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074: How to Make Your Brain Work For You with Kayla Osterhoff

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How much of your brain are you actually in charge of? Here to tell answer that question and explain how to make your brain work for you is none other than Kayla Osterhoff.

Kayla is an accomplished athlete, entrepreneur as well as a health scientist and health optimization practitioner. She is currently pursuing her doctoral degree in neuropsychophysiology and biochemistry.

On today’s Awesome Health, we dive into all things mind, brain, body and health. But we start with Kayla’s back story. She tells us she has been obsessed with the brain and the mind and the body, and their relationship for most of her life.

In college, she earned her bachelor’s degree in exercise science and health ecology. Next she got her master’s in public health and then worked for several years at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in both cardiovascular disease and global programs for global health.
But her primary passion through it all is the behavioral science piece, and how the brain and the mind are two constructs that create our reality. We explore that very topic plus how unconscious programming runs our thoughts and how to shift that programming.

The first step is to become aware of what we are doing, say for example we want to stop getting so angry at other drivers (i.e. road rage). The first thing we must do is become aware of when we are angry at other drivers, and how that feels in our body when we are engaged in road rage.
From there we can start unraveling this programming. The short, biohacking option is to repeat something over and over again until it becomes the new program.

Staying with our road rage example, our new program can be to get into our car and take a few deep breathes while we tell ourselves we will remain calm while driving. We can also turn on soothing music while we drive. With repetition and time this new calm driving program will take over and replace our old road rage program. There are other options for reprogramming our brains, and Kayla and I talk more about those.

Also on this episode we get into even more of the science behind behaviors like our neural pathways, how we can spark more neural plasticity (and what that term means) and the important role B12 plays in brain health. There is SO much info in this show you’ll want to absorb, be sure to tune in and catch it all on today’s Awesome Health Podcast.

Episode Resources:

Read The Episode Transcript:

Wade Lightheart: Good morning, good afternoon and good evening. It's Wade T Lightheart from BiOptimizers with another Awesome Health podcasts and some excellent info for you to dive into today. We are going to be talking about the difference between your mind and your body, and your brain. In fact, your mind and your brain are not the same, but they are connected to your body. So we're going to learn all about that in this episode. I'm really excited to dive into this. And our very special guest today is Kayla Osterhoff, and she is a health scientist, a professional athlete, entrepreneur, health optimization practitioner, and a global leader in integrative mind, body medicine. Now what's interesting is she's formerly trained across a spectrum of health sciences, got a bachelor of science and ecology, a master of science in public health, and is currently pursuing her doctoral degree in neuropsycho physiology and biochemistry.

Wade Lightheart: Say that three times. I would probably fail the test, let alone do a PhD. That's why we bring in the experts here at the podcast. So what's really interesting is Kayla has got a great story. We're going to dive into it. She witnessed the true cost of a devastation of mental illness and addiction. This was a catalyst for her career. We're going to dive into that a little bit, and she wanted to understand why the human body, why some people suffer from illness disease, and why other people don't. I've always wondered about this too. In fact, it was part of my own journey as people know. When my sister got healed, I was at 15. I was curious of why was she sick and why was I not? And what she discovered was that illness and disease are not inevitable and in fact can be prevented and cured through lifestyle. So she's worked in physical therapy and understanding exercise science and movement modalities, and this also was the foundation for athletic accomplishment. So bottom line, I could keep going on and going on, but let's just get Kayla and let her start telling us all the good stuff. Kayla, welcome to the show.

Kayla Osterhoff: Thank you so much for having me. I am so excited to talk to you today, and I know that you are a neuroscience nerd, just as much as me, so it should be a fun conversation.
Wade Lightheart: So, I think we're going to get into, particularly, the separation between the brain and the mind, and the body, and then how to unify them so how they compartmentalize in breakout. But before we get into that, I think I'd like to get a little bit of your backstory and the inspiration that happened for you and how you got started in this whole thing.
Kayla Osterhoff: Yeah. So I'll try to keep it brief, but I think it all started with my mom, honestly telling me from the time I can remember that I'm going to be a brain surgeon and obviously I'm not a brain surgeon, but I am obsessed with the brain and the mind, and the body, and health, and all of this stuff and I really think that kind of laid the foundation, right? And then from there I studied the health sciences through college. Like you said, my bachelor's was in exercise science and health ecology. And then I got my master's in public health and I actually worked for several years at the centers for disease control and prevention in both cardiovascular disease,global programs for global health and then also on a lot of these emergency responses. 

Kayla Osterhoff: So kind of a very fun background, but my passion is both the behavioral science aspect, which is, you know, where we learn a lot in public health, right? It's the basis for public health systems. But also the brain and the mind, which is actually two constructs that determine what are our experiences right? Or AKA what our reality is. Everybody's reality is different. And this goes back to what you were saying before, where disease manifests for some people and for some people health manifests, right? And this comes back to the mind and the body and how they interact. And so now in my doctoral studies, I am diving fully into that and looking at how the brain physiology and the mind and how the two interact together to form what we call reality. So it's pretty interactive and fun. And I love talking about it.

Wade Lightheart: You know it's beautiful that you bring that up, because, I think, in today's world, we are seeing people who are living literally side by side, but are living in a completely different reality, almost a polar existence. And we're seeing a lot of chaos as those two concepts of the world are self views, worldviews, life view, the processes and stuff that are undergoing. And we see these conflicts, because each person is trying to put their reality onto someone else and they're saying: get a reality check, or what's wrong with you, or how are you checked out? I think it's really important to understand maybe some of the physiological components and maybe the aspects of consciousness as we have this brain that supposedly is where consciousness comes from, but there's some evidence that that's not actually true. So can you kind of guide, what have you learned about all this stuff?

Kayla Osterhoff: Oh my gosh, it's so exciting. And just as a caveat, even into the scientific community neuroscience and really understanding the brain is very new. For instance, just 10 years ago, we thought that we had a finite number of brain cells and once they died, that was it. Right? You lost it, you couldn't do anything about it. Now we know that that's not true and that's only in recent years. The most significant scientific problem of the 21st century, as far as a scientific standpoint is really how does the physical brain produce the mind, right? Consciousness, as you said. So, the way that I like to think about it and describe it to somebody who is not a neuroscientist or biologist, is that you can think of the physical brain as the software of our human operating system, right? Sorry, the physical brain is the hardware of the human operating system.

