Game-Changing Strategies for Optimal Health and Longevity - Dr. Michael Ruscio, DC

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Game-Changing Strategies for Optimal Health and Longevity

How to use diet, sleep, positive thinking, spirituality, and healthy relationships to unlock your “thrive state” with Dr. Kien Vuu

Dr. Kien Vuu—famously known as Doctor V—is a passionate health and human optimization champion and best-selling author of Thrive State: Your Blueprint for Optimal Health, Longevity, and Peak Performance. He shares how you can get your brain off autopilot mode and thrive physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. Tune in to hear how to push past negative beliefs, overcome challenges, and unlock your true potential.

In This Episode

Intro… 00:08
Dr. Vuu’s backstory… 03:47
Understanding the default mode network… 07:21
Tools for quieting the DMN, from breath to psychedelics… 10:30
The power of positive stressors… 25:16
What about protein intake?… 26:47
Five key categories for creating your cellular microenvironment… 32:43
Social and spiritual pillars for health… 39:37
Beyond the foundations for longevity… 45:00
Closing thoughts & where to learn more… 51:32
Outro… 54:01

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Intro:

Welcome to Dr. Ruscio, DC Radio, providing practical and science-based solutions to feeling your best. To stay up to date on the latest topics, as well as all of our prior episodes, make sure to subscribe in your podcast player. For weekly updates, visit DrRuscio.com. The following discussion is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease. Please do not apply any of this information without first speaking with your doctor. Now, let’s head to the show.

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

Hi everyone. Today I spoke with Dr. Kien Vuu about longevity, but we really took a different tact into what you can do to prolong your longevity. And I have to say, I really found it refreshing. It wasn’t a novel biomarker (mostly these are speculative anyway), it wasn’t a new test (most of which have not been validated), these were a few reminders and a couple of very helpful techniques to make sure you nail the things that we all try to nail, which are these dietary, lifestyle, and mindset foundationals. We went into some discussion initially regarding the default mode network, and he offers a number of techniques to help dampen this. We tie in, you may remember default mode network discussions came up in previous podcasts where we’ve discussed psychedelics, and that comes up here also. And we have a sidebar that’s a little bit more robust on ketamine.

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

We discuss protein intake and how that maps onto longevity, the importance of some of the findings from Daniel Buettner’s work Blue Zones: purpose, community, movement. And we unpack the observation from these groups that live long lives also eat less protein, and how do we account for that? And he breaks down the five top steps for longevity. He also provides what he considers a game changing tool to help you ensure you make better choices. And boy, I think that covers the gamut of what we went into. As you’ll hear me say on the podcast a few times, I really appreciate the fact that Kien focuses on longevity and anti-aging, but it’s not your run of the mill, heavy-handed hormone administration and supplement protocol sort of approach. It’s one that’s much more anchored in these lifestyle foundations. And yeah, with that, we will go to the conversation, and I hope you guys enjoy the discussion as much as I did.

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

Hey everyone, welcome back to Dr. Ruscio, DC Radio. This is Dr. Michael Ruscio, today here with Dr. Kien Vuu, and I didn’t know this, but he actually was part of the A4M conference I spoke at a few years back on a number of things regarding thyroid, as our audience probably knows all too well. So we have a backstory that goes back maybe five years, but I came across your work Kien again about a month ago. And I really liked your perspective. I was saying before we started the recording, there’s not a lot of people in the anti-aging space who I find have a good balance. It tends to be a little bit overboard. And so when I came across your work, it seemed, you know, curious and open-minded, but also measured. So I figured you’d fit right in with our kind of geeky crowd, and wanted to have you on here and pick your brain. So welcome to the show.

Dr. Kien Vuu:

Hey, thanks so much for having me.

Dr. Vuu’s backstory

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

Yeah, it’s great to have you here. You know, there’s so much like I was alluding to that I want to discuss, but you do have a really cool backstory, and maybe you get sick of people starting off with this question, but can you give us the short version of what was probably a very long story, because I do think that’s worth a quick preface, and it may actually tie in with some of the default mode network stuff we’re going to discuss in just a moment.

Dr. Kien Vuu:

Oh, absolutely. So, you know, my medical training initially was in radiology and interventional radiology. And for people who don’t know what that is, it’s basically minimally invasive surgery using medical imaging. And so I would treat tumors, I would treat end stage heart disease, end stage renal disease by putting in dialysis catheters in people. I really studied the spectrum of chronic disease and then did procedures on them. Five years, six years into my attendingship, I was chief of interventional radiology in my hospital. And I achieved all these accolades that I thought would bring me happiness, which was, you know, achieve, achieve, achieve in my hospital, buy the car, buy the house, was probably on the path of marrying someone, and then everything just started falling apart. And, you know, it was right around that time, five, six years into my attending job that I was overweight, I was diabetic, I had high blood pressure, was on prescription medications.

Dr. Kien Vuu:

And I really realized at that point, conventional medicine really didn’t give me the tools to be healthy. In fact, you know, the culture of medical training, or at least the MD training that I got was, you know, nights of no sleep, cramming for a bunch of exams, taking a bunch of stimulants to stay up to do your work. And as a badge of honor, you didn’t sleep and you just worked through stuff. And it was really those sets of habits along with maybe a lot of old programming, which we could talk about in a second, that led to basically an environment I’d given to my cells that I was constantly in the stress state. And what we understand is when our cells are in that cell danger mode, it basically increases inflammation, drops our immunity, and then we have poor cellular function leading to poor tissue function, poor organ function, poor system function. And that’s why I was overweight, diabetic, and had high blood pressure as well.

