Transcript: Neuroplasticity, Psychedelics, and Other Strategies for Boosting Immunity – Dr. Molly Maloof, M.D.
Please enjoy this transcript of our interview with Dr. Molly Maloof.
Dr. Molly Maloof—physician, nutritional consultant, and popular speaker—chats with Paul Austin on how to boost our immunity and foster neuroplasticity through psychedelics, meditation, and healthier lifestyle choices.
Tune in to discover some steps you can take to improve your physical and mental wellbeing as you navigate the current period of uncertainty and heightened anxiety.
In this episode we talk about:
- How declines in neuroplasticity can compromise our immune system.
- The benefits of combining psychedelic experiences with lifestyle choices to enhance adaptability and foster neuroplasticity.
- Why the healthcare system should champion legalized psychedelics and community-based connections to drive collective healing.
00:00 Paul Austin: Welcome to The Third Wave Podcast. I’m your host, Paul Austin, here to bring you cutting edge interviews with leading scientists, entrepreneurs and medical professionals, who are exploring how we can integrate psychedelics in an intentional and responsible way, for both healing and transformation. It is my honor and privilege to bring you these episodes, as you get deeper and deeper into why these medicines are so critical to the future of humanity. So let’s go, and let’s see what we can explore and learn together in this incredibly important time.
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01:17 PA: As long-time listeners know, yoga and meditation have played a huge role as complementary practices to my own responsible psychedelic use, and that’s why we’re excited to be working with Half Moon Yoga as a partner for the podcast. They carry everything from basic yoga supplies to more advanced things like bolsters and sand bags, to meditation cushions that are super comfy to sit on, and right now, they’re offering a 15% discount to Third Wave listeners with the promo code, THIRDWAVE. I’d encourage you to check them out at shophalfmoon.ca, if you’re looking for tools to support your yoga or meditation practice.
01:52 PA: So I’m virtually sitting across from Dr. Molly Maloof. Welcome to the podcast, Molly.
01:56 Molly Maloof: Hi, Paul. How you doing?
02:00 PA: Good. A little uncertain of things. We were just talking about this, before the podcast started. There’s a lot going on right now. We’re recording this in the middle of COVID. How are you feeling with all this?
02:11 MM: Well, initially, I think, it was about two months ago, I was slightly in denial, and then, I eventually woke up and realized, “Okay, there needs to be a sense of urgency here, because this is actually a problem.” I remember hearing about this in January, and seeing this Harvard double PhD in the Public Health Department freaking out on Twitter. And my friend and I were like, “Is he just trying to make a career for himself, or is this guy on it? Does this guy know what’s going on?” And I kind of just… I didn’t really wanna believe it, frankly, at the time, but now that I’ve spent so much time doing research on this, I find it both, completely… And sometimes, it’s terrifying, but a lot of times, for me, it’s been really empowering as a doctor, because it’s given me so many opportunities to help people.
02:57 MM: And so, I’m actually in this place of calm centeredness now, but it took me a few weeks to get here, I’ll be honest. The last three weeks were definitely go-mode. So I kind of vacillate between feeling really empowered and really excited about life, to feeling like, “When am I gonna see my friends again? When am I gonna see my family again? When is this gonna end, and is this the new normal? And how long is this gonna last?” And there’s just a lot of questions. But, fortunately, I’ve been doing a lot of meditation, and just staying really busy. For me, staying busy, doing meditation, and exercising is the best thing for me.
03:34 PA: Well, it sort of feels like a Groundhog Day. It’s like you wake up, you repeat, you wake up, you repeat. There might be one or two things that change, but I’m like, I’m eating the same lunch, I’m pretty much eating the same dinner, I’m going for the same walk in the neighborhood, it’s a weird sort of twilight zone.
03:52 MM: Oh, my God, you nailed it. Nailed it. That’s so true.
03:55 PA: One thing you brought up, with how you’re responding to this is staying centered and grounded. Because there’s a lot of fear, right now. As a medical professional, when you’re talking with clients in this space, how do you help them stay centered and grounded and understand how to make the best decision that’s necessary for them right now?
04:15 MM: I think the first thing I tell people is you just need to be really compassionate to yourself right now and really, really, really tender with yourself right now, and not beat yourself up for, over anything right now, and not try to be perfect. Perfect is the enemy of good. And do your very, very best to maintain health regimens that will optimize neuroplasticity. So for me, that means recommending people exercise regularly. If I don’t exercise regularly, I feel crazy. And then, sleep, really, really fundamental to neuroplasticity is quality sleep. So making sure you have a really strong sleep regimen and sleep hygiene, and don’t spend all your nights on your computer or phone, staring at Instagram or the news, turn that off early in the night.
04:57 MM: I do intermittent fasting. Today, I didn’t, very much, because I started cooking Passover pretty early, but intermittent fasting’s pretty important. So most days of the week, I try to do around 16 hours. I’m also a big fan of certain supplements like CBD and Omega-3’s, I take a lot of Omega-3’s right now to protect my brain. I also am really into avoiding too much sugar, so I eat a low sugar diet as much as I can, and I’m really not a huge fan of alcohol. The more I drink alcohol, the less awesome I feel, and the worse my brain functions. And then, I personally microdose, so I microdose with a small amount of Psilocybin mushrooms, I got some from some friends, I’ve got some tinctures. To me, that’s been pretty game-changing. Since I started doing the regimen a week ago, I can honestly say my brain feels a lot better than it did the week before that.