Kayla Osterhoff: So it's a physical construct. This is neurochemical and electrical current systems, right? And then you can think of the mind as the software programming, it's the invisible side of our human operating system. And the two work together. So the mind it comprises consciousness, which is both the subconscious mind and the conscious mind and what we like to call the ego, which is our identification, right? And that is a learned. Something that's learned from society, from our parents, from our upbringing and constructs. And that really determines the way that we perceive reality. So the two interact to kind of create what we experience as reality. But I do want to mention there is a third aspect. Science hasn't completely figured out how to measure, though science nods to the existence of this third entity, which is you could call the soul or the spirit.

Kayla Osterhoff: You could call it collective consciousness. And I just mentioned this piece because it's an important piece that interacts with both the mind and the brain. And the way that I like to describe this one is through a quote from Eckhart Tolle. And so your listeners would probably be familiar with him. He's kind of a spiritual leader, right? He said that when he had his spiritual awakening, he was lying in bed and he was contemplating suicide and he just couldn't live with himself anymore. And he said in his mind: I cannot live with myself. And then it dawned on him, wait, who is I? And who is myself? Are these two different things? So I guess you could kind of describe it as the I is the soul or the spirit. And then the myself is kind of the subconscious mind.

Wade Lightheart: Super cool. I got to interject here and acknowledge that piece. So one of my favorite researchers and experts in this whole thing was a fellow by the name of dr. David Hawkins. And he wrote a great series of books and "Power versus Force" and the "The Eye E-Y-E of the I", and then eventually I, and he goes in depth and here's a guy that was in part of, I don't know, literally hundreds of psychiatric practices, founded orthomolecular nutrition, built the map of consciousness and was illustrating that when he was a person going to where they were researching consciousness, that Noetic sciences, most of it was wrought in physiology. And he says, you can't find this thing, the mind, his vision, he likened it to an etheric brain or spirit or whatever. And they were developed can coordinate with certain states of being. What is your research indicated in this area? Cause' I think this is really, really fascinating. And I'm going to give people a little exercise in a second on the next piece that they can actually see this for themselves.

Kayla Osterhoff: Yeah. I love that. So my focus on between these three things, I definitely look at, you know, the brain and the physical construct and I talk about optimizing that system. But my bread and butter and the thing that lights me up and keeps me up at night, thinking about it is the subconscious mind. So the subconscious mind again, is this component that is invisible of our operating system. However, the part about it, that is so fascinating, especially being a behavioral scientist, is that 97% of our behaviors come from the subconscious mind. And only about 3% of our behaviors come from the conscious mind. So the conscious mind is one where we are actually thinking in that moment, making decisions, right? That's only happening in 3% of the day. The rest of the time is coming from the subconscious mind. And the crazy thing about this….

Kayla Osterhoff: The crazy thing about this is that the subconscious mind is programmed. So this is like a set of programs that we live our life by that kind of are running in the background. And the crazy thing about that is that this is developed within us, between the ages of zero and seven ish. Some say it goes up to about 12, but between the ages of zero. So when you're still in the womb to the age of seven, you are basically fully programmed and then you're sent out into the world and that is the set of programs that you're working off of, unless you as an adult, take a look at, okay, so these are my programs. And then there are ways in which you can optimize these programs or reset these programs, or install new programs to erase kind of bad programs. Because, unfortunately from the ages of zero to seven, our main focus is to survive, right?

Kayla Osterhoff: So no matter what experiences we have, anything that us feel unsafe. For some people that could have been an argument with their sister or that could be the birth of a younger sibling and they didn't get as much attention, right? And for summit could be way more dramatic. It could be some kind of traumatic event when they were a child, something that made them unsafe or they didn't have their basic needs met. But either way, every time something happens that threatens your life, not necessarily logically, but that's kind of what your body thinks when these things happen, traumas, we could call them, then you program in a little program that helps you to survive that moment. And then later on in life, you know, when you're in your twenties, thirties, fifties, you're still running off of that program though that threat is no longer there. So, that is the reason why we have a lot of these kind of programs that are no longer serving us and these behaviors that we don't like, but we have a hard time changing them because they are programmed in, and it's a little bit difficult to access the subconscious and reprogram it. And we can talk about exactly how to do that a little bit later on, but it is possible to reprogram the subconscious mind. And I love to dive into that aspect as well.

Wade Lightheart: Really great. So two things I got out of that first and foremost is that, just to repeat, our consciousness, we think that we're thinking up our thoughts or rethink we're taking these actions, but they're coming through the subconscious filter. So that's kind of like a lens that everything gets through. And that's often programmed in an aspect of ourselves in our childhood we may not even remember. And that without intervention colors our world, but you're going to say that we can change that. We're going to get to that in a minute. I want to go back to the mind piece one second. The separation of the mind and the brain. So there's the physiological component as the brain and the mind is the mind. Which is the filter if you will, like which is often based on these trauma.

Wade Lightheart: So wait, this is getting really out there. And Eckhart Tolle, by the way friends of mine actually published his book. I know. He lived in Vancouver, so I'm a Vancouver guy. So he was on the bench and all that stuff. So it's really cool. But long story short, there's a really great exercise that everybody can do on this podcast. And then we're gonna get into how do you program your subconscious so that we know that we're not just talking a bunch of woo. And here it is. If you cut off your arm, are you still you? If you cut off your other arm, are you still you? If you cut off your legs, are you still you? Yeah, of course, you're still you. So in other words, you're not your body. And I can observe my thoughts right now.

Wade Lightheart: You're probably thinking something and you can observe those thoughts. So obviously you can't be your thoughts because you can't. So you can't be your body and you can't be your thoughts. Well, you also know your feelings, right? It's like I'm feeling this, I'm feeling that. That means you're not your feelings either. So these are some sort of biological programmed response system based on subconscious programming that probably got implanted at some point. You don't even know how it is and your life is kind of going on autopilot with these minor interventions through life. Would that be accurate?

