Ben: On this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast.
Diana: As sick as I was, I would not wish that on anybody, but it opened the door to get some answers that had been missing. I had to figure out what other reasons could some people need that kind of support, and that was also a part of the journey, but I know what it takes to maintain it and stay on top of that, that propensity for some of this abnormal inflammation, the damage it can do.
Ben: Health, performance, nutrition, longevity, ancestral living, biohacking, and much more. My name is Ben Greenfield. Welcome to the show.
Hey, today’s a pretty interesting podcast, all about the vagus nerve, constipation, something called orthostatic postural hypertension, something or other. Anyways, my guest on today’s show, Dr. Diana Driscoll gets into it.
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Hey, a few months ago, I mentioned on a podcast that I had discovered that there was this specific blend of nutrients, a couple of compounds, specifically, that I discovered could really help to support my vagus nerve function because I’m always looking at ways to support that incredibly important nerve that snakes through the body and innervates so many organs. As a side effect, it gave me–I think the way I described it on that podcast was a glorious morning dump that filled the entire toilet bowl on a repeated and predictable basis, which was of course quite nice because it’s a good thing to just get it all done within the morning and walk away. Maybe double flush in the process. Sorry if that’s a TMI for everybody.
But my podcast guest on today’s show, whose name is Dr. Diana Driscoll, that’s D-R-I-S-C-O-L-L, Driscoll, she is the individual who actually designed that blend and who knows a heck of a lot about the vagus nerve and its interplay with our bodies, and how to support the vagus nerve, and autonomic nervous system function in general. Now, she’s an optometrist who went through a pretty interesting health scenario that I’m going to let her fill you in on and share with you. But it did involve something that you may or may not be familiar with called postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. I know it’s a mouthful, but it stands POTS, P-O-T-S, or POTS stands for that, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. So, it’s a disorder of the autonomic nervous system, and Diana is going to fill you in on that too because it’s this little-known cause of a lot of issues like chronic fatigue, and dizziness, and poor vagal function, and constipation, and a lot of issues.
Diana has been digging into this for years and using her medical certifications and degree and knowledge to help now literally thousands and thousands and thousands of people, not only with POTS but with a lot of other issues related to the fatigue and the underlying vagal nerve dysfunction that underlies it. She’s written multiple books, all of which I will link to in the shownotes, but most notably, one called “The Driscoll Theory.” And she also has a very helpful website at potscare.com, POTScare.com, wonderful blog at prettyill.com, like prettyI-L-L.com, and also a range of different vagal nerve compounds that she’s developed, which I will also link to in the shownotes. So, everything that we discuss today, and there’s going to be a lot of notes, you’re going to be able to find at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/pots. That’s BenGreenfieldFitness.com/P-O-T-S.
Diana, welcome to the show.
Diana: Thank you, Ben. It’s so great to be here. What an honor. I appreciate that.
Ben: Yeah. I noticed that you’re sounding a little hoarse today. I believe it’s due to the recent cigarette smoking habit that you just took up if I’m not mistaken.
Diana: Yeah. No. We’ll talk about that nicotine, right? No. Yeah, you caught me. I did go out last night and we danced and listened to a great band and I swore I wouldn’t sing along so I’d have my voice this morning, but it’s really hard not to. So, please bear with me. It doesn’t quite sound like it usually does. We’ll squeak it out, yeah.
Ben: It is kind of funny that you said about smoking cigarettes and nicotine because I know that’s part of your story, particularly the nicotine piece. And I have talked on this show before about how I’ll occasionally chew nicotine gum because of some of the benefits it can have on nerve function and mitochondria. And so, perhaps we can dive into that a little bit, too. But I might be getting ahead of myself. I want to hear a little bit more about your story and how you got into studying all this in the first place.
Diana: Yeah. It was a long, horrible struggle, honestly, but do know what I learned in my struggle ends up helping so many other people because although my situation was so dramatic, it exaggerated some symptoms and signs that when you take it down and not affect so many people in the general population. And that’s where I think I can really help. But I went to Costa Rica for a mission trip and got a virus, but all of us got the same virus. It wasn’t like the virus was the cause of an illness, but I couldn’t pull out of it. I ended up with so many weird symptoms like I started out I just had trouble breathing. It felt like I was breathing through a straw.
Even in my sleep, I was struggling with that. My heart rate was out of control. If I was vertical, it would just race. My digestion was a factor. Sometimes food would just sit in my stomach for hours. And then ultimately, I started to develop a tremor. I couldn’t handle the changes in temperature. As time went on, it morphed and continued to change. I started to lose my memory, I couldn’t organize my thoughts, I couldn’t even stay awake. At my worst, I was struggling to stay awake even three hours a day.
But sometimes, I had horrible insomnia and I was awake for days at a time. And as I got sicker, eventually, I couldn’t handle any sort of stress. And stress at that time was even like answering the phone or making a doctor’s appointment. I couldn’t order a pizza or something. I was light sensitive, sound sensitive. I stayed in a bedroom with four walls, and the shades were drawn. I had eye covers and earplugs because everything was just too loud, too bright, just too much, and no one can help me. It was horrible. But probably the worst part, Ben, was my kids got sick, and they started to develop some similar symptoms. My son was completely disabled for three years, but no one had any answers. So, it was not the position I wanted to be in, but I was forced into trying to figure out some of this.
Ben: Interesting. So, at that point, you’ve got all these fatigue issues going on, and I would imagine that most people would begin to look into–I mean, honestly, anybody Google symptoms like that, they come up with chronic fatigue. They come up with, perhaps something that I interviewed Dr. Sarah Myhill, who you might know about, a condition that–off the top of my head, I got to remember what it’s called. It’s a different name she gives to chronic fatigue. I believe it’s ME, myalgic encephalomyelitis, I think is the way that she describes it. I had a whole podcast with her about this. That’s what most people will come up with, if they experienced the issues like you’ve had, is some form of chronic fatigue, which I think is a catchall term that’s usually when you dig in, instead something like mitochondrial dysfunction, or Lyme infection, or mold, or some other type of chronic issue. But I’m curious what you found when you started looking into this.
Diana: Yes, because my condition didn’t begin with fatigue, which was really, really odd, I thought. It evolved over time into fatigue. In fact, initially, the thoughts by the researchers–and I was in Mayo’s even clinical trials for three years. Their thoughts were that we needed more exercise and we had to watch our diet. We tended to be deconditioned, but I was very, well fairly, athletic at the time, and I certainly wasn’t deconditioned, and I didn’t start out with fatigue.
Ben: So, your doctor has told you to get on a treadmill, basically?
Diana: Which I did because I love to exercise, and I thought, “Well, that will be great.” But I didn’t do anything. It took about two or three years into the condition before the fatigue became so disabling.
Ben: Well, was that long?
