing performance and longevity with different biohacks. His previous book Metabolic Autophagy talked about intermittent fasting and autophagy but his new book Stronger by Stress talks about hormesis and stress adaptation.
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6:00 - Siim's History
7:45 - Is All Stress Bad?: What Is The Stress Response And Types Of Stress
11:00 - Heat Shock Vs. Cold Shock Proteins, And The Role Of Autophagy
13:20 - Infrared Vs Traditional Sauna
15:15 - Adaptation Energy
18:30 - Mental Vs. Physical Stress: Reframing Anxiety And Stress Perception
22:15 - Toxicity, Models For Evaluating Stress, Hormesis From Plants, Caffeine, And Alcohol
29:45 - The Benefits Of Free Radicals And Antioxidants From Food Vs Supplements
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27:50 - EMF - Should We Be Scared Of EMF?
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39:00 - NAD+ and NADH
40:45 - NAD+ and Covid, NR and NMN
44:15 - Hacking Sleep, Polyphasic Sleep
48:20 - Stoicism, The Hedonic Set Point, And Attachments
51:20 - The Problems With Minimalism As An Identity
53:50 - Reframing 2020
55:55 - BiOptimizers: A Company Whose Mission Is To Fix Your Digestion! Get Their Masszymes - the Most Potent Digestive Enzyme Supplement available! Shop At Bioptimizers.Com/Melanie With The Code Melanie10 For 10% Off!
58:50 - Practically Implementing These Practices
1:01:10 - Social Media Blocks
Melanie Avalon: Hi friends, welcome back to the show. I am so, so excited about the conversation I'm about to have. I am here with a repeat guest, that's how you know they're the good ones, when they come back on the show. And it's somebody my audience is probably very, very familiar with. He's honestly pretty much a legend in the biohacking world. I am here with Siim Land. He is an author, speaker and a content creator. He's from Estonia, which is like very, very cool, I guess the only person I think I know in Estonia, but I had Siim on the show before for his original book Metabolic Autophagy. I will put links to that in the show notes, but that was a deep, deep dive into intermittent fasting, into, obviously, autophagy. It's a very, very popular episode. So, definitely check it out if you missed it. But he has a newer book out, and it's called Stronger By Stress: Adapt to Beneficial Stressors to Improve Your Health and Strengthen the Body.
Siim, first of all, you did an incredible job. It's such a thorough-- It basically touches on every single topic I'm obsessed within my personal life and is such a thorough analysis and overview. The science is there. The notes I have on it for our conversation right now, I have like 20 pages of notes. I know we only have about an hour. So, I feel we can just go with what resonates, not sure what direction the conversation will go, but there's just so many things. I'm so excited to dive in deep. But, yeah, so thank you so much for being here.
Siim Land: No, thanks for me having again. I'm glad to talk with you.
Melanie Avalon: So, to start things off, like I said, my audience is probably very, very familiar with you. But for those who are not, would you like to tell them just briefly about yourself and why you got so interested in health, longevity, biohacking, all the things? And ultimately, what led you to write your newer book, Stronger by Stress?
Siim Land: Yeah, well, like I said, I'm from Estonia. And I've been writing content and creating content about biohacking and health for maybe four or five years. And I started doing it in college. So, I don't have any health problems. I got into it because of just wanting to improve my performance and to get stronger and faster and that sort of thing. But, also, I kind of realized that it also has a huge impact on longevity and health span. So, that's why I got interested in that topic as well, which led me to implementing many different strategies like intermittent fasting and exercise and saunas and other things. That was the foundation to the content that I create online. Why I wrote, for instance, Metabolic Autophagy was to refute some of the misconceptions about intermittent fasting and autophagy. But with the Stronger by Stress book, I wrote it because of these kind of uncertain events that have happened in this year, 2020, just wanting to give people some sort of a blueprint or a guidebook about how they can actually use these stressors and these harmful stimuli to actually become stronger and healthier.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, that was one of the most incredible things about the book, because, well, 2020, here we are. And even before 2020, I think so many people, they get stressed about stress. And there's this pervasive idea from a very good foundation, but there's this idea that all stress is bad that we are chronically stressed out today, that stress is killing us, that we just need to stop all stress. And you really shift the paradigm, and you dive deep into the stress response and stronger by stress. I will say I think it's the most thorough overview nuanced of stress that I have read. So, yeah, can we dive a little bit into that? So, the stress response, because I think people often think all stress is bad, all chronic stress is bad. They might have a vague idea that physical stress, like exercise, is good. But I think it kind of caps out there. So, what is the stress response and is it always good, is it always bad? What's going on there?
Siim Land: By definition, stress is just a disruption in your body's homeostasis or inner balance. We have these different processes working in homeostasis all the time, and something can disrupt this balance, whether that be some sort of a deadline, we get angry at someone, we exercise, we fast, we restrict calories, or we experience heat or cold or something, whatever it may be, like all those things that are going to disrupt the homeostasis. And that, in turn, just the forces the body to adapt to a certain extent is going to have to either expend more energy or compensate for it by other means. Usually, a stress response is accompanied by many different hormones and signature molecules depending upon what kind of a stress response it is, and what's the current state of the body.
