“Women with PCOS definitely have more of an uphill battle than the average person who’s perfectly healthy, but it’s perfectly possible to be extremely healthy with PCOS and to have normal levels of most hormones and neurotransmitters.” -Ari Whitten
Overwhelming fatigue is one of the really troubling symptoms for many of us with PCOS. In fact, roughly 20 to 40% of the general population is dealing with mild to moderate chronic fatigue. Ari Whitten is a well-known expert on fatigue and how to overcome it. He offers information and advice that we aren’t getting from our doctors. His insights into the true root causes of fatigue and practical tips on how to boost your energy will help you reclaim your life! Listen in (or read the transcript) as we discuss:
- Cortisol, fatigue, and PCOS
- What’s really causing your fatigue
- Circadian rhythm and it impact on … everything
- The surprise bonus functions of Melatonin
- Quick tips for blood sugar regulation
Mentioned in this podcast:
- The Energy Blueprint FREE Masterclass
- Ari Whitten’s book: The Ultimate Guide to Red Light Therapy
- Blue/green light blocking glasses: True Dark and the Safety Blues
- Using vinegar to reduce blood sugar
Amy: So today we’re going to be talking about one of the really troubling symptoms for many of us with PCOS and if you’ve read my book, “Healing PCOS,” and have followed me for a while, then you know that this is probably like my number one pain point that led me to look for answers outside of kind of the standard medical treatment for PCOS and that is overwhelming fatigue and I brought in today, for my PCOS Diva Podcast listeners, what I think of as one of the best experts on overcoming fatigue and increasing your energy levels and that is Ari Whitten. So, Ari, welcome to the PCOS Diva Podcast.
Ari Whitten: Thanks so much for having me, Amy. It’s a real pleasure and thank you for the kind words.
Amy: Well, I want to just give our listeners a little bit of background about you. You are a best-selling author and nutrition and lifestyle expert and the founder of The Energy Blueprint. You’ve been studying and teaching health science for over 20 years. You have a Bachelor of Science and Kinesiology and you recently completed coursework for your PhD in clinical psychology and for the last five years, you teamed up with world-renowned scientists and physicians to develop The Energy Blueprint System, which is a powerful evidence-based system for overcoming fatigue and increasing energy. So I’m excited for you to share with us some of your insight and tips about helping women with PCOS increase our energy.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, me too. I love this stuff. I’m deeply obsessed with the science in this area around fatigue. What really excites me about it is that there’s such a gap in our understanding, you know, common sorts of ideas that are out there within the natural health space around the causes of fatigue and how to fix it, I think, are very often extremely misguided and not connected very well to the science. And then within conventional medicine, just to give you a couple of statistics … first of all, fatigue is an extremely common problem. The estimates are roughly 20 to 40% of the general population is dealing with mild to moderate chronic fatigue issues and among older people, one in three people say that they have severe fatigue. That’s like fatigue that’s so severe that it’s getting in the way of them living their daily life. And so this is a huge epidemic. This is not a small problem.
Ari Whitten: Here’s the thing. When people go to their conventional doctors complaining about their fatigue and something like one out of every four or five doctor’s visits is just largely due to just somebody dealing with chronic fatigue and not understanding why. So they go to their doctor. They expect that their doctor is going to have clear answers to their problems and going to be able to run a blood test and figure out what’s going wrong with them and have really good solutions, evidence-based solutions that are proven to work and be really effective. Here’s the reality within conventional medicine. They state very directly, and this is in peer reviewed medical journals on the subject. This is not my opinion, this is what they’re saying. They state very directly, “We do not know what causes fatigue. All we have are symptomatic treatments for the condition.”
Ari Whitten: And then four main treatments within evidence-based medicine. Sorry if you’re hearing my phone ringing in the background here. One second. I’ll just try and speak over it. The four main treatments … actually, hold on, sorry. Sorry to interrupt. Sorry, Amy, hopefully you can edit that out.
Amy: Yeah, absolutely.
