Building a Community for the Chronically Ill – The Story of WANA with Evan Golub

As we continue to quarantine and social-distance, one thing has become certain – a feeling of isolation can be greatly detrimental to your health. More and more research is showing us that the psychological impact of quarantine is wide-ranging, substantial, and long-lasting.

Today’s guest knows all about that. After spending 13 years working in the hedge fund industry, he ended sick and misdiagnosed for 4 years across 30 practitioners. When he finally was able to regain his health from Lyme disease, he made it his mission to help others navigate their journey with complex chronic illness and vowed to let them know – we are not alone.

This is the story of WANA with Evan Golub.

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The Transcript

Disclaimer: Transcripts are prepared by a transcription service. Refer to full video above for exact wording.

Caspar Szulc: 00:01
For most of the world, we’re now weeks into a quarantine. And even though we’re probably not exactly struggling as we binge Tiger King on Netflix, there is a dark side we have been starting to see as we isolate ourselves in our homes. More and more research is showing us that the psychological impact of quarantine is wide-ranging, substantial, and long-lasting. That’s why we’re bringing on someone that understands what it’s like to feel alone and created an app to help solve this issue. You see, you don’t need to be quarantined to have that feeling of isolation. So many dealing with chronic illness and unsure of the causes or even diagnosis go on in this limbo for years. Even when they’re given a diagnosis, navigating what that means, how to go about treatment and the various options presented can be overwhelming and also isolating.

We’ve seen it with conditions like Lyme Disease, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, auto-immune disorders, GI conditions, fibromyalgia, and we’re seeing it now with the pandemic as we lose that sense of connection and community. Today’s guest knows the importance of community. After spending 13 years working in the hedge fund industry, he ended sick and misdiagnosed for 4 years across 30 practitioners. When he finally was able to regain his health, he made it his mission to help others navigate their journey with complex chronic illness and vowed to let them know – we are not alone. This is the story of WANA with Evan Golub.

Evan, thank you so much for being here. You really do have a fascinating story and, and I haven’t heard it all, but I do consider it when the story of an epitome of a successful patient journey that is now paying it forward. And I say that because I speak to so many patients that do get better and oftentimes where they end up in a state that they feel they have a, you know, come out of the other end and want to do something to give back. And we’re going to get into your venture window, which is really exciting. But can you tell us a little bit about your story battling with Lyme disease and set the stage for us?

Evan Golub: 02:29
Sure. First, thanks for having me. So my story started in on a Sunday morning in January of 2013 so just over seven years ago and I woke up on a Sunday with a crazy case of vertigo. Unfortunately, my apartment was spinning for the following two weeks. I waS sort of throwing up and getting sick all over my apartment. It Was a really scary time in my life. My friends were sleeping over my and his wife were staying over. We didn’t know what was wrong with them. And so my brother throws me over your shoulder and carries me to an ENT. We found on ZocDoc about a block away from my apartment and that started what was being misdiagnosed for four years across 30 practitioners. So for the first about 18 months, I saw all ENTs because I had vertigo, disequilibrium, dizziness. And basically, if it’s, you know, related to your vestibular system, you typically see a your nose and throat doctor.

Evan Golub: 03:34
And so all of them would look in my ear and see inflammation and they would say, you have an inner ear infection, you should take this antibiotic. And some gave me pregnazone and some other things. But basically it was on a rotation of antibiotics. Each EMT would tell me something similar, which was Oh, the last EMT puts you on the wrong antibiotic. This one’s more general [inaudible] this one’s more specific. And I kind of just listened to them because I would take these antibiotics and then feel a little better for a few weeks and then I’d go off of them and my symptoms would come back. And so then probably about 18 months in, I thought maybe something’s wrong with my brain because a lot of them said, so you’ve had a disruption to your vestibular system and you know, it takes a while for your brain to adjust to the new normal or the new environment.

And so just give it time. And so I give this Stigler therapy as well, which really didn’t help me. And then I started seeing neurologists because I thought maybe there’s something wrong with my brain, maybe I have a tumor. And so I had MRIs, cat scans, EMGs, VNGs, you name it. Nothing really showed up. Nothing concerning, which was great. Well it was good and bad because you kind of want an answer, but at the same time you don’t want anything too serious going on. And all of the neurologists told me that I had vestibular migraines and I was, I was happy to hear that. I was like, great. We have, we have something to point to. And so I went back to the chairman of neurology at a big hospital in New York a few weeks later. And I just said, doctor, how does this make any sense?

I never had a headache for 29 years of my life. I literally never took an Advil. And then all of a sudden, at 29 years old, I have daily vestibular migraines, which result in balance loss and dizziness and light sensitivity and memory loss and brain fog. And he said, ‘Evan, we don’t understand the root cause, but you should take these SSRIs’, which are antidepressants. He said, ‘we’re not saying you’re depressed, but there’s a high correlation between people who take these and they’re dizziness subsides’. And so, you know, at that point you’re willing to do anything to feel better. I started taking them. About two weeks later, my best friend says to me, why don’t you see my acupuncturist? He fixed my knee and I ran the marathon. He was like a miracle worker. I think he’d be able to help you. So that was really my first entryway into more alternative holistic medicine.

“Let’s throw those pills in the garbage. They are masking your symptoms. You’ll never understand the root cause of what’s actually driving your symptoms. You’ll have side effects from those pills, you’ll need new pills from this for the side effects, and you’ll be an annuity to the pharma companies.”