For example, if you are exposed to the heat, then your body releases heat shock proteins, which then start to mediate or alleviate some of the damage that you experience from the heat. And vice versa, cold shock proteins get activated when you're exposed to the cold. Yeah, if you experience DNA damage, for example, there are specific DNA damage proteins and other processes that repair it. So, there are different various kinds of stressors. They can, of course, be harmful in excess or chronic stress [unintelligible [00:05:41] indeed associated with many diseases, especially like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, insulin resistance, obesity in general, and they're just that poor health. But at the same time, if you engage, if you experience the stress in the right amounts at the right time, and you allow yourself to like recover from it, then it can actually strengthen the body and make it stronger for future similar stressors. So, that's the concept of hormesis that, “what doesn't kill me makes me stronger.”
So, exercise is a prime example of it. Fasting is it-- heat and saunas are also the same. So, you can't really avoid or stress is somewhat inevitable, we can only prepare ourselves to take it or tolerate it better. And we can learn how to adapt and be more flexible because it's going to be somewhat unavoidable.
Melanie Avalon: I'm already on tangents. I'm like, “Melanie, stay on this current topic.” But really quickly, heat shock proteins versus cold shock proteins. And the book you talk about sauna with heat shock proteins, and then cold therapy, on the other hand, with the cold, which, by the way, I just had Wim Hof on the show, and that was the most motivating thing ever. He's so inspiring. He is basically-- does the cold therapy stuff. Do you think though that with heat shock proteins versus cold shock proteins that heat shock proteins are potentially more inflammatory than cold shock proteins? I just think about this a lot.
Siim Land: The heat shock proteins themselves are anti-inflammatory, but probably the heat could be more inflammatory if you overdo it. So, you can experience more inflammation from the sauna if you don't have a sufficient amount of heat shock protein response turned on, so to say. If you're some dysfunctional mitochondria or you aren't adapted to the heat, then it can become inflammatory and cause more oxidative stress in the body because the body isn't capable of handling it. Also, one critical thing that actually happens during heat is the heat shock proteins also support some aspects of autophagy, which is cellular turnover and the recycling of various cellular particles, including the reactive oxygen species that get exposed, that get created from the heat. If you don't have, let's say, autophagy elevated when you are experiencing the heat shock, the damage from the heat shock is also greater versus if you're experiencing the heat shock with slightly increased level of autophagy, then the damage you get from the heat is also lower. So, I think having the autophagy is slightly elevated when you are going to the sauna is a good thing. And it's going to protect against some of the potential damage that may occur. It doesn't necessarily mean that you have to fast, but it probably means that you don't want to be eating a bunch of sugar and carbs before going to the sauna and probably wait at least a few hours before going to the sauna after you eat.
Melanie Avalon: Okay, gotcha. Yeah, maybe that's a good reframe for me. I was thinking in terms of heat shock proteins being inflammatory, rather than the heat shock. I often weigh the difference between cold therapy versus heat therapy because I have an infrared sauna that I do every night and then I also will do cold showers every morning. And I just feel like-- I'll see things in the literature about the inflammation potential of heat exposure, but I don't usually see that about cold. So, I'm like, maybe I should just do the cold, but the sauna is one of my favorite things and love all the benefits. Do you do an infrared sauna? We talk about this in the book, the difference between infrared versus traditional, what does that look like in your daily routine or nightly routine?
Siim Land: I use both. The benefits of the traditional sauna and infrared sauna are somewhat similar. So, both can improve your blood circulation and cardiovascular health, both can activate autophagy, and both can reduce inflammation and soreness. But the unique aspect of infrared sauna is that they also have the red-light wavelengths that tend to penetrate deeper into your tissues and they will help to promote mitochondrial density and also collagen synthesis. So, you're not going to get that from the traditional sauna because they don't have the wavelengths. But at the same time, from my own personal experience, I think the traditional sauna is just-- it gets your heart rate higher and it probably has a better endurance effect, so to say, because your heart is pounding faster, and mimics more like a cardiovascular exercise workout. So, I use both.
I think maybe taking the traditional sauna every day is also not a good idea because then your body just gets so used to it, that it's not going to be as effective. So, I like to cycle between the traditional sauna and infrared sauna. So, I do use the sauna almost basically every day, maybe like six times a week, but I use the traditional sauna maybe two to three times a week and the traditional sauna for the other days.
Melanie Avalon: Reading Stronger by Stress, it was the first time I really saw a really nice overview of the two and how to properly use them. And you definitely emphasize that with the sauna, it's not a case where more is not always better. And I think that's an ongoing theme, obviously, throughout the book that more is not always better. It's all, like you said, about balance and how you respond to these things. So, going back to the initial-- the topic of stress. One of the first things that you talk about in the book is general adaptation syndrome. And the theories surrounding that-- it was [unintelligible [00:11:08] this idea that which has been debated since then, but this idea that we only have a certain amount of adaptation energy to deal with stressors. I guess, when it was originally posited, the idea was when we run out of adaptation energy, we die, which is really upsetting. But, yeah, would you like to talk a little bit about that?