Kayla Osterhoff: That is accurate. And I love that description. Oftentimes I like to ask people. Well, who are you? And they'll say: Oh, well, you know, I'm Kayla, I'm a health scientist. I'm a wife, I'm a daughter, I'm a whatever. And I'm like, okay, but that doesn't describe who you are. Who are you without all those things? Who are you? Okay, well, you know, I like to do these things and I enjoy these hobbies, and I have a podcast or whatever. Okay. But who are you? Right? And you keep asking that. And then it gets to this part where, I mean, I don't even have the answer to that. And I've been asking myself this question for a while now, I don't have the answer to who am I, who is the one that's underneath all of this programming that we get from society. It comes from outside of us. But who is the one inside that was there all along?

Wade Lightheart: There's a great book by Nisargadatta Maharaj called "I am that". And it opens up where he says: when were you born? And he goes, I wasn't. That's the opening. And I've also heard he had said, one of his practices was: who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? And I remember dr. Hawkinson said, will go even beyond that, try say: what am I, what am I? So you're not your things, your possessions, what you do. There's a deeper aspect. So tell us more about this.

Kayla Osterhoff: Yeah. So when it comes to the subconscious mind, and I would love to talk about optimizing the brain as well, cause' there are a couple of things that we could clarify on that side that are important. So, you know, the physical aspect of our body and our brain is important because it carries out the response from the mind. So for instance, if you get scared or you get sad, or you get angry, you have a physical response to that, right? So the physical part of the body is very, very important and we'll talk about that in a little bit. But when it comes to the subconscious mind, like you said, this is what's underlined, this is a program that is underlying everything, or the set of programs. That's underlying everything we do, feel, our beliefs, emotions, all of it. So like I said, there are a lot of programs installed within every one of us that are no longer serving us.

Kayla Osterhoff: And so the first step to reprogramming these is to first become aware of these programs that are no longer serving us. So for instance, if you have road rage, we'll take that for example. The first step to being able to reprogram this behavior, which comes from a subconscious program, that's deep down somewhere that has manifested in road rage is to determine when you are experiencing road rage, to be aware of it. Oh, okay. I am experiencing road rage. At first, of course, you're not going to be able to change that behavior, but you can become aware of it and also become aware of how you're feeling in your body when that happens. So you'll feel your face get hot. You'll feel your hands start shaking. There is a physical response that can tune you in. Oh, I am experiencing this subconscious program. And then you can start kind of unraveling it.

Kayla Osterhoff: And there's a way to do that. So the long way, and I'm not against this at all. I've been to therapy for many years, myself. So the long way is to unravel that through like talk therapy, right? And the short way… There's a few shortcuts for this. And you know, us as biohackers, we always want to know what the shortcut is because we want to do as much as possible, but the time we have here. So one shortcut is very simple, anybody could do, which is repetition. So repeating something over and over and over, it will eventually become a program. And it will become the dominant program over the old program that you no longer want. So if for instance, road rage is your program, then you could, every time you get into the car, maybe you turn on a calming music station, or maybe you get in the car and you take a few deep breaths and you say, my intention is to stay calm for this drive, or you do something that you're going to enjoy in the car so that you won't get so upset.

Kayla Osterhoff: And eventually over time, that will become your new program. Another way to do it is through hypnosis, which is something that I am specializing in, clinical hypnosis. And this is mostly working in the theta brainwaves, right? And when you're in that state, then you are able to access the subconscious mind more directly. So in your conscious mind you're mostly in, you know, that beta and alpha brainwave. It's very difficult to access your subconscious mind in that state. However, when you're in a state of hypnosis or increased suggestibility is also what it's called, you can access that subconscious mind. And you're more able to, one, recall some of these memories that caused the subconscious program. And number two, you can actually replace those thoughts, beliefs, emotions, these programs with something new. And of course, it's not that simple, but if you work with a really skilled hypnotist, a clinical hypnotist, then you can more easily reprogram these things.

Kayla Osterhoff: It's very successful for behaviors like smoking or behaviors like drinking, or anger, road rage. These kinds of things are not easy, but they have a lot of success in using hypnosis to reprogram these behaviors. And another one that is really interesting, that's just coming to the forefront of science is psychedelics. Which is like a super highway shortcut to the subconscious mind. It gets you into a state of hypnosis and it is a very powerful way to change your perspective. So perspective is another way to describe your subconscious mind and your view of reality, right? So, psychedelics are a really interesting one that are just starting to come to the forefront. And one of the big organizations that run all of the research in that field is Maps. So folks are interested. That's a Maps, I think is just And you can check out some of the research happening. There's some really interesting things there. For instance, one study is showing that the use of psychedelics can cure post traumatic stress disorder, which is a sort of programming of the subconscious mind that that can be reprogrammed and sometimes cured completely within one session of a psychedelic experience. So that's kind of an exciting new field and new way to start to reprogram the subconscious mind.

Wade Lightheart: Yeah, it's amazing that, you know, of course there was an incredible amount of psychedelic research early in the sixties, and then that all got kaboshed after the kind of Tim Leary, Ram Dass splits were kind of going around and getting, you know, drop in, drop it, which was really a lot of unregulated experimentation. And then it kind of dove into the dark corners of the world and now seems to be resurging, oftentimes thanks to the internet. And just for our listeners, that doesn't mean to go randomly out and do a heroic doses of mushrooms unsupervised. Anytime that you go inside of those type of experiences it's great to have someone who understands that particular plant or that particular psychedelic, or has some ability, whether that's a neuropsychologist or someone who has experience in that, or some sort of shamonic person that says experienced those things can be extraordinary valuable.

Wade Lightheart: And I, and many of my friends have used psychedelics as an interactionary medium in order to use it. This is not a recreational thing. It's something that you can actually do. And I think people mistake that it's like: Oh yeah, let's go do this XYZ and go to the nightclub. No, no, no, no, it doesn't work like that. The traditions throughout many native cultures, which interacted with and were a lot of our psychopharmacology and its ability to heal or plant medicines used in this way, there is traditions and practices and sacredness, and there's a set and setting is a really important component. The downside is, without guidance you can go into some dark aspects of your mind that you're not aware of just as much as you can go to the celestial realms of the extraordinary places. Please, bring it up.