05:46 MM: So I’m super grateful that I have those right now. I can’t wait for them to be available to the public. With my clients, in particular, the ones with treatment-resistant depression, I do sublingual Ketamine therapy, and that’s combined with psychotherapy, so I have a team of psychotherapists that I work with, to work with clients, to help them process any of their grief and pain they’re going through right now, and then integrate new changes into their mind. So, to me, that’s been one of the most exciting things I’ve added in my practice in the last year and something that I’ve seen, just astonishing changes in people’s brains with, especially, because when it’s monitored, and when you’re making sure that a person’s compliant with the program, the outcomes are so positive.
06:28 MM: And so, I’ve been really grateful to have access to that, because, right now, as you know, many Ketamine clinics cannot be open, the sublingual programs administered at home are particularly powerful for people who are truly suffering right now and really struggling with mental illness, but again, I always tell people, if there’s anyone out there that’s suicidal, you really do need to be in the care of a clinical provider in an office, or in the ER, specifically. So, ERs are starting to do Ketamine for suicidality. I don’t personally have any suicidal patients right now, but I do interview everyone, because I am very concerned that we’re gonna start seeing a lot more serious breakdowns in people’s health.
07:10 MM: I think that… I’m just gonna give this as a caveat, I do think that the social isolation right now is necessary to save more lives than that will be taken through suicide, but I think it’s important to talk about it, because part of the reason why psychedelics are making it to the forefront of mainstream medicine is because there’s a lot of diseases that just don’t have good treatments for them right now, things like PTSD and end-of-life anxiety and suicidality. So, I’m really excited about the future of psychedelic medicine, and I’ve been trying to stay on the forefront of it for a while now. So, it’s just great to be here talking to you about it.
07:44 PA: One thing that you brought up is this concept of neuroplasticity, which I wanna dig a little bit more into. What’s happened, for me, during COVID is I’ve noticed an increase in sensitivity. So, before, I used to drink a lot of coffee and caffeine, so I’d get anxious, and then I would use Cannabis, THC and CBD at night to, sort of, get down. So, I would have these big swings, and what I’m noticing during COVID is I’m sensitive to everything, and that sensitivity is then helping me be much more in tune with my intuition and what feels best for me. So, a lot of the practices that I have are to facilitate that neuroplasticity. But one thing that a lot of people don’t know about is the mind-gut connection as well. What we know is that inflammation…
08:28 MM: Yup.
08:29 PA: Both in the mind and in the gut is a huge thing. So, can you tell our listeners a little bit about the role of inflammation in just holistic health and wellness? How that intersects with feeling good and neuroplasticity and depression and some of these things?
08:44 MM: Totally. Yeah. The first thing I’ll say, to comment on, is I’m also noticing heightened sensitivity. I went out for groceries recently and I was like… I had a conversation with a stranger, and I just tell you now, it was like the whole experience of the day was like, “Oh, my God. This feels amazing, to interact with people.” So, I notice that too, is that it’s almost like we’re all doing a dopamine fast right now. [chuckle] We’re all doing this inward journey. And so, we go outward, it’s like, “Wow.” So, for me, I feel like that’s been kind of interesting and fun, when I do get a chance to go outside. [chuckle]
09:22 MM: But in terms of inflammation… So, basically, the immune system, most of it’s in your gut. I’d say 90% of it is in your gut. So, there’s two arms of the immune system, there’s the innate immunity, there’s the adaptive immunity, and the innate immunity are… There’s a bunch of immune cells that are lining the mucosa in your mouth, your nose, from top to bottom, you’re like a donut, and the inner donut is the mucosa, and there’s little immune cells that put their arms out and they grab things like antigens, and they say, “What is that? I don’t know what this is. I’m gonna go show it to my friends.” And then, the friends come in, and say, “That’s not good. You need to go… You need to fight… If you see that thing again, you go… You go after it.”
10:02 MM: And so, then, we have this adaptive immune system, the B cells, and the T cells, they come in, and they produce antibodies that respond, and they cause… Sometimes, they do cause some damage. And so, this is why inflammation is not good or bad, it just is. So, it’s good because it can help us predict what’s going on around us and identify what is threat and what is not threat, but, sometimes, it goes a little bit haywire, and it gets overactive. And so, we get things like auto-immunity, and we get people who respond to everything as foreign, including cells. And then, on the other hand it could be under-active, and this is where you see things like cancer, where people’s immune systems aren’t protecting themselves and aren’t repairing the damage that’s being done to their DNA.
10:42 MM: So, your body is always trying to repair damage and identify threats, because your body is always trying to keep you alive. But the problem is that, basically, our mucosal lining of our body is constantly being compromised by what we’re putting in our bodies. So, from the moment you drink alcohol, to eating that sugary packaged, processed crap food that has all sorts of preservatives in it, you’re starting to send the wrong signals to your body and you’re starting to turn on your immune system when it shouldn’t be turned on. And so, that’s when you get chronic low-level inflammation, and that also leads to things like leaky gut syndrome, which means that the barrier between you and the outside world gets opened and then, stuff can get into your bloodstream that shouldn’t be in there.
11:25 MM: And so, then, your body starts reacting to all sorts of things that are not foreign… Well, that are foreign, but shouldn’t be an issue, things like food particles, and then you start getting all these different types of food sensitivities, and before you know it, your whole body’s inflamed and your brain’s inflamed, because if you have a leaky gut, you have leaky brain. This has basically been well-established, and if you wanna learn more about this, go check out the website, Cyrex Labs. They’re a fabulous lab that measures antibodies, and basically, what this means is, is that if your brain’s inflamed, that can contribute to things like depression. It’s basically an alarm signal in your brain that something’s wrong, and the one thing that’s really wrong is usually your lifestyle.