Siim Land: This idea of the overall stress science was pioneered by this Hungarian researcher, Hans Selye. He came up with the general adaptation syndrome, which is this concept that describes the stress response. So, it has three phases. The alarm stage, where the body is going to activate the sympathetic nervous system, and it's going to go into this stressed-out state. The second stage is the resistance stage, where the body is just fighting the stress or whatever it's dealing with. And the last stage is exhaustion. So, the exhaustion stage can be concluded by either complete exhaustion, which would basically mean that the body's own resources have been depleted, and it is unable to maintain normal functioning. Example will be going into a coma or passing out or something. And the exhaustion stage can also end in recovery, which the body manages to successfully overcome the stressor, or the stressor itself goes away or is eliminated. This is a three-stage process that tends to happen.
And Selye also hypothesized that this resistance to stress is finite, and it's expandable. So, he called this adaptation energy. It's basically this currency that enables the organism to endure any kind of stressor. And he figured that this resource, adaptation energy is finite. So, we have a certain amount of adaptation energy given to us at birth, and we can't recover or we can't rebuild it. Every other stressor is just constantly exhausting this adaptation energy, and once this adaptation energy runs out, we either get some sort of stress-related disease, or we die. It doesn't sound like a positive thing. But other researchers since Selye have proposed that adaptation energy can be restored to a certain extent as long as we have enough time for recovery. Part of the reason why Selye thought adaptation energy wasn't being able to recover was to do with, he was doing a lot of research on these mice and he was constantly putting them under extreme stressors like cold, heat, starvation, and high amounts of exercise and other things. So, it's basically like describing some aspects of this overtraining and high amounts of stressed-out lifestyles that some people may experience.
Of course, if you are constantly being stressed out in chronic stress, then you will burn out and you don't have enough time to recover. But if you do recover from it, you take time away from work, you take time away from exercise, then your body actually regains some of that adaptation energy. And you can just experience the same stressor again in the future with more vigor, so to say, so you don't necessarily have to be afraid. I don't mean that every time you get stressed out, that is going to shorten your lifespan or something.
Melanie Avalon: You talk about response to stress is good or bad, determined by their experience, their expectations, and their resources. So basically, that influences how the stress affects them. So, out of those-- I think about this quite often, between like-- okay, because experience and expectations, that's mental versus resources, which is physical. Do you think out of those, one is more-- mental versus physical, like ability to deal with stress, is one likely more important? Do you think if a person could just flip a switch and reframe stress and make their experience and their expectations make them feel completely capable even if physically they're not, compared to on the flip side, somebody who might be physically capable, but their experience and expectations are just not in their favor? What do you think is more powerful in how we respond to stress?
Siim Land: Yeah, I think it's a really important point, so to say. So, you can really change the stress response with your thoughts almost by reframing it, or just having a certain different perspective on it. So, for example, you can be in a sauna, and you can enjoy it. And the temperatures are really high, your body is experiencing stress, but you're enjoying it and it doesn't lead to this chronic stress response and it's not going to be inherently harmful. Versus, if you are, let's say, in the desert, the temperatures may not be even that high, but you can still freak out because the situation is very dire, or you feel as if you are about to lose control or something. And that's where you may experience more higher, the stress hormones like cortisol and glucocorticoids, just because your psychology is changing the perspective of the stress, and thus, your physiology also changes in response to that. But I do think that the body or your psychology can override some aspects of your physiology, but only to a certain extent, you can really enjoy something that is stressful, but it can still eventually be stressful, if you overdo it.
So, maybe psychology can alleviate some of the negative side effects from a particular stress response, but it's not going to completely override it. But at the same time, if you don't have your psychology on point, so to say, you have to acknowledge to yourself that this stress can be good for you, if you realize it or if you acknowledge it, that's why I think it's very important to just have this somewhat of a positive mindset about it, or at least not let yourself lose your self-control, constantly acknowledging to yourself that what are the benefits, and that it is not inherently harmful, and that it's actually beneficial.
Melanie Avalon: I think it's so huge. I just think about it all the time, wondering what is more powerful. I did love that example that you gave about the sauna, because, like I said, I do the sauna every day, and I had never thought about it that way. Because when I'm laying in it, it just feels really wonderful to me. And I'm like, wow, if I thought about this as me dying in the desert, it would probably be a completely different experience.
Siim Land: Even during the summer, the temperatures aren't as hot as in a sauna. People still hate it, or they have negative emotions about it. But once you go in the sauna, it's actually completely different.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, I'm completely paraphrasing, but you said something in the book about how also-- I think about anxiety or stress that we can be sitting in a room and be completely fine, nothing is happening, and we can be panicking. Completely freaking out and nothing's happening, which just really makes you reframe everything. Another thing that you touch on a lot is the concept of toxicity and it all goes in with stress, things that might be potentially toxic to our body.
