Dr. Andrew Huberman—How The Gut Microbiome, Sleep, and Sunlight Impact The Brain

By Longevity by Design, November 9, 2022

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Inspired by the great unknowns of the brain, Dr. Andrew Huberman pursued neuroscience. From there, he realized that his passion also lay in the art of conveying scientific information in a way that scientists and non-scientists alike can understand. 

In the latest episode of Longevity by Design, our co-hosts, Dr. Gil Blander and Ashley Reaver, are joined by Dr. Andrew Huberman. Dr. Andrew Huberman is a tenured professor of neurobiology and ophthalmology at the Stanford University School of Medicine and host of the Huberman Labs Podcast.

Tune in as Dr. Andrew Huberman takes a deep dive into how the gut microbiome, sleep, and sunlight impact the brain and how to hack your daily habits to live a healthier, longer life. 


Meet Longevity by Design’s podcast guest, Dr. Andrew Huberman

Dr. Andrew Huberman is a tenured professor of neurobiology and ophthalmology at Stanford University School of Medicine. His laboratory studies neural regeneration, neuroplasticity, and brain states, such as stress, focus, fear, and optimal performance. Further, Dr. Andrew Huberman is passionate about communicating scientific information so that anyone can develop a deep understanding of scientific concepts. 

Dr. Andrew Huberman's inspiration to become a scientist stems from his father's passion for his work in the field as an experimental physicist. While explaining this to then six-year-old Andrew, his father said, "Well, you know that the night before your birthday, how excited you are? Well, that's how I feel about my job every day." Dr. Andrew Huberman wanted to follow his father's footsteps to a career in science, aiming to solve unanswered questions, which led to his fascination with the brain.  


Communicating scientific information to the public is vital

When 2020 hit, many people started viewing their health through a different lens. "I realized that we had a public health crisis of stress and anxiety and sleep issues, and while there's a lot of wonderful science in those areas, there's not a lot of scientific communication that's up to date."

To combat the lack of public-facing evidenced-based scientific research, Dr. Andrew Huberman hosts The Huberman Lab Podcast. He discusses neuroscience—how our brain and its connections with the organs of our body control our perceptions, our behaviors, and our health. Notably, Dr. Andrew Huberman empowers his audience to apply this knowledge to everyday scenarios. 

Dr. Andrew Huberman is inspired to teach people the why behind scientific concepts and believes that understanding the why empowers people to make good decisions regarding their health. "I believe that if you understand the mechanism, you're in a much better place to make informed decisions. For example, you can follow recipes and go pretty far, but it gives you zero flexibility. When you understand why you include an ingredient at a particular step in a recipe, then the day that you don't have it, you can make a rational and informed choice."

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How the gut microbiome modulates the brain 

Dr. Andrew Huberman explains the rationale behind how the gut microbiome modulates the brain, and he dives into two examples. First, the gut can be used as a lever that can access the brain. The gut has neurons that sense things and send signals accordingly up to the brain, and the brain is sending these signals back down, a loop that goes both ways. For instance, these neurons see or capture substances from food, and they send electrical signals to the brain. In response, the brain releases dopamine. Dopamine creates an action state in the brain and body that makes you seek more of whatever it is that triggered the release of dopamine, in the case of the gut, the food that flourished it. 

One common, albeit previously understudied, way to flourish the gut microbiome is by eating probiotic-rich foods. In a recent study, humans ingested a diet that included two to four servings of low-sugar fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, natto, and kombucha per day. "What they discovered was that the fermented foods contributed to gut microbiota diversity. Increased gut microbiota diversity significantly increased anti-inflammatory markers and decreased pro-inflammatory markers like CRP.” Altering inflammatory markers, therefore, slowly modulates the way that brain circuitry works.


How light exposure impacts sleep quality

Dr. Andrew Huberman discusses the plethora of research supporting the positive benefits of getting quality sleep. "I think it's safe to say that everything gets better when you're getting ample quality sleep, and everything gets worse when you're not. For example, emotional reactivity, wound healing, cancer outcomes, bad decisions, and more." Another critical function of restful sleep is learning. "Neuroplasticity, the actual rewiring of connections in the brain, occurs during sleep. The triggers are set during wakefulness, but the actual rewiring occurs in sleep."

The Huberman Lab studies many aspects of improving sleep, for example, how to get better at falling asleep, sleeping through the night, and if you wake up, getting back to sleep. According to Dr. Andrew Huberman's research, a good night's sleep starts with your morning habits. Dr. Andrew suggests getting out in the sun for at least two minutes every morning within the first hour of waking up. "So, as a pure action step, get outside, even if it's cloudy, and get sunlight in your eyes."

Conversely, bright light exposure in the middle of the night impairs sleep quality. Artificial light signals wakefulness to your clock because light suppresses melatonin, the hormone that promotes the transition to sleep. Listen to the full episode of Longevity by Design for a deep dive into the science behind the impact of light on sleep quality.  


Top habits to implement today to improve longevity according to Dr. Andrew Huberman

Longevity by Design's hosts asked Dr. Andrew Huberman for one lifestyle change that people can implement to improve their health and longevity, and he gave them five! 

As he mentioned earlier in the episode, getting morning sunlight and eating probiotic-rich foods are two simple ways to modulate the brain, and thus longevity. He's also an advocate for consuming essential fatty acids like EPA, whether from the diet or supplementation. Dr. Andrew Huberman also discusses the importance of participating in zone two cardio exercise for overall health and longevity.  Check out the full episode to learn more from Dr. Andrew Huberman. 



Longevity by Design

Longevity by Design is a podcast for individuals looking to experience longer, healthier lives. In each episode, Dr. Gil Blander and Ashley Reaver join an industry expert to explore a personalized health journey. The show helps you access science-backed information, unpack complicated concepts, learn what’s on the cutting edge of longevity research and the scientists behind them. Tune into Longevity by Design and see how to add years to your life, and life to your years.


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