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Season 1, Episode 15: How Sugar and Fat Affect Your Vagus Nerve with Daniel Pompa, PScD

By Jodi Cohen

Essential alchemy: the ancient art of healing - explore the connections between sugar, fat, and your nerves with experts jodi cohen, ntp, and daniel pompa, pscd in their enlightening podcast.

With Daniel Pompa, PScD you’ll learn how your parasympathetic nervous system is the key to healing, the difference between burning fat vs. sugar, and overcoming hormonal resistance.

  • Your parasympathetic nervous system is the key to healing
  • Burning fat vs. sugar
  • Overcoming hormonal resistance

About Daniel Pompa

Dr. Daniel Pompa is a global health leader and innovator on a mission to educate practitioners and the public on the origins of inflammation-driven diseases, cellular detoxification, fasting strategies, and diet variation principles.

Although trained as a Chiropractor, his authority comes from the victory within his own battle, having overcome neurotoxic illness that was rooted in heavy metal toxicity.
Dr. Pompa is the host of Cellular Healing TV, and the author of the books Beyond Fasting and the Cellular Healing Diet.

If you’re enjoying the Essential Alchemy podcast, please leave Jodi a review on iTunes.

Jodi: Hi. It’s Jodi Cohen, and I’m super excited to have Dr. Daniel Pompa joining us today. He is a global health leader and an innovator on a mission to educate practitioners and the public on the origins of inflammation-driven diseases, cellular detoxification, fasting strategies, and diet variation principles.

Although he was trained as a chiropractor, his authority comes from victory within his own battle, having overcome neurotoxic illness that was rooted in heavy metal toxicity.

Dr. Pompa is the host of Cellular Healing TV and the author of some great books, Beyond Fasting, which I highly recommend, and The Cellular Healing Diet. Thank you so much. Welcome, Dr. Pompa.

Dr. Pompa: Yeah. I’m glad to be here. I love doing shows like this.

Jodi: Well, I’m really excited. I want to ask you, why is our parasympathetic nervous system key to healing?

Dr. Pompa: Yeah. Well, we have this fight or flight system, and then we also need that system for the calm, to digest. And when you look at the gut being the second brain, it’s responsible for how this brain works. These two brains are connected. Obviously, all the nutrients that we need to live, heal, function is driven by the parasympathetic. So, the gut is so responsible for healing and how you feel because it’s connected to all of these neurotransmitters, and we know now that 70% of the immune system starts in the gut.

The bottom line is the parasympathetic controls that area digestion and, therefore, has an impact in how your brain works, how you feel, your immune system. That’s the power of the parasympathetic. And when people are stuck in this survival mode of sympathetic, it destroys their immune system and how this brain works. They’re opposites.

Jodi: Well, and also, I mean, if you think about digestion and detoxification and the role of the liver, the vagus nerve innervates the liver, and if you’re in a fight or flight state, the liver isn’t getting the blood flow that really helps. One of the things that I really admire that you do is that you’re really helping people switch from being a sugar burner to a fat burner, which is a lot more sustainable. I’m wondering if you can talk about that and kind of talk about why it might be hard for people to get into that fat-burning state?

Dr. Pompa: I mean, the cells use two things for energy, sugar or fat. Very healthy people can go back and forth. If you eat a lot of carbohydrates, sugar, it’ll burn it up because if it stays around in the system and not burned up well, it’s very oxidative. It causes inflammation. It ages you very quickly. It creates all kinds of damage.

And that’s why if you think of a diabetic that has elevated glucose and insulin, they age prematurely. They don’t die from diabetes. They die from a complicating factor with their stroke, heart disease, et cetera. So, that’s how damaging it is.

So, the point I’m making is the cells if you eat sugar, it should burn it out because it doesn’t want that process to happen. But when you’re not eating, what do your cells use? It should be using fat as energy.

And I’m not even talking about the fat you eat necessarily, although that’s part of it, but when you’re not eating at all, your body should be able to tap into its stored fat and utilize that for energy.

It’s a very clever system. So, when you’re not eating, you’re burning your fat, and you can get yourself to this efficiency because fat burning, sugar burning, fat burning, sugar burning, hey, I’m not going to eat today.