Kayla Osterhoff: I do want to mention one thing that you bring up that's really important is when I say that you can reprogram the subconscious mind when you go into these states of either hypnosis, using psychedelics or repetition, all of this works to reprogram with positive programs, but it also works to reprogram with negative programs. So you have to be careful, because repetition of negative habits will program in a negative program. Right? And same thing with psychedelics. If you have a negative experience or bring up something that you're not ready or able to work through, it can also program a negative program. So that's very important that you mentioned that. And something else I'd like to mention is with what we're experiencing with COVID and with all of the like civil unrest that we're experiencing right now. This is a traumatic event, right? So traumatic events that happen or things that are shocking to people, put them into a state of high suggestibility or hypnosis. So not to say that we're walking around zombies and we're in a state of hypnosis and we don't know what we're doing, however…

Wade Lightheart: But we are, but we are…

Kayla Osterhoff: To an extent, yes. I mean, it's true, but even though we think we're in complete control of our thoughts and emotions and minds and all of this, we are in a state of heightened suggestibility, a state of hypnosis right now. So it's important that whatever you're doing during this time of unsurity, of stress, of anxiety, things are also different right now. It is important to pay attention to what you're programming into your subconscious. Because if you, for instance, are spending this entire time in a state of fear, anxiety, overwhelm, risk, programming that into your subconscious mind, and then moving forward, this will be a program that you act upon. However, if you look at this as an opportunity to have kind of a shortcut to the subconscious mind right now, and program in some positive behaviors, some positive changes that you might have been wanting to change for a while right now is a great time to do it. So spend more time on your meditation practice, spend more time connecting with your family, try to get rid of some of those bad habits, smoking, eating fast food, whatever it is. Right now is a great time to change those programs.

Wade Lightheart: You bring up something good. And so traditionally this was known, historically as mantra or japa, which is the process of repeating something over and over and over again. Now, where is that also in our modern society, it's, in our music, it's in our television. And so you have to recognize that, much of what we're watching and doing is shaping our subconscious, you know, and you said something very powerful that this is a traumatic event. So what you tune into at this time is really going to determine a lot of how your life unfolds in a number of months, and I know I was commenting. Thankfully, I've been working on this for many, many years, and I was commenting with a friend of mine last night. And also has a practice of a working unconscious mind. We were chatting and it's kind of a personal story, but…. I said, you know, it's almost embarrassing because since COVID has happened, despite everything, it's like, everything in my life keeps getting better.

Wade Lightheart: And yet in conversations with people that you bring up one topic and they do this kind of like… You know, like whether it's a political thing or whether you should wear mask, you're not all the sort of stuff like, and… That's not a mental response. There's you know, being an exercise physiologist, I'm like, there's some sort of physical overwhelm that's just happened here. That nervous system has been hijacked. And there's an inability to communicate in an effective, responsible, civilized way. That's the aspect of civilization, is groups of people getting together and operating collectively without going to war like they did for thousands of years. What's your take on all this? I want to dive a little deeper in this, cause' I think it's really fascinating what's going on and how to… You don't want to be the guy in Star Wars that didn't pull up when Luke Skywalker said pull up, right? One guy stayed on target, blew up, his friend pulls up and gets out of the thing, but ship's damaged. Our ship is damaged.

Kayla Osterhoff: Yeah. I think what people are forgetting… First of all, people are reacting from their mostly bad programs, right? So I can understand that it's not their fault that they're acting that way. However, like we said, the first step would be becoming aware, self aware of this behavior so that you can change it. The other thing that I think people are forgetting is that we are all uniquely individual in that our brain and our mind, and our, this third aspect, soul, is all completely different with every person, meaning that the world that we perceive and experience around us, our reality is each very different. And these folks that are kind of pushing these polar opinions that are very shocking, they bring up a physiological response in most of us, right? These folks are forgetting that most people are not experiencing a reality on the polar ends of the spectrum.

Kayla Osterhoff: They might be, but most people are somewhere in the middle or like up here or back here, you know, they're not on these polar ends and they're experiencing a reality that is so different from the reality that you are trying to push forward and say is the only one. So if we can have a little bit of compassion for people and understand, one, that they are reacting based on programs, that it's not their fault, that they're there. And number two, that everyone experiences a unique reality. And if we can understand that and come from a place of compassion and meeting people where they are, instead of trying to push our reality on somebody else, then I think we could come to a resolution and also save our own nervous systems and not end up with adrenal fatigue and leaky gut and all these things that result from overtaxing the adrenal system, right? So, that's kind of where I stand on that. I hope that people can maybe hear this and have a little bit more compassion for somebody else who is in a very reactive state.

Wade Lightheart: You bring up something here. So I think which is really important to identify. And this is really important because it's related to responsibility. And this is something that I don't think… Everybody today is talking about rights, but few people are talking about the responsibility. One has to be as an adult in order to maintain or obtain, rights. So it's like, you don't get to drive the car until you've passed a driver's test. You don't get to go to university unless you've got through high school. You know, you don't get to buy the million dollar house if you haven't earned that money or, you know, these type of things. So society is set up with these kind of aspects of responsibilities and I'm using those terms on external things. And when you've created the merit, you get that right to do that.

Wade Lightheart: Okay? Or you get to experience that, or you get a range of choices that increases relative to the level of responsibility you want to take on. But what is the message to someone who's caught in a cycle of victimhood, a cycle of oppression, a cycle of poverty, a cycle of trauma, you know, and you see this over and over, over. Like we all know the story of the woman who is married to a guy that abuses her, she gets out of the relationship, leaves, then goes to room. There's 500 guys in the place and she connects with the one guy that's an abuser and gets in another abusing relationship. Going back to that accident. Can you explain how you work with someone who is really attached to being a victim?

Kayla Osterhoff: Yeah. So, I just want to mention, that woman who is choosing the abusive partner over and over, that's because her subconscious program or programs are running and it's not within her control. So keeps choosing that again and again. So until she changes those programs and you know, those belief systems that she has or those thought processes, she will continue to choose that person.

Wade Lightheart: So this could be also be the same for someone who continues to gain weight and says, it's quote unquote, big bones in my body, but they're not saying: hey, this was the belief systems that led to the behaviors in my family that I had to change, right?

Kayla Osterhoff: Absolutely. So this is a hard thing, because, first of all, somebody, if you're talking about somebody who is in a state of victimhood, because they are unsafe, this is very difficult. You can't change this behavior and pattern until that person has their safety need met. Meaning they need to have all of their baseline needs covered before they can start working on this. So for instance, somebody who is experiencing homelessness or sexual abuse, or physical abuse until they are in a safe place, there is no way for them to work on that. One way that all of us who are a little more able, we have more resources at our hands to identify somebody like this and potentially help them is to, like I said before, have a little compassion, meet them where they are and maybe help them to get their needs met. Once their needs are met, then the next step can be taken with just self-awareness. When your needs are met, your nervous system can calm down. You can get into a parasympathetic state, and then you can actually start to make choices, right? You can start to reprogram that subconscious mind. By first, identifying these constructs, these belief systems, these thought processes that are not serving you.