Ari Whitten: Before main treatments that conventional medicine has to offer for people dealing with chronic mild or moderate or severe fatigue are one, antidepressants. Two, a recommendation to start doing exercise, like going for walks during the day or 30 minutes of aerobic activity and stimulant pills and cognitive behavioral therapy. Those are the four treatments that they have to offer people dealing with fatigue. Again, not my opinion. That’s actually from a literature review published in a peer reviewed medical journal on the subject of fatigue and evidence-based conventional medical approaches to fatigue. Now, also, I’ll add that you might think that, “Oh, they’re going to do a blood test.” That’s going to identify what’s going wrong with your health and then they’re going to have insight into how to fix it. They state directly in this literature review, 95% of blood tests come back either normal or do not have any findings that changes their course of treatment.
Ari Whitten: In other words, that changes their simple recommendation, take some antidepressants or do some exercise, do some cognitive behavioral therapy and take stimulant pills whenever you need them. So only in less than 5% of cases do they even find anything on your blood test that is useful in directing the course of treatment. So, yeah, basically I’m very obsessed with this topic and I love teaching about it because there are actually lots of great answers and great strategies that can help people suffering from fatigue and this is a cool area for me, because I get to build out that science and teach people all this novel information that they’re not currently getting from their conventional doctor or their holistic health doctor, integrative or functional medicine doctor.
Amy: Well, and thank goodness that there’s people like you out there because I know many of my listeners have experienced that frustration of going to the doctor, having labs, only to be offered a pill and it’s really not getting to the root cause of their fatigue, which I know is what you’re hopefully going to be talking about, right?
Ari Whitten: Yup. Yeah, I hope so, too. Do you want me to get into that?
Amy: Yeah, jump right in.
Ari Whitten: I’ll first start by saying that what I was alluding to before, as far as within the holistic and natural health functional medicine community, the focus has really been on cortisol and the adrenal glands or the HPA Axis, the hypothalamic, pituitary and adrenal axis and our story has really, really been centered on this adrenal and cortisol narrative of why people get fatigued and that the basic idea of this, for people unfamiliar with adrenal fatigue is that stress basically taxes our adrenals and one of the stress hormones is cortisol that’s produced by our adrenal glands and so, that’s an integral part of our stress response system. That’s what our stress response system is all about, according to this narrative and with chronic stress constantly taxes the system and then eventually drains it and exhausts the adrenal glands and then you get low cortisol levels and then the low cortisol levels eventually translate into fatigue and other symptoms like not being able to sleep at night or sugar and salt cravings and things of that nature. That’s the basic gist of the adrenal fatigue summed up in a minute.
There’s more nuances and more complexities on it, depending on who you talk to and there’s three phases or four phases or seven phases, depending on who you talk to. But I have done basically the most extensive review of the scientific literature on the subject of cortisol levels, adrenal function and their relationship to the fatigue syndromes and basically, quite shockingly for most people in the natural health community, the research does not support the narrative of adrenal fatigue, basically in every way possible. What it clearly shows is that the vast majority of people with fatigue syndromes have perfectly normal cortisol levels and adrenal function and there is no adrenal fatigue that’s going on in the vast majority of people with these conditions and, in fact, there’s no adrenal fatigue going on in pretty much any of them, as the research doesn’t support the idea of adrenal fatigue more broadly.
It is possible to have some HPA Axis dysfunction, where you might have … the most common finding is what’s called a flattened diurnal curve. You have normal 24-hour cortisol levels, but you have lower morning cortisol levels and higher evening cortisol levels.