So, I had a huge epiphany because you talk in the book about the different models for evaluating stress. The linear threshold model, which was where something becomes increasingly more toxic after a certain threshold. So, that was like alcohol or drugs. The linear no-threshold model, which was any dose above zero is hazardous. The threshold model, which was where below a certain point, there's no risk, and above another point, risk increases. And then the hormesis model, which you talk about all throughout the book, which is hormetic. The hormetic idea that at certain doses, it could be a good thing, but at higher doses, it might not be. I know that was a lot of information for listeners, but the reason I'm bringing it up is because I'm ongoingly haunted by the carnivore versus plant debate, and reading about the different models, I was like, “Oh, I feel a lot of people in the carnivore worlds who look at plants, and say all plants are toxic,” that they are applying, I guess, the linear no-threshold model. So, any dose is toxic. Whereas it could be potentially the hormesis model, where at certain doses, it might be toxic, and at certain doses, it might not be.
I had Paul Saladino recently on the podcast, I'll put a link to that in the show notes. But I mentioned this book, I was like, “I was reading Siim’s book, and I just feel we're just looking at this maybe differently.” So, models for evaluating stress like, okay, well, since we're talking about food, so plants, animals, supplements, dietary compounds, can anything potentially be healthy, or anything potentially be toxic? Are there exceptions? How do you feel about the carnivore plant debate? What are your thoughts on all of that?
Siim Land: The entire field of hormesis was very founded upon this idea behind xenohormesis, which is how certain plant compounds can be beneficial, or they can stimulate certain like a hormetic response in the body. It is very well researched. Yeah, there are different plant compounds that seem to turn on some similar pathways in the body as like exercise or fasting, or calorie restriction does. The reason they work is because they contain some of these slightly toxic compounds that the body just responds to. Of course, the poison is-- anything in excess and in a large dose can be harmful. The same can be exercise, like if you do too much exercise, then it's going to have negative side effects, and it's going to be harmful. The same applies to these xenohormetic compounds and usually, if people do experience negative side effects from it, then it's usually just because of overconsumption or taking the synthetic supplements that already have these concentrated large amounts of these compounds in them. So, it's very hard to actually reach a dangerous point by eating just regular vegetables. You would have to be eating several kilograms of vegetables. Some studies where people have died eating bok choy, or some cabbage or raw, like brussel sprouts or something, these cases happen only if people eat several kilograms at a time, and they're already diabetic at the same time, and they all really have some neuropathy or so. So, they aren't necessarily healthy people either.
But I do personally think that you don't need the xenohormetic response from plants, if you are already doing saunas, and exercise and fasting and cold and all those things, because those things are by far more powerful of a stimulus to these pathways and the benefits are also somewhat better. The problem is also that you can't really exercise 24 hours a day, or you can't take a cold bath every day, or you can't take a sauna every day. So, that's where I find these plant compounds can be really effective for stimulating the same hormetic response, or a similar hormetic response in a smaller fashion with less effort in a way. Also, one of the arguments would be that there is still some hormetic effect from consuming those things.
For example, let's say caffeine or coffee, if you're never used to drinking coffee, you're very sensitive to it. So, even one cup of coffee is going to maybe give you an anxiety attack because you're not really used to caffeine and you're going to overstimulate yourself. So, your threshold for caffeine is very low compared to someone that is drinking maybe five cups of coffee a day, then for them, the threshold is much higher. For them, they maybe have to drink seven cups of coffee a day to experience any of the negative side effects, which isn't a good thing. It's not a good thing to have that high level of tolerance. But at the same time, it does illustrate an aspect of stress adaptation. So, your body's able to tolerate specific toxins, which in this case is caffeine.
You could argue that it's not inherently necessary to be able to handle caffeine, but you can't argue that there is a hormetic stress adaptation that is involved there because there is. Some people who drink alcohol a lot, they can probably handle, I don't know, 12 beers without passing out. Someone who isn't drinking alcohol at all, then they're going to get drunk even drinking just one glass of wine. So, there are different people to different levels of alcohol tolerance and different levels of stress adaptation as well. It's not a positive thing to be able to tolerate 12 cans of beer, but it's still an example of stress adaptation, which isn't-- hormesis itself doesn't have to be always positive. Hormesis doesn't have to always have a health benefit. Hormesis, just the health benefits or often the side effect, hormesis is also describes just tolerance and resilience against the particular stressor because radiation from-- like nuclear radiation, that can also have a hormetic response. I wouldn't recommend anyone to do it or engaged in actually radiating themselves or something. But there is still a small hormetic response that the body is able to tolerate radiation much better. The negative side effects from future radiation exposure will also be lower.
So, someone who is habitually used to maybe consuming these plant compounds on a regular basis, then they would also experience less negative side effects from them, compared to, let's say-- because that's also one of the biggest downsides of the carnivore diet in my opinion. If you're always avoiding these potentially toxic foods, then you're also just pushing yourself into a corner. You're not making it easier for you to handle them in the future. You're only making it harder. If you are willing to just not eat any of the plant foods in your life ever again, then that's fine by me. There are maybe long-term studies to see what happens, but at the same time, I just personally find more flexibility and freedom in being able to handle them and tolerate them better.
Melanie Avalon: Also, in the plant world, antioxidants. How do you feel about antioxidants in whole form from fruit and vegetables versus supplemental? My two tangent questions from that are the studies seem to show that maybe the antioxidants from foods aren't quite doing as much as we think they are. And then on the flip side, there might potentially be an issue of antioxidant supplementation by discouraging our own antioxidant system. I'm haunted by this because I have some medication that I take, like low-dose naltrexone compounded with vitamin C and I take it while fasted. Every time I take it, I'm like, “Am I shutting off my antioxidant system right now?” What do you think about antioxidants?
