Published April 2023 on YouTube

Dr. Elissa Epel: Control Stress for Healthy Eating, Metabolism & Aging | Huberman Lab Podcast

1. Dr. Elissa Epel

Andrew speaks with Elissa about the effects of stress on our biology and psychology, including how stress impacts our telomeres and how we age. They discuss stress interventions like meditation and breath, and how they can reduce the negative effects of stress on aging and negative behavioral choices.+

2. Personalized Nootropics & Sleep

Personalized Nootropics:Andrew discusses the benefits of personalized nootropics and how they can improve mental performance in different areas such as focus, creativity, and energy. He also shares his personal experience with using Thesis nootropics for cognitive work and physical exercise.+
Optimize Sleep:Andrew explains how controlling the temperature of your sleeping environment, including your mattress, can help optimize your sleep. He shares his personal experience with using Eight Sleep mattress covers to regulate his body temperature throughout the night, resulting in deeper sleep and more rapid eye movement.+

3. Stress; Effects on Body & Mind

Understanding Stress:Dr. Epel breaks down the different forms of stress and emphasizes the importance of our stress response. It's not about eliminating stress from our lives, but rather learning how to cope with it.+
Managing Stress:Elissa Epel discusses the prevalence of stress in society and the importance of being aware of how our mind works. She suggests three ways to manage overthinking and ruminating on stressful topics: rationalizing and understanding the basis of the stress, diverting our thinking away, and being aware of where in our body we hold stress. Andrew Huberman also shares his personal tools for combating stress.+

4. Tools: Overthinking & Stress

Elissa Epel shares three buckets of coping strategies for dealing with overthinking and stress triggers: top-down strategies of awareness, body-based strategies for working stress out of the body, and changing the scene to a calming environment. Andrew Huberman suggests creating a small physical space with positive cues like photographs to alleviate stress and enhance mood.+

5. Understanding Stress

Understanding Stress:Elissa explains the different forms of stress and how it affects the body. She emphasizes the importance of recognizing stress levels in the nervous system and how stress can be detrimental to our health if we don't learn to turn it off. She also discusses the benefits of meditation and breathwork in reducing stress.+
Breathing and Stress:Andrew and Elissa discuss the unique role of breathing in bridging the conscious and unconscious mind. They also delve into the different types of stress and how daily restoration and radical acceptance strategies can help cope with chronic stress.+

6. Optimal Aging

Optimal Aging:Elissa explains how optimal aging is achieved through some stress rather than no stress. A study showed that elderly people who retired and tutored young at-risk students had growth of their hippocampus, leading to better well-being and cognitive function.+
Memory Formation:Andrew and Elissa discuss the plasticity of the hippocampus and how it is amenable to the addition of new memories. They talk about studies that show the addition of new neurons is not the main reason for improvements in memory, but it is one of them. They also discuss how stressors and cognitive health are related to the lack of neuro progenitor cells being stimulated.+
Psychological Stress Response:Elissa and Andrew discuss the different types of psychological stress response and how the challenge response can promote stress resilience. By viewing stressors as a challenge rather than a threat, individuals can activate a healthier hemodynamic response and maintain a positive outlook, leading to less inflammation and slower aging.+

7. Sponsor: AG-1 (Athletic Greens)

Andrew shares his personal experience with Athletic Greens and highlights the importance of probiotics for gut health. He also mentions the adaptogens, vitamins, and minerals in the drink that meet all of his foundational nutritional needs. Listeners can try Athletic Greens and receive five free travel packs and a year's supply of vitamin D, three K two by visiting Huberman.+

8. Shifting Stress Response

Shifting Stress Response:Elissa explains that we can control our mindset going into a stressful situation and use specific mental scripts to shift from a threatened response to a challenge response. We can use statements like self-compassion, distancing, and self-comforting to recover more quickly. Andrew highlights the positive effects of a challenge response on the brain and body.+
Coping with Stress:Elissa shares strategies for coping with stress, including finding stress shields that fit you, reminding yourself of past successes, and reframing stress as empowering. Wendy Mendez's research shows that viewing stress as positive during stressful situations leads to better performance, positive emotions, and quicker recovery.+