And the first thing he tells me is – let’s throw those pills in the garbage. They are masking your symptoms. You’ll never understand the root cause of what’s actually driving your symptoms. You’ll have side effects from those pills, you’ll need new pills from this for the side effects, and you’ll be an annuity to the pharma companies. And this is exactly what they want. And so that’s what we did. We threw those pills in the garbage and he started working on me and a few sessions in, he said, I can’t figure you out, but I know who can. He’s my mentor’s mentor. He’s a former brain surgeon who now practices integrative medicine. So 800 bucks. I walk into his office in Manhattan and I come in with a binder and itch thick with my blood work, MRIs, cat scans, CD ROMs, everything from four years neatly organized.

And long story short, he flips through for about a half an hour, basically mesmerized that I had this much this many labs and data from the last four years stored neatly. He was like, this is incredible. No one does this. And he basically just looked up at me after about a half an hour looking through everything. And he said, where’s your Western blot? And I said what? He said, your Western blot. I said, I’m sorry if this is a naive question, but what’s a Western blot? He said, it’s a test for Lyme disease. And I saw the frustration in his face, but basically no one had ever even mentioned, let alone tested me for it. And so that was in February of 17′, so four years and one month into my battle where I finally got a proper diagnosis. And since then I have dedicated my entire life to getting smart on the condition, the related autoimmune conditions.

I ended up building a community of over a hundred Lyme buddies who I’ve helped and we’ve all, we’ve helped each other which had led me to building a digital platform to connect people with various chronic and invisible conditions, which is called WANA, which stands for, we are not alone. Because everyone with a chronic illness always feels like they’re battling this all alone. And I had to go through it for a long period of time. But after creating community and connection and having a large group of Lyme buddies who we’ve all helped each other I sort of felt that no one else should ever have to do this alone and there should be a platform that is aggregating… You know, we were helping each other and discussing some of the most important information in the world. Right are our diagnoses and symptoms and treatments and practitioners we’re seeing and what supplements we’re taking and how we’re feeling and are we Hertz’ing.

Several months later I get a text from her. Hey, I’ve started to bother you. It’s Nicole. I just got back from Thailand and I have horrible vertigo. Can you help me? And so I ended up helping Nicole through a lot of her symptoms for the first couple of weeks. And really, really, I mean, she was calling me every day like, you are my savior. I don’t know what I would do without you right now. And a few weeks later is when I got my positive diagnosis for Lyme. And so I just went back to her and I said, you know, it took me four years to figure this out, but we had the same symptoms. You literally have all the symptoms, you should go get tested. And she came back with a positive diagnosis. We also both had mold situations in our apartments, so she had black toxic mold behind her AC unit in a beautiful unit that she owned. You would never know, it was this sick apartment.

But it was, I, I saw it firsthand and it was, there was definitely a bad situation. And so I find a high correlation between people who have Lyme and also mold illness or chronic inflammatory response syndrome. And so we became Lyme buddies. She was actually my first line buddy where we were really championing each other to get better and who to see and what’s working and what herbs you’re taking. And like, and you know, first we started with antibiotics and then we transitioned to more natural and holistic medicine. And then we started building this community, what became over a hundred Lyme buddies. And it was really, it was Nicole who really pointed out that there should be an app for this. So the whole time I was thinking like if all of this data can be aggregated and stored and you could start applying analytics to it, you come up with some really powerful takeaways. But it was Nicole who actually identified that that’s a really interesting opportunity when I was introducing her to a lot of people in Lyme and she just said like, this is so cute. There should be an app for this.

Caspar Szulc: 11:36
I want to jump into WANA shortly. Sorry to cut you off. But I have so many questions because what you’re telling me, what I’m hearing right now is literally the story, of course, it’s your own, but it’s the story of so many patients, right? Of just the frustration being passed along specialists. And trust me, a lot of people have big binders too. Because I’ve seen some come in with a thousand pages, right? Because when you’re dealing with something, you don’t know what’s going on. Your body’s kind of falling apart. You start to really be analytical on yourself and you start to track yourself. You are the quantified self, you know, the definition of it. But there’s a point where you said you went to the acupuncturist and you actually threw out the pills on his recommendation. That takes a leap of faith. And if we set things up also, you spent 13 years as a hedge fund advisor, correct?

Evan Golub: 12:31
Yup. Yeah. On the, on the trading desk.

Caspar Szulc: 12:33
On the trading desk – that’s a very logical, analytical background and that’s where my background is in finance. It takes some sort of a leap in faith, right? To go from the conventional specialists who everyone kind of says they know what they’re doing. You’re going to the best people in conventional to go to an acupuncturist and listen to them. How did you make that leap of faith?

Evan Golub: 12:56
It’s a great question. I’ve always kind of felt that the experts aren’t always the experts. And I guess I, I started gaining that feeling over time through frustration of being sort of pointed in all these directions of I just felt like taking all these antibiotics and pregnazone and antidepressants. If it wasn’t, it just wasn’t the right, they all felt like bandaids and it wasn’t actually addressing the root cause or the actual cause of the inflammation. And so I think when he said that I would, I was so fed up with sort of the, you know, the expert opinions that were just driving me to really antibiotics and antidepressants that I was open to anything and everything. And hearing someone who is a great acupuncturist and had healed my best friend’s knee where he ended up running the marathon. A total success story. I just said, you know what, I agree with him and my gut reaction was, he’s right. This is not fixing what’s wrong. It’s just masking the issue. And, and that’s exactly right. I mean, if I had listened to those and was still seeing those neurologists and ENTs, I probably still be dizzy and I’d still be doing vistibular therapy and I’d still be on antibiotics and/or antidepressants like Effexor, Topamax. I’d still have all my symptoms probably. And now I am, I have really, you know, sort of biohacked my body, my immune system, and I feel I’m actually healthier then I was before getting sick.