And I do it often, and I get busy, and I don’t even know. I don’t even get hungry. Why? Because my cells shifted over because they’re healthy to fat burning. We call that efficient fat adaptation.

Jodi: Right. And the other thing that I think is so genius-level about what you’re doing is that the toxins get stored in the fat. And so, if we’re not burning the fat, it’s really hard to detoxify. Can you speak to that a little bit?

Dr. Pompa: Exactly. So, the toxins do get stored in fat cells. I mean, they get stored in a lot of cells because they go into these fatty membranes that are all of our cells. So once your cells become toxic, okay, now you’re in trouble because guess what?

I always like to draw pictures, and I probably need a better pen to do this because this will run out, but that’s all right. We’ll draw a picture in here. Okay. So, here’s your cell. So, on every cell are these receptors to hormones. Okay. So, when this cell starts to get toxic, what happens is inflammation occurs in the cell.

And if I draw these little circles like this, these are mitochondria. That’s where you make energy. So, this also has a membrane that can inflame. So, what happens is that when this cell becomes toxic, these membranes in and around the cell inflame. Why is that even relevant to those watching this?

Because this is really important, this determines how you feel. And that’s all good people watching this care about it. That’s why, and this is how you burn fat. So once these membranes become inflamed, you don’t hear hormones like thyroid hormone, leptin, insulin.

All of these hormones are fat-burning hormones. They help you burn fat for energy. So therefore, when you’re not eating, if your cells can hear these hormones, these little mitochondria in here burn fat.

So, this is where these little energy houses that make energy for you to think, feel good, digest food. Normally when you’re healthy, they can burn sugar or fat. But when these cells get inflamed, then you don’t. What’s the number one cause of cellular inflammation that stops this fat burning process? Toxins.

Jodi: Right. Especially heavy metals.

Dr. Pompa: Yeah. Exactly. So, they come into these cells. Fat cells, of course, hold them, but all cells hold them. These membranes inflame, the cell gets inflamed. Now it can’t burn fat because it can’t hear your hormones that tell it to burn fat.

Jodi: It’s a vicious cycle.

Dr. Pompa: It is. So therefore, we have to get the toxins away from the cells. That’s one of the ways that we shift people to become more efficient fat burners. And by the way, skinny people watching, this can happen to you too because what you do is you end up storing visceral fats, which is arguably more dangerous.

Jodi: Meaning inside the body where you can’t see it.

Dr. Pompa: Yeah, exactly. I was skinny fat when I was sick. That was me. I was like losing muscle. And I still had this horrible belly fat that when I was enclosed, no one noticed, but I knew I was getting skinny fat.

So, the bottom line is the reason people can’t lose weight today, the reason why they get weight loss resistance, the reason they don’t sleep well, have anxiety, all of these are cellular issues.

Jodi: Yes. And looping it back to the vagus nerve, the vagus nerve releases the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which helps the body anti-inflame, but you have a program, True Cellular Detox, that I’m doing. And what I love about it is it’s this weird vicious cycle that it’s almost like a flypaper.

It’s really hard to get out of it once you start. And I love that you’ve kind of really looked at it and figured it out, how do we anti-inflame the cells. And I’m wondering if you could speak to that a little bit in your protocol.

Dr. Pompa: Well, look, real detox, I want to pick up. You said one little thing, and it’s important to the subject that we’re discussing, sympathetic/parasympathetic. When these toxins get into cells that are in your brain and your nerves, your nerves are surrounded by this myelin sheath.

It’s like a wire around–– I mean, the coating, the plastic coating around the wire. It protects the nerves. Well, in humans, that’s made of fat, and it protects your nerves. It’s called myelin. Toxins go for that. Okay. When you get that up in your brain and on these nerves, you’re stuck in this sympathetic dominant state.

Jodi: Right. And that cell danger response where your cells are always saying if you think about when you get sick, what do you do? You’re tired. You’re in pain, so you don’t move. It basically immobilizes you so that you can heal. But if you’re stuck that way forever, it’s fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Dr. Pompa: Absolutely. And then you have anxiety. If you wake up in the middle of the night, you can’t get back to sleep. This was me when I was sick all the way back in 1999 to 2005. I was very sick. But the bottom line is I was stuck in the sympathetic mode.