12:05 MM: The vast majority of, I would say, mental health problems, are due to two main factors. First, or three factors in particular. The first is adverse childhood experiences and unresolved trauma that hasn’t been dealt with, which definitely causes malware and energy drain in the back of the brain just constantly. You don’t realize that this is causing havoc but it is. It’s like bad software running. And then you have the lifestyle, right? So when people are depressed or unhappy, they don’t move enough, they engage in illness behavior, so they tend to self-preserve with foods that aren’t good for them. They reach for comfort foods, they reach for high fat, high sugar foods. They also don’t move their bodies enough. They don’t sleep, either sleep too much or they’re too little, and so their circadian rhythms get thrown off. And then usually they’re under a lot of stress and so work stress, relationship stress, environmental stress, that would also be another major cause of mental disorders.
13:01 MM: And declines in neuroplasticity. So if you wanna increase the neuroplasticity, you have to look at the root causes of why a person would be inflamed or why their brain would be dysfunctioning, and the things I just told you there are really the main causes.
13:14 PA: Well, you know, when I first started doing psychedelics a little more than 10 years ago now, it was mostly LSD, a little bit of Psilocybin as well, and one of the main takeaways that I had from those experiences was like, I have full agency over my own health and well-being. And all of a sudden, I became much more sensitive to the energy that I let in, so to the food that I ate, to the exercise that I did. And there was this sense of, I wanna call it like an evolutionary heritage in that insight in terms of like, my body and my organism is thousands and thousands and thousands of years old.
13:52 MM: Totally.
13:53 PA: And that all of this modern stuff that we’ve tried to lay on top of it is just a distraction, and actually makes us way more sick than healthy.
14:01 MM: I love when you say that, because we don’t really think about this. But we have primitive genetics still. So our genetics are designed to move a lot, low-level movement throughout the day along the savanna. That’s where we were supposed to thrive. And we were supposed to go many hours without eating. Lots of fasting was part of life. And so if you just look at modern life now, we’ve basically gone completely against how you would typically need to live for a healthy body based on our genetics, and so our genetics also encourage social interactions and living in a tribe and not just living by yourself. So we live isolated, we drive everywhere, we don’t move our bodies enough. We sit at desks all day. We eat packaged, processed, fake Franken foods that aren’t even real and have no nutritional value. And we stress out over all sorts of things that frankly aren’t that important.
14:52 MM: And so it’s not surprising that we have so many people who are so sick. And it sucks right now, because the people with the biggest comorbidities are the people who aren’t thriving or adapting in this modern environment. And so their bodies are breaking down, and then they’re more likely to get sick. And this is something that I’ve been preaching for so many years, and I’m telling you it’s… I was in medical school in 2007, and it’s 2020, and my parents just now understand my philosophy. And it’s taken them that long to figure this out. So I’m just questioning how long is it gonna take everyone else to figure out that like, “You gotta take care of your body and your health, and you gotta realize that it’s your body. It’s your autonomy. No one else is in charge.” And this idea of managing people’s care with modern healthcare is failing, and just handing people drugs and surgeries to manage their illnesses isn’t working, and it’s taxing the system.
15:45 PA: Well, and that’s why psychedelics are such a break-through, because they actually get to the core of that.
15:50 MM: They do. And they also wake you up. So I have had psychedelic experiences from psychedelics, I’ve had psychedelic experiences from meditation, I’ve had psychedelic experiences from, frankly, sex. I’ve had psychedelic experiences from being in nature, and all of these different types of consciousness-expanding experiences bring you a level of awareness that transforms your reality. And the more we can get people’s realities to transform, the more people will start paying attention to the actions that they have on the environment and their fellow man and themselves, frankly.
16:28 PA: Like what psychedelics do is they help with adaptability. They help you to adapt to new situations and new circumstances because of how they could potentially help neuroplasticity.
16:37 MM: Yes, exactly.
16:39 PA: So I’m just curious, and you don’t need to give any names or anything. But in terms of some of the clients that you’ve worked with, how have you seen how even something like Ketamine sublingual treatment has helped them to start to make lifestyle changes that really support well-being?
16:57 MM: So I’ll tell you what I do, and I have a really long… It’s almost 20 pages of a protocol that I require people to not only read before I sit with them, and I go through every single page with them. And in one of the pages is a very comprehensive table called the Lifestyle Protocol. And the patients that actually follow this protocol have the best results, I’ll be honest with you. So the protocol is basically, what do you eat? It’s similar to an Ayahuasca dieta, although it’s more aligned with my own personal nutritional recommendations. I’m actually a meat eater so I include pasture-raised, grass-fed meat.
17:34 MM: But I also include lots of hydration, movement, getting enough steps per day, human connection, and a bunch of other things, and fasting as well, limiting alcohol, a lot of the stuff I’ve talked about today. But I’ve found that Ketamine is almost… Because people are kind of stuck in their bodies and stuck in this first person perspective, what Ketamine does, is it disassociates you from your body. And when you can look at yourself from a third person’s perspective and look at your life and see how you’re living, and you have a doctor saying, “Look, I want you to use this to change your lifestyle, to change your brain, to change your perspective, and these are the things I want you to do.”
18:16 MM: So I give them a list of things to integrate and a list of lifestyle changes to make. I’ve found that the patients who actually follow the lifestyle protocol end up losing weight, they end up having major improvements in their mood. Some of them end up having… I had one patient lose 40 pounds. He left a job, found a new job that he loves even more. I had another patient who told me, “Molly, it’s only been two months on this protocol and people keep on telling me how much I’m glowing,” and I’m like, “Well, of course you’re glowing because you’re doing all the things you need to increase mitochondrial biogenesis.”