Diana: But it didn’t start out that way. Yes. I was disabled by this for a decade.
Ben: Oh, wow.
Diana: Yeah. It was tough. That was tough.
Ben: Okay. And this was how long ago?
Diana: Fourteen years.
Ben: Fourteen years. So, that would mean that somewhere like three or four years ago, something happened?
Diana: Yes. It actually took layers of answers to put all together. And as I started to get answers, I started to release them through the blog. As a patient, I put out prettyill.com. And then finally came out with “The Driscoll Theory” where I revealed some of them, the underlying things that we were figuring out. And then it continued, the research continued to move forward. I created genetic disease investigators, and we formally started studies to get some answers.
Ben: So, what exactly did you find? I realize we might be going down some rabbit holes here, but I’m just kidding. I may keep leading you along because this is something I think is going to be really helpful for our listeners. As a matter of fact, I was telling my wife–I was just out in the yard planting huckleberries with my boys because I want to see if I can get wild huckleberries to grow on our land. I came in, and I’m dusting my hands, and get my computer ready, and I’m like, “Oh, I might have over-scheduled myself today. I’ve got a lot going on. I got this podcast I need to go record.” And she’s like, “Well, why’d you decide to record this podcast on a weekend?” I told her because this is something that I actually think is going to help a lot of people. I’m going out of my way to do this because when I discovered your work, I realized how helpful this could be to folks. So, feel free to digress as deeply as you’d like. What exactly did you find?
Diana: Yeah. Well, we found a lot. Everything I found out, I found one layer and I thought, “Oh, I’m done. This is it.” No. The condition tended to continue and evolve. There was another layer, figured that out. “Oh, okay. We’re done. Yehey.” No, no, there was more to it. So, it was years and years and years. But the first thing I figured out, and that’s in the book, is there is a propensity for abnormal intracranial pressure in this population, and it went worldwide. It was really great to see the response from patients, and then ultimately from doctor.
Again, that was great to figure out, but it wasn’t the end. We still had to get to bedrock, which for me was the genes, which is a whole nother podcast. But inflammation was playing into a lot of the condition, and I think that overlaps greatly with some of your audience because a lot of people are prone to a lot of inflammation. For me, it was genetic, but athletes, or certainly masochistic athletes, as you would say, deal with a fair amount of inflammation, people who age. And aging is normally inflammatory. Autoimmune conditions are inflammatory. Obesity and high levels of stress are very inflammatory. So, those folks also can deal with some of what I dealt with, or people with some autonomic dysfunction deal with on a much lower level.
Ben: Yeah. I was going to say, I mean, inflammation typically doesn’t cause something as drastic as what you’ve described unless it’s–it’s like high-level chronic inflammation from, say like a full-blown autoimmune condition, or I suppose if you were inducing mild level of rhabdo from two a day CrossFit workouts for a long period of time or something like that, you’d still experience probably overtraining syndrome and endocrine dysfunction before you started to experience something like you were going through. So, I feel like it would take a lot of inflammation to cause pretty serious issue with long-term, like 10-year-long chronic fatigue.
Diana: It absolutely does. And that’s not the majority of people, right? But it was an opportunity, which is interesting. When it was so exaggerated in my case and that of my kids, it made it easier to see responsive to treatment. And then for someone, say, dealing with aging or stress or whatever, whose presentation is less exaggerated, it’s very easy to say, “Oh, I’m getting older. I’m going to be more prone to constipation, or brain fog, or whatever.” Or, “I’m under a lot of stress.” I hear that a lot.
But we know if some of the underlying problems deal with similar presentations on a much lower level, we can be proactive, and we can live so much better lives. We can age much more gracefully, if you will. We don’t have to just come to some of those “typical issues” that we see in those people. It’s oftentimes mistaken and blamed on something else. So, it was as sick as I was, I would not wish that on anybody. Honestly, I would hate to go through that again. But it opened the door to get some answers that had been missing, and that’s hugely helpful.
Ben: So, the fact that your kids were dealing with this too, I suspect, is why you mentioned that what you found was that some of this stuff can be genetic?
Diana: Well, I set up genetic disease investigators because I thought, “What are the chances that I can get this, and then both of my kids could end up with this without some sort of genetic influence?” I thought, “Hopefully, we can dig deeper and ultimately come out with the genes responsible. So, why don’t we get validation for the suffering?” And two, we can help people much younger maybe prevent them from getting sick. It was so long and such a difficult process trying to get those answers.
Ben: So, at this point, basically, you were sick and you had a team of researchers that you put around you to help you discover why you were sick? To me, it’s still a little vague what’s going on here.
Diana: Right. Now, as a patient, I set up the corporation. I’m an optometrist, of course. My husband is an optometrist and we had two offices. So, I thought we are set up basically to start looking for answers. Me being a patient is helpful. We’ve got two lab rooms, right, because the kids are affected. And we started by looking in the eyes. No one with this condition had ever really done that before. I thought there is no way you can be this sick without some sort of sign, and the eye is such a great window into systemic illness. That’s where I started, but that’s not where we stopped. Okay. A lot of the researchers were people I knew. And then really interesting, Ben, the internet has changed research, right? There are physicians and researchers who freelance. And I had doctors really around the globe helping me with research, microbiologists, geneticists. There’s one out of India I continue to work with today that really helped. So, yeah, it was an amazing process.
Ben: Okay. So, what happened?
Diana: We got answers. We continue to get answers. We’re still digging into the genetics today. But in my recovery, and as sick as I was, my son was especially ill. He’s trying to waste away. He developed osteoporosis. He was nine years old. So, the kids are doing great. I’m doing great.
Ben: You’re getting ahead of yourself though. What did you have? Like, did you get diagnosed?
Diana: Well, that’s funny because I think that’s one of the issues with this. And even my mother-in-law said, “So, what did you end up being diagnosed with?” So, I can tell my sister and go, “Well, that’s one of the problems.” We don’t exactly have labels for many of these genetic setups. What we’re working toward is properly labeling because doctors typically will label a condition, and then they will treat according to a label. And if you have a label such as I did with POTS, POTS is not a disease, it’s a symptom. It’s a symptom of something else, and you have to figure out that something else, and then label those. And it’s a process.
Ben: I think we need to backpedal a minute here because I don’t really think you’ve described exactly what POTS is, or even what that had to do with what you were experiencing.
Diana: Yeah. Well, POTS is an autonomic dysfunction. The autonomic nervous system is the system of the body. You shouldn’t have to think about it. It controls the automatic processes, like breathing, or your heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, tear production. All of those are considered to be automatic. And when that system breaks down, you get sick. So, there are many reasons for POTS. There are many reasons for dysautonomia, and you have to start at the top and work your way through it. For example, ALS or Parkinson’s are conditions, are neurological conditions that start to show first with POTS. You have to rule out other neurological problems, some autoimmune conditions that affect receptors, et cetera, et cetera.
