WHAT THE HECK ARE MITOCHONDRIA?Find out how to create the right environments so your mitochondria can thrive.
A PERSONAL JOURNEY...ACHIEVING OPTIMAL HEALTHY BY HEALING THE MITOCHONDRIADiscovering the importance of repairing damaged mitochondria was a key part of Dr. Daniel Pompa's personal journey to going from being bed ridden to thriving.
FOCUS YOUR CARBS FOR HEALTHY MITOCHONDRIAIf your body is fixing on carbs, consider lowering your intake to help reduce your chances of chronic diseases. Keep in mind that in some cases, super low-carb diets may actually enhance conditions such as adrenal fatigue and thyroid issues.
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Kathy Smith: Dan, welcome to the show.
Dan Pompa: Thank you for having me. Yeah, usually we have these talks hiking up a mountain.
Kathy Smith: Let me ask you. Did you get your hike or your bike ride in today yet or not?
Dan Pompa: I got my bike ride in yesterday. I did go to the gym and work out. Sometimes I see you there as well.
Kathy Smith: Yeah. Ok, so, let’s get back. I want to get into the diet side of this. But I think this story of yours is pretty remarkable. Would you mind taking us through a little bit, take us back to when you could barely get out of bed?
Dan Pompa: Now, when I tell the story, it’s like telling about a movie that didn’t happen, but it happened. Every once in a while, I anchor into a feeling that I had. Maybe it was a smell that triggers me back to an emotion when I was sick and I get overwhelmed with those thoughts.
When I tell it, oftentimes, I just speak it like it’s not a big deal, but life as I knew it came to a screeching halt. I had a very busy practice helping a lot of people. All of a sudden, it started with fatigue like probably a lot of your listeners. Then, it kind of went to brain fog and digestive issues. I became responsive to every food I ate, allergic to everything. Even chemicals, I became very chemically sensitive where I really couldn’t exist outside of my safe little haven. I became non-social. I think when I look back at certain symptoms, the anxiety and the insomnia were some of the worst because it was debilitating. I have a lot of bizarre symptoms too, just real odd twitching and things that I would describe to people that they would probably just think I was nuts. So, all of it was unexplainable.
Through the years, digging for what was wrong with me, one day I came upon Mad Hatters Disease. I don’t know if you remember what that is or your listeners, but the people were making felt hats and they were using mercury. They became mercury poisoned and they became known as mad hatters and, believe me, I was one of them.
So, I thought surely this was it. I went to the most amazing guy in toxicology in Pittsburgh where I lived at that time. They did a blood test on me and it came back negative. I was very disappointed.
Anyway, it was probably about a year or so after that, that I became really good friends with a very bright endocrinologist. I knew my thyroid was absolutely shot even though my bloodwork was normal, but my hair was falling out, I became skinny fat – not a pretty picture. My adrenals were absolutely shot. I couldn’t even watch a football game, because I couldn’t adapt to the excitement. Literally, I would create anxiety. But every time I tried to address the thyroid or the adrenals, certain things would get better but, most often, I would make things worse.
So, working with him, he said to me, “Dan, I think you have mercury toxicity.”
I said, “I thought so too. I did a test.”
He said, “What test did you do?”
I said, “A blood test.”
He said, “That’s the wrong test. That would be appropriate if I thought you had acute mercury poisoning, but I think you have chronic.” He told me to do a challenge test where you take an agent and it pulls it more out of the tissues, not just what’s circulating in the blood, and there showed the mercury.
So, my question was, “Where do you think I got it?”
He said, “Did you have any dental work done around the time this all happened? Because that’s often a big exposure.”
I said, “I may have, because I got these gold crowns put in and they took out two silver fillings.” So, anyway, long story short, I ended up looking back at the dates of when that happened. And it was days after that that my symptoms actually started.
So, that led me to researching, basically, everything that I teach today. I’m blessed to teach hundreds of doctors my protocols on what I call True Cellular Detox and how to get this stuff out of the brain. Because, Kathy, what I knew is that when I realized my thyroid and my adrenals weren’t working right, I realized I was downstream especially when I tried to get well addressing them. I knew the problem was in the pituitary hypothalamus. That’s what controls your thyroid and adrenals. That’s kind of a feedback mechanism. But I just didn’t know what was wrong. So, after reading a lot of research, the vapor off of these silver fillings contains 50% mercury. It goes right up into the brain and most of it accumulates in the hypothalamus pituitary, so it all made sense. Then, of course, I had to get it out of my brain and that’s how I got my life back.