18:49 MM: And so the thing is, is that a person who’s depressed is really struggling with lifestyle, because it’s just… They don’t have the energy to move. And so what I’ve found is that if you combine psychedelics with lifestyle medicine, now you can actually get a person to be motivated to make the changes and to actually have a doctor who they’re staying accountable with. So they’re talking to me regularly, they’re talking to their psychotherapist regularly, and really it’s like this metaphor of a ditch. So imagine there’s a ditch and a person’s stuck in the bottom of the ditch. And initially when you find them down there, they’re like, “How am I gonna possibly get out of this ditch? There’s no way to get out, I’m stuck.” And I’m like, “Chill, breathe, here’s what you’re gonna do… ” And I give them some directions and then before I know… Before they know it, they’re able to actually build a stairwell with the soil out of the ditch and then near the end I pull them out.
19:39 MM: So it’s like you need the person and the support, because part of healing is actually the dual intention between two people to have a vision of the future that they wanna see for a person’s life, and to hold that vision strong, and to actually consistently reinforce that new reality over time. And that’s what medicine used to be. Medicine used to be a relationship between a doctor and a patient. And then the medicine was like what helped you move from point A to point B, but it wasn’t just this prescription modality of modern life. The relationship itself was therapeutic. And so what I’m really fortunate to have is a practice that allows me to have a modern bent of an old-fashioned type of doctor-patient relationship, so.
20:20 MM: This is how I’ve been working with people and it’s been really… It’s been, frankly, I just got a call from another patient who is dealing with serious depression, suicidality and grief, because his wife died of cancer and I’m telling you, he had one session with Ketamine and he called me and said, “I just… ” I mean, I get chills when I think about it. He just told me about how it opened his feelings again. He’s able to feel good for the first time in many, many months. And he was able to connect with his friends and tell them about his experience, and it just gave him hope that he’s gonna be able to have a new life and a new future. And it’s like, I almost started crying because it was just so beautiful to hear a person in this turning point of his life where it doesn’t have to be doom and gloom. And we’re dealing with a really scary time. So frankly, I think, the government should just fast track approval of all these things and give people access to this medicine. It would employ a lot of psychologists and a lot of doctors and it would save a lot of lives, I think.
21:23 PA: What we talked about before the podcast started was this relationship between the FDA, the centralized government, sort of what I’m calling the industrial model, which is what we’ve been using in the past, however many years, hundreds of years. And what we’re transitioning, and COVID is a really good inflection point in this transition, is sort of moving to an N=1, personalized medicine model, which is what you’ve been practising for the last several years.
21:47 MM: Yeah.
21:49 PA: What we’ve talked about is obviously like, okay, maybe these medicines could become approved in the next year or two years or three years but with likely a government in power that doesn’t support it necessarily, it could be who knows how long. So there’s so much opportunity now in places like Oakland and Denver where these things are decriminalized for people to take control back in their hands. So I’d love just to hear your thoughts from a medical perspective and just a personalized medicine perspective. People are at home wanting to take their own health and well-being into their own hands, what are some… Both harm reduction things, but also just best practices that they could follow to ensure that it’s safe and effective?
22:30 MM: Well, the first thing I would recommend is, please don’t go grab a handful of mushrooms and eat them like you see in movies. Because that is a recipe for a very risky business. A very, very risky day. You could end up really having a massive episode of ego death and we don’t want that. So to me, I’ve always taught people that the way that people go about psychedelic medicine is all wrong. And I’m not talking about this… I’m not talking necessarily about the FDA and the DEA and the government, like, we all know that it’s gonna take some time before all these studies, which there’s like 50 studies or something right now for Psilocybin alone. It’s gonna take a little while before it gets to the doctors’ bedside.
23:11 MM: That being said, the way that I see it right now is I’m getting invited to sound healing ceremonies. I’m getting invited to all sorts of events, this was before COVID. But I was basically aware that the community use of psychedelics was pretty consistent. And the problem with that is that there are a lot of people that are still pushing heavy doses of medicine on people who are inexperienced. So I’ve always taught people that if you really wanna be safe, you have to start low, go slow and titrate up. And so the first thing you gotta do is go educate yourself on what is a dose and what is a… What does that even mean? Right?
23:50 MM: So I interviewed James Fadiman a few years ago, and he had a really great model of how to describe sort of sequential dosing for microdosing. And what’s kind of nice about LSD and mushrooms is that LSD is micrograms and mushrooms is milligrams, but both of them, if you get to 100, you have a pretty significant dose, enough that’s perceptual. Now, 10, 5 to 10 is usually imperceptual, so 5 to 10 milligrams of mushrooms or 5 to 10 milligrams of LSD you really won’t notice that big of a difference of your day. The biggest problem, though, right now is that because we don’t have approved versions of these drugs from the FDA, we have a bunch of stuff on the street that nobody truly knows the strength of until you can try it.
24:38 MM: So this is why it’s paramount that people who are experimenting with their brain start with the very, very lowest possible dose. Because you can really hurt yourself if you go above a low dose of psychedelics, especially if you don’t have experience. So after you start with microdosing then you can experiment with things like a concert dose or a museum dose, which is like 20 to 30 micrograms. And then once you hit about a half… 50 micrograms, then you’re starting to notice, “Okay, this is a different reality.” But realistically, you know, the safest way to go about any of this stuff is to actually have a psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy therapist to work with.
25:18 MM: But the problem is that I tried to go get trained with MAPS to administer MDMA as a psychotherapy to people, and I discovered that I would be paying about $10,000 to probably sit with three people in the course of six months. So I was like, okay, so if 50 people are gonna be in the next study, and we have thousands and thousands of people with PTSD right now. So what I’m noticing is that there’s a lot of underground work right now, and what’s coming out of the underground space is that there are now startups that are starting to offer platforms for tracking outcomes.