It’s extraordinarily frustrating. I got two big textbooks on autonomic dysfunction when I was sick, and went through them, and my presentation wasn’t in there. I thought, “How is this even possible?” There’s a lot to reveal, and we’ll be revealing more in publications as we go. So, it’s a process, and you do have to be careful the way you release information as I came to find out.
Ben: Yeah. That’s kind of mysterious, but I guess–
Diana: It is a little.
Ben: In the past, when I’ve looked into something like POTS for–specifically, I’ve had some athletes I’ve worked with who have been abnormally dizzy when they’ve gotten up from a line to a standing position. They get this big increase in heart rate and they get lightheadedness. And often, it’s associated with them having pushed too hard, or a little bit of dehydration, or low electrolyte status. Sometimes it can be based on endocrine function and the amount of aldosterone and cortisol that they have in their system. But that’s about all I know of POTS. And it sounds to me like what you’re saying is what you and your children were experiencing in terms of this long-term chronic fatigue was a form of POTS?
Diana: Right. Well, we definitely had POTS, but again, that was just one symptom. I think the people you’re describing are the ones that doctors are the most familiar with, where it’s fairly transient, be it dehydration or astronauts get POTS, which is kind of cool, when they’re out in outer space and the lack of gravity tends to contribute to that. But that’s not what we dealt with. High levels of salt, which is what they’ve tried, compression hose are just artificially slowing the heart and did nothing. In fact, if anything, we were just getting worse. We do have to dig deeper. One thing that we found after we revealed this propensity for abnormal intracranial pressure was that ultimately, the vagus nerve appeared not to be working and we had to figure that out.
Ben: Okay. So, how’d you know your vagus nerve wasn’t working? How did that get diagnosed?
Diana: Yeah. Well, I kind of suspected it because my heart started racing at about the same time my gut wasn’t working well. And I think anytime, both systems of the body are affected about the same time. You need to consider so. What do they have in common? And I was considering at the time compression of the vagus nerve at my neck. We were doing some vascular studies then. I didn’t know if that was right, but that’s where I was headed with it. But I got to the point really where I couldn’t have a bowel movement. And that’s probably the one you heard about where it had been, oh, 11 days or so, I had no bowel movement. And I had some vague pain in the lower right-hand quadrant of my abdomen. I didn’t know what that was either, but I had tried everything to have a bowel movement and none of them.
So, I went to my doctor and she had nothing new to offer. But she said, “With that pain, maybe you have a kidney stone.” That doesn’t sound right, but okay. And she sent me to a urologist who gave me this dye to drink, that nasty stuff, and he scanned me for a stone, and I didn’t have a stone. But I told him when I was considering about the vagus nerve. I asked him if that pain in that lower right-hand quadrant could maybe be the ileocecal valve, the valve between the large and small intestine, and could that be stuck. And the other that was fascinating–
Ben: Very common source, by the way, ileocecal valve dysfunction, people who are taking psyllium husk and magnesium and getting a squatty potty and doing all of these things they hear about for constipation. I think many people don’t realize the anatomical interplay in terms of ileocecal valve dysfunction contributing to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, right, if it’s kind of in a stuck-open type of condition. And then if it’s closed, that I’ve found along with a very tight psoas and iliacus muscles can be an anatomical contributor to poor bowel function and constipation.
And I run into this so often in the athletic population. You’d be shocked. Probably, 60% to 70% of the active individuals and athletes who I work with, they complain of some form of constipation. And in many cases, they’re doing all the right things from a dietary and a supplementation standpoint. And then you dig down and you look in the anatomy, and a lot of it does come down to what it sounds like is the same thing that you discovered in your condition, this ileocecal valve issue. And so, what I think would be interesting is if you could elucidate for people kind of how that’s linked to vagal nerve function.
Diana: Right, because it’s easy to think that, okay, that valve which controls that stool, of course, leaving the small intestine and going into the large intestine, it’s super important. I have a whole lot of respect for that valve. As you said, Ben, if it’s stuck-open, you get regurgitation of stool back up in a small bowel. That’s really bad. And you’re more prone to SIBO, et cetera. And if it gets stuck, as it did in my case, then you can’t have normal bowel movements.
So, when I hear things like what you just said of people who are having these chronic issues, that’s exactly the type of population that I look at and go, “Okay. They don’t have POTS, they don’t have chronic fatigue, what have you, but could they have enough inflammation where that’s at the heart of some of the problems with it?” And it’s certainly possible. But the movement of the stool through the GI tract is what stimulates that valve to open. It’s not directly a vagus nerve issue, but the vagus nerve controls peristalsis or the movement of that stool. So, you need to have things moving for that valve to open.
Ben: Right. The vagus nerve would be incredibly helpful for what would be called in gastroenterology, gastric motility, which is links to this other thing called the migrating motor complex, like the migrating motor complex is how the body cleans out your digestive system. It starts off at the top of the small intestine all the way down to the small muscles within the colon. But that is triggered by signals from the vagus nerve. And so, I think what you’re getting at here is the vagus nerve is going to trigger activity. The migrating motor complex, part of that migrating motor complex would involve ileocecal valve function. So, if for some reason there’s poor vagal nerve function that could be influencing gastric motility in part by limiting the ability of the ileocecal valve to function properly, and I know a part of this too related to the migrating motor complex, is bile production and gallbladder and liver function.
And so, a lot of this stuff can be multi-modal, but I’ll see in many cases, people who have constipation or poor motility, they’ll have poor bile production and need some amount of liver and gallbladder support. But then there’s, of course, that whole ileocecal valve motility migrating motor complex piece where you have to support that. And that comes down to some of the vagal nerve toning tricks that one can incorporate. And I think that was how I originally found you was when I was looking into the ileocecal valve, I came across an interview or an article that you wrote, I forget what it was, this was a couple months ago, and wanted to schedule for the podcast because it looks like you found out a pretty cool method to work on that ileocecal valve. And I believe this might have been where nicotine entered the picture for you. Am I correct?
Diana: That is absolutely correct. I kind of got lucky because after I saw the urologist and he had me drink that dye and stuff, I didn’t have a kidney stone. But oddly, three days later, I kid you not, Ben, I got a kidney stone. I called him up and I thought he’s going to think I’m nuts, but I told him, “You told me I don’t have a stone. I get it. I didn’t three days ago, but I do now.” He met me at the hospital and removed the stone. And when I woke up, he was standing over me real close and he said, “Diana, you’re right, it’s your ileocecal valve.” And I said, “How did you know?” He said, “Well, that dye I gave you three days ago, it’s still in there, but it’s all crammed up against the valve.”
