Tim Gray is known as the UK’s leading Biohacker and is the founder of the Health Optimisation Summit.
In this fascinating and wide-ranging interview, Tim explains how his old Mercury (amalgam) dental fillings set him on his incredible biohacking journey towards optimal health.
He introduces the five fundamental principles of health to focus on before diet and exercise, including optimizing your sleep and hydration (which doesn’t just mean drinking more water!)
Tim also explains the importance of using natural daylight to reset your Circadian Rhythm in the mornings and why it’s key to avoid blue light after sunset.
The first-ever Health Optimisation Summit is taking place at Olympia in London, UK, on the weekend of September 14 and 15 2019. Click here to get your tickets now
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Thanks for taking the time to speak to HumanWindow, Tim. You’re known as one of the UK’s leading biohackers. Could you give us a bit of a background about how you first got interested in biohacking and your journey up until this point?
I got ill about eight years ago. The doctors didn’t know what was going on with me. I had kidney stones, infections, brain fog and loads of things going. Basically, my immune system wasn’t working like it should do.
After a year of being in and out of the doctors, I sat down with him and asked what was going on with me. He shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘Tim, I don’t know, you look good on paper’.
I started researching. It just so happened that the entry way for me was around metal [dental] fillings. I understood that amalgam was controversial and it could cause immune issues. After being on antibiotics for a long time, my health got worse and worse, and I was bloated more and more, so I started researching.
I spent about four years researching things online and figuring out loads of cool things that no one seemed to know apart from the odd forum.
One day, I heard about Bulletproof Coffee and tried it out. It worked, and it was the clearest mind that I’d had for a long time, maybe even a year. I worked from 9 in the morning through till 2 in the afternoon with amazing mental clarity.
I started listening to Bulletproof Radio with Dave Asprey, and realized that there is a whole world of crazy people like me out there that are optimising their health using supplements, nutrition, technology and more to make themselves the best versions of themselves. That’s how I got into it.
What is Bulletproof Coffee?
Bulletproof Coffee came from the founder Dave Asprey. He was in the mountains and had Yak Butter in his tea.
You blend butter into coffee. It sounds crazy, but it’s actually high in Vitamin K2 and healthy fats, believe it or not. Having a high fat, low carb diet (the ketogenic diet) is a new wave within the diet world.
When you blend the butter into coffee and you put MCT oil or Coconut Oil into it, it makes it high fat and means that your body takes the Caffeine in slightly slower. That means that you don’t have a massive peak and a quick drop off with the Caffeine.
It also fuels you with the healthy fats in it. Some people say it’s a fad, I don’t think it is. Many people say that once they get into it, they won’t have milk in their coffee because it’s nowhere near as good, and milk is generally much lower quality compared to grass fed organic butter. Plus it tastes bloody amazing!
You speak about five fundamental health and fitness principles that you recommend people address before even thinking about diet and exercise. Could you run through them with us quickly?
Some people say that biohacking is for rich people or very expensive. It’s actually not. Essentially, all we’re doing in biohacking is mimicking a natural environment in an unnatural world.
If you aren’t getting nutrition from your diet, even if you’re eating healthily, why would that be? Is it because you’re low in gut bacteria? So you optimise your gut bacteria. Probiotics are very cheap.
If you’re not seeing sunrise, and the bluer light in the morning to reset your circadian rhythm and you have seasonal affective disorder, blue light is a biohack. You can buy a Lumie light for Argos for £50.
If you’re not healing properly because you’re not seeing sunset and not getting red light, you use red light therapy etc. There are many things to mimic a natural environment in an unnatural world.
A typical one is grounding. We’re wearing rubber shoes all day and we’re not connecting with the earth. Grounding out to the earth and getting negative electrons from the earth actually helps to reduce inflammation in the body.
The fundamentals basically play on that principle. Biohacking is really cool and it’s progressing health very quickly because it’s quantified and people are tracking what they’re doing.
But if you haven’t got the fundamentals right, then there’s no point trying all the cool stuff. My five fundamentals are:
1) Optimise Your Sleep – I use my Oura Ring to track that. Optimise your deep sleep, REM sleep, resting heart rate, heart rate variability and more. I use 16-18 different hacks every day to help me do that so that I can operate at a high level. Because if you haven’t got your sleep down, your immune system is not going to be right, you’re not going to have mental clarity and so none of the other things are worthwhile doing.