9. Stress and Eating

Stress and Eating:Andrew and Elissa discuss the relationship between stress and eating, and how the body's opioid system can be activated by food to reduce pain and induce sedation. They also touch on the opioid epidemic and the healthy levels of opioid release in the body.+
Stress and Overeating:Elissa discusses how stress can lead to overeating, particularly of comfort foods high in fat, sugar, and salt. She explains that stress drives cravings and can lead to an insulin resistant state, making it difficult to control weight.+
Stress and Obesity:Elissa and Andrew discuss the causal relationship between stress and obesity, and how a dysregulated stress response can lead to compulsive eating and metabolic disease. They also touch on the heterogeneity of obesity and the importance of targeting people with cravings in intervention studies.+
Obesity Drugs & Sugar:Andrew and Elissa discuss the effectiveness of drugs like naltrexone and semiglutide analogues in treating obesity, but ultimately conclude that improved nutrition is the only long-term solution. They also touch on the role of processed foods and refined sugar in the obesity epidemic, with Dr. Robert Lustig's work being highlighted.+

10. Breaking Compulsive Eating

Breaking Compulsive Eating:Elissa and Andrew discuss how mindful eating and positive stress pathways can help break the cycle of compulsive eating. Mindful eating helps with calm self-regulation and interceptive awareness, while high-intensity interval training can help with cravings. They also discuss non-prescription approaches to binge eating, including behavior and thought interventions.+
Overcoming Cravings:Elissa shares strategies for managing cravings, including mindful awareness of emotions and hunger, surfing the urge, and creating safe environments. She discusses how removing sugary drinks from hospitals improved the health of heavy drinkers and how motivational interviewing can help those with compulsive eating.+

11. Soda & Sugary Drinks

Soda Alternatives:Andrew and Elissa discuss the harmful effects of soda on our health and suggest alternatives such as black coffee, ketones, and Yerba Mate tea. They also touch upon the negative impact of liquid sugar on our bodily regulation of insulin and glucose.+
Sugary Drinks' Effects:Andrew and Elissa discuss the addictive nature of sugary drinks and how they affect the brain similarly to cocaine. They also touch on the social norms surrounding junk food and the need for a shift in perspective towards healthier options.+

12. Rebel Against Unhealthy Habits

Activating Rebellion:Andrew and Elissa discuss the effectiveness of activating a sense of rebellion in young people to combat smoking and unhealthy eating habits. They explore how highlighting the manipulative tactics of big food and pharma can help people take control of their health and avoid falling victim to monetary schemes.+
Mindful Eating:Elissa and Andrew discuss how mindfulness can help change eating habits. They talk about how paying attention to what we eat can make us realize that junk food is not as rewarding as we think, and how savoring small amounts of good chocolate can be more satisfying than binging on junk food. They also talk about how a sense of rebellion, directed towards health, can be a positive thing.+

13. Sponsor: InsideTracker

Andrew thanks one of the podcast sponsors, Inside Tracker, a personalized nutrition platform that analyzes data from your blood and DNA to help you better understand your body and reach your health goals. He highlights the importance of getting regular blood work done to monitor markers that impact immediate and long term health, and how Inside Tracker's personalized dashboard can help address nutrition, behavior, and supplement-based approaches to move values into optimal ranges.+

14. Mindful Pregnancy

Mindful Eating:Elissa shares findings from her study on mindful eating during pregnancy. While the study couldn't stop excess weight gain, stress reduction training improved insulin sensitivity in pregnant women, which is beneficial for both the mother and the baby. Mindful eating strategies can help regulate eating habits and manage stress.+
Mindfulness During Pregnancy:Elissa shares the results of a long-term study on the effects of a mindfulness intervention during pregnancy. The intervention consisted of a weekly class, daily check-ins, breathing exercises, and movement. The study found that the mothers who participated had improved mental health even eight years later, and their babies had less obesity and illnesses in their first year of life.+

15. Body Scan & Cravings

Andrew and Elissa discuss the relationship between interoception and cravings, and how body scans can reduce cravings by shifting focus towards interoception. They speculate whether craving is a heightened sense of extra reception and whether body scans could be used as a behavioral intervention to break the interceptive extra receptive tether.+