Amy: Yeah, which is interesting that you said that, because a lot of women with PCOS do have that curve.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, and actually, it’s not just women with PCOS, it’s actually a large portion of the population more broadly. You know, people without any medical problems and the reason why is … actually the most common cause of that is just circadian rhythm and sleep disruption. It is nothing more, in most cases, than just circadian rhythm and sleep disruption. And circadian rhythm, for those that don’t know, is our body’s 24-hour biological clock. It’s a part of our brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus that responds to signals from the environment, most important of which is light signals from the sun and, in turn, that regulates our 24-hour rhythm. It regulates a whole bunch of neurotransmitters and hormones that affect our sleep and wake cycles. More broadly, obviously, our bodies go to sleep when it gets dark and wake up in the morning. That’s not because you’re choosing to do those things, it’s because your biology and your circadian clock are dictating those neurotransmitter and hormone cycles that are causing you to sleep and wake at certain times and also impacting on lots and lots and lots of other neurotransmitters and hormones in our bodies that regulate all kinds of things, from our energy levels to our metabolism, to our cognitive function, to our thyroid health, to our HPA Axis.
One of the things that’s going on here is that if you look at a cortisol rhythm, what you notice is that it’s supposed to go up in the morning and have a big spike in cortisol levels and then it’s supposed to decline the rest of the day and the evening and the night. And what that is telling you is that cortisol is one of the hormones that is controlled by the circadian rhythm so, when you disrupt circadian rhythm, you disrupt pretty much all of the hormones and neurotransmitters that are dependent on having a healthy circadian rhythm and cortisol is one of them. That’s basically the gist of it.
The other aspect of this is that our modern world is basically perfectly designed to disrupt our circadian rhythm. Most of us are living indoor lives. We’re not getting morning sunlight. We’re not getting hardly any sunlight during the day. I know people, literally, a large portion of people, who almost never get outdoors and get sunlight on their bodies. And then in the evening, since the advent of electricity and artificial lighting like cell phones and computer screens and TV screens and indoor lighting, etc., we now have lights, specifically lights in the blue wavelength, that’s what our circadian clock responds to the most, we now have that kind of light being emitted after the sun goes down from all of those indoor sources of light that are basically entering in our eyes and feeding back into that circadian clock in our brain and telling the circadian clock, it’s daytime, the time to be awake, alert, active, and energetic.
And that, in turn, now disrupts your sleep cycle and what’s yoked to the sleep cycle, the other side of the coin, is your energy levels during the daytime and your wakefulness during the daytime. So, those are sleep and energy are two sides of the same coin that are linked by your circadian clock. When you live in the modern world, that perfectly is designed to disrupt your circadian clock and the normal functioning of it, now you disturb your sleep, which leads to an epidemic of sleep problems and insomnia, which we have in the modern world and you have an epidemic of fatigue problems, which we also have in the modern world. And I’ll just mention one mechanism of how this plays out. Well, I’ll mention three mechanisms. I take it back. There’s a lot more. There’s maybe eight or nine.
One mechanism is neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin and orexin. Orexin is not a neurotransmitter that most people have heard of, but it’s actually our primary wakefulness and energy neurotransmitter in our brain, directly controlled by the circadian rhythm and how much and how deeply you slept. So, what happens when you don’t sleep enough? You feel tired the next day. Why? Well, there’s several reasons, but orexin is a major reason why. Your body is intentionally making you tired so that, as basically a protective response to being under-recovered and not getting enough sleep. Because your body doesn’t want you to then have lots of energy and go expend a lot of energy and do a lot of hard mental and physical work, that then puts you even deeper into a hole and potentially causes more cellular damage.
Another mechanism is there’s research now showing that our brains actually detoxify at night, so for a long time it was thought that there’s no lymphatic system in the brain. Well, just in the last couple of years, it’s been discovered that there is a lymphatic system in the brain. It’s called the glymphatic system because it actually revolves around the glial cells in the spaces between neurons. And what happens at night while we’re sleeping, if we have a strong circadian rhythm and we’re sleeping enough and we’re sleeping deeply is that those spaces actually open up between our brain cells and at night, and they’ve actually visualized this on scans in animal studies where they’ve injected radioactive materials and then done a functional MRI to actually see this happening in the brain. But basically what you see during the night while they’re sleeping is the radioactive materials are literally being drained out through spaces that open up in the brain while you’re sleeping. So, detoxification of your brain and cleanup of cellular junk and cellular damage which is also sort of toxic material in the brain, that all happens during the night while we sleep.