So, we knew it was ileocecal valve. Yeah, but he still didn’t know what to do about it. So, I was at the emergency room. I had pro-kinetics, nothing. And I was basically put in position where no one I went to could help. And even sent me to a surgeon to see about opening the valve. And the surgeon said, “Oh, no.” He said, “Diana, if you think this is vagus nerve-related, never have abdominal surgery unless it’s life-threatening because we cut right through those nerves.” I went, “Oh, my.” “We caused gastroparesis,” is what he said. So, I appreciated that honesty, but I was left with no answers.
So, I went home, and basically, was laying in bed going, “What now? What do I do?” I thought back in school with what I learned about the vagus nerve in school, and this had been decades ago. I mean, decades, but being a total geek, I remembered studying it and going, “Well, there’s two parts to the vagus nerve, the preganglionic part that goes from the brain down the neck into the chest cavity and then down into the abdominal cavity. It’s the longest cranial nerve in the body. And then there’s a little gap, and there’s a tiny postganglionic vagus nerve.” And I remembered the teacher saying that postganglionic vagus nerve is so small. It’s almost a part of the organ itself.
I have no idea why I remembered those words, but I thought, “Okay. I think I still have that. I’d never had surgery. Hopefully, that little tiny nerve is still there.” So, I wanted to try to stimulate that postganglionic vagus nerve, and I thought, “Okay. Nerves work when they’re, of course, they’re triggered and the nerve impulse, if you will, travels down the nerve, and at the end of the nerve, it releases a chemical. A neurotransmitter hops across the synapse and it lands on a receptor and it stimulates an action.
So, I thought, “Okay. What is the neurotransmitter that that vagus nerve uses?” I’m like, “Well, that one’s easy. The vagus nerve is the only nerve in the body that’s called the nicotinic acetylcholinergic nerve. The reason we call it nicotinic is that the imitator of that neurotransmitter agonist is nicotine. So, I called my husband and asked him to swing by the drug store on the way home and bring me a nicotine patch. He thought, “What the heck are you doing?” But he was used to me doing some experiments on my body. I said, “I’ll explain it when you get home.” But I didn’t know if it mattered where I put it, but I put it over this side of the ileocecal valve. Again, I didn’t really know what I was doing.
Ben: That seems intuitive though.
Diana: Well, it seemed right to me, but I pictured the nicotine going through the skin because it’s transdermal, of course, and it goes through the tissue. And I pictured it landing on, hopefully, the postganglionic vagus nerve and then maybe stimulating something. Sure enough, about an hour, hour and a half later, things started to move, that valve opened, normal bowel movement. I was like, “What?” I used it again, actually, four days in a row.
Ben: And that’s when you became a chain smoker.
Diana: That’s right. Well, you know what, the nicotine, I couldn’t keep using it because nicotine, of course, is not all roses and butterflies because it can activate some inflammatory cells, neutrophils and macrophages. It looked like my stomach was purple and it was itching and like fire ants or something. So, I knew I couldn’t keep using it, but I learned so much from that. I learned that, one, all the research in POTS to that day, it was saying it was an autoimmune condition affecting the receptors. It’s like, nope, receptors were great. It wasn’t getting the signal. So, either it was a preganglionic vagus nerve problem, or it was a neurotransmitter problem. And that difference, Ben, is so critical because as it turned out, it wasn’t a vagus nerve problem per se. It was a problem with the neurotransmitter, and you have to be able to figure out that difference to get as healthy as you can.
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I want to talk in a second here about supporting normal acetylcholine through strategies aside from a nicotine patch or a pack of Marlboros. But what you commented on regarding nicotine, I want to make sure that doesn’t fly under the radar for folks. I’ve, of course, mentioned before in the podcast how I’ll chew a couple pieces of the four milligram Lucy brand nicotine gum on many days. And levels of dopamine and norepinephrine and serotonin can all increase with nicotine usage, which is one reason why it can be highly addictive and why it could long-term lead to some amount of neurotransmitter imbalances if overused.
At the same time, there are a lot of studies on it for improving attention and memory and focus. It’s been looked into in rodent models as a preventative for things like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. It’s somewhat neuroprotective in terms of being able to reduce inflammation in neural tissue. And you’re right, at low doses, it kind of suppresses inflammation. Actually, acting through that cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway. But then in higher doses, it may increase levels of some pro-inflammatory cytokines.
When it comes to the gut, it’s again interesting because it is derived from the alkaloid family in high doses. It could aggravate the gut, especially in same type of people who are nightshade sensitive like–Tom Brady probably doesn’t use nicotine, for example. However, it’s able to increase the thickness of the mucus in the colon and can help out a little bit with gut issues in some cases. So, it’s one of those things where it seems pretty beneficial in low doses with infrequent use. And then high frequent doses seem to provide a law of diminishing returns, and eventually, it becomes more harmful.
So, in terms of nicotine, you probably made a good decision deciding not to use a nicotine patch on your ileocecal valve the rest of your life. But what did you decide to do instead?
Diana: Right. And I did want to comment on that. It is such a good point, Ben. In fact, nicotine has been shown to help prevent or treat ulcerative colitis. And like you said, it works through that acetylcholine pathway. So, I had thought since I couldn’t continue to use it, and like I said, I would have had to use it every day, that I thought it’d be great to figure out some way of coming up with, say, an oral mix of supplements, would that even be possible, where it would do the same thing, trigger that postganglionic vagus nerve if you will, based acetylcholine, but not have that negative effect for me of activating the inflammation. And it’s probably, to some degree, it was more inflammatory in my body because I genetically struggle with inflammation. It was fairly dramatic response. Not a good response.
I wanted to figure out something else, but I knew we were onto something. I had some goals. First, I needed it to be made from supplements that were already deemed safe by the FDA. I knew we couldn’t wait around for a new drug to be developed, and it wasn’t impossible. But I also wanted it to work despite any genetic issues with, say, the body’s ability to manufacture acetylcholine. When I first was going through that, and since it was genetic disease investigators, I thought, “Maybe that’s it. Maybe that’s why we can’t make this work. We can’t make enough acetylcholine.” And that did affect some people, but it wasn’t the majority. It was about 1 at every 50. But I wanted workarounds for that, so people didn’t have to know their genes.
And then I wanted to make sure it stimulated that postganglionic vagus nerve, just like nicotine dead. And the only way I could confirm that it was stimulated that time was looking for a bowel movement. So, we ran clinical trials. And if the subject had a bowel movement shortly after taking it, we knew it was likely also stimulating the gallbladder, the pancreas, et cetera, as you had said. And then finally, I needed it to cross the blood-brain barrier to help cognition. One reason I had gotten so sick and contributed to so much brain fog, I couldn’t keep a lot of balls in the air mentally, I couldn’t even make it to do list, honestly, of three things, and I was just too mentally fatigued. I ultimately couldn’t stay away because I didn’t have enough acetylcholine release from my brain either. So, I sat in my kitchen and tried to use my old organic chemistry knowledge to try to put together enough to cover all of those, and hoping and praying I got it right. I gave it to my son and I took it, too. It was really a journey.