Kathy Smith: What a journey. It sounds like it was a process of getting your life back. It started with the detox but, then, going into the diet, one of the things I have to say, whenever we’re together and sharing stories, this idea of how to eat on a daily basis, how to virtually go–this idea of ketosis, which I really want to spend a lot of time on the show today with this concept, because I think there’s a lot of confusion with my audience about what it is and how it can be helpful for everybody, whether you have mercury poisoning or you don’t. So, can we jump into this idea of how did you start shifting your diet?
Dan Pompa: In the process, I had to learn how to get the mercury out of my brain. I also realized that I had to downregulate cellular inflammation. Diet plays a big role in that, so you start learning about what, first of all, ketones. Let’s back up. Ketosis is now a buzzword today. Your cells can use two things for energy – sugar or fat. When you go into ketosis, what we’re doing is we’re bringing the carbohydrates down to a point, typically for the average person, below 50 grams per day. When you get down to under 50 grams a day in carbohydrates, the cells will be forced to use fat for energy and, then, they make ketones as a bi-product. When you burn the fat, you make ketones. Because your brain can only use glucose for energy. It can’t use fat, but it can use the ketones as well. So, the body’s that intelligent. It burns the fat, which most of your cells in your body utilize but, then, the brain will utilize the ketones.
So, the ketones were a big part of me getting my life back as well, because they downregulate brain inflammation. They allow us to be able to detox the cells in the brain much faster, more effectively, and the ketones also fix a lot of the neuropathways that are damaged. If you think back about the history of ketosis in the early 1900s, they realized that ketones or ketosis can fix the brain. Of course, they were using it for seizures and a lot of other neurodegenerative brain disorders. What changed this was the advent of certain medications like Neurontin and others where they thought, “Why would we put people through this horrific high-fat diet, low carbohydrate diet when we could just give them a pill?”
Well, of course, that lasted for a certain part of the century but, now, we’ve realized that those meds aren’t working. So, now, ketosis is back in popularity. As a matter of fact, it’s all over the scientific literature as far as how it fixes the brain.
Google coconut oil and Alzheimer’s. What you’ll see is a video that’s become pretty popular. One of the ways you can diagnose Alzheimer’s is have someone try and draw a clock. They just can’t do it. You can give them two tablespoons of coconut oil–and I’ll explain this in a second–and then, immediately, they can draw the clock. Now, it doesn’t last. Maybe two hours later, three hours later, they can’t draw the clock again. But they immediately have this–their brain just turns on and they’re able to do it, because coconut oil has in it something called medium chain triglycerides. That actually helps you temporarily burn fat and you produce some ketones. Those ketones, literally, cause the brain to be able to, all of a sudden, get some energy for that moment and, then, you can draw the clock.
See, a lot of these neurodegenerative conditions, even people out there suffering from brain fog, which so many of us are–not me anymore–but what it does is it bypasses the glucose pathways and the glycolysis pathways that your brain needs for energy and, now, it uses the ketones. So, all of a sudden you can think clear, because your body really is not using the glucose.
They call a lot of these conditions diabetes of the brain, whereas most people are insulin resistance and they can’t get the glucose and use the glucose. That’s what’s happening in our brains. So, ketones bypass that and it gives us that immediate brain function. So, the bottom line is this isn’t anything new. Ketones have been around and we know they fix the cells. We know they even turn off bad genes. It’s called epigenetics. So, that’s what became my interest, Kathy.
Kathy Smith: It’s interesting because I do have an MCT oil every morning, and since I’ve started the regimen, it is amazing what you can get accomplished in the morning when you sit down at the computer or you have to write up show notes or whatever it might be. You just get so focused and so alert, and I think, to your point, as far as the ketogenic diets, I think the first time I heard the word was right around the Atkins Diet.
We were always talking about weight loss when it came to Atkins. It had some health benefits but it was really about weight loss, and people would jump on the Atkins diet or a ketogenic type of diet. There was a South Beach one after that and different ones had certain periods of popularity. One of the things, they would immediately lose a lot of weight in the beginning, a lot of that water weight. They’d lose weight but, then, people would start talking about, “My gosh! My energy! I feel so alert.”
I think that was one of the great side benefits of it at the time. Here’s the thing, jumping back to the diet. What I found in the past is that most people who start a diet like that–and I think that’s been true throughout the last 40 years or whatever–is that they start it and they lose a bunch of weight and, then, they can’t stick to it anymore and they go off of it.