Wade Lightheart: Let's talk about those needs too. I want to talk about like, what are those needs that prevent someone from being able to get that, that they're in that fight or flight adrenaline cortisol thing? And I think a lot of people are there that are suffering. And how do you get a person out of there by getting those needs met?

Kayla Osterhoff: Well, the best way is to ask the person: what could I do for you right now to make you feel safe and comfortable? And what we're talking about here with basic needs, you know, from like a social perspective is having shelter, food, resources, enough resources to live your life comfortably love, support, community, connection. All of these things are important for baseline health, right? It kind of goes back to Maslow's hierarchy of health. And those are like the big bucket. The basic needs that have to be met before you can start to optimize other levels of your health. So, the best way, if you see somebody struggling and they're in this state of kind of spinning their wheels, instead of saying: quit eating fast food if you don't want to be fat, like that's not going to help the person, right?

Kayla Osterhoff: Instead if they are kind of spinning their wheels and they keep telling you like: Oh, I can't lose the weight. I can't lose the weight. You could say: you know, what's going on in your life right now that I could maybe help you to take the load off. What would make you feel safe or how could I help you to feel comfortable? And how can I help you to get your needs met? A lot of people have never been asked this before. And so just that question could spark in them: Oh, my needs are not met. I didn't even realize that. I can't feel safe. And then they can start to change.

Wade Lightheart: And this is something that we can do with our kids, we can do this with our spouse. We can have these conversations about, hey, you know, a lot of strife and a lot of conflict within people is, because people say: Hey, my needs aren't being met. Or that typically happens is they project onto the other person, that that person is withholding the achievement of my needs. So now even flips to another level is like, not only are my needs not met is you're the problem, right? My mom, my dad, my brother, my boss, my husband, my wife, my uncle, my aunt, my government, my whatever is preventing you from achieving, whatever it is. And you take away your own power. Is that not so?

Kayla Osterhoff: Yeah, that is true. And I do think that when you're in a very reactive state like that, it is a result of, one, bad programs that are no longer serving you that are coming up. So maybe a lack of safety when you were a child. And number two, you are in a very reactive state at that point. So when you're in a reactive state, in that fight or flight state, you can't really communicate effectively with somebody who's in that state. So a better way to communicate with them is to either help them to activate their parasympathetic nervous system and calm down if they're able to hear you and be helped in that way, or wait, walk away, wait for them to come out of that reactive state. And then when they're calm and you're having like a nice conversation or you know, they're back to baseline then you can breach the subject like: Hey, is there something that I could do to make you feel more safe, more loved, get your needs met. Not when they're in the reactive state. You have to do this when they're in a calm state and they could hear you.

Wade Lightheart: Right. So let's talk about that reactive state and then how that connects in the body. What's going on there that prevent some from flipping out? Can you talk about maybe some of the physiological components?

Kayla Osterhoff: Yeah. So when somebody is in a very reactive state, again, they're in that fight or flight state, which is also known as the sympathetic nervous system is active. So we have what's called autonomic nervous system, which goes from the brain all throughout the body, all the way down to your toes and fingertips. And this regulates your body's resources, essentially. And it sends signals like I'm safe or I'm not safe basically. So when you get into a fight or flight state, this used to happen, you know, back in prehistoric times when like a lot of people say, when the lion was chasing us, we go into sympathetic nervous system. All our body's resources are put to our muscles so that we can run. And our hearts are pumping, our breath rate goes up and the blood is not flowing to the brain in that moment, as much as it would be in a parasympathetic state, because all the resources are going out to the body so that you can react, right?

Kayla Osterhoff: It's the same thing that's happening when you get triggered by your spouse. When your spouse starts to yell at you for the same thing that you guys have an argument about all the time, you go into that sympathetic nervous system mode, all of the resources go into your body and then you have a physical reaction. You get very upset. Your face gets red and hot. Your breath rate goes up. You maybe start yelling. And in that moment, you're in that really reactive state. Now the opposite state of that is the parasympathetic nervous system, which brings you into a state of rest and digest. So this is when the caveman was done, being chased by the lion and he went back to his cave and everything was all good and he cozied up by the fire. And then his parasympathetic nervous system kicked in and he was able to relax, have a meal, properly digest it, get to sleep.

Kayla Osterhoff: All of these things, these kind of basic fickle components that happen, digestion, sleep, all of that can't really happen unless you can get into that parasympathetic state. So, for instance, with the whole situation that's going on, a lot of people are in that fight or flight that sympathetic nervous system state all the time. Right? And then we have our colleagues, biohackers, who are kind of out there telling us: well, you know, if you're stressed out and you're feeling tired, drink more coffee, take more nootropics, do a hit workout and then you're just revving up that sympathetic nervous system. You're putting it into overdrive and you're wearing your body out.

Wade Lightheart: Want to hit nitrous thing on the drag car, which will give you an extra boost and horsepower, but will blow your engine if you continue to do that.

Kayla Osterhoff: Exactly. So the opposite of that, you know, it is important to be able to get up and do your work and go, right? But then, at night, when it's time to shut that off, you are supposed to easily be able to tap into that parasympathetic nervous system, start to detune, start to produce melatonin, which is the hormone that helps you to fall asleep and relax, digest your meal, connect with your partner. And that will kind of regenerate your energy for the next day.

Wade Lightheart: Amazing information and value. And so, let's talk about maybe let's say we're a different state, so we've recognized, you know what, I'm not producing the result, but I want to produce. 97% of that result is in my subconscious. And only 3% is in my conscious. So I read this book, I take this tape, I do whatever, but that's not really enough. How do I implement, I guess, a sort of conditioning program, like you would do a training program or something like that if you're doing repetition? How would I do that in order to produce different results in my life or a different mindset, like change my mind, which will change my physiology, which will change my relationship maybe to my body?