Ben: I think that’s what I heard you talking about in an interview. Actually, I ordered this supplement that you designed, this stuff called Parasym, P-A-R-A-S-Y-M. I’ll link to that in the shownotes for people over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/pots, if you want to check it out and see what the ingredient label and everything look like. It arrived to my house and I looked at the label. I might have a few questions for you about the ingredients in it, but that was the supplement that I took and mentioned in that podcast shortly after the fact that I took in the morning when I woke up. And like right after I took it, I went and did my normal morning stretch routine and my cup of coffee, did everything as usual, but my bowel movement was–it felt like–well, it felt like my ileocecal valve was opened really. That’s what it felt like.
I even, because I like to immerse myself in this stuff and try it out, I then the next day didn’t take the Parasym, and instead, put a nicotine patch over the ileocecal valve as you had done, and it elicited very similar effects. So, obviously, this thing was working on vagal nerve function and gastric motility in the way that you have described. But in terms of how it actually works, I would love for you to get into the ingredients you found that allowed for this cholinergic stimulus and this kind of parasympathetic stimulation of the vagus nerve that resulted in increased gastric motility.
Diana: Yeah. Again, it was such a process because like I mentioned, first, I thought maybe this is a genetic issue. So, trying to study genes–and we don’t know people’s genes. You could have a problem with what appears to be the vagus nerve, and it’s actually a problem with acetylcholine production because of these genetic setups. So, that was one of the first things I studied. So, I wanted to have workarounds for that, and that was included in there. But some of the genes I looked at, like there’s something called a CHAT gene, and it deals with the enzyme that helps– [00:45:22] ______ way more geekiness and anybody wants to know of it.
The way we come up with acetylcholine inside the body is the acetyl group comes from something called acetyl CoA. And we use a specific enzyme to break off the acetyl group from acetyl CoA to tie it into choline. And some people have a gene that prevents them from doing that well. And we’ve had a couple of patients at POTS care who had that gene, and boy, it changed their lives because they never have normal bowel movements throughout their lives. So, I had to figure out a different enzyme, a different pathway, a different place to get an acetyl group from. And I also needed to cover for nutrient malabsorption if we get–and it’s ironic that we usually end up with nutrient malabsorption when the vagus nerve is not working well because the pancreas doesn’t work well, the gallbladder, stomach acid production, peristalsis, et cetera. How ironic is that?
So, if we get low in certain vitamins, like B1, for example, we can’t make enough acetylcholine. We wanted to cover for that. And then I wanted to also put in something that works against the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine. Once we produce acetylcholine, you don’t want it continually, and that snaps just firing that receptor. Your body has to break it down normally. But we wanted to pause it to help multiply, if you will, the amount of acetylcholine in the synapse. We put some of that in there, too. At the same time, you don’t want to use too much, or else the receptors start to shut down. They feel like, “Oh, we got plenty acetylcholine. It’s more than I need.”
So, the balance was important, too. It wasn’t even just the ingredients in there, but trying to come up with the right balance to stimulate the nerve, but not overstimulate, if you will. That was important. And when I heard your story about filling the bowl, it just cracked me up. I got to tell you, it just cracked me up. I thought that’s interesting because it’s not a laxative. It’s not a stool softener or something. It doesn’t make you have a bowel movement. It allows a normal bowel movement by allowing the vagus nerve to work properly. So, it’s a hint that something’s up. If you have a dramatic response to nicotine as I did, or to Parasym Plus, then there’s a reason for that, and I had to figure out what other reasons could some people need that kind of support, and that was also part of that part of the journey.
Ben: Okay. Got it. So, you put together this formulation, this list of ingredients and got into this in encapsulated form and the label. You actually have a proprietary blend. So, it’s unclear to me the exact milligrams. I understand that you also have about three years of research and testing and a patent on this thing, so I understand the proprietary angle. But a few of the primary ingredients are basically Huperzine, and Acetyl-L-carnitine, and a form of choline, Alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine.
I’ve seen other compounds. Probably the one that is most popular is, for example, one that I had on hand, Onnit Alpha Brain, which has a lot of Huperzine in it and is used as a nootropic. That was one that I was familiar with in the past as an acetylcholine Huperzine support. But does your product differ from a lot of these popular nootropics that people might already have in their cupboards? Because I do know many of these things are also used because of their effects on the vagal nerve and on neurotransmitter production for nootropic use. And I’m curious if people could just double up and use the same thing for ileocecal valve function.
Diana: Well, I think part of the trick, and why it took us so long to pull all this together and doing the clinical trials, et cetera, was the blend was important. Again, we don’t want to use too much Huperzine because the receptor does shut down and that’s not good long-term. We didn’t need it to cross the blood-brain barrier, and that’s really important, but it received a patent because the blend was unique, and there is no real competition out there. This was a new discovery. Otherwise, you don’t receive patents. Patent attorneys are tough. They are strong scientists. But I knew my science and was able to–you apply for a patent and then they argue it. And I was able to know that science is wrong and this is why this is unique.
So, it was a long journey and I don’t know what people have in their cupboards, but this was a new discovery and it was blended in just the right way to accomplish not just the vagus nerve, but it also, and reason we call it Parasym Plus because it boosts the parasympathetic nervous system. Plus, it crossed the blood-brain barrier to assist us with acetylcholine. And interestingly, at the end of the trials, it took about four to six weeks, Ben, but we noticed the chronic dry eyes were going away, and this was all so unique. And we received a second patent just recently for that.
Ben: Yeah. I want to ask you about the eyes in a second, but I should note, as someone who has used nootropics for some amount of time, that nootropics were similar ingredients, particularly the alpha brain and the products from Qualia or Neurohacker Collective Qualia Focus and Qualia Mind, while being fantastic nootropics never really gave me that increasing gastric motility that I experienced when I took the Parasym. And interestingly, I did notice a cognitive pick-me-up too when I took and an increase in HRV, likely, due to the stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system.
And so, there is something going on here that’s separate from a nootropic in terms of the link to gastric motility, although the Parasym seems to also be acting as a little bit of a nootropic as well. But regarding the eyes, I think one thing I wanted to ask you was I know that–you mentioned the eyes are–I think you said the eyes are the window to health or something like that. You can see other things in the eyes, particularly, regarding the autonomic nervous system. Were you tracking anything like that as well like pupil size, pupil flickering, anything like that?