What’s changed now with the new approach to ketogenic diets?
Dan Pompa: My approach is different. I’m invited to speak at a lot of these low-carb events and ketose events and my message, sometimes, is a little shocking, because I believe that we’re meant to move in and out of these ketotic states or ketosis diets, not to stay in them. I’m just basing that on clinical experience, which I’ll share, but also, looking at ancient cultures.
They all were forced into times of ketosis, which we’re not today. It has to be a choice. We have plenty of carbohydrates around at all times, at every gas station. So, a lot of carbs. We’re not forced into ketosis anymore. Times without food, people are forced into ketosis. Obviously, the time of winter when all they had was animals and fat and lard to get them through the winter. So many reasons why, but I believe when we look at ancient cultures, we have to emulate that where the moment they could eat other food sources, they would. So, they would move in and out of times of ketosis, and I think there’s a benefit to that.
So, let me just talk briefly about that. What you said is clinically true. People get on a low-carb diet, they’ll typically have–first of all, right away the first two or three weeks, they don’t feel well, because it takes two to three weeks to ketone-adapt, fat-adapt. You can’t become an efficient fat burner for about two or three weeks. So, we could talk about how to know you’re in ketosis. There are so many conversations here.
Kathy Smith: On that particular note right there, where you said they don’t feel so good, what are some of the symptoms they might feel when they first start a ketogenic diet?
Dan Pompa: They’ll feel extremely tired and they’ll say, “This diet’s not for me.” They’ll feel their digestion is shifting. Their microbiome–that’s the good bacteria–are shifting. All these things are taking place, and they may even get some brain fog, etc. That’s very normal. Then, all of a sudden, ketone adapt or fat adapt. Now, all of a sudden, “Hey, I’ve got energy.”
What’s happening is their blood sugar is going low and their ketones are starting to rise as they become a fat burner, but their brain’s not using them yet. So, they feel a little sluggish, they have fatigue, they have brain fog, etc. Then, the shift happens. So, give it time.
Here’s the point. Now, all of a sudden, you start burning fat and you start feeling amazing and all these great things are happening, then you plateau. Maybe you’re not feeling great anymore, maybe the weight loss just stops and maybe you even notice, “Gosh, I’m kind of getting fatter around my waste, so I may even be losing muscle.” That’s called gluconeogenesis. Think about this. If the cells can only use sugar or fat for energy, if you move it into just using fat, the body says–it’s so smart. All it wants to do is survive. The body says, “I want to hold on to my fat because this is all I’m using. So, I don’t want to burn it like I was burning it like crazy before. That would be stupid because I might run out and I have to survive.”
So, the body goes into a starvation mode of sorts, and it starts to become more clever and efficient with burning fat. It will do it two ways. One, it can literally blunt the insulin receptors and create what looks like insulin resistance, but it’s really not. The DNA is doing that. The body’s intelligence is doing that. And it makes you store fat. Therefore, you can actually start to use your muscle more for energy, break muscle down into sugar. That’s not a good outcome.
Another way it does it is it can start to fill your fat cells with a little bit of water. You kind of get this loose cellulite-y looking fat typically where you don’t want it. So, it can do any of these two methods to slow fat metabolism down. Why? For one reason, the sake of survival.
So, here’s how we eliminate that. We eliminate it with what I call diet variation. So, we’ll take and do water two days a week where we’ll eat more carbohydrates or another way is seasonal variation. Maybe you move out of ketosis in a couple of months–three, four months–and, then, move into a healthier, higher carbohydrate diet. That’s called seasonal variation.
Weekly variation is where you take one or two higher carb days a week and add that in there to remind your body it’s not starving. Then, we even do monthly variation especially with hormonal humans. Ladies, if you have trouble, I’m sure around your period, either the week before or the week of, you may get some cravings for chocolate, this and that. The body’s pretty darn smart, because it actually needs higher carbohydrates to get a higher insulin that it needs to make certain hormone convergence. So, what we’ll do is we’ll take that week of the period or the week before–typically, when women have their most symptoms or most cravings–and we’ll do high carbs just for that week of the month. So, we vary the diet using these fee cycles along with the ketosis, and it’s magic.
Kathy Smith: How does this whole concept, then – with the weekly, the monthly, the daily, the seasonally – how does that tie into what this term of intermittent fasting where you have a lot of people, now, that are eating their last meal of the day in the 7:00 to 8:00 range at night and, then, not eating again until, maybe 14 hours later? Like, noon the next day. Is that part of this cycle?