And then to mention one other one. Melatonin is a hormone that most people have probably heard of and they know melatonin as melatonin is secreted by the pineal gland and it’s involved in helping us sleep. Okay, well, it also does something else that’s really important that most people are not aware of. Melatonin goes into your cellular membranes and your mitochondrial membranes. Mitochondria are the energy generators in our cells, and it actually protects them from damage. So melatonin is a very, very, very powerful protector of our cellular membranes and our mitochondrial membranes, including the mitochondrial membranes in our brain cells, which hopefully you get and play a big role in not just your cognitive function, but also your energy levels. And what happens when you live in a modern world and you have lots of modern artificial lighting going into your eyes in the evenings when you shouldn’t have blue light entering your eyes and you have that for hours every evening, day after day, week after week, month after month, decade after decade, is you’re chronically suppressing the secretion of melatonin by your pineal gland.
That light exposure directly suppresses the levels of melatonin that your brain is secreting. So, when you do that, when you have chronically lower levels of melatonin every day for years and decades, you’re now preventing that melatonin from stabilizing and protecting your cellular and mitochondrial membranes from damage and essentially you’re weakening them and predisposing to damage from other sources, from toxins, from stress, from whatever else, from a poor diet, from all of the other factors in your nutrition and lifestyle and your environment that we know damage our body. Well, suppressing your melatonin levels is basically stoking the flame. It’s basically pouring gasoline all over the wood and then you have the toxic insults, the poor diet, the toxins in the environment, the poor gut health and all these other factors that are then lighting that fire. Does that all make sense?
Amy: Oh, it’s really fascinating and as you were talking, I’m thinking a lot of women with PCOS have lower levels of neurotransmitters. It’s been shown, especially serotonin and melatonin, too. Like non-PCOS women. I wonder if maybe that’s why we’re affected by fatigue even more so, just thinking out loud to myself.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, it’s very possible. I will say that I think that women with PCOS definitely have more of an uphill battle than the average person who’s perfectly healthy, but I think it’s perfectly possible to be extremely healthy even with PCOS and to have normal levels of most hormones and neurotransmitters and things like that.
Amy: And then we’re also finding out that melatonin is really helpful with ovarian function, too, so I think there’s just so many other ways that melatonin helps us.
Ari Whitten: Most definitely, yes. I only mentioned one, but you’re absolutely right. Melatonin plays a number of other very important roles. I think the main thing I wanted to illustrate here is that this is just one factor, circadian rhythm and what I just explained are just three mechanisms within the category of circadian rhythm. There are many, many other factors that we could talk about within the category of circadian rhythm. Cortisol being one of those factors and then outside of that, there are many other factors that relate to our energy levels apart from circadian rhythm. So, what I just wanted to get across to people, and hopefully they got, is that sometimes people will say to me after I debunk adrenal fatigue. I’ve written a very comprehensive review of all of the literature on that subject which I would encourage your listeners to go look through on my website, if they’re skeptical of my analysis of adrenal fatigue, go look at the research yourself.
I’ve compiled every single study that’s been done on the subject in the last 25 years and I literally mean every single study, and I’ve compiled that all with the actual screen shots, links to the studies, quotes from the studies, the actual screen shots of the cortisol levels in people with fatigue, versus normal healthy people. I’ve laid out all of that data so that anyone can see for themselves and draw the obvious conclusion for themselves. But, what I wanted to really get across is that this story of fatigue and energy levels are not just a matter of your adrenals and your cortisol levels, very far from it. There are many, many dozens of other systems of the body and factors that are involved in regulating our bodies’ energy levels.
Amy: So, just a quick question about the blue light that you mentioned. Do you think that the blue light blocking glasses that are kind of the hot thing right now, do you think that those are helpful?