Oh, I didn’t digest, allergic to everything I was eating. I was trying to run from this food, that food. Then I’d eat these foods. I’d become allergic to those foods, intolerant, blah, blah, blah.

And then waking up in the middle of the night, anxiety, this sympathetic dominance. It’s like, well, ultimately, I discovered I had massive amounts of mercury in my hypothalamus, pituitary, which controls your thyroid. It controls your adrenals.

Jodi: Right. It controls the whole endocrine system. Yeah.

Dr. Pompa: Absolutely. It ties into your vagus nerve, which is parasympathetic. So, the bottom line as I was stuck there, and it really at the upstream, was toxic. I was very toxic, driving the sympathetic dominance. Okay. Back to your question.

So many people understand that toxins drive this sympathetic dominant state, why they can’t sleep, why they have brain fog, can’t digest food. But they’re downstream trying to do colon cleanses, liver cleanses, 10-day cleanse, this cleanse, that cleanse. Ultimately, real detox has to occur here at the cell. That’s it.

So, when these cells make energy in these little factories we call mitochondria, guess what it makes? It makes energy. Just like you burn wood in a fireplace, it makes smoke. It makes waste that your cell has to get rid of.

Jodi: Right. What people don’t realize, cellular debris can be a natural metabolic process. You’re constantly creating garbage, and the body needs to clean up.

Dr. Pompa: So, if we don’t get the cell doing what it has to do day in and day out and open up the damper, so to speak–– So when you burn the wood and make the energy, you don’t make–– Again, if you don’t open up the damper, the smoke pours in the house. You die of smoke, not flames.

Jodi: I lived in New York City when the garbage collectors went on strike. That was memorable.

Dr. Pompa: Imagine living there. Now, the bottom line is we have to get the cell detoxing. Real detox has to occur at the cell. We can get this upregulated and removing toxins. There lies the magic. That’s the key.

Jodi: What I love about your program is there’s a sequencing element to it. Like I think one of the things you mentioned, all of these liver cleanses, it’s almost like you need to crawl before you walk, walk before you run.

Like no one would expect a toddler or a newborn to just start running. There are stages, and there are reasons. Can you kind of talk about how you sequence your true cellular detox?

Dr. Pompa: Yeah. So, there’s a prep phase where we get the cells prepped for detox. And then you get the downstream pathways right, the liver, the kidneys, the gut, the liver. Open those up before we start the process. So, step one, prep, prepare for where we’re going.

Step two is what I call body phase. We want to get the easy to get toxins in and around the cells, interstitial fluids. Think of it just clearing the body. Why? Because the next phase is called a brain phase. So, you just realize all those symptoms I was talking about, the inability to burn fat, the nerve tissue, the brain.

That’s why you still don’t feel well. So, the brain phase, we want to clear the body first, then we go after it deeply. Why? And I don’t want to bore people with science, but toxins move from higher concentration to lower.

So, if we clear the body, then we can go to where the real problem is. And that’s in the deeper tissue. So, we move them from higher concentration to lower.

Jodi: I absolutely love that. And can you kind of speak to how when you help detox and get the toxins out, that actually impacts the vagus nerve and the parasympathetic state?

Dr. Pompa: Yeah. So, again, I use my own story. My nerve tissue, my brain, all of that is sympathetic/parasympathetic. So, once you relieve that control center that drives the parasympathetic/sympathetic, now you can bring the body back down to this innate balance of knowing when to be sympathetic.

We need sympathetic. We have to have that fight or flight, that energy. It’ll save your life. You have to be able to do that. But when you’re stuck there, you die soon, and you don’t feel good, but we have to have that ability. The brain controls that.

So, also, we have to clear the brain to be able to bring back that homeostasis. That means balance. And when you have balance, you’re in parasympathetic most of the time, sympathetic when you need it. The brain controls that balance. That’s a simple way.

Jodi: No, that’s perfect. And if you can talk a little bit about how being a sugar burner versus a fat burner, being able to be in ketosis and how that helps contribute to parasympathetic tone and being able to get into that state more.