Kayla Osterhoff: Yeah. So a couple of ways that I mentioned are, one, repetition. So if you make this a habit and then you…
Wade Lightheart: How much? What's the repetition? Once a week, once a day, once a year, once every hour? Tell us, what's the research sayinng?

Kayla Osterhoff: Yeah, I wish the research had a definitive answer. Some people say, you know, a habit takes 30 days. Some people say it takes 60 days. Some of the research supports both of those. And some of the research can say, it can happen almost like instantaneously. I think what it depends on is how deep that subconscious programming is and it also has to do with that physical brain aspect, right? So when we have a behavior, it's a pattern, it's a neural pathway. So when we have neural pathways that we act on every day, it becomes a well worn path. Think of like a path you're walking down in the forest and on the dirt ground. Okay? You keep walking down that path every day, every day, every day. It becomes super well-worn and maybe one day it even turns into like a river.

Kayla Osterhoff: Now imagine a river, how easy is it to redirect a river? Not very easy, right? If the neural pathway is just maybe a lightly worn pathway, then I think the repetition would be less, because you can more easily change that path. If the neural pathway is like a river, it's something been doing your entire life and it's, well-worn, it's something you do everyday, multiple times per day. Then I would say, it's probably going to take a lot more repetition to redirect the river and create a new path for the river, right? And so that's where the brain aspect and optimizing that brain aspect can come into handy as well. Again, with the subconscious, you can do repetition, you can do hypnosis. Some people are starting to use psychedelics for this. Meditation also, I just want to mention is a great tool for that first step in behavior change, which is self awareness. Because meditation, what that does, I think the biggest benefit of it is that it allows you to become self aware. So when you have that stimulus, instead of just having an immediate reaction, you can have stimulus a moment to think about it, and then a response instead of a reaction. So that's one great tool and kind of the first step. But when it comes to the brain and you're talking about neural pathways. When we're talking about changing a neural pathway, we are talking about neural plasticity, right? This is changing the shape of your brain. Now there's another term that's thrown out there…

Wade Lightheart: Doesn't mean growing a horn out of your head. That just means you're changing the way your brain actually routes its nervous system pathways. I'm sorry.
Kayla Osterhoff: Exactly. So the horn growing out of your head, not necessarily a horn, but actually growing new nerve cells, that can happen too, but that's something else that's called neurogenesis. These two are two separate things though. People often mix up the terms and use them interchangeably.

Wade Lightheart: Can you state the difference?
Kayla Osterhoff: Yeah. So neuroplasticity, like we were talking about, the pathways that is redirecting the neural pathways in the brain, it's kind of changing the way your brain communicates. The neurogenesis is actually growing your brain. So neuroplasticity is changing the shape, it's molding the brain. Neurogenesis is growing the brain, new nerve cells. There is a difference between the two, but both can be very beneficial, especially in behavior change. And so we could talk about how to do each of these, if that sounds interesting?

Wade Lightheart: Yeah. Let's go there. I'm having so much fun here. I love these topics, so let's get into it.

Kayla Osterhoff: Yeah. So when we're talking about neuroplasticity, there are some things that can spark neuroplasticity, make your brain more plastic, more moldable. One of my favorite ways to do this is to do something new. So for instance, if you sleep on the opposite side of the bed, take a different pathway to work than what you normally take, brush your teeth with your opposite hand. You know, do something small, that's totally different and outside of your normal routine, that is going to spark neuroplasticity and make you more able to create new neuropathways or replace old pathways with new ones. So that's one way, and also very relevant with the situation that we're experiencing globally, because we are all thrown out of our normal routine right now. So that means right now we are all experiencing increased neuroplasticity. Again, why it's very important to pay attention to our habits and behaviors because we are creating new neural pathways and new subconscious programs. So we do have to pay attention to how we're behaving right now. Now, when we're talking about neurogenesis, we're talking about actually growing new nerve cells, new brain cells, which is amazing to me. And this only has come to light in research in the past five years or so. So it's very new. The brain's pretty cool, it's like the ocean, we've only really explored 1% of it, but this is the kind of new, exciting thing that we're looking at right now. And so this has to do…

Wade Lightheart: Yeah. Can you explain how do you grow new brain cells?

Kayla Osterhoff: Yeah. And it's not so simple. Yes, you can grow new brain cells, but you can't just be like: all right brain cells, grow, right? It's not that.

Wade Lightheart: Well, that might help tell our bodies, right? It might if we say that all the time.

Kayla Osterhoff: I agree. I actually agree. I think that would definitely help. But there are some things that we can do, like physically that will do this. This is where we would look at kind of the nutritional components. There are some behavioral components. So first of all anything that increases brain derived, neurotrophic factor, BDNF, people have probably heard about this. Anything that sparks that will help to grow new brain cells and the other one is nerve growth factor. Anything that boosts that and BDNF will help to grow new brain cells. So this can be exercise. Sex is a really great way to grow new brain cells. Sleep is essential. That is when most of our new brain cells are going to be growing and that is when our body allows that to happen. And then things like intermittent fasting can boost that BDNF and start to create neurogenesis.

Kayla Osterhoff: But there are also some nootropics, is a popular term for it right now. It's kind of like smart supplements, right? So my favorite one is Coleen, which actually increases the biosynthesis of phospholipids, which are the building blocks of our nerve cells. But then there are other things that can also help to help with this neurogenesis. Things like lion's mane, which actually improves the myelin sheath that's around the brain cell to make it more healthy. And then there are third sets of nootropics that are more about decreasing oxidative stress, so that it's not necessarily about neurogenesis, but it's about avoiding the death of brain cells. And so things like curcuminturmeric things like green tea or blueberries, these antioxidants are very helpful in this process.

Wade Lightheart: I'm a big fan of all of those things. In fact, I notice a few years back, I was going through a very stressful time. And I use three grams of lion's mane a day, very high grade lion's mane. I actually did an episode on this with a fellow who's an expert on it. And it made an amazing difference in my memory. It was radical how well, but I did have to use three grams per day. What are some of your favorites?

Kayla Osterhoff: Lion's mane is definitely one of my favorites. And then when we're also talking about like adding in the building blocks of our brain cells, Omega three fatty acids are very important for this so making sure that you get good sources of like fish oils can be really helpful with neurogenesis. But another one, kind of an unsung hero of the brain is B12, vitamin B12, which actually provides the energy for neurogenesis. And there's a lot of really cool research going on with vitamin B12 and deficiency and how it's linked with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's and dementia. They actually saw that folks who are deficient in vitamin B12 have a shrinkage of their brain, meaning they're losing volume, they're losing brain cells, and folks who are not vitamin B12 deficient have larger brains, more brain cells. So that is a really interesting one that is showing a lot of efficacy in brain health.