16. Long-Term Stress Interventions

Long-Term Stress Interventions:Elissa discusses the limited amount of long-term studies on stress interventions, with meditation being the best example. Cross-sectional studies have shown slower biological aging, dampened inflammatory pathways, and boosts in telomerase activity, which suggests that continued meditation could slow the rate of aging.+
Meditation Benefits:Elissa shares insights from a study where people who learned meditation had lower depression levels ten months later. The study found a significant difference in gene expression pathways between day one and day seven. The group that learned meditation benefited the most from the practice, especially those with early adversity.+

17. Meditation and Psychedelics

Andrew and Elissa discuss the benefits of both meditation and psychedelics in reshaping the mind and inducing neuroplasticity. They also touch on the importance of integration after psychedelic experiences and the long-term effects of daily meditation practices.+

18. Mitochondrial Health

Elissa discusses a study on mitochondrial health in young mothers who are caregivers for children with autism or neurotypical children. The study found that those under chronic stress had lower mitochondrial activity, leading to exhaustion. However, those with higher mitochondrial activity had more positive emotions, especially in the evening, which is important for long-term health trajectories. The study suggests that our mitochondria are sensitive to our thoughts and feelings on a daily basis.+

19. Radical Acceptance

Radical Acceptance:Andrew and Elissa discuss the concept of radical acceptance and how it can be applied to chronic stress. They explore the different forms of acceptance and how it can help individuals thrive in difficult situations.+
Radical Acceptance:Elissa emphasizes the importance of radical acceptance in coping with unwanted situations that cannot be changed. By recognizing that some situations are beyond our control, we can free up mental space and live better with them. This is a practice that requires repetition to help us loosen our grip on unwanted situations and take control of our well-being.+
Letting Go:Elissa shares insights on the negative effects of chronic tension and mind-wandering on caregivers' well-being. She suggests the metaphor of dropping the rope to let go of unsolvable problems and focus on what can be controlled. Being present and loving is a gift that can be given even from a distance.+

20. Tool: Control, Uncertainty

Time Distortion:Andrew and Elissa discuss how the limbic system's fight or flight response has no sense of time, leading to the distortion of our perception of time. This can result in the repetition compulsion, where people repeat traumatic experiences in an attempt to rewrite their story.+
Coping with Uncertainty:Elissa and Andrew discuss the human desire for control and how it relates to our ability to cope with uncertainty. They explore the idea of dropping the rope and diverting resources towards more productive endeavors. Andrew admits that he struggles with uncertainty and rates his discomfort at a six out of ten.+
Building Resilience:Elissa discusses the importance of being comfortable with uncertainty and how it can lead to less anxiety and depression. She shares practices to help build resilience, such as reframing uncertainty as the beauty of life and adopting a receptive posture.+

21. Stress Management Insights

Andrew and Elissa discuss the importance of mindset in stress management and the benefits of both forward center of mass and stress mitigation techniques. They emphasize that stress management is work and requires deliberate effort. They also touch on the idea of navigating life's waves and the importance of discernment in mitigating stress.+

22. Narrative, Purpose & Stress

Elissa Epel explains the importance of creating a coherent narrative to make sense of stressful experiences and find meaning. Our ability to project to the future and ask what our purpose in life is what makes us different from animals.+

23. Positive Stress

Positive Stress:Elissa Epel discusses her interest in studying positive physiological stress and how body-based strategies like breathwork can promote stress resilience. She shares her experience meeting Wim Hof and her study on his breathwork method as a way to induce positive stress.+
Breathing and Stress:Elissa and Andrew discuss the effects of different breathing techniques on stress, anxiety, and depression. Elissa shares insights from a study comparing low arousal relaxation methods to positive stress exercise and the Wim Hof method, revealing that short-term bursts of either aerobic activity or extreme breathing can dramatically reduce stress levels and increase positive emotions.+
Stress Resilience:Elissa and Andrew discuss the impact of stress on the body and how stress resilience interventions can change gene expression patterns, mitochondrial enzymes, and the nervous system. They emphasize the importance of understanding the whole range of the nervous system to promote healthy and resilient states.+

24. Stress & Aging

Andrew and Elissa discuss the impact of stress on aging and metabolic health. Elissa shares insights on how stress affects telomeres and provides tips on managing stress for better health.+