Ari Whitten: Absolutely. Yeah, I think it’s a very simple and easy thing that you can do every night that just flat out works, and there’s plenty of research showing that it works and not only is the research showing it works, but there’s a very obvious and known and widely accepted non-controversial physiological mechanism explaining exactly how it works, which is basically what I said before, that after the sun goes down, if you want your circadian clock to work properly, you need to mimic the environment that your ancestors, that basically all of human evolution has taken place during, which is that there shouldn’t be blue light entering your eyes after the sun goes down. And we know blue light suppresses melatonin. So, it’s totally non-controversial. Yes, it’s a popular trend, but it’s one of the popular trends that is absolutely warranted and is supported by good evidence and we know exactly how it works and we know that it does work. So, I do think that that is a very, very smart thing to do.
Amy: And then, I think too, I try to do it when the weather is warmer. It’s really cold in the mornings right now in New Hampshire, but getting out for a walk so that you can kind of expose yourself to some of that early sun is something that I try to do.
Ari Whitten: Yes, yes. Those, I would say, are the two biggest easy and low cost strategies to dramatically improve your circadian rhythm health. Just morning light exposure. Morning sunlight in your eyes, hopefully close to the sunrise or not super late in the day. Morning sunlight in your eyes, ideally within the first hour, but ideally within the first half an hour of waking up and blue light blocker glasses within the last couple hours before bedtime. And, actually, I don’t want to digress into too many nuances here, but actually green light wavelengths disturb the circadian clock as well. That’s more of a recent discovery and blue light suppresses melatonin the strongest, but green light does as well. So, if you really want to have amazing sleep and see a dramatic improvement in your sleep, literally from the first night that you wear these glasses, you can get blue-green blockers and they’re a little bit more reddish-tinted glasses and this is something else I have an article on my site about if you are interested in looking it up.
But, blue-green blocking glasses. There’s a company called Safety Blue that makes really excellent ones. There’s another company called True Dark that also makes them. There’s a few other companies that makes them, but they don’t make the style that wraps around the eye socket, so the only two companies I really like and recommend are the True Darks and the Safety Blues and depending on your face structure, they may fit you differently, but personally, I find that the Safety Blues fit my face a lot better.
Amy: Oh, those are great tips, thank you. Can you give us, in the time we have left, some more insight into fatigue?
Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. One of the things that we were chatting about before we started recording is blood sugar levels. I want to make sure that I mention that, because that’s an issue for people with PCOS. Quick tips on blood sugar regulation. The absolute most important thing is actually body composition. If you are carrying a large excess of body fat, you are almost guaranteed to have some degree of insulin resistance. Now everybody has what’s called their own personal fat threshold, which is the extent to which they can pile on excess body fat before they start getting insulin resistance. And what that means is some people will start to get insulin resistance only when they’ve put on a very large amount of excess body fat and other people will start to get insulin resistance at much lower levels of body fat, depending on their personal fat threshold.
But, either way, lowering your body fat levels through dietary and other lifestyle interventions can be a very, very powerful way to get your blood sugar levels under control. So that’s one thing. Getting processed food out of the diet. I’m not necessarily advocating any particular macro-nutrient ratio of the diet, but what I will say is that getting processed food out of your diet and focusing on food quality and instead of focusing on just carbs and fats, focus on eating foods that are known to be associated with good health outcomes in humans. So, what I mean by that is let’s say lard or refined oils. Are those reliably associated with really good health outcomes in humans? Not so much. But other fat-containing foods are. Things like nuts and seeds. Things like avocados. Things like olives or olive oil. Yes, absolutely.
Same for carbs. Are donuts and soda and potato chips reliably associated with good health outcomes in humans? No. Does that mean that all carbs are bad? No, absolutely not. Blueberries and lentils and lots and lots of other carb-containing foods, many other colorful plant foods that are rich in carbs are absolutely associated with wonderful health outcomes and great blood sugar regulation and even the elimination of type two diabetes. So, focus on those things. Body composition, trading processed foods for foods that are specifically associated with good health outcomes rather than macro-nutrients, rather than carbs to fat, focus on eating super healthy foods.