Wade Lightheart: One of the things that I suggest for people to do is you can do a SpectraCell test, which will actually do a determination of what nutrients you could be deficient in and also how well your body absorbs those particular nutrients. And so for myself, being on a plant based diet, making sure that I'm getting my three sixes and nines, I actually use a product called Udo oil and a lot of hemp oil and things like that. I also supplement with B12 daily. I periodically do injections of B12, which I think a lot of people can really benefit from. Also using lion's mane is another great one. And also including fasting. I just went through a period of three months where I did alternate day fasting, 12 hours eating 36 hours off, which is great also intermittent fasting. I've been fasting for over 20 years. All of these things, I have noticed massive improvements in cognitive function, creativity, ability. And also I would say the ability to change tracks from one thing to something else like: okay, I'm doing this now. I need to consciously do something differently and move into it, cause' that's not my natural state. My natural state is pretty rigid, but the more that I do, these things, the more fluid I've become. So I do believe that's true. So what else is going on in the brain muddy buying with? Tell us more.

Kayla Osterhoff: Yeah. So I do want to mention one thing which is these behavioral aspects like doing a high intensity workout intermittent fasting, or a very strict ketogenic diet. These things do boost BDNF and they do help with neurogenesis. However, they all do provide a level of stress on your adrenal system. And they can activate that sympathetic nervous system. So if you are already a very stressed out person, let's say like your stress bucket is already full and overflowing. You're probably experiencing symptoms like anxiety, maybe depression, maybe you're experiencing auto-immune symptoms, things like that. Then that's a good sign that you should not use these bio hacks that are going to add a level of stress, even though it is eustress, which is, you know, positive stress, it still adds towards your stress threshold. And we each have a stress threshold. Though we can raise it or lower it with certain tools, but we all have a stress threshold. And once it's met with either positive or negative or a combination of both kinds of stress, then you start to see distress of the body and then you start to see disease of the body. Right? So it's important to mention that as well.

Wade Lightheart: Yeah. One of the things that we've been getting a lot of interesting responses and I don't know what your research is, but it's an area that we want to get more involved in, is the use of magnesium as a way to calm the body. And so I used it and going into like super physiological dosages, but the testimonials keep coming in, because magnesium is a key deficiency that's been going on. It's regulated 350 different components and also the fight or flight response and we use a lot of it. I got first got turned on to it by the strength sensei. So Charles Poliquin, who has using magnesium with high level athletes. He was using fish oil with these athletes as well. He was using a variety of different things that are used in neuroplasticity, but these are also correlated with calming the nervous system down, because Olympic and high performance athletes are putting incredible amounts of stress on the body. Are there any other key elements that someone needs to be addressing? If they're feeling quote unquote stressed, not just from the nutrition side, but maybe the environmental factors. I mean, we can talk about that, what contributes to that feeling unsafe or feeling that I need to run from whatever it is or fight, whatever it is. Can you talk about that?

Kayla Osterhoff: Yeah. So from the nutritional side, a couple other ones that are important is, you know, you want to look at both your antioxidant system and then, like you said, certain minerals and vitamins that are very important. They're called cofactors for the Krebs cycle, the citric acid cycle, which, you know, ends in ATP, which is our body's energy system for our mitochondria and that's a whole other conversation, but… You need both zinc and magnesium, and vitamin B12 as cofactors, however, physical stress and mental stress, which all cause oxidative stress, use up those vitamins and minerals very quickly. And then you don't have enough to create your energy for your body. So it is important if you are very stressed to, one, if you don't already know what your status is, it's great to take a look at those levels in your body. And two, if you already know, you're stressed out, it's pretty safe to go ahead and add in magnesium. And you can add in different types of magnesium, glycinate, three and eight, whatever is your you can do a combination. And then to add in zinc though, you do want to be careful about your copper zinc ratio. If you add too much zinc, you could bring your copper down too low, which is also a cofactor that we need. So it's better to take a look at where you are, what your status is, and then do a proper dosage, but magnesium is a pretty safe one to add in. And then, when it comes….

Wade Lightheart: I actually take Dave Asprey's zinc copper that he makes. It's a great product. And his store is just down the street from me. I pick up a bottle and I use that. It's been great. It's also great for me. It's prostate health as well as zinc. And so it's a huge thing.

Kayla Osterhoff: Yeah. And I just want to mention for ladies. If there are women who have a copper IUD, which is a form of birth control, and many women have this they have to be careful about their copper levels in their body, which actually can deplete their zinc. So if you're already deficient in zinc, and then you have a copper IUD, which brings up your copper levels a little bit, then it can lower that zinc even more, which can contribute to, you know, your stress levels, oxidative stress and all that stuff. It is important to know what's going on in your body and how these different things interact. But the other one I want to mention is your antioxidant system and our master antioxidant is glutathione. So glutathione is going to help to decrease that oxidative stress and keep your body healthy and also when your antioxidant system is boosted, it will be less likely to deplete your other vitamins and minerals like zinc, like magnesium, like B12 that you need for ATP synthesis.

Wade Lightheart: So can you talk about where we can get some glutathione and how do we do that?

Kayla Osterhoff: Yeah, so you can… There are actual L glutathione or L glutamine, sorry, supplements that you can take. And I take a sublingual one from QuickSilver Scientific. They have a really great product. That's my favorite way to do it. You can do it in like a powder form, but I like to do a combination of glutathione with my magnesium, which just makes you feel really good. It makes you feel kind of like calm.

Wade Lightheart: The liquid, the glutathione product from Quicksilver is a really good, they give me great products. I like that company. We're going over a normal time, but it's been so great. We're going to have to bring you back to the show. So let's just talk real quick about maybe… Can you run us through the best practices that you would say that a person: Hey, you want to have a healthy brain, that's going to run your life and you want to be able to get your mind, brain and body working together. You know, what would you suggest? Or maybe you can take us through what you do in order to kind of create this optimal state of mind, body spirit, if you will?