25:53 MM: Things like Maya out in Denver, and then I know Third Wave is interested in doing a bit more sort of matching, but reality is, is that the world, it’s gonna be… I think it’s honestly close to impossible for the FDA to mount a drug war against really good intentioned therapists that are out there, trying to make the world safer for people experimenting with psychedelics. Now, I personally don’t have that in my practice, I don’t have Psilocybin or MDMA yet in my practice because they’re not legal, so I’ve stuck with Ketamine for now. But the safest thing to do is actually try to go find a therapist, if you really wanna go in a deeper trip and go in a heavier dose, you should do it with supervision and you should do it according to the protocols that are being used in the clinical studies.
26:39 MM: But the reality is, is that all of this, even if you are in a decriminalized zone, you have to know the risks of what your behavior is, so you could still be arrested if you are found to have these medicines on you. You could still… If somebody is administering these medicines as part of the practice, they can have their licenses taken away, so even though it’s important and it would be doing people harm for me not to talk about harm reduction, it’s still also illegal for me to recommend people do these at all.
27:09 MM: So the reason why I’m on this podcast is not to be like, “Okay, everyone, go out and do psychedelics.” It’s like, “Hey, I know you’re doing psychedelics, so why don’t I help you not hurt yourself, because hurting yourself is actually leading to some really serious consequences.” I know a young woman who went to an event and they had very irresponsibly left out a mushroom chocolate and mushroom MDMA like hot chocolate mix. This young woman had no idea of the dose she was taking and she ended up having a full psychotic breakdown requiring hospitalization.
27:39 MM: And so these are not jokes, these are serious medicines, and they need to be respected. And if you actually talk to anyone who’s from an indigenous tribe, they would look at the way that we use psychedelics in our society as completely irresponsible, and devoid of any real sacramental behavior, and so we also need to look at them as sacraments, and treat them with respect to the history that they have as part of humanity’s evolution.
28:08 MM: So I know friends that also decide to go abroad for their experiences, and I think I mentioned this earlier, or at least offline when we were talking, but another safe way to go about psychedelic medicine experimentation is that once COVID-19 quarantines are loosened, Jamaica, Costa Rica and Amsterdam all have centers that are administering the medicine in a very safe container with very experienced practitioners and physicians on staff. I also have friends in Mexico who administer Ibogaine in this center. Ibogaine is very dangerous, people do die on it, it can cause heart dysfunction. So these are still risky drugs and this is a risky business.
28:51 MM: But I have also had friends who go to the Amazon and have sequential Ayahuasca ceremonies, and I know people who have completely cured their life-long depression. So I’m so optimistic that we are heading into a golden age of psychedelic medicine, and it’s gonna change the world, and it’s just a matter of time before the authorities finally come to the conclusions that we all know are true, which is that these are part of transformative experiences that people need to be able to change their lives.
29:22 PA: And to change their health and well-being and to make these lifestyle changes that we’ve been talking about this whole time, because psychedelics are sort of the catalyst or the opening, and with that opening, you can integrate these new ways of being into it, and I think that’s why microdosing, even as a concept, is so powerful. The analogy that I’ll use when talking about it, it’s like when you learn how to swim, when we were four or five, in a pool, or whatever, we didn’t just jump in the deep end right away, but we were in the shallow end, we learn how to paddle.
29:51 PA: That’s like float tanks, microdosing, breathwork. And that’s what’s great about these, is it’s really just about going inwards, and regardless of the tool, a lot of the process that people are going through when they’re healing is first healing these adverse childhood experiences that you spoke about that are often not just like in the brain, but somatically stored as well in the body. And then once we sort of can get that initial armor off, then it becomes easier to dive into, well, our intuition. Like, what’s best for us? What’s best for me? Food, exercise, sleep, whatever it is.
30:27 MM: A lot of this is actually the subconscious reprogramming, so it’s like we all know we need to do these things for our health, we all know that we’re all supposed to eat right, exercise more and spend time with our family and our friends and spend time in nature, but yet a lot of us don’t do these behaviors because there’s this malware in the background that’s running that’s kind of self-sabotaging. And I started getting into hypnosis about two years ago, and I was like, “I wanna exercise in the morning, I wanna be consistent with exercise,” and I don’t know why I can’t seem to get this in my life, but I was like consistent but inconsistent, and so I started getting hypnotized, and I was like, “Woah. This is amazing.” It’s like all I needed to do is send the right signals to my subconscious to actually believe that that’s necessary for my life, and I started doing it.
31:15 MM: So the way that I kind of put all these things together is that hypnosis and meditation and psychedelics are all working on that level, where, first, you have to be able to be really still and very calm and feel very safe, and ideally, if you feel safe, calm and centered and like held, then you can start reformatting that hard drive. And ideally in the presence of somebody else who can sit with you during the experience to help you feel the sense of therapeutic alliance, and that’s where assisted psychotherapy is really important for this movement, because what they’re finding, at least in MDMA-assisted therapy, is that there’s the medicine and the way it makes you feel. And then there’s the fact that you now trust this provider, that they’re there for you to hold you through this difficult time, and you’re able to actually process difficult experiences from your past and not feel terrible in the process.
32:13 MM: So like MDMA makes me feel pretty darn good. And so when you feel good, but you’re processing painful memories, it’s like you’re reformatting those memories, so that your brain now attributes them as not so scary and not so amygdala enhancing and fear-inducing. This is just so exciting for PTSD. I had some PTSD in my 20s from some adverse experiences in my college years, and I didn’t actually know that what I was doing was… I didn’t know that MDMA was gonna change my brain, but I ended up doing MDMA with a partner a bunch in a short period of time. And it was almost like I had changed my brain functioning and I didn’t know… This is way, way before MAPS had been promoting MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD.