Dr. Pompa: Yeah. So, when the cells are stuck as sugar burner, which so many people are, and again, it’s the hormonal inability to shift over and burn fat when you’re not eating.

So, when people say, why can’t I lose weight? I eat a perfect diet. That’s a hormone problem, but it’s a hormone problem because it’s a cellular problem. The receptors to hormones are on the cell.

So, think about that connection, but when your cells can’t use fat as energy, and it’s only burning sugar, it’s making more toxins than it needs to be.

Jodi: Fat is more clean-burning than sugar.

Dr. Pompa: Absolutely. So, think of it this way. I used wood as an example. When you burn wood, you need a damper. You need a chimney. You need a fireplace with an open damper because when you burn wood, it makes a lot of smoke.

Think of that as sugar. Now, think about if you turn on your stove, you have gas, that blue flame that comes up. Okay, that’s energy, and it’s fire and arguably even more hot than what’s in your fireplace, but you don’t need a damper. A matter of fact, you don’t see any smoke. Think of that as fat.

Jodi: That’s an amazing analogy.

Dr. Pompa: It burns clean. It burns much cleaner. So, when your body can shift over to utilizing fat, we can downregulate a lot of this endogenous meaning in the cell toxins. And now we even have a chance to start detoxing. Remember, a toxic state is a sympathetic state. It’s a state that you don’t want to be in. Toxic people, constantly the body’s trying to save its life, and that’s not where you want to be.

Jodi: Right. That’s really great. And if you could talk a little bit more about your strategy and fixing the gut versus the brain, like what you found. I mean, I’m actually very curious because you went from––

This was your personal journey, and you basically saved yourself and then kind of carried water from the burning flames back to help the rest of us who are still on fire. What has worked really well for you, and what did you kind of start with, and how did you figure out this whole paradigm?

Dr. Pompa: Well, when I realized, it took me some years to figure out even what was going on, to be honest, and I addressed my thyroid, my adrenals like so many because I wasn’t adapting to stress. Like I couldn’t even handle a lot of noise. I couldn’t sleep. I mean, skinny fat, hair was falling out.

So, I knew that was an issue, but when I would address my thyroid or my adrenals, I mean, some things might get better, but ultimately, I wasn’t getting better. So, then I realized in the center of your brain is the pituitary hypothalamus. That’s kind of your control tower of all your hormones.

And I realized something was wrong there. I just didn’t know what. And then one day, I’m online. I found Mad Hatter’s disease. And people remember what that is, but people making felt hats were using mercury as a part of the process.

They became mercury toxic. I was like, I’m this. I’m a Mad Hatter. So, I went and got a blood test, and it was normal. Unfortunately, it was a wrong test. So, fast forward a year, or so later, I became friends with a very bright endocrinologist. He said, “Dan, I think you have mercury toxicity.” And I was like I thought so too, but I did a blood test, and it was normal.

He was like, no, wrong test. If you were a Mad Hatter using mercury every day, blood, but I think you are chronically poisoned from years ago. So do a challenge test where you challenge out of your tissue and then see what’s there, and sure enough, mercury, lead, and other metals showed up.

So, then I was like, what do you think I got that from? He said, “Do you have any dental work done around when this happened?” And I looked back, and I had a journal because I was cycling. And sure enough, three days after these dental appointments, kind of when the fatigue started, then it escalated from there and then it was fatigue, anxiety.

Jodi: Because the mercury in your mouth got mobilized.

Dr. Pompa: I had two silver fillings that contained 50% mercury removed at that time. Now, I still had six others in my mouth. They do contain 50% mercury. But when they took those out, it vaporized a lot at once — and looking back now at studies and that those fillings vaporize mercury, that crosses the blood-brain barrier.

It builds up in your brain slowly, particularly the hypothalamus-pituitary. So there lied my answer. So, when I went online to like figure out how to get it out, I realized there’s all this crap about metal detox, this chlorella with cilantro. I’m one of those people. I just don’t take what I read for granted. I dig deeper than that, and I found that there was no––

Jodi: And that’s why I love what you’ve come up with because it’s better than what’s out there.

Dr. Pompa: I was dyslexic as a child. I couldn’t read till seventh grade. So, part of my gift is being able to like read things, determine, and remember.