In addition to that, in all of your meals, you want to shoot for at least 15 or 20 grams of protein in all of your meals. One of the big problems with blood sugar regulation is people who are consuming meals that are either all carbs or mostly fat or mostly carbs and fats with very little protein. So, getting the protein up in those meals makes a big difference for stabilizing your blood sugar. In addition, I’ll also mention that it helps support one of the neurotransmitters I mentioned before, called orexin in the brain. So, if you suffer from fatigue after your meals, one of the biggest problems that’s causing that is suppression of orexin levels in your brain. Protein helps prevent that suppression of orexin. In other words, it helps keep your energy strong after eating.
A few other things that I’ll mention here. Going for a brief 10 or 15-minute walk after your meals can make a huge difference in your blood sugar regulation. It’s another really great factor. It doesn’t have to be intense exercise. Just a gentle walk will do wonders for your blood sugar regulation after eating. Another couple of factors I’ll mention. One is vinegar. There’s actually amazing research showing that taking vinegar in your meals or before your meals can make a big difference. Another think I’ll mention is if you consume the protein and the leafy, non-starchy vegetables at the beginning of your meal, that will also blunt the blood sugar rise from that meal, so that’s another factor. Let’s see, what else? The only other thing I can think of here is maybe using supplements like berberine or cinnamon. You can use cinnamon extract or cinnamon. Just make sure you use real cinnamon, Ceylon cinnamon. Both of those things can also help blood sugar regulation as well and if you combine all of those things that I just mentioned, you can pretty much eliminate any blood sugar issues.
Amy: Those are all great tips, Ari and if you want more information about reducing insulin resistance, I’ve written a lot about that on PCOS Diva, but for me, the blood sugar issue was one of … and the insulin resistance was something that was really driving my fatigue, as well as sleep. I had two little babies at the time, too, and I know the sleep dysregulation was a real problem, as well.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. Definitely having a baby and being chronically sleep deprived will definitely cause fatigue.
Amy: Yes. We have about five more minutes. Anything else that you … some quick tips, anything else you wanted to mention before we talk a little bit more about your … I’m going to tease it … your free master class that’s coming up.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there’s so much more we could talk about, but I will say … let’s see, five minutes, where do I want to go? Let me say this, the two biggest factors that I think you need to focus on if you want to fix your fatigue are not the adrenals and your cortisol levels, but your brain and your mitochondrial health. Now, when it comes to … and actually they’re very much intertwined. Mitochondrial health is very much at the center of brain health, as well. Now with that in mind, if we’re focusing on our mitochondria which are, again, for people who have never heard that term or don’t know what they are, those are the actual energy generators inside of your cells. That’s what’s responsible for producing energy at the cellular level. Basically, what fatigue problems … they’re really not anything other than just a failure to produce enough energy at the cellular level and when that’s happening to a significant enough degree, you actually feel, as a whole, as a person that’s composed of trillions of cells which are not producing enough energy, you feel fatigued.
So, how do we improve our mitochondrial health? Well, there’s lot of different ways. Certainly good nutrition, good circadian rhythm. I already mentioned the link with melatonin. Circadian rhythm and sleep are certainly a big factor. Gut health is certainly a big factor. Toxins. There are many, many toxins in the environment that are directly toxic to mitochondrial health. Things like heavy metals and BPA and glyphosate and fluoride and others. But, there’s one other big factor that most people rarely talk about which is something called hormesis. And hormesis is basically the concept of transient metabolic stress. Now, most people hear that word stress and they immediately assume, “Oh, stress. Stress is bad. I’ve got to avoid stress.” Well, chronic psychological stress is bad and, you know, there’s other kinds of chronic stressors that are bad. Chronic exposure to toxins is generally going to be bad for you.