Siim Land: There is some reason to think that high-dose antioxidants could be maladaptive by just suppressing the body's own antioxidants. And you don't want to be completely zero inflammation and without any free radicals, because those things are really beneficial signaling molecules to many beneficial processes in the body, like autophagy, as well as growth ion and just overall, the adaptation you get from exercise are also mediated by some of the inflammation and reactive oxygen species. So, you don't want to be completely avoiding those things, but too much inflammation and too much reactive oxygen species is still harmful. Depends on-- I wouldn't be worried about the antioxidants from foods, because that can actually be somewhat beneficial because the amount of antioxidants in vegetables or fruit isn't that high. And it's not high enough to suppress some of the benefits you may get from exercise. But if you take high-dose vitamin C or something, then that can be harmful.
How much is too much? That can also depend on your overall level of stress and inflammation in general. So, if you're, let's say, a very inflamed person, and you have a bunch of stress, then taking the antioxidants might be beneficial as a way to curb that inflammation and stress. But if you're already pretty healthy person, then you don't need to take high amounts of antioxidants either. If your supplement has some vitamin C in it, then I wouldn't really be worried about it either because it's probably going to be metabolized within like minutes, and it's going to-- the body can already flip back into some autophagy afterwards as well.
Melanie Avalon: Okay, I'll stop stressing about it. No pun intended. One other thing you touched on just a second ago, you were talking about the hormetic radiation and hormesis. You do talk about EMFs in the book. What are your thoughts on EMF? Should we be scared of EMFs? Are we adapted to them? What should we do about all of that?
Siim Land: There's not much we can do about it in a way that the governments and companies and cities are still going to implement more of these 5G towers and EMF. I think a lot of people want it as well because people want to have faster internet and whatnot. You could go and live in a cabin. But that's not really functional way of being a part of modern society. So, the only way that you can mitigate it is to try to build up a certain level of tolerance to it. I think there is proof or there is reasons to think that it is possible. So, you take a hunter-gatherer from the wild, and you put them in a big city, they would probably be very sensitive towards EMF and they would feel all the negative side effects, like headaches and whatnot. Versus people who are living there every day, then they don't notice anything almost, or they've gotten so used to it, that they don't notice it. So, I do think that there is some aspect of adaptation that can occur.
But the critical part to this has to do with that you need some time or for recovery. So, if you're never getting a downtime from the EMF, and that's where the issues can start to arise from. So, what EMF does is that it's just activates these calcium channels in the cells that start to leach, is very toxic and this very inflammatory, like the compound peroxynitrate, which causes a lot of oxidative stress, and it is involved with atherosclerosis and heart disease and cancer. But, again, it is a matter of the dose. So, if you're like living next to a cell tower all the time, and you are, let's say using wireless earbuds, you're sleeping with your phone underneath your pillow, you're constantly surrounded by technology and you're never unexposed or you'd never get a downtime from it, that's where the problems that may start to rise. But if you take time to turn off the Wi Fi, you go outside in nature without your technology, you also sleep in a low-EMF environment, then I think that's where your body is able to build up some tolerance and resilience to it.
The most important thing is to just make sure that your sleep or your bedroom is as low EMF as possible. So, turn off the WiFi, put your phone on airplane mode. You can also use these grounding mats that you can use in your bed. Those are pretty good. And just making sure that you don't be in this constantly high EMF environment.
Melanie Avalon: I think the EMFs are so huge because we can't see them. So, unless you're taking them “seriously,” it can be easy to just think they're not a big deal. But then at the same time, it's hard to know what you're doing, how much is it actually doing, and what is “worth it.” But I know for me, I personally, I hardwired my internet. So, this is all hardwired. I have the grounding mats, I turn off at night. I even have an EMF canopy. Have you had one of those, by the way?
Siim Land: Well, I have used it, but I don't have it in my home.
Melanie Avalon: Okay, well, I was using it. But then I was reading that unless it's perfectly set up, it could actually maybe make things worse. And then I was like, “I give up.” I was like, “I'm just going to ignore it.” But, yeah, so many things there. Another question, one thing that-- you actually, before that, we talked about this on the last show, I believe, but NAD levels, which you talk about a lot in the book. Can you tell listeners a little bit about the difference between the balance between NAD and NADH, because I find it really fascinating?
Siim Land: NAD is nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide. And NADH is the reduced form of NAD. And both of them are being used for almost all physiological processes, especially energy production and they're involved in the Krebs cycle, where your body is using energy. Usually, NAD is associated with catabolic states. So, when you're creating energy from something, whether that be exercise, you're breaking down food molecules into energy ATP, and fasting and all other things can also increase NAD. Whereas NADH is more of associated with anabolism, where you're building, you're creating things, and that can happen when you're like eating, or you've converted some of the-- or you recycle some of the NAD into NADH, so both of them are being constantly recycled in the body. Usually, the higher NAD to NADH ratio is somewhat better so that your body isn't experiencing overabundance or over-nourishment, and it's more towards these catabolic processes where energy is being recycled.