Jodi: Oh, you’re discerning. Yeah.

Dr. Pompa: Believe me that the battles we have in our life, there’s ultimately gifts there all the time. So that was one of them.

Jodi: I agree with that. It would be interesting to be able to look at your life backward and see all those things that felt horrible at the time. And you realized what a gift it was.

Dr. Pompa: To obtain the purpose has been my mantra now. I wouldn’t even be sitting here today if I didn’t get very sick. And believe me, I have a lot of other stories of pain to purpose of my life, so that is why. It’s my whole family’s mantra. And there’s a whole story there.

But the bottom line is that researching really how to get this stuff out of my body and particularly out of my brain, that’s really what I’m teaching today because there’s so much garbage information out there, yet you have to fix the cell to get well. And more specifically, you have to detox the cell to get well.

Jodi: Yes. And that’s actually painted purposes very much my call to action too. And the purpose of this summit, because I think I see so many people that think they’re doing everything right, that are over-exercising, that are eating what they think they’re supposed to, and they’re doing it in such a hyper stress state that it’s almost like whatever they’re putting in, the nutrients aren’t getting assimilated, and the toxins aren’t leaving because they’re so stressed and it doesn’t occur to them that they just need to switch gears.

Dr. Pompa: And remember this, and this is really good for your viewers to understand: the body doesn’t know the difference of physical stress, chemical stress, or emotional stress. Okay. Meaning if you exercise too much and you don’t adapt to that stress, it becomes a negative.

Emotional stress, we all have it. When your body adapts, you’re good. When it doesn’t, now you’re put into a state of cellular inflammation.

Chemicals, the problem with chemicals is we have them in our tissue in and around ourselves. That is a constant stress. So, any of these stressors, physical, chemical, or emotional, keep you in that sympathetic state.

Jodi: Yes. It’s like having too many tabs open, and your device doesn’t work. It drains your battery.

Dr. Pompa: Absolutely. That’s right, exactly. It drains your battery, your cellular battery. So, everyone gets the fact that if you’re emotionally stressed, you’re sympathetic. And if you stay emotionally stressed, you stay sympathetic. And we talk about trapped emotions. Your cells literally can hold on to emotions like it can to toxins, so imagine that.

So, if you’ve had a lot of abuse in your life and different things, your subconscious holds onto that. It sends signals to your cells. You’re stuck in a sympathetic state.

So, when I work with someone, coaching them, and I just do this virtually now. I have people from all around the world. I evaluate their physical trapped emotions or the trapped emotions.

I evaluate their physical stresses, and I evaluate their chemical stresses because, ultimately, we have to unload all of the stresses. We can bring you out of that sympathetic state back into a normal balance.

Jodi: And one of the things that we haven’t talked about, you have a great binder. Like I find that sometimes if people go to therapy or do something where they’re really releasing a lot of those emotions, it actually causes a physical detoxification. And can you speak a little bit about binders and why they’re so critical?

Dr. Pompa: That’s really important. I keep looking for a better pen knowing this is going to run out when I lay it upside down. Anyway, I come back to my board. So, real detox has to be at the cell.

So, as we start unloading any toxin from the cell, remember it can be trapped emotions too. Well, these toxins have to be escorted out of the body. Otherwise, they move. They redistribute. They get into other cells, cross the blood-brain barrier.

Jodi: Right. They can actually get out of the fat cell where they were kind of sequestered into the brain where they cause damage.

Dr. Pompa: That’s right. Exactly. So, there’s a binder called CytoDetox.

Jodi: That I happen to have handy.

Dr. Pompa: Oh, thank you for that. They can kind of see it better, but that’s a vehicle that once we start getting the cell detoxing, CytoDetox actually has very small particles that can actually enter into the cell. So, think about these little particles in here and then bigger particles that stay out here. Well, why?

Because the little ones start creating a concentration gradient and move toxins out of the cell, but we want these big ones to prevent redistribution. So, the cell itself starts moving toxins out. We have to have these guys out here to catch them. Otherwise, you redistribute.

That’s the importance of binders. And then, cyto is meant to exit the body. Now, we don’t stop there. If I can draw a liver, that is a very poor liver. Many of the toxins make their way to that liver. Now, the liver holds on to toxins oftentimes in something called bile, B-I-L-E.