Diana: We weren’t at the time. We were so focused on the gut for so long. And like I said, it wasn’t until the end of this study we realized, “Oh, look what just happened.” The dry eyes went away. But what I found, something that’s really sensitive to this is pupil size. And at POTS Care, when we see patients come in, their pupils are as big as a house, we know, one, they feel horrible. But that’s usually the first thing to respond is pupils. The only thing that will change pupil size, if the light is the same, is the autonomic nervous system.
So, the sympathetic nervous system, that fight-or-flight system makes pupils large. And the parasympathetic makes them small. When those two are out of balance, the pupil size appears too large. And people get real light-sensitive, too. We see some people just wearing sunglasses indoors. We did find, ever since we’d opened POTS Care, it’s been about four years now, that pupils responded very– well, first, very early in the process, but it was actually more repeatable than heart rate variability. Heart rate variability was a little bit finicky. It’s very sensitive. Even if you’re doing a math problem in your head, your heart rate variability can change. Pupils were a little less finicky than that. It was a little bit more reliable way of watching for response.
So, yeah, we do look at the eyes. And again, I think that’s one way I was able to get some answers that had been missed by others is being an eye doctor. It was unique to consider some of these conditions from that aspect. But, for example, the acetylcholine problem, there’s something called anticholinergic poisoning, which we haven’t been poisoned, or I assume you haven’t been poisoned. But we can oftentimes present similarly, where we end up with similar symptoms, constipation, tachycardia, delayed gastric emptying, et cetera, kind of anxiety. My gallbladder shut down. They wanted me to remove it. The ejection fraction was 8%, and I thought this just doesn’t make any sense. It sounds neurological to me, and it was. Yeah. We look in the eyes first and that starts. It doesn’t end the process, but it did get some answers that other people had missed.
Ben: Okay. Got it. Now, regarding again kind of the quantification piece, I think many people who want to go about this in a systematized fashion might be curious if they either have a genetic issue that would affect acetylcholine production, or some other issue in terms of, let’s say lack of the ability to be able to break down acetylcholine properly, or anything like that. Is there some kind of tests that can tell people if they have some type of acetylcholine problem?
Diana: There is no blood test for acetylcholine, which is one of the problems. Doctors are trained to recognize poor acetylcholine release or anticholinergic poisoning, if you will, by presentation. You have to recognize the symptoms. So, if someone shows up in the emergency room with some of these symptoms, they should know, “Oh, this could be anticholinergic poisoning.” But if we haven’t been poisoned, honestly, they never think in terms, or I found pretty much never think in terms of could this be a problem with acetylcholine. It just wasn’t really on the radar.
The two genes that I considered, I just wanted to find workarounds for them. There are genetic tests, which is awesome. Even 23andMe can pick up one or two of them and people can know if they have an issue. But in Parasym Plus, I just put the workaround in. At the time, I didn’t even know if I could’ve had a gene with acetylcholine. Ultimately, I didn’t, but we just worked around it that way and just tried to put it all in there so people didn’t have to break it all down by themselves to figure it out. I wish there was a great blood test for that. That would be really great. But we have to look at the presentation.
Ben: Yeah. Neurotransmitter testing can be difficult. I mean, just for basic neurotransmitter testing, and I actually have an entire chapter on neurotransmitter and neurotransmitter balance in my book–my book doesn’t come out for a few months after this podcast comes out. It’s called “Boundless” over at, shameless plug, boundlessbook.com. But in that book, I discussed Eric Braverman’s test for neurotransmitter function, which is like an online quiz you can take for things like acetylcholine dominance, dopamine dominance, different neurotransmitter deficiencies, et cetera.
I’ve found that one to be somewhat accurate. And in my case with my testing, it did reveal that I do have some issues with acetylcholine balance. And me being a hard-charging athlete for so long, I’m sure that contributed to the issue, and also to some of the parasympathetic dysfunction as well. When you throw in the extremely tight core, tight psoas, and some of the other anatomical issues that can influence ileocecal valve function and gastric motility along with excess sympathetic nervous system stimulation in a fed state, which will limit bile production and hydrochloric acid production, it’s kind of like a perfect storm for gut issues or constipation.
And so, I suspect that’s why this stuff seemed to work so well for me. Hopefully, that will give people a few good resources looking up like Braverman test, for example. I think it’s bravermantest.com, but I’ll hunt it down and put it in the shownotes. But another thing I wanted to ask you about was how long to take this stuff because basically, I went through a bottle. I don’t have any more up in my cupboard. However, it seemed to–I realize this one as you’re shooting yourself in the foot, but it seemed to kind of like help me after just going through one bottle. So, is this something like people take for the rest of their life? I realized that that’s a tricky question when you’re the person who profits from and makes the supplement, but I want to ask it anyways. And I’m just curious what you’ve found as far as–is a thing just jumpstart you, or is this something you take for your whole life, or does it vary?
Diana: Well, it’s going to vary certainly because people who have, say, genetic issues with acetylcholine, for example, don’t always need help. People like me who have genetic issues with inflammation, we’re going to always need help. But I like you. I got to the point where I wasn’t fatigued anymore. I thought my bowel movements were good enough. Isn’t a couple of times a week good enough? And as it turned out, it wasn’t. I was in the hospital a few years ago and they gave me an antibiotic that activates inflammation and it was just horrifying. Everything just went down a thousand times.
But I developed pancreatitis, ultimately, when I was off of it. I was just hoping and praying that getting back on it would be sufficient to give me some help there, and it started to turn around in two days. The vagus nerve, of course, is the anti-inflammatory pathway of the body. And that wasn’t my research. That was Kevin Tracey from the Feinstein Institute has figured that out and released that.
So, for me, who is, I’m someone who’s set up genetically for lots of inflammation, it’s going to be forever, and that’s okay. We can fight back. I’ve been dealt a genetic hand that is not enviable. But as long as I have things I can work on, that’s totally fine. The cognitive effects of–as I mentioned earlier, have been great. It’s one reason my husband takes it. But absolutely, I think it’s an individual reason. Everybody’s different for having it work, and we have to know what the reason is.
One of the reasons that we found that, say, sometimes just stimulating the vagus nerve, which can be great, right, like splashing cold water or meditating or chewing, et cetera. That should stimulate a normal vagus nerve. But there are some situations where it won’t work. One is if there’s damage to the nerve, is if you stimulate it, kind of think of it like stimulating at the top. The impulse should travel down the nerve. But if it’s damaged at some point, this doesn’t make it to the end, and the acetylcholine isn’t released, and the vagus nerve is such a long nerve. It’s very prone to damage.
So, those people will likely need some support always. The folks, as I mentioned, with genetic issues and acetylcholine, they’ll always need support. But people like me, and I think this is what was new for most people, is that some inflammatory cytokines block the release of acetylcholine. And if that’s the case, you can stimulate that nerve or try to stimulate it and nothing happens. I had one advantage in getting a clue into that because as an eye doctor, I knew it was a possibility because of the research in an eye disease called Sjogren’s syndrome. It’s an inflammatory eye disease that causes dry eye. And the lacrimal nerve is affected by that inflammation. You can stimulate that lacrimal neve ’til the cows come home. Nothing happens. The acetylcholine does not get released.