2) Hydration Optimisation – We are electrical creatures. Electrolytes are what help fuel our bodies and our energy, amongst many other things. But if you haven’t got the right minerals in your bloodstream, your electrical system isn’t going to work properly. It’s not just about drinking more water, which helps flush out the toxins and helps our blood be liquid, it’s about the electrolytes within the water. When you buy Lucozade or Gatorade, they typically have some electrolytes in them. But a full-spectrum mineral or something that has high mineral content will have up to 78 minerals in it. If you just supplement with magnesium or potassium, you’re going to be deficient or throw the others out of balance. Sportspeople know this and there are great supplements out there like Quinton Hydration and Totum Sport. You’ve got to get your hydration down. People find that if they sleep better and they optimise their hydration, their mental clarity and energy picks up significantly, and that can often be enough for the immune system to do its job properly.
3) Oral and Dental Optimisation – If you’ve got any metal fillings, then get those out safely. The reason why I say that is because some of the amalgam is mercury. Mercury is a toxic substance. If they break a thermometer in a school, they evacuate the school. Yet we can have it in our mouth, an inch from our pituitary gland and think it’s OK. Personally, for me, I don’t think that’s OK. If you have any root canals, which is a tooth that’s been filled down to the root, that’s basically a dead organ in your body, and they can harbour bacteria. Typically, it’s not widely known or believed that that [amalgam fillings and root canals] can cause health issues but from my personal experience and those of many others, it’s worth looking at.
4) Sunlight and Grounding – I combine those two things together. Take a plant – if there’s no sunlight, it won’t grow. It’s obvious. And if it’s not in soil, it won’t get its minerals and it won’t grow. We’re funny creatures because we don’t seem to remember that for ourselves. We don’t connect with the earth, because we’re wearing rubber shoes, and so we’re not getting the negative electrons. We cover ourselves in clothes so we don’t get natural sunlight on us. And sunlight is bigger than just vitamin D. Sunlight is energy – positive photons that help charge us up. We generally go round and collect sun energy from plants that they’ve collected and then we eat, so it comes to us through nutrition. Sunlight on our skin and in our eyes at a certain angle (not staring at it) gives us positive photons. And [when we’re grounded], we get negative electrons from the earth, which basically makes us a bio circuit board between the two. It reduces inflammation and charges us up, so our body heals properly. It’s very basic.
5) Oxygen Optimisation – Be mindful of your breathing, or do Wim Hof Method ice baths with breathing techniques because it helps your body to get intercellular oxygen. It helps the body work properly. If you have a car engine without oxygen, it doesn’t work. We’re the same, and when we’re living in a city that has, say 17-18 per cent oxygen rather than 21 or 22 per cent, then we are sllightly deficient all the time. Then, if we have poor posture or we don’t breathe properly or exercise, we’re not oxygenating our body properly, which means we can’t grow, fix, repair and do all of the basic functions. While biohacking is amazing – tracking your blood, looking at all these different things, having all these technologies – if you haven’t got these five things down, your body’s not going to work right. Sure, diet is important too, it really is because of the nutrients and things. But my belief is that if you haven’t got those things right, there’s no point opimizing your diet, because the body’s not working right.
One thing I think people often get confused with is this idea that we have to drink water constantly. I feel that we’re probably not made to be drinking water 24/7. Could you give a bit more information about how someone can go about remineralizing their water and talk about filters, tap waters and what water we should be drinking?
Let’s think from an evolutionary perspective. That mindset is good, because it’s taking things back to basics. We’re in a very unnatural environment and we haven’t caught up with where things are right now.
Based on evolution, if we saw a stream that was coming through rocks, we would drink the water, because it’s high in minerals. You can have water that’s filtered, processed and full of chemicals, that is ‘dead’ water, as opposed to ‘live’ water with the right minerals in it.
If you have filtered water, that takes out all of the impurities that’s in our tap water, which is great, but it also takes some of the minerals and some of the goodness out.