32:58 MM: When I found out MAPS was doing that, I was like, well, that makes so much sense because that helps me heal a bunch of past experiences that I thought were gonna be permanent, and now I’m free of them. And there’s a lot of scientists who are in the psychedelics space, and they’re like studying the psychedelics, but they won’t touch ’em, they won’t even go near ’em. Because they’re like, “Oh, no, no, no, no, I have to remain objective.” But I personally believe that when you have first-hand experience of the power of these medicines to change your life, you want everyone to have access to what you’ve had, and you want them to be as safe as you’ve been, and you want people to be as held as you felt, and you want people to not hurt themselves, and so I started coming out of the psychedelic closet a few years ago, when I interviewed James Fadiman at this headquarters of Amazon. Amazon had this co-working space on Market Street Street. And so I went to this interview.
33:48 PA: It’s on YouTube, right? We’ll link to it in the shownotes. It’s on YouTube… Yeah, it’s great, I really… That’s how I first heard about you.
33:54 MM: I got kicked out, by the way, like half way through our talk. They were like, “You have to leave. You should not be here talking about these things.” And the room was packed, by the way. The room was completely packed. And I realized at that moment that I had just come out of the psychedelic closet and I had just told the world that I do this. [chuckle] I was so scared, but then you know what happened next, is the Financial Times calls me up and says, “Hey, we wanna talk to you about why Silicon Valley is using LSD to transform their lives and not to just get high.” And I was like, “Sign me up.”
34:26 MM: So I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve been able to put this whisper into the ears of a lot of influential people in San Francisco. And I do believe that we have seeded a movement, and we have created a lot of movement in the MAPS community and Compass. If you look at these investors who invest in these big companies like [unclear speech] a lot of them are Silicon Valley-based, so like I actually look at the work that you and I have been doing sort of underground, that’s now becoming above ground, to be laying the foundation for a new reality for psychedelics that can enable people to safely and carefully have life-changing moments and really change their health in the process.
35:07 PA: Let’s talk a little bit about that, because I think it’s even, it’s about more than psychedelics, it’s about health and wellness. And it’s probably even more than health and wellness, but it’s like freedom to choose how we wanna live. So I just would love to hear your thoughts and you obviously, you’re in Silicon Valley, there’s a lot of… It’s very much a future-oriented place. You were talking with executives, who are literally like constructing the future through the businesses that they’re building. If we look, let’s say, 10 years down the road, so it’s like 2030, how does healthcare change? How is it different than today?
35:48 MM: Well, the way that I would prefer to see is, right now we have a sickness billing industrial complex that is all about billing and coding for disease, and so it’s not actually a healthcare system because it doesn’t help you adapt and self-manage in the face of adversity. It helps you respond to emergency, and so when you really see that system, it’s like, “Okay, that system does what it does really well.” So if you go and get in a car accident and you see a trauma surgeon in an ER, it is a beautiful, fascinating symphony of movement that puts a person back together. And that’s what medicine is so good, so good for right now. But we need a second system, and that second system is about helping people adapt and self-manage in the face of social, environmental and physical challenges, and that means helping people not have all these comorbidities, giving people access to food prescriptions, giving people medicine that makes them healthier.
36:44 MM: I shouldn’t have to be disordered or diseased to be able to take psychedelics. I should be able to take psychedelics in order to optimize my health, my well-being and my resilience. And so there’s actually research on Ketamine in rats that my friend Rebecca Brockman, I believe… She has on TED, and she studied animals and showed that if you give rats Ketamine before they experience a PTSD-inducing stressor, they don’t convert into PTSD. And so I believe that all of these refugee camps that we’re seeing in the world, that has got to be the ground set [unclear speech], like ground zero for PTSD for people. What if a person who knew they were gonna be going to a refugee camp was immediately administered a Ketamine experience and then offered to go into a meditation tent to ground their energy into this new reality they were going into.
37:40 MM: We really need to start thinking about protecting people’s bodies and minds everywhere throughout the world in a different way they’re thinking about right now. Because right now we’re thinking about every man for themselves. And that’s frankly a lot of America, and that’s okay. But we need to start thinking holistically in community or have more community-oriented perspectives around what does a community need to thrive and how do we see… How do we take care of each other in this new reality? So the way that I see it is healthcare systems will still need the sickness billing industrial complex if you really broken. But then there should be healing centers that almost resemble churches, non-denominational churches, places that you can go for vitality, places you can go to feel held, places that you can go to feel taken care of, places that you can… And these are starting to emerge, by the way, there’s one in San Diego that has naturopathic medicine with Chinese medicine, with modern medicine. And it’s not cheap, it’s $500 a month.
38:41 MM: But we needed to develop insurance systems to cover health and to be able to help people engage in community-oriented health experiences, and maybe some of those experiences are psychedelic-assisted therapy in a sound healing ceremony that is covered by your insurance someday. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but we don’t have enough practitioners trained to give people psychedelic-assisted therapy right now. So we have to start thinking about group sessions and community sessions, and then technology. So integration technologies are coming, I think you guys are thinking of working on it. My friends at Maya are working on it, my friends at Mindbloom are working on it. But we have to have platforms for people to connect and integrate their experiences; otherwise, we’re just helping people blaze new trails, but we’re not giving them a direction on where they’re gonna go. So it’s about new types of healing environments, it’s about group healing experiences, it’s about online healing experiences and integration experiences, and it’s about medicine for health and not just for sickness. And I think that would be the future that I really wanna see.
39:47 PA: Once… So a couple of years ago, I started a retreat center in the Netherlands called Synthesis.
39:53 MM: Oh, yeah. You started that?
39:56 PA: I did.
39:56 MM: What?
39:56 PA: I was the co-founder with Martijn.
40:00 MM: That’s so amazing.
40:02 PA: So it was the… You didn’t know that?
40:06 MM: I don’t know how I didn’t know that, I feel like crazy for not knowing that.