So, if a nerve is supposed to produce acetylcholine like the vagus nerve or the lacrimal nerve to produce tears, for example, is affected by certain inflammatory cytokines like interleukin 6 or interleukin 1 beta, for example. Then if you stimulate the nerve, it’s unable to release the acetylcholine, then we’re kind of up a creek. So, if the inflammation is episodic, say it’s an intense masochistic triathlon, just saying, then if the inflammation goes systemic and it tends to last too long, it can work against some of your efforts to be healthy, and you want to naturally try to control that inflammation. The vagus nerve helps with that.
So, I don’t really know, say in your case, Ben, was that an instant that your inflammation was just really high for whatever reason it could be? I know, but it can be tough to figure out. So, yeah.
Ben: Got it. Got it. So, in terms of your case, where are you at right now as far as you and your kids? You guys pretty much pass all this, or are you still digging?
Diana: Thank you for asking. First, the kids are doing great, which I wish I had had a crystal ball when we were going through this. I mean, three of us were so sick. My husband was the only one who was well, and we had no answers and no idea what was going to happen. But they’re all doing great. And my son, interestingly, is in college and is athletic now. And that was–we didn’t see that in the cards years ago.
But as far as the digging we’re doing is digging for more of the genes responsible, so people don’t have to go through what we did of floundering without a good diagnosis, without a label that we need, and without some heads-up early on that if we don’t take care of some things that we could become sick. So, we’re very good experts at maintaining our health, but I know what it takes to maintain it and stay on top of that, that propensity for some of this abnormal inflammation, the damage it can do.
So, it is on ongoing as far as maintaining it. But the lifestyle is normal, which is great. Genetic disease is going full steam ahead though because there are so many other people we want to help. And this isn’t the end of it. There are many different reasons for people to have problems with the autonomic nervous system and the related conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome, et cetera. We want to get more answers from more people. So, that’s what we’re working on now.
Ben: Well, it’s a fascinating story. I found it incredibly helpful for myself, and I’m really hoping that people who listen in who have similar issues might find some benefit here from both your website where you have some really good articles and interviews, and also your supplementation program for vagal nerve function, and for the issues that we’ve been discussing, particularly this Parasym Plus stuff. What I will do for folks is I’ll put a link in the shownotes to Parasym. I don’t remember, Diana, and you can remind me, did we have a discount code that we had available for anybody for the Parasym?
Ben: And if so, do you recall what it was?
Ben: Okay. Alright. Should we make one up on the spot and then you could just have your tech team or whatever make sure that it’s active? Will that work?
Diana: Yeah. I think he’s already made it up. I just don’t know what it is.
Ben: Okay. This might be annoying to folks, but what I’ll do is I’ll hunt down that discount code because I think Diana’s right, I think we had one in the past and I don’t remember what it was. But I will hunt it down and we’ll put the discount code in the shownotes for everybody. And that’s going to be at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/pots, BenGreenfieldFitness.com/P-O-T-S. And I’ll also include links to Diana’s website, and a whole bunch of other resources that we talked about, like my podcast with Sarah Myhill and other podcasts that I did on “32 Different Ways To Support The Vagus Nerve” because obviously, taking a multimodal approach to this is often very useful.
But if you simply are concerned that you might have ileocecal valve issues, I would say one of the best things you could do is take this stuff, support vagal nerve function, do a little bit of psoas and deep tissue work around the valve and around the psoas. You can be pretty surprised at what can happen without having to take yet another round of psyllium husk at night before you go to bed or something like that. So, Diana, thank you so much for coming on the show and for sharing all this stuff with us. It’s just absolutely fascinating.
Diana: Well, thank you, Ben. I really appreciate, one, the opportunity, and two, I appreciate people like you who are willing to stick your neck out to get answers for people and sharing what you learn. I know our efforts here have always been very grassroots because it was just patients trying to help each other, but you are revealing and sharing so much to help people be their very best and be their healthiest. I know as one, I certainly appreciate the efforts it takes to do that because you had to be smart about it, and you are. In fact, if I didn’t know you were a jock, then I would think you were a geek like me.
Ben: Definitely. A lot of people think I’m a jock and I think I made a mistake painting myself as such, but I’m instead a guy who just likes to delve into a variety of different physical and mental activities, and I’m a constant seeker, and as a result, find myself thrown into many jock-esque scenarios. But I am not genetically skilled at just about anything physical. I have to work my ass off for it, which is probably one of the reasons like, things like physical events attract me because I like things I have to work hard for and things that come easy.
For me, for example, some that comes very easy is writing, right? I can write and edit and it just flows out of me. My wife will sit in front of a blank page for hours, and I don’t even get it. But then at the same time, my wife will go tick off a five-minute mile after being a runner in college. And that kind of stuff just comes naturally to her. So, I think everybody has their unique skillset. But yeah, I would say I probably am more of a geek than a jock.
But regardless, we’re probably getting long in the tooth here and we should let people go. But once again, you can get the shownotes over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/pots, and also connect with Diana over there. Leave your comments, your questions, your feedback in the shownotes and either Diana or I will hop in and reply. I know she has a money-back guarantee on that Parasym Plus stuff, if you want to try it. I’ll get a link to that and hunt down the discount code and get that in the shownotes as well. And I think that’s it. So, thank you so much, Diana.
Diana: Thank you, Ben. I appreciate it so much. Okay.
Ben: Alright, folks, I’m Ben Greenfield along with Diana Driscoll signing out from BenGreenfieldFitness.com. Have an amazing week.
Well, thanks for listening to today’s show. You can grab all the shownotes, the resources, pretty much everything that I mentioned over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com, along with plenty of other goodies from me, including the highly helpful “Ben Recommends” page, which is a list of pretty much everything that I’ve ever recommended for hormone, sleep, digestion, fat loss, performance, and plenty more. Please, also, know that all the links, all the promo codes, that I mentioned during this and every episode, helped to make this podcast happen and to generate income that enables me to keep bringing you this content every single week. When you listen in, be sure to use the links in the shownotes, use the promo codes that I generate, because that helps to float this thing and keep it coming to you each and every week.
A few months ago, I briefly mentioned on a podcast that I discovered that by taking a specific blend of nutrients to support my vagus nerve, I was able to completely get rid of morning constipation. Today, my podcast guest, Dr. Diana Driscoll, is the individual who actually designed that blend, and who knows a heckuva lot about the vagus nerve and its interplay with our bodies.
