Episode 9 of my collaborative project with Rory Linehan of The Paleo PI and Petra Chambers-Sinclair of BiohackU – two of my favourite peeps in this corner of the health caper world – is up and running!
The three of us all hail from different corners of the globe, and have very different life experiences, but we share both a friendship and passion for seeking health through an holistic approach. The intention behind our podcast is to seek out and interview others who share the same goal – and hopefully impart what we learn and have a little fun along the way. We hope you’ll join us!
After years of research and self-experimentation, Vivek Mandan, who has had autoimmune thyroid issues since he was eight, finally gave up trying fix himself. That’s when the healing happened.
In this episode, Vivek explains his process, his perspective on the body as an adaptive control system and the unexpected direction his life has taken.
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0.00 Introduction to the Healing Protocols: the Global Edition
1.30 Petra: Welcome to Episode 1: Interview with Vivek Mandan
2.00 Rory: Tell us about your history. What healing protocols have you tried, how did they work and when did you start using nutrition lifestyle and mindset to heal?
- 28: My problems started at age eight. A lot of stress at school and at home. Delayed onset of puberty. My thyroid was very swollen. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism at age 12. Started medication after that. I started growing, but still had all my other symptoms. It was just my life: I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to feel that way. The illness really hit me in college. I couldn’t remember not feeling exhausted. This is a kind of fatigue that is painful. I didn’t know about Hashimoto’s at the time.
- 11: In college I started investigating alternative strategies. Started experimenting with a vegan diet and green smoothies. Mindset is critical: your brain is your chemistry set. Lost a lot of weight. Discovered paleo and the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP). I read Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: Root Cause by Dr Isabella Wentz and started doing more research. I found a lot of conflicting information. Had a few big successes and a few big failures. I started when I was 20 and now I’m 25.
9.26 Jo: Using yourself as an experiment…
- 31: I am an experiment: n=1.
9.47 Rory: You started on the AIP and you are in different territory now. Can you tell us about where you are now?
- 39: When I first found the AIP I was really excited: I thought it was the answer. I felt better for a while. A lot of it was mindset, because I was doing something about my health. Another big aspect was the support of the AIP community. I did the AIP for a year and continued to research. I continued to experiment with other things. Playing around with macros. Fasting. Reading medical journals nonstop: focusing on the gut microbiome. I started megadosing on probiotics and prebiotics and experienced a remission of symptoms, as well as mental health and energy improvements.
- 00 I formed a new view: that it was possible to be healthy. Previously I had this picture of my body being broken. It was my first taste of feeling good: as far as I could remember I had been unwell. My social interactions changed. When you’re unwell, your ability to interact is impaired. People are more attracted to you when you are well.
17.50 Jo: You’re more engaged when you feel good. Having an invisible disease is very isolating.
- 13: A hypothesis: I think organisms have the ability to detect unhealthy organisms. There an unconscious attraction to healthy organisms.
19.06 Jo: Do you have a hypothesis about why your health issues occurred? Was it genetics, lifestyle, diet, environment or a combination of these factors?
- 56: 100% stress. People have ideas about what stress is. I developed a model. Being an engineer, I have a fascination for control systems. The human body is a control system. I started focusing less on what is coming into the system (inputs), but how inputs are dealt with in the system. How does an organism interact with its environment? The body is continually working toward homeostasis through communication between the brain and body based on inputs. It’s an adaptive control system. At any given point of time, ask: are my goals in line with the goals of my body as an adaptive control system? There’s always trade-offs in systems. When I talk about stress it’s from an engineering perspective: it’s anything that causes the system to function sub-optimally. It could be absence or presence of inputs. Stress meant that my system was not able to get everything it wanted and needed when I was growing up.
28.07 Jo: What was your system not getting when you were growing up?
- 30: Some of these stressors can be passed down through the generations. Biggest factor: the system not being able to do what it needs to do. For example, I was tired but I had to get up for school. I went to school but my body didn’t want to sit still. I was scared of other kids. I was scared of my teachers. Being separate from my parents. I played a lot of tennis without eating sufficient calories. Maybe there was a tipping factor: an infection, some trauma I don’t remember. I used to view chronic illness as the body not working correctly, but now I think it may be about adaptive processes that don’t support our goals of working and going to school, but do support physiological function.
31.04 Petra: You have learned a lot about yourself as an emotional person and a spiritual person through this process. Can you tell us more about that?
- 11: A lot of things are happening to me that I don’t fully understand. I consider myself to be very well right now. The shift came about six months ago. I was very frustrated and scared. I hit this point very hard. I had been trying so many things. I was too tired to keep investigating. I felt anguish and I didn’t want to live any more. I was totally done with trying to get better. I just completely gave up. Something just changed. It was almost instantaneous. In that act of letting go, I felt like a block had disappeared. I had always been feeling incomplete until that point, but suddenly I was still tired, but I felt complete. I started to experience muscular tremors and other relaxation regulatory mechanisms. Like my body was just engaging in a backlog of maintenance tasks. All of my symptoms disappeared within a matter of days. I’d had a remission experience before. I now understand that pain and fatigue are signals that are trying to regulate your actions.
38.26 Rory: Those symptoms are signals. As an engineer, to have a mind-body spiritual connection might be challenging.
- 38: From that state it wasn’t. I had a big mental shift that has stuck for months now. I used to be very into meditation. I approached it from a neuroscience point of view. I view it as the configurations of the brain. I’ve been living in the present moment permanently for months now. There’s no trying to be mindful. I just am.
40.52 Rory: Tell us about Autoimmune Citizen Science.
- 46: The biggest thing I noticed when I was going through my own healing process, is that it got pretty confusing. Symptoms, biomarkers, this diet, this supplement. What impact are these things having on each other? First, Autoimmune Citizen Science provides a tool to track symptoms and biomarkers. The second thing I noticed is that there is a lot of wasted data. So many people are doing this work. We have information from millions of individuals who are running these personal experiments. So a big part of Autoimmune Citizen Science is data aggregation. Let put our data together.
44.06 Jo: Anybody can sign up?
- 46: Yes. We are offering the platform for free. The challenge we are facing right now, because we aren’t making any money off it, is development time. We have an early-access program that is available through a crowd funding campaign. Soon it will be available to everyone. Everyone should sign up at joinaics.com.
45.10 Jo: Committing to any healing protocol takes work. What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?
- 48: First: you might have to re-orient your goals, like I did, to make your health your #1 priority. I had to quit a good job to move back into with my parents, which was hard to do. Your health has to be the most important thing our life if you want to get better. Second: make sure that the process of getting better doesn’t make you worse. That the additional stress of trying to get better or viewing yourself as a chronically ill person doesn’t make your situation worse. Become friends with your body. Trust that you are working together.
48.25 Petra: Who has been the most influential person for you as you have pursued your healing?
- 37: My friend Andrew. He completely changed my perspective. I had this engineering model and then he came at it from a neuroscience and muscular perspective. He was there for me and we developed our model together. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be here without him.
49.33 Where to find Vivek online