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

And you were likely someone who was prone to default mode network or we’ve used the term oftentimes on the podcast limbic or amygdala imbalance, due to some of the trauma that you suffered in the past. And maybe you can tie that in, because I do think this helps give you a really rich perspective regarding the importance of the default mode network.

Dr. Kien Vuu:

Oh, absolutely. So, you know, I was born in postwar Vietnam to immigrant parents. It was after the war. My parents were pretty much forced to give up everything and escape with me when I was only a couple months old in a refugee boat. I spent eight months in a refugee boat. I had dysentery, I was actually the only infant to survive. I spent another three months in a Philippine refugee camp, and then we were sponsored to America by a Catholic church. And I remember being bused to school and, you know, we’re going through this pandemic. A couple years ago, there was nearly 4,000 anti-Asian hate crimes. And it really reminded me of my upbringing, you know, because I was constantly being teased for the holes in my hand-me-down clothes, for the stinky food my mom sent me to school with. You know, I got a whole bunch of “go back to your home country, chinky”, a lot of that.

Understanding the default mode network

Dr. Kien Vuu:

And, you know, I stored all that information in, and I think to a certain degree there are messages of not being worthy, not being enough that is out there in the ether that probably drives a lot of fear. And they might not have a very similar story as me, but similar in the sense of, you know, not being enough in some way. Exactly. What we’re starting to find out in neuroscience is that there’s these areas in the brain, the medial aspects of our brain, the medial prefrontal cortex, mixed up with our amygdala and some other structures form what’s called the default mode network. And basically it’s one of the more primitive networks in our brains that forms. And it pretty much forms from the time we are in utero until about the age of 10.

Dr. Kien Vuu:

And it does a great job of doing the following: it takes in all this information of the world, and creates a model of the world by which we live. And it’s important, basically to help us survive. And that’s why there’s a negativity bias that’s associated with the default mode network. It’s constantly looking out for what’s wrong, because it wants to keep you safe. So in order to keep you safe, it’s constantly looking for danger and looking for what’s wrong. And unfortunately, we pick all this stuff up before the age of 10. And so for many of us who are stuck in our default mode network, we’re basically running off old programmings that we had; beliefs that we had basically when we weren’t even old enough to drive. So the default mode network houses a lot of disempowering stories. For me, it was “not good enough, not rich enough, not American enough”.

Dr. Kien Vuu:

And it led me to just strive, you know, I always thought that maybe striving to achieve what other people found was success would actually give me love. I didn’t think I was lovable. I didn’t think I was worthy, because of my immigrant background. And I was constantly striving. And, you know, when I found myself diabetic, overweight, and had those health issues, I really became the poster child of the Dalai Lama quote when he said what he found most interesting about humanity (and he said man), was that he would sacrifice his health in order to make money, and then sacrifice his money to recuperate his health.

Dr. Kien Vuu:

I feel so many people are driven by these programs and trauma that they had early on. And if we’re not aware of that, if we’re basically letting the default mode drive us, then we’re basically being driven by a survival mechanism rather than a creative mechanism that we could choose. And I constantly catch myself with all this old programming, old thoughts come up all the time. And that’s the beauty of it is, you know, when we start to catch ourselves with the old programming, we could start to make some new changes in terms of the life and the health that we want to have.

Tools for quieting the DMN, from breath to psychedelics

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

And this is one of the things I appreciated about your perspective. You know, I think one could fairly confidently argue that a realm of longevity and anti-aging medicine is super high dose hormones and, you know, it’s kind of aggressive hormones, aggressive supplementation, and there may be a time and a place for some of that, but I feel it’s a bit overkill, especially when looked at in relation to some of these more foundational items can be kind of glossed over. And certainly, I can say for some people, we can zigzag, go up, down, left, right, and backwards clinically with them, and none of the interventions will really move the needle, especially if there’s some sort of psychological or limbic issue that hasn’t been addressed. And it can be super freeing for an individual when those things are remedied. So this was something I really did appreciate again about your approach. And what are you finding to be effective in terms of techniques for helping to dampen the activity of the PFC or the default mode network?

Dr. Kien Vuu:

Oh, great question. Well, one, you know, I think one of the things that we found out in neuroscience is… here’s the interesting thing. If you’re out doing a task, the default mode network is basically the background, default, autopilot mode of our brain. And it’s on when we’re not actively thinking about something or doing a task. So it’s the default that turns on when we’re not paying attention. So I think really reclaiming our attentive states by not, you know, binging on Netflix or going through our phones through digital dementia, that really loses our attention. So I think limiting our phone time is crucial, number one, so that we have the control of our attention. And then I think other things that are useful that are out there are, one, meditation. Meditation really has the practice of being able to notice our thoughts. And a lot of those initial thoughts… we have what, maybe about 80,000 thoughts every day, about 70-80% of them are going to be negative.