Caspar Szulc: 14:48
Yeah, that’s beautiful because you know, you took that leap of faith and it paid off. Right? And I know a lot of people are very against that leap of faith and just put all their trust in one way. But if you’re not seeing the results, right, just like you’re, you’ve been in finance, if you give your money to someone, they keep losing it year after year, you’re probably not going to jump out of there quickly and be like, dude, this isn’t working right. You’re losing money year after year. We should try something different. I know you’re said to be the best, but are you really the best? If it’s not working for me. Now, you took your leap of faith, you got into a new integrative, as you said, program. What were some of the therapy? What were some of the things you witnessed on your healing journey that you can share with listeners who may be on the cusp of taking that leap of faith but are a little bit hesitant?

Evan Golub: 15:40
Sure. So the first practitioner that I really saw that really helped me was a Chinese medicine doctor in Midtown who’s been doing this for about 30 years. He has an entire Chinese herbal protocol. His name is actually Dr. Zhang. He has a whole Chinese herbal protocol that he puts you through. That was really the first thing that the first sort of antimicrobials, herbs – he also does acupuncture – to boost my immune system where several weeks in. I started thinking… I was at work, which obviously on their trading desk is you know, you’ve got bright fluorescent lights, you’ve got EMFs coming out of the wifi, the routers. I’ve got three computer screens in front of me. I mean, it was not a good environment for someone who’s sick.

And I would get sicker and sicker throughout the day as a sort of analytical person. As you mentioned before, I was tracking my symptoms in Excel and noticing that I was getting sicker throughout the day and throughout the workweek. So Friday nights would be my worst point and I’d be so symptomatic walking out on Fridays and then Monday morning would be my best. And so triangulating basically, was it environmental, was there mold in the environment? Where was it just really exposure to EMFs because, you know, I would leave and then go into fresh air and sun and nature and I’d feel great, you know, probably a day later. But when I was submitting myself back to all of those exposures I would get really symptomatic. And so, sorry, I digressed a little bit. The first doctor was the Chinese medicine doctor, but then I started really just going down and meeting….really with everyone. I started seeing so many different practitioners because I was just so eager to learn and feel better.

Oh, sorry, I skipped part of the story. I remember several weeks in on that herbal protocol being at work and saying, ‘Holy cow, I’m not that sensitive to the lights above. I am not feeling dizzy’, when I go into the subway. The subway used to make me super symptomatic, which very common with people with these conditions, they stay away from the subway. I remember going down to the subway probably because there are mold and pathogens in the air and there are bright fluorescent lights right above your head, which you don’t notice, but when you look up, they’re literally a foot above you. And I remember going into the subway and, and saying, I don’t feel like I’m gonna fall into the tracks like this is…I remember being so grateful that I feel better. And so that really drove me in and made me determined to seek out sort of new treatment options.

Then I got introduced to Aligned Specialists actually out in the Hamptons who does low dose immunotherapy. And so I did LDI for several months and I mean, some of my symptoms just disappeared. After doing LDI, I had tremendous neck pain, which is very common in the Lyme community. I think it’s because some of the co-infections burrow themselves inside your neck tissue. I had tremendous neck pain the first time I did LDI, the next morning I woke up, it was as if someone put a pin in my neck and deflated it. I remember thinking, Holy cow, that pain wasn’t supposed to be there. Like I was so used to it and actually want to, craniosacral therapist I saw actually told me, you have the tightest neck I’ve ever felt. And so then, yeah, then started doing a lot of craniosacral therapy and acupuncture and started getting really smart about my diet.

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I thought I was a clean eater a long time ago, but then I really started analyzing what I was putting in my body. I am now basically gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, grain-free. I mean, obviously I, you know, sometimes bend the rules, but basically am I more of a paleo, almost like carnivore diet? I definitely do eat a lot of meat, a lot of meat and vegetables. And I started practicing hot yoga and doing infrared saunas and taking really great supplements such as phosphatidylcholine and NAD and glutathione and all the vitamins. So the vitamin B complex and B12 and T3 and K2. And I was just getting better and better and better. You can’t look at it day over day, even week over week is tough. Healing is not linear. And so you actually have to look at it really on like a monthly basis. Otherwise you get really discouraged. I mean, so many people who say like, Oh, but I feel crappier today than I did, you know, three days ago. And it’s like these things, it’s not a direct line up into the right, unfortunately, but are you better than you were, you know, a month ago or three months ago or a year ago? And the people that in my community, I can generally say – yes, across the board. People do get better. It does take time when you’re healing naturally. But when you give your immune system the tools to heal, I think incredible things can happen.

Caspar Szulc: 21:03
No, you’re absolutely correct. And whenever I speak to patients, of course I’m not a doctor, but I love speaking to them, especially as they’re going through and kind of getting to that healed stage and self-healing again. They realize it’s a journey but it’s never an easy one. It’s a longterm marathon. You’re going to have those ups and downs, you’re going to feel probably worse at times and then better and then you’re going to lose, you know your faith a little bit because you’re going to hit a real speed bump, but you just have to keep going and it is a marathon, not a sprint and the end result is so worth it.