I won’t drink tap water. Firstly, because there are hormones in it from the system and contraceptives. Secondly, there are various other things in it, and they use chlorine to help keep it clean for safety reasons. That’s a type of bleach that can kill gut bacteria. If you’re killing your gut bacteria, you’re not going to digest your food properly, which means you’ll be deficient in certain things. I think it’s crazy drinking tap water, regardless of whether it gives you a bad stomach or not. Personally, I’d say to cut out tap water completely. And if you do use it, filter it, and use a very good filter.
I use Berkey Water Filters. If you do filter it, then make sure you recharge it with the right minerals. I use Quinton Hydration. It comes from sea plankton, so it’s enzyme rich, and it has 78 minerals in it. It basically rehydrates you from the inside out.
If you don’t have mineral-rich water, we become thirsty for more water to give us more minerals. So we drink more and more water hoping to get minerals from this water on an unconscious level. And yet all we’re doing is flushing out more and more, and we become more and more thirsty, because we’re drinking more and more low mineral water.
If you want to consume more water, drink low mineral water. If you want to drink less water and have enough to flush out the toxins and keep you energized, have high mineral content water, which is why Quinton Hydration is so good.
I found that I cut my hydration down by about 50 per cent by adding in the right minerals. I don’t need to pee 30-50 times a day like I did when I was adrenally fatigued. Now, I probably pee 3-6 times a day and I don’t have a bottle of water with me everywhere, which everyone seems to have now.
What about Brita filters, as they are a popular brand in the UK and USA?
It’s a good retail product and it does part of the job. But I can’t speak from the science behind it enough because it’s only a small filter, whereas Berkey filters can take hours to drop through. From testing, they apparently have 99.99 per cent of everything cut out.
Have you got any basic tips that someone can do to try and improve their sleep?
Number one is wear Blue Blocking Glasses after sunset. Blue light stops us producing our own melatonin.
Blue light is everywhere in the day. Evolutionary speaking, we’re not supposed to have blue light after sunset. Sure, there’d be fire, which is a redder color, but there wouldn’t be so much blue light.
Blue light wakes us up, so if we’re playing with our phone with blue light going into our eyes, of course, we’re not going to produce melatonin, which is what helps us sleep. If you wear Blue Blocking Glasses – again mimicking a natural environment in an unnatural world – they block that blue light out where you can.
You can’t live in pitch black, but Blue Blocking Glasses will block out the blue colors of the spectrum, which means that you’ll produce your own melatonin better, which means you’ll sleep better.
Another one is that if you do go to bed after sunset, have a blackout blind, because the blue light that comes up with the sun in the morning will wake you up, so therefore you’re not going to get enough sleep.
Sunset means that we start producing melatonin, sunrise means that we stop producing melatonin. If we’re sleeping far after sunset and waking on sunrise, we’re not getting enough sleep to repair our bodies.
Sleep is to repair the damage we’ve created during the day using the energy we’ve collected throughout the day. Blackout blinds help to block out the blue light in the morning, and Blue Blocking glasses help you to block out the blue light then.
Those would be my biggest tips. There are many others, such as using essential oils like lavender, which has been tested to show that it helps with sleep.
Anothier one is an earthing bedsheet which connects to the earth socket in the wall to ground you out, which then gives you the negative electrons (supposedly). Then things to block out EMFs like turning your WiFi router off and putting your phone on airplane mode. There are many other things as well.
Where do you stand on napping?
If you’re sleeping properly, you don’t need to nap. We’re not supposed to produce melatonin when the sun is up. The reason why people who slept, from an evolutionary perspective, continued to survive, is because most things shut down at night, because they produce melatonin when the sun goes down. Therefore, predators mainly sleep at night as well.
If we slept during the day, a predator could have come up and eaten us. Is that the right thing for us from an evolutionary perspective?
Nowadays, when we’re in a bedroom in a house that’s locked, sure it may serve us. But the point is that if you’re sleeping properly, many other things will work properly.
It’s the same with meditation. It’s very important and people with busy lives who can’t switch off do meditation because it forces them to calm the mind. Well, as the Dalai Lama said, the best form of meditation is sleep. If you haven’t got your sleep right, then what’s the point in meditating?
You mentioned how it was actually your amalgam fillings that set you on this journey to begin with. It seems to be a controversial topic as millions of people have metal fillings in their mouths. I know they’re deemed to be safe, but for someone who has metal fillings, do you always advise that you get them removed?