Dr. Kien Vuu:

Why? Because it’s coming from this default mode state that’s always trying to look for what’s wrong to keep us safe. So the meditative practice of noticing that and going “Oh my God, there’s a thought, yes, but that thought is not me. Those thoughts are just things that happened to have come in and out of my life when I wasvery, very young.” I think that’s very important. Breathwork has been one of the most game-changing things that I’ve done to be able to quiet down the default mode. It turns out that, you know, I think the mechanism is as we breathe out CO2 in our body or as our blood becomes alkaline, it turns off parts of our brain, one of them being the default mode network.

Dr. Kien Vuu:

And I believe there are a lot of studies being done now, particularly out of London, demonstrating that breathwork and that alkalinization of our blood seems to quiet down the default mode network when they look at FMRIs. I don’t know if people read the book How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan, but Michael Pollan is a journalist that talks a lot about the default mode network and the role of psychedelics. Also out of London is a study that looked to psilocybin mushrooms, and people who have gone in into these psychedelic states, seem to really be able to quiet down that part of the brain called the default mode network.

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

Yeah, I was hoping you’d mention psychedelics because I think that wouldn’t be a place to start, but you know, I remember in, I believe it was in Pollan’s book where he described, it was either himself or one of the therapists, this observation that seems observed across multiple different people that with one psychedelic session, you can achieve about a year’s worth of therapy via the cognitive behavioral therapy technique. And that’s pretty impressive, right? You know, I’m all about doing things naturally, but man, if one session can give you a year of CBT’s effect, and I mean that’s just an estimation, it’s an anecdotal estimate, but still, I think it impresses upon us that, boy, we can really move the needle therapeutically here with some of these compounds.

Dr. Kien Vuu:

Yeah, certainly. I went out of state, or out of the country to do ayahuasca. And so I definitely have experimented with psychedelics. As part of my practice, I used to do more ketamine sessions, where I find very similarly a quiet down of this default mode. It seems like with a lot of these psychedelics, the mechanism of action is really kind of quieting down this old, hardwired system, this self inner critic that contains so much of our trauma. Being able to quiet that down, and once that’s quieted down, opens up the other possibilities of thinking, feeling, that has been very transformational in not only my life, but so many people that have talked about how psychedelics is really changing the way we’re looking at mood disorders and physical disorders as well.

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

Right, right, right. And you were doing IV infusions of ketamine I’m assuming, in office?

Dr. Kien Vuu:

No, I actually did. IM injections, almost sort of like in the set and setting of a lot of shamanic practices. I would start off many of these sessions with breathwork and seeing where people’s intentions are, and use binaural beats and music to be able to guide people through the journey of whatever they were intending to either release or come to.

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

Very cool. You know, I’ve been personally experimenting, and we have a few patients that we’re probably gonna refer to, there’s a clinician who is prescribing nasal spray ketamine. And I had a nice conversation with this gentleman and, you know, just to clarify for our audience, this is not something buy off a back of a truck and just go home and do it. But, you know, I said, “Okay, well let me go through your process, A so I can learn and B so I can be screened.” I wasn’t really worried about screening because I don’t have any comorbidities, but just to be on the safe side, and same thing for our audience, but we have a few patients who we’re referring for this, I found that it would take… I would do an evening meditation with this, and it was three or four times more powerful than even the best meditations that I would have.

Dr. Kien Vuu:

Yeah.

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

And it was very easy just to let an hour go by with, I would play something like the sounds of a thunderstorm, and some of my most moving in a positive way childhood memories would be relived in a very vivid fashion. And a few things I needed to process emotionally I was able to kind of process and go through in what felt like maybe 10 minutes, your sense of time is somewhat distorted so it’s hard for me to say how long that took, but I felt like there was a few things I was able to go from inception to closure and kind of encapsulate that issue and move past it, so I can just offer up my own personal experience with ketamine even at an at-home setting, I found it to be fairly therapeutic.

Dr. Kien Vuu:

Yeah. And I think you mentioned a very important piece, which is really the set, the setting, and the intention of doing so. Because, you know, certainly I think people can abuse ketamine, and use it to escape. You know, because what it does is it does quiet down that default mode. That default mode is sometimes a lot of that negative thoughts and voices that are coming in, and to be relieved from that is what some people do it for. And a lot of people do it recreationally. So I think that the set and setting is so important, but just like you said, I know so many people who have gone through really, really big transformations when they’re able to really quiet down that part of the brain and let old, trapped emotions and trauma kind of flow through, and access pathways of, again, thinking, being, feeling, that’s transformative.

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

And maybe while we’re on ketamine, not to go too deep into just one thing, but one of the objectives I always have is, how can we make these tools more readily available and get rid of any non-essential hurdles or barriers? And so one of the things with ketamine, if you go to a ketamine clinic, it’s usually a high dose infusion. And from what I’ve heard from friends and colleagues who’ve done it, it’s kind of like a half of a day excursion by the time you get there, do the session, sober up a little bit, get home. And it’s great, don’t get me wrong, I mean better than an antidepressant, an SSRI or an SNRI, but for some people that may be just out of their ability or their motivation. So this is where something like a nasal spray, which does have an absorption limitation to my understanding, so it’s very difficult to do kind of a high dose intense journey, seems like a decent starting point. Again, as long as you go through a professional, you get a prescription, they’ve qualified you that you don’t have contraindications, you have the right intention, set, and setting. But wondering, do you have any perspective on something that’s a lower dose as compared to a higher dose? I’m assuming the IM has somewhat of a dose limitation, so it may be lower, but I’m just guessing.