Everyone I’ve spoken to that has come out on the other side and is now self-healing and really, you know, in a healthy state, mind, body, and spirit, I mean also is incredibly thankful and almost feels blessed to have gone through the process and made it that it wasn’t so easy as just taking a pill and I got better because I would have never been so thankful for my health and I wouldn’t be where I am today doing the things I’m doing. So it’s, it’s a story you hear a lot about.

Evan Golub: 22:06
Absolutely. Yeah. and by the way, taking that pill isn’t going to fix all of the things that are wrong with the immune system. We all have a lot of toxicity and pathogens and retroviruses in us and, and heavy metals, all of these things that cause issues. They are sort of toxic and so just taking, you know, whether an antidepressant or antibiotics that’s not necessarily the right solution. At least in my eyes.

Caspar Szulc: 22:39
Yeah. I mean, listen, there’s a place for that, right? I will say that the doctors I, you know, it’s not like we knock it or anything and I know you get this too. It’s not to knock it, it’s just to say that’s not a lifelong way of going about it. It is kind of sweeping and sometimes your body can take over and heal itself with a little bit of help from an antibiotic if you’re healed and you’re in a good state, but if you’re using that as the crutch and the only thing that’s going to get you better, it’s not going to do it for you. It’s actually going to probably lead you down the worst route and lead you into more chronic disease that is incredibly hard to get over 10, 20 years down the line.

Evan Golub: 23:18
That’s right. I don’t want to say like I’m against antibiotics or anything. Right. I’m all for them. Especially if it’s an acute situation. I think they’re incredibly helpful. It’s when this becomes chronic and for years and years and years, you have the same symptoms that aren’t being relieved and you’re seeing doctor after doctor after doctor, and that is still the solution. That to me, when other alternatives need to come into play.

Evan Golub: 24:41
I think it’s just growing up in a society where you were taught and trained that doctors are experts and have all the answers. And so like in the beginning of my journey, of course, I mean, of course you’re just listening to them and your GP, it’s really isn’t until probably several years in where you’ve exhausted those options that you realize you need to sort of become your own doctor and take matters into your own hands and actually understand and you start to actually…Maybe there’s a mind-body connection there where you’re actually understanding that there is inflammation and there is a root cause of what’s driving it. Let’s fix that versus just sort of, you know, taking an antidepressant or something like that.

Caspar Szulc: 25:30
Right. And, and I think a big part of that is it’s just knowing yourself and trusting yourself. No one else will actually experience what you’re experiencing. You know, they could plot it out for you on charts and lab results, but you are in your body, right? You’re in your head, you’re going through this and you need to trust what you’re feeling as the barometer of where you’re going. So a lot of people actually don’t trust themselves and would rather trust a lab result or what a doctor is saying. And like you said like doctors are wonderful people but they’re not suddenly some semi-gods or something like that that know how to do it and actually heal you. No doctor is actually healing you. You heal yourself, they just give you the tools to do that.

So I think once you start to realize, I mean I’ve been around doctors my whole life and at first, I thought all more of these like great healers. My father, I looked up to him and everything, but they’re regular people, right? They go through special training, but it doesn’t mean they understand precisely who you are and why you got sick and all these things that you might have more insight into. And working together with the doctor that way is probably the best route.

Evan Golub: 26:35
Yeah. I think it’s also that, you know, medical school doesn’t necessarily teach you about lifestyle, and diet and nutrition that much. I mean, maybe it focuses on it a little bit, but the fact that your GP isn’t asking you about your environment and maybe it’s a sick environment, maybe there are toxins in it or what are you eating? I was eating, I thought I was eating a clean diet for me. I was eating a lot of eggs a long time ago. It turns out then I went to an allergist. I noticed I was like, my body was getting like slightly more inflamed and I wasn’t as lean as it used to be. And then I went to an allergist and I found out I have a sensitivity to eggs. And you know, just not everyone goes to an allergist. Maybe when you’re younger, but when you’re older, not everyone goes to an allergist.

And so just understanding that once I cut the eggs out. It was wild. Like my whole body just like became so much trimmer. And I felt better. And so what we put in our body has a tremendous impact on how we feel physically, emotionally, how much energy we have. And so if you’re putting things in your body and consuming things that you have sensitivities or allergies to we should know that, but that’s something that you’re, at least my GP wasn’t asking me about my diet. That’s usually more of a functional, holistic approach. You know, and talking about, you know, meditation and yoga and being mindful and like none of that comes into play. At least the doctors I’ve seen. And that is part of the equation. So I really feel like it’s just not a holistic approach. They’re also not typically looking at how different parts of the body are interacting with each other.

And so I had a lot of digestive issues. I actually…this may be too much information. I went through a period of time where I’d like hemorrhoids and like, I didn’t understand it, but I had like procedures done and I saw a gastroenterologist, I don’t know if I pronounced that properly. I saw three of them. One of them was like, this is really strange for what seems to be a very healthy, like 30 year old, right? And it turns out that the Lyme bacteria can actually go towards that area and inflame it. And so it all makes so much more sense now by the way, all of that is resolved and relieved. And I think a lot of antimicrobials and herbs helped with all of that. But my point is they would have never thought about Lyme or how my rectum relates to my dizziness because those are two totally different parts of the body. But when you start seeing a functional medicine doctor and they look at the body holistically, they understand and can put the pieces together of what’s going on. And that’s why I really love functional medicine.