40:09 PA: We launched it in 2018. We piloted it through Third Wave and whatnot. And then did the whole thing, and that was the vision from the get-go was like, “Look.” I remember hearing a statistic at that time, there were gonna be X number of churches that just weren’t gonna be used at some point. So it was almost like our place that we rented in the Netherlands was an old church that was like 90 years old.
40:32 MM: It looks like one.
40:34 PA: It’s stunning, it’s beautiful, that they’ve retrofitted, and it’s almost like… And what we would do is we were really exploring, and they’re continuing to explore once they can resume the retreats, is like, what does it look like to set up a group ceremony setting, so that this can become a scalable modality because…
40:51 MM: Exactly.
40:52 PA: With the way that MAPS is doing it, it’s like two people for every one person, and you have millions of people that need healing.
41:00 MM: And it’s weeks, and it’s thousands of dollars, so there’s no way that’s gonna be sustainable from the masses, and we’re gonna have a lot of people who are gonna need this after COVID.
41:11 PA: Exactly, right, and so I think a couple of things that you’re bringing up here is one, the new church, the new narrative, these stories that are interweaved, and it’s both individual freedom, like gnosticism, the freedom to connect with the divine as a self, as an individual self, and then also the freedom to connect with a community who shares common values with you in a space. And I think that’s where my thoughts have been going with a lot of this, is the key to health going forward is holding paradox, intention where we both have to emphasize the individual and agency and personal responsibility, and at the same time emphasize collective healing, social connection. New systems that support this health and well-being, and I feel like it has to be health, health has to be both and, it has to be both iatrogenic care, which is going in and addressing things, and it has to support the full human to really flourish.
42:14 MM: Right. And the spiritual component of medicine has been so largely lost. We did not get trained in end-of-life care, aside from how to take care of a family while you’re giving them bad news. So when I was in medical school, I worked with an organization that was called No One Dies Alone. And it was all about spending time on vigils with people who were dying, and it really taught me so much about the preciousness of human life. But we need this… Everything you said is so true, we need to transform churches into these sort of non-denominational places where people can just go and gather and feel a sense of connection to something beyond oneself and connection with our communities again when this COVID quarantine is over. Because we’re all craving human connection so deeply, and we’re being so divided into tribal, different tribal organizations in a way that it’s really kind of sad.
43:13 MM: Because people are kind of just like, “Well, I’m on this side, or I’m on that side.” And I’m like, “I’m on no sides, I’m post partisan. Take me out of that political system.” And I’m also not against the mainstream medical system, and I’m not against the alternative medical system, I’m like, both sides have value. But both need to start collaborating more, and I think this idea of these synthesis-type churches where people can go and come together could be an amazing sort of place to coalescing these ideas that everyone supports. Because once these psychedelics get approved, now the question is, how are they gonna be administered? And one of the problems right now in the Ketamine-assisted therapy movement, is that there’s a lot of pain management doctors that have just turned their practices into Ketamine mills.
44:00 MM: So you go to these clinics, you get shot up in your Ketamine, there’s no integration. You go home, you come back. And yes, of course, the stuff does work on a molecular level without the integration. But I do feel like you’re gonna have a much more profound life-altering and bigger life changes that stick if you’re not just numbing yourself to your reality. And so I think the idea of having support embedded into medicine in the way it used to be, not just for billing and coding disease and having your care managed, but actually caring about people healing. That’s what we need.
44:35 PA: So outside of psychedelics and some of these lifestyle habits and changes like from a medicinal perspective, what else are you excited about? What other innovations are sort of coming that are really interesting in terms of how they support the individual?
44:50 MM: Nutrition to me never gets old. I love food so much, so nutrition never gets old in my book. And what I love about the food tech space is that there’s so much innovation happening in food. And there’s a lot of movement towards plant-based nutrition, which I think is really important because most people don’t eat enough vegetables. But I’m an omnivore, and I’m more of a Paleo-type eater, so the fact that I have unbelievable access to the highest quality meats digitally. This whole online world of food delivery is really exciting, and I think it’s gonna be blowing up right now because everyone’s at home. So to me, I think we’re moving past the Paleo camp versus the Vegan camp versus the Keto camp versus the Mediterranean camp, we’re starting to move towards a deeply personal nutrition landscape. And the more nutrition gets personalized, I think the more people will actually treat it as medicine.
45:46 MM: And so, I’m… I measure all sorts of different things in my practice for people’s health, including micronutrients and minerals and amino acids and carbohydrate metabolism, fat metabolism and hormone metabolism and different organ functions. So I’m really interested in like the fundamentals of how do you build more… A more like robust structure. ‘Cause your body is a structure at the end of the day, it’s like a house. So the two things that I’m really particularly interested in besides psychedelic medicine, is how do you basically consume the right materials to make this body last as long as possible without disease? And then, how do you increase the energy systems of the body through mitochondrial… Through an understanding of mitochondrial biology? So a lot of what I’m writing a book about right now is this concept of, what is health? And to me, health is all about capacity, and capacity comes from capacitance. And so, capacitance is a physics term for the ability to carry charge between two plates, but in your cells, it’s your cellular membranes.
46:52 MM: So we eat food, the food gets into our cells, it’s turned into substrates, substrates enter the mitochondria, and then they start moving the… Basically, they start moving that electron transport chain. And what it does is, it creates electrochemical gradient which generates a battery, and so you create energy from food, right? We all have learned this, that the mitochondria are the powerhouse in the cells, but we also deploy that charge and the charge gets deployed depending on where our cells need it to go. So we always thought that the nucleus was in charge, but really it’s about where is the energy being directed at one point, so the mitochondria are in my opinion, first it was like genetics and everyone was so interested in genetics, and then it was the microbiome, and everyone’s like, “Oh, my God! The microbiome,” and now it’s all about energy and all about mitochondria.