Dr. Kien Vuu:

It is a little bit lower, but that still has to be done and monitored. Less so requiring the full monitoring as IV goes. But you do get a limiting dose, it’ll kind of come in, it hits a little bit harder than the IV. The IV dose kind of drips in over time. So you kind of get a bolus effect, which I feel mirrors a lot of other type of psychedelic type of journeys. There are lower doses you can do, again with nasal sprays, as well as lozenges, and I’ve seen programs, you know, many psychiatrists are offering online programs where they’ll send you the lozenge or the nasal spray, and they’ll basically go through a group setting where people go through this transformational experience together.

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

Oh, that’s great.

Dr. Kien Vuu:

And then you go through some group shares and things like that.

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

Oh, that’s awesome. Yeah, maybe if you don’t mind, do you know the name of one of these clinics offhand?

Dr. Kien Vuu:

I believe Matt Cook at BioReset Medical is doing it. And I could probably get the names of a few more, they’re not coming off the top of my head, but I believe Matt Cook had had a lozenge program.

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

Great. Yeah, and if you think of a few more after and you want to just shoot me an email or something, I’ll put those in the show notes. Again, in the spirit of trying to make this as easy for people as possible.

Dr. Kien Vuu:

Oh, you also mentioned one other thing, in terms of quieting down that default mode network. It is seeming that the more research being done on flow, it would appear that flow is a phenomenon that goes on when parts of that default mode network are quieted down. And so, you know, Steven Kotler has done a lot of excellent work on tapping into flow, but it would seem that flow is probably the best optimal result that we have when we’re able to quiet down that part of our brain, that autopilot part of our brain trying to keep us safe.

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

And this is reminiscent of two things I’ve started doing lately. One touches on something I’ve been trying to advocate for progressively on the podcast. The initial observation I had here was just looking into some of the PTSD literature and finding that intense exercise both discourages or retards the formation of PTSD after a trauma if someone’s been doing it up to that point, and it’s also able to help reduce PTSD in those who have it. And I just did a quick search here and I found a couple papers in the BMC Neuroscience and one in PubMed that exercise and exercise challenges alters and dampens default mode network activity and/or resting state.

Dr. Kien Vuu:

Yes!

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

So I think exercise, and especially it seems if it can be either challenging or intense, can be helpful. And this ties in with the second part of my comment, which is I’ve recently started mountain biking again, and talk about something that gets you into flow state, because you really have to pay attention. And this is where I think mountain biking may be better than road cycling for this application, right. Any exercise again is better than nothing, but having to really kind of pay attention to the terrain I think makes it very challenging to be thinking about “Oh, my boss this, or my partner that, or, you know, I still have bloating, does it mean leaky gut” or, you know, whatever thing is kind of haunting you.

Dr. Kien Vuu:

No, absolutely. I mean the work from the Flow Genome project, Stephen Kotler and Jamie Wheal, has been very extraordinary, as I start to think about different states of consciousness as well as different health states and what it actually does to our DNA on a moment to moment basis.


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The power of positive stressors

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

And you know, something else that I’m assuming if some study was done here, we’d find this, or maybe the studies have been done and I haven’t seen them yet, but exposure to cold water or ice baths. I mean, certainly when you’re in cold water, I’m not thinking about much else other than “holy cow!”

Dr. Kien Vuu:

Yeah, right. <laugh>.

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

So that could be another technique for people. Again, I’m just speculating, but I don’t know if you’ve seen anything, Kien, in that regard.

Dr. Kien Vuu:

I think extreme type things that kind of push our bodies tend to be able to do that. You know, what they found sometimes was people who had near death experiences somehow had these euphoric states that they described very similar to experiences with DMT and whatnot. And it’s likely that during those near death experiences, there are parts of the brain that just shut down so that we can access those states. And so I believe the things that stress out our body, probably like the cold, tend to activate those similar mechanisms.

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

So even more evidence for these foundational pillars of exercise, stress management, whatever that technique may be, breathwork, meditation, flow activities of whatever sort, maybe sauna, maybe cold therapy. These things just have so many benefits, you know, way outside even the default mode network of course, metabolic neuroregenerative.

What about protein intake?

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

What about, you know, shifting gears for a moment because we can get lost in psychedelics, but protein intake. This is something wherein we recently interviewed Dr. Gabrielle Lyon, and I really appreciated one of the comments that she made, which was that maybe we need to rethink some of the findings from the centenarians and the Blue Zone work from Daniel Buettner that, you know, lower protein intake… and her claim was essentially, well, do you gain maybe five more years, but the last ten years are not nearly as vital because you don’t have optimal muscle mass. And she’s kind of making the opposite claim, that due to age-associated anabolic resistance, we need more protein as we age, rather than less. Wondering if you have any thoughts on this?

Dr. Kien Vuu:

Yeah, great. I think I tend to agree with her. I find that people with sarcopenia, and that’s really the loss of lean muscle, is really associated with chronic disease and the inability to have resilience for any type of challenge, whether it be COVID, whether it be pneumonia, whether it be a fracture from a fall. When we look at the work from the Blue Zones, you know, excellent work. I based a lot of my initial work on the Blue Zones. And for people who aren’t familiar, Dan Buettner traveled around the world in the early 2000s to discover where people lived the longest, and he found five locations he called the Blue Zones. And those were Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica; Icaria, Greece; Loma Linda, California; and I’m missing one.