Caspar Szulc: 29:51
I mean you got to like, it just makes sense again, that you are a whole body. You are not separate. Everything’s interrelated, right? How can you get a paper cut that leads to us, you know, systemic infection, right? It’s not just the finger, it’s always connected. And even then you’ve got to look at things like teeth are connected, right? Dental like so many people just look at it, everything. So separate, We’re not machines like that. It’s not like we are car take out a carburetor, replace, you’re good. And that’s it. And it’s isolated there. So it’s, it’s really, you know, you lived it and found that through the four years and 30 different doctors and I know other people are going through it also. So I’m hoping that they can embrace that holistic mindset that everything is interconnected in you. Even your thoughts, of course, are related to your health.

So you mentioned that you had this community of a hundred line buddies, right? Who really helped you out. How important was that in your healing journey? Because a lot of people think that, you know, if you’re sick and you’re going through it, you’re going through it alone, you have your friends, family and everything who may get some of it. But how important was it to you in your healing journey to have this community of people that kind of got it and maybe supported you and you know, you could go bounce things off of?

Evan Golub: 31:09
It’s a great question. I think community and support is such an integral part of healing. Having people, I mean, when you’re lost and alone, there is no worse feeling in the world that loneliness. And when you have a community that understands and is going through what you’re going through and your talking every day and bouncing ideas off of each other and sharing thoughts on different products and supplements and practitioners and what’s working, what’s not working, and why am I hurt? And that is so helpful. And it’s part of the genesis of why we’re building WANA, which is really to create and connect others who are going through what you’re going through.

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Caspar Szulc: 31:53
So let’s jump into that now. You got the community, it’s really important, right? And you literally transformed. So you left the hedge fund industry. You are now 100% into WANA. So tell us about WANA, what it is, and why it’s so important to you and probably to so many patients out there?

Evan Golub: 32:12
eah. WANA is a digital platform that connects people with various chronic and invisible conditions. So right now currently we just launched, we’re in about 40, what we call invisible conditions such as Lyme, fibromyalgia, endometriosis, TCOS, POTS, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. And these are typically illnesses that we consider a little bit more modern. These are not conditions 30 40 years ago were very popular. They tend to appeal to a younger audience. So we’ve done a lot of research. It’s typically about mid-twenties to mid-thirties are the most common demographics for a lot of the conditions I just listed.

Caspar Szulc: 33:02
And isn’t that a little crazy to you that, you’re talking about kind of these complex conditions and people in their twenties and thirties? Right. And I know this from being in the medical field that that’s a huge population of people that are chronically ill, but people that may be like, wow, there are people that are sick in their twenties and thirties with these things. Like you went through it, right? It’s not discriminate of being in an elderly state. It’s literally these days a huge population is that age, right?

Evan Golub: 33:34
It’s wild. So we actually thought we were originally going after what are called chronic illnesses. Honestly, everyone’s familiar with that term. Six of 10 adults in the U.S. – Cancer, arthritis, heart disease – massive, massive conditions or diseases. After doing a lot of research, we found out we’re actually going after what I was talking about earlier, what are called invisible illnesses. These tend to, as you said, affect a younger demographic. It actually skews more towards females, which is really interesting, which a lot of our community, about 85% of our community is female, but that was independently done through a research firm. I think POTS is five times more common in women. Fibromyalgia I think is four times. Endometriosis is obviously all-female, one in 10 women. And so a lot of these conditions skew towards females. And then I forgot the question.

Caspar Szulc: 34:30
It was basically saying that young people are dealing with this, right. And that’s the audience you’re going for. Correct?

Evan Golub: 34:37
Sorry. The other point I was going to make is that these invisible illnesses are typically not well understood by Western medicine because they tend to be more modern and they tend to affect a younger demographic. These are not topics that were discussed 30 years ago in your textbook in medical school. And so they typically, these people are frustrated because they’re talking to a GP who doesn’t fully understand them, who typically tells them, you’re fine, you don’t look sick. It’s all in your head. And I’ve heard this over and over and over. We’ve literally interviewed hundreds of our users and we did a lot of research before we launched. And it’s such a similar story over and over. I actually just met up with a girl from WANA. She was misdiagnosed for eight years. She had two surgeries, all this crazy stuff and it turned out she has endometriosis.

She’s had crazy pelvic pain and painful periods and all this stuff with no answers. And now she has an answer. She can have the surgery related to her. And knowing, by the way, I’ve heard this story over and over and over and this was, this is what we’re calling like a more modern condition. Endometriosis was not very popular, call it 10 years ago. I mean, some women have told me even three years ago it wasn’t very popular. So it’s wild to see the emergence of a new condition like that. Where maybe a typical Western medical doctor may just kind of shrug it off and say, well, sorry, but you have painful periods. And there are other conditions that sort of that I think fall under this umbrella of modern conditions such as hypersensitivity to EMFs, which are electromagnetic frequencies. But with the rise of technology and WiFi and 5G and artificial blue light and us staring at our phones and tablets all day, that is changing the way our brain sort of operates neurologically.