But outside of those chronic exposures to toxic forms of stress, there actually is another category of types of stressors that are profoundly beneficial and within the aging research community, I happen to know of some longevity and aging researchers who literally believe that hormesis, which is almost rarely ever talked about and very little known within the natural health community, shockingly. They talk about hormesis as being the single most important thing to do for disease prevention and longevity and I will also argue it is pretty much the single most important thing to do for overcoming fatigue and increasing your energy levels. Transient metabolic stress. If that sounds like a weird concept, just consider exercise, physical exercise. We know that doing exercise regularly is associated with not just improvements in muscle health or cardiovascular health, but is associated with protection from dozens of different diseases, is associated with improved brain health and cognitive function, improved mood, fights depression, fights anxiety, fights neurological disease, fights almost ever chronic disease that you can think of.
Now, why? Well, it turns out it’s not because exercise is intrinsically healthful, it’s exercise is a stressor. It’s a transient metabolic stressor. It is a form of hormesis or a hormetic stressor. And basically what it’s doing is by introducing that transient metabolic stress, you are actually creating free radicals in your body at the cellular level. You’re creating a big spike of inflammation and free radicals, which most people have been taught to believe are bad. Well, when they’re chronically present, they can certainly be bad, but transient spikes of free radicals, like with exercise and like some of the other forms of hormesis that we can talk about, actually stimulates a mechanism inside of your cells and inside of your mitochondria called the NRF-2 pathway or NRF2 pathway and it stimulates something called the ARE, which stands for antioxidant response element.
Now, that pathway does a few different things. One is that it builds up the internal antioxidant defense system inside of your cells, which is hundreds or thousands of times more important and more potent than any antioxidants that you would take orally in the form of supplements. It protects your mitochondria from oxidative damage, which is one of the key drivers of aging and disease and fatigue and it protects them against inflammation. In addition, it also … this is almost like a magic trick … it actually stimulates your mitochondria to grow bigger and stronger and it stimulates your cells to grow more mitochondria from scratch … something called mitochondrial biogenesis. So, you literally make more mitochondria in the process and you make more robust mitochondria, that are capable, just to be clear, to complete that thought, bigger, stronger mitochondria and more mitochondria that are capable of producing lots more energy. And that are capable of responding to other types of stress, whether they be toxins or psychological stress or any other type of stress, responding to them without getting damaged and while being easily able to adapt and maintain homeostasis, because you’ve built up that ARE, that internal antioxidant response element.
So, this relates to something that I call the resilience threshold and what that means is essentially the bigger and stronger your mitochondria are and the more of them that you have, the easier time that your body will have when exposed to stressors, adapting to stressors and maintaining homeostasis and not incurring damage at the cellular and mitochondrial level, again, which is the key driver of aging, disease and fatigue. Basically, building up your mitochondria is really, really important through these types of transient hormetic stressors, exercise is just one of them. Just to name a few others? Heat exposure, like saunas, cold exposure, fasting, phytochemicals. Most people think of “antioxidants.” They’re actually not. They’re primarily what are called xenohormetic stressors. They function actually in most cases as pro-oxidants and the same NRF2 pathway that is stimulated by things like exercise and fasting and sauna exposure.
Also, red and near-infrared light, which is a topic I’ve written a book about that I highly recommend looking into, very, very powerful medicine, and several other categories, for example, like hypoxia hormesis which, for example, would be breath-holding practices. That also creates a powerful stimulus to grow bigger, stronger mitochondria. So there are a number of things in that category that can be really, really powerful and beneficial ways of building up your mitochondria, building up your resiliency, and making your cells, literally rewiring your cells to be able to produce more energy.
Amy: Really such fascinating info. I’m just so glad that you shared that all with us. It’s something that just not that many people are talking about, as you mentioned. And I tell PCOS Divas that knowledge is power and I think what Ari just said about exercise and you kind of went in depth about exercise, really changes your mindset for your next workout, so you’re not just thinking, “Oh, I’m going to burn off the calories from the burger that I just ate,” or whatever it might be, it’s really, “I’m going to strengthen and increase the mitochondria in my body to keep me from aging and aging slower and to increase my energy,” and that definitely gets me motivated.