That’s what you use to digest fat in your gut. Now, follow me. I’m going to draw very, really bad intestines here. So, there’s your gut, that little snake down there.

So, what happens is when you digest fat, your liver will dump the bile to digest fat in the gut. But guess what it brings with it? Toxins. Yeah. Bile holds toxins. There’s a name for it called hepatic, that means liver. Biliary that means bile. Sludge, that’s obvious.

So hepatic biliary sludge ends up dumping into your gut. Here’s what I wanted everyone to understand is that you’re designed, your body’s designed to reabsorb bile from the lower intestine back to the liver. Why does it do that?

Jodi: It’s valuable.

Dr. Pompa: Yeah, it is. It’s valuable. It can recreate it, but it doesn’t want to. It takes a lot of energy, but what does it bring with it if the toxins are bound up in the bile? Toxins.

So, we call this autointoxication. You just go around and around and around, and you’re doing all these wonderful things, but it’s stuck in this round and round and round. So, we have another binder.

Jodi: Another vicious cycle, so you need to make sure that the toxins leave the body.

Dr. Pompa: That’s right. I don’t know if you have Bind in your reach, but Bind, B-I-N-D, that’s a binder with four different types of binders in it. And it just stays in that gut. So, while removing toxins from the cell, pushing them out of the liver, we have a catcher’s mitt that stays in the gut. Why? So, you don’t auto intoxicate.

Jodi: And that was important what you said that it has four different things because there’s charcoal, there’s psyllium, there’s chlorella. They capture different metals and different toxins. So, the combination, it’s a little bit like a catch-all, like the all-around player that can play any position.

Dr. Pompa: And many people try to detox with those things you mentioned. They don’t go to the cell. They don’t upregulate cell function. So, it’s a very special carbon that’s in that product. Very expensive and hard to work with because it has such a strong binding capacity.

And it has literally this–– I mean, if you take it out of the pill and put it in the air, it’ll go and stick to things. But as good as it is, it doesn’t do anything for your cells. And remember, real detox has to go to the cell, but it stays in the gut, and it prevents that autointoxication. So, 20 years I’ve taught this system of upregulating the cell using real binders and making sure it goes out of the body.

Jodi: Chris Shade, I think, calls it catch and release. You’re basically releasing the toxins from the cell and then making sure they’re caught, and they leave the body.

Dr. Pompa: Yeah, absolutely. And my five Rs is how we upregulate that cell function. And I kind of have a patent on that process and teaching it for years.

Jodi: Well, this was unbelievable. Is there anything else that you’d like to say about the vagus nerve, the parasympathetic state, or detoxification that we haven’t touched on?

Dr. Pompa: One of the other thing is, and this is maybe another show, but when I teach doctors, I teach a multi-therapeutic approach, how to do cellular detox and then fasting. And that’s why I wrote the book Beyond Fasting there. Fasting is a way that we utilize and help people get into parasympathetic.

It helps the detox process. It allows the body to go through a natural healing process. The Nobel Prize in 2016 was won by a Japanese gentleman for one process called autophagy that happens during a fast. What does that mean? In a fasting state, the body eats the bad stuff, the bad cells, and it cleans itself. So, when you put these two concepts together, then that’s how the magic happens.

Jodi: That’s amazing. Well, I’m a big fan of you and everything you’re doing. How can people learn more about you or connect with other questions?

Dr. Pompa: Yeah. I mean, you can go to my website. It’s simple. It’s Dr like doctor, Dr and then my last name P-O-M-P-A. So D-R-P-O-M-P-A.com. And if you go to Beyondfastingbook.com, you can get the book.

Jodi: It’s a great book. It does a really great job of explaining things. And I think it’s the best book I’ve read on intermittent fasting.

Dr. Pompa: I appreciate that. So, thank you. Thanks for having me.

Jodi: Thank you.

About The Author

Jodi Cohen

Jodi Sternoff Cohen is the founder of Vibrant Blue Oils. An author, speaker, nutritional therapist, and a leading international authority on essential oils, Jodi has helped over 50,000 individuals support their health with essential oils.