One of my symptoms was extreme sensitivity to light and have noticed that also just generally exposure to EMFs, which light is also a form of EMFs, like fluorescent lights, put out EMFs, anything manmade frequency. And if I, and I did ask my GP about this, he doesn’t know about that. And if it’s just, it’s, it wasn’t around 30 years ago. And so when she studied in, and I know they stay up to date on reading medical journals and that stuff, but unless you’ve been in the thick of it and that is your exact specialty I just don’t think they understand it enough, which is why we sort of see people becoming their own doctors and really taking matters into their own hands because they are frustrated with with really hearing that you’re not sick. You look great. Maybe it’s due to stress. I was told that all the time, when you work in finance, you’re on a trading desk, you must be super stressed. And it was like I wasn’t sick for 29 years and now I’m really sick. Something is wrong. I know my body and it’s not an inner ear infection.

Caspar Szulc: 38:12
I mean stress is a contributor, but that’s the thing. I think what you’re talking about here are diseases where they’re truly multifaceted and you’re talking about so many different points of inflection and root causes. It is EMF, it is stress, it is virus, bacteria and nutritional deficiency. How you’re eating, microbiome, your thoughts, your emotions, your relationships, all of that. Right? And that’s what leads to your disease and your diagnosis. And if you’re not addressing all of those things and peeling all the layers off the onion, you won’t truly get healthy. You will improve, but then you’ll go back, right? So, it’s really great that you’re getting into these types of conditions cause they’re the ones that are of course, the most difficult. And if you don’t have the proper information to empower yourselves, and the only way to get that is through sharing, then you’re always at a disadvantage to trying to heal. So, you know, great job with getting this together. Now to give a little bit more insight into WANA and how it may differentiate from other folks, you know, groups and Facebook groups and forums out there, what would you say is the USP and unique selling proposition of WANA?

Evan Golub: 39:28
Yeah, so first off, when you onboard on WANA and you go through an 11 step onboarding process that I think makes you feel pretty comfortable. And B captures a lot of information that we can then make your experience a little bit more personal and we can match you with people who are more related to you. I would say if you look at the competitive landscape our biggest competitor is Facebook health groups. I think they do a great job of…You know, generally, Facebook is you know, matching you with your friends, but Facebook groups obviously matches you vertically with people who understand you or who you have common interests with. And you see Facebook doubling down right now on Facebook groups. They have had commercials for the Superbowl, the Grammys, the Oscars recently. Because they realized that people don’t want to just connect with their friends. They want to connect with people who understand them.

And so it’s really so, so Facebook health groups is great. But A, not everyone wants to use Facebook. Especially with what’s gone on in the last year or so. Number two is our audience; our demographic skews slightly younger. It’s really 18 to 35, 80% of our audiences is in that range. Most of them are not on Facebook, especially the younger audience. They say, you know, I, I’ve interviewed them and I say, well, what about Facebook health groups? And they said, Facebook, what? I’m not on Facebook, I’m on tictoc, Snapchat and Instagram. And so where are the younger audience having these conversations? It’s really Instagram, which again, I just don’t think is the right platform to be talking about Crohn’s disease. It’s, you know, cause you’re talking to your followers or your friends who don’t have Crohn’s. You should be talking to people who do have Crohn’s. And so that really is the landscape.

You also have Reddit and Twitter where a lot of these conversations are happening. And then you have direct competitors, which are other apps that have tried to verticalize communities around certain conditions. So there’s Patients Like Me and The Mighty I would say are the two largest players. And I’m a big fan of, of what they’re doing and trying to advance sort of data to create better solutions for their users. I think we’re just doing it in a slightly different way. I think our brand first off is a little bit more millennial-driven and approachable. And then I think our user experience, I would call it a little bit more modern.

You will eventually be brought to a personalized home screen that ingests a lot of your health data but also presents you with like new podcasts and videos related to your diagnosis and symptoms. And a gratitude journal. A lot of people in this community like to journal. We will then push that to a gratitude feed, which will be filled with gratitude and positivity, which is shown to be very helpful for healing. But aside from that, right now you are, you are brought to the product and you see a feed. And the feed has trending conversations. It has the most recent conversations. It has anyone a section called my diagnosis. So that’s anyone with your diagnosis, what they’re talking about.

And anytime a topic is written about, we have 300 topics already covered across diagnoses, symptoms and treat treatments and diets. Anytime one of those topics is mentioned it automatically hyperlinks. And so that brings you to more information. We hired the editor in chief, former editor in chief from Everyday Health and she brought over a whole content team with her. And so they’ve been producing incredible content on these topics. And we’re rolling out 75 new topics every quarter. And what’s really exciting is the most recent wave of content is actually all community suggested because we’ve launched now. And so now we’re receiving suggestions on new topics to go into. So we noticed a lot of people want to talk about, you know, acne and allergies and, and even certain drugs. And when we talk about Adderall and Welbutrin and Lexapro. And so this leans a little bit more Western in general than the way we started. But that’s great. That’s people showing that they want to talk and connect about things that they’re going through. And so it’ll take time, but we’re eventually going to get into we want to just build the social network for health.

Caspar Szulc: 43:58
And I’ve been on there and it’s a beautiful interface, really great job there. It has a directory too that’s very thorough, you know, has everything. I saw a bee venom on there and NAD and all these different, you know, and that’s great because you want to put all those out there. Because you never know what’s going to be that special therapy. They may help you get over that. Everyone’s different and you got to kind of acknowledge that. So the more the better, I say. Now I want to play devil’s advocate just for a second here because a lot of the patients that I’ve spoken to that at a certain point felt they needed to get off the forums because there was sometimes a, an air of hostility or maybe negativity about ‘that won’t work for you. Like don’t try that, this doctor won’t do it for you’ or, and it seems that sometimes it’s like you just become your diagnosis.