Dr. Kien Vuu:

But anyway, there was five things, and he noticed basically some similarities. So they did a lot of social economic evidence-based data to find out why they were living so long. And they all had a sense of purpose. They all had deep sense of community. They found that they ate mostly plants and they didn’t eat all day. But at the end of the day, you know, whenever you’re doing those types of studies, we have to be careful of not saying things are that are associated with longevity are causative of longevity. And I think in that situation there, it just so happens that in these locations, meat was probably a little bit more scarce. There were people that ate some meat and they ate pork mostly. But I pretty much think it was just unprocessed foods in those places that probably led to there being a good diet rather than a low protein diet, to be honest.

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

And will you refresh my memory, because it’s been a while since I read Blue Zones. Were they found to have more activity?

Dr. Kien Vuu:

Yes. They moved every day. So one of their pillars was move naturally. I mean, those guys didn’t run marathons, go to the gym, or do the Olympics, but you know, they did things every day that kept them active. They rode a bike, they did a lot of gardening, they basically processed all their food manually. So there was a lot of natural movement.

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

But the reason why I bring that up is because there was recently a podcast with Peter Attia that I thought was just exceptional, and for our audience, maybe I’ll do a podcast summary on his podcast. But he essentially discussed, and he has this hypothesis essentially, lifespan vs. healthspan. And one of the central premises of his thesis I suppose is that exercise has the greatest ability to reduce all-cause mortality. And when you look at the risk reduction, this is according to Attia but I mean I take his word for it that he’s not just blowing smoke. When you look at exercise vs. diet vs. supplements, it’s almost an order of magnitude more beneficial in terms of reducing your risk of death or dysfunction. And so it just reminded me of how important the movement piece is.

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

And so I offer that in context of, well, if these people had more purpose, more community, they were eating less protein, and they were moving a lot more, then boy, there’s a few variables there that are highly impactful, especially the exercise, and I would argue the community piece. And so again, I offer that up so that people don’t perhaps weight too much the dietary aspect of those findings. Because you make a really good point, which is we have to be careful not to take one of the factors of a multifactorial lifestyle and attribute all of the cause to that one.

Dr. Kien Vuu:

Right. But I love what I gleaned from that, because it was from that that I started to do a little bit more research as to whether or not a blue zone’s lifestyle actually has any molecular or biochemical benefit. You know, I am in the anti-aging space, and there’s a lot of stuff with, like, stem cells, hormone optimization, peptides, and things like that. But you know, when we look at these blue zones, we look at places where people live the longest, they don’t have access to any of the stuff at all. So what’s it telling us, right? Is it telling us that there are some ways of living that are actually medicine? That’s what it’s really taught me. And when we look at different markers of longevity, and I looked at tons of markers, but if we look at things like telomeres, and we look at a cell danger response– in my book I refer to what’s called the conserved transcriptional response to adversity– it’s basically a gene complex that gets turned on when we feel stressed, which increases inflammation and lowers our immune system. Or whether we look at epigenetic clocks, which is basically another way to measure biological age. We start to see some huge similarities.

Five key categories for creating your cellular microenvironment

Dr. Kien Vuu:

And what we’re gleaning is that there’s five categories that are most important as it pertains to creating this cellular microenvironment. Physical, which is sleep, nutrition, and movement. Our emotional state, our mental state, our relationships, and then having a sense of purpose. All these things, the choices that we make in those five areas of our life, actually creates an energetic or an epigenetic environment for ourselves. And when we make the right choices of living life a certain way, we can actually give our DNA the signals for optimal health, longevity. And peak performance. And if we give it the wrong signals, you know, we’re living too much of that default mode network, and if we’re constantly in that stress state seeing what’s wrong that’s out there, we’re telling ourselves we’re potentially in danger, we start to activate things like that cell danger response. And when that happens, again, inflammation goes up, immunity goes down, and that’s basically the backdrop of chronic disease.

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

Can you give those five again, because I think these are very important cores to emphasize, I want to make sure everyone has a chance to latch onto these.

Dr. Kien Vuu:

Yeah, absolutely. So these are the five things that basically create the energetic environment of our cells. And they’re all connected. You know, each one of these factors, the choices that you make in each one of these areas, will actually change the biochemistry around your cells. And here’s the cool thing. If you work on one, you’ll improve the other. I’ll give you an example. So let me repeat the five. Number one is physical. And that includes sleep, nutrition, and movement. Next is mental. Our mental states, you know, what we’re focused on, and we’re focused on the things that we can change in our lives, or we’re focused on the things we can’t change in our lives. Or we focus on what we have, or we focus on what we don’t have. Because those things change the way we feel.

Dr. Kien Vuu:

And here’s the emotions. How we feel is this. You know, I believe that being a human being, having all the emotional experiences, the spectrum of all the emotions we have, is a part of the human experience. However, if our emotional home or where we chronically feel is agitated, worried, anxious, angry, hateful, we’re resenting people. In those negative emotional states, it drives up the stress hormone cortisol. And again, it activates that stress response which increases inflammation and drops our immune system. And we do know the reverse is also true, that laughter, love, connection, and particularly the emotion of gratitude, has been shown to actually lower inflammatory markers such as TNF-alpha, IL1, and IL6 in the body.