Dr. Diana Driscoll is an optometrist who had always been healthy – she was also a bit of an exercise fanatic and geeked out with nutrition. But despite this history, she was struck down by an illness that few understood and was disabled for over a decade. Ultimately, she was diagnosed with something called POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) – a disorder of the autonomic nervous system and was told there was no cure for this mysterious condition.
When her children also became ill and doctors had no answers, she formed Genetic Disease Investigators to formally study these conditions. Dr. Driscoll is considered to be “the patients researcher”, bypassing notoriously slow academic research institutions to get answers quickly. Twelve years later, she is now the director of POTS Care – the only POTS Clinic focused on searching for the underlying cause of POTS, and treating it at its source. She has received two patents to date, and is now not only helping patients who are ill — she is reaching out to healthy folks who want to improve their quality of life and maximize their health, even into old age.
Dr. Driscoll graduated summa cum laude from both The University of Houston College of Optometry and The University of Texas at Austin. She is a geek, through and through. She is a member of the International Society of Neurovascular Disease, the American Headache Society, the Medical Advisory Board for EDS Network C.A.R.E.S, the American Optometric Association, the Tear Film and Ocular Surface Society, and served as a medical advisor for the Ehlers-Danlos National Foundation.
Her peer-reviewed medical abstracts include those involving vascular abnormalities in the fundus of POTS patients, the etiology of left ventricular diastolic dysfunction, and the use of acetazolamide in multiple sclerosis. She is the author of “The Driscoll Theory” and “Your Eyes and EDS”, and was the chief author of the “Ophthalmology Medical Resource Guide” for Ehlers-Danlos National Foundation.
Dr. Driscoll is the recipient of numerous awards for patient advocacy and continues to donate her time to help others across the globe through her online forum and videos on YouTube.
Her work in chronic inflammation, the autonomic nervous system, collagen disorders, and organ dysfunction can help others live their best life, as well as have their best body and mind.
During our discussion, you’ll discover:
-Diana’s story and how she first became interested in her field of work…8:15
- Contracted a virus during a missions trip to Costa Rica, but she was unable to kick it
- Difficulty breathing
- Poor sleep
- Racing heart
- Poor digestion
- Developed a tremor
- Memory loss
- Difficulty handling any type of stress
- Her kids began to develop similar symptoms
- Treatment included more exercise, but nothing worked
- Was disabled due to fatigue for over a decade
-The results of Diana’s studies and research…14:15
- “Layers of discovery” over the course of several years
- Diana’s blog
- The Driscoll Theory
- Abnormal inter cranial pressure
- Inflammation was a factor
- The exaggerated symptoms actually made it easier to discover the causes
- Genetics play a large role (her children experienced the same symptoms)
- Started by looking at the eyes (great window into systemic illness)
-A working definition of POTS…21:20
- POTS is not a disease, it’s a symptom
- There was no specific diagnosis for her condition
- Dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system
- ALS/Parkinson’s begin with POTS symptoms
- Astronauts get POTS while in space, due to the lack of gravity
-How dysfunction of the vagus nerve is correlated with POTS…24:30
- The abnormal inter cranial pressure is indicative of a poorly functioning vagus nerve
- When symptoms occur simultaneously (difficulty breathing, racing heart, gut dysfunction, etc.) it could be the vagus nerve
- Ileocecal valve is linked to POTS and nerve function
- Vagus nerve controls the function of the valve
- Gastro motility linked to migrating motor complex (cleaning up digestive system)
- Triggered by signals from the vagus nerve
-The nicotine-induced method Diana devised to repair the ileocecal valve…30:10
- A kidney stone turned up 3 days after being cleared for kidney stones
- The doctor confirmed the ileocecal valve was problematic
- A surgeon refused to open the valve
- Two parts of vagus nerve: preganglionic (extremely long) and postganglionic (extremely short)
- Diana tried to stimulate the postganglionic nerve
- The vagus nerve is a nicotinic acido cholinergic nerve (nicotine is the imitator of the vagal neurotransmitter)
- She put a nicotine patch over the side of the ileocecal valve
- Within hours, the symptoms began to subside
- This changed the way Diana viewed the cause of the problem:
- It wasn’t an autoimmune condition affecting the receptors
- It was either a preganglionic vagus nerve or a neurotransmitter problem
- Ultimately nicotine was not a viable long-term solution
-The long-term solution Diana used to address her problem…40:10
- Parasym Plus (use code GREENFIELD for 10% off on all products)
- Established goals:
- Use supplements already deemed safe by the FDA
- Wanted it to work in spite of genetic issues
- Stimulate postganglionic nerve just as nicotine did
- Cross the blood-brain barrier to help cognition
- Vagus nerve problems can be mistaken for acetylcholine production issues and vice versa
- CHAT gene provides instructions for making a protein called choline acetyltransferase
- It needed to account for nutrient malabsorption
- Finding the right balance between stimulation and overstimulation of the vagus nerve was a challenge
- Parasym is not a stool softener or a laxative; it allows a normal bowel movement by making the vagus nerve work properly
- Primary ingredients: Huperzine, Acetyl-L-carnitine, Alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine
- Onnit Alpha Brain (use BEN for a 10% discount)
- Diana was able to acquire a patent because of the unique blend (and balance) of ingredients; it’s not just another nootropic
-The importance of the eyes in discovering vagal nerve issues…51:50
- Pupil size is an indicator of the condition of the autonomic nervous system
- The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are out of balance, resulting in large pupil sizes
- High sensitivity to light
- Pupils responded more consistently than HRV
-How to test for acetylcholine problems…55:00
- Need to look for symptoms; there’s no codified way of testing for problems
- Genetic tests can identify issues to a limited degree
-The amount of time one can expect to use Parasym…58:00
- Some will always need help
- Feeling “good enough” can be deceptive
- Vagus nerve is the anti-inflammatory pathway of the body
- Reasons typical stimulants of the vagus nerve won’t work:
- Damage to the nerve
- Genetic issues
- Some inflammatory cytokines block the release of acetylcholine
-The current direction of Diana’s work and research in light of her discoveries thus far…1:03:00
-And much more…
Resources from this episode:
–Parasym Plus (use code GREENFIELD for 10% off on all products!)
-Diana’s blog at PrettyIll.com
-The POTSCare.com website
-Book: The Driscoll Theory by Dr. Diana Driscoll
-My podcast with Dr. Sarah Myhill “The Ultimate Guide To Beating Chronic Fatigue With Specific Vitamins, Minerals, Biohacks & More – A Conversation With Dr. Sarah Myhill.”
–Onnit Alpha Brain (use BEN for a 10% discount)
-My podcast on “32 Ways To Support The Vagus Nerve”
–Kion Coffee: Carefully selected and roasted for taste, purity, high antioxidants and health. Ben Greenfield Fitness listeners receive a 10% discount off your entire order when you use discount code: BGF10.
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