Right? I’m no longer Evan. I am Lyme disease. Hi. Nice to meet you. Do you have Lyme also? Great. Let’s have a pity party. Yeah. So a lot of times that’s where forums I feel like have failed in some ways because it almost keeps the patients in a negative state, not a healing state and it doesn’t feel as supportive at least I’ve never really had to be on one luckily. But I’ve heard from different patients going through it. Sometimes they enjoy it. Sometimes they’re like, I had to get off. How is WANA going to be different? How would you address that?

Evan Golub: 45:25
Thanks for asking that. We’re pretty cognizant of this issue and there is a lot of negativity on most health forums. We have community guidelines that sort of suggest to our community that they should be positive and supportive. And if you don’t abide by them, we can sort of remove your content. Aside from that, I think the fact that most of these forums are typically anonymous, so you look at like a Reddit or a lot of these just general health forums you don’t really know who you’re talking to and that makes it very impersonal. We’ve done quite the opposite at WANA. We create these beautiful profiles that have, you know, people’s photos and their story and their bio and where they’re from and all of this. So you really get a very humanized experience. And we think that that helps.

Of course we still get some negative posts. You know, but we think that that helps create an emotional connection and hopefully a little bit more of a positive sentiment when sort of helping or, or, or chiming in. Because it becomes much more community-driven. And you understand like who these people are and where they’re from and what their story is versus just a random username that I’m talking to back and forth. And so it’s really creating a slightly more beautiful experience that we hope will inject more positivity. We also plan to bring experts to the platform and practitioners and so potentially helping guide the information and the conversation we think they can help there. And so, but it is a good question. Right now we haven’t really had that be one of our main issues. But it’s definitely something for us to consider as we, as we scaled to a larger audience.

Caspar Szulc: 47:27
Yeah. But I think what you said there about humanizing it. That’s something we at Innovative Medicine are huge about humanizing medicine, right? You are not just a diagnosis. You are a person, you are a human. You are so much more than that. You have all this power to get over it. Don’t think of yourself as just that. Don’t get into the negativity. And I think, you know, by doing what you’re doing and humanizing the experience on an app, it helps push you into that positive state. It gives you a little bit more, I think, power to have a voice that is beyond just the disease. And that’s all it is to me. You know, there – you’ll get past this too. So I think you’re doing it right in that respect. What’s some of the best advice that someone’s given you in regards to health and healing?

Evan Golub: 48:17
That’s a good question.

Caspar Szulc: 48:21
I know it’s a little bit on the spot.

Evan Golub: 48:23
Yeah, no, no, no. It’s a great question. So many things are coming to my mind. I’m trying to think of, yeah, this might be a little controversial, but I have really enjoyed reading the books and watching the videos of Medical Medium. I know he’s a very controversial topic. You know, people, I suggest his book to people and I usually say maybe skip the first chapter where he talks about, you know, talking to spirit. But I really, really identify and resonate with the things he says. And healing your body through nutrition and your diet and that autoimmune conditions actually do have a root cause and they’re typically viral and, and these pathogens are going intracellular and then your body’s attacking trying to attack the pathogen. But in turn it’s attacking its own cells, thereby creating an autoimmune reaction.

Evan Golub: 49:20
I really just identify with it and it makes so much sense. And more importantly, he has this wild following of millions of people that have said, you have helped me get so much better. And when I started reading his first book, at least – I started identifying there was almost like a really interesting mind-gut connection. Where I started getting more critical and analytical of the things I was putting in my body and how I was feeling from them. And really noticing that, wow, when I do eat grains, I get brain fog. Or when I do eat X, Y, and Z, I feel lethargic or this way. And so let me cut that out, let me cut this out. And then just really eliminating a lot of things. I think he was the first person when I read everything he was saying, I was like, this makes so much sense. And it also, it also just makes anecdotally makes sense that he has millions of people literally thanking him every day of solving their mysterious symptoms that they’ve had for 10, 20 years that no one’s helped them with.

So even though it wasn’t a personal, I guess mentor, it was just reading his books and I’ve watched a lot of his videos and listened to his podcasts and I watched some of his Instagram lives. I really think he’s doing a great job at helping shed light, positivity and direction on how to heal the body.

Caspar Szulc: 50:51
Yeah. I’m really glad you brought that up actually because there’s two things. I actually haven’t spoken on this. I’ve gotten this question through like direct messages and everything about, you know Medical Medium and what I think of them. And what our center in our approach thinks of him. Number one, we have his books out in the waiting area of our center. Not to say that we abide by everything in there I think. But I think there are some real gems, like you said, and, and beautiful things that people can really take in, in a good way and apply to life and absolutely improve their health. So I’m fully in back of that.

Number two is this idea that you don’t need to have MD at the end of your name to understand how to help people who are going through something. And that’s a tough one. I myself have tried, you know, I’ve, I’ve struggled with that because I’m not a doctor. My father is. Everyone around me is. But sometimes people like, Oh, you’re in the medical industry, you must be a doctor. It’s like, no, I’m actually a business person. I’ve got a finance and marketing background. But I’ve been in this my whole life. I’ve met more patients by the time I was like a teenager than most doctors have their whole life because I was always around it, traveling the world, meeting patients.