47:35 MM: So mitochondria help you generate energy, and then they also help you determine how do you maintain the integrity of your body. And so the food you eat and the energy you produce determines how healthy you are and how much you can be resilient to getting hit with a challenge. And that’s really everything that I’m trying to preach in my practice, so it’s all about fasting, hot and cold thermogenesis, like sauna and cold plunge.
47:58 MM: It’s about grounding your energy in nature, getting sunlight. It’s about feeding yourself the right foods in the right amounts. It’s about connecting with your family and your friends, sleeping well, stressing… Understanding stress is not good or bad, it just is part of life. And you wanna be able to be resilient to it, so you have to develop strategies for that. And then, understanding metabolism and what are the different micronutrients that you need to keep that running effectively, so your body doesn’t break down. So that’s what I’m really obsessed with right now, and I’m also… So this book is gonna hopefully come out in 2021 or 2022, we’ll see, and there’ll be a cookbook along with it, and then I’m also working on a supplement company right now, because there’s actually a lot of supplements that have a similar mechanism of action to hydrochloroquine.
48:41 MM: These are undergoing clinical trials all over the world right now, but I think it’s a little bit irresponsible to wait till you’re really sick before you start taking supplements. So I decided to help the movement by creating these custom supplement packs that are just like, “This is what you need to take right now because the world’s uncertain, and I wanna help you adapt and self-manage.” So I’m working on that, and I’ve got my practice going, and I’m staying really busy.
49:05 PA: One last question before…
49:07 MM: Sure.
49:07 PA: Before we totally wrap up, just sort of like a round-up of resources and supplements that people should be mindful of. You talked a lot about mitochondrial. I also like mitochondrial plasticity, right? And there’s been clinical research that shows that fasting leads to mitochondrial plasticity as well as… Like I love Dr. Rhonda Patrick. She has a lot of really, really good stuff about this. So yeah, just a brief round-up of websites and resources, supplements that people should check out after this, and that way they can kinda go off with some cool stuff.
49:37 MM: Well, you can put in your show notes, I’ve created a spreadsheet on Google Documents of a formula that I’m working on, and it’s available right now, you don’t have to wait for my line to come out. The reason why I created the supplement line is because I was opening like 15 bottles of supplements a day and I was like, “I really wish I could just take a pack of this.” So I was like, “Oh, yeah, I have a friend’s company who make supplement packs.” So those are coming soon and I’ll put them on the spreadsheet. But for now, I love Resveratrol, I love a variety of NAD supplements, but I’m not taking any of them right now because to me, I don’t really feel like I need them right now. I have plenty of energy.
50:12 MM: Quercetin is probably the most important supplement right now for COVID, along with zinc. So if I had to choose two supplements to have on stock right now it would be Quercetin and zinc. Vitamin D, really important, make sure to get some sunlight every day, if you don’t get sunlight, you gotta supplement. And then I’m obsessed with medicinal mushrooms. So, for everything, I put… I have probably two servings of medicinal mushrooms a day. Malama mushrooms is my favorite company and they’re in the spreadsheet. I also really believe in green tea right now, there’s a lot of research on green tea for helping combat viral infections. Now, again, there actually is no way that anyone can guarantee that any supplement or medicine right now, frankly, can treat, prevent, cure, mitigate COVID-19. So I am not at all saying that, but I am saying that I am taking a bunch of supplements right now. I have done a lot of research. I have all of the papers that are cited in the spreadsheet, if you wanted to do your own research, and I’ve had people make corrections to my own research too. So I’m putting this all out in the public because I think it’s really important that we’re all talking.
51:16 MM: So I also… So in terms of green tea, I’m a bigger fan of matcha versus regular green tea because it’s a far more potent source of EECG, which is the active ingredient. And so, it’s… The best company for matcha is Breakaway Matcha. It’s expensive, but it’s definitely like… You will never be able to go back to normal matcha after you have this stuff, it’s the best. I also recommend having a greens powder, a reds powder and a protein powder in stock at your house, because we’ve had some power outages, so it’s important that you have access to phytonutrients, if you don’t have access to a refrigerator, for example. So definitely have shelf-stable healthy foods to eat, stock up on the nuts, the seeds, the coconut-based products, if your body can metabolize saturated fat well.
52:04 MM: And try not to be perfect right now, just really take care of your mental health the most. Striving for perfection during a pandemic is insane. So really just be really good to yourself. I would love to plug this company called The Finders Course, it’s a meditation course that I’m currently taking. It’s not a joke, it’s a serious medication course, it’s got homework, it’s very expensive, but they actually have clinical studies that it contributes to fundamental health, developing fundamental well-being. And since starting it one week ago, I can definitely admit that my brain is changing. I’m feeling far more grounded and far more happy since I started this course, and those were from my colleagues at Stanford, and they’re phenomenal people. Jeffrey Martin is from my hometown, and he helped create it as well as Nicole Bradford. So they’re just legendary. And then other sources, feel free to go to my Instagram at drmolly.co, D-R-M-O-L-L-Y.C-O, or my website, it’s the same thing, drmolly.co. I’ve got a bunch of content on my present media page, I’ve made some blog posts, and I’m regularly doing Instagram and Instagram Live. So you could find me there, and soon you’ll see a YouTube channel.
53:17 PA: Cool, great, well, Molly, I just wanna express my appreciation for all the insight, knowledge, wisdom that you shared. We met, I think we first spoke two years ago maybe, and then you came to an event that we did last year, and I’m really just happy to like drop in for a little bit and hear more about everything that’s going on, so thank you so much for joining us.
53:36 MM: Totally. Yeah, it’s been so great chatting with you. I’m so grateful to be on this podcast. You’re doing incredible work.
53:42 PA: Thank you.