Dan Pompa: It is. I call diet variation a.k.a feast/famine cycles. Again, we’re emulating what ancient cultures were doing. It’s a way to optimize your hormones or it’s a bio hack, if you will, of your mitochondria. That’s where you make energy. What we’re doing by emulating these ancient cultures is feast/famine. I just described how we emulate a feast cycle by throwing in one or two higher carb days a week, a month and even changing up the diet seasonally.
But we also–you know this to be true for me–is that I’ll do two or three days a week and even one for people as a magic where I just eat one meal a day. So, I’ll just have dinner. Maybe it’s an afternoon meal. I’ll do that a couple of times a week at least. Then, the intermittent fasting is where you eat in a window, which I do this every day and have for years. I have to say this one thing, alone, I think has been, for me, the most impactful thing as far as optimizing my hormones in my 50s. It really has kept me very hormonally right on the money or optimized.
I eat, typically, within a window of about four hours in a day. So, even in a day I eat two meals, today my first meal was at 2:00 and I’ll have another meal say, maybe, 6:00 today. That window can change. Maybe it’s 3:00 or 7:00. So, you’re eating at a small window and you’re getting a benefit of a fast.
For example, let’s say my last meal is at 6:00. So, 6:00 to 6:00 the next morning, there’s 12 hours. Then, if you add another six and eat at noon as your first meal, you just fasted 18 hours. The benefits of that are tremendous.
Number one, we know that you get a growth hormone rise. Your cells become very sensitive to all your hormones. Again, right now, it’s very in vogue for people taking bio identical hormones, but what I always say, “The answer isn’t taking more hormones,” because that doesn’t work long term. You end up having to take more and more and your cells just burn out to it. The idea is getting your cells sensitive to the hormones you have. Intermittent fasting does that.
So, it really is hormone optimization because your cells become more sensitive. You actually raise up growth hormones. All of this happens in the fast, and there’s one more thing–well, a couple of more things that really happen in this fast–is that bad cells don’t adapt. So, there’s something called autophagy (et-off-uh-jee). The gentleman who won the Nobel Prize in 2016 won it for showing in these fasting states that I’m describing, you actually lose bad cells. The body is so smart, it starts to basically cannibalize and eat all the bad tissues, the bad proteins, the bad DNA and, then, the bad cells die off. That autophagy (et-off-uh-jee) or autophagy (au-to-fay-jee), two ways of saying it, happens in these fasting times. It’s so remarkable and your body starts producing more stem cells. So, it is anti-aging, hormone-optimizing and it is a very powerful thing. So, whether I’m in ketosis or not, I still enter in fast every day.
Kathy Smith: I started that type of cycle a while ago, and I will do it a couple of days a week as you suggested. I noticed that during the summer, my body kind of craves it a little bit more. The same sort of thing for me – today, I ate around 1:00 my first meal and my next meal will be about 5:00 or 6:00 except I’m a nibbler. I have to watch it because I come home–because I have a meeting or whatever tonight–but I have to come home and make sure I don’t go for the chocolate right around 10:00 p.m.
Dan Pompa: It’s funny you said that, because if you look at the average number of times people eat in a day, it’s eight. All of us would go, “Well, that’s not me, so how is that the average American eating an average of eight times?” It’s the handful of nuts, it’s the berries, it’s the kombucha drink, which is a meal. Every time you eat, even if it’s a salad, you spike insulin and glucose to some degree. The key to living longer, healthy is not spiking glucose and insulin. The only real way to do that is not eat. Of course, you can’t not eat. I want to draw a really clear line here for people to see.
When we look at studies of living longer, healthy, there’s only one thing that holds up and that’s eating less. Now, we Americans tend to take that as caloric restriction, meaning that if I just can eat half of my meal–ok, I don’t want to be gluttonous. I’m just going to stop eating as much and I’m pushing food away before I’m full. That is not what they mean.
When we look at cultures that lived the longest, they do in fact eat less. But they eat less by eating less often. There lies the magic. At the end of the day, there’s no doubt I eat less because I’m eating less often. That’s the key.
So, if you first try to caloric restrict, your body will think it’s starving, it will slow your metabolism down, down, down, down, down. You’ll start eating muscle. It doesn’t work. The key here, too, is when you eat, you have to eat to full.