Kayla Osterhoff: Yeah. So I think it's really important to be able to get into a state of parasympathetic rest and digest so that you are able to work on this. So handling your stress levels is so important. First of all, being aware of all these stressors in your life and like you said, there are environmental stressors and emotional stressors as well. For instance, there could be, you know, chemical toxins in your environment, or if you live in a big city, there's a lot of air pollution that is also adding to your stress level. And then if you are, for instance, in a difficult relationship, or if you're in a situation where you're around, people that are not supporting your emotional wellness, that's another level of stress. So I think becoming aware of what is contributing to your stress threshold, and then kind of taking a look at your body and what you're experiencing.

Kayla Osterhoff: If you're experiencing symptoms of adrenal fatigue, and you're having brain fog and you're having digestive issues and you're having mood swings and all these things, it's a pretty good sign that you have surpassed your stress threshold. You want to raise that stress threshold and you want to try to remove some of the stressors as you can. Some ways to raise that stress threshold are to do things like mindfulness practice. Meditation is such a great tool and I know that this is like not the sexy answer because everybody's answer is meditation, but it is such a great tool, because like I said before, it increases that space between stimulus and response and gives you a chance to make a conscious decision on how you want to respond. And then eventually over time that'll become a subconscious program. So I think number one, handling your stress. Number two is also related to that and can be done with the same modality, which is meditation, which is raising yourself awareness. You have to become aware of these programs that are no longer serving you. And the first step is to kind of identify the behaviors that you no longer want. And then look a little bit deeper into where these come from.

Wade Lightheart: Is that even possible? Unless you get some outside help, I think initially probably getting some expert help to help you identify these things that maybe that it's not a friend or not a relationship or partner or someone like that, someone who's trained to help identify those things and offer suggestions. Would you say that's a great intervention? Cause' I don't know if you can even look at yourself sometimes unless you've gotten to a certain place.

Kayla Osterhoff: Yeah. So if you're going to seek outside help, which I think is a great place to start, to go to somebody who is educated and also doesn't have a horse in the race, right? You don't necessarily want to go to the person who is triggering you for help. You want to get away from that, right? You don't want to go to your partner that is causing you to be upset and talk to them about: Hey, I'm trying to change this behavior. You know, they can be part of the solution by avoiding that trigger, so that you can start to work on it and reprogram it. But I do think going to somebody who has an outside perspective, it doesn't necessarily have to be a therapist. It can be somebody who can hear you, help you kind of work through this stuff, who doesn't have a predetermined outcome for you. So somebody who doesn't have a horse in the race, right? Somebody outside of yourself or your circle of people who are kind of in the muck with you.

Wade Lightheart: Right. And then what are some other things that you can do when you identify that, and then what?

Kayla Osterhoff: Yeah. So once you identify it, then you can start to kind of get your hands dirty and reprogram. Again, repetition is a great one. So for instance if I want to not be so reactive or if I'm working on an anger issue, let's say an anger issue. And every time I come home and walk through the door, I automatically feel my physiological response. My face gets hot. My heart starts racing. My breathing goes up. And I'm already going into fight or flight mode, because I know that when I go home, usually there's a fight or there some uncomfortable situation waiting for me. So it's important to, first of all, like we said, understand that this is the situation, identify it, and then go in with some tools, with some ability to kind of change your perspective. So, one thing that I love to do, because like I said, our conscious mind is only that 3% so you can't control your behaviors all the time.

Kayla Osterhoff: But you can set reminders or triggers, I like to call them. So for instance, every time I walk through a doorway, not every time, but I like to do this most times is I set an intention at the doorway, which becomes a trigger for me. Now, every time I walk through a doorway, I set an intention for what I want to get out of the experience on the other side. And it changes my perspective about it. So instead of going home and thinking: all great, here we go, I'm going to be upset, we're going to get into a fight. I would go home and say: you know what, when I walked through this door, I want to benefit from this situation inside in this way. And then it kind of changes your perspective.

Kayla Osterhoff: Another way to change your perspective or kind of flip that switch is with gratitude. So one thing that I do for my trigger for that, because again, it's hard to always remember to do these things. I sat an alarm on my phone. So a couple of times a day I have an alarm that goes off on my phone and it says: remember to be grateful or list three things that you're grateful for or close your eyes and take three deep breaths and think of somebody that you're grateful for, who is in your life. It's just these little reminders. And again, it takes repetition. So over time, these things can replace the old behaviors and old patterns, and old thoughts, and old beliefs into the ones that you would prefer to have

Wade Lightheart: Very, very, very powerful information. And so how do people get ahold of you and learn more about this? We're going to get you back on the podcast, cause' I could just go on and on, and on, and on, and on about this stuff. It's so fascinating. Where can people reach you? How do they find out more about you and what you have to offer and things that you're doing right now?

Kayla Osterhoff: Yeah, the best place to reach me directly is probably on Instagram. And my handle is @biocurious_Kayla. And so if you direct message me there or interact with me in the comments, I respond to everybody personally. So that is a great place. You can also email me directly at [email protected] website, which I have a cooperative of biohacking tools and information, and research, and meetups, and different things like that within the BioCurious community, it's And then I have a podcast which you were recently a guest on, and that is also called BioCurious and it's on all the platforms. So you can search for that.

Wade Lightheart: Super fun. One of the most fascinating interviews and I know we just scratched the surface. We're going to get you back, Kayla, as we dive a little bit deeper into this topic, it's something that's fascinating, but for all our listeners today please reach out and check out Kayla's website. She's offering some very practical and informative. And also you're really on the bleeding edge. You know, researchers from maybe 10 years ago, who aren't keeping up to snuff, as they say, won't be as familiar with some of the new literature about neuroplasticity and neurogenesis and all of these sorts of things that are happening. So this is one of the beautiful things that's happening. Science is always changing. Science is always learning. Science is always developing. And the science says: you do not have to suffer any longer. You can change your programs.

Wade Lightheart: You can change how your life is and you can change your perspective. Listen to Kayla, go to BioCurious, check it out. And I want to thank all of you for joining us today. And I also want to thank our special guest, Kayla. You have been wonderful. Thank you so much for joining us. And I really appreciate you taking the time today to be on the Awesome Health podcast. For all our listeners, we'll see you again. Next time on the next episodes, where we dive into the secrets of science and your soul. One episode at a time take care.
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