Ari Whitten: One hundred percent. I’m with you. And it also changes … by changing the attitude that you bring into it, it changes how you think about what you should be doing. So, if the goal is just burning calories, then you’re going to burn calories however you want. If you want to boost your mitochondrial health in the most powerful way, well there are specific ways of doing exercise that are better at that than others. In particular, without getting into the details of the types and ways of doing the exercise, one thing that I’ll say is, in order to create that stimulus for adaptation, to stimulate your body to say, “Wow, we need to change. We need to grow bigger, stronger mitochondria. We need to grow new mitochondria from scratch,” the exercise needs to be at a level of intensity that is challenging your body. If there is no challenge to the body if you’re not subjectively feeling that that workout has really challenged you, then your body is not going to have a stimulus to create any new adaptations. It’s just going to say, “Hey, that was a nice workout, but we’re already well enough adapted to deal with that level of stress quite well, so we don’t need to invest anymore resources into creating new mitochondria or anything like that.” Just challenging your body to a significant degree makes a big difference.
Amy: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. You know, I would love for you to tell us how we can learn more from you and I know you have your website, theenergyblueprint.com and I will post that in the show notes, but I know that you have a really valuable resource that you’re going to share very soon. Well, tell us about it. It’s your free master class.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. I have a four video master class series that is coming out. It’ll only be available one time in 2019 and it is coming out on April 4th. So, that’s going to be from April 4th to April 14th and it is going to cover in amazing depth with tons of very practical, very novel information that I’ve given you guys just a little taste of here. It’s going to be absolutely epic, mind-blowing content. You guys are going to love it. I’m not holding anything back. It’s not content that’s just fluff, because I’m holding back all my real secrets. This is really great content that you guys are going to get that’s going to blow your mind and it starts on April 4th.
Amy: And we will post a link to that master class in the show notes as well and also a link to your book. Can you just tell us the name of your book about the red light?
Ari Whitten: Yeah, it’s called, “The Ultimate Guide To Red Light Therapy.” And then the subtitle … I forget the exact order of the words, but the subtitle is “How To Use Red and Near-Infrared Light Therapy For Brain Optimization, Fat Loss, Anti-Aging And More.” That is a wonderful book on Amazon. I’ve sold, since I released it in June of last year, it sold I think like 35,000 copies.
Amy: Wow, congratulations.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, and people are loving it. It’s gotten like over 370 reviews and basically it’s the best book that exists on that subject outside of actual medical textbooks that are meant for practitioners and scientists. This is the best book on the subject that’s meant for the general public, and it tells you exactly what are the benefits of it, the physiological mechanisms of how it works an exactly how to use it and what devices are the best devices to get, which is important because there’s a lot of garbage devices on the market that are just a waste of money, but there’s a few brands that make really high-quality devices and I explain how to do all of that in that book.
Amy: Well, thank you so much for coming on and really enlightening us. There is so much more and, like you said, we’ve just really scratched the surface today. Tools for your PCOS Diva toolkit to help increase your energy outside of what we talked about in the beginning of the podcast, the stimulants and antidepressants and exercise, although now we know why exercise is so helpful. This has just been really great that you’ve taken time out of your day to share with us, Ari.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, it’s been an absolute pleasure. I love this stuff. I will happily teach this stuff all day long, every day, so it’s not taking time out of my day. This is what I love, so thank you so much for having me on.
Amy: Well, I’m going to be looking forward to following your master class on April 4th. I can’t wait.
Ari Whitten: Wonderful. Thank you.
Amy: Yeah, and I hope that everyone listening will take advantage of it, too. It’s really a great opportunity to learn straight from one of the top experts on fatigue and increasing energy. So, thank you for listening, PCOS Divas, and I look forward to being with you again soon. Bye-bye.