Melanie Avalon: What role does NAD and NADH play in our stress response? Our resiliency and our ability to do with life. You actually said something in the book about how potentially a lot of the effects that we feel from COVID have to do with how it does affect our NAD levels. I know for me, I had surgery a few weeks ago to fix my deviated septum for breathing, which is something else you talk about in the book, that really wiped me out pretty bad. And I had been supplementing NMN and NR to support NAD levels, but I had stopped. And then, when I got the surgery, it was so upsetting, I couldn't do anything that I normally do. I couldn't do sauna, I couldn't do cold therapy, I couldn't pick up anything heavier than an iPad, which is very upsetting for obviously muscle growth and muscle support and exercise. I was like, “What can I do?” And I was like, “Well, I can start taking NR and NMN again.” I could have been placebo. But when I started taking it, I started feeling rapidly better and now I think I'm not going stop taking it again. I'm going to keep it in. That was a lot of like-- especially for listeners who aren't familiar with NAD. But what is NAD, how does it affect our resiliency and our ability to deal with life? And what do you think about supplementing NR or NMN to support it?
Siim Land: NAD is involved with the immune system as well and it regulates many of the immune cells like cytokines and monocytes and whatnot. You use NAD to battle infections but at the same time, the viruses or pathogens can also steal the NAD and they can use it for themselves. So, there's always like this tug of war happening. Depending on your other aspects of immune system, which one wins or which side wins depends on-- NAD can be very useful-- If your NAD levels are high and you get infected, then probably your chances of getting severely ill is lower because your body has sufficient amount of energy to give resources to the immune system to battle the infection. Whereas if you get sick with low levels of NAD, or you get infected with low levels of NAD, then your chances of getting severely sick is also higher because the immune cells don't have enough resources and the viral particles take over and spread. That's one huge thing to remember. If you, let's say, are in an environment with high risk of infection, then making sure that you are optimized in terms of your energy production is pretty good. So, doing, again, these beneficial hormetic stressors, and getting some time restricted eating and fasting, and you get NAD primarily-- almost 90% of NAD is being recycled. Only 10% comes from your dietary sources. So, that's why the recycling is primarily done by exercise and fasting, and these other hormetic stressors. That's why implementing them is much a better strategy than getting it from your food or trying to get it from food, but the supplements can sidestep that so the supplements, nicotinamide riboside or NMN, you can get a boost in NAD. I would imagine that can be really beneficial for, let's say, if you have immunocompromised states, or you're older, or you have some of these comorbidities, so definitely NAD would be something that I personally would use. And, yeah, this is really beneficial for that.
Melanie Avalon: Okay, awesome. Sleep. So, you talk a lot about sleep. And listeners, by the way, I'm just going to say, again, get the book, because there's so much stuff in there, we can't even remotely touch on all of it. But sleep. You talk a lot about circadian rhythms and how to best support your sleep. Is sleep something where there is a hormetic potential or where you can-- should you try to hack your sleep? Should you try to get potentially less sleep? Oh, and also you said that you tried polyphasic sleep. I'm dying to know what that was like. So, sleep?
Siim Land: Yeah. Well, sleep is probably the most important thing for hormesis or one of the most important things because that's where your body's basically recovering from it, from the stress and adapting to the stress as well. If you're doing a bunch of exercise and fasting and saunas, but your sleep is bad, then you're probably missing out on a lot of the benefits and potentially you can reach this chronic stress faster because you're not recovered. But in terms of that, is there any potential hormetic benefit from short sleep? Then, yes, to a certain extent. In studies, sleep restriction and sleep deprivation have been used for depression and something of that. But it's something that I wouldn't recommend for people to deliberately do because in this modern world, we're already naturally going to experience some sleep deprivation eventually. So, whether that be because of traveling, whether that be because of loud neighbors. So, you shouldn't do it deliberately, but at the same time, I do feel that if you are, let's say, used to some aspects of sleep deprivation, then you can also mitigate some of the negative side effects from that, especially in terms of cognition, because it's also like a very fragile position to be in. If you need to sleep eight to nine hours every night in order to function properly, you're leaving yourself vulnerable to all this potential random chaos that may happen in the world. The book, the concept of hormesis isn't necessarily only about being healthy all the time and being optimal health, optimally healthy. It's also about just dealing with the unavoidable stressors of life and coming out of them intact and coming out of them with higher functionalities, so that you wouldn't be wiped out by random stress and chaos.
In terms of the polyphasic sleep, then that's something that can be a strategy for causing some aspects of hormetic, like sleep hormesis. So, polyphasic sleeping is where you're sleeping in several chunks throughout the entire day. So, you don't sleep eight hours per night, you sleep maybe four hours a night and you have several naps spread throughout the entire day. So, you do get a slightly shorter total sleep time, but you should be able to get all these sufficient amount of REM cycles for the day.