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

Kien, let me just slip in one thing here, because you’re reminding me of something that I have found really helpful, and I want to make sure to share just quickly. I’m a big podcast nerd, meaning listening to them. So oftentimes when I’m brushing my teeth, when I’m doing chores, sometimes when I’m eating, it’s just intake, intake, intake, data, data, data, learning, learning, learning. When I’m in one of those moments where I feel like life has beat me down a little bit, I’ll play comedy. I’ll play Bill Burr or Louis C.K. or I’ll just find standup comedy, and man, that can be such a shift. Because I’ll find myself over the course of the 30 minutes of laundry or whatever it is, laughing out loud six times. And that has a palpable, positive impact on how I’m feeling. So for people who are struggling, maybe turn off this podcast <laugh>, right? As much as I would hate for you to do that, or maybe finish it and then put on some sort of comedy or something that makes you laugh. Because I agree with you, laughter is huge.

Dr. Kien Vuu:

Yeah. And here’s the cool thing. They’re all energetically connected. So let’s just say you’re feeling shitty, okay? So that’s emotions. Say your emotions are off. Guess what happens if you sleep better, you eat an anti-inflammatory diet, and you move every day. You think that’s going to shift your emotions? Absolutely. Right? So your emotions are off. Okay, then look at your thoughts. Right now, what are you focusing on? Or what are the thoughts that are going through your mind? You’ll recognize that those thoughts and the emotions actually tie together. So if I notice I’m getting overwhelmed or if I’m anxious, okay, I’m worried that I’m giving this presentation, or… I usually see a thought pattern that follows. So if I could start to catch myself, I’m like, okay, can I change the focus on the thoughts, or can reframe how I’m thinking and give myself a more empowering feeling?

Dr. Kien Vuu:

And if I train myself to do that, I’ll notice my emotions shift as well. And here’s the other thing, when we talk about spiritual, I mean, if you don’t focus on yourself and just focus on helping somebody else, that will 100% change the way you feel. So you can use these, you know, if any one thing’s off in your life, say you’ve got negative thinking. Again, go to the physical, go to the emotional, you know, there’s tons of things I talk about in my book to address each one, but this is actually the foundation of my anti-aging practice. When I was diabetic and all those things, if I were to audit myself in those five areas, here’s the cool thing. Look, this is medical school and some in a minute, is if you could audit your life in those five areas, I guarantee you if you start to try to optimize your life in each one of those five areas, whatever chronic symptom or disease you might have, you’re going to improve it drastically.

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

Yep. No, great stuff. And why I think you and I both focus so much on these foundational aspects is because they do have this kind of potentiating effect.

Dr. Kien Vuu:

Yeah, absolutely.

Social and spiritual pillars for health

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

So we went through one physical, two mental, I know you mentioned sense of purpose, is that the third?

Dr. Kien Vuu:

Okay. So we had the physical, the mental, the emotional which we talked about. And again, you could do different things, start auditing your emotions, and I talk about it in my book, you know, I have tons of other things we could talk about. But then there’s social. Positive, nurturing relationships is what is known to increase our state. You know, we need it. In fact, loneliness is inflammatory. That one gene complex I talked about, the cell danger response, it’s actually activated when we are lonely. And so we thrive on a community, and we need to be around people that help lift us up. And so that’s something to consider. And certainly, look, negative relationships or toxic relationships pull us the other way too, because it’s going to change the way we feel, it will change our biology.

Dr. Kien Vuu:

And the last part is spiritual, which is purpose. Purpose adds seven years to life. Purpose is one of those things that, if you’re ever hospitalized, you spend fewer days in the hospital. And purpose also lowers your chance of getting cardiovascular disease. And so Pablo Picasso said that the purpose of life is to find your gift, and the meaning of life is to give it away. And I only think he’s partially right. You know, I think it’s less of a process of finding than it is remembering. And if you look in the mirror, you are the gift. And if you can think of the things that put you in those positive emotional states, the things that light you up, the things that bring you joy, those are the things that are programmed in your DNA, because that’s who you are, to light you up.

Dr. Kien Vuu:

And when you share that with the world, when you just share you with the world, that’s your purpose. You know, your purpose is also all the struggles and all the obstacles that only you’ve been gifted with, so that you could overcome. Because as you overcome them, you grow, you’re stronger and you’re more resilient, and you have more to give. And I think that’s what purpose really is, is giving the authentic version of us. You know, when I was a doctor, I always thought I was giving, but you know, here I am striving to be this thing that I’m not, and basically losing, what’s the term? Pouring from an empty cup. You know, that’s not it. However, when you are in a state of whatever you’re doing, and it just constantly lights you up doing it, if you’re sharing that with the world, that’s really it. It’s your body basically gifting you for doing what you’re meant to do. And the thing is, you don’t have to think of it very much, it’s just the things that make you feel good <laugh>.

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

Love it. Now for some of our clinicians, I’m sure that occasionally, as I do, they encounter this patient or this person they’re consulting with who they just, they need tests. They need some sort of medical intervention. And it’s really hard for them to accept, “Hey, like, you’re not exercising. This could be while you’re not sleeping well and you’re a little depressed.” And the person has a really hard time expanding their paradigm to accept that. “What about my serotonin levels?” Or “What about leaky gut?” It’s like, well, it could be those things, right? But there’s some really important low hanging fruit here that we haven’t explored yet. So from a hierarchal perspective, we should really start there. Is there anything that you’ve found effective with this sort of individual?