Yes. Mercury is one of the most toxic substances known to man. Why would we put it in our mouths where we’re constantly swallowing it all day long?
It’s basic, in my opinion. Sure, it’s controversial. But not in some countries. In some countries it’s been wiped clear and some are phasing it out slowly.
Many people I’ve met on this journey, when we look at a cellular level, have got high mercury levels. For me, that’s not a coincidence, and it’s always very similar things that people have from having them.
When health and safety come in and check out a workplace, they make sure that there is no chance of danger. They don’t go ‘oh it might be a risk’. They say ‘no, it’s not happening’.
When they build a bridge, they make sure that it can hold three to five times its weight just to be safe. Why wouldn’t we do the same with metal fillings in our mouths? It’s just not logical in my opinion – and I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.
How important is it to regularly eat fermented foods?
Again, it comes back to ancestral, primal times. We would collect some food, run after an animal and kill it (high intensity training!). We would then put the food in our cool but not cold cave. It would ferment slightly and we would eat. Our gut bacteria would have been amazing.
We didn’t have antibiotics that kills off the bacteria, we would’ve digested our food well and we would’ve gotten all the nutrients we need from it.
Eating fermented food is one of the original ways of eating. Now we put food in a fridge, and that keeps it sterile. We have food standards to make sure that everything is sterile.
When we, from Europe, go to India, we generally get bad stomachs. Do the local people get bad bellies every week? No they don’t, because their gut bacteria can cope with it. They’re eating the bacteria a lot more.
We are just a lot weaker from a microbiome perspective. Having fermented foods helps to keep that topped up, so we do have the bacteria levels needed to digest our food properly.
We are living in a very sterile world, so in my opinion, adding these things back in and introducing the right bacteria so we have the right flora to break down these things is so right.
Some people do have problems with [fermented foods] such as histamine issues, where they get headaches if they have fermented foods. That comes down to a whole load of different processes that need looking at.
Do you avoid things like deodorant and skincare products because they’re full of chemicals?
I try to be as natural as I can. I use hair gel in my hair at the moment. We need styling products that are more natural. There are a few brands out there that do household cleaning products that are more natural.
Some of them still have a lot of chemicals in. When it comes to styling products, that’s one thing that needs doing. In terms of shower gel, I use a very natural one. I think it’s called Tropic Skincare.
If we wouldn’t put it in our mouths, we shouldn’t put it in our skin. Really, if we wouldn’t eat it, we shouldn’t put it on our skin, because things go straight in.
For someone watching this who’s interested in what you’re saying and wants to take control of their health, what are some low-cost, simple things people can do to optimise their health?
Go to Amazon.com, and buy some Blue Blocking Glasses. They cost around $20. I use Ra Optics, personally.
Matt Maruca [the founder of Ra Optics] is a great guy. He’s a 19-year-old who’s figured a lot of stuff out, and I support him with his brand. So get some Blue Blocking Glasses and make sure that you block the blue light out from 6pm or 7pm in the evening, depending on sunset.
And sleep properly. Just nail it – absolutely nail it – and you’ll be amazed how your hormones can come back into alignment, energy, mental clarity… all of these different things.
The other thing is to make sure that you don’t drink coffee after midday. Coffee, on average, has a half-life of six hours. So if you have coffee at midday, by the time you’re in bed, that’s still 25 per cent of the Caffeine still in your body, so you won’t sleep properly.
I don’t drink coffee after midday as a result because it’s like having 25 per cent of a stimulant just before you’re going to bed.
Otherwise we’re just using blue light and coffee to keep us awake in the evening, yet we’re gutted that we’re not sleeping properly. Wake up!
Where do you stand on alcohol? Do you tend to avoid it?
It’s a poison but so are many things in life. It’s about the balance. I like to go on a 90/10 rule. I do 90 per cent super healthy and clean most of the time and 10 per cent I let go. It’s very normal in our culture to see people standing around drinking and smoking.
I liked a drink before I got ill and if I didn’t have health issues, then sure, why not? But if you do have health issues and want to prevent yourself getting ill, then think about it.
A guy goes to the doctor and says, ‘doctor, doctor, I want to live forever’. And the doctor says, ‘Do you drink?’ ‘No.’ ‘Do you smoke?’ ‘No.’ ‘Do you jump out of planes?’ ‘No.’ ‘Do you eat rubbish foods?’ ‘No.’ And the doctor says, ‘well why do you want to live forever then?’.