I personally did it for about 100 days a few years ago. I slept maybe three hours a night, and I had like three 20-minute naps during the daytime. So, I got maybe four or four and a half hours of sleep per day. It was pretty hard, and it requires a lot of just-- you have to commit to it in order to make it work or to get out of it. But, yeah, I just stopped because I think in the long term, it's going to be pretty damaging for your health. Yeah, I did it for just experiment. But, yeah, after a while you get used to it, but your physical performance tends to suffer quite a lot because you're like-- if you're like going to the gym on a regular basis, then you do need quite a lot more sleep.
Melanie Avalon: So fascinating. Yeah, I had a friend who tried it and he said it was crazy because it was not very practical at all, because when it came time to sleep, it was like you had to sleep like at that moment. Nothing else could happen. And he was like, “It just didn't work.” Well, it's crazy.
Siim Land: You would need to be very flexible with your schedule.
Melanie Avalon: Yeah, it's crazy. Okay, wait, another S-word, stoicism. Going back to the mindset and everything. You talk about stoicism and the idea of a hedonic set point in our lives, and how we look at our experiences as far as pleasure and pain and how we can reframe that. So, what's the whole concept there? How can we practically implement stoic ideas into our lives to help us deal with stress?
Siim Land: It is very related to the psychology that we talked about. In my opinion, stoicism is just this philosophy that can help you to deal with the unpredictable nature of the world and also condition yourself to handle, let's say, physical stress, as well as psychological stress better, by just acknowledging to yourself that it can be a positive thing and that you can't really avoid the unexpected events, you can only control your own response to them. So, stoicism can be practiced in many ways. You can do intermittent fasting as a form of stoicism. Again, maybe sleep deprive yourself or something. You can also sleep on the floor. But, yeah, the main idea, or one of the main ideas is not to become attached to the kind of comforts of the world and something that everyone has maybe, some things they're more attached to than others. Maybe some people are, I don't know, attached to food, some people are attached to central heating, some people are attached to socializing, some people are attached to, I don't know, maybe music or something. Everyone has their own attachments, but you shouldn't be completely dependent of them. If you're very dependent of foods, then intermittent fasting or random starvation can be really stressful for you. So, in order to prevent that or avoid it, then you would want to regularly habituate yourself from not being attached to the particular thing that you're attached to. So, in the form of food, then you would do fasting on a regular basis in the form of maybe, like, central heating, to not freak out when the power goes out, then you would want to do cold exposure on a regular basis.
Or, if you're very attached to just maybe, I don't know, entertainment, then you detach yourself or you're distance yourself from the entertainment every once in a while, as to not to become dependent. You want your happiness to be dependent off these external things, whether that be food, entertainment, music, comfort, other people, whatnot. So, you would always want to be able to be happy and fulfilled without them just by finding this inner peace from yourself and not having any addictions, basically.
Melanie Avalon: To that point, because people might hear that and think, “Oh, so minimalism,” like, get rid of all attachments. But you pointed out that it's not necessarily minimalism, because in a way-- and that this is a word that we haven't used yet, but it's a word that you use throughout the book. And there's this idea of antifragility, being antifragile. And you were talking about how with minimalism-- I'm not putting down minimalism. I'm all for it if that's what you want to do, but in a way that could potentially be fragile, because you need this state of not having any attachments to anything, compared to fluctuating between attachments, but not having attachment to the attachments that you have.
Siim Land: Minimalism is a philosophy or lifestyle, but it's also like a form of self-identity. So, if people identify themselves as minimalists, they want to live up to that expectation, and therefore they try to live as minimalistic as possible. So, but the problem is that if they don't, let's say, meet that expectation, or like they're forced to give up their minimalistic lifestyle, then they may experience this inner conflict or turmoil or suffering because, like goddamnit, I'm not minimalist enough or something like that, which is self-defeating and it shouldn't be the purpose.
Whereas a stoic approach would be that, I may have all the riches in the world, but I don't care. I would be able to be happy even without them. One of the most famous Stoic philosophers, Seneca was, the richest banker in Rome. And he was one of the richest men in the world, but he still practiced this deliberate poverty. So, a few days of the month, he would basically dress like a beggar and he would eat only the things that he could find. He would not use any of his riches. And, yeah, he would try to live this a bigger lifestyle, very poverty. The purpose was that was just to not make his riches, the foundation to his happiness. So, he wanted to remind himself how fortunate he is and also just to toughen himself up for the times where those riches may be taken away. So, that's why a minimalistic lifestyle may not necessarily be the solution to this peace of mind. Whereas a stoic can be rich and a stoic can be poor, it doesn't really matter because for them, the concept of happiness is more linked to the person and their personal character and integrity and their moral values and virtues. Nothing external thing.
Melanie Avalon: With 2020, and everything that's going on, what might that mentality look like, reframing our world and current events? What would that look like?