So I actually really am appreciative of someone like a Medical Medium who is a medium, not a doctor of any sort. But has good information that could help people because I think it gets people to see that doctors aren’t the only ones I should be listening to for information. If there are other people out there, and this goes across the board this day and age of all industries, you don’t need a degree in something to actually be very good at it anymore. So I do think it’s great that people like Medical Medium are out there. I do also think sometimes you’re going to get other people that probably aren’t as knowledgeable as he is or don’t have the skill set or whatever it may be trying to put out information based on their own experience that may not be so truthful, but you gotta take the good with the bad sometimes. But I’m a big fan of Medical Medium as well.

Now looking at your health routine nowadays, what does that look like? Are you taking any supplements every day? Are you doing something every day as part of your routine that you just can’t live without?

Evan Golub: 53:08
Yes, so I am big on self-care
, so every week I typically practice hot yoga four times a week, which is an infrared heating. And for those that don’t know, infrared heat is seven times for detoxifying them. So if you can find a hot class with infrared heat, that’s super, super helpful. I also do infrared saunas. I do acupuncture, weekly craniosacral therapy, and neurofeedback, which is sort of like brain retraining. On the supplement side I’m constantly rotating through different supplements but taking NAD, phosphatidylcholine, glutathione several different vitamins, just vitamin Bs, D, K2. I try and drink celery juice pretty often based on Medical Medium and just, I always feel better drinking celery juice. I’m trying to think of some of the other.

Caspar Szulc: 54:12
Do you meditate?

Evan Golub: 54:14
So it’s a good question. I should meditate more. I consider my yoga practice to be meditative. But that is probably not enough. And my business coach and several others tell me that I should be meditating more. You know what it is. I haven’t found the right tool to like incorporate it into my routine. As long as I find the right app or the right, you know, practitioner to talk to you or whatever it is. I just haven’t found the right one. And maybe I should, I, I downloaded Headspace years ago and for some reason just didn’t continue with it, but maybe I should try Calm or Headspace or any of the others out there.

Caspar Szulc: 54:53
My advice is try Inscape is pretty good. That worked for me because I was also, I’m a crazy INFJ, my brain is always on, so I had to do lots of those apps and I even tried like Tibet mindfulness meditation, which just too much for me. Your eyes are open and you’re just like, you know, seriously quiet for hours at a time and it didn’t work for me. And then there’s Muse was a lot of patients tell me because you’re actually wearing something and seeing the feedback. It is like neurofeedback meditation. So maybe try those two. That’s what I like to tell people. What’s next for you and WANA. What can you tell us about that we could get excited about?

Evan Golub: 55:34
You know, basically what I said before is where we want to grow this and build the social network for health. There should be a centralized platform where you can go. I want to eventually get it so that when you join WANA, first off, we know more about your health and you do the same way that Spotify knows more about your music, listening the habits than you do and they can analyze what you’re listening to and then create really helpful suggestions like your discover weekly list, discover daily list. And those are incredible because I don’t have to sift through all these different bands. They just served me a list and I don’t know, you know, any of the 30 bands on the list. And I like all 30. And so that provides a really powerful user experience.

Same with Netflix. When I watch Heal, they recommend me to Diagnosis. And that’s great cause I don’t have to spend time sifting through 99,000 titles of what to watch. When you eventually join wanna call it two years from now and you put in all of your health information, including your diagnoses, symptoms, location, practitioners you’re seeing, supplements you’re taking, treatments you’re trying, we should be able to analyze across all of our users. What’s been most helpful for you? Who’s the best practitioner for your diagnosis and symptoms in your region? What are the most helpful supplements based on your symptoms that others have found and rated highly? And so really creating a centralized place where all of the data, all people’s health data are being ingested.

And then that is sort of presented back to you with interesting takeaways. And yeah, so really creating like a very personalized health experience is that, that sort of makes sense. And I want to eventually get it so that when you look up a topic, let’s say you look up fibromyalgia, boom, right away you were presented with top questions asked about fibromyalgia; top ambassadors within the fibro community – reach out to them here. Most helpful treatments for fibromyalgia. And all of this can be crowdsourced. We just need to obviously scale the platform in order to gather all that data.

But how powerful would that be if, you know, you just got…like that girl who I’d mentioned earlier in the podcast who just got a diagnosis of endometriosis. If she can then take action and find out top questions asked. Top ambassadors I can reach out to. Here are the experts and practitioners in my area who know the most amount of endometriosis. Here are community members who are most active in the endo community. Really creating a cohesive very data-driven approach. That feels very social.

Caspar Szulc: 58:37
And that’s great because I say so many times you’re, you’re not gonna figure out the personalized particles of all your treatment at once, but you should know the patterns. And to centralize that and be able to view the patterns of what works on the population where you stand is amazing. And that’s what I’ve always tried to do is just provide the patterns that will lead you into then going and finding the particles yourselves. But if it’s so decentralized like it is right now and it’s overwhelming – the information that’s out there – you don’t know what’s what and it could take years. So I think things like WANA are going to be amazing. It making it so much simpler to be able to find those patterns and then use it to your advantage. So, you know, great job.

Caspar Szulc: 01:00:19
It’s always the best people that come work for an organization that’s in medicine that had been impacted, right? That have that experience. I always love that because you have such insight and you’re truly passionate because you’ve been through it. Very cool story. Where can people learn more about you and WANA?

Evan Golub: 01:00:37
Yeah, you can come to our website, which is, So J O I N W A N You can find us on Instagram. Our handle is also @joinWANA

See how we can help you restore complete health of body, mind & spirit.

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