Dr. Kien Vuu:

Yeah, you know what, I tend to run some routine labs, I don’t get deep into the heavy metal testing or the leaky gut and all those things. It’s pretty much basic and routine initially. And I almost feel like some people need some kind of biofeedback. But most people I know that come in that, you know, they’re a little fatigued, they’re not feeling as energized as they did in their youth, they’ve got a little bit of that visceral belly fat. I could almost guarantee you that person’s insulin resistant. Right? I could almost guarantee that maybe some of the lipids are off as well. And if they sort of need that as the motivation of like, oh my god, if you continue that route, you’re going to be diabetic in six months or a year. That could be a little bit of a motivating factor. So I do use some really basic tests as a motivating factor for some people. But I think many people now understand the importance of a really holistic approach to life. But you know, I do feel that tests can be complementary for those particular patients that almost kind of need some kind of biofeedback.

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

Right. So you kind of meet ’em halfway, loosely said. Okay. Are there other interventions kind of coming from the foundations as this layer that we’d start with to supplements or other techniques that are, again, maybe layer two of the home, right, we’ve laid the foundation, now we’re kind of going to the first floor, so to speak. Are there some top interventions here that you think people should know about?

Beyond the foundations for longevity

Dr. Kien Vuu:

Not necessarily an intervention per se, but I feel there’s a very useful tool that I feel has been a game changer for all my clients. In my book I basically talk about something called the thrive state. You know, we create a bioenergetic state based on our choices in those five areas of life. And so many people know, hey, I need to eat better, I need to sleep better, you know, things like that. They know those things, but they don’t do it. So what’s stopping us, right? You know, what’s stopping us really is some of that old programming. And so it’s not always easy to make the right choice. But when we start to train the muscle of making that choice, we have a completely different life and completely different health.

Dr. Kien Vuu:

And one of the people who I admire very much, who has a quote that I basically created a process out of is a guy by the name of Viktor Frankl. And he was a physician and Holocaust survivor. He saw basically his father being starved death. He saw his mother murdered. He saw friends and family members tortured. But he still had this say. “Between stimulus and response, there’s a space. And in that space, there’s our power to choose our response. And in our response lies our growth and freedom.” And I basically created a practice of creating space and responding rather than reacting. And how do you create space? Well, if you have time, you can go for walk in nature, you can meditate. Or if you don’t have time, just take 10 deep breaths in through your nose, out through your mouth.

Dr. Kien Vuu:

And what will happen is you will activate the parasympathetic response and you’ve created a little space. And in that space, you act. And there’s an acronym. Have awareness. Oh, okay. Wow. That’s the craving that I had because, you know, it smells so good. Oh, there’s that story of “I’m not being enough again”, and my spouse just triggered it. Whatever negative feeling that you might have, have awareness of what that trigger is. And usually it comes from old programming. The C is choice. Choose, who’s the person you want to be? How do you want to show up? You want to show up as somebody who’s joyful, playful, loving, connected, if that’s what you want to be, choose at that point. And the next is the T part, which is take action. I want to be loving, I want to be connected, I want to be that person. So how do I respond now?

Dr. Kien Vuu:

“Oh my god, honey, I just reacted when you said that. There’s some old programming that came up. I really want us to be connected right now. Can we start over?” You know, or, oh man, I got that craving to eat ice cream because as a kid I always associated celebrating with ice cream, and now I’m stressed out, now I’ve got to reach for that. Okay, let’s have awareness. That’s not the best part of me. So what do I do now? Maybe I reach for a sparkling water or whatever that might be.

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

Love it.

Dr. Kien Vuu:

So that’s the way, we continuously notice the old programming bringing these feelings up, and then just creating a little bit of space. The more action we take towards the person we want to become, we start to train new pathways and we start to upgrade that old programming.

Dr. Kien Vuu:

And that, for me as well as my clients, has been the biggest practice that has been transformational in their lives. Because they can always just stop for a minute. And here’s the thing, we’re not going to be perfect. Have there been times I yelled back at my spouse when we’re having an argument? Yes. But what’s also important is what we do afterwards. We don’t beat ourselves up and say, oh my god, you know, they’re this, and maybe I’m not a good person either because I yelled back. No, we give ourselves the grace of reacting because we all have old programming, we have compassion for other people for the old programming too. But as soon as we catch it, we can always reset and go back to what we’re committed to. And that’s been one of the game changers, very simple and free practices I like to share.

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

Yeah, that’s fantastic. I’m a huge fan of taking a walk. And I also like how you frame that, which is if you made a choice that you weren’t happy with, take a walk to process it. Or maybe you’re not making a choice that you want to, like cooking a healthy dinner vs. eating out. This is one where I sometimes hit this fork, it’s like, ugh, I don’t feel like cooking, I just want to order something on Door Dash. Let me go for a quick walk outside and see if when I get back in six minutes, I still feel like I can’t whip something up really quick and need to order Door Dash or I don’t. And sometimes just that walk, the break, the time outside is enough to get me back to where I want to be.