There is an element of enjoying this journey. But at the same time, if your sickness stops you from enjoying your journey, then you have to optimise it.
If I do drink, I drink Dry Farm Wines, which is organic natural wine. You don’t get hangovers from it, because it’s not so toxic on the liver.
If you do drink, drink clean and not too often. But again, if you’re not unhealthy and don’t care about living forever, do what you like. It’s just about being the best you can be with what you have in front of you at that moment in time.
Could you give us a bit of a background about how you came about putting the Health Optimisation Summit together and who’s speaking at the event?
I started a meetup group in London a few years ago, thinking I’d just have five or 10 people come along. It grew to 500 people very quickly, of which 100-120 people turn up every month. It turns out to be one of the biggest groups of biohackers on the planet who meet on a regular basis.
Many people said, why don’t you do a summit? By natural progression, I did. I thought it would be really nice to bring this community together. The worlds of health, fitness, nutrition, biohacking, paleo, keto – all of these mindsets together in one place.
The guys over at Bulletproof Upgrade Labs, Martin Tobias specifically, heard a podcast I had done on mercury toxicity and chelation therapy, and we hung out in London. Eventually, he said that they’d like to partner with me on it. I wanted to partner with more than one brand and have a collaboration, because collaboration is the highest form of intelligence. So I gave Upgrade Labs 25 per cent and Paleo f(x) 25 per cent.
Really, what I want to do is spread the message around health. Not urgent-care health. The system is great for that, it’s absolutely incredible and save me many times. But with chronic health issues – if we all put our smart minds together and say, ‘how can we figure this out?’, then we’re going to live healthier and happier. It’s going to take the burden off a load of things, people are going to be happier and healthier – and we’ll also have a stronger community as well. That’s the mindset of how this has all come together.
We’ve got Dave Asprey, the father of biohacking, coming over as a speaker. I’m very flattered about that. They’re really amazing guys at Bulletproof.
They’ve done really well in America at spreading the word. Labelling it as ‘biohacking’ has been great because it’s given it a funky term. Some people don’t understand that, which is why I’ve called it health optimisation, just so that it’s got a wider reach.
We’ve got John Gray, author of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, and one of the most published authors of all time. He’ll be speaking about relationships and how gender roles help hormone optimisation, and how community helps health in general.
There are many top top names, and I’ve called in favors from people around the world to get these guys together for the first time ever – and in London. It’s shaping up to be an amazing event and I’m very flattered to have an amazing team and amazing partners behind me.
What’s behind the ‘health optimisation’ name?
When I told my mum that I had created a group of biohackers, she said, ‘Timothy, darling, what’s a biohacker?’ I explained that we’re people who use science, technology and nature to optimise our health. And she said, ‘well, why don’t you call it that?’.
It’s for everyone to understand what biohacking is and the mindset of it. I am a biohacker who’s into health optimisation. There are biohackers who are into trans-humanism and implants, and things like that. That’s not my bag. I’m not here to live forever as a robot, I’m here to enjoy this experience while I’m on this planet as best as I can.
Health optimisation is the label to help spread awareness to what biohacking actually is.
What advice would you go back and give to your 18-year-old self?
That’s a really good question. The way that things are going in this space, and I’m talking about health in general, is towards preventative healthcare.
The smartest people I meet are preventing health issues and thinking about further ahead. It’s not about kicking the can down the road, but instead making sure that you are healthier for longer.
There is a 23-year-old I know who’s become very successful very quickly and I when I met him and asked why he was into health optimisation, he said, ‘so that I don’t get ill’. That’s the smartest type of person I meet. It’s preventative healthcare.
If I had known then, what I know now, I would say make sure that you’re optimising for the future. Don’t try and put the fire out in the house, make sure that the house is built properly, so it lasts for a long time. That’s what I’d tell myself.
Also, involve people more. Be more of a people person and enjoy those relationships more as opposed to just focusing on work and nothing else. Do what you love. And that’s what I’ve shaped this to be now.
The first-ever Health Optimisation Summit is taking place at Olympia in London, UK, on the weekend of September 14 and 15 2019. Click here to get your tickets now