Oftentimes, my afternoon meal, I’m very busy. I might eat a very small meal – a can of sardines for goodness sakes. Then, I eat a bigger dinner. If I don’t eat the bigger dinner, after a period of time–maybe it’s a month, but my body will think it’s starving, then I’ll start losing muscle and getting fatter. So, you can’t ever let that happen. You have to eat at least one meal to full so your body never ever thinks it’s starving – even beyond full. Listen, we go out, Kathy – you and I – and we’ve sat many meals together. When I eat, I eat to full. I do not hold back. At the end of the day, I eat less often.
Kathy Smith: Yeah. It’s a good point. That’s something I had to train myself, because I was that bird that used to peck around all day long. You’re right. Eight meals sounds crazy, but open up the cupboard, handful of nuts and all those other things you talked about.
I know I have only a little bit more time here, so I wanted to ask you just one–I want to go one more direction–one last question. That is you mentioned earlier about–you threw the word out mitochondria. We’ve been hearing a lot about the mitochondria recently and, especially, as it relates to aging. I gave a talk recently and I told people to bear in mind that you don’t want your mitochondria shrinking, because that is the starting of the aging process. Tell us again, for the uninitiated, for the people that don’t have–that skipped or were sleeping during their high school biology class, tell us what is the mitochondria and why should be care?
Dan Pompa: The mitochondria, you should care. I just read somewhere that they’re estimating 80% of chronic diseases today are mitochondrial related. I would say this, if you’re the person out there that’s having trouble losing weight now and you’re blaming age, it’s not age, it’s your mitochondria. If you’re the person with brain fog and not sleeping well, it’s your mitochondria. That’s how important the subject is.
We started this conversation talking about toxins. The reason why, today, we’re seeing so much mitochondrial issues–and, again, this where you make your energy. You can’t think clear without making enough ATP in your cells. You can’t function in any pathway, detox, you name it without making enough ATP. So, what’s creating this epidemic of mitochondria issues is the number and the type of toxins we’re being exposed to.
So, part of what I call True Cellular Detox is fixing these mitochondria. Real detox has to occur at the cell. Most people today will not feel well until you fix the cell and very, specifically, the mitochondria. So, yeah, this is a big thing. This is something that I believe that until you clean up your cells in your life of toxins correctly, you’re not going to fix your mitochondria until you adjust your diet.
We are stuck eating too many carbohydrates as a society today. Refined carbohydrates, processed foods are also affecting the mitochondria. I had the pleasure of interviewing a couple of times a guy named Thomas Seyfried. He wrote a book called Cancer as a Metabolic Disease, meaning that your cancer’s a mitochondrial issue. Cancer is the mitochondrial basically gone bad to where, now, it’s functioning with a very primitive form of glycolysis.
I don’t want to bore your listeners with science, but know this. They’ve realized something that a gentleman named Otto Warburg realized at the turn of the century, that cancer is in fact a mitochondrial problem and the mitochondria gone bad. So, we’re seeing the explosion of cancer. You better pay attention to your mitochondria, not just to live longer but to avoid these major diseases.
Kathy Smith: I know you’re working on a book. When can we expect your book? A lot of your book will be about these issues. When will we be able to go to the store and buy that?
Dan Pompa: Yep. In about six months.
Kathy Smith: Ok, good.
Dan Pompa: That happens.
Kathy Smith: Ok, guys, if you enjoyed the show today and you want more practical tools and meal plans and recipes about how to eat a healthy diet and the diet we’re talking about today, check out Dr. Pompa’s book, The Cellular Healing Diet. Really, whether your goal is to lose weight, increase your focus, be more alert, it’s a great resource guide that contains everything that you need to really support your body.
Dan Pompa: Yeah, and my website.
Kathy Smith: Just go to the website? Do you want to shout that out?
Dan Pompa: Yeah. DrPompa.com.
Kathy Smith: Ok, we’ll also have it in the liner notes so you guys can reach out to him. Thank you, everybody, for listening. If you’re listening to the podcast because you’re interested in living a healthier life, then you might want to check out some of our other episodes.
We talked to Dr. Oz recently about the single most underappreciated problem in America. Diana Nyad shared what it’s like to push past your limits when she swam from Cuba to Florida. And, of course, my good friend, Dr. Sara Gottfried, who I’m going to be seeing in a few weeks here, shared her explanation on how to reset your genes, reverse aging and turn back the clock.
So, if you’d like to check some other ones out, all you have to do is subscribe to my podcast at iTunes. And don’t forget to leave a review. Ok, here’s to your health.