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

And one other thing I’ll share, I caught this from Ben Greenfield when he was interviewed by Tom Bilyeu on his Impact Theory podcast. And I liked the technique he shared, which maps onto what you’re saying very well, he said, “Picture you’re watching yourself in a movie and you’re the main character. Would you be proud of, or would you want to be the person making the action you’re about to make?”

Dr. Kien Vuu:

Yeah.

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

And I thought that framing was really kind of cool because, you know, if you picture watching yourself in a movie <laugh> it makes it much more, like I said, it allows you much more to kind of disconnect from the emotion of where you are, look at yourself externally, and maybe makes it a little bit more crystal in terms of the action and how that’s dissonant from the person that you want to be.

Dr. Kien Vuu:

Absolutely, yeah. A good friend of mine, Benjamin Hardy just came out with a book called Be Your Future Self Now. And there’s the exercise of becoming your future self. Put yourself there, become your future self, like how is that person 10, 50 years from now, give them all the knowledge that that person’s grown to be, like, who is that person? And then do the exercise of having that person come into your life right now. And what advice would that person give to you in this moment?

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

Ah, that’s great.

Dr. Kien Vuu:

And I did this one exercise where I was sort of busy on my phone while watching my daughter at the playground, and I did this exercise and my future self was like “cherish every single moment”.

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

Yeah, that’s great.

Dr. Kien Vuu:

And that’s a really, really neat thing to do, is make your choices based on the person you want become.

Closing thoughts & where to learn more

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

Love it. Yeah. I think these are really powerful tools to equip people with. So thank you for sharing. I think that’s fantastic. Well, man, I feel like we could go for another hour here, but I want to be respectful of your time. Would you tell people about the book and website and anywhere else you want to point people?

Dr. Kien Vuu:

Yeah, absolutely. So you can get three free chapters of my book where I talk about the bioenergetic state sent to your inbox by going to ThriveStateBook.com. You can also get it wherever books are sold. My book is called Thrive State: Your Blueprint for Optimal Health, Longevity, and Peak Performance. I’m on Instagram with a new account now because, you know, all of these bots have killed my engagement with my old account. So I’m @doctorvmd on Instagram, also that on basically all the other social media handles. And I look forward to connecting with people over there if they choose to.

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

Sweet. And are there any closing thoughts or advice you want to leave people with?

Dr. Kien Vuu:

Yeah, so I think at the end of the day, people normally come to me and they want to live a long time. They want more years to their life. But then there’s a Benjamin Franklin phrase that says “some people die at 25, they’re just not buried till 75”. And so I ask, are you really just pushing back the year you are buried if you’re going to fill it with more emails, more stress, and more busyness? And so I just remind people that if you create, or if you consciously create, a beautiful life for the years that you have, your biology will gift you with more years to live as well.

Dr. Ruscio, DC:

Fantastic. Kien, you are a very well read gentleman, I can tell that by all the wonderful quotes that you’ve shared. And also, again, your perspective is really refreshing from someone who’s in longevity and anti-aging and just harping on these important foundational facets and some of these really cool tools that can help someone make better decisions. Because those decisions day after day, week after week, month over month, year over year, really become, you know, the person who is still smoking or still eating bad or still a workaholic vs. the person who has the life that’s much closer to the life that they’ve pictured in their head. And I think these things are just, again, incredibly important. So I appreciate you and your perspective and taking the time to chat with us.

Speaker 5:

Hey, thanks for having me on.

Outro:

Thank you for listening to Dr. Ruscio, DC Radio today. Check us out on iTunes and leave a review. Visit DrRuscio.com to ask a question for an upcoming podcast, post comments for today’s show, and sign up to receive weekly updates. That’s DrRuscio.com

➕ Dr. Ruscio’s, DC Notes

Dr. V’s Own Health Journey 

  • One of the only infants to survive in post-war Vietnam.
  • Later in life, he became a successful physician. However, at the height of his success, he became diabetic and overweight and struggled to find relief from conventional medicine practices. 
  • A patient reminded him of the power of choice, an important reminder that Dr Kien Vuu could take control of his health.
  • Now free of disease, Dr. V helps others optimize mental and physical performance to carry out their life’s purpose. 

 

How To Overcome Your “Default Mode Network”

  • “Default mode network” refers to being stuck in autopilot, operating in survival mode and with past traumas and unhealthy habits formed at a younger age. 
  • To get unstuck, Dr. V suggests: 
    • Limiting phone time
    • Meditating 
    • Doing breathwork 
    • Exploring psychedelics, particularly ketamine 

 

The 5 Categories Of Optimal Performance, Health, and Longevity 

  • Physical: Sleeping, eating, and exercising well 
  • Emotional: Coping appropriately to stressors
  • Mental: Being focused on positive thoughts 
  • Spiritual: Having a sense of a purpose 
  • Social: Cultivating meaningful friendships and healthy relationships 

 

“Thrive State”: A Useful Tool That’s Changed Patients’ Lives 

  • Patients functioning in an abundantly healthy state, aka “thrive state”, make better choices, often resulting in more success in health, relationships, and life. 
  • Creating space can help people enter their “thrive state.” 
    • Ex: When you feel stress, use it as a signal to create space. Go on a nature walk (or even leave the room briefly) to decompress
➕ Resources & Links

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Discussion

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