Siim Land: One of the biggest things, I think, is that you realize that it's not that bad. Of course, a lot of people have died, and the economy's crashed and lot of people lost their jobs and whatnot, but it's not like the end of the world, it could have been a lot worse. And this is almost like a practice drill for future events that are probably going to be much worse than this one. It's not the Black Death, or it's not World War II. So, there have been much worse events in the past. And I think it can be a really good practice drill or a reminder for all countries of the world that there are potential pandemics, there are potential other disasters like volcanoes, hurricanes, maybe asteroids, and war. So, we shouldn't take our current modern lifestyle for granted. A lot of people may just have the misconception that everything is supposed to be safe and everything is supposed to be certain and predictable. Like you have your paycheck, you have your central heating, you have your electricity, you have your internet, all those things. But they're actually very deviant in the actual world or reality. Humans, we have just created a society that is very-- yeah, it's very fragile, but it's also like very living almost in a bubble. So, we don't really realize how unnormal what we have. It's very unnormal for humans to have access to all these resources and things or activities. So, yeah, we shouldn't forget about it. So, it's a good reminder to keep ourselves healthy, keep our stress adaptation high, and keep our lifestyle more flexible. So, we wouldn't be so easily wiped out by whatever kind of random event.
Melanie Avalon: So powerful. I love that so much. Listeners, I keep saying this, but definitely get the book because there's so much in it that we haven't even remotely touched on. Just a few last quick questions. So, all of these tools that you discuss all throughout the book, diet, lifestyle practices, cold, sauna, exercise, so many things we didn't even touch on, how should one implement this practically in their daily life? Do we need to be doing all of these things every day, some of these things some days? You talk in your book, it's really enlightening. You have a section on blocks where you talk about the different blocks for sleep, exercise, work, learning, social media, sex, rest, so many different things. What does it look like practically for a person wanting to implement these practices?
Siim Land: Yeah. Well, I think there are some things that everyone should do every day, like getting a good night's sleep, getting exposed to sunlight, daylight, and, of course, some exercise or getting some sweating is good to do every day to just promote detoxification system and cardiovascular health. So, that can be exercise, cardio, resistance training, or that can also be the sauna or yoga, anything that can make you sweat is a good thing for the lymphatic system. I also think it's important to do something where you work or you follow some passion or a purpose, some mastery, some productivity aspects or learning. It is a good idea to go to bed smarter than you woke up to learn everything something every day. And, of course, rest and reflection are also important.
I like to look at it like cycling between exertion and recovery. So, you exert yourself, you put yourself under stress, whether that be a mental stress or physical stress, but then you also recover from it, you reflect, and you adapt, that's where the adaptation occurs as well. So, on a daily basis, you can depend a lot on just your daily routine and what your conditions are. But, yeah, some form of exercise, some form of maybe time-restricted eating is also good, implementing into this active lifestyle where you're cycling between exertion and recovery.
Melanie Avalon: You pretty much blew my mind, because you even talk about social media blocks. You and I both are very heavy in the social media world. And you said that you only do it how much every day? It was not much.
Siim Land: Well, I usually--- in total, that will be maybe 30 minutes or an hour in total where I do all the posts and I engage with the comments and whatnot. But I'm not on Instagram all the time. I try to block it or use it only in certain times, like if I'm maybe taking a break from work or just before taking a nap or something like that. That's when I usually do social media. So, I'm not using the social media for example, if I'm like working or trying to write or if I'm exercising.
Melanie Avalon: That was really inspiring to me because I have a big Facebook group and I'm often in it, checking it constantly. I was like, “I should do this in blocks.” That makes so much more sense. Go in, do all the things, and then have these other blocks for other things. Awesome. Well, this has been absolutely amazing. Was there anything else you wanted to touch on that we didn't? I mean, there's so many things, but anything else you'd like to throw out there?
Siim Land: No, I think we did cover it pretty well. Stress can be harmful, but it can also be beneficial, depends on what's your mindset about it and how well are you recovering from it.
Melanie Avalon: Exactly. So, the last question that I ask every guest on this podcast just because I've realized, like we talked about, how important mindset is surrounding everything. So, you might remember this from last time, but what is something that you're grateful for?
Siim Land: Well, maybe currently, when we're talking about 2020 and the global events, then probably just living in the countryside, I didn't have to sit in a large building or an apartment, so I was able to just go outside every day. I take walks. We also grow our foods. And, yeah, we don't basically have any neighbors as well nearby. So, yeah, I was pretty untouched by the lockdown. So, that reminded me that it's one of the most very-- a precious or valuable thing to have. It definitely made me not want to move to a big city anytime soon.
Melanie Avalon: Like me. That's incredible. Well, this has been absolutely wonderful. Like I said, I could talk to you for hours and hours and hours. But listeners, just get the book. There's so much information in there. I think you'll find it so valuable. How can people best follow your work?
Siim Land: My website is siimland.com. I'm Siim Land on all the social media platforms, and the book is Stronger by Stress on Amazon.
Melanie Avalon: Awesome. Are you currently writing your next book?
Siim Land: Yeah. Well, I actually am. I'm coauthoring with someone, and I'm not going to tell the details yet. It's somewhat related to the previous ones, but it focuses more on one single aspect of health.
Melanie Avalon: That's very exciting. I'm excited. Well, I'm really excited. Man, that's a big teaser. Well, definitely, hopefully, have to bring you back when that happens.
Siim Land: Sounds good.
Melanie Avalon: All right. Well, I will talk to you later. Thank you so much. It's been absolutely amazing. Thank you.
Siim